This Is How Bigotry Works

by Dan Quinn

So here’s a story about how bigotry works — and how religious-right groups feed off it.

Schools across America typically close for important Christian holidays like Christmas. Some also close for major Jewish holy days like Yom Kippur. Muslims in Maryland’s Montgomery County asked officials to consider closing local schools in recognition of major Islamic days of observance like Eid al-Adha as well. They also asked that, even if schools don’t close, Muslim holidays be noted on the official school calendar as other holidays are.

School officials explained that they close for those Christian and Jewish holidays technically because absenteeism would be very high, not necessarily because they are religious holidays. Absenteeism on Islamic holidays, they have found, isn’t particularly high in their schools. So they won’t be closing schools for those holidays.

But officials also decided against listing Muslim holidays on the official school calendar. Instead, the Board of Education voted to remove all religious holidays from the calendar, although schools will still close on Christmas and Yom Kippur.

Not surprisingly, that frustrated local Muslims. After all, they weren’t asking that schools not recognize other religious holidays.

“By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality,” said Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state delegate and co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition, told the Washington Post. “It’s a pretty drastic step, and they did it without any public notification.”

We bet you can guess how religious-righters have reacted. Here’s how commentator Todd Starnes of Fox News radio described what happened:

“There’s a new battleground in the war on Christmas – the suburbs of our nation’s capital. The school board in Montgomery County, Maryland has decided to appease Muslims families by making the school calendar — religious neutral.

That’s bad news for all you Jews and Gentiles out there.

As of next year – all Christian and Jewish holidays will be removed from the calendar. That means no more Christmas, no more Easter and no more Yom Kippur.

There’s no word on whether the board will remove the Irish from St. Patrick’s Day or the love from St. Valentine’s Day or the trees from Arbor Day.”

“War on Christmas”? “Appease Muslims”? Talk about scapegoating.

Texas-based Liberty Institute, the religious-right group that likes to sue schools and complains about the mythical “War on Christmas” every year, promoted Starnes’ commentary on Twitter:

David Walls at Liberty Institute’s Austin-based spinoff Texas Values tweeted about it as well:

“School Dumps Christmas to Appease Muslims”

Of course, that’s not what happened. Muslims in Montgomery County didn’t ask for any holidays to be “dumped.” They simply asked that their holidays, which their children in those public schools observe, at least be recognized alongside those of other faiths. In a diverse society that respects equality and religious freedom, that hardly seems to be an unreasonable request.

But when your goal is to spread bigotry and hate while you promote anger over a mythical “War on Christmas,” why let facts get in the way? Hate-mongers like Starnes and religious-right groups like Liberty Institute/Texas Values sure don’t.

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Chuck Lindell

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