I find myself wondering if Sussex County is about to become the next Dover, Pennsylvania.
The suit against the Indian River School Board over overtly Christian prayers at school functions had been percolating along in local media for the last year without attracting much national attention. This week, that has started to change.
Aspects of the lawsuit and local reaction to it have been picked up by several blogs around the US, including Jesus' General, Daily Kos, and Bartholomew's notes on religion. The story has also now come to the attention of several Delaware bloggers, including Delawareliberal (twice, thrice), first slate, and Karmically Speaking.
It is getting some interesting discussion.
Full disclosure: my wife Karen is an employee of the Indian River School District and my daughters have profited from attending one of the better schools in the District. Though we live in the neighboring Cape Henlopen District, we "choiced" both girls into the Southern Delaware School of the Arts in the Indian River District. Colleen has just graduated eighth grade and next fall will attend Sussex Vocational Technical High School, which has its own, county-wide district status.
I have taken notice of the School Prayer story here from time to time. Either in passing, while covering other issues in that District, or directly, as parts of the story have played out. Beyond that, I probably shouldn't go. Conflicts of interest.
Still, I am interested to see the reaction as this story spreads. I hope people around the world won't assume that all of Sussex County is intolerant of variety and other religions. They are not.
Unfortunately, some are. Further, there is a strong feeling in some quarters, mistaken, I think, that asking the school board to not officially proselytize is somehow to restrict their ability to practice their faith at all.
While I do not agree with this position, I will say that, faced with such deeply held beliefs -- right or wrong -- it will take patience and forbearance to work through to a more tolerant society.
I think the school board is in the wrong. But I know it will take time to move them. Patience, tolerance, and steady moral pressure will, eventually, solve the problem.