Posts Tagged “public schools”

Gustave Doré, 'Godfrey Enters Jerusalem', via Art PassionsAs I’ve blogged already, the Great Neocrusade has broken open. Christianists around the country have had it with Islam and they’re just not going to put up with it any more. Many are exacting vigilante justice on their chief rival religion. Any whiff of anything being somehow pro-Islam has aroused their ire.

A great example of this is in Virginia. As Mediaite reports, the Augusta County School District closed all its schools today due to a torrent of militant Christianist outrage (WebCite cached article):

Augusta County School District in Virginia cancelled school Friday citing security concerns after a teacher’s lesson on calligraphy garnered hateful messages from across the country.

The assignment by Riverheads High School teacher Cheryl LaPorte asked students to copy the shahada, a Muslim statement of faith that translates as “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

During a forum Tuesday night, parents expressed outrage over the school’s “indoctrination.” Augusta County parent Kimberly Herndon said the teacher took away the rights of the students, telling the forum, “if my truth can not be spoken in schools, I don’t want false doctrine spoken in schools.”

The teacher and the school district denied this was “indoctrination.” Instead, it was a calligraphy exercise … nothing more. Here is a scan of the offending lesson:

Scan of Riverheads High School lesson, relevant portion reads: 'Practicing Calligraphy: Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.' / via Mediaite

Scan of Riverheads High School lesson, relevant portion reads: ‘Practicing Calligraphy: Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.’ / via Mediaite

The value of this lesson is explained within its text: By asking the student to try replicating this calligraphic shahada, students will find out something about Arabic calligraphy, in a way they never could, merely by reading descriptions of how it’s done.

While the shahada, literally “testimony,” is one of the Pillars of Islam and therefore has religious significance for Muslims, having to replicate it does not — contrary to common Christian belief — automatically make one a Muslim. No one can convert to any religion, Islam included, against his or her will. There is no magic inherent in speaking or writing out the shahada … or any other ritual phrase from any religion, for that matter. Saying the shahada publicly can signify one has converted to Islam, but this must be intentional.

Allow me to demonstrate by typing out the shahada myself (in English):

There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.

There. Done. Now … does this make me a Muslim? No. It doesn’t. I remain as non-religious as I’ve ever been. I’ve never had any intention of joining Islam or living by its precepts, and I will continue never being part of it and never obeying it.

Now, if I can do this and not magically be made a Muslim, then Riverheads High School students aren’t going to be magically made Muslims by trying to copy out the shahada in Arabic script. Hence, there is no indoctrination here. None. Not a fucking speck of it!

I find it amazing that so many Christians — a lot of whom don’t even think al-Lah, Islam’s deity, is real — could actually be afraid of the supposed magical power of one of Islam’s ritual phrases. It’s almost laughable. (Please note: Truthfully, Jews, Muslims and Christians all effectively worship the same deity, the God of Abraham. They just think differently about him.)

It’s long past time for American Christendom to fucking grow the hell up already and stop caterwauling about shit they cannot change. Islam exists; it’s not going away; there are lots of Muslims in the world; and it’s best just to accept that reality rather than continue bellyaching against it.

Photo credit: Top, Art Passions; middle, Mediaite.

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Santa Claus in a parade in Toronto 2007 dsc128This year’s edition of the annual phantasmal “war on Christmas” continues to be waged across the country. The latest battleground is in San Jose, CA. A mother’s complaint, the San Jose Mercury News reports, led to the cancellation of a kindergarten class field trip to see Santa … and other parents are furious (WebCite cached version):

A Santa storm is brewing in San Jose.

After a field trip to visit Santa Claus by kindergarten students at Sartorette Elementary School was canceled by administrators on the heels of a complaint by one Jewish mother, things are getting ugly down on Woodford Drive.

Angry parents plan to descend on the board meeting Thursday, threatening a student walkout Friday if the Cambrian School District’s board fails to reinstate the annual Santa trip. The woman who made the complaint, who identified herself only as Talia and declined to be interviewed Wednesday evening, stood by her claim that having kids write or visit Santa unfairly imposes one religion on all students. She fired off an angry letter Dec. 7 to fellow parents at the charter school, alleging she was “ambushed by a group of moms from Ms. Kay’s class” who she said yelled at her for “ruining Santa for the kids.”

