One California school feels so strongly that religion doesn't belong in the classroom that it has banned all gifts that contain the word 'God,' including Godiva brand chocolates; books, videos, or DVDs of the Godfather; along with images of Godzilla.
List of banned gifts shocks some parents
By Cole Walters
MARINDELL, CA—Ten-year old Steven Jaffe thought that he'd found the perfect Christmas present for his best friend Matthew Padilla: a Godzilla "Disco Forever" action figure. But just days before he'd planned to surprise Steven with the $500 toy, officials at his Northern California elementary school circulated a list of banned holiday booty.
To Steven's surprise, his Godzilla action figure made the list, as did any toy, film, or image of the monster reptile. The reason: Godzilla contains the word 'God,' and He has no place in the classroom say Marindell educators. (View copy of official memo obtained by the Swift Report: page one
, page two.)
"There is a clear separation between church and state in this country and we're merely doing our part to try to enforce that," says Marcia Neiman-Jarvis, principal of the Bryant Elementary School. She insists that students are welcome to exchange any gifts they like—as long as they are not on school property at the time. "We don't care if they give each Godzilla dolls or the Godfather Trilogy. They just can't do it here at Bryant."
Not everyone at Bryant is happy about the ban. Second grade teacher Amanda Conley couldn't have been more pleased with the gift that she received from the mother of one of her students: a one pound ballotin of Godiva chocolates.
But before she'd even had a chance to remove the festive red velvet ribbon from the chocolatier's trademark gold box, a copy of the memo arrived in her mailbox. Sure enough, dozens of Godiva products, from Candy Cane Bark to Café Godiva Egg Nog Coffee, were on the 'do not give' list.
"This is just taking the whole 'keep God out of school' thing too far," says Conley, who describes herself as somewhat conservative and says that she attends church about three times a month. "They say that they're concerned about legal action by parents who feel that religion is being forced down their kids' throats. But to take away my chocolates? That's just ridiculous," says Conley.
Giving back—as good as they get
School officials may already be coming to regret their decision to make gift giving God-free this year. The memo has become a cause celeb among conservative commentators. Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes recently highlighted the Bryant Elemtary School case in a special edition of their show entitled "Take Back America."
But for now, Principal Neiman-Jarvis says that she's standing by her decision to compile the controversial 'do not give' list, and has already contacted the ACLU about representing Bryant Elementary in the event that the school faces legal action over the list. "As far as we're concerned, we're just enforcing the law of the land here. The constitution clearly states that church and state are to remain separate and that means that God isn't welcome there, whether he comes in through school prayer or in the form of a Godzilla doll. It's just not going to happen," says Neiman-Jarvis.
Conservative commentators and advocates for Christ are praying that she's wrong.