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Religion in Schools:  The Imaginary War Against Christianity

Joe, a right-wing extremist correspondent, sent me a long list of ways to "improve" the United States, including the following suggestion:

>> The many scientific problems with the theory of Darwinism would be taught in the schools, the theory would be open to fair criticism, not sheltered by people who are frightened of valid criticisms. <<

This led to a debate:

I don't know exactly what's taught in every school, but the theory already is open to fair criticism. Of course, you creationist types can't handle fair criticism, because you have no scientific theory to stand on. All you do is criticize the minor uncertainties in Darwinian theory without offering a valid and testable alternative.

While we're allowing fair criticism of evolution, let's also permit fair criticism of Christianity. I'll allow teachers to teach religion in schools if you allow teachers like me to shred it to pieces. After a few classes with the likes of me, true believers will begin to doubt their preachers and parents.

A 1st Amendment case study
When I told Joe the following

The so-called assault on Christianity is a right-wing myth.

another rightwing-correspondent, Tom, chimed in with

Tell that to the Valedictorian who had her microphone turned off when she mentioned the "J" Word.

After looking into valedictorian McComb's case, here's what I told Tom:

Valedictorian sues Nev. school for cutting off speech

A few things you didn't note:

  • McComb didn't just mention Jesus. She gave a religious spiel worthy of a proselytizing televangelist.
  • She was supposed to follow a script approved in advance, but she deviated from it.
  • Apparently the school cut her off because the speech veered way too far into school-sponsored proselytizing. If she had ONLY mentioned God or Jesus in passing, as you implied, the school might well have allowed her speech.

    You have to marvel at the evenhandedness of our courts. Allowing talk of faith but not allowing proselytizing is a compromise worthy of Solomon. Don't you agree?

    Let me know if you need any more help understanding how the First Amendment works.

    The school policy:

    Religious speech cut off from graduation ceremony

    The Clark County School District speech regulations prohibit district officials from organizing a prayer at graduation or selecting speakers for such events in a manner that favors religious speech or a prayer.

    The policy does allow for religious expression at school ceremonies and says speakers chosen "on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria" are responsible for the content of their expression and "it may not be restricted because of its religious (or anti-religious) content."

    District lawyer Bill Hoffman said the regulation allows students to talk about religion, but speeches can't cross the line into the realm of preaching.

    "We encourage people to talk about religion and the impact on their lives. But when that discussion crosses over to become proselytizing, then we to tell students they can't do that," Hoffman said.

    Some info for correspondents (7/29/06)
    Please learn the facts you apparently know little about. All your talk of Christianity being under threat is hogwash. From the NY Times:

    July 29, 2006

    Families Challenging Religious Influence in Delaware Schools


    GEORGETOWN, Del. — After her family moved to this small town 30 years ago, Mona Dobrich grew up as the only Jew in school. Mrs. Dobrich, 39, married a local man, bought the house behind her parents' home and brought up her two children as Jews.

    For years, she and her daughter, Samantha, listened to Christian prayers at public school potlucks, award dinners and parent-teacher group meetings, she said. But at Samantha's high school graduation in June 2004, a minister's prayer proclaiming Jesus as the only way to the truth nudged Mrs. Dobrich to act.

    "It was as if no matter how much hard work, no matter how good a person you are, the only way you'll ever be anything is through Jesus Christ," Mrs. Dobrich said. "He said those words, and I saw Sam's head snap and her start looking around, like, 'Where's my mom? Where's my mom?' And all I wanted to do was run up and take her in my arms."

    After the graduation, Mrs. Dobrich asked the Indian River district school board to consider prayers that were more generic and, she said, less exclusionary. As news of her request spread, many local Christians saw it as an effort to limit their free exercise of religion, residents said. Anger spilled on to talk radio, in letters to the editor and at school board meetings attended by hundreds of people carrying signs praising Jesus.

    "What people here are saying is, 'Stop interfering with our traditions, stop interfering with our faith and leave our country the way we knew it to be,' " said Dan Gaffney, a host at WGMD, a talk radio station in Rehoboth, and a supporter of prayer in the school district.

    After receiving several threats, Mrs. Dobrich took her son, Alex, to Wilmington in the fall of 2004, planning to stay until the controversy blew over. It never has.

    The Dobriches eventually sued the Indian River School District, challenging what they asserted was the pervasiveness of religion in the schools and seeking financial damages. They have been joined by "the Does," a family still in the school district who have remained anonymous because of the response against the Dobriches.

    Meanwhile, a Muslim family in another school district here in Sussex County has filed suit, alleging proselytizing in the schools and the harassment of their daughters.

    The move to Wilmington, the Dobriches said, wrecked them financially, leading them to sell their house and their daughter to drop out of Columbia University.

    The dispute here underscores the rising tensions over religion in public schools.

    "We don't have data on the number of lawsuits, but anecdotally, people think it has never been so active — the degree to which these conflicts erupt in schools and the degree to which they are litigated," said Tom Hutton, a staff lawyer at the National School Boards Association.

    More religion probably exists in schools now than in decades because of the role religious conservatives play in politics and the passage of certain education laws over the last 25 years, including the Equal Access Act in 1984, said Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, a research and education group.

