Mich. School Board Member Threatens To Stir Up ‘Redneck Christians’ Over Break Name

A member of the Petoskey, Mich., Board of Education threatened to stir up “every redneck Christian conservative” in the area if the winter break was not re-labeled “Christmas Break” on the school calendar.


Jack Waldvogel, treasurer for the board, issued the inflammatory e-mail Aug. 10. He sent it to all staff in the district, although he claims that was an accident. Waldvogel said he was angry because the term “winter holiday break” appeared on the Charlevoix-EmmetIntermediateSchool District calendar instead of “Christmas break.”


“If we can still call Thanksgiving break, Thanksgiving break, just exactly who are we thanking?” wrote Waldvogel. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I guess it’s God. Now, if God can be inserted into Thanksgiving either directly or indirectly, why must we refer to Christmas break as the ‘winter holiday break?’ God is OK for Thanksgiving, but not for the birth of his Son?


“Frankly, I’m personally offended by this, and feel incredible regret for whomever comes up with this stuff,” he went on. “I think political correctness is just so much crap, and we have gone way overboard. We are, in spite of what the Obamessiah proclaims, STILL a Christian nation, founded on Judeo Christian principles. God is included in every state constitution, and His name is embedded in every FederalBuilding in Washington, D.C.


Waldvogel continued, “Two choices here for our school district – either agree to change the ‘December vacation’ back to ‘Christmas break’ in ALL future publications (including the school calendar) voluntarily, or I will make a motion to change it at the NEXT Board meeting and raise such a stink, and bring out every redneck Christian conservative north of Clare to compel the district to do so…. Our children need to know that we are a Christian nation, and taking all reference to a higher being out of our educational vocabulary is wrong.”


Some town residents were not amused. Daniel Dankoff wrote to the Petoskey News-Review to criticize Waldvogel.


“We’re a nation of many faiths, and he’s jamming it down the throats of everyone who’s not a Christian,” Dankoff asserted.


Waldvogel told the News-Review the e-mail was meant to be “tongue in cheek” and said he accidentally forwarded it to the entire school staff. “I certainly would have tempered it if I knew it was being sent to everyone,” he said.


But Waldvogel also refused to apologize, charging that his critics have no sense of humor. “It is what it is,” he said. “If folks don’t accept that, don’t read it.”


On Aug. 18, the board voted unanimously to change the name of the break to “Christmas break.” Less than two weeks later, however, the board issued a brief written statement saying it would not follow through with the change.


The board had received a letter from an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin asserting that since the change was motivated by a desire to promote Christianity, it would not stand up in court.


“Upon reviewing the legality of this change in light of Mr. Waldvogel’s email of August 10th, 2009 it is the opinion on this Board, along with legal counsel, that the School District would not be successful in court if challenged,” read the message.


It continued, “The change to ‘Christmas Break’ cannot be initiated or driven based on a religious agenda. This Board also does not wish to expend the District’s limited resources on legal issues in which all likelihood would not be successful.”