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Paragould teacher, warned before, reluctantly takes down Nativity Scene UPDATE

Posted by Max Brantley on Mon, Dec 12, 2011 at 2:20 PM

GONE IN 2011: Photo provided to the Paragould Daily Press of Nativity bulletin board that survived the 2010 Christmas season.
  • GONE IN 2011: Photo provided to the Paragould Daily Press of Nativity bulletin board that survived the 2010 Christmas season.

And a Merry Xmas to you, too, from the pages of the Paragould Daily Press.

A counselor in the Greene County Tech Primary School was instructed to take down her bulletin board Nativity Scene with its "Happy Birthday Jesus" legend after a citizen complaint to school officials.

Naturally, the outcry has been huge and e-mail and websites are humming with protests, as well as comments on the newspaper website. See, majority rules in Paragould. If you don't like Christian ways shoved down your throat, you can shut up or get the hell out of town. It is pointless to ask angry church folks how they'd feel about a Muslim or Jewish or Wiccan teacher who posted spiritual observances year after year because they damn well know what would happen to such teachers. Tar, feathers, rail to ride.

Since Greene County Tech is the place that wasted a bunch of money trying to defend violation of the FOI law, I'm kind of surprised they folded, even if on advice of counsel, over a mere 1st Amendment violation. There's a history here. The counselor, Kay Williams, had been instructed in years past to take it down. But she kept putting it back up and snuck it through last year without complaint. This year, after another complaint, she apparently riled the principal by slow-walking the directive to remove the display. Clearly, Counselor Williams is not a tolerant or obedient sort.

The school superintendent is all apologetic.

“As a Christian, the last thing I wanted to do was to remove the nativity scene,” Noble said in an e-mail. “However, this is not Jerry Noble School District. It is Greene County Tech School District. If the [school] board wanted to make a stand, I would gladly be out front. However, [school board members] are following the advice of our attorney who says it is a fight we would lose to the point that it could even be a civil rights violation.”

Not to worry about Ms. Williams' employment.

“I’m not going to fire somebody over Jesus,” Noble told the newspaper. “There’s no way we would do that.”

It's not Jesus that's at issue, of course. It's the Constitution. And insubordination.

Counselor Williams ought to be lionized on Fox News shortly.

UPDATE: Paragould's religious tyrants — "pray our way or the highway for you, bub" — are chewing my head off on Twitter. That's no biggie. But one of them claims the School Board has folded to pressure and is going to let the renegade teacher go back to preaching her religion to her students. This, of course, is exactly the sort of religious coercion the Constitution was designed to guard against. When minorities aren't protected, no one is protected.

Take a look at the typically heated Topix Paragould bulletin board, where the first question from a zealot was aimed at identifying who brought down the baby Jesus' birthday greeting. Happily, some people are pushing back for sound constitutional and practical reasons.

Comments (35)

Showing 1-25 of 35

No forced religion in freedom loving America!

Go buy yourself a school, courthouse, park etc and put any fool thing you want in it.

If it is a tax payer public facility, keep the various religious stuff out.

report 17 likes, 6 dislikes   
Posted by Citizen1 on 12/12/2011 at 2:53 PM

Citizen: Don't give the Waltons any ideas... They've already paid almost enough to buy the schools.

report 7 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Eukaryote on 12/12/2011 at 2:57 PM

The America I grew up in is gone forever. So sad.

report 9 likes, 8 dislikes   
Posted by hihohiho0 on 12/12/2011 at 3:28 PM

Wow, Max. That bulletin board definitely says "Shoved down your throat" to me. Or not. You see surprised that people have strong opinions about their core beliefs. Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion!

report 6 likes, 10 dislikes   
Posted by LR on 12/12/2011 at 3:35 PM

Glad she labeled the crib 'Jesus'. I was having a hard time figuring out who that baby was. . . . . .

report 5 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Kriss S. on 12/12/2011 at 3:39 PM

She's free to be a counselor at a Christian school.
I know if I went to this school, she's the last counselor I'd speak to. Who knows what kind of indoctrination she pushes onto the children there?

report 16 likes, 10 dislikes   
Posted by SocialistArkie on 12/12/2011 at 3:46 PM

And besides, it's just bad art.

As a Christian, I want to thank the person who turned this teacher in. I don't want her brand of Jesus near my child. Now, if we can just get schools to remove Christmas decorations from their front offices...

report 15 likes, 11 dislikes   
Posted by spunkrat on 12/12/2011 at 3:50 PM

This wouldn't be a problem if the fundamentalist wing of the Christian church hadn't become so militaristic in their attitudes, or bought into the emotional crap that is Fox's exclusive "War on Christmas®" rhetoric. If they'd just ease up and do what Christ actually instructed them to do, we could all probably get along.

report 12 likes, 3 dislikes   
Posted by BeeDub on 12/12/2011 at 3:53 PM

One person gets their panties in a snit about a harmless little bouletin board, and the shcool and the lawyers get in a tizzy over the umbrage of one fool. Is there nothing better for folks to do than march about looking for reasons to get excited.

report 8 likes, 15 dislikes   
Posted by Steven E on 12/12/2011 at 4:00 PM

I see the Councelor uses the same excuse as Coach Sanduky at Penn State.

