- (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Dave Bullock)
School officials in one North Carolina town met Wednesday to discuss whether or not to allow religious groups to provide or distribute texts on school grounds, after a pagan mother questioned school officials for sending her son home with a Bible. Now, religious groups in town are split on how to handle the issue.
The issue was first raised when Ginger Strivelli, a self-proclaimed pagan and mother of several students in the district, claimed one of her sons received a Gideon Bible from the school. When Strivelli complained and went to provide the school with Pagan books for distribution, the school refused.
Strivelli claimed the school was proselytizing by allowing Christian texts, but not pagan literature. At the meeting on Wednesday, Buncombe County School officials reviewed the wording of new regulations that would prohibit the distribution of any religious texts.
Strivelli says keeping denominational faith out of school is the only way to ensure no religion takes advantage of students.
"I don't think they should hand out one religion's books, they should be handing out a wide variety," Strivelli told The Christian Post. "Personally I would much rather they have cooperative religion in schools and learn about all faiths because I think our children would grow up to be much more understanding and knowledgeable."
Public schools have two choices on the issue, according to legal experts: make no religious texts available to students, or make every faith's texts available. In other words, schools cannot discriminate which religion gets to share their message with students.
Strivelli said she brought the Pagan books to test the school's policy, not to promote her beliefs. She claims there has been support from the town's population of "Hindus, Rabbis, Buddhists, Pagans and even some in the Christian community."
"Just because you're a Christian doesn't mean you want your child bringing home Mormon Watchmen magazines or the Catholic rosary," Strivelli said.
The mother also claimed that some Christians – particularly some Southern Baptist and Pentecostal leaders – are finding her appeal distasteful. Some businesses – and the school's wrestling team – are displaying signs and wearing shirts supporting "the message," but Strivelli claims the campaign is just "being used as a counter attack."
Strivelli said the few who are attacking her and her pagan faith are "really ugly and hateful," and the majority of religious people in town are supporting her – particularly rabbis at Congregation Beth Israel.
"In general, I'm very pleased with a desire to be compliant with current law, federal and state," Rabbi Rob Cabelli told the Asheville Citizen-Times. "I think the thing that I really was most pleased about was the emphasis that both Superintendent Baldwin and the legal adviser Chris Campbell placed upon training."
Cabelli was referring to religious training for students in the school district to better understand different beliefs, while working toward inter-faith harmony.
The issue is expected to come to a head at a Feb. 2 meeting, when school officials will vote on the terms of religious text distribution at schools within the district.