Category Archives: Religion/Atheism
In a piece published yesterday in the Dallas Morning News’ Texas Faith Blog, William McKenzie claimed that neuroscience may be overlooking some things that may help explain certain psychological disorders in humans, especially ADHD in children (emphasis mine).
I have wondered whether the science of brain chemistry has risen to such a place that we may overlook other reasons for behavior. That includes whether the old-fashioned notion of sin could perhaps also explain the actions people take. Could it be that man’s rebellion against God is driving people to act the way they do as much as any influence their brain has on their actions?
As such, he asks the question to a myriad of individuals across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds: Are we relying too much on the science of the brain to explain human behaviors?
Let me answer that real quick.
No. Science is the only way we can know anything. You cannot appeal to the supernatural, which by definition does not exist, to understand the natural. Human behaviour is completely natural and can be understood through neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and other fields of science.
Yes, we do not understand everything about human nature and behaviour, but that does not mean one can appeal to gods, spirits, or magic. Our ignorance of something does not make your god(s) more likely of an explanation. Just because those in the faith communities want there to be some higher meaning to our actions does not make it so, and appealing to religious leaders and people who are not scientists does not help your case.
Be sure to read all of the responses that are given in the piece, as they are some of the most scientifically ignorant things I have probably ever read that was not from Answers in Genesis.
This is the transcript of a talk I gave recently at the Flower Mound High School Secular Student Alliance. Flower Mound High School is my old high school, but I did not graduate from there, as I transferred after my sophomore year.
The talk was about what the students can do stop invocations from happening at the graduation ceremony. You can watch my talk here.
Hello. I would like to thank everyone here for having me here today.
My name is Daniel Moran. I am the President and Founder of the Secular Student Alliance at the University of North Texas. I am also the Texas Volunteer Network Coordinator for the Secular Student Alliance.
If you listen to atheist podcasts, you might recognise me as being the former Co-host and Political Correspondent from Dogma Debate with David Smalley or the current Correspondent and Producer for The Nones with Shayrah Akers and Lilandra Nelson.
I’m also a former student of Flower Mound High School. I didn’t graduate from here, as I transferred to a charter school after my sophomore year, but my brother did, and my little sister currently attends here.
But most of all, I’m a Political Science major, with a focus in American government and politics, but Constitutional law is a hobby and passion of mine, which is why I’m here. I hope that my knowledge and experience with graduation prayer can help you guys.
For any seniors in here, I’m sure it is on your mind that you graduate in a couple of weeks. First off, I’d like to say congratulations to you. Now, it is very common for high schools to have invocations, which is just a fancy word for prayer, at the graduation ceremony. Nine times out of ten, this invocation will be a Christian form of prayer.
As we all know, school-sponsored or government-sponsored prayer or any government endorsement of religion is unconstitutional, as it violates the separation between church and state that our nation was founded on. But how do we make sure our schools are not violating the Constitution and essentially discriminating against non-Christian or non-theistic students? How do we make sure the schools follow the law and keep prayer out of the graduation ceremony?
I want it clear though, before we delve into the unconstitutionality of school-led prayers that we are not here to take away anyone’s right to pray. People have the constitutional right to pray, even in public schools. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld that right, even for non-Christians. If Muslims want to pray towards Mecca or a Buddhist wants to meditate, they can do that, as long as they aren’t causing a disturbance of any kind. People do not have the right to force religion onto anyone else, and the government, including public schools, especially does not have the authority to do this.
First, we need to establish that the law is indeed on our side. We all know it is, but some do not or do not know exactly how, and some will purposely ignore the law to advance their agendas and force religion into public schools. We need to have a solid, constitutional foundation and judicial precedent as to why these sorts of things are not okay. So what does the law actually say?
Let’s start with the obvious one: The United States Constitution.
In the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment starts off with, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Not only that, but if people try to say that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to the states and only to Congress, point to the Fourteenth Amendment, which says in Section 1, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
But we’re Texas. We don’t need to care about the US Constitution! We’re going to secede from the Union any day now! Well, the Texas Constitution says this in Article One, Section Six of its Bill of Rights, “No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship.” Section Seven says, “No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.” Funny enough though, Texas is thinking about having a constitutional amendment to change that. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. But not only do we have the US and Texas Constitutions on our side, but we have the Supreme Court of the United States on our side.
In ruling after ruling, the Supreme Court has affirmed and even strengthened, in some instances, the wall that keeps church and state separate.
There are many cases that are relevant and important to know about. The first one I want to talk about is Engel v. Vitale, which was a 1962 case where the Supreme Court ruled that public schools cannot have school-sponsored or school-led prayer. The plaintiffs in this case, most of whom were Jewish or backed by local Jewish organisations, brought suit against the schools that their children attended, because they didn’t like that the school had created and was endorsing this prayer, “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.”
The Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-1 decision, as one Associate Justice had a stroke and another recused himself from the case, that government-led prayers in public schools were unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. They also outright rejected the argument that the prayer was voluntary and the argument that the students were not told to respect or believe in any specific religion or set of religious beliefs. The Court held that the mere promotion of a religion, any religion or religious belief, is sufficient enough of a violation, even if that promotion is not a coercive one.
The Court also held that the vagueness of the prayer, that it did not establish which particular religion it was endorsing, was not a good enough defense. It still promotes a specific family of religion, the ones that refer to their deity as “Almighty God,” the Judeo-Christian Islamic religions or Abrahamic faiths, and excludes those of polytheistic, pantheistic, other monotheistic religions, and atheistic people, thereby still violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Being vague is not a defense. Being “voluntary” is not a defense. So if we have a school official say, “Well, it doesn’t refer to a specific religion, and we kept it vague to include as many as possible,” point to Engel v. Vitale and the opinion written by Justice Hugo Black.
Let it be made clear. The Court did not rule that students or teachers did not have the right to pray in school. All that was held was that teachers and administrators could not create a prayer or make students pray.
Then we have Abington School District v. Schempp. Edward Schempp, a Unitarian Universalist, was a resident of Abington, Pennsylvania, and his son Ellory Schempp, who attended school in the Abington School District, was required under Pennsylvania law to partake in Bible readings as part of his education in the public schools. The law, Pennsylvania Statute 15-1516, reads, “At least ten verses from the Holy Bible [be] read, without comment, at the opening of each public school on each school day.” Schempp made the case that the requirement was a violation of his son’s First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights.
Schempp was eventually consolidated with the case, Murray v. Curlett, on appeal to the Supreme Court. William J. Murray III was the son of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who founded the organisation American Atheists the same year.
