Pagan advocate Angela Pippinger provided Twitter-based coverage of the March 1 Buncombe County Board of Education meeting, where a revised religion policy was at the center of a heated debate. Her tweets are aggregated below.
The debate over the new policy instructing school officials to “not use their positions to endorse, promote, or disparage a particular religious belief, viewpoint or practice” continued at the March 1 meeting. In early January, Pagan mother Ginger Strivelli carried out her promise to deliver Pagan religious books to Buncombe County Schools, after North Windy Ridge intermediate school had accepted Bibles for distribution. Pippinger also tweeted part of the debate at last month’s board meeting.
5:40 pm: Good evening! I am at the Buncombe County Board of Education. The meeting will begin at about 6: 30. I will be tweeting with #avlgov hashtag! I will not be able to respond to tweets during the meeting but I encourage everyone to follow #avlgov and use it to discuss events.
Tonight the board members will be voting on Policy 652 which bars schools from endorsing specific religion & distributing materials. I will be tweeting primarily the public commentary section as well as the outcome of the voting.
Be aware that this will be a long meeting! If you can’t stay up, that’s okay.
6:30pm: Board members now entering the room. Getting to a slightly late start. JROTC came in and Pledge of Allegiance was cited. We had a moment of silence that was full of whispered prayers.
Board is NOT voting on policy tonight! because of amendments they want to put it off another month to vote on an entire policy.
We are now moving onto “normal” board topics before the public commentary. Will be quiet for a bit folks.
We are currently watching a presentation entitled “Don’t Be A Bully, Be A Friend”.
“Don’t Be A Bully, Be A Friend” is a project a group of 3rd graders from Haw Creek Elementary created on their own.
7:24 pm: We are beginning public comments! 3 min time limit per person
Pastor Abernathy is speaking first. Claims that Judeo-Christian background of founding fathers have been deviated from. Pastor Abernathy believes that a small group should not control a majority.
Amethyst Strivelli is now speaking, daughter of Ginger Strivelli Amethyst Strivelli says it’s too hard to please everyone. Claims minorities have same rights as the majority & should be respected. Amethyst points out that Founding Fathers were Deists & Freemasons in addition to Christian. That they wanted religious freedom.
Claire is now speaking. Raised Catholic and supports all religions. Says religion should not be in schools
Sylvia, a teacher, says that parents & board should not give up their rights. She encourages everyone to study Constitution Sylvia says that schools should not stop people from praying before a lunch.
Jerry Wright: I got a message about bullying. States that minorities are bullying board members.
Marvin Mercer: Asks if we are free to practice religion or if government hinders that freedom. Marvin Mercer feels that Ms. Strivelli went to the news instead of going through proper outlets to express her feelings. Marvin thinks the policy is okay but sad that we need it.
Patrick Covington lightens the mood with a joke about his handwriting. Claims he did not go through Bunombe Co schools.
Marvin suggests that a policy should be enstated in regards to proper outlets for reporting disputes to the Board.
Patrick is in favor of the policy because it’s pro-Constitution. Patrick: “If religious freedom is to endure in US, then religious education begins @ home & not assumed by the public school system”
Rob, a Rabbi, is in support of policy. “If your freedom intrudes on my freedom, and mine on yours, we are not truly free”. Rabbi Rob points out that freedoms are for all, not a majority or minority issue.
Ashley Carter Reminds the crowd that not only is there Separation of Church and State but Constitution protects all religions.
Pastor Rusty wants clearer definition on what age will not be allowed access to religious materials, hs/middle/elementary.
Karen says that Christianity is a part of our heritage and culture. Karen encourages hands on training about Christianity to school staff to the board. Karen wants bibles made available to the students.
Christina Bowers says “I do not go to school to be influenced by religion or lack thereof”. Christina Bowers supports Policy 652 because it supports neutrality. She is appalled at adult bullying for those that are different.
Byron Ballard says that “gathering up for battle” to fight for their religion is counterproductive. Byron Ballard is addressing the board and bringing up the adult bullying that occurred at last meeting. Byron Ballard says Policy 652 is not perfect but a good start.
Ginger Strivelli is addressing the Board. She says Christian parents bully others and it needs to stop. Ginger Strivelli is telling the board that they are enabling the adult bullying by putting off the vote to next month. Ginger says if you want your child to pray/read bible/get religious education, go to a private school.
Weston says all option should be offered to students. Weston says Religion has been very important in history. Says that in science class he never learned about Creationism.
Unnamed man says that politics and religion are the same thing, cannot be separated. Unnamed man says kids have to learn how to defend themselves in preparation for the real world. Unnamed man says that Christians have been silent too long. Unnamed man says that board is putting off vote because they hope people don’t come back. Unnamed man says that if vote doesn’t swing in favor of Christians, they won’t lay down.
Unnamed young lady states it’s unfair that evolution is taught in schools and not offering creationism. Unnamed young lady says that it was her parents responsibility to teach her their beliefs so that kids are prepared for diversity.
8:54pm: We took a 10 minute break and we are about to begin again. Chairperson states that public commentary is over. There will not be a vote tonight, so we are done for the night folks.
Tomorrow I will post articles [on my blog] in regards to this hot topic.