    "There are communities largely of one faith, and despite all the court rulings and Supreme Court decisions, they continue to promote one faith," Mr. Haynes said. "They don't much care what the minority complains about. They're just convinced that what they are doing is good for kids and what America is all about."

    Dr. Donald G. Hattier, a member of the Indian River school board, said the district had changed many policies in response to Mrs. Dobrich's initial complaints. But the board unanimously rejected a proposed settlement of the Dobriches' lawsuit.

    "There were a couple of provisions that were unacceptable to the board," said Jason Gosselin, a lawyer for the board. "The parties are working in good faith to move closer to settlement."

    Until recently, it was safe to assume that everyone in the Indian River district was Christian, said the Rev. Mark Harris, an Episcopal priest at St. Peter's Church in Lewes.

    But much has changed in Sussex County over the last 30 years. The county, in southern Delaware, has resort enclaves like Rehoboth Beach, to which outsiders bring their cash and, often, liberal values. Inland, in the area of Georgetown, the county seat, the land is still a lush patchwork of corn and soybean fields, with a few poultry plants. But developers are turning more fields into tracts of rambling homes. The Hispanic population is booming. There are enough Reform Jews, Muslims and Quakers to set up their own centers and groups, Mr. Harris said.

    In interviews with a dozen people here and comments on the radio by a half-dozen others, the overwhelming majority insisted, usually politely, that prayer should stay in the schools.

    "We have a way of doing things here, and it's not going to change to accommodate a very small minority," said Kenneth R. Stevens, 41, a businessman sitting in the Georgetown Diner. "If they feel singled out, they should find another school or excuse themselves from those functions. It's our way of life."

    The Dobrich and Doe legal complaint portrays a district in which children were given special privileges for being in Bible club, Bibles were distributed in 2003 at an elementary school, Christian prayer was routine at school functions and teachers evangelized.

    "Because Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, I will speak out for him," said the Rev. Jerry Fike of Mount Olivet Brethren Church, who gave the prayer at Samantha's graduation. "The Bible encourages that." Mr. Fike continued: "Ultimately, he is the one I have to please. If doing that places me at odds with the law of the land, I still have to follow him."

    Mrs. Dobrich, who is Orthodox, said that when she was a girl, Christians here had treated her faith with respectful interest. Now, she said, her son was ridiculed in school for wearing his yarmulke. She described a classmate of his drawing a picture of a pathway to heaven for everyone except "Alex the Jew."

    Mrs. Dobrich's decision to leave her hometown and seek legal help came after a school board meeting in August 2004 on the issue of prayer. Dr. Hattier had called WGMD to discuss the issue, and Mr. Gaffney and others encouraged people to go the meeting. Hundreds showed up.

    A homemaker active in her children's schools, Mrs. Dobrich said she had asked the board to develop policies that would leave no one feeling excluded because of faith. People booed and rattled signs that read "Jesus Saves," she recalled. Her son had written a short statement, but he felt so intimidated that his sister read it for him. In his statement, Alex, who was 11 then, said: "I feel bad when kids in my class call me 'Jew boy.' I do not want to move away from the house I have lived in forever."

    Later, another speaker turned to Mrs. Dobrich and said, according to several witnesses, "If you want people to stop calling him 'Jew boy,' you tell him to give his heart to Jesus."

    Immediately afterward, the Dobriches got threatening phone calls. Samantha had enrolled in Columbia, and Mrs. Dobrich decided to go to Wilmington temporarily.

    But the controversy simmered, keeping Mrs. Dobrich and Alex away. The cost of renting an apartment in Wilmington led the Dobriches to sell their home here. Mrs. Dobrich's husband, Marco, a school bus driver and transportation coordinator, makes about $30,000 a year and has stayed in town to care for Mrs. Dobrich's ailing parents. Mr. Dobrich declined to comment. Samantha left Columbia because of the financial strain.

    The only thing to flourish, Mrs. Dobrich said, was her faith. Her children, she said, "have so much pride in their religion now."

    "Alex wears his yarmulke all the time. He never takes it off."

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


    The debate with Joe continues (8/30/06)....
    >> Another lie from the dishonest, incompetent, and evil New York Times. <<

    Another "lie" that you apparently can't document with evidence. In other words, another of your unsubstantiated opinions.

    When you can prove the NY Times wrong, please do so. Your opinion that it's wrong is worthless.

    Sorry, but I'm onto your little trick of simply denying everything that contradicts your positions. I'm gonna call you on your ignorance of the facts from now until Kingdom Come.

    >> Wait until the courts decide this one by forbidding prayers and references to Christ. <<

    Ain't gonna happen. Prayer is fine in schools as long as the school doesn't conduct the prayer itself or impose it on unwilling listeners. That's the way it's been since the 1960s and the way it will continue.

    >> There is still Christian influence in the country, but for every story you send me showing one point I could send you five showing the other. <<

    You could? Then go ahead and do it. I've proved that I can send you several postings disproving whatever it is you believe. You haven't proved much of anything to me.

    >> Christian children not allowed to read a bible on the school bus, not allowed to put a picture on the board with a Christian theme, not allowed to sing a Christmas song with religious lyrics, prayers or even the use of the name Jesus forbidden at school assemblies, teachers with Christian values required to keep quiet and criticisms of Darwinism forbidden while people on the other side can express themselves freely. <<

    I doubt the school-bus story. The next four are examples of schools establishing a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment. Doing this has been illegal since the 1960s or 1970s, so there's no anti-Christianity "trend." We achieved the proper balance between religion and non-religion then and we haven't needed to change it since.