In the majority opinion written by Associate Justice Thomas Clark, he pretty much said that no level of government, whether state or federal, shall prefer or disparage any religion or religious belief. Justice Clark cited a previous SCOTUS ruling from two years prior, where Justice Hugo Black said, “Neither [a State nor the Federal government] can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.”
Clark concluded his opinion with, “The place of religion in our society is an exalted one, achieved through a long tradition of reliance on the home, the church, and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind. We have come to recognize through bitter experience that it is not within the power of government to invade that citadel, whether its purpose or effect be to aid or oppose, to advance or retard. In the relationship between man and religion, the State is firmly committed to a position of neutrality.”
Yes, there probably won’t be a Bible reading, but the ruling is still important to cite for various reasons, and we’re Texas, who knows what they’ll do next.
Then we have what are known as “moments of silence.” These are sometimes what are offered by secularists as alternatives to outright prayers and invocations in public schools. I mean, it’s not a prayer, so what problem could we have with it? Well, nonetheless, the Supreme Court has a problem with it.
In the case Wallace v. Jaffree, Ishmael Jaffree, an American citizen and a Muslim, filed suit against the Mobile, Alabama School District, on First Amendment grounds, for its law that allowed for public school teachers to set aside a minute or so for “meditation or voluntary prayer.” Jaffree complained to the school several times that the school was holding teacher-led prayers and that his children were being harassed for not taking part in them. The District Court ruled against Jaffree, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, and was then sent off to the Supreme Court, who ruled in a 6-3 decision, with Justice John Paul Stevens writing the opinion for the majority, that the practice of a moment of silence was also unconstitutional.
Justice Stevens said in his opinion, “The record here not only establishes that [the law's] purpose was to endorse religion, it also reveals that the enactment of the statute was not motivated by any clearly secular purpose…The State’s endorsement, by enactment of [the law] of prayer activities at the beginning of each school day is not consistent with the established principle that the government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion.” So if a school says, “Well, we’re going to have a moment of silence,” we can point to Wallace v. Jaffree and Stevens’ opinion in that case.
However, if we could get a school to not have an invocation, a moment of silence is a decent compromise. Take it if it is offered. I personally see it as simply a waste of time, but whatever.
Then we move to Lee v. Weisman. This case, along with the next one, are the most relevant and important. If you take anything from what I have said, I pray it is these two cases and their significance. I care you know about these two cases.
The Lee v. Weisman case struck down the ability of public schools to invite local clergy to deliver invocations at public school graduation ceremonies, including non-sectarian prayers.
Deborah Weisman, who was Jewish, did not want a prayer at her high school graduation. The principle, Robert E. Lee, and yes that is his name, decided to invite a rabbi to do it in hopes of not having to hear from them. This didn’t work, so Weisman and her parents requested a temporary injunction against the invocation but were denied by the Rhode Island District Court.
When this eventually got to the Supreme Court, they ruled 5-4 in favour of the Weismans, with many people thinking that Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is still the swing vote of the Court to this day, would vote with the conservatives on the bench and allow for school prayers and overrule precedent, such as Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp.
Surely enough, he sided with the liberals and moderates and wrote the majority opinion in the case. As part of the opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote, “The undeniable fact is that the school district’s supervision and control of a high school graduation ceremony places public pressure, as well as peer pressure, on attending students to stand as a group or, at least, maintain respectful silence during the invocation and benediction. This pressure, though subtle and indirect, can be as real as any overt compulsion.”
He also wrote, “True, [the student] could elect not to attend commencement without renouncing her diploma; but we shall not allow the case to turn on this point. Everyone knows that in our society and in our culture high school graduation is one of life’s most significant occasions. A school rule which excuses attendance is beside the point. Attendance may not be required by official decree, yet it is apparent that a student is not free to absent herself from the graduation exercise in any real sense of the term ‘voluntary’…” Sure, no one is forced to go to a graduation ceremony, even their own, but societal pressure put on a student “can be as real as any overt compulsion.”
Last, but certainly not least, is Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. In a rural Texas town between Houston and Galveston, Santa Fe ISD allowed for prayers to be broadcast over the school’s PA systems before football games by a student of the school. Two sets of parents and their students, one Catholic, one Mormon, filed suit, claiming that the prayers were a violation of the Establishment Clause. Yes, the majority of these cases are brought forth by religious people. It’s only in a few cases that these suits were brought forth by atheists or agnostics.
The case simply refers to these families as “Doe” to protect their identities. This is why we have Roe v. Wade. The woman in the case used the pseudonym “Roe” to protect her identity. After the district court ruled that the prayers were allowed but that they had to be “non-sectarian and non-proselytising,” both parties in the case appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative circuits, who agreed, in a 2-1 decision, with the lower court’s ruling of non-sectarian and non-proselytising prayers but also ruled that these kinds of prayers were only allowed at graduation ceremonies and not at events like football games.
On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Court ruled in favour of the Does, and Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the majority opinion, “School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the message to members of the audience who are non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. For many the choice between whether to attend these games or to risk facing a personally offensive religious ritual is in no practical sense an easy one. The Constitution, moreover, demands that the school may not force this difficult choice upon these students for it is a tenet of the first amendment that the state cannot require one of its citizens to forfeit his or her rights and benefits as the price of resisting conformance to state-sponsored religious practice.”
Yes, the Supreme Court never said that student-led prayers at graduation ceremonies were unconstitutional, and the Fifth Circuit, to which Texas resides in, even said that these sorts of prayers are constitutional at graduation ceremonies. However, the case can be made to school administrators by combining the Lee v. Weisman and Santa Fe ISD v. Doe cases, that student-led prayers at graduation ceremonies do in fact violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
The reason I emphasise student-led prayers at graduation ceremonies, is because that is usually how schools will get around the Lee and Santa Fe decisions. They think to themselves, “Oh, if we have a student do it instead of a priest of a teacher or administrator, then if someone complains, we can just say, ‘It falls under that student’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech,’ so we’re covered!”
That is also not the case. To go back real quick to the Santa Fe ruling. Justice Stevens also wrote that a “student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable [prayer] as stamped with her school’s seal of approval.” They found that because of the amount of involvement that the school had in the prayers, that these sorts of prayers and religious activities will be seen as stamped with the school’s official approval and therefore an endorsement of religion.
The high school that I graduated from, iSchool High STEM Academy over in Lewisville, did just that. They invited a student, someone who was not of the graduating class, to lead an invocation that was on the schedule of events. The principle even straight up said to me when I confronted her about this a few days later, that the invocation was okay, because a student did it. No. That’s not okay.
