Last night, hundreds of people crowded into the Muldrow Public Schools cafeteria as the school board met to discuss what would become of the Ten Commandments plaques that have been posted in all the classrooms for the past two decades.
Mary L. Crider of The Times Record was there and reported two things worth mentioned here.
The first is that a local pastor spoke up in defense of the plaques:
Muldrow First Assembly of God Senior Pastor Shawn Money, a representative of the Christian Muldrow Ministry Alliance, told school officials, “We understand the last two weeks have been very difficult for you. We support you. We’re praying for you… We know that in 1980 the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to have the Ten Commandments in public schools for religious purposes… We disagree.”
Many audience members called out “amens.”
Money said the many Christians in attendance do believe the Ten Commandments have a place in public classrooms and that they are a foundation of our nation. He said the attendees are grateful the Commandments had been in the school for 20 years and hoped they would be again.
In an essay Money wrote and read, “I am the Ten Commandments,” he stated that they were written first by God, passed down through generations and would endure until the end of time. The Ten Commandments, Money said, are the voice of morality and “the thread of the fabric that has held many nations together.”
When he finished, the crowd shouted loud “amens” and gave Money a lengthy standing ovation.
If it wasn’t obvious already, the crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the Commandments up. Pastor Money (no pun intended?) said that he supported the board’s decision, but wanted to go on record as saying he supports the Ten Commandments, too. As if that was ever in doubt.
The other noteworthy item is the school board’s decision. They weren’t swayed by all the Christians and they ended up doing the right thing, albeit very reluctantly:
School attorney Jerry Richardson of Tulsa said he was not going to try to change the attendees’ minds, nor would the school board want him to try.
“They wish the Ten Commandments could remain in the classrooms. Unfortunately, it is my unpleasant job to tell you the situation is otherwise,” Richardson said.
Chambers’ voice choked as he told the audience the board wished it had another alternative, but removed the plaques rather than spend taxpayer money for costly legal fees that would be incurred fighting to keep them.
In short: We would totally break the law to promote Christianity if we could, but the law won’t let us.
It’s poor reasoning and hardly the sort of strong statement you want to hear from a school board representative, but either way, the plaques are no longer in the classrooms.
And we can thank one student for that.
As I reported over the weekend, Gage Pulliam is the junior who (at the time) anonymously blew the whistle on his school’s obvious violation of church/state separation by taking a picture of one of the plaques and letting the Freedom From Religion Foundation know about what his school was doing.
What the news reports did not tell you is that Gage was at the meeting last night. And it was the scariest night of his life.
I spoke with Gage late last night to get his version of the story, and his tone was very different from the one you saw in the brief interview above or the articles that mention him.
He told me how he felt after hearing the decision:
I’m happy. I’m not happy that I “beat the Christians” but that the school board understood what needed to be done.
Even so, that happiness came at a price.
I was shaking. I was pale. I was the most scared I’ve been in my life because people were threatening me through their looks.
Of the hundreds of people there, Gage and his family members may have been among the only people there in support of taking the Commandments down.
Gage didn’t join in the standing ovation for Pastor Money. Gage and his brother clapped loudly when Mr. Richardson announced that the school board was going to comply with the law. As a result, a lot of people stared in his direction. Lots of unhappy looks went his way. Even when he was filming an interview with a local news channel, he had to face the camera — and the crowd behind it. They looked at him like he was in the center of a firing squad.
Inside the cafeteria, his dad overheard one man saying he wanted to punch Gage in the face.
When he spoke to me over the weekend, Gage said he wasn’t scared. But he’s pretty scared now:
They hated me. They were disgusted with me.
Do you think they’ll do something to you?
I hope not. They might say something to me at school. After the principal found out it was me [who alerted FFRF], he told me he would help me. So did some football players.
Are you going to take any precautions just in case?
I’m gonna try to walk to class with a few people and stay in small groups, mostly. The principal said he would check up on me during the day.
I asked Gage if students were still planning on wearing their Ten Commandments t-shirts on Wednesday even though the decision has already been made to remove the plaques.
They were, he said with a laugh. But that didn’t bother him. He’s fine with that. In fact, those students are supporting what he already believes: that broadcasting your religious beliefs is fine on a personal level; it’s just not okay when the government (in this case, the school) promotes it.
As before, I’ll keep following this story throughout the week and posting updates on how Gage is doing. He really does thank all of you for your support and kind words.