Nel's New Day

February 16, 2014

Schools, Law Push Religion on All  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.


Girls dress modestly—very modestly.


Young women perform only traditionally “feminine” activities.


Non-Christians are evil.


People must blindly 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.

January 23, 2013

We Need to End the Culture of Rape

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:58 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

For over a week, the media was obsessed with the mythical girlfriend of Manti Te’o, a Notre Dame football player, who was supposedly heartbroken because his beloved girlfriend had died last fall. Although he claimed that he had actually seen the young woman, it turned out to be a gigantic hoax.

But the death of a young woman connected to Notre Dame football players remained largely invisible as far as the media was concerned. Two years ago, Lizzy Seeberg was sexually assaulted by one of the football players. She reported this to the police who failed to investigate the assault. The attacker’s teammates terrified Lizzy, and she committed suicide. Another young woman taken to the hospital for a rape exam refused to accuse the Notre Dame football player who sexually attacked her because she had received bullying texts from the teammates. The university has called for an investigation into the Te’o event, but no disciplinary action was ever taken against the football players.

The situation at Notre Dame is not unique. After a two-year investigation, Human Rights Watch has uncovered “disturbing evidence of police failure” in the Washington, D.C. police force in their failure to investigate reports of rape. The 200-page report will be released tomorrow.

Carol Tracy of the Women’s Law Project, a legal advocacy group specializing in sexual violence cases, said, “This is a national crisis requiring federal action. We need a paradigm shift in police culture, because rapes and sexual assaults are being swept under the rug, and too many victims are being bullied.” In cities across the United States, the police list a large number of reported rapes as “unfounded cases.” Although the national average is 6 percent, Pittsburgh shelves 34 percent of its cases, North Carolina 31 percent, Atlanta 24 percent, etc. New Orleans shelved 50 percent of sex attack cases as “non-criminal complaints.” In New York, the number of recorded rapes declined, but the number of sex crimes labeled as mere misdemeanors rose.

According to experts, an average of 5 percent of reported rapes are falsified. Anything over that shows that investigators don’t believe large number of victims or threaten and arrest them.

Cities also report thousands of untested rape kits. Former Miss Arizona Hilary Peele is a rape victim-turned advocate after her rape kit was neglected following an attack in her apartment in 2004. Police didn’t test her kit for DNA until she had called every two weeks for eight months. In Cleveland, Ohio, serial rapist and murderer Anthony Sowell was caught in 2011 after killing 11 women, six of them after a rape kit was disregarded. Milwaukee serial rapist Gregory Below was finally sentenced to 350 years in 2011, but three of his victims said the police initially dismissed their cases.

The country has one-half million or more untested kits are stacked up around the country. In Illinois alone, 80 percent of rape kits were untested as of 2010. In Michigan, the Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy, discovered over 11,000 untested rape kits, some dating to the 1980s.

Even worse, some states require women or their insurance companies to collect the evidence in these rape kits. In 31 states, rapists can get visitation rights if their victims carry pregnancies full term.

If you think that rapes only happen at Notre Dame or in India or in Steubenville, you are wrong. A person is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes, and many of these are in small towns, including where you live. For every 100 rapes, only three lead to jail time for the rapist.

These problems were made very clear at our most recent local NOW meeting when a special prosecutor for sex crimes in our Oregon Coast county spoke about the rape culture of this area. She talked about her first case when she took this position. The case had been abandoned in the DA office for four years because they thought it couldn’t be successfully prosecuted. Although it was common knowledge among the young man’s peers that he had raped several girls, he came from a well-liked family in the community.

Because the rapes were common knowledge, his freedom communicated the message–every day–that rape is acceptable. As the prosecutor said, every community has privileged kids who can act with impunity. People make justifications for not prosecuting rape: the victim was drunk, she is one of “those people,” she dressed like she wanted it. With their sense of entitlement, perps get told that it’s okay to violate “some people.” Forcible rape is frequently called “innocent sexual experimentation.”

It’s not just the rapists who make the act of sexual assault acceptable to the community. Police officers (as the report on Washington, D.C. shows) who overlook rape, attorney generals who ignore the arrests, and the judges who have their own biases, like the one in California who said that there is no rape unless the woman is “torn up inside”–these are the people who legitimize rape.

The talk by this international authority on sexual assault was tragic enough, but her message about the culture of rape in our community was compounded by the people who did not attend. Local police officers, prosecutors, judges, the DA, and all the other people who can stop the rape culture were notified. They just didn’t think it was important to come. That absence reinforces the silence that perpetuates the rape culture of any community. People are left to say, “It doesn’t happen in my county.”

Many times, a meeting likes this ends when people leave the room. I hope that this isn’t going to happen this time. One person attending has already written a letter to the local newspaper which read in part:

“We were disheartened that community leaders, law endorsement, and elected officials chose not to attend. It seems to send a message that sex abuse is to be tolerated and kept quiet, in effect sending a message to victims that nothing will be done if they report.”

The agenda for the next local NOW meeting is to develop a strategy designed to change the rape culture of our community. I look forward to reporting on that plan.


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