School officials in Burlington, N.J., who wanted to stage a “hostage situation” drill have portrayed the attackers as Christians, including one who was upset that his daughter was expelled for praying before class.
Supt. Chris Manno praised the exercise to test the response of the school and police, explaining, “You perform as you practice. We need to practice under conditions as real as possible in order to evaluate our procedures and plans so that they’re as effective as possible.”
Lifesite News reported that the Christian students in the school were offended when the student body was told the alleged gunmen were “members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the ‘New Crusaders’ who don’t believe in separation of church and state.”
The Burlington County Times said the mock gunmen pretended to shoot several students in the hallways before taking 10 students hostage in the district’s media center.
Organizers of the drill said the “Christian” gunmen had gone to the school “seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class.”
But there’s not much of reality to that scenario, according to Bob Pawson, spokesman for the Scriptures in School Project. Instead, it was just an excuse to denigrate Christians, he said.
“So what allegedly real condition was imagineered? A grotesque scenario saturated with Christian-bashing prejudice and bigotry; a scenario which could never possibly occur,” he said.
It doesn’t even meet the logic test, he said. “As all Burlington school officials know full well: It is perfectly legal for any student or staff member to pray in a public school. They know that no student can ever be expelled for praying before class. Hence, the contrived reason for the mock attack is bogus.”
County officials said the drill was the first live test of its sort in their area, but Pawson said it was more a test of New Jersey Christians, trying to determine their response “to such a blatant example of anti-Christian animosity.”
In a belated statement released on the school’s website, officials said there were “concerns” that had been shared regarding the test.
“Any perceived insensitivities to our religious community as a result of the emergency exercise are regrettable,” the school said.
“Our schools have respected and supported staff members’ and students’ right to pray. Students and staff have held morning prayer vigils. There are various prayer groups within the High School as well as an established Bible club,” the school said.
The U.S. Supreme Court nearly 40 years ago concluded that students do not give up their constitutional rights “to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” and the U.S. Department of Education explicitly supports that freedom, penalizing any school that disallows constitutionally protected religious speech.
“A public apology is in order,” Pawson said. “The citizens of Burlington County could rightly demand the resignation or termination of school officials who dreamed up and approved this reprehensible scenario.”
In a commentary on Newsbusters.org, a writer lamented the situation.
“This is the root of liberal bias. It starts in the schools and spreads throughout from the children to the town councils and eventually to local newspapers such as the Burlington County Times where staff writer David Levinsky blends the fantasy of the mock scenario with the reality of school shootings through America,” the writer said.
“The real story is that it has become acceptable to discriminate against Christians with bigoted characterizations that portray them as gun wielding psycho killers,” the writer said.
The local newspaper had reported the drill was that of a situation that has “played out” numerous times across America. “Two Burlington Township police detectives portrayed the gunmen. Investigators described them as members of a right-wing fundamentalist group…”
Said Terry Trippany, editor at Webloggin, on a personal blog, “If the police had portrayed the real life scenario of gay terrorists or abortion rights activists upset for any contrived reason you would read about it in every major paper across the United States; and rightfully so because IT WOULD BE RIDICULOUSLY STUPID.”
An author at StopTheAclu.com said, “This is the stupid local bureaucrat version of the Sum of All Fears. What would have made the ‘drill more realistic’ would have been to cut the crap and portray the child-killing terrorists as Islamists.”
The local newspaper reported that, “Burlington Township Public Safety Director William Corter said the drill was the first live exercise testing the police and school response plans to a hostage crisis. ‘This should really show how well we work together and respond,’ Corter said. ‘If mistakes are made, we want to know how they should be corrected. The things we do right, we still want to see how we can make them better.'”
Related special offers: