Praying For Sanity

Court Settlement Shows High Price Of Intolerance

Court Settlement Shows High Price Of Intolerance

Sometimes it is hard to believe it’s 2008.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down school-sponsored prayer and religious worship in 1962 –; 46 years ago. Yet some slow learners still haven’t gotten that lesson.

In Sussex County, Del., for example, the Indian River School District will be making a cash payment to two families who had to endure harassment after they spoke out against religious activity in their children’s public school. Things got so bad that Mona and Marco Dobrich actually split up their family. Mona and two of the couple’s children fled north to Wilmington. Marco stayed behind for his job. (The second family remained anonymous.)

In 2006, The New York Times ran a story about the Dobrich family’s protest. One resident, Kenneth R. Stevens, told the newspaper, “We have a way of doing things here, and it’s not going to change to accommodate a very small minority. If they feel singled out, they should find another school or excuse themselves from those functions. It’s our way of life.”

The obligatory right-wing radio blowhard soon entered the picture. Dan Gaffney of WGMD radio in Rehoboth inflamed the issue. At one point, Gaffney said, “What people here are saying is, ‘Stop interfering with our traditions, stop interfering with our faith and leave our country the way we knew it to be.’”

What Stevens, Gaffney and their supporters failed to grasp is that if some traditions are boorish, mean-spirited and unconstitutional, then they will change –; by court order if necessary.

And in this case it was necessary. It’s a shame that this matter had to go to courts, but the Dobriches, who are Jewish, had no other options. The school board, probably realizing it had no case, recently announced a settlement. Aside from the payout, the school system will be required to educate staff about church-state separation.

Most public schools long ago stopped pushing religion. Those that are lagging need to pay attention to this case. There can be severe penalties for elevating preaching over teaching.