By Josh Akeman
One Fayette County Board of Education member called Earth Day a "pagan celebration" and another joined him in voting against having students and teachers participate in Earth Day celebrations.
At Monday night's meeting, Superintendent Jody Barrow recommended the board vote in favor of a Memorandum of Agreement with the city of Fayetteville.
"This is a water conservation project we participate in with the city of Fayettetville. It's an opportunity for us to look at water conservation, Adopt-A-Stream programs, and there's a traditional Earth Day celebration that the city and the school district has participated in," Barrow said. "This in essence works to help the city of Fayetteville meet some of the EPD requirements as far as public education is concerned."
Dr. Barry Marchman objected to the district's involvement with Earth Day on religious grounds.
"I'm uncomfortable with us supporting Earth Day celebrations. Just as some people are probably uncomfortable with us celebrating Easter, having Easter bunnies, or Santa Claus, or having a baby Jesus on the campus," Marchman said. "I'm that uncomfortable with us supporting Earth Day celebrations because it's got some religious roots and I think this blurs the lines between separation of church and state. I don't mind if anybody goes and does whatever they want to in their free time, but I'm not going to support that."
Dr. Bob Todd countered with his own reasons for supporting Earth Day.
"I would support the effort to do the conservation because I would base my rationale, I'm not supposed to say this, but I would say on the book of Genesis. Anything that's out there to conserve and make this earth a better place for us all to be alive, I can support that," Todd said.
"I support the conservation aspects and being a good steward of the earth," Marchman replied, "but I don't support us officially sending our employees to what some consider to be a pagan celebration."
According to the history of Earth Day on earthday.org, the day was originally conceived by a U.S. Senator in 1970 as a "national teach-in on the environment." According to the website: "The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda."
Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao did not make any comment but joined Marchman in voting against the Memorandum of Agreement, which passed 3-2.