After an activist group demanded that an elementary school take down a “3 wise men” display, the superintendent shut down their ultimatum with seven brilliant words.
When it comes to the intricate and paramount job of teaching the community’s children, there’s bound to be some dissatisfied parents regardless of how the educators present the material. Still, for the most part, citizens of Newaygo, Michigan, have been pleased with their school district’s management for generations.
Recently, however, a decades-old tradition has come under fire after an offended few took issue with a holiday display, which the school erects annually without objection. The exhibit in question is a 2-dimensional depiction of the 3 wise men, who follow the Star of Bethlehem from the far East to honor the birth of Jesus Christ.
Although the trio of camel-bestriding globetrotters has been erected every year for decades, the decorations became a target for removal when the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) received a complaint concerning the “religious” display. At the forefront of the mission to remove the Christmas spectacle is MACRA member Mitch Kahle, who invokes the separation of church and state, which he insists compels the school to take down the 3 wise men, according to FOX 17.
“We’ve asked the school to remove what is, in essence, a nativity scene from the top of the school and from school property. If this were on private property this wouldn’t be an issue,” Kahle explained.
Unfortunately for him, Newaygo Public School’s superintendent Peg Thelen Mathis wasn’t about to capitulate the very tiny and vocal minority.
Instead of ordering the school to remove the festive display, Mathis posted a public response on Facebook, debunking the idea that the exhibit is merely a “religious” symbol. In fact, the superintendent added that the group should be lauding the display since administrators have “a legitimate secular purpose for the display,” which implies the importance of seeking out wisdom and knowledge — precisely what the school encourages its students to do.
“Newaygo Public Schools has a legitimate secular purpose for the display. We are both upholding the community’s tradition of celebrating a public holiday and attempting to point towards the importance of wisdom, knowledge, and open-mindedness. They’ve been described as the scientists of their time. The “wise men” are found in secular and other religious traditions outside of Christianity. Finally, there is no evidence that they were Jewish or Christian before their travels and there is nothing noted in the Christian Bible to indicate anything about any religion they practiced after their travels.”
Mathis concluded that, while she promises to review every complaint, there is no legal restricting concerning the depiction of such a display. She adds that the decor merely consists of 3 Middle Eastern travelers seeking wisdom and truth via a guiding force.
Unsurprisingly, many residents have expressed their approval of the display. Of course, the minority insists that it must come down, in accordance with their civil rights. Still, others are confused as to how Christmas decorations could be a civil rights issue.
For now, at least, the 3 wise men remain atop the school, pursuing the star and subsequent quest for knowledge. However, only time will tell if the civil rights group continues to focus its efforts on a wooden holiday display that has adorned the public school building for generations without harm.