Cultural diversity lecture raises concerns
A school presentation about cultural diversity and the celebration of different holidays has prompted some concerns from local church officials.
On Dec. 17, Bethel Middle School students will experience the Festivals of Light Show presentation from the Center for Cultural Diversity in Asheville.
The 45-minute show will briefly discuss basic history involved with Greek Christmas traditions, the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah and the Islam traditions of Ramadan. In addition, the presentation will include artifacts from the cultures, as well as different types of food.
The Revs. Mark Caldwell, of North Canton Baptist Church, and Roy Kilby, of Bethel Baptist Church, both have said they were concerned about a presentation including Muslim elements. They voiced their concerns during a recent Haywood County school board meeting.
Caldwell addressed the board as a concerned parent, and questioned the teaching of Muslim, Buddhism and Confucianism without also incorporating Protestant faith into the lecture.
“I have no problem with them learning history and understanding it, but what I would like to do and have is, if they give people 45 minutes to present the history of their faith, that we could have 45 minutes to present what we believe as the true Christians — our faith,” Caldwell said during the Dec. 10 meeting. “Can they tell the children that Allah loves them and has a great plan for their lives? Because I can tell them that Jesus Christ loves them and does have a plan.”
Kilby spoke out against the Islamic elements in the presentation.
“The Islamic faith is not only a religion, it is a political system,” Kirby told the board. “It teaches that Allah is the only authority, and therefore is a political system. It’s quite prejudice in regard to what it believes and practices, both privately and publicly. Their religion is very bias in many ways. Muslims call Christians infidels and call Jews pigs. Their idea of human rights is despicable.”
Shawn Parris, principal of Bethel Middle School, later clarified that there wouldn’t be any information about Buddhism or Confucianism during the presentation. She said said the program was not at all as it was described by Kilby and Caldwell.
“We’re just going to do a comparison, and we have no desire to go deep,” Parris said. “The students will use historical thinking to understand the expansion and declines of civilizations and societies. It will talk about historical events and issues and cultural issues, but we’re not going to dive deep.”
Parris said the presentation would include learning how Islams praise Mecca by laying down prayer rugs and learning about the Jewish tradition of lighting candles on a menorah.
“That’s as deep as it’s going,” Parris added.
After the meeting, Parris was present and spoke with Caldwell and Kilby and clarified some details about the presentation.
“They were still under the impression that a Muslim was to speak, but it’s the executive director that’s doing the presentation,” Parris said.
After the meeting, Caldwell said he still felt the same about the presentation, and adding that he still thought Protestant faith should be incorporated.
A voice message left for Kilby on his cell phone was unreturned as of press time.