Nel's New Day

February 16, 2014

Schools, Law Push Religion on All

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/week-god-96?cid=eml_mra_20140215  The GOP loves to rant about the “nanny state” with its seat belts, child seats, and other protective laws. Now the same party wants parental notification not only abortions and birth control but also curriculum that includes the teaching of evolution. A new bill in Missouri would require schools to notify parents if “the theory of evolution by natural selection” was being taught at their child’s school and give them the opportunity to opt out of the class. Parents could pull their children out of biology classes if they disapproved.

Thus far, no state has a science parental-notification law. State Rep. Rick Brattin said that modern biology is based “as much faith and, you know, just as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion.” He calls himself a “science enthusiast” and “a huge science buff.”  His bill would also require schools to “make all curriculum materials used in the district’s or school’s evolution instruction available for public inspection … prior to the use of such materials in actual instruction.”

Three other states—Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Virginia—have also introduced anti-evolution legislation ranging from a “debate” over evolution versus creationism to mandate that intelligent design be included in biology curriculum.

Once religious lawmakers take over biology, they may move on to mathematics:

1175ckCOMIC-bible-math While Christians are trying to protect student from evolution, they don’t mind bullying them. In Lousiana’s Savine Parish, a teacher promoted her personal Christian beliefs by agreeing with students that a Buddhist student is “stupid” for not believing in God and encouraging his classmates to laugh at him. When the child’s stepfather complained, the superintendent pointed out that they were in the “Bible Belt” and that the child could either change his faith or go to another school where “there are more Asians.”The ACLU is suing the school board because of the abusive behavior toward the child.

The religiosity of the public school went beyond the teacher. A large picture of Jesus hangs over the school entrance, a Bible verse is on the electronic marquee, and religious images and messages are displayed throughout the school. Official prayers led by the principal or teachers are routinely in class and school events, and school officials distribute religious materials to students including the New Testament and cartoons that denounce evolution.

These public schools seems to be following the curriculum of Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), founded over 40 years ago and claims to have  6,000 schools in 140 countries. These schools are supported by taxpayer funding because of the voucher system. In separate cubicles, students silently complete workbooks (PACEs) complete with cartoons.

Basic ACE premises:

Classrooms are segregated.

segregated

Girls dress modestly—very modestly.

modest

Young women perform only traditionally “feminine” activities.

feminine

Non-Christians are evil.

authority

People must blindly obey.

obey

Religion would also be strengthened in Alabama schools if conservative legislators have their way. A proposed bill would require public schools to use the first 15 minutes of the day to read a prayer presented in Congress. The description of the bill is “study of the formal procedures followed by U.S. Congress” which must include “a reading verbatim of one of the opening prayers” given at the opening of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives. Almost all the chaplains of the U.S. House and Senate have been Protestant ministers. Last year one guest chaplain delivered a Muslim invocation. In 2007, a Hindu invocation elicited protests from Christian conservative groups.

 South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee legislators are joining Alabama lawmakers to “put prayer back in schools.”

One of the first bills to move out of the Arizona state Senate committee would permit religious discrimination against LGBT people. Senate Bill 1062, introduced by GOP Sen. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, would extend the protection of the state’s free exercise of religion law to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.” A corporation could refuse to hire anyone who wasn’t a Christian and block LGBT individuals from almost any business or service.

For many years, student victims of sexual abuse at Bob Jones University were encouraged not to report the crimes that looked bad for Christianity. The administration called victims liars and sinners. Many staff members and former students hoped the policy would be changed after the school hired a Christian consulting group two years ago to consider changes to the school’s policy.

The university has now fired the group with no warning or explanation just as it almost completed its investigation. University president and great-grandson of the school’s founder said that Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) “had begun going beyond the originally outlined intentions.”

GRACE, founded by Billy Graham’s grandson Basyle J. Tchividjian, includes lawyers and psychologists among its leaders and specializes in advising churches and other Christian organizations on addressing abuse. Although unaffiliated with any denomination, Bob Jones University follows a strict fundamentalism that believes Graham, Oral Roberts, and Jerry Falwell are too secular.

