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Sacrilegious or just a harmless classroom assignment?

Thursday, June 07, 2012
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A student-drawn picture posted inside a Fresno Unified school is sparking debate over whether it's sacrilegious or just a harmless classroom assignment.

The picture is on display in the lobby of Hamilton Elementary School in Central Fresno. It depicts Jesus with the caption, "I want you to kill all infidels." The term infidel comes from ancient history and was used to describe people who had no faith. The picture was created by a seventh grade student as part of a history assignment.

"The picture itself I feel goes against everything Christianity stands for."

In the picture, you can see a man wearing a Jesus name tag, with the caption, "I want you to kill all infidels." Below, the phrases: "meet me in Jerusalem" and "get a free ticket to heaven." The artwork is one of several drawings in a display case inside the main lobby at Hamilton Elementary.

Parent, Chris Alfaro said, "I do believe common sense tells you, hey this may not be appropriate for a k through 8 school, right in the main lobby where each child passes on their way to school and home." Chris Alfaro is Christian and has a second-grade daughter at Hamilton. His wife first noticed the drawing in early March. But according to him, when she called the office to complain, no one made an effort to address her concerns. He claims, "The aide said something along the lines of I'll see what I can do, and then hung up the phone."

Action News reached out to the school, but did not get a call back. A spokesperson with the Fresno Unified District did however speak with us and released this statement, explaining why the picture was drawn, saying in part, "Students at Hamilton were assigned to create a help wanted poster for soldiers needed to fight in the crusades and write a poem about Joan of arc, the Black Death, or the Magna Carta and create a visual background for it. This was one of several posters displayed."

Historically, the Crusades were a series of religious wars launched by Christians against mostly Muslim people.

Rabbi Rick Winer, who has a degree in comparative religious studies, says despite the intended lesson behind the assignment, it crosses a fine line.

Rabbi Rick Winer with Temple Beth Israel said, "If we want to encourage people to learn the lessons of post Crusades or post Holocaust, I generally find it's more effective to do it through images of peace as opposed to images of horror."

As for Alfaro, he claims to have nothing but respect for the school and the student who drew the picture. All he wants is for it to be taken down. "It's kinda driving us nuts and we want to get rid of it."

The picture is still on display.

Shortly after Action News called the school, Alfaro and his wife both received a message from the principal here asking them if they would like to meet and discuss their concerns.

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