Thursday, July 06, 2006

Delaware Christians . . . They're Just Not That Into Jews

If ever there was a time to flagrantly set aside Godwin's Law, surely this is it. Yes, it involves the religious right. No, you shouldn't be surprised.

A Jewish family has been hounded out of a school district in Delaware that has been militantly promoting Christianity. The Dobrich family feared retaliation as a result of their involvement, along with a second family that has hitherto remained incognito, in a lawsuit against the Indian River School District, which is accused of engaging in religious bias and proselytism, in violation of the US Constitution.

You can read the full details of the family's complaint at Jewsonfirst, including school-sponsored prayer, the involvement of school staff in Bible clubs, preferential treatment given to Bible club members, the distribution of Bibles and pamphlets to students, the ability to opt-out of science lessons that cover evolution and to attend Bible club meetings instead, mandatory attendance by students at board meetings whose members would lead prayers to Jesus, and so on.

When Mona Dobrich first raised her concerns about the school's activities at a school district board meeting, she was warned not to hire a lawyer. The local talk radio station then rallied support for the school, and hundreds of people turned out for the next meeting:

The Dobrich family and Jane Doe felt intimidated and asked a state trooper to escort them. The complaint recounts that the raucous crowd applauded the board's opening prayer and then, when sixth-grader Alexander Dobrich stood up to read a statement, yelled at him: "take your yarmulke off!" His statement, read by Samantha, confided "I feel bad when kids in my class call me Jew boy."

It gets even more chilling:

A former board member suggested that Mona Dobrich might "disappear" like Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the atheist whose Supreme Court case resulted in ending organized school prayer. O'Hair disappeared in 1995 and her dismembered body was found six years later. [. . .] In the days after the meeting the community poured venom on the Dobriches. Callers to the local radio station said the family they should convert or leave the area. Someone called them and said the Ku Klux Klan was nearby.

Classmates accused Alex Dobrich of "killing Christ" and he became fearful about wearing his yarmulke, the complaint recounts. He took it off whenever he saw a police officer, fearing that the officer might see it and pull over his mother's car. When the family went grocery shopping, the complaint says, "Alexander would remove the pin holding his yarmulke on his head for fear that someone would grab it and rip out some of his hair."
And it gets worse. Despite the fact that the ACLU is not in fact representing the Dobrichs, the religious right organisation Stop the ACLU has stepped into the fray and has actually published the Dobrich's home address on its website. (Of course I'm not going to link to it.) Jesus General promptly fired off a tongue-in-cheek missive to STACLU director Nedd Kareiva, "thanking" him for his organisation's role in the "pogrom" against the Dobrichs. Kareiva replied:
Pogrom? I'm not sure I want to call it that. That is not an appropriate term, however, I am pleased that we had an effect in this case. We have others we want to put up on the site to shame them but have not gotten around to it. And I'm not so sure I can take credit for it. However, if an ACLU speaker was booed, that's music to my ears.
Kareiva signed off with: "I would appreciate it if you would sign your actual name rather than JC Christian." What an own-goal for the Christian Right this has turned out to be. And we have our own version burgeoning right here in Australia. Is this a glimpse of the future?

Via Pharyngula. More coverage at: Alternet, Political Cortex, and Dispatches From the Culture Wars.