As is very common in these cases, those who see nothing wrong with public-school kids being paraded annually up on Santa’s lap rely on appeals to tradition (e.g. “They’ve always done this at Sartorette!”) as well as appeals to the masses:

“It’s very upsetting that the district would act after taking one person’s opinion and not talking to the 500 other families at the school,” said Melanie Scott, mother of a first-grader who took the field trip last year.

Both of these lines of thinking are fallacious; just because something has always been done or always been thought, doesn’t make it acceptable or correct; and just because many people approve of something, likewise doesn’t make it proper.

I love how Christianists accuse the complaining mother of “ruining Santa for the kids.” That whine makes no sense. If parents want their kids to sit on Santa’s lap, there’s nothing preventing them from taking their kids to a mall or some other place and doing so! Neither this mother’s complaint, nor the field trip’s cancellation, changes that … at all. They’re as free to do so as they’ve ever been. How and why are they claiming otherwise?

The obvious question to be asked is, if these parents are so vehement about making sure their kids sit on Santa’s lap, why aren’t they willing to make that happen on their own time? Why do they require the school to get it done for them? Why divert kids’ learning time to something that could be done elsewhere? I just don’t get it. I can only assume it has something to do with a latent desire for communal reinforcement; that is, they’re not so much concerned with whether or not their own kid(s) get to sit on Santa’s lap this year, but rather, whether or not their kid(s)’ entire class must do so.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Grundy Cty High School / WCRB-TVThe problem of Christofascists imposing their religion on public school kids is an old one. It continues, especially in the South, in spite of court decisions like Engel v Vitale (1962) and Abington SD v Schempp (1963).

Let’s face it, people who are fanatic enough tend not to fucking care whether their desire to impress their religious beliefs on other people is legal or not. All they’re aware of is their rabid impulse to spread the gospel — which, they fantasize, no on else on earth could ever possibly have heard before. And when these fanatics are thwarted, they don’t take it well. The latest example of this, as WCRB-TV in Chattanooga TN reports, illuminates this tendency quite clearly:

“Bible Man” is known as a staple in Grundy County Schools. His name is Horace Turner, and he’s been visiting there for decades. But now his visits are raising legal red flags.

National groups warn that his message is unconstitutional. Many local supporters are fighting to keep his mission alive. But not everyone is comfortable with “Bible Man” in the classroom.

“We don’t want people to be mad, we just want people to make sure there’s an alternative something for the kids to do,” said one Grundy County mom. She didn’t want to be identified for fear of community backlash for her non-Christian views.

She said Bible Man’s religious convocations at her son’s school were uncomfortable. They included religious teachings like songs and Baby Jesus displays. Their family is Atheist.

“At first he did not know that he didn’t have to go,” she said. “As he got older, it bothered him that he had to sit through this because it’s not his religion.”

The good folk at WCRB helpfully tried to make it seem as though this unconstitutional practice was just fine:

Bible Man has been visiting Grundy County Schools for nearly 40 years without any problems, until recently.

The problem with that defense, of course, is that just because something has been done — even for a very long time — cannot and will never automatically make it right or legal. To think so is to fall for an appeal to tradition, and it’s fallacious. This ought to be glaringly obvious: For instance, for thousands of years, humanity thought the earth was at the center of a universe only a few thousand miles in diameter. We now know this not to be the case. Are we to dispense with modern astronomical science, because it conflicts with thousands of years of tradition? Of course not!

But really, all of this is an old story. As I said, Christianists hammering their Jesus into public schools is old news in many parts of the country. That it was happening in Grundy county, TN is unsurprising at best. The real point of this story, though, is this:

While the concerned mom says she’s glad it’s being addressed, she still worries about the lack of acceptance for those who don’t support Bible Man.

She points to threats made on Facebook against her child that include pictures of a burning house.

“We just can’t get over how much hate there is in their loving, Christian hearts,” she said.