    Incidentally, would it be okay with you if children put up posters of Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, Ishtar, Ra, Zeus, Odin, and Wicca along with a poster of Jesus? Why or why not? Show me you're open to all religions in school and not just Christianity.

    Criticism of evolutionary theory is fine as long as the school doesn't endorse the unscientific alternative of "intelligent design." That's not a theory at all, since it doesn't offer testable hypotheses. As even conservative judges have ruled, it's religion in disguise, not science.

    Oh, wait...here's the school-bus story you must be referring to:

    Bible-Reading Bus Drive Reassigned

    School officials reassigned a bus driver who told a boy to take part in Bible readings on the way to school or find another way to get there.

    A government employee ordering someone to read the Bible or get off the bus? You can bet your bippy that's unconstitutional and illegal. Even a zealot like you should understand that.

    Wow, you sure misstated this one. Either you were ignorant of the facts or you deliberately tried to mislead me. I wonder which.

    >> The ACLU has brought many actions to eliminate even a mention of Christianity and in the vast majority of them they have been successful. <<

    Wrong. Another statement I'm confident you can't substantiate.

    >> There is an overwhelmingly secular agenda dominatiing America today — even Bush is afraid to speak out against homosexuality <<

    He's spoken out against gay marriage several times. He hasn't spoken against homosexuality because he's apparently a better Christian than you are. That is, he apparently doesn't hate gays the way you do.

    >> Also, if many people praying make someone uncomfortable, is the solution to force them to keep quiet about their religion? <<

    In schools? Yes. Students can pray silently in class or aloud during recess. There's no reason to impose prayers on unwilling listeners.

    I'll make you a deal. I'll allow students to pray to Jesus in class if you'll allow them to recite the Satanic rituals of the Devil worship they practice. Deal?

    >> Does the right of one person to have everything her own way cancel out the right of a majority to say what they like and have meetings as they like? <<

    In schools? Yes. The Bill of Rights exists to protect the rights of the minority.

    >> So, you can believe that the Christians control everything, but I would encourage you to get a King James bible and read the Sermon on the Mount <<

    I've read it.

    >> then see if the values taught there are reflected in our society. They are not reflected in our society. <<

    Right, because our culture and government are largely Christian and Christians are largely hypocrites.

    >> Most people, even most Christians, are not that serious about following the teachings of Christ. <<

    Yes...including you!

    The bottom line
    If we allowed schools to impose Christianity on their students, would it do any good? The following article says no. From the LA Times:

    The dark side of faith


    October 1, 2005

    IT'S OFFICIAL: Too much religion may be a dangerous thing.

    This is the implication of a study reported in the current issue of the Journal of Religion and Society, a publication of Creighton University's Center for the Study of Religion. The study, by evolutionary scientist Gregory S. Paul, looks at the correlation between levels of "popular religiosity" and various "quantifiable societal health" indicators in 18 prosperous democracies, including the United States.

    Paul ranked societies based on the percentage of their population expressing absolute belief in God, the frequency of prayer reported by their citizens and their frequency of attendance at religious services. He then correlated this with data on rates of homicide, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, abortion and child mortality.

    He found that the most religious democracies exhibited substantially higher degrees of social dysfunction than societies with larger percentages of atheists and agnostics. Of the nations studied, the U.S. — which has by far the largest percentage of people who take the Bible literally and express absolute belief in God (and the lowest percentage of atheists and agnostics) — also has by far the highest levels of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

    This conclusion will come as no surprise to those who have long gnashed their teeth in frustration while listening to right-wing evangelical claims that secular liberals are weak on "values." Paul's study confirms globally what is already evident in the U.S.: When it comes to "values," if you look at facts rather than mere rhetoric, the substantially more secular blue states routinely leave the Bible Belt red states in the dust.

    Murder rates? Six of the seven states with the highest 2003 homicide rates were "red" in the 2004 elections (Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina), while the deep blue Northeastern states had murder rates well below the national average. Infant mortality rates? Highest in the South and Southwest; lowest in New England. Divorce rates? Marriages break up far more in red states than in blue. Teen pregnancy rates? The same.

    Of course, the red/blue divide is only an imperfect proxy for levels of religiosity. And while Paul's study found that the correlation between high degrees of religiosity and high degrees of social dysfunction appears robust, it could be that high levels of social dysfunction fuel religiosity, rather than the other way around.

    Although correlation is not causation, Paul's study offers much food for thought. At a minimum, his findings suggest that contrary to popular belief, lack of religiosity does societies no particular harm. This should offer ammunition to those who maintain that religious belief is a purely private matter and that government should remain neutral, not only among religions but also between religion and lack of religion. It should also give a boost to critics of "faith-based" social services and abstinence-only disease and pregnancy prevention programs.

    We shouldn't shy away from the possibility that too much religiosity may be socially dangerous. Secular, rationalist approaches to problem-solving emphasize uncertainty, evidence and perpetual reevaluation. Religious faith is inherently nonrational.

