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Tea Party Patriots Rally To Support 1st-Grader's Jesus Presentation

The Temecula rally was held in support of Helen Hunt Jackson first-grader Brynn Williams.

Rally participants, Jan. 21, 2014. Courtesy photo.
Rally participants, Jan. 21, 2014. Courtesy photo.

Despite only one side of the story being told, nearly 100 people turned out for a rally at Helen Hunt Jackson Elementary School in Temecula to support a family who allege their little girl was denied her freedom of expression rights by a teacher at the campus.

“It was nice and peaceful. This is how our town works,” said rally organizer Ernie White, who is a member of OccupyTeaParty.net, the group largely responsible for getting the word out about Tuesday’s rally.

White and the others turned out in support of Helen Hunt first-grader Brynn Williams. Her story was first shared Jan. 14 on Patch after an attorney representing her family drafted a demand letter accusing a Helen Hunt teacher of stopping the child from finishing a presentation about the Star of Bethlehem and what it meant to her family at Christmas-time.

According to the seven-page Jan. 13 demand letter from Murrieta-based Advocates for Faith & Freedom attorney Robert Tyler to Temecula Valley Unified School District’s superintendent and board president regarding the alleged Dec. 18, 2013 incident at Helen Hunt, Brynn “worked diligently on a one-minute presentation in order to explain to the class that her family's tradition is to remember the birth of Jesus at Christmas-time.”

Brynn’s presentation was allegedly part of an assignment from a Helen Hunt teacher.

“Brynn's teacher had, over the course of approximately three weeks, given every child in her class a canvas bag with verbal instructions to find something at home that represents a family Christmas tradition, put it in the bag, bring it to school, and be prepared to share the family tradition,” the demand letter alleges.

The letter goes on to state that Brynn began to tell her class how “the three kings followed the star to find baby Jesus, the savior of the world. John...,” but was suddenly stopped by the teacher after the word “John.”

Brynn was told, "Stop right there! Go take your seat,” the letter alleges.

White admitted Tuesday he had not read the demand letter, but said religion was not his reason for organizing the rally.

“This is about freedom of expression,” he said.

Several rally participants turned out Tuesday carrying signs bearing quotes from the Bible, but White said he would support any student in this same situation, no matter the faith.

White, who has in the past protested against mosques in Temecula, was asked by Patch if he would support the child if she were of Muslim faith and had brought something to school representing that religion.

“We would support them in a minute,” he said.

Also at the rally Tuesday was Murrieta resident Diana Serafin, an Occupy Tea Party Patriot who helped spread the word about the rally. In an email she sent out to her database, she called on “Patriots” to “Bring your Bibles or other worship material.” 

When asked why the group chose the elementary school campus to rally at, Serafin and White said the point was not to intimidate or frighten children but instead to support freedom of speech.

The protesters were lined up along Paseo Gallante and Camino San Dimas streets, and never set foot on campus, Serafin said. Some rally participants carried American flags, another the yellow and black Gadsden flag depicting a coiled rattlesnake with the famous “Don’t Tread on Me” phrase. Other rally participants carried signs with slogans such as “Know Your Rights: Read the Constitution.”

Murrieta City Council Mayor Pro Tem Henry Ramos also turned out to support Brynn and her family, and what he said are the “rights of all Americans.”

“I was really taken aback by the story,” Ramos said. Speaking Tuesday, he had a message for Brynn: She is invited to a Murrieta City Council meeting to give the presentation she was allegedly not allowed to finish.

“I would love that opportunity,” he said.

For its part, the Temecula Valley Unified School District is still not releasing any comments on the matter, although district spokeswoman Melanie Norton said Tuesday that a statement is expected once the district has finished its investigation of the matter.

Norton could not confirm nor deny whether the alleged first-grade assignment was specific to Christmas.

“I honestly do not know,” she said.

