Jewish Family “Forced to Move” Over School Lawsuit

“Stop the ACLU Coalition” Publicised Home Address, Phone Number

A special “hello” to all my extra readers, currently coming via Jesus’ General, Crooks and Liars, Christianity Today Weblog, and elsewhere.

Back in 2004, the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ (based at Dr D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries) praised the efforts of a school board in Delaware to promote Christianity among the children under its care (link added):

Despite threats of litigation from the ACLU, one Delaware school district has made it abundantly clear that they will not surrender America’s Christian heritage without a fight.

For years, the Indian River School District (IRSD) Board of Education of Sussex County, Delaware, has opened with an invocation. Recently, they received a threatening letter from the Delaware chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demanding that they discontinue their tradition of prayer.

School Board Takes a Brave Stand

After seeking legal counsel, a meeting was called, and community residents gathered at the Frankford Elementary School. In response to the ACLU’s threats, IRSD board president Harvey Walls asked board member Dr. Donald G. Hattier to deliver a prayer. Amid the crowd’s loud cheers, Hattier rose and recited George Washington’s prayer which was offered during America’s fight for independence…

The Delaware Daily Times added:

…Many begged the school board not to take Jesus away from their children. Others read scriptures from the Bible citing instructions given by Jesus.

One parent announced that a petition was being circulated and so far more than 300 people had signed it.

Board members listened for more than an hour during the public comment period, making no opinion statements themselves.

Commenting on the ACLU’s complaint, Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America asked (link in original):

“Where are the self-proclaimed, ‘Guardians of Liberty’ when a California school district is indoctrinating school kids with Islam?”…”This is one more example of the ACLU’s jihad to end public acknowledgement of the God of the Bible.”

(LaRue is referring to the California case discussed here)

However, the school board’s “brave stand” appears to be itself a bit of a “jihad” (as LaRue defines the term), according to Jews on First:

A large Delaware school district promoted Christianity so aggressively that a Jewish family felt it necessary to move to Wilmington, two hours away, because they feared retaliation for filing a lawsuit. The religion (if any) of a second family in the lawsuit is not known, because they’re suing as Jane and John Doe; they also fear retaliation. Both families are asking relief from “state-sponsored religion.”

The Jewish family is named as the Dobriches. Jews on First also gives an account of the 2004 meeting, with alleged details the CRAC report and the Daily Times left out:

On the evening in August 2004 when the board was to announce its new policy, hundreds of people turned out for the meeitng. The Dobrich family and Jane Doe felt intimidated and asked a state trooper to escort them.

The complaint recounts a raucous crowd that applauded the board’s opening prayer and then, when sixth-grader Alexander Dobrich stood up to read a statement, yelled at him “take your yarmulke off!” His statement, read by Samantha, confided “I feel bad when kids in my class call me Jew boy.”

…A  former board member suggested that Mona Dobrich might “disappear” like Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the atheist whose Supreme Court case resulted in ending organized school prayer. She disappeared in 1995 and her dismembered body was found six years later.

The crowd booed an ACLU speaker and told her to “go back up north.”

In the days after the meeting the community poured venom on the Dobriches. Callers to the local radio station said the family they should convert or leave the area. Someone called them and said the Ku Klux Klan was nearby.

Alex Dobrich claims that he was called “Christ-killer” by classmates; the school board’s lawyer, Thomas Neuberger of the Rutherford Institute, suggests that Dobrich is lying. The family is in fact being represented by a Wilmington law firm rather than the ACLU, but this did not prevent the Stop the ACLU Coalition from deciding to publicise the Dobriches’ home address and phone number, as part of an “Expose the ACLU Plaintiff” campaign.

The Dobriches have a litany of complaints about the school board’s alleged promotion of Christianity, including the claim that members of Bible Clubs were allowed to jump the queue for lunch. One reported incident appears particularly egregious, concerning Samantha Dobrich’s 2004 graduation:

She was the only Jewish student in her graduating class. The complaint relates that local pastor, Jerry Fike, in his invocation, followed requests for “our heavenly Father’s” guidance for the graduates with:

I also pray for one specific student, that You be with her and guide her in the path that You have for her. And we ask all these things in Jesus’ name.

Jerry Fike is the pastor of Mt Olivet Brethren Church in Georgetown (there’s a photo here). Apparently, even board member Hattier had to concede that the pastor’s involvement was out of line:

…Hattier added that the district had to change the practice of inviting pastors to give invocations at high-school graduations because it is against the law and had been for decades.

The Delaware Wave gave further details about the current litigation back in March:

Cheers of joy echoed through Sussex Central High School on Monday night when the Indian River School Board announced they would not pay a “six-figure” settlement to end prayer litigation.

The motion, made by Nina Lou Bunting and seconded by Donald Hattier, was unanimously carried.

“Put that in your pipe and smoke it, ACLU,” said David Bennett, a preacher at the Dagsboro Church of Christ, when the announcement was made.

Just two hours prior, while executive session was held, Bennett led nearly 100 spectators in song as they waited patiently for the news.

…”If these kids are taught evolution — that they came from apes — and they’re not given the basis of faith, what’s to stop them from acting like animals?” he said.

In fact, science appears to be a far lower priority for the school board than getting a Jew to convert, and students who wish to be excused biology lessons that cover evolution are reportedly allowed to attend a Bible Club instead.

But it seems that all this reported religious indoctrination is having only a limited effect, and the Indian River State Board would like the threat of violence to keep the kids in control. Delaware State News reported in April:

A Downstate lawmaker’s legislation to give school districts the ability spank misbehaving students has set off a stinging debate.

Rep. John C. Atkins, R-Millsboro, said he recently filed House Bill 376 at the behest of officials from the Indian River School District, which he represents.

“They are having a hard time controlling students and this would serve as a deterrent, especially if the kids see a teacher or administrator holding the paddle in the hallway when they walk by,” he said.

…They are talking about a couple of swats on a student’s buttocks, done in the privacy of an administrator’s office.

(Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars; the “Stop the ACLU Coalition” publication of the Dobriches’ home details was found by a commentator there)

UPDATE: Jesus’ General gives his take; Stop the ACLU responds. See my new entry here.