    This in itself does not make religion worthless or dangerous. All humans hold nonrational beliefs, and some of these may have both individual and societal value. But historically, societies run into trouble when powerful religions become imperial and absolutist.

    The claim that religion can have a dark side should not be news. Does anyone doubt that Islamic extremism is linked to the recent rise in international terrorism? And since the history of Christianity is every bit as blood-drenched as the history of Islam, why should we doubt that extremist forms of modern American Christianity have their own pernicious and measurable effects on national health and well-being?

    Arguably, Paul's study invites us to conclude that the most serious threat humanity faces today is religious extremism: nonrational, absolutist belief systems that refuse to tolerate difference and dissent.

    My prediction is that right-wing evangelicals will do their best to discredit Paul's substantive findings. But when they fail, they'll just shrug: So what if highly religious societies have more murders and disease than less religious societies? Remember the trials of Job? God likes to test the faithful.

    To the truly nonrational, even evidence that on its face undermines your beliefs can be twisted to support them. Absolutism means never having to say you're sorry.

    And that, of course, is what makes it so very dangerous.


    The debate continues (10/9/06)....
    >> Another lie from the dishonest, incompetent, and evil New York Times. <<

    The Jason Blair and Photoshop cases are examples of individuals making mistakes that the NY Times didn't catch in time. If you stretched mightily, you could say they're examples of the Times's incompetence. But they're nothing that doesn't occur in every major institution in the world.

    Two mistakes in two years out of how many opportunities for mistakes every day: 10,000? Can you say "drop in the bucket"? Find an example of a major mistake every week or two. Then we'll talk about whether the NY Times is incompetent overall. You haven't come close to demonstrating that.

    And where's the evidence of dishonesty and evil? I guess these are more things you can't document with evidence. In other words, more of your unsubstantiated opinions.

    >> There have been so many stories about the New York Times' lack of credibility that I assumed it was common knowledge and so gave no evidence. <<

    No, there have been several stories about the Times's occasional mistakes. The same mistakes that every large institution makes. No one except right-wingers thinks the Times lacks credibility because of these few mistakes.

    >> I was surprised at your response. Do you think the New York Times, or any other newspaper, is infallible? <<

    No, but I think you're a lot more fallible than the NY Times is.

    >> I have heard of people who base their concept of reality on the Times but you are the first one I have ever met. <<

    Hm-mm. I guess you can't touch my claim that our schools have nothing against Christianity. You came up with some NY Times flaws that have absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand.

    As I said before, we're not debating your ignorance of the facts and evidence. Prove that our schools are biased against Christianity or admit you can't. Don't waste my time with irrelevant sideshows.

    >> I admit, I haven't responded to many of your comments, some in my Yahoo inbox were left unread, others I literally have not had time to get to. Here is some evidence for you. <<

    Evidence that the Times makes occasional mistakes, yes. Evidence that it's mistaken in this particular case, not even close. You can't prove me wrong so you've tried a worthless alternative. Why not just pin a big "I give up" sign on your forehead? Because that's what I'm reading here.

    Did you actually understand what I said when I wrote, "Prayer is fine in schools as long as the school doesn't conduct the prayer itself or impose it on unwilling listeners. That's the way it's been since the 1960s and the way it will continue"? I guess not, judging by the cases you listed:

    >> RUSSELL SPRINGS, Ky. (AP) — The senior class at a southern Kentucky high school gave their response Friday night to a federal judge's order banning prayer at commencement.

    http://www.wkyt.com/Global/story.asp?S=4928301 <<

    This link is no longer good. But judging by the summary, it involved an imposed prayer at commencement. This is illegal under the Supreme Court's ruling and has been since the '60s. It's not a case of a trend against Christianity, since nothing's changed since the '60s. This kind of prayer was illegal then and it's still illegal now.

    >> In a case heard last week by the Supreme Court and closely followed by, among others, Texas Governor George W. Bush, DC '68, parents of Santa Fe students charged that the school district's policy permitting students to lead prayers prior to football games violated the First Amendment by creating what they called a "pervasive religious atmosphere." <<

    Again, a prayer imposed on unwilling students. Again, illegal since the '60s. Again, not a case of a trend against Christianity since nothing has changed since the '60s.

    Is that it? Two examples, both of which fit my summary of the status quo? What a lame excuse for an argument.

    >> I gave you specific examples (not allowed to put a picture on the board with a Christian theme, not allowed to sing a Christmas song with religious lyrics, prayers or even the use of the name Jesus forbidden at school assemblies, teachers with Christian values required to keep quiet and criticisms of Darwinism forbidden while people on the other side can express themselves freely) and you did not deny that they occurred <<

    Given how you misstated the school-bus story, I now doubt these other incidents occurred. Prove that they did.

    Even if they did occur, my answer stands. These four are examples of schools establishing a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment. Doing this has been illegal since the 1960s or 1970s, so there's no anti-Christianity "trend." We achieved the proper balance between religion and non-religion then and we haven't needed to change it since.

    >> The point is that it is occurring – Christianity is being excluded. <<

    No more so than it has been for the last 40 years. Therefore, the situation is stable. It is not trending against Christianity.

    >> You ask for examples, I give them, and you say it is justified – but the point is that it is occurring, not is it or is I not justified. <<

    What you haven't done is give me examples that prove there's more bias against Christianity now than there was 10, 20, or 40 years ago. So go ahead and do it. Or give up.

