Opinion Brief

The great sneezing debate: Banning 'bless you' in schools?

A California teacher docks students' grades for what many parents see as a harmless expression of courtesy

A high school health teacher in California faced an angry backlash this week after he told students not to say "God bless you" when classmates sneezed. The teacher, Steve Cuckovich, even took points off students' grades for violating the ban. Cuckovich said he wasn't knocking religion — he just thinks the phrase turns a simple sneeze into a classroom distraction. Besides, he says, the phrase was developed at a time when people thought sneezes expelled evil spirits from the body, so it "doesn't really make any sense anymore." Parents are accusing him of trying to impose his beliefs on teenagers who were just trying to be polite. Was this teacher right to ban "God bless you"?

No. This is an obvious swipe at Christianity: "This is another small, yet stupid example of how politically correct we have become," says Brian Cook at Conservative Daily News. It's part of a relentless campaign to subject religious expression to "death by a thousand pin pricks." The phrase has never caused a "disciplinary meltdown" in Cuckovich's classroom, or anyone else's — he's only objecting because it has the word "God" in it."Say 'bless you' — get detention!"

Plus, Cuckovich's excuses don't hold water: People don't say "bless you" to alert God that they're casting aside evil spirits, says Danielle Sullivan at Babble. They're just trying to be polite. "It's ridiculous" and unfair to deduct grade points for something as benign as that. Schools should be focused on bigger issues. Remember, "we live in a society where, in many cases, bullying is overlooked to the point of children killing themselves."  "Teacher bans 'bless you' from classroom"

C'mon. The outrage is overblown: It does seem "pretty ridiculous to hurt a kid's grade just because he's subscribing to society's set manners," says Jon Bershad at Mediaite. But that doesn't justify the "War on Christianity" outrage. Cuckovich is a health teacher, so he's teaching his students that this phrase is rooted in superstition, not science. Making a rule and enforcing it isn't bigotry, it's just classroom discipline."Cue outrage: California teacher penalizes students for saying 'bless you'"

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