The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Want to build a Wiccan altar in shop class?

Forget it. (And that evidently goes for any other religious symbol, too.)

Just weeks after a Wiccan worship space caused a stir at the Air Force Academy, a teenager’s plan to build an altar in Iowa is causing problems, too:

A high school senior’s desire to build a Wiccan altar in shop class has forced a community debate about free expression.

Dale Halferty, who has taught industrial arts at Guthrie Center High School for three years, was placed on paid leave Monday after he acknowledged to district officials that he told the student he could not build the altar in class.


“This is not a beef that I have with the district. It’s not me against them,” said Halferty, who has been an educator for much of the past 20 years. “But this kid was practicing his religion during class time, and I don’t agree.”

Halferty said he previously told another student he could not build a cross in shop class because he believes in the separation of church and state. “I don’t want any religious symbols in the shop,” he said.

His viewpoint: “We as Christians don’t get to have our say during school time, so why should he?”

Continue reading for the rest.

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posted March 4, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I agree with the guy. If one is excluded, all should be excluded. When I took shop we had to build gumball machines. And look how great I turned out :)

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posted March 4, 2010 at 4:27 pm

The problem with the teacher’s argument is that Christianity is not barred from the schools. Students are permitted to discuss their religious views, read their religious texts, and even engage in religious rituals as long as it does not disrupt the educational mission of the school.
Whether a student wished to build a Christian communion table or a Wiccan altar, as long as the details of the project met with the goals of the assignment, the student should have been able to make the project.
Thankfully, the ACLU will set the district straight on this.

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posted March 4, 2010 at 8:40 pm

IF he was really just trying to enforce what he believed was proper church state separation, he was simply misinformed. Based on other comments he made before and since this account, it’s pretty clear he just doesn’t personally approve of non-Christian religions and felt he had the power and duty to interfere with them.

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