The Catholic World is still trying to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, but Notre Dame is having trouble with a three-judge panel from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. During a heated exchange, Judge Richard Posner told one of the school’s lawyers that he couldn’t continue his arguments if he kept interrupting and failing to answer the judge’s questions.

At one point, Posner asked attorney Matthew Kairis whether birth control was “a mortal or venial sin.” Notre Dame is appealing a lower court ruling that ordered the school to contract with third-party providers for contraception as part of health care coverage. Its third-party provider, Meritain Health, emphasized that Notre Dame was not the provider of contraception coverage. Another lawyer, Ayesha Khan, pointed out that Notre Dame didn’t object to the third-party provision until a conservative network of alumni called the Sycamore Trust protested.

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing two cases about for-profit companies claiming religious exemptions from allowing contraception coverage from third-party health care providers. In the cases of Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby Stores, Catholics for Choice joined 29 other faith-based organizations in filing an amicus brief opposing the two companies from imposing their religious beliefs on others.

Jon O’Brien wrote that the groups “show unequivocally that people of faith support contraceptive access and true religious liberty for all.” He added, “The Supreme Court must answer a critical question: will the religious liberty of women workers and female dependents be respected, or will employers be allowed to trample upon the consciences and lives of their employees?”

That answer will determine the direction of the United States in religious freedom for all, not just fundamentalist Christians.

December 15, 2013

Fundamentalist Christians Go Too Far

Fundamentalist Christians have taken great umbrage regarding the proposed memorial that the Satanic Temple plans to put on the grounds of the Oklahoma statehouse (last Sunday’s blog). Not a great surprise! Bryan Fischer has used at least two segments on his radio show to explain that freedom of religion in the U.S. Constitution means only freedom of Christianity. No other religion need apply. Therefore Oklahoma can legally reject any non-Christian memorial:

“Our Constitution protects the free exercise of the Christian religion; yours is not a Christian expression, we’re not going to have that monument. If we don’t understand the word ‘religion’ to mean Christianity as the founders intended it, then we have no way to stop Islam, we have no way to stop Satanism, we have no way to stop any other sort of sinister religion practice that might creep onto the fruited plains.”

Fischer joins the religious lawmakers in Oklahoma who claim that they can reject the Satanic memorial because they live in a faith-based state. Again, their faith is almost certainly Christian.

Another religious memorial may be removed from federal land after a 24-year-old case. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered that a 43-foot cross on Mount Soledad in San Diego be taken down within 90 days. The ruling, however, would be put on hold if it is appealed. Two years ago the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the cross violated the constitutional separation of church and state. The Supreme Court declined review, and the case went back to Burns to consider possible alternatives.

Charles LiMandri, an attorney for the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, said Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has signaled that the group backing the cross could return directly to the nation’s high court if it disapproved of Burns’ ruling. “Unless the U.S. Supreme Court denies review or takes it and finds it unconstitutional, that cross isn’t going anywhere,” LiMandri said. “At that point, we’ll go to Congress. We’re not giving up.”

ACLU represented the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and several local residents to challenge display of the cross. Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, said, “We should honor all of our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”

Ohio wants to put pictures of Jesus back into public schools with its proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Rep. Tim Derickson says he plans to block further encroachment on expression of religious freedom such as prohibition of prayer in schools and public places, zoning issues for churches, and public expression of religious faith, such as wearing crosses and displaying Nativity scenes.

Patrick Elliott of Freedom from Religion explained, “The proposal creates special exemptions from state laws for those who claim any religious burden.” Anyone could complain about a mythical burden.

Seventeen other states already have such a law on their books. In DC, firefighters claimed they wore beards for religious expression, and two Chicago churches used the law to oppose land acquisition for an airport runway expansion. Ohio’s proposed law is similar to a 1993 federal religious freedom act that restored a “strict scrutiny” standard in religious freedom cases after the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the scrutiny standard in a 1990 ruling.

religious cohabitation

Meri Brown, Christine Brown, Janelle Brown, Kody Brown and Robyn Sullivan of TLC’s The Sister Wives may now legally live together in Utah thanks to a court ruling. U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups struck down the state law preventing cohabitation between a married person and another person not his or her spouse. Although Clark didn’t use the word “polygamy,” he did refer to “religious cohabitation.”