What would be okay, by current jurisprudence in the Fifth Circuit, is if a valedictorian or salutatorian, which are usually the only two students to give a speech at graduation, wanted to have as part of their speech an invocation of some kind. I don’t agree with that, but that’s the current judicial precedent that Texas has to go off of.
If you pay attention to local news, which I honestly don’t, then you might know what I’m talking about, which is a case that just two years ago went to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In the 2011 case Schultz v. Hildebrand, the Schultz family sued the Medina Valley Independent School District, which is just outside of San Antonio, to not have an invocation at their son’s graduation ceremony. The invocation though was going to be held by the valedictorian, the Hildebrand in the case, during her speech.
A federal judge ruled in favour of the Schultz family. However, the judge in his opinion said that the valedictorian and the school could be held in contempt of court if they did the prayer anyway, which usually involves jail. So the media takes this as, according to a Fox News headline, “Federal Judge Prohibits Prayer at Texas Graduation Ceremony.” And the Liberty Institute said about the case, “federal judge threatened…model high school student and valedictorian, with jail if she prayed during her graduation speech.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said about this case, These are “attempts by atheists and agnostics to use courts to eliminate from the public landscape any and all references to God whatsoever. This is the challenge we are dealing with here. [It’s] an ongoing attempt to purge God from the public setting while at the same time demanding from the courts an increased yielding to all things atheist and agnostic.”
On almost immediate appeal to the Fifth Circuit, with help from the Liberty Institute, Attorney General Greg Abbott, and Governor Rick Perry, the Fifth Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision and allowed the valedictorian to have the invocation. I don’t agree with the decision obviously, and we could argue about whether or not this is really constitutional, but that’s what we have to go off of.
When I was at my own graduation, there was an invocation that was led by one of own classmates, which actually was a surprise to me.
At my high school, a brand-new charter school of only a little more than 200 people, I was known as the atheist on campus. I had even attempted to start a Secular Student Alliance, before I even knew the national organisation the Secular Student Alliance existed, but was eventually denied recognition by the school, which is a whole story all on its own.
Because of this reputation I had, the principle, who was the former principle of a private Christian academy that closed down recently (which is where most of the students in this school came from), invited me personally into her office to tell me that the school did not have a lot of funding, so graduation had to be held in a church, because it was cheaper. She asked me if I was okay with that.
I said, “Yes,” and I immediately followed it with, “As long as there isn’t a prayer.” She shook her head as if she understood me as she shoved me out of her office.
Come graduation day, I see on the schedule “Invocation.” I had thought that I had been promised by the principle herself that there would be no prayer.
They had lied to me.
They had lied to me, and, more importantly, they had violated the Constitution.
Then there is the case of Damon Fowler. Some of you probably know about this case. For those who don’t, here’s the story in as much of a nutshell as I can put it.
In the graduating class of 2011, which is my class and the class of Angela Hildebrand, the Hildebrand in the case that we were talking about earlier, Damon Fowler, as senior at Bastrop High School in Louisiana, sent an email to the superintendent of his school district, explaining how the school’s tradition of having an invocation at the school’s graduation ceremony was unconstitutional. That email was somehow leaked to the school and the community.
As a result of this, Damon was, according to an Alternet article by Greta Christina:
1) Fowler has been hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community.
2) One of Fowler’s teachers has publicly demeaned him.
3) Fowler has been physically threatened. Students have threatened to “jump him” at graduation practice, and he has received multiple threats of bodily harm, and even death threats.
4) Fowler’s parents have cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and thrown his belongings onto the front porch.
All because he stood up for what was right.
And after all this, the school went ahead and did the prayer anyway.
Don’t let this discourage you though.
I know the idea of this happening to you can be frightening. It was for me. At the same time all of this was going down, I was in high school waiting for my own graduation day, unaware that my school would have an invocation. After it happened, I started researching and I found out about Damon and his story. It was Damon though that gave me the courage to stand up and at least try to stand up to my school and what they had done. It was his story and his courage that gave me the courage to do it, even if I failed miserably myself.
So we know the law. We know the judicial precedent and the rulings. How do we go about actually keeping prayers out of our schools to make sure cases like what happened to me, Damon Fowler, and so many others do not happen again?
First off. Contact organisations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the American Civil Liberties Union. I didn’t. I went in there to confront my principle without consulting with anyone who actually knew what they were talking about.
The organisation that you contact will send a letter, or some other form of contact, to the school to request that their invocation be removed from the graduation. If the organisation is contacted after-the-fact, then they will request that it is left out of next year’s, and these organisations do follow ups to make sure.
That’s something important to bring up. If you can’t do it this year, if you can’t get them to stop the invocation in the few weeks we have until graduation, still contact these organisations. That was the one thing I did right. After it happened at my school, I went to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s website and filled out their form where you report a violation, and I told them all that I could. I was as descriptive as possible. Despite the amount of descriptiveness, the FFRF screwed up the school’s name when they talked about the incident in their newspaper. They called my school School High.
Nine times out of ten, the school will ignore the letter that is sent to them by the FFRF or the ACLU. Don’t let that discourage you. There was a case in Houston of a school district being contacted by the FFRF and actually listening to them and choosing to not have invocations in their graduation ceremonies, and this is recent news. This is like a few weeks old.
The next step, assuming they ignore the letter and don’t do anything about the invocation, is to personally email the superintendent of the school district, in this case Lewisville Independent School District, and the principle of your school. I’ve written up a rough kind of email that you can send. If you want, I can email it to you so that you can send it to them yourself.
They will probably ignore this too. Also fine.
Set up a meeting with the Principle, and you have to be persistent if they try to say no. Keep emailing them. Keep going into the office and ask the receptionist to see them if emails won’t work. Leave messages on their office voicemail. Make it known who you are and that you are not going away. You guys have the special advantage of being a group, so you can work together, and it looks more official and persuasive. If it’s just one person constantly complaining, then they will probably ignore them, but several people continuously contacting the principle, vice principles, and other administrators is how it should be done.
So what do we do when we have a meeting with them? Well, we don’t want to go into a principle’s office shouting, “You’re breaking the law! You’re all going to jail!” We need to take a respectful approach in these kinds of situations. Really, you should have that in most situations when dealing with school administrators, but especially this case. If we go in there screaming, they’re never going to listen to us. If we accuse them of breaking the law, they’re never going to listen to us, even if they technically are.
