Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Giving Tradition a Bad Name

Well, we know Angela Allen is not bigoted, closed-minded, or against things that are not like her, because she told us so. 

Angela Allen
But I'm still confused about just what it is that upset an otherwise intelligent-sounding member of the Danville community, to the point that she felt compelled to leave a baccalaureate service, in anger, because a Muslim student exercised her first amendment right to religious expression as a citizen of the United States, to read and chant a passage from the Quran. Allen says she is not particularly religious herself. Is she anti-American, or opposed to civil rights somehow?

Other students at the ceremony offered religious expressions to the same God. But Allen specifically doesn't care to be swayed by that logic. "To tell me that I need to be educated and need to understand that both sides are worshiping the same God is futile — tell the two sides, not me," Allen writes.

Her explanation for her anger relates to a perceived assault on tradition. She explains that a baccalaureate service is "a Traditional Christian event dating back to the 1400s" and objected to the travesty of evolving tradition occurring before the audience of - not a religious event -  but "a Christian event in the Bible Belt." 

She's not bigoted, she says, but suggests that Danville High School folks should have known better than to try such a thing around here. Then Allen issued a challenge. "Want to take me on about my objection to the cancer of political correctness? To how weak it makes us individually and collectively? THEN BRING IT ON!"

Interesting challenge.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Allen is correct, and that our precious traditions must be protected from outside forces that threaten to break down society as we know it - all in the name of political correctness, or diversity. 

If Allen is correct, then our precious fifteenth century English traditions would still hold that...
  • she must be silenced immediately, and chastened against the chance that she might repeat her offense of offering her opinions into the matters reserved to men
  • by virtue of her inferior sex, her husband, father, uncles, or other responsible men in her family should take her in hand, or risk punishment themselves
  • she is not an individual under the law and has no rights; she is chattel, submissive and subject to her husband; she can be bought and sold
  • being more carnal than man, defective in formation from the outset, the bent rib...she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives, and therefore should not be listened to
  • she is a foe to friendship, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, and the source of all carnal lust, which, in a woman is insatiable, and from which witchcraft derives
  • she is not accorded any civil rights, is not allowed to appear in court, unless on behalf of, and at the behest of, her husband 
If Allen is correct, we have been made weaker as a nation for our toleration of women in political discourse, and we should all regret allowing the inferior sex to vote.

You get the point. I like traditions as well as the next guy. But, I like civil rights more.

School officials reacted appropriately and supported the minority student's civil rights. 

It seems to me that Danville, Kentucky has moved well past the 15th century. At least, most if it.

 Danvile High School baccalaureate service stirs controversy

This from the Advocate-Messenger:

An event meant to honor the diverse beliefs of the 2015 graduates of Danville High School has instead caused a rift to develop among adults in the community — some with no children in school.
“We wanted to represent all diversity,” said Virginia Bugg. “The goal of the baccalaureate — as parents in this community, we are here to support them in their faith, whatever that may be, to raise them up to be good citizens of the United States.”
This year, the program included words from students of various beliefs, including atheism, Christianity and Islam, as well as a speech from Lee Jefferson, assistant professor of religion at Centre College, and music from the men’s choir of First Baptist Church, Second and Walnut streets, and from a hispanic student at the school.

The baccalaureate service, held Sunday night, is a yearly event connected to the festivities for graduating seniors and, at Danville High School, is initiated by parents and seniors.
However, it was the words spoken by a 17-year-old graduating senior that have created the most buzz.

The senior is of the Muslim faith and, true to her faith, chose to read for her classmates a passage from the Quran in both Arabic and English, an excerpt which says, “In the name of God, the infinitely compassionate and merciful. Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds. The compassionate, the merciful. Ruler on the day of reckoning. You alone we do worship, and you alone we do ask for help. Guide us on the straight path, the path of those who have received your grace; not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wonder astray.”

Those words caused one set of parents to leave the service and write a blog post denouncing it. Angela Allen, writer at, was there with her family and recorded the event online.

“I honestly can’t describe the anger that rose in me,” Allen wrote in her blog. She and those she was with left the event early, waiting outside until it was over.

Allen writes in her blog that she is not a particularly religious person, but that her issue with it is the tradition involved.

“I’m not a bigot, closed-minded or against everything that’s not like me. I’m neither a religious nut of any flavor, nor am I in alignment with many who would spew hate from the other side of the fence,” she writes. “What I am totally against is this ‘politically correct’ society that continually tramples the traditions of others in the name of open-mindedness and progressiveness.

“If our differences are what make us wonderful — and they are — then quit trying to homogenize my world.”

Allen said her issue with the program was that it went against the traditions of the baccalaureate service.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the baccalaureate dates to medieval times, roughly 1649, as a service when a sermon was delivered. goes on to explain that it was the 1600s when the word was coined; however, the more modern meaning arose about 1864 when it became a “religious farewell address to the graduating class.”

In recent years, the meaning has continued to transform, with some schools taking the religious context out entirely.

At Danville High School, participants in the baccalaureate have transformed it over the years to be an interfaith service, one that is dedicated to the diversity of the student population.

It has been held at the school for the past several years; however, it is not a school-sanctioned function. The committee that arranges the baccalaureate consists of parents who are also in on the planning for Project Graduation.

Bugg, who was one of the parents on that committee, was shocked at the reactions from the community, especially from individuals who were made aware of the nature of the baccalaureate service.

“Everyone got emails — all parents got it. If anyone had a problem with it, they needed to come be a part of our committee,” she said.

Invitations were sent out to parents, which said, “The event will consist of speeches, readings and music that contain both secular and religious components that reflect our diverse student body.”
Three years ago, the older brother of the young student spoke, also sharing his Muslim beliefs. No issues were raised then, according to their parents, but now they fear for their daughter, who has been the brunt of negative statements from community members. Her peers have celebrated her in speaking, they said.

Their faith is one of peace, not the extremism so widely displayed on mainstream media, they said.
“Trying to represent all of the students is a great aim,” said Jaemi Loeb. Loeb, an assistant professor of music at Centre College, is of the Jewish faith. She has a close friend who's child is a junior at the high school. “If people have a problem with other beliefs, then we have problems. Danville is relatively diverse.”

No students are required to attend baccalaureate, and some chose not to.

“It was totally optional. Only about 40 or 50 people came,” Bugg said.

While the event was not a school-run event, Danville Independent Schools issued a statement Monday evening in support of the diversity shown at the baccalaureate.

“At the event, words of hope, acceptance, well wishes, and joy emanated from a diverse set of presenters, which included a student of Muslim faith, the men’s choir of the First Baptist Church, a parent, and a professor of religion from Centre College.

“Though neither the Board of Education nor the school district organize or sponsor baccalaureate services, we take this opportunity to express our congratulations to the wonderful diversity of students that compose this year’s graduating class, like many before and many more to come. In the Danville Schools, all means all…”

Keith Look, superintendent, said he was in the buildings on Monday, partially to see if there were any problems aligning with the community firestorm buzzing on social media.

“Every place was a happy, functioning center of education,” he said.

DHS Principal Aaron Etherington said he was proud.

“We have so many at Danville High School that represent diversity with high regard. I’m proud of our senior class and all the individuals in the class,” Etherington said.

1 comment:

kentuckyfreethinker said...

Brilliant post. Bravo, Richard.