According to the judge, Utah’s law violated the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment because the point of that provision in the statute is “to infringe upon or restrict” people practicing religious cohabitation “because of their religious motivation.” He used the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas that struck down sodomy laws when he noted, “Consensual sexual privacy is the touchstone of the rational basis review analysis in this case, as in Lawrence.”

Another change in Utah last week came from the Mormon leadership. Thirty-five years after the Mormon Church allowed black males to become priests in their church, they decided that brown skin is no longer a punishment of God.  In the Book of Mormon, dark skin is a sign of God’s curse because of the conflict of the two lost tribes of Israel who came to the New World.

The verses about the curse were to explain the dark skin of Native Americans. The blackness of Africans came from the stain of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. In 1960, Church apostle Spencer W. Kimball was delighted that Native Americans who converted to Mormonism were gradually becoming lighter skinned.

Friday’s document removing the stigma of dark skin in the Mormon religion blamed the nation’s prejudicial attitudes in 1830 when the religion was created. It didn’t explain why the discrimination stayed 150 years after the slaves were freed.

People lamenting the ignorance of children in the United States need look no farther than Christian education. Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), a fundamentalist curriculum founded in Texas in 1970, is commonly used with conservative home schoolers and in private Christian schools and government-funded voucher programs around the world. Jonny Scaramanga wrote:

“I went to an ACE school for almost four years. By the time I left, I was certain that it was against God’s will for governments to provide healthcare, evolution was a conspiracy to destroy Christianity, parents were morally required to spank their children, and science could prove that homosexuality was wrong. But worst of all was the feeling uneducated; I still struggle with self-conscious fears about gaps in my learning. ACE workbooks consist of simplistic fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions. And these questions are often hilariously, spectacularly bad.”

The article lists 33 of these questions. Here are a few:

wiscom: The pastor spoke with great wisdom.

 

  •  Wisdom means (a) a test  (b) Godly thinking  (c) tasty milk
  •  (Sports coaches, Piano tutors, Librarians) can touch the lives of their students. [Scaramanga explained that “piano tutors” is the right answer because that sentence had appeared earlier in the material and students were supposed to remember the sentence.] 
  •  The word alphabet comes from the Greek Letters ____________  and _____________.  Alpha and Iota    Beta and Gamma  Alpha and Beta   [Question for ages 15-16]

 

If you want to shake your head, go to the article for another 30 of these questions.

While ignorance grows among fundamentalist Christians, so does sex abuse. Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators is now asking for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission like the South African group that put apartheid behind them. Veteran religion reporter Peter Smith of the Louisville Courier-Journal has also noted the attempts at accountability and reform moving through the Southern Baptist society after the lawsuit against C.J. Mahaney, leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Boz Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson and a Liberty University law professor who investigates abuse, said that evangelicals are worse than Catholics and that too many evangelicals had “sacrificed the souls” of young victims. Mission agencies, “where abuse is most prevalent,” often don’t report abuse because they fear being barred from working in foreign countries, he said. Abusers will get sent home and might join another agency. Of known data from abuse cases, 25 percent are repeat cases, he said.

Georgia pastor Peter Lumpkins sponsored a resolution at this year’s Southern Baptist annual meeting urging urging denominational leaders “to utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups and or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse.” His reference was to the way that SBC was ignoring their own resolution calling for “a zero-tolerance policy toward the sexual abuse of children in churches.”

Ken Starr, ruler of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and trial after his affair with a consenting adult named Monica Lewinsky, may have to take a few lumps because he thinks Christopher Kloman, a teacher who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing several female students should not have to do time.  Starr is President and Chancellor of Baylor University in Waco (TX)–the largest Baptist university in the world.  Christa Brown wrote: “Why should parents of high-school students feel any trust in sending their kids off to a university whose president writes a letter urging leniency for a man who molested teens?”

A huge travesty of the sex abuse crisis is that mainstream media fails to report it, instead choosing to protect the fundamentalist Christians. Perhaps, however, embarrassed religious leaders and bigots have reached the tipping point.

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