Where I failed is that I assumed someone with that position actually understood the law. Don’t assume that just because they are a teacher or principle or superintendent, that they are an authority, that they know the law, that they know the Constitution better than you do, because what they’re doing is unconstitutional. That’s what I did. I thought that an adult, someone who held a position of power, knew what they were talking about when they said that the invocation was alright, because a student did it. I knew nothing of Constitutional law.
I know now, and I know now that what they did was not constitutional.
Now, I can’t give you a flow-chart or play-by-play for what to do or say in these meetings, because they will all be different, but the main thing you need to do is you need to maintain respect, even if it is not shown to you, and stay on message. Don’t get into a theological, historical, or political debate. Just get the point across that what they are doing is unconstitutional and that you and your organisation are not going away and not going to let this down.
If it comes down to it. Meaning, if they repeatedly ignore you and your requests to stop the invocation, contact these aforementioned organisations again with all of the new details. Contact local media. There are tools the Secular Student Alliance offers about how to contact the media, how to write press releases, and much more.
If you can bring attention to the school, shine a spotlight on them and what they’re doing, they will either 1) Become entrenched and we have a court battle on our hands or 2) they will back down and the invocations at Flower Mound High School will be a thing of the past.
If you can, get someone to record the graduation with a camcorder or even their phone. Everyone is a filmmaker these days if they have an smart phone. Some schools I know have a DVD that they sell of the whole ceremony. Get one of those DVDs, as well. It is proof, handed out by the school itself, that they did in fact do this, and it’s probably in Hi-Def, so if you ever do send something to the media, they have a nice HD clip of the invocation.
Many people might think that an invocation at a high school graduation is not a big deal. It is though. It is saying to people that we don’t care about the Constitution. It is saying we don’t care about the more than 20% of this country that aren’t Christian. It is saying that Christianity is the religion of this country. And yes, we are a majority Christian nation, but our country was founded on secular values that were there to promote equality through neutrality. And that is all we want. Equality. We want equal protection under the law. We don’t want to ban God or ban prayers. We don’t want to have an “increased yielding to all things atheist and agnostic.” We just want what is right. By allowing for Christian prayers to be held at high school graduation ceremonies, public schools are discriminating against non-Christians.
The best thing you can do is know the law. Know the Constitution. Know the rulings and significance of Lee v. Weisman and Santa Fe ISD v. Doe. If you know the law, that is your greatest tool. They may have the numbers. They may have the money. They may have the media. They may have the politicians. They don’t have the Constitution. They don’t have that, and as long as they keep saying that having religion endorsed in public schools is okay, they will never have that.
Below is the email that I spoke about that can be sent to the superintendent, the principle, and other school administrators. Use this email and make any corrections however you see fit, and send this format to any schools you know of that are violating the Constitution, whether it be your high school, your sibling’s, or your own child’s.
Dear Superintendent [Insert Name Here] and Principle [Insert Name Here],
As a student of [Insert School Name Here], I am deeply concerned about the actions its student body, its faculty, and its staff take that represent our school and the perception of our school in the academic world and other spheres. I am told that at the graduation ceremony of our school, an invocation or prayer will be held as an official part of the schedule. I write to inform you that this sort of action is unconstitutional, and I kindly ask that this be removed from the schedule of events.
In the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Of course, it does say, “Congress shall make no law…,” but the Fourteenth Amendment says in Section 1, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This means that all states must abide by the United States Constitution, including the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause contained within it.
As well, the Constitution for the state of Texas reads in Article One, Section Six of its Bill of Rights, “…no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship.” Section Seven says, “No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.” Simply put, having an invocation or prayer, even non-sectarian in nature, would violate the United States Constitution, as well as our own state Constitution.
I absolutely support the right to freedom of religion. A person has the right to believe, or not believe, in whatever they wish. A person even has the right to express their religious views in a school setting. However, a school does not have the authority to force its students to listen to or take part in religious activities, even if this activity is done by a student.
In the Supreme Court case Lee v. Weisman, the Court ruled in 1992 that prayers led by clergy at public high school graduation ceremonies were unconstitutional and a violation of the Establishment Clause. More importantly, in the 2000 case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the Supreme Court ruled, with Associate Justice John Paul Stevens writing for the majority, that student-led prayers were also unconstitutional, because a student “will unquestionably perceive the inevitable [prayer] as stamped with her school’s seal of approval.” If [Insert School Name Here] were to have an invocation as part of the graduation ceremony, it would be a violation similar to that of the Santa Fe ISD and Lee cases.
If the invocation is not removed, I ask for a simple compromise. I ask that the school instead have a moment of silence in place of an invocation for students to silently pray to themselves, to reflect on the past four years they have had at [Insert School Name Here] and their futures to come, or to simply sit silently for a moment. No religion or religious views will be invoked by students, faculty, or clergy, therefore no violations will have occurred, but all will still have the chance to pray at an important event in their lives, if they so choose.
I hope that the invocation is removed or, at least, replaced with a moment of silence. I do not wish to cause any disturbance or bring any negative attention to [Insert School Name Here], as I love this school just as much as any other student would. I simply ask for our school to follow the law and adhere to the ideals that our nation was founded on.
If you would like to meet to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me at any time.
[Insert Your Name Here]
Over the past few years, the gay rights movement has made tremendous strides. With the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the ever increasing number of states, most recently being Delaware, that are legalising same-sex marriage and outlawing anti-LGBT discrimination, and the overall acceptance that is being shown towards the LGBT community, it is only a matter of time before we are fully accepted into American society. As someone who is LGBT, namely those last two, I can say that I am very proud of my country.
As someone who is an atheist though, I can say that our country still needs a lot of work.
It is not that we are fighting for the right to be able to legally love whom we want or that we are fighting for the right to vote. We already have those rights, unless we’re also LGBT. We are fighting for something much more basic, something the LGBT community was all too familiar with at one point in time. The right to exist and freely express who and what we are.
For the longest time in American history, atheists have been legally discriminated against. Several states still have on the books, even if they cannot be enforced, the laws that keep atheists from running for public office or having their testimony counted in court.
The stigma that is associated with atheists makes us the most distrusted and hated minority in the country. Nearly half of this country would not vote for an atheist candidate. Nearly half of this country would not want their child dating or marrying an atheist. Nearly half of this country thinks atheists share their vision of America the least. In all of these categories, atheists are more hated than gays, Muslims, and every single other group mentioned.
But the LGBT community did something we can learn from. They stood up. They came out of their proverbial closet. They came out and were proud of who they were and were unapologetic about it.
Now, when someone comes out as gay, it’s not that big of a deal anymore. It’s usually very positive too, except for the hate that usually comes from homophobes on the religious right. Sure, there are still cases of people being cut off from family and friends from it, but that is becoming less and less of an occurrence. And yes, it’s sometimes a kind of big deal when a public figure of some kind comes out, but less so nowadays.