Terri Anderson January 30, 2014 at 04:36 AM
CB, January 30, 2014 at 12:10 AM post. My family has a tradition where we reenact the birth of Jesus and read bible scriptures. I would most certainly have my child do her presentation on that, complete with the bible verses. If the teacher doesn't like it she shouldn't give an assignment like that. "Christ" is in Christmas and many people have religious Christmas traditions. After all, it is a day when we celebrate His birth.
southernbelle January 30, 2014 at 07:15 AM
oh, it pains me to enter back into this conversation--I had hoped it would've finally died out. But since you specifically addressed me @CB, I don't want to be rude and not acknowledge. First…*GASP* decades??? how dare…. oh. -__- you're right, ugh… *time flies* evens, I do remember my kids at this age coming home occasionally with questions or even just repeating things that were "taught" as well as heard at the lunch tables. I respect your choice to parent as you feel fit and so I respect your view of not wanting anything outside of your comfort being taught or talked about. But I will tell you this, since I have the advantage of hindsight, these are some of the best moments you can have with your children. You almost can't choreograph better teaching moments! These conversations help your child strengthen their trust in you as a parent. It shows them they can talk to you about anything, that you are concerned about being involved with their lives, and they have a safe place to go when they feel confused or unsure about anything. There were several talks about different things my children came up against that they thought or knew, and sometimes didn't know--I felt differently about. Handled with gentleness, non-judgement, honesty and love, they grew stronger and able to develop and establish their own beliefs without feeling chastised or forced to believe mine or anyone else's. When parents repel and/or react to differences, it is usually because they find some level of offense within it--children see this reaction and quickly adopt it. We have to stop doing our kids such a disservice if we are EVER going to find some semblance of harmony WITH and AMONG all our differences--because our differences are not, will not, can not EVER go away. Lastly, you are not correct about family traditions. Traditions are actually deeply rooted in religion. Christmas/Holiday season, in particular, has several religious traditions that take place at that time (Kwanza, Hanukkah, baby Jesus, Winter Solstice, Bodhi). How interesting and educational it would be for children to sit and hear about each of the traditions that take place in their friends' homes among all this diversity--and THEN, when the parents ask "how was your day," imagine the colorful, teaching moments we can have about all of this. Religious, lifestyle, race, handicap, personality, (etc.) diversity is not something to fear, CB, it is something to be embraced (esp. in this day and age).
CB February 26, 2014 at 12:50 AM
Southernbelle, im late in reading your post, things got busy. But my kids have been coming home somewhat recently asking who God is. I try my hardest to keep it as fact, not pushing them to believe or not believe its true. And im fine with my 6 year old changing the channel to the shows about religion (as ive seen her do recently) because she wants to know what it is so many families have as part of their lives. I think my point is that kids are so excited about learning usually and they see it as a place where truth is brought to them. So i think if they were to learn religion in school, if it conflicts with their own, it could confuse them because it is a very complex subject. I mean, there are wars in the world over it. It is sensitive. I dont see why it is so offensive to keep it out of school at this point. My kids are growing up, theyre asking a lot of questions these past couple of years that are uncomfortable. Did you know that in i think its 5th grade kids have to get a signed permission slip to discuss puberty? In middle school and in highschool health class you get parental permission to sit in class to learn about sex and all that comes with it. Puberty and sex are things that will happen yet it is such a sensitive issue that the right is given to the parents first. Do kids talk about puberty and sex regardless? Of course. But to do it as part of education takes respect for these minors parents and guardians to determine. I know its not exactly the same thing as religion, but it is in the sense of importance and sensitivity for families.
TVOR February 27, 2014 at 12:08 PM
I think we should limit what is taught in school to only a very basic overview of what religion is and the most common religions of our time. It is not right to prevent students from expressing to other students their thoughts on the subject.
Sew Good February 27, 2014 at 02:06 PM
I find it ironic that there is such uproar and hate over a kid making mention of Jesus in the classroom while no one pays attention to what is in their child's curriculum. In middle school, my son's social studies class spent a month A MONTH on the history of Islam. They studied mosques, built mosques, and learned about the Koran. The book in use is being challenged for its inaccuracies but that doesn't stop anyone from teaching from it. This text actually credits Muslims for giving us the alphabet we use today. Not Arabians, Hebrews, or Phoenicians, but Muslims. Unfortunately, the same amount of time was not spent on the history of Christianity. And CB, I think it's sad that you are so afraid to teach your children about God. Maybe you could teach them how to learn and find information. God is not as complex as you'd like to make him out to be. I would suggest that you all learn who Jesus is first. Buddha and the Dalai Lama could offer your children some enlightenment, too. It certainly wouldn't hurt.

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