Matt 10:32"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
Two Students—One Not Even a Christian—Wanting to Make People Smile, Place Statue of Jesus in their School
by Teresa Neumann : May 29, 2008 : Staff - AP Jesus statue prompts controversy
"Most people were smiling when they saw it."
(Bristol, Vermont)—A class at Mount Abraham Union High School was recently required to read a play called, "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail," about Henry David Thoreau's refusal to pay taxes over what he said was the U.S. "immoral" war in Mexico. As a way of illustrating what they had learned, students Torin Olivetti and Galen Helms erected a small, 2-ft. statue of Jesus in the school claiming that the school was being hypocritical "on the issue of separation of church and state" (since it already had a mural depicting the Greek god Apollo) and that the issue "parallels Thoreau's feelings about hypocrisy by the U.S. government." (File photo: aspencountry.com)
Said Helms, who is not a Christian: "My thesis was that the government and the administration of our school is often hypocritical in what they allow and what they do not allow." (The statue of Jesus was eventually ordered to be removed.)
"People, when they saw it [the statue of Jesus], some people were praying next to it, which is perfectly legal," said Olivetti, 17. "Some people were patting it on the head. Most people were smiling when they saw it."
Richard Steggarda, a teacher at the school, was quoted as saying the statue wasn't intended to be derisive and lamented the inequality of rights for Christians in public schools.
When the school's principal, Paulette Bogan, asked the boys what their purpose of erecting it in the school was, she replied that they "basically wanted to make people smile."
BRISTOL, Vt. — Two students who put up a small statue of Jesus in a high school lobby area have been asked to take it down because it violates school policy.
The Mount Abraham Union High School students and their teacher say a principal's request violates their right to free speech, but the head of the state's American Civil Liberties Union says the school may have a point.
"This is the classic example of the clash of rights within the First Amendment regarding religious expression," said Allen Gilbert, executive director of the ACLU of Vermont.
On May 16, Torin Olivetti and Galen Helms placed the 2-foot tall statue in a second-floor balcony overlooking the main lobby in what they say was part of a project for their advanced placement English class.
As part of the class, students have to read a play called "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail," about "Walden" author Henry David Thoreau's refusal to pay taxes over what he said was the U.S.' immoral war in Mexico.
Helms, 18, of Monkton, says he was trying to highlight the school's hypocrisy on the issue of separation of church and state because it parallels Thoreau's feelings about hypocrisy by the U.S. government.
He says the school allows students to say the words "under God" while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and that a mural in the school displays Apollo, a Greek god.
"My thesis was that the government and the administration of our school is often hypocritical in what they allow and what they do not allow," said Helms, who is not a Christian but said he sees Jesus as someone who taught love, forgiveness and compassion.
"People, when they saw it, some people were praying next to it, which is perfectly legal," said Olivetti, 17. "Some people were patting it on the head. Most people were smiling when they saw it."
But some called the statue disrespectful or questioned whether school was the appropriate place for it. After receiving complaints, Principal Paulette Bogan asked them to remove it.
"I asked them what their purpose was, and they said their purpose was to basically make people smile," Bogan said Thursday. "I told them that it needed to be removed from the walkway."
She says the statue violated a policy that calls for student presentations and displays to exhibit academic work or to educate or inform the community. The statue didn't, she said.
"The students certainly did not convey that it was a project on religious symbols, anything but," she said.
Teacher Richard Steggarda, who says the statue wasn't intended to be derisive, said he planned to contact the ACLU about it.
"I guess what I'm upset about is that we have no rights," Steggarda said.
But the ACLU's Gilbert said both sides have legitimate concerns.
"On the one hand, individuals have an individual right of free religious expression. On the other hand, the government - which includes schools - can appear to be endorsing one religion or another. And the problem here, I think, is that to many people, it would appear the school may be endorsing a religion by allowing the statue to be where it is."
New International Version (NIV)35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
Britain's Blasphemy Laws Lifted
A campaign to repeal the offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel, which made it illegal to insult Christianity, was proposed in January by the Liberal Democrat Evan Harris. It was supported by public figures including the author Philip Pullman and the academic Richard Dawkins. They claimed the little-used laws served no useful purpose, while allowing religious groups to try to censor artists. Evangelists had tried to prosecute the director-general of the BBC over the controversial musical Jerry Springer – The Opera. MPs voted to support the abolition of blasphemy in an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. This has now received Royal Assent, condemning the laws to history. Maria Eagle, the junior justice minister, said in the debate: "These offences have now largely fallen into disuse and therefore run the risk of bringing the law into disrepute. "Given that these laws protect only the tenets of the Christian Churches, they would appear to be plainly discriminatory." But Edward Leigh, a Conservative MP, claimed their abolition would encourage more people to make fun of Christianity. "Getting rid of the blasphemy law sends a message that that is OK, but it is insulting to many Christians," he said.
Matthew 31In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.