It was a little jarring to read last week’s story on page A1 about children being invited to the city’s plaza to get a free school backpack. Unaware of the prerequisites to receive a backpack with school supplies, children found themselves in a circuitous brainwashing event that dragged them probably unwittingly through religion and politics.
We’re embarrassed that we supported the event by giving the group LIBRE free space in our Northern Briefs. That space is for free events where the host organization is not benefiting.
What children and parents discovered was that before a student gets a backpack, they have to go play some religious games provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Upon completing the five games required, the student could receive a bag, only to find Koch brothers right wing propaganda inside.
We have no problem with Mormons, nor right wing enthusiasts. We’re a country founded on religious freedoms and everyone’s right to choose their particular political flavor. Freedom for the “establishment of religion, is in the same Constitutional amendment that protects this newspaper.
Our problem is with the false promotion (by omission) that there would be strong religious and political overtones to the event. Our copy of the promotion mentioned no such thing.
“The LIBRE Institute will hold back-to-school events across New Mexico. These events will feature giveaways of backpacks - and other school supplies - in support of families as they prepare for the upcoming school year. The LIBRE Institute will help provide students with the materials they need to succeed at school, as well as the opportunity to learn more about educational options that may benefit their families.”
We’re guessing the “educational options” were: learn about being a Mormon and part of the Koch brothers’ right wing machine.
There are also some serious separation of church and state issues here. The event was organized by the city-funded Project R.A.C.E. Also participating were Rio Arriba County and Española law enforcement and fire departments. The backpacks were provided by Rio Arriba County, the city, the church, LIBRE, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Española Firefighters Union.
Other than the church and LIBRE, the rest of these groups did not know how the backpacks would be distributed. We doubt they would have agreed to the stipulations put in place for children to receive needed school supplies.
From interviews before and after the event it appears Project R.A.C.E. coordinator Miranda Lopez and Mayor Javier Sanchez got hoodwinked. A few days prior to the event, Lopez denied there was a religious aspect to it. We believe she did not know.
Sanchez said after the event it was a learning experience and next year they’d do a better job. That reads as children are not going to play prerequisite Mormon games and the Koch brothers can go peddle their political propaganda elsewhere.
This event was undoubtedly unconstitutional. Someone in charge should have stopped it. We’re not sure if that would be Lopez or the mayor, because the Mormons and Koch supporters weren’t going to.