I hope that my American readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that many were able to worship God and give thanks for His gracious bounty and innumerable blessings on our nation. This past weekend, I was speaking with some of the younger children in church, and they told me that in their government schools they were not taught the history of Thanksgiving. While we know little about the first Thanksgiving that the Pilgrims celebrated in Plymouth, we do know that it took place in 1621 after the autumn harvest. William Bradford, the governor of the colony wrote that after a “sad and lamentable” first months that brought great sickness and many deaths to the colonists, the first harvest left them with “all things in good plenty,” including corn, cod, bass, and other fish, waterfowl, venison, and a “great store of wild turkeys.” The Pilgrims also celebrated with their Indian neighbors. Edward Winslow, one of the Pilgrims, wrote the following in his letter dated December 11, 1621:
. . . after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; [four fowlers] in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
Emphasis added. Of course, the “God” part of Thanksgiving is troubling to many in our nation. As one more recent example of the hostility against Christians in our nation, and particularly in the government-run schools, Michael Leal, a devout Christian believer and a senior at Cascade High School in Everett, Washington, is in danger of being expelled. What was the grave infraction? He believes that he has a God-given responsibility to share his Christian beliefs with others. As a result, Michael has been suspended three times, and has been threatened with expulsion for sharing his Christian faith through printed tracts and his own testimony. However, high school officials have claimed that Michael’s tracts, such as one called “How to Know God,” and other Christian messages, “may be offensive.” Moreover, the high school only permits students to distribute “literature” to other students only at the school entrances and exits before and after school, and the literature must be written by a student. (I suppose Michael couldn’t distribute a copy of the Constitution either, but I digress.) Subversively, Michael has distributed Gospel tracts to fellow students, and has audaciously engaged others in conversation about his Christian faith during lunch. Imagine this: Michael has also spoken about his faith at a bonfire for the school, at a school open house, and yes, even at a volleyball game.
In response to Michael’s grave affronts, the high school administration issued a Notice of Disciplinary Action (“NDA”) that charged Michael with “boisterous conduct of religious material impinged on rights of other students and failure to comply with multiple administrative requests to stop activity.” (Of course, high school administrators might want to brush up a bit on writing narrative English-language sentences.) Yet, one NDA was not enough and there were additional NDAs that ultimately led to a series of suspensions.
As is common now, a lawsuit by Michael was filed last week against the high school district, and his complaint names as additional defendants Superintendent Gary Cohn, high school principal Cathy Woods, and the assistant principals Robert Aguilar and Laura Phillips. In Michael’s complaint, he alleges that the principal Woods:
instructed [Michael] that she must give him permission to hand out tracts, and further that she needed to monitor him. She attempted to justify her position by stating that if she allowed [Michael] to “hand out tracts and to talk about Jesus she would be breaking the law.” Attempting to understand the principal’s position clearly, Leal asked to confirm that “if you allow me to hand out tracts and to talk about Jesus, then you would be breaking the law?” [Cascade Principal Cathy Woods’] response was an unqualified “yes.”
Michael’s complaint concludes:
[The defendants] have prohibited him from distributing literature outside of the narrow confines [of a policy rule], even when performed during non-instructional time and in a non-disruptive manner. Further, they have meted out punishment against [Michael] for exercising his speech rights.
As we know from the teachings of St. Paul, yes, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus and the Cross of Christ are deeply offensive to those who perish. Michael Leal is being represented by attorneys for the non-profit Pacific Justice Institute (www.pacificjustice.org). Please pray for Michael and his family, and his attorneys, during this trying time, but above all, please pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will be honored and magnified. Michael, notwithstanding his youth, powerfully echoes the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Christians know that the Holy Gospel stirs up devils and provokes evil persons for those who hate the Gospel’s powerful message of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ are enemies of the cross. If you wish to send a polite email to Principal Woods, you can find her at email@example.com. I am sure she would enjoy hearing from you.