Albemarle County Virginia public schools allowed pagans to distribute flyers in the backpacks of school children inviting them and their families an event this weekend where they can learn about and participate in pagan yuletide rituals. Some outraged Christian parents objected. But the delicious part of this story is that a threatened lawsuit by Jerry Falwell's Liberty Counsel legal aid group is the reason the pagans can issue such invitations through the public schools. According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, this is how it all came about:
The dispute started last summer when Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski, twins who attend Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church's Vacation Bible School to their peers via "backpack mail." Many public schools use special folders placed in student backpacks to distribute notices about schools events and sometimes extra-curricular activities to parents.
School officials originally denied the request from the twins' father, Ray Rakoski, citing a school policy barring "distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes."
A Charlottesville weekly newspaper, The Hook, reports that Rakoski "sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county," and the policy was soon revised to allow religious groups to use the backpack mail system. Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal group founded by Mathew Staver and now affiliated with Falwell.
So some enterprising local pagans thought if it's good enough for the Christians, it's good enough for us. After all, religious freedom is for everyone. Whole story here.
Kudos to Pamela Friedman for the tip.
Disclosure: I am a resident of Charlottesville and my last formal religious affiliation was with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Unitarian Church (back in 1975). Also I am not a pagan–not that there is anything wrong with that. Happy winter solstice holiday to everyone!