    Neutrality isn't bias
    By the way, being neutral toward religion isn't the same as being biased against Christianity. Proving the point, no other religion is getting favored over Christianity. Neutral means just that: neutral.

    So when you say Christianity is being excluded, what you mean is every religion is being excluded. You're arbitrarily picking Christianity to complain about even though Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. are also being excluded. The only bias here is yours, not the schools'.

    >> Incidentally, saying that "Exposing scientific problems with Darwinism such as the lack of a genetic mechanism is establishing a religion" is absurd. <<

    Then it's a good thing I didn't say that. What I did say was:

    Criticism of evolutionary theory is fine as long as the school doesn't endorse the unscientific alternative of "intelligent design." That's not a theory at all, since it doesn't offer testable hypotheses. As even conservative judges have ruled, it's religion in disguise, not science.

    >> Darwinists use this evasive tactic because they are frightened of the truth and need to use the power of the state to prop up their tottering 19th-century theory and protect it from competition in the market place of ideas – while they talk about tolerance! <<

    That's funny coming from the fanatical fringe that refuses to explain how "intelligent design" works. You have absolutely no scientific theory of your own to debate or test. All you have is criticism of the minor uncertainties in Darwinian theory.

    >> Putting up a poster of Jesus in a school has never been one of my concerns. I wouldn't be concerned if some Buddhists brought their Bagavad Gitas to school and had a Buddhist club or activity room. I wouldn't say "The state is ordaining a religion, the sky is falling, the sky is falling!" <<

    How about posters of Muhammad, Confucius, Ishtar, Ra, Zeus, Odin, or Wicca? How about a poster saying Jesus was a fraud, if that's my sincere religious belief? How about a poster of Satan worship if that's my sincere religious belief?

    So you'd allow people to worship Buddha on their own or after school. What does that have to do with posting a poster and having the teacher teach these other religions in class? Now that you've tried ducking my question, try answering it instead.

    >> Sorry, for many the situation is that no questioning of Darwinism is allowed. <<

    Prove it. I'm not wasting time debating your ignorant assertions.

    >> "Intelligent design" is believed by many people, allowing students to have only one side of the case is a policy of repression and fear. <<

    Explain how intelligent design works in a scientific manner, using testable hypotheses, and then we'll discuss it. Until then, it's a religious belief masquerading as a criticism of evolution, not a scientific theory in its own right.

    >> By the way, atheism is also a non-testable hypothesis – prove there is no God. <<

    Science classes don't teach atheism any more than they teach religion. They're neutral on people's religious beliefs—as they should be.

    >> About the link to the school bus story, I gave you a number of other examples which you didn't deny, you approved of them. <<

    If I did, I don't anymore. Go ahead and document all your examples.

    >> At the rally, the Christian Coalition presented several people it called "victims" of religious discrimination, including a wheelchair-using girl who was told she could not read her Bible on a school bus, and a student who received an "F" on a school paper she wrote about Jesus. <<

    This "evidence" is worthless without more details. It's probably as phony as your school-bus story. I wouldn't trust anything the Christian Coalition said, since they're a bunch of liars and hypocrites.

    >> What about your denial of falsehood in the NYT? Were you ignorant of the facts or trying to mislead me? I wonder which. <<

    Mistakes aren't falsehoods. The NY Times corrected the two mistakes listed above. How the NY Times covered WW II has been irrelevant for 70-plus years. It's ancient history.

    >> There have been so many cases of the ACLU swinging into action to eliminate a display of the 10 commandments or a picture of Jesus that all you have to do is search "ACLU Christianity" and you will find numerous examples.

    Those are government-sponsored promotions of Christianity, not mere "mentions of Christianity." Try again. Find a case where the ACLU tried to stop a person from uttering a word about Christianity. I'm still confident you can't document your claim—which explains why you shifted to an almost unrelated claim.

    ACLU fights for Christians
    Meanwhile, how do the following examples square with your imaginary war against Christianity?

    The ACLU Is Not Evil

    More to the point, the ACLU is often right about the First Amendment's free exercise clause, taking on fights that others refuse. It might surprise some critics that the ACLU defends the free speech and free exercise rights of, well, Christians.

    For example, in 2001, the group interceded with a school district in Michigan that had deleted a high school senior's yearbook entry because she included a Bible verse. In 2002, the ACLU filed a brief on behalf of a pastor associated with Operation Rescue who was prevented from participating in a parade because his pro-life poster showed a photograph of an aborted baby. And last September, the organization joined a lawsuit on behalf of a New Jersey second-grader who was not allowed to sing "Awesome God" in a school talent show. (All of these examples are easily accessible on several Web pages now devoted to defending the ACLU 's record on Christianity.)

    >> I didn't say gay marriage, I said homosexuality. <<

    Speaking against gay marriage is a form of speaking against homosexuality.

    >> Bush does not speak out against it for one reason only I am sure – politics. <<

    Well, it's possible he's more tolerant than you are—i.e., a better Christian. But you're right...he's probably a fanatic like you.

    >> It would lose him votes and allow him to be portrayed as a fanatic. <<

    We're already portraying him as a fanatic on dozens of issues, so what's one more?