That was the greatest tool implemented by the LGBT community. They came out so much that once they did, people had to accept the fact that there were more gays out there than they thought and that at least one of their close friends or family was probably LGBT. They came out in such great numbers that people were forced to accept that it was normal.
Atheists aren’t doing that. They aren’t standing up.
Either they live in an area that is already so secular that they don’t feel the need to come out or be active, or they live in an area where they are afraid to come out for fear of losing their friends, family, jobs, or even lives.
If you fear that, don’t. I lost some friends and family over it. They weren’t my real friends. That’s what I learned from that experience. If someone is going to not be my friend simply because I am no longer convinced by the claims made in the Bible, then they were not a true friend.
Coming out will make things better for you the sooner you do it. When you come out, sooner or later your friends, family, and colleagues will no longer have an issue with it. Sure, they might think you’re wrong, but it will become normal to them and no longer this scary thing.
Not only will you coming out help yourself, but it will also help others who are too afraid to come out themselves. If they see more and more people are coming out as atheists, then they will be more willing to do it themselves. You can be a pebble that starts an avalanche (yes, that was a Lord of the Rings reference; shoot me).
That’s what the LGBT movement did. They came out, and homosexuality is being accepted as normal, because they have been doing it for so long and in such huge numbers. That’s what we need to do with atheism.
With all of the positive media attention about Jason Collins coming out, as well as Delaware State Senator Karen Peterson, Nevada State Senator Kelvin Atkinson, and recently Amini Fonua, an athlete from Texas A&M University, the question I have to ask is: where is our Jason Collins? Where is our Ellen DeGeneres? Where is our Barney Frank? Where is our Harvey Milk? That can be you.
We need to come out and be proud. No more hiding the fact that we don’t believe in their gods. Will the atheists please stand up? Will you stand up?
Recently, a study was published from the University of North Texas about the rise of atheism in America. Somehow, I was unaware of this study. Somehow, at the university I go to, I was completely unaware that this study about atheism was going on right under my nose.
The study, done by association professor of sociology David Williamson and professor of sociology George Yancey (who also runs the blog Black, White, and Gray over on the Evangelical channel on Patheos), tries to focus on and explain the sudden rise of atheism within the United States. It offers the explanation that modern American atheism is a reaction to the dominant politics of the religious.
In a recent interview with the Christian Post, George Yancey says some things that…well, they made me a little angry, to be honest.
For their research, Williamson, associate professor of sociology, and Yancey, professor of sociology, used an online survey, with open-ended questions, of 1,451 atheists and conducted face-to-face interviews with 51 atheists from two separate regions of the country.
Right off the bat, I have a problem with their methodology. The first thing I learned in my Political Science Research Methods class was that an online survey was the worst form of a survey that could be conducted. They are entirely unreliable and provide the worst kinds of results.
I do like that they did face-to-face interviews, but I will get into my problems with that soon enough (emphasis mine).
CP: You find that atheists are mostly highly educated, wealthy, old, white, men, and that was consistent with some random samples as well.
Yancey: Yeah. The only thing that might not be as consistent is a couple of studies suggest that atheists may not be quite as wealthy as some other studies did. But the other things, they tend to be men, educated, older. Although, there is some indication of some younger atheists coming up.
CP: So demographically, they look, more or less, like the U.S. Senate.
Yancey: [Laughs] I hadn’t thought about it that way, but, yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it.
We’re all apparently privileged, white men. They are trying to paint us as pretty much the Republican Party, a monolith of old, white men. This just is not true. We are predominantly white, I admit that, but there are tons of women in this movement, and we are becoming increasingly diverse by the day. My partner just started a podcast completely run by women!
Young people are especially on the rise in atheism, as Yancey hinted at. Surveys have found that 1 in 3 people under the age of 30 identify with no religion. That is astounding.
What I don’t get is that we’re apparently wealthy, while at the same time not “quite as wealthy as some other studies” have said. We’re privileged, but we’re also not. That’s what I’m getting from what was just said.
This next part is just…ugh (emphasis mine).
CP: You’re basically talking about a privileged group – wealthy, old, white guys. You say it makes sense that atheists would come from a privileged group. Explain.
Yancey: If you are a person with social status and power, and you want to do things the way you see it, and then there’s religion out there that says, no, this is the way it should be done, that’s going to make you less willing to support or accept that sort of religion. Something we write about in the book is this notion of control. If you have social status and others who don’t tend to see things the way you do because they have religion and follow that, then it will tend to make you more antagonistic toward religion than you would normally be.
That is complete and utter bullshit!
We are not “antagonistic toward religion,” because it gets in the way of our white privilege and our unending desire for power and wealth. We are atheists, because we do not see any evidence for the existence of a god. Yes, some people probably have differing reasons or have multiple reasons as to why they are atheists, but that is generally what it comes down to.
Nowhere in this interview was there any hint that they asked people, “Why don’t you believe in a god?” If they had actually asked that question, then Yancey would not have responded with what he just said.
Unless all, or even most, of the 1,451 people interviewed answered with, “Because we want to do whatever we want, because we’re white and rich and better than you,” you’re full of shit.
Moving on though.
CP: You point out that, like religion, atheism changes over time and modern atheism is a response to modern events, such as the Christian Right political movement. How has the Christian Right shaped atheism?
Yancey: Historically, atheism reacts against the religion of its day. Even though not all Christians are part of the Christian Right, they tend to be the most vocal Christians in this day and age.
This probably contributes to why atheists tend to be more politically progressive. They are reacting against the vision of Christians as being conservative politically. Given what we know about history, atheists are going to tend to be the opposite. In that way, the Christian Right has helped shape atheists.
CP: There are some libertarian atheists who follow the philosophy of Ayn Rand. From your chapter on the political views of atheists, I take it you didn’t find many of them.
Yancey: We didn’t ask specifically about that, so I can’t say for sure we didn’t interview any libertarian atheists, but nearly all the atheists we interviewed, when we talked about politics it wasn’t merely on the cultural issues, they were progressive when it came to issues of the environment, government, taxes, that sort of stuff.
I’m very surprised you didn’t ask much about the differing political beliefs of atheists if you had an entire chapter on the political beliefs of atheists.
I have no doubt that those libertarian atheists are out there, maybe our sample design didn’t allow us to capture them. Maybe they aren’t connected to the organizations I was working with.
