Lifestyles Left and Right

Thanks Be to the Great Pumpkin

The growing separation of God and Thanksgiving.

By 11.28.04

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Thanksgiving is the All-American holiday. Everybody has something to be thankful for, thus everyone can celebrate. Christians, Jews and Muslims can thank God/Yahweh/Allah. Witches can thank Gaia, the Earth Mother, and atheists can thank the Safeway store for providing plump turkeys. Or, better yet, the American Civil Liberties Union for its non-stop program to eliminate religion.

Thus far, the ACLU has been only partially successful in its efforts. It has managed to force several towns and counties to remove granite inscriptions of the Ten Commandments, and a California ally, one Michael Newdow, succeeded in getting the Ninth Federal District Court to outlaw the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. This court's writ, however, does not go beyond its district boundaries and the Supreme Court refused to take up the case.

It is only a matter of time before the ACLU goes to court to argue that churches should not be tax exempt because allowing them to do so amounts to a subsidy by atheist taxpayers. Alas for them, they will have to wait at least four years, for President Bush is unlikely to fill court slots with ACLU sympathizers. Nevertheless, the ACLU operates in a target-rich environment, so to speak, including "In God We Trust" on the dollar bill and chaplains in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives

Meanwhile, the ACLU and its friends are making headway in intimidating school districts around the nation. Almost always risk-averse, school administrators tend to engage in an excess of caution, lest some Politically Correct citizen sue them.

The tables are being turned, however, in California's Silicon Valley, There, in Cupertino, Fifth Grade teacher Steven Williams is suing the school district for discrimination. It seems the principal of his school, Patricia Vidmar, is censoring his lesson plans to prevent him from giving his students historical documents that make references to God. He is the only teacher required to submit his lesson plans for her approval, hence his lawsuit.

Among the documents rejected by Ms. Vidmar are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, the diary of John Adams, and Samuel Adams's "The Rights of the Colonists." Plaintiff Williams claims Ms. Vidmar has violated his First Amendment right of free speech. His lawyer points out that of the materials Williams gives his students, "perhaps five to 10 percent refer to God and Christianity, because that's what the founders wrote." Whether Ms. Vidmar and the ACLU like it or not, all of the founders (including Thomas Jefferson) believed in God and expressed their belief frequently in speeches and writings.

Meanwhile, on the eve of Thanksgiving, Maryland's Republican governor, Robert Ehrlich denied a published report that the state had set rules for local school district curricula, and that this had resulted in school systems throughout the state not teaching students that the Pilgrims had thanked God for at the celebration which we commemorate as Thanksgiving Day. The article to which the governor referred cited several school officials as saying they do not "include religious matter" in their curricula. The instruction director of the St. Mary's County Public School system said, "We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not a religious perspective."

So how do they tell the story of the first Thanksgiving without telling the children whom the Pilgrims thanked? According to the news story, "teaching children that Pilgrims were Puritans was as far as many school administrators will go." What if a student asks, "What is a Puritan?" Presumably, the answer in Maryland schools is that a Puritan was someone who thanked the Great Pumpkin for a good harvest.

Governor Ehrlich was upset that his state's schools, despite no central directive, were widely teaching revisionist history. He said, "The objective facts, with respect to the teaching about Thanksgiving, necessarily bring God into the history lesson...to pretend you can take God out a history lesson concerning Thanksgiving is an embarrassment." No, Governor, it's not an embarrassment to timid school administrators or the ACLU.

Despite our many flaws and contradictions, we remain a nation that is blessed many times over. Thanks be to G-- (I better not write it, since this website is owned by a tax-exempt foundation and I would not want to be the cause of a lawsuit from the ACLU).

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About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”