    >> As to his being a better Christian, I think we should really discuss not the ACLU and American schools but rather "What is Christianity?" <<

    I already know what it is—better than you do, certainly.

    >> I would like to see them repent of their sins, be healed, and live normal lies, free from their moral perversion. <<

    Labeling someone a sinner means you're judging them—a violation of God's commandment not to judge people. Calling them moral perverts may not quite be hate, but it's a lot closer to hate than love. Again, that violates Jesus's commandment to love others as you love yourself.

    If you're following Jesus's commandments to the letter, would you invite openly gay men and women to your neighborhood barbecue? Why or why not?

    >> Praying in class isn't the issue. <<

    It was a figure of speech. Praying at school functions such as commencements or football games is the real issue. So will you allow prayers to Satan there? Will you back them with the full force of the US government, putting those who interfere with prayers to Satan in jail? I sincerely doubt it.

    >> if a school valedictorian wants to give glory to Satan, it is a free country. <<

    Not if the person is stoned or reviled after exercising his or her so-called right.

    >> And to deny rights to the majority? <<

    The majority doesn't have the right to impose their religion on others at a school function. Why not? Because a school function is a government function and the First Amendment bans the government's establishment of religion.

    >> Do you think the Bill of Rights was written to keep the Ten Commandments out of classrooms or to banish religion from school? <<

    Only to the extent it does now. Students are free to pray silently during class or aloud during after-school meetings. They can invoke God briefly at school functions but can't proselytize other students.

    >> Freedom of religion is not freedom from religion. <<

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

    >> I think a discussion of basic bible teachings would be more helpful and edifying than debates about social issues. <<

    Given how you selectively quote and interpret the Bible, I doubt it.

    >> I am glad you concede that Christian values are not reflected in our society- that has been one of my main points. <<

    What part of "Our culture and government are largely Christian and Christians are largely hypocrites" didn't you understand? All of it, apparently.

    >> I am making an effort and I note some progress over the years. <<

    You mean you were worse before? Scary!

    >> I am in fact a very bad Christian <<

    No need to tell me that. <g>

    >> I wonder about your reaction to the bible – obviously you didn't believe in it, but aren't there some good things and ideas in it? <<

    Yes. I admire many of Jesus's teachings, since he was mainly a good liberal.

    >> What would the world be like if everyone really lived by the Sermon on the Mount? <<

    The opposite of the kind of world you and Bush and the other fundamentalist fanatics want. Ironically, your views are closer to the Taliban's than to Jesus's.


    The debate continues (10/19/06)....
    >> Since the 1950's the forces of secularism have been steadily expandnig without resistance. <<

    Expanding until the Reagan-Bush era, you mean. I guess you don't know that conservatives began their long domination of our cultural and political scene around then.

    >> Homosexuality, pornography, abortion, liberal standards on criminal justice, Darwinism made mandatory in the schools <<

    You don't know what you're talking about if you think abortion rights have expanded continuously since Roe v. Wade. The pinnacle of abortion rights was probably in the '70s or the '80s at the latest. Since the '90s they've contracted, not expanded.

    If you disagree, show me some of the laws expanding abortion rights since the 1990s. Good luck with that.

    We teach evolution because it's an established theory underlying all of biology. Similarly, we teach atoms in chemistry and gravity in physics. You fanatics could postulate that atoms or gravity work because of intelligent design too, but you've chosen biology as your battlefield.

    If you chose physics or chemistry instead, you could find the same minor problems in the theories (news flash: physicists can't explain gravity yet!) and propose the same religious alternatives. For instance, you could claim gravity doesn't work because of any soulless scientific principle; it works because God makes it work.

    >> the ten Commandments and prayer forbidden in schools <<

    Prayer is forbidden at mandatory school assemblies, yes. Along with readings from the Torah, prayers to Mecca, and invocations of Wicca and Satan.

    What if a school principal happened to be a Muslim and ordered his pupils to pray to Mecca five times a day? Would you be okay with that? I guess so, unless you're a raving hypocrite who's interested only in promoting Christianity at the expense of other religions.

    >> the Christians have been trynig to resist this tide, they have won a few victories, but it is a losing battle. <<

    The tide came in the 1960s and 1970s, you mean. What you're seeing today is extremists like you disobeying court rulings from 30-40 years ago. In recent years, the courts have aided Christianity—for instance, legalizing after-school Bible classes.

    >> About Christian suicides, I don't know where you get this idea of Christianity by geography. <<

    From reading and educating myself, something you clearly haven't done.

    >> People may be more generally conservative, but this does not mean they believe the bible is the true word of God, and have received the Holy Spirit by faith in Christ, and have experienced the love of Christ. <<

    Are you seriously so ignorant that you don't know where evangelical Christians are concentrated in the United States? Why don't you research the subject on the Net and tell me what you find? I'm tired of educating someone who's oblivious to the facts.

    >> I believe that those who have really experienced the love of Christ and are serving him have a suicide rate of exactly zero. <<

    Yeah, and they don't do any of the bad things you, Bush, and Hitler did, either. By this standard, how are you a Christian, since you've admitted to being imperfect? Answer: You aren't. None of you are Christians by your own logic.