My suspicion is, because atheism is a reaction to the Christian Right, they’re going to be smaller in numbers. There are times in history when Christianity was quite progressive when it came to economic issues – the whole notion of social justice and things of this nature. It seems to me that you would have more libertarian atheists at times like that.
This I can kind of see, but very loosely. However, there are many flaws with it. We are not progressive, because conservatives are generally highly religious. We are not opposed to religion solely, or even primarily, for political reasons.
Yes, there are legitimate political reasons to be opposed to religion and the religious right, but that is not why we’re atheists. That’s why we’re secular, and one can be religious and secular. So again, I call bullshit!
What makes more sense than the idea that today’s atheists are progressive, because the religious are conservative, is that atheists are progressive, or at least socially liberal, because without religious restrictions on sex and other aspects of human nature it makes more sense to be more open to those sorts of things.
We’re for environmentalism, because we value science and recognise that climate change is real. We see that this is our one and only life and our one and only planet that we are all supposed to live on.
We’re for tax reform for altruistic reasons, and I’m talking from the standpoint of a humanist in these two instances. Raise taxes on the wealthy to fund social programmes that decrease poverty. It’s our one and only life, so let’s make it the best for all of humanity.
That makes more sense than the idea that atheists are simply acting out against the politics of the religious. As was noted by Yancey, there weren’t many libertarian or conservative atheists in the days of Christian progressivism, so that hypothesis falls flat on its face.
There probably are many social reasons as to why people are atheists, so I’m not say that there aren’t any, but the way Yancey seems to emphasise that in the study as the basis for atheism is a ridiculous proposition. People are atheists, because they don’t believe in a god, not because they’re reacting to the religious right. That point cannot be emphasised enough.
CP: Besides reacting to the Christian Right, are there any other reasons you found that atheists are more comfortable on the left side of the political spectrum?
Yancey: That’s an interesting question. We didn’t ask them whether they were first atheist then became progressive or were first progressive then became atheists. So I’m not sure the directionality of it. I think it’s a question that needs further study.
Again, I’m surprised you didn’t ask that if you wanted to know more about the political beliefs of atheists.
This next part is another one of those parts that is just…ugh (emphasis mine).
CP: You found that atheists often expressed that they strongly value open-mindedness, yet they were not very open-minded to the notion that they could be wrong about the existence of God. Were they aware of this contradiction or oblivious to it?
Yancey: We didn’t really probe that. I think it’s fascinating and maybe we should’ve probed that.
It doesn’t make atheists different from other individuals. A lot of us have contradictions. We say one thing and five minutes later we’re saying something totally different.
My suspicion is that they don’t see it as a contradiction. In their minds, there is so much evidence that there is not a God that that is just the way it is.
At least, this time it wasn’t Yancey that said the stupid things. His response is not all that satisfying though, and it seems like he agrees for the most part with the interviewer.
My favourite part of the interview is this though (emphasis mine):
CP: Why the difference between atheists in the South and atheists in the Midwest?
Yancey: I think it probably comes down to contact. When you have contact with people, maybe you disagree with them, maybe you don’t like what they have to say, but you tend to humanize them a little more.
Most of the people we interviewed grew up in households that were, if not atheists, were nominally religious. They didn’t grow up around a lot of people who were highly religious, with some exceptions. Those in the South are around religion all the time, so they may be atheists but they’re a little less hostile.
So basically, we have become desensitized to religion, because we’re around it so much. Therefore, we are “less hostile.”
No. Just no.
One explanation as to why this might be true is that atheists are trying to get along with the people around them, because the area is so highly religious and they can be discriminated against for being an atheist. That is plausible, but unlikely.
However, the idea that less contact breeds more hostility is outright false. In places like California, New York, and New England, you don’t have many atheist activists. You mostly have atheists who are laid back, because almost everyone there is so secular-minded. There isn’t a need for activists.
In the South, like where I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, there are tons of atheist organisations. In the South and in other highly conservative places is where the most outspoken atheists are, but usually there are less atheists. This is completely inverse to what Yancey is saying about the growth of atheism being a reaction to the religious right.
I swore a lot in this post. I apologise.
This is just infuriating for so many reason. One of them being that this study came from my school, thereby damaging the image of the school and furthering the stereotype that the University of North Texas is just a school full of fundamentalist Christians.
What’s also really infuriating is that these two professors never bothered to contact either of the two secular groups that exist on campus, one of which I am the president of. If they wanted to know about atheism, they had plenty of resources on their own campus that they could have easily utilised instead of using unreliable internet surveys and coming up with conclusions that just do not make any sense and are completely contrary to reality, especially the one about atheists in the South being more tolerant of religion.
According to my local news station, the WFAA, “An act of faith has cost an area track team a win and a chance to advance to the state championships.”
What did this track team, more so its member who won the race for the team, do to deserve disqualification?
As he was crossing the finish line, Derrick Hayes pointed up to the sky. His father believes he was giving thanks in a gesture to God.
So as Derrick was winning the race, he raised an arm, presumably thanking God, and him and his team were disqualified from the race and barred from the state championship. What do the people who run the event actually say about this?
According to a press release put out by the University Interscholastic League, commonly referred to as UIL, “The meet official indicated the athlete crossed the finish line and gestured upward with his arm and finger and behaved disrespectfully toward meet officials, in their opinion. In the judgment of the official, this was a violation of NFHS track & field rule 4-6-1…There is no indication that the decision was made because of any religious expression.”
WFAA also reports that UIL rules “state there can be no excessive act of celebration, which includes raising the hands.” Now, I couldn’t find anywhere in the officials UIL rules about “excessive acts of celebration,” but I do know that certain high school sporting events do have such rules.
It probably had less to do with the gesture itself and more to do with Derrick possibly behaving in a way that was deemed disrespectful after being called out for the gesture.
Derrick Hayes was not discriminated against, because he was a Christian or for an ‘act of faith,’ as was claimed by the WFAA. He was punished for making a gesture with his arm and for his behaviour towards meet officials. Yes, I think the rule is bad policy and kind of stupid, but it’s not discrimination, as the right wing media will surely say it is.
From the Friendly Atheist:
What the state needs to do is modify its policy and clarify what is and isn’t allowed. Based on the current rulebook, it’s hard to tell that a religious gesture wouldn’t be allowed. The rule is vague and such an important call should be as non-subjective as possible.
In the land of constitutionality, schools have the ability to curb the rights of students in instances such as this if the policy is “viewpoint neutral.” In layman’s terms: the school can have blanket policies that affect everyone equally no matter what the groups may stand for or believe in, such as forbidding student organisations that are recognised by the school from denying other students membership on the basis of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or other factors.
