By: Florida Today
Re: Re: Religious controversy
By Sandra Wiley
A parent's complaint about religious instruction at a public elementary
school - along with pressure from the Brevard chapter of the American Civil
Liberties Union - has forced the school to cancel a similar event set for
Denise Forsgren complained that her Suntree Elementary third-grade
daughter, Sarah, had to take part in a celebration of Passover, a holiday
commemorating the Jewish people's exodus from Egypt after 2,000 years of
slavery to the Egyptians.
Principal Raymon Rogers said the school will cancel a second presentation
by a "resource person" that was set for today. "We do not have any more of
these activities or presentations planned at this time," he said.
The mother of a Jewish student brought a menorah, or Jewish candelabrum,
to the classroom, read a storybook about Passover, played Jewish games and
gave out Jewish toys, Forsgren said. Passover, which began at sundown April 15
continues through sundown Saturday.
Forsgren said she has complained before, but got no results. The mother
of three Suntree students is relieved the presentations have stopped, but said
the sessions on Judaism have taken place "for two years." The visits happened
during Passover and Hanukkah, an eight-day celebration in the fall.
"This has completely confused my daughter. She came home crying," said
Forsgren, whose family is Catholic.
Rogers said he talked with Sarah's teacher, Patty Pinson, who said the
Jewish mother also had unleavened bread, which Jews eat during Passover, for
the children to taste.
Rogers, who calls the game played "traditional, not religious," said he
does "not believe anything improper took place.
"We try to provide a broad base of learning experiences for our children.
We cover a varied area of religions and cultures, and we have definite
guidelines for that."
Jim Hooper, a spokesman for the ACLU, said the presence of other religious
instruction "cannot justify allowing the Jewish presentations currently
He said the ACLU would wait to see what action the school takes: "The
problem ought to be self-correcting now that the problem has been called to
the attention of the school."