Let this be a lesson to public school teachers who don’t know how the law works regarding church-state separation: Stop talking before you dig yourself deeper into a hole.
Dale Halferty is an industrial arts at Guthrie Center High School in Guthrie Center, Iowa. For a project, students had to build something from scratch. One student told him he wanted to build a Wiccan altar.
Halferty said he thought about it, and decided allowing the student to make the altar “was wrong on every level.”
“It scares me. I’m a Christian,” he said. “This witchcraft stuff — it’s terrible for our kids. It takes kids away from what they know, and leads them to a dark and violent life. We spend millions of tax dollars trying to save kids from that.”
How many problems can you find with that statement?
If the project is to build something, the student was doing that.
No one cares what the teacher’s religion is. It’s irrelevant in this case.
Witchcraft is no more dangerous than Christianity — they’re both silly myths that have their fair share of problems — and for the teacher to voice an opinion on the student’s religion like this is foolish and wrong.
Halferty added that he’s an equal-opportunity denier because he applied the same rules to a Christian student:
Halferty said he previously told another student he could not build a cross in shop class because he believes in the separation of church and state. “I don’t want any religious symbols in the shop,” he said.
His viewpoint: “We as Christians don’t get to have our say during school time, so why should he?”
That’s not defending separation of church and state. That’s denying a kid trying to get by with a dull, unimaginative project.
The student wanting to build the Wiccan altar has every right to do it, providing he’s following the rules of the project.
If an English teacher told students to write an essay on a topic important to them, students would be allowed to write about their faith.
The other students in the school are just as misinformed as Halferty is:
Both [Superintendent Steve] Smith and [Principal Garold] Thomas said the incident has become emotional for the high school’s 185 students: Almost 70 signed a petition late last week saying they didn’t want witchcraft practiced at the school.
“I think it’s fear based on some of the old ideas people had about witchcraft,” Smith said. “It’s fear and a lack of knowledge about the unknown.”
Smith acknowledged that some people have expressed fears about satanism or sacrifices.
He said they too could use some educating: Though Wicca is often subject to such myths, it is nonviolent and based on a shared reverence for the Earth and all living things.
At least the superintendent is making some sense. Too bad the students are overreacting.
Right now, Halferty is on paid leave.
I don’t think he needs to be fired over this; he just needs to be better educated. Let him apologize to the student and learn his lesson. Maybe some training on what is and is not allowed in the classroom would be helpful for him.
(Thanks to Charlie for the link)