Blessings in the Bible Belt
This week in Tenessee a teenager was given an in school suspension for her godly words. In fact her relative shared on facebook that she was suspended because she said God Bless You to a fellow student who sneezed. I wasn’t in the classroom, I’m not a teacher, but I’m a blogger and I read between lines fluently and I’d say that it’s unlikely that Bless You got this holy roller suspended.
Further MomDot.com had a great write up wherein she quoted the student as saying:
A girl sitting right next me sneezed in class. I said “Bless You!” My teacher, [redacted] asked “Who said that?” I said “me.” She said “Why did you say that?” I said “Because it is courtesy.” She said “Says who?” I said “Says my pastor.” She said “Well we don’t say that in my class.”
I asked her why it was a big deal to her. She yelled at me and said “We will not have Godly speaking in my class!” That is when I stood up and said “My pastor said I have a constitutional right -1st amendment freedom of speech.” She said “Not in my class you don’t.”
I said “I will defend my religion.” She said “You will not in my class because I trump everyone.” Then another student stepped in and said “You don’t over trump God.” So she sent me to the office and the assistants principal said “if I didn’t want to respect my teachers rules then maybe My pastor should teach me because my freedom or speech and religion does not work at their school.
Then they sent me to ISS (in school suspension). After I left the class room all my class mates stood up and defended me the teacher had to call assistants principal to control the class.
Now I’m sure this is a lovely young lady and I’m not offended by bless you even though it’s origins are absolutely ridiculous. In 590 Pope Gregory ordered everyone to say “May God Bless You” after each sneeze in order to keep the bubonic plague from spreading. That worked worked well.
If things happened as she says they did I’d have kicked her out of class too. Not for her religion, but for being disruptive and disrespectful.
If I were a teacher stuck in the bible belt and had a bunch of kids quoting their pastors to me as I stood in front of them in a classroom trying to shove some actual science or history in their direction I’d probably also be on my last nerve with the blessings. Putting that aside, do we honestly believe that this child was given a suspension for saying bless you? Isn’t it more likely that she was suspended for talking back to a teacher or for rallying the troops? It seems as though arguing your First Amendment Rights as dictated by your pastor in a public school classroom is an exercise in futility.
And since when does anyone need to defend their religion? You’re in America, you’re free to practice your religion but what you’re not free to do is prosthelytize while in a government institution. Like it or not America’s schools are publicly funded institutions. This means that in addition to Evangelical Christians there may be Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Wiccans, Scientologists (or other cults), atheists or Hindus. Should every child stand up and tell the teacher what their pastor/rabbi/Imam/Pope/cult leader has to say on the subject of sneezing? Freedom of religion doesn’t begin and end with your megachurch and Fox News.
Your religion isn’t under attack. It never has been. Your religion might be standing in the way of rational thought, but under attack? I don’t think so.
UPDATE: From Patheos:
So I called up Principal Peggy Dodds just a little while ago and got her side of the story before shit hits the fan in the conservative world.
According to Dodds, Turner was not given an in-school suspension. She wasn’t sent out of the classroom, either — she chose to walk out. And, most importantly, she wasn’t punished by the teacher for saying “God bless you” — however, the teacher did admonish her for “disrupting the classroom.”