Ah yes. There we have it. “Christian love” at its finest: Threatening people. Indeed, this is the “religion of love” doing what it does best — demanding deference, if not abject surrender, from everyone and everything else, and launching into full-bore sanctimonious rage when it doesn’t get it.

I can’t think of a finer example of the utter failure of Christianity to live up to its own professed ideals. Can it really be the divine religion its followers say it is? I can’t see how. It just doesn’t work.

All I can say to you Christianists is: By all means, please keep up your whining, bellyaching, sniveling and threatening! I can’t think of any better way for you keep showing — for the entire world to see — what’s really wrong with your fierce, dour religionism.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: WCRB-TV.

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A historical event that Jefferson County schools would not be able to teach kids (In case you were taught by Jefferson County schools, or for some other reason don't recognize it, this was the fall of the Berlin Wall) / PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia CommonsConservatives have strange ideas about how teaching works. For instance, a lot of them think teaching evolution in science classes — which is currently the only known scientific explanation for our planet’s diverse life forms — is a form of persecution against Christianity and part of an effort to abolish that religion. Also, a lot of them think teaching kids things like slavery will cause kids to hate their country or something. They also worry that teaching kids about things will somehow force them to do them; e.g. teaching kids about communism will convert them to communism.

That the teaching of history, in particular, doesn’t work the way conservatives think it does, should be rather obvious. For instance, my 4 years in university learning medieval history didn’t make me into a crossbowman, swordsman or jouster, even though I learned about medieval military methods and read about a lot of tournaments.

An example of the outright-fucking insanity that erupts when conservatives get their hands on history curricula can be seen in this report by the New York Times on recent actions by the Jefferson County, Colorado school board (WebCite cached article):

A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.

“It’s gotten bad,” said Griffin Guttormsson, a junior at Arvada High School who wants to become a teacher and spent the school day soliciting honks from passing cars. “The school board is insane. You can’t erase our history. It’s not patriotic. It’s stupid.”

The Times article explains that the board’s conservative majority (3 to 2) has been stirring up trouble for several months, including driving out a 12-year superintendent. They’re really angry, and appear to have fallen for the prevailing conservative myth that public schools are nothing more than Marxist indoctrination camps.

In addition to the false notion that teaching kids about civil disobedience will force them all to become perpetually “civilly disobedient,” they appear to forget that civil disobedience has been used to promote conservative ideals and even to bring about changes that American conservatives approve of. Have they forgotten so soon about things like a western Rightist’s decades-long unrepentant refusal to obey federal law (cached) — a sterling example of civil disobedience if ever there was one? Or about the “Brooks Brothers riot” (in which Rightists working for G.W. Bush campaign used civil disobedience to try to derail the 2000 election recount in Florida)? Or have they forgotten about protests around the world, especially in eastern Europe, that toppled many communist regimes in 1989? Or even that many of their own number want the incumbent president removed from office, and wouldn’t object to civil disobedience or even revolt in order to make that happen?

My guess is, they’re blissfully unaware of this. They tend to be authoritarian, and demand unthinking adherence to authority. That they sometimes, themselves, object to some authority figures just doesn’t register with them all that often. In other words, they’re hypocrites — fiercely decrying civil disobedience if they find it inconvenient, but using it like a tool whenever they feel as though they can. Wah wah wah, little babies.

Photo credit: PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia Commons.

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MeditatingDespite the fact that it’s relatively common … and mostly done in a completely non-religious way in the occidental world … there are Christians out there who can’t get over yoga. They don’t understand that, while it did originate within Hindu religious tradition, yoga can be — and almost always is — non-religious. They object to it anyway, just because they think they can.

A couple years ago I blogged about evangelical theologian R. Albert Mohler going on a tear against it, but he’s hardly alone. As the (UK) Telegraph reports, some Christians in California are suing their local school district because it plans to have yoga as part of the phys-ed curriculum (WebCite cached article):

The Encinitas Union School District plans to offer yoga instruction at all of its nine schools from January, despite a protest by parents who say they believe it will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion.

The growing popularity of yoga is forcing US public schools to address the question of whether it is a religious practice or simply exercise.