    >> Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    The article you sent did not show Congress establishing one religion. <<

    Learn to read. The word "one" doesn't appear in the First Amendment. The amendment bans the "establishment of religion," period. Not one religion over another, but religion—i.e., religion in any way, shape, or form. If a law has anything to do with ("respecting") the establishment of religion, it's forbidden.

    Maybe that's why you're so wrong about religion in our society. You haven't learned how to parse complex language yet. Well, that's what I'm here for. Now that I've helped you out, perhaps you'll finally get it.

    >> Banning elective classes prohibits the free exercise of religion. <<

    Students don't organize elective classes, schools do. Schools are an arm of the government.

    If students want to organize classes on their own time, they can. That's why the courts allow after-school Bible classes. But as part of the government, a school can't do anything to establish religion—meaning any religion or religion in general.

    >> This is one more exmaple of government trying to take away the right of people to educate their children according to what they think is right. <<

    No, it's an example of your not being able to read the Constitution any better than you can read the Bible.

    >> Moreover, if you search "homosexuality — public schools" or "darwinism public schools" you will find many examples of the secularists cramming their false religions down people's throats. <<

    You do it for me. Prove you can back up your claims with anything resembling evidence. You haven't done it yet.

    >> Let the local school districts decide what elective courses they want to offer, not the bureaucrats and the antireligious left-wing lawyers and judges. <<

    School districts, bureaucrats, and judges are all part of our government. None of them can establish religion in any way, shape, or form. That's what Jefferson meant when he invoked the wall between church and state.

    >> I am glad to know some schools are teaching kids healthy religious truths instead of darwinism and homosexuality. <<

    No, you're glad to know they're teaching Christianity. If they were teaching Islam or Buddhism or Wiccanism, you'd be squealing like a stuck pig. Hence my question about teaching or putting posters in class, which you've yet to answer.

    >> By the way, what about "Origin of Species" thumpers or gay rights thumpers. <<

    No such thing, since they back their arguments with facts and evidence. For instance, researchers have largely proved that homosexuality is a biological fact, not a cultural choice. It's not "thumping" to point to a scientific study and quote it. See the accompanying message on gay species for an example.

    When you can do the same with intelligent design, go ahead and do it. Show me a scientific study that demonstrates how intelligent design works. Good luck.

    From Yahoo News:

    Birds and bees may be gay: museum exhibition

    By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
    Thu Oct 12, 8:46 AM ET

    The birds and the bees may be gay, according to the world's first museum exhibition about homosexuality among animals.

    With documentation of gay or lesbian behavior among giraffes, penguins, parrots, beetles, whales and dozens of other creatures, the Oslo Natural History Museum concludes human homosexuality cannot be viewed as "unnatural."

    "We may have opinions on a lot of things, but one thing is clear — homosexuality is found throughout the animal kingdom, it is not against nature," an exhibit statement said.

    Geir Soeli, the project leader of the exhibition entitled "Against Nature," told Reuters: "Homosexuality has been observed for more than 1,500 animal species, and is well documented for 500 of them."

    The museum said the exhibition, opening on Thursday despite condemnation from some Christians, was the first in the world on the subject. Soeli said a Dutch zoo had once organised tours to view homosexual couples among the animals.

    "The sexual urge is strong in all animals. ... It's a part of life, it's fun to have sex," Soeli said of the reasons for homosexuality or bisexuality among animals.

    One exhibit shows two stuffed female swans on a nest — birds sometimes raise young in homosexual couples, either after a female has forsaken a male mate or donated an egg to a pair of males.

    One photograph shows two giant erect penises flailing above the water as two male right whales rub together. Another shows a male giraffe mounting another for sex, another describes homosexuality among beetles.


    One radical Christian said organizers of the exhibition — partly funded by the Norwegian government — should "burn in hell," Soeli said. Laws describing homosexuality as a "crime against nature" are still on the statutes in some countries.

    Greek philosopher Aristotle noted apparent homosexual behavior among hyenas 2,300 years ago but evidence of animal homosexuality has often been ignored by researchers, perhaps because of distaste, lack of interest or fear or ridicule.

    Bonobos, a type of chimpanzee, are among extremes in having sex with either males or females, apparently as part of social bonding. "Bonobos are bisexuals, all of them," Soeli said.

    Still, it is unclear why homosexuality survives since it seems a genetic dead-end.

    Among theories, males can sometimes win greater acceptance in a pack by having homosexual contact. That in turn can help their chances of later mating with females, he said.

    And a study of homosexual men in Italy suggested that their mothers and sisters had more offspring. "The same genes that give homosexuality in men could give higher fertility among women," he said.

    See also:




    Joe blames the messenger for the message
    "This is one of many stories I have seen in the past few years about the Times (and the big media's) incompetence and dishonesty."


    The debate continues (1/27/07)....
    >> Also, it is very possible that you would not like to see Christians sent to labor camps — not all atheists are so intolerant, and not all atheists are the same <<

    And I'm not an atheist.

    >> Nevertheless, atheists do have a proven track record of brutality. <<

    No, Russians and Chinese had a track record of brutality. To be specific, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong had a track record of brutality. Now that they're no longer in office, their countries are no longer committing mass murder, even though they're still officially atheist (I believe).

    In short, two exceptional cases prove nothing.

    The US officially has no God either, so are you including it in your list of atheist killer countries? When the US Army was massacring the Indians, was it doing it in the name of God or in the name of atheism?