In the Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society Chapter v. Martinez (2010), there was a school policy at the University of California, Hastings School of Law that did not allow for student groups that were recognised by the school to not allow in students on the basis of their sexual orientation, which most schools and universities have these policies today. The CLS sued on the basis of their First Amendment right to freedom of association was being violated.
The Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that schools can have policies that restrict the expressive freedom of association rights of school-sanctioned student groups if the policy is not meant to discriminate against any one group’s beliefs or activities but would affect all groups, thereby passing the constitutional muster of being viewpoint neutral. The school didn’t have the policy to curb the rights of Christians or Christian groups only but of all student groups.
That is what is going on with Derrick Hayes and his gesture. The referees were acting in a viewpoint neutral manner that would affect all runners, not just the Christians. If a socialist put a fist in the air or any runner did a victory dance and then acted disrespectful towards the referees, they would get the same punishment.
The military has a long history and terrible reputation of being infiltrated by evangelical Christians that will heavily proselytize to soldiers. I know of many personal stories of nonreligious soldiers being forced to either run laps or clean on Sundays while Christians attended church service. A West Point cadet even resigned recently over the intense religiosity of the military, even though he was only five months from graduation.
In response to the rampant proselytization in the military, the Air Force has published a 27 page document with new rules on religion and sharing one’s religious beliefs.
The main point of the publication that is worth noting, as reported by the Washington Post, is this rule about proselytizing:
Leaders at all levels must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.
The publication also says on the cover sheet, “COMPLIANCE WITH THIS PUBLICATION IS MANDATORY,” and even suggested that noncompliance could end up with a court martial.
And so the right wing media machine is in full gear with their yellow journalism and spinned headlines that purposely leave out important facts. My favourite is from Breitbart.com, “Pentagon May Court Martial Soldiers Who Share Christian Faith.”
No one is going to court martial anyone for sharing their religion. Someone might be court martialed if they use “their position to promote their religious beliefs to their subordinates.” If they had read the actual rules, they would know that.
They probably do know that, but they choose to ignore it, because pretending to be a victim of persecution, when it has almost always been the other way around in the military and the wider American public, and religious agendas are more important than, you know, reporting facts and being good journalists.
President Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who is advocating for the enforcement of this policy, said, “And what the Pentagon needs to understand is that it is sedition and treason. It should be punished.”
I agree, that is overboard. Troops should not be charged with treason for something like proselytizing, but they should still be punished to ensure that it does not continually happen, as it is unconstitutional and also unethical to use one’s position as an officer, whether actually or apparently, to force their religious beliefs onto their colleagues and subordinates.
So because of that statement and the perceived threat of a court martial for “sharing the Christian faith,” the FRC is pretending to be the saviour of the persecuted majority.
When the Family Research Council, who Fox News calls a “religious liberty group,” found out about this, their executive vice president, retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, went onto Fox and Friends and said, “This has the potential to destroy military recruiting across the services as Americans realize that their faith will be suppressed by joining the military.”
FRC President Tony Perkins, in a statement to Fox News, said, “Why would military leadership be meeting with one of the most rabid atheists in America to discuss religious freedom in the military. That’s like consulting with China on how to improve human rights.”
Says the people who are actively putting out pseudoscience linking pedophilia and bestiality to homosexuality in order to have the rights of the LGBT community stripped away.
They even have this nice little petition on their website.
Sounds so vague and fuzzy that anyone would support it, because who doesn’t want to protect the religious freedom of our fighting men and women?
Only, it’s not about that. Well, it is, but not in the way the FRC puts it.
It’s about protecting the freedom of and from religion that our troops need and deserve, especially the nonreligious ones that are constantly being harassed by their fellow soldiers. According to the Washington Post, “A chaplain in Afghanistan recently was the target of complaint for sermonizing to troops, including Afghan soldiers, that they had approximately 2,000 days to live and needed to ‘get right with Jesus’.”
No one needs to be told that they are going to Hell if they don’t accept Jesus while they are fighting a war. Hell, I don’t need that, and I’m not in literally the most stress-filled job in the country.
I don’t know why I watch Fox News as much as I do. I really need to stop, as I seriously believe that it is contributing to the degradation of my mental health.
This morning, Fox News host Steve Doocy was talking about how Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Anthony Foxx, who is President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation, declared today, May 2nd, to be a “Day of Reason,” on request of Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics in 2012, as well as a “Day of Prayer.”
Doocy put up a quote from the mayor’s proclamation, “The application of reason, more than any other means, has proven to offer hope for human survival on Earth.”
So who is the best person to talk about this? Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx? No. A representative of Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics? Of course, not! A right wing Christian organisation that is extremely anti-secular? Ding ding ding!
Doocy invited on the CEO of Concerned Women for America, Penny Nance, who, when asked if she could make sense of the decision of this godless mayor, who attends Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, to endorse both reason and prayer, just simply did not make any freaking sense.
He comes from North Carolina, which has the 7th highest church attendance, clearly he’s not running for re-election since he’s up for transportation secretary. You know, G. K. Chesterton said that the Doctrine of Original Sin is the only one which we have three-and-a-half thousand years of empirical evidence to back up. Clearly, we need faith as a component and it’s just silly for us to say otherwise.
The mayor never said that faith and religion were not components of American life. If you were paying attention, Penny, you would know that he also declared it a “Day of Prayer.” However, it’s understandable that you didn’t know that, as the headline at the bottom of the screen said “Reason Over Religion: Charlotte Mayor Calls for Day of Reason.” Good job, Fox.
This entire segment is just playing into the words of Jon Stewart.
[Christians have] taken this idea of no establishment as persecution, because they feel entitled, not to equal status, but to greater status.
Having both a Day of Reason and a (nationally recognised) Day of Prayer is persecution to them. Having atheist displays alongside Christian displays is persecution to them. Having a neutral government that treats all people equally is persecution to them.
Nonetheless, Nance went on to say (emphasis mine):
You know, the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust…Dark periods of history is what we arrive at when we leave God out of the equation.
I find that last sentence particularly funny/stupid, because the Dark Ages was the time when reason and scientific inquiry was put on the back burner to make room for God.
And no, it was not reason that led to the Holocaust. It was not moral relativism that led to the Holocaust. This is a running theme amongst Christians.
Just recently, I went to an event that one of the Christian groups at UNT was holding called “What if Atheists ARE Right?” It was by Beau Bishop of the Dallas chapter of Reasonable Faith, the apologist organisation that William Lane Craig runs.
