Bountiful, Utah, situated less than a half hour north of Salt Lake City, is the state’s 15th largest city. Its residents primarily belong to a Christian sect known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and are often collectively referred to as Mormons. There was, however, no Christian understanding for a fourth grade boy who was forced by his teacher to wipe off his Ash Wednesday cross yesterday.
“I’m Catholic. It’s the first day of Lent. It’s Ash Wednesday,” William McLeod told his friends when they asked what was on his forehead. As one of the few observant Catholics at Valley View Elementary in Bountiful, McLeod said he was the only one who came to school that day with ashes. Apparently, it was too much for his classroom teacher, who later approached him and asked him to remove the religious symbol. He tried to explain his reasons for keeping it, to no avail. McLeod informed his family when he returned home, and they approached the teacher, citing the boy’s First Amendment rights (which are notoriously infringed upon in public schools). The teacher claimed to have never read the Constitution.
Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams apologized, as did the unnamed teacher – the latter, with a handwritten note and candy (interesting to note: many Catholics give up something for the 40 days of Lent, and candy is a common sacrifice). The teacher may face disciplinary action.
If schools in a conservative state like Utah can’t seem to honor people’s religious beliefs (especially when those beliefs are Christian), what hope do more liberal states have? The pressure to keep schools as secular as possible (though, some will argue, the push has more to do with keeping Christianity out of schools, not other religions) has some teachers acting in ways they might not otherwise have thought wise.