    >> By the way, in the past when abortion was illegal and considered a crime, and people began to agitate for a change, did the right wing "Christian" fundamentalist establishment say "That is the way it is — if you don't like it get out"? <<

    RIght-wingers have said "Love it or leave it" on innumerable issues—for instance, civil rights or the Vietnam War. They invented the phrase to express their beliefs. Duh.

    >> Here is a proven fact, that the old status quo was much more tolerant of opposing points of view than you are — undeniable fact against which no refutation is possible. <<

    It's not necessarily a fact and you definitely haven't proved it. Stating something isn't the same as proving it.

    There was no mass movement for abortion before Roe v. Wade because people considered it a personal and private act. Try applying your "proven fact" to an issue where there WAS a mass movement, such as the Vietnam War.

    >> If you take all of the sex education courses in the entire public school system in the US, what are the vast majority of them teaching — that students are free to have any sexual activity they want, but they should be safe, or, sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin and people should practice abstinence because that is God's law and what the bible teaches? <<

    Neither. But many schools do preach abstinence, although they don't use the fairy-tale concept of sin.

    In the United States

    Under government and local citizen pressure, many school sex education programs express disapproval of premarital sex and limit information about contraception. A 1999 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that about a third of U.S. public high schools have sex education programs that advocate strict abstinence until marriage. Experts at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States say the number has since grown, with some states not only accepting federal funds for abstinence education, but also including federal government language in their sex education guidelines.

    >> If you deny that the overwhelming number of course adopt the secular approach, if you think the religious approach dominates, then you are so far out of touch with reality as to render further communication on this point impossible. <<

    I deny that you know what the hell you're talking about. Present some facts and statistics and then we'll discuss it. I'm not wasting time debating your opinion with you. You're right...debating your ignorance of this and other subjects is enough to render further communication impossible.

    >> The secularists do not need to spend so much money and time as they control the schools and the courts. This is a plain and simple fact. <<

    No, it's your ignorant opinion. If you think it's a fact, PROVE IT.

    >> People who want to argue that the Christians dominate can point to some cases here and there <<

    I can point to the Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court as well as most state and local governments. If you call that "here and there," you're right.

    >> just like a Nazi arguing that the Jews controlled the world could point to a bank owned by a Jew or a newspaper chain owned by a Jew. <<

    This is the stupid argument you resort to when you can't touch the fact I've presented to you: that most of our leaders are card-carrying Christians.

    >> Isolated examples don't constitute proof. <<

    I haven't given you isolated examples, doofus. I've explained that of our leaders—in government, business, and the media—are card-carrying Christians.

    You're the one giving isolated examples with your erroneous case of a driver who supposedly threw a Bible reader off the bus. Or with your citation of a couple of errors in the NY Times as "proof" that the paper is corrupt and dishonest. I guess you don't know what "isolated" means.

    No change in 40-50 years?
    >> Are you saying times haven't changed since 40-50 years ago? Movies, music, fashions, mores, politics, haven't changed in fifty years???? <<

    Not in terms of secularism advancing at the expense of Christianity.

    >> Organized prayer has been illegal, but the attempt to remove every hint or suggestion of religion even from holidays is new. <<

    The attempt you talk about is a myth fabricated by right-wingers to stir up ignoramuses like you who don't follow the news and don't know any better. I thought I sent you articles on the point. If not, here are a few that turn up after ten seconds of Googling. Read 'em and weep:

    How the secular humanist grinch didn't steal Christmas

    The phoney war on Christmas

    War on Non-Christian Holidays

    The 'War on Christmas' is surprisingly lucrative

    I particularly love the point the first article made about the courts and the ACLU, which you remain ignorant about:

    Despite Johnson's lamentations, one can in fact offer Christmas greetings without legal counsel. Christmas trees are permitted in public schools. (They're considered secular symbols.) Nativity scenes are allowed on public property, although if the government erects one, it has to be part of a larger display that also includes other, secular signs of the holiday season, or displays referring to other religions. (The operative Supreme Court precedent is 1984's Lynch v. Donnelly, where the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a city-sponsored Christmas display including a crèche, reindeer, a Christmas tree, candy-striped poles and a banner that read "Seasons Greetings" was permissible. "The display is sponsored by the city to celebrate the Holiday and to depict the origins of that Holiday," the majority wrote. "These are legitimate secular purposes.") Students are allowed to distribute religious holiday cards and literature in school. If the administration tries to stop them, the ACLU will step in to defend the students' free-speech rights, as they did in 2003 when teenagers in Massachusetts were suspended for passing out candy canes with Christian messages.

    >> If you do not know this is new then I can't say anything else. <<

    Says the guy who can't or won't research any topic that might challenge his blind obedience to God and Christianity.

    What I know is that unless the subject is Hitler, you're ignorant of the real world. You don't have a clue what's happening. You offer right-wing and pro-Christian propaganda as if you've never cracked a real newspaper or listened to anything other than Fox News. You apparently have no evidence whatsoever because all you offer is your worthless opinions.

    Prove any of your claims with something resembling evidence and then we'll discuss them. I'm not wasting more time educating you about how your fantasies are at odds with reality.

    Related links
    Prayer in the Bush league

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