“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
That is a quote from Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights activist, professor, and Holocaust survivor. It hangs on the wall of the library at Central Bucks High School South in Pennsylvania. Two days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, however, the Principal of the school met with the librarian and ordered him to have it removed or lose his job.
Why? Because it was seen as a violation of a school policy that prohibits “advocacy” on school grounds or by school staff and bans the display of inclusive symbols (such as rainbow flags). It is a policy drawn up by a school district that reportedly has ties to an organization that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups.
The news media got ahold of the story and the district was forced to put the quote back up. However, that hasn’t stopped the district from hiring The Independence Law Firm (a conservative Christian law firm and arm of the Family Research Council–widely known as a Christian nationalist hate group) to review books to be banned and monitor schools for violations to its anti-LBGTQ and anti-Semitic policies.
Local schools are becoming a growing battleground for hate groups in our country. Several of you who are parents have shared with me how lucky you feel to be living in a “blue state” where this sort of thing is rare, but our country as a whole remains in some very treacherous waters in this regard.
Taking down quotes? Forbidding symbols that welcome marginalized people? Banning books? Really? Why not take the final step and pile them all up on the town green and burn them? It certainly smacks of a history we should never forget. It comes down to banning diversity and instituting a regimentation of belief that leads to some very dark places.
It saddens me that these efforts are being spearheaded by people who call themselves Christians. No, I take that back. It angers me. It is a defilement of everything Christ came to proclaim.
That said, it also makes me rejoice in our church. It makes me glad that First Congregational Church exists to proclaim the power of inclusivity, the celebration of diversity, and the need to advocate for social justice; all in the name of Christ.
If, as Wiesel’s quote states, “we must always take sides” then we stand unequivocally on the side of love and against these growing forces of hate.
See you in church,