His entire talk was about bashing atheists for their supposed love of moral relativism and blaming the Holocaust on moral relativism, obviously connecting atheists to the Nazis. He blamed moral relativism for the Holocaust and falsely claimed that the Nazis used the defense of moral relativism as to why they killed more than 10 million people, and Penny Nance is doing the same thing.
No, the Nazis did not use moral relativism. They used the “objective” values contained within the Bible. They were taking vengeance upon the Jews for killing their Messiah, which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, since Jesus was supposed to be a sacrifice for their sins. They were cleansing the world of what they thought was ungodly.
Here is a favourite quote of mine from Hitler that perfectly sums up his morally relative values that advocated godless atheism and morally relativistic genocide (emphasis mine):
Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith…we need believing people. – Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933, speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordant
I hope that more cities start declaring May 2nd to be a National Day of Reason. I will definitely be working with the secular organisations in my area to ask the mayors in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to make it so next year. I recommend you do too. Find your local Coalition of Reason or American Atheists affiliate.
You guys remember that 4th grade science quiz called “Dinosaurs: Genesis and the Gospels” that was making its way around the internet recently? You know, the one that asked questions like “True or False: The earth is billions of years old” and “True or False: Dinosaurs lived with people.”
Yeah, this one.
Well, it seems that this particular quiz came from a private K-12 Christian academy from South Carolina that was using resources from the creationist organisation Answers in Genesis.
AIG responded to the “hate” that the school was receiving from the “intolerant atheists” who were “viciously” attacking the school in a piece that is just full of fundie goodness.
They start off with the story of a German family that was trying to seek asylum within the United States so that they could homeschool their children.
Yesterday on this website, we highlighted the plight of the Romeikes, a German Christian family who is seeking asylum in America because the German government forbids their homeschool instruction. The Obama Administration is siding with the German government and its view of homeschooling, and they are seeking to deport this family who wants to educate their children in accord with God’s Word. If the U.S. Attorney General succeeds in denying their asylum, it may have chilling ramifications for religious and educational liberties in the United States.
I don’t know much about this case, but I’m pretty sure US is not denying them asylum, because they are trying to educate their children themselves.
The atheist buzz about the dinosaur-and-Bible quiz, however, is not really all that surprising. Over the past few years, we have seen atheists becoming more aggressive and intolerant towards Christians. (See the sidebar for just a few of the many examples we could cite.) They are attempting to impose their belief system (yes, their religion) on the culture.
Do you know how to say “projection,” kids?
It seems that since the last presidential election, atheists have grown more confident about having something of a license to go after Christians. These secularists want to impose their anti-God religion on the culture. They are simply not content using legislatures and courts to protect the dogmatic teaching of their atheistic religion of evolution and millions of years in public schools. There is something else on their agenda: they are increasingly going after Christians and Christian institutions that teach God’s Word beginning in Genesis.
I’m sorry, could you repeat that, please. “…their atheistic religion of evolution and millions of years…”? What?
I can slightly understand them saying “atheistic religion of evolution,” because that is usual creationist rhetoric, but “millions of years”?
The quiz’s posting to the internet resulted in a number of atheist websites reposting the questions and answers, and many of them responded in rage and vehement attacks on the school.
Oh noes! Something stupid was called out as stupid!
The school administrator, relatively new as the head of the academy, was shocked to find her school becoming the target of atheist attacks and even some threats. Articles on mainstream websites (like a Seattle TV station over 2,500 miles away), a UK website, and other places on the internet made the controversy grow even larger.
No links to screenshots or news articles or anything at all to show that these alleged “threats” actually happened. Nothing whatsoever. But there are mentions of how that evil, liberal media was bringing attention to the school!
Now, this Christian academy is not a large school. Yet the atheists went after it with incredible fervor. The school administrator informed us she knew that the school would be involved in a spiritual battle after the quiz went public, but she was not expecting such ferocity. She told us she was shocked at the level of hate that the atheists poured down upon her, the teacher, and the school in general.
Now, assuming the threats and “hate that the atheists poured down upon her” did happen, which there is no evidence to suggest that anyone was actually harassed or even contacted, then the people committing the threats are not good people, and we do not support what they were doing. Simple as that.
For the next two years, our special theme for the Answers in Genesis ministry is “Standing our Ground, Rescuing our Kids” (Galatians 1:4). We, too, have experienced recent increased attacks by atheists, especially whenever they discover we are influencing children with the truth of God’s Word. These anti-God people hate the fact that Christians are teaching children to stand on the authority of the Bible; they want to be the ones teaching children and indoctrinating them into atheism. Even children’s TV host Bill Nye has recently made many harsh statements against those of us who teach creation to children.
That’s because Bill Nye actually knows what he is talking about, unlike you, Ken Ham.
Atheists don’t “hate the fact that Christians are teaching children to stand on the authority of the Bible.” You have the Constitutional right to do so. No one is taking that right away from you, even if you would say otherwise with your anecdotal story about the German family.
However, we have the right to say that the way that you are educating children is just flat out wrong. You are teaching them lies and falsehoods. You are teaching them to ignore the evidence if it conflicts with your dogma. You are also teaching them how to respond to people who might try to teach them the facts with nice little apologist talking points like (see the last question on the quiz’s back), “The next time someone says the earth is billions (or millions) of years old, what can you say? Were you there?”
But you are still projecting, Ken.
It is you who are attacking atheists, secularists, and public education, especially when you discover that public schools are teaching children about reality. You anti-science people hate the fact that public schools are teaching children to stand on reason, rationality, and evidence and turn away from stubborn dogmatism and willful ignorance. You want to be the ones teaching children and indoctrinating them into Young-Earth Creationism and other pseudosciences. You, more so the Creation Truth Foundation, have even gone so far as to invade public schools.
My favourite line from Ham’s piece (emphasis mine):
In a way, what is happening to this Christian school and also to the Romeike family should be a warning to all Christians: the atheists want your children. They are aggressively trying to demonize and marginalize Christians in their attempts to recruit your children for atheism or secularism.
Even more projection!
This next part is kind of scary.
Though we praise God for the minority of Christian “missionaries” who work as teachers in the public school system (and who need our prayers), government schools have increasingly become, in essence, churches of atheism.
Wait, what? So you’re admitting to the fact that some public school teachers are only there to indoctrinate children into Christianity? Where the fuck is the ACLU when you need them?!
The rest of the article is trying to get people to donate to the academy and to stand “unashamedly for the authority of His Word,” because us evil secularists and atheists are just so evil by trying to indoctrinate children into our “atheistic religion of evolution and millions of years” and are persecuting the poor Christians that are nearly 80% of this country. Play the victim card all you want, Ken. It won’t matter.