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BOE commended for handling of religious liberty issues

Editor:

As citizens, we often use the "letters to the editor" opportunity when we have a complaint to share. But many use it to offer praise and support when that is due as well. This letter is one of support and encouragement to our own Board of Education and the Superintendent's office. As a minister of a church who strongly supports the separation of church and state, I followed the controversy surrounding religious liberties in our schools with great interest and concern. I was concerned for the teachers and parents who felt that their liberties were being denied as well as the teachers and professionals who were attempting to follow the law and provide the best educational environment for all - regardless of religious affiliation. This would be a difficult balance because of the various interpretations being shared and the passion of many who were voicing their concerns. I was so very proud of our board and superintendent's office in the way that they handled this. First of all, they listened to the concerns of the public. Second, they asked their attorney to respond to the outside groups who requested information. Her response was excellent. Third, they did make clarifications and changes that needed to be made because of miscommunication or misunderstandings. And fourth, they provided a vehicle through a meeting and their website for continued communication on this topic. Of course, the Herald should also be commended for their excellent coverage. I am proud to be a graduate of Bulloch County schools, a former teacher in the schools, and a retired teacher educator who taught many who are now teachers and administrators in our schools. Do we have areas that need improvement? Oh, you bet we do! And of course the board and superintendent's office would agree with that. Hopefully people in the community will take as much interest in the other needs of the system as they did this issue and help the system improve for all students.

I would also like to congratulate those in the community who attempted to reach out to one another through the Facebook page set up by a community member for conversation on this topic. For the most part, it was a good conversation that enabled us to have an understanding of the others' point of view, even if we disagreed. And I believe it was also an opportunity for many in our community to realize that we are a much more pluralistic community than they may have thought. We do have folks in our community who practice many different religions - and no religion at all. And these folks teach in our schools and their children are students in our schools. My own congregation has folks who identify as Buddhists, Christians, Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Pagans, Seekers and just simply Unitarian Universalists. And we also have growing Jewish, Baha'i, Islamic and Hindu communities in Bulloch County. We are here. We are part of this community and have been for many years. Hopefully this recent controversy and the understanding given by others will enable more folks to be open about their beliefs or non-beliefs and feel supported by others in the community. As we like to say at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro, "We do not have to think alike to love alike."

Standing on the Side of Love!

Rev. Jane Altman Page
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro

 

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