Sunday, December 18, 2005

Freedom of Religion on the Town Square

First, thanks to everyone who said kind and comforting things about Bubbe. I so appreciate it. I have debated a lot about this blog. Is it strictly about fiber? About my writin' life? About my movie star dogs? Really though, it's about whatever I want it to be. I'm prompted by Stephanie aka the yarn harlot to tell you about my recent, ummh, triumph.

After NINE months of polite emailing and discussion with local city officials, I have managed to get them to approve a formal request to put a non-Christian event on the town square. Yes, I live in the USA. Shocking, isn't it? I live in a collegetown in Kentucky that has apparently never had a formal request before by a non-Christian group to put anything on the town square. (could it be, *perhaps* because it took me 9 months?)

Worse yet, it took quite a while for them to acknowledge that the Nativity scene, the "Celebrate Jesus and America" Independence Celebration, the Dogwood festival (don't ask) --that all these things were indeed Christian events and that by allowing these "traditional things" (their words, not mine) and not allowing Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan, etc. events, they were, in essence, privileging one religion above the others on the town square.

Finally, a nice man who happened to be the Midwest civil rights counsel of the Anti-Defamation League advised me that I had to file a formal request, cause if the city turned it down, then we could do something like legal action. I did the request. So, even though I'd really prefer no religion at all on the town square, (that's what churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples are for, imo) I filed the request. It was approved, although at least one city official let me know that he saw it as something so out of the ordinary that it really put him out. (How dare I, a fourth generation Jewish American, exert my constitutional rights?) I am putting on a one hour Menorah lighting and Celebration of Religious Freedom, complete with singing and doughnuts, on December 28th, from 6-7 pm, central time. I'm doing it so that every other minority in town will be able to do this from now on, whenever the holiday is, because Hanukah is really a minor one in December, but it is about religious freedom.

I have invited every supportive group in town I can think of so that this is peaceful and fun. The Unitarian choir is singing with me. I'm pretty nervous. I've asked for a police presence. There's a Klan here in Kentucky. However, this is what it means to stand up for what you believe in. Any cyber support is deeply appreciated.


Blogger vanessa said...

holy crap joanne, i live in the south, but even in lake placid we don't have to worry about the klan. hope all goes well for you!

December 19, 2005 at 7:06 AM  
Blogger CarolineF said...

Go for it! Honestly this country is so f***ed up. Did you see Sunday's 'Doonesbury'? Go look if you didn't.

December 19, 2005 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Vanessa, here's how I learned about the local Klan. My husband's colleague, another biologist, was out birding early in the AM. Like 4 AM, looking for owls. He climbed to the top of a ridge, looked down, and saw the guys in white hoods. biologists, observers of life and all that, he stood there and watched, until...he said, "Oh No! I'm a Black Man watching a Klan gathering! Oh NO!" He ran like heck. That's how I know about its existence. Yucky, huh?

Or it could be the "go back to where you came from letters to the local paper, but they both freak me out.

December 19, 2005 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger kimber said...

Good for you!! Wish I could fly down there for your event. I'll light an honorary candle here at home on that day.

December 19, 2005 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger jenknits said...

Oh man, it takes a strong woman to open the eyes of a small town. I'll be there virtually. Thank you for making a stand to make this world a better place for our children.

December 22, 2005 at 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Lisa S said...

Yikes! Good for YOU, Joanne. Happy Hannukah!

December 23, 2005 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger e's knitting and spinning blog said...

Good luck Joanne. Intolerance is not conducive to human life:-(

December 26, 2005 at 6:55 AM  
Anonymous LynnH said...

Here's support for you from a fourth-generation Unitarian up north.

I applaud your courage. It's sad to worry and deal with possible conflict, where there need not be a reason for it. Hugs.

December 31, 2005 at 12:26 PM  

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