Should Public School Kids Sell Religious Wrapping Paper?

Jeanne Sager

christmas presentThe school fundraisers have arrived. The first one: the dreaded wrapping paper. And our first hint that the separation of church and state is, shall we say, fluid?

Because in between the birthday paper and the cake decorating kit (really, that's related to wrapping paper?) there is colored foil dotted in Christmas trees. And to balance it out, menorahs.

Ah, I get it. It's like the holiday concert of my public school youth. When we were allowed to sing one "Oh, Holy Night" for every "Dreidel, Dreidel." Not surprisingly there were no references to Islam, Buddhism or any of the other major world religions in the early nineties in a rural school district.

But this is 2010.

When a kid crosses himself on the football field and everyone poops their shorts.

Hey, I'm not advocating we all join up with Texas and start re-writing history. The Don't Tread on Me State was talking about treading Thomas Jefferson right into the ground because our third president actually advocated a separation of church and state. They wanted to take him OUT of kids' history books. Entirely.

And the schools that have pulled some fancy witchcraft and made all that evolution information just disappear might make Christine O'Donnell kick her heels together a time or two, but they make me glad I live in New York State. Where we learned about monkeys, and why our kids have such a fondness for flinging poop when they're babies.

But I digress.

I'm not insulted when one child crosses himself before eating lunch in the cafeteria -- so long as my daughter isn't expected to join in. And I could give two hoots if a boy brings his bar mitzvah invitations to middle school to hand out to his pals -- so long as he doesn't make a show of rubbing them in the noses of kids who aren't invited. 

I'm for separation of church and state. With a dash of common sense.

So I'm a bit embarrassed to say the religious wrapping paper coming home with my public school kindergartner still gave me pause. 

A lapsed Catholic with Jewish friends, I celebrate Christmas and send out Hanukkah cards. The stuff in the catalogs was useful -- albeit over-priced (and I'm still confused by that cake decorating kit). Most importantly, I was left with a choice that the prayers in school or the blackballing of valid history from the textbooks doesn't allow.

I could say no.

No to her selling it. No to me buying it. As one friend joked when I asked if her school did the same thing, "I don't know, I'll have to check before I throw it in the trash next time."

Does this sort of fundraiser belong in a public school?


Image via shimelle/Flickr

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