Mr. Williams’ Battle Over Jesus
by Jude Nagurney Camwell, American Street, 9 December 2004
Mr Williams is no sudden stranger to controversy
I am building upon Dave Johnson's latest American Street entry (and Seeing The Forest blogpost) More Mush Journalism as New Lies Spread. Dave's article spoke of the legal case, which the media is erroneously calling a "banning of the Declaration of Independence" in a California school because it contains the word ‘God’. This is not true and Dave has shown you that it's not true.
The more I investigate the case, the easier it is for me to suspect that the teacher at the center of the case, Stephen J. Williams, may not be telling us the whole truth. The cable news media hasn't bothered to tell us, either. Mr. Williams says he's surprised at the reaction of the nation over the recent controversy surrounding his use of Jesus-and Bible-filled handouts in his classroom. What the facts of the case say about Mr. Williams seem to reveal a personal agenda with defiant disregard of his public duty as teacher of 5th grade history students at Stevens Creek Elementary School in Cupertino, California.
On a Fox News live broadcast of Hannity and Colmes at the Flint Center in Cupertino, Mr. Williams stated he was "blown away" upon seeing what a controversial issue this has become in the press. Yet, Mr. Williams is no sudden stranger to controversy.
Mr Williams rides the legal Jesus rodeo
Williams recently sued the Cupertino Union School district, saying his civil rights were violated when he was told by a school administrator to refrain from using supplemental teaching materials on colonial history that had contained inappropriate religious references. Among those religion-bloated handouts were excerpts from the US Constitution. Williams had distributed a handout to students titled "What Great Leaders Have Said About the Bible", which included mixed quotes from U.S. Presidents.. .and Jesus Christ.
All the 'blah-dee-blah' you hear on cable news may not tell you the whole story
The cable news media, as Dave Johnson has duly warned you, is not telling you every relevant thing you need to know about the case. Jordan Lorence, who is an Alliance Defense Fund attorney (representing Williams) has called the school's position an "allergic reaction" to the mention of God in schools. What they don't tell you is that Mr. Williams is not simply "mentioning God" to his students. He's laying Jesus Christ on them - as thick as molasses in January. Admitting to using hyperbolic rhetoric "for effect" (aka "exaggerating without conscience"), Lorence is blaming it on what he calls "blue-state" hypersensitivity.: "Anyone who disagrees is just an ignorant rube from a hayseed red state", said Lorence.
Williams, by defying his school district authorities, is acting as a de facto public school classroom advocate for Jesus Christ. He's willingly pushing the buttons with full knowledge he's ignoring well established public protocol in the classroom.
If teachers won't abide by state standards, send them on their way to play religious advocate somewhere else.
As a parent, I believe that teachers who cannot (or refuse to) abide by the public school district's standards and California's State Standards should be removed from the classroom and sent far away from our children. As American citizens, I do not feel that parents should have to subject their children to becoming a fanatical religious advocate's guinea pigs or political tools. It clearly puts the goal of true education last and political goals first. Whether you're from a "red" state or a "blue" state, you can be a Christian and abhor political abuse of your children. When teachers stop caring about finding common ground for all students in their public classrooms and cross the line of good judgement, they should not be surprised when there are consequences for their willing and deliberate defiance.
The Red state/ Blue state lie turns Jesus rebel into folk hero
I call upon all journalists who claim to be fair and balanced to give us a full accounting of Mr. Williams and his activities within his classroom. Cupertino is not a "godless" school district made up of evil Jesus and rube-hating "blue state" pagans. It's far too easy for the mainstream cable squawkers to broadcast the fact that the fundamentalist advocacy groups label school districts as such, and then never present another all-important side to the story. That's a deliberate withholding of available truth...also known as a lie in many circles. Those lies only serve to make a fundamentalist folk hero out of a man who may simply be a defiant and one-track minded teacher who is more dedicated to an agenda than to his students or to a code of professionalism. That's a disservice to history, to intellect, to our Founding Fathers, to the understanding of our Founding documents, and to the truth of who we are as Americans.
Dwelling on the theological history surrounding the disparate religious views of the Founding Fathers is not a healthy or appropriate way to teach 10-year-old about their nation's birth. I could talk to you all year about the varied theological views of the Founding Fathers. Overconcentration of these Christ-laden opinions is going to skew a 10-year old's understanding of the very nature of the freedom to worship, which the Founders sought to protect while, at the same time, keeping religion at safe length from a properly balanced and sane civic government.
Williams' attorneys are claiming he's not on a "religious crusade" to indoctrinate his pupils. That will be up to the courts to decide. The school district obviously does not agree, because Williams is the only teacher in the school who has had to submit his lesson plans in advance. While we don't have all the facts, we can only hope the mainstream media will do their job and get some of them so we may make a reasoned decision for ourselves. My most fervent hope is that the media will start putting more reality and truth into their headlines when they talk about the case.
In fairness, I want you to see the accepted standards placed upon California's education system for History/5th grade level:
California State Education Standards: Grade Five History-Social Science Content Standards. LINK
United States History and Geography: Making a New Nation
5.4 Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era.
--Understand the influence of location and physical setting on the founding of the original 13 colonies, and identify on a map the locations of the colonies and of the American Indian nations already inhabiting these areas.
--Identify the major individuals and groups responsible for the founding of the various colonies and the reasons for their founding (e.g., John Smith, Virginia; Roger Williams, Rhode Island; William Penn, Pennsylvania; Lord Baltimore, Maryland; William Bradford, Plymouth; John Winthrop, Massachusetts).
--Describe the religious aspects of the earliest colonies (e.g., Puritanism in Massachusetts, Anglicanism in Virginia, Catholicism in Maryland, Quakerism in Pennsylvania).
--Identify the significance and leaders of the First Great Awakening, which marked a shift in religious ideas, practices, and allegiances in the colonial period, the growth of religious toleration, and free exercise of religion.
--Understand how the British colonial period created the basis for the development of political self-government and a free-market economic system and the differences between the British, Spanish, and French colonial systems.
--Describe the introduction of slavery into America, the responses of slave families to their condition, the ongoing struggle between proponents and opponents of slavery, and the gradual institutionalization of slavery in the South.
--Explain the early democratic ideas and practices that emerged during the colonial period, including the significance of representative assemblies and town meetings.