The parents have their reasons … which are incomprehensible:

Mary Eady, a parent who has pulled her child out of yoga classes, said the pupils were learning to worship the sun and it was “inappropriate in our public schools.”

I’m not sure how or why Ms Eady thinks yoga is “sun worship.” She might be referring — perhaps — to something like Surya Namaskara, which might be called a yoga practice … however, it is, at best, a subset of yoga, and is certainly not the entirety of yoga.

It’s actually not uncommon for fundamentalist Christians to dismiss or condemn things they dislike as “sun worship.” They similarly dismiss Islam as “moon worship.” I’m not sure why, but they do.

In any event, as I blogged previously, these Christians forget that a lot of the meditative practices which are part of yoga, also happen to be traditional within Christianity … particularly in the monastic and mendicant movements. In other words, they’re condemning something that can also be found within their own religion. The meditative practices of Christian monks, friars, nuns, etc. may not be something these fundamentalist Christians are personally familiar with, but they’re no less “Christian” than any of their own rites or practices. That they’re ignorant of their own religion’s traditions, is the real problem here.

Photo credit: RelaxingMusic, via Flickr.

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First Cathedral (Baptist), Bloomfield, CTIt took over two years, but the town of Enfield here in Connecticut finally resolved a lawsuit it brought on itself by holding its high school graduation in churches. The Hartford Courant reports on the settlement (WebCite cached article):

In a 6-3 vote, the school board decided Wednesday night to accept a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over the school system’s practice of holding high school graduation ceremonies in a church.

The American Civil Liberties Union and another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed the suit two years ago after the school board decided to hold graduation ceremonies for both Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School at First Cathedral in Bloomfield.

I’d blogged about this conflict, back when it erupted in spring of 2010. At the time litigation over this began, various Christianist legal outfits had promised the town and its Board of Education that they’d pay the legal fees, thus encouraging them to defend the lawsuit despite having no chance of prevailing. But I note, in the end, these promises proved bogus, because none of those groups are paying a dime:

The school board’s insurance provider, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, will cover the cost of the settlement up to $470,000, Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann said. The exact dollar amount of the settlement was not revealed.

I wonder if their Jesus taught these guys not to keep their word?

The Courant article includes the expected childish whining and bellyaching on the part of Christianists, both on the Board and in the town, who don’t like the vote and call the ACLU and AU “bullies.” Well … boo fucking hoo, you crybabies! What you were doing was unconstitutional, and you know it. If you had any integrity in the first place, you’d realize that, and would now show the courage to admit having been wrong. But you won’t, because you have no courage; you’re just juvenile religionists who can’t help but stamp and fume when someone dares thwart you.

Photo credit: Hartford Courant.

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Don't Take God Out of Schools: Evil Atheists Removed God and Prayer from Public Schools, Leading to Disaster Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of CongressI already blogged about the militant Christianists in Cranston, RI who threatened the student who won a court case over a prayer banner in her public high school. As the AP reports via ABC News, the school system has decided not to appeal this decision (WebCite cached article):

A Rhode Island public school committee on Thursday voted not to appeal a federal court decision ordering the removal of a prayer banner displayed in a high school.

The Cranston School Committee cast the 5-2 vote at a public hearing to discuss a lawsuit that had been brought on behalf of 16-year-old atheist Jessica Ahlquist, a junior at Cranston High School West.

Their vote was not a foregone conclusion. A lot of folks in Cranston wanted the board to appeal the case as far, as long, and as hard as they could:

Appeal supporter, Christopher Young, who is running for U.S. Congress, said he is talking to students about suing the school.

Student David Sears Jr., 15, asked the board to appeal.

“We have to appeal for the students of Cranston High School West and we have to appeal for our humanity,” he said.

These delusional Christianists actually think the US Supreme Court will overturn decades of jurisprudence, and numerous prior decisions, to allow them to put their prayer back into their public school. They just can’t handle the idea that they aren’t allowed to keep it there. They should form their own country somewhere else, and establish whatever Christocracy they want. Until they do, what they want remains illegal and unconstitutional.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, About.Com.

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