The story about Guthrie Center’s industrial arts teacher, Dale Halferty, and his refusal to allow a student to make a Wiccan altar in shop class is really irking me. I wholeheartedly agree that a teacher should not promote his or her religion in school, but that students have every right to express their religion in nonviolent ways. They should be allowed to write about loving Jesus at Christmas time, to wear head scarves, and to construct small Wiccan altars at shop class if all the students are given free reign to create something useful. In my professional opinion, school is the first place where children are introduced to other ways of being. It should be a safe place for self-expression and the exploration of diversity. I wonder what would have happened in my old school district had I tried to do something like that. Oh wait, I did! In web design, I made a website about tarot cards. In 11th grade English class, I did a presentation on the tools of modern witches to go along with our exploration of The Crucible. My senior project was about Runes. Any teacher that became aware of my beliefs was respectful and even interested in it. I’m glad to hear that the superintendent for this other school, Steve Smith, is supporting the Wiccan student’s right to religious expression.
Halferty’s argument, that if Christians can’t express themselves, Wiccans shouldn’t, is bogus. Most schools I know of allow Christian students to form after school bible study groups, to pray around the flag before school starts, and to wear crosses. They even have that “under God” statement that remains in our Pledge of Allegiance! Give me a break.
When I was in shop class, back in 7th or 8th grade, the big project was to make an analogue clock. We all got to choose a face for our clock out of a catalogue. Were there crosses? Oh you betcha. Were there pentacles, triquetras, Thor hammers, Brighid crosses, Stars of David, Buddha’s hands, script from the Koran, or any other religious symbol? Of course not.