Saturday, April 16, 2016

"Jesus Lunches" and why journalists REALLY need to clarify things

So, a controversy has arisen. Which means it is literally any day of the week. But I digress.

Let's lay out the facts here. A group of moms in Middleton, WI started bringing lunch for their middle schoolers to Fireman's Park. More kids wanted to come, and it's become a regular gathering. They eat sandwiches and talk about Jesus in regular conversation.

Now, the superintendent has asked them to stop. Even though kids can go off-campus for lunch, Fireman's Park is leased during school hours to the school.

There are two problems with this scenario that so far have not really been covered.

1. What does it mean by the school leasing the park during school hours

Presumably, the public can still use the park. Yet the school has certain rules when it comes to the students. This is an ambiguous situation that the school really didn't think through. It seems strange to regularly lease a public space, yet have certain rules only apply to certain things. Does the school have a specific set of rules regarding it? Do they have them posted, or have they announced them? We aren't told. When I worked at a library, our new director sat down with the managers and set out specific rules and policies, and made copies for every work station. That way, if someone questioned why we told them to stop screaming into their cell phones, we could show them the policy list and explain why. If the school is going to lease the park during the day, they need to be specific in how it can and can't be used.

2. The school's changing reasons for opposing the gathering.

The school initially started out with the reason of separating school activities from religion. See #1 for why this didn't work-the ambiguity of the park situation. Then, their reason changed to food safety. Understandable, but again...#1. Then, they insisted that it was distressing other students and their parents. Personally, I think if someone breaks down into tears at the thought of other people going somewhere away from them to practice a religion, they need therapy. That's not a healthy response to other beliefs. If it's because they feel left out by friends who are going there...that's still not a healthy response. As a Christian, I am told over and over again by society that I need to accept other beliefs regardless of how I feel about them. I agree with this; but everyone needs to have that acceptance. It's not good to constantly stress yourself out over what others believe or do. (Unless that belief is "kill 'em all", then we should be stressing. But I digress.)

For my own opinion, this really does seem like a situation in which the religion in question is disagreed with and as such the officials try to find a good reason to stop it. (It does happen-to Christians, as well as other religious groups.) The video of the superintendent's rather condescending behavior doesn't help matters. I would say the students could reorganize it into a student-run gathering where they invite the ladies in, but the school now has food safety objections, sort of ruining the idea of a free lunch. This also leads me to believe the true objection actually is a religious one.

Basically, the situation could have been prevented with a specific set of rules regarding the use of the park and how the public not associated with the school is affected by this.


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