"I been doing it 20 years, what is the fuss about now?"

Up till now none ever complained. Sure some kids felt abused but they kept it to themselves.

report 11 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Citizen1 on 12/12/2011 at 4:04 PM

Steve E

The problem is public facilities being used by private people to further their own cause.

Sort of like Occupy Little Rock camping in a public lot.

report 8 likes, 4 dislikes   
Posted by Citizen1 on 12/12/2011 at 4:06 PM

I loved this paragraph in the Paragould Daily Press article, where Jerry Halsell, a Paragruel preacher, weighed in, endorsing the Alliance Defense Fund's ongoing legal campaign to sue governmental bodies in the name of "religious liberty" for following Supreme Court case law protecting, uh, religious liberty:

Jerry Halsell with the Trumpet for Heritage Ministry said the nativity scene could be on display without violating any laws. Halsell, when learning of the controversy surrounding the nativity scene, volunteered to assist Williams. He provided the Daily Press with several memos from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) stating that a nativity scene displayed in a public school does not violate the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. According to the ADF web site, the ADF is America’s largest legal alliance defending religious liberty through strategy, training, funding and litigation.

report 2 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by ozarknature on 12/12/2011 at 4:46 PM

Jim Walton & Family could afford to build a private school system if they want, and make it free for all (like they did for the Walm-Art Museum in Bentonville). Then they could 'prove' how well their system works.

And yes, the America of yore is no more, no matter how hard the conservatives wish it weren't so. They have plenty of money to throw around trying to get the Supreme Court to reverse its decision in Engel v. Vitale (1962) that banned prayer in public schools. The Alliance Defense Fund is active in nearly every far-right and fundamentalist cause. They were one of the leading groups helping defend the Boy Scouts over their ban on gay scoutmasters.

report 5 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by ozarknature on 12/12/2011 at 4:57 PM

In past years, the Paragould Cha mber of Commerce Executive bragged to two visiters seeking to do business in the city/county that Greene County was 99.9% white. Why does the natvity scene not surprise me?

report 7 likes, 2 dislikes   
Posted by jddoc on 12/12/2011 at 5:22 PM


This controversy in Paragould is not about promoting a private "cause" on public property. It's about promoting a religion on public property. That's a violation of the first part of the First Amendment, known as the Establishment Clause. Here's the text:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The Occupy Wall Street movement has nothing to do with religion. It's about the second part of the First Amendment. It's about petitioning the Government for redress of grievances, peaceable assembly, and freedom of speech.

report 9 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by ozarknature on 12/12/2011 at 5:36 PM

Texas just approved a license plate with three crosses:…

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Posted by ozarknature on 12/12/2011 at 5:50 PM



report 7 likes, 17 dislikes   
Posted by POPPIE on 12/12/2011 at 5:58 PM


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Posted by WABCO on 12/12/2011 at 6:01 PM

"Don't give the Waltons any ideas..."

Eukayote - maybe you didn't read the story carefully. This happened in one of your good-old-fashioned, redneck-school board-run, idiot-managed school district, with a superintendent who wouldn't know the constitution or insubordination if he was slapped in the face with either.

report 4 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Doc on 12/12/2011 at 6:12 PM

ozarknature, I apologize for not including your name in my rant.

report 1 like, 0 dislikes   
Posted by Doc on 12/12/2011 at 6:13 PM

WABCO and LR, go worship your zombie somewhere other than in the public school system.

report 9 likes, 3 dislikes   
Posted by Doc on 12/12/2011 at 6:15 PM

Thanks, Ozark, for citing the full text of the First Amendment. Most religionists conveniently forget the first clause of the sentence. If she has been warned before, how many chances does she get before she is disciplined? The principal said he was not going to fire her "for Jesus." He wouldn't be firing her for Jesus; he would be firing her for willful disobedience of an order. Do public school teachers not get fired for that? Of course, I am a realist, and I realize that he would be dead meat in Paragould, Arkansas, if he took any action against her.

report 8 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by plainjim on 12/12/2011 at 7:01 PM

Holy Humping Crap! I just read the Topix discussion. Most of the people, with the exception of the Satan-worshiper and the Jew, don't have a clue about the constitution and protection of minority views. What a stupid bunch of hillbillies.

report 9 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Doc on 12/12/2011 at 7:20 PM

Sorry for the multiple posts, but really, this crazy woman has no business being on the public payroll. Go teach at a private parochial school.

report 8 likes, 2 dislikes   
Posted by Doc on 12/12/2011 at 7:23 PM

Just a lot more meaningless (when the dust settles everyone will still believe as they did before this started) furor soon to be fuel in Ailes' Faux's War on Christmas, just as important as another of today's tabloid stories to drive circulation, hits and ratings Lindsey Lohan's grey teeth.

The United States news media will soon be reporting aliens, unwanted alien pregnancies and Elvis sightings as Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes succeed in making tabloid journalism mainstream . . . at least in the USA.

report 3 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by dottholliday on 12/12/2011 at 7:50 PM
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