Do we really need a religious bill of rights?

By Phil Plait | February 15, 2010 7:27 am

In the United States, we need a religious bill of rights about as much as we need a white people’s bill of rights, or a men’s bill of rights. That is, not at all: when 90+ percent of the country claims to be religious, you pretty much run the joint anyway. Worse, we hardly need something like this for public schools. There already are pretty clear laws about how religion can and cannot be treated in the schools.

Still, that hasn’t stopped people in Colorado from proposing just such a bill for public schools in the state legislature, a bill which may be presented to the Judiciary Committee as early as Monday, today. Note that this bill represents an act and not a law. Nothing in it is legally enforceable, as far as I can tell. Good thing, too.

The bill is ridiculous in a lot of ways, but two things stand out: one is that it simply isn’t needed — most of the rights it seems so concerned over are already guaranteed and under no threat at all — and the other is that it oversteps the bounds maintained by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Below are some choice bits of the bill, with what I think is my more reality-based opinion on them. The bill itself IS IN ALL CAPS, so you can read it as if the person is shouting at you if you’d like. I won’t bother debunking the basis claimed for the need for such a bill — they claim religion is under attack in this country, which is patently ridiculous. Instead, here is an example of a bit that is unneeded:

THE RELIGIOUS BILL OF RIGHTS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS AND THEIR PARENTS OR GUARDIANS SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NEED NOT BE LIMITED TO, A DECLARATION THAT A PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT HAS AN INALIENABLE RIGHT TO:

(I) EXPRESS HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS ON A PUBLIC SCHOOL CAMPUS OR AT A SCHOOL-SPONSORED EVENT TO THE SAME EXTENT AS HE OR SHE MAY EXPRESS A PERSONAL SECULAR VIEWPOINT;

There are many such statements in the bill, and I’m cool with them, since all of them fall under a student’s Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech. Stating this is like stating they should be allowed to breathe or have their heart beat. By putting that up front and center, the bill crafters make it seem like this freedom is in jeopardy. It isn’t.

However, if a teacher or other school official were to do this, that would be a different matter entirely. As we’ll see below.

[Students also have the inalienable right to] WEAR RELIGIOUS GARB ON A PUBLIC SCHOOL CAMPUS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO CLOTHING WITH A RELIGIOUS MESSAGE;

Now this one’s interesting! I wonder how the folks sponsoring this bill would feel if a kid wore a "Satan rules my soul!" shirt to class. Or a turban.

Anyway, here’s where it gets sticky:

[A student may] EXPRESS HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OR SELECT RELIGIOUS MATERIALS WHEN RESPONDING TO A SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT IF HIS OR HER RESPONSE REASONABLY MEETS THE EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE OF THE ASSIGNMENT;

Yeah, that word "reasonably" opens a can of worms. What happens when a creationist kid doesn’t want to say anything about evolution or the Big Bang? If I were a science teacher and a student said the Universe is 6000 years old, I would mark that answer as wrong (why? Because it is). That will lead to some fun with the parents, no doubt. Now again, the student already has the ability to do this. But this somewhat amplifies the situation, and will lead to students thinking they have a right to not be marked down for wrong answers if they are religiously-based. Think I’m overly extrapolating this? Think again.

But the biggest grievance I have with this ridiculous declaration is this one:

[A teacher shall] NOT BE REQUIRED TO TEACH A TOPIC THAT VIOLATES HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND NOT BE DISCIPLINED FOR REFUSING TO TEACH THE TOPIC;

To be blunt, this is unacceptable. If you are a biology teacher and refuse to teach evolution, then you should be disciplined at the very least. If you still refuse to teach it, then you can either be given a different class to teach, or face termination. Teachers are obligated by their job duties to teach standards-based curricula, and if they refuse, they are in dereliction of their duty as teachers.

Teachers have certain religious rights, of course, but don’t have the right to not teach a kid something that is true because of their own religion. There are religions that teach that women are inferior, that blacks are inferior. Will a history teacher refuse to teach about the women’s rights movement, or the civil rights movement, because of their own beliefs? Some religions — I won’t name names here — believe that sexual education is eeevil. If you’re a health teacher and refuse to teach about reproductive health, then in my opinion you should face the consequences of your decision.

This is where I think declarations of rights like this are dangerous. It’s a slippery slope, and a steep one. And the most pernicious part of all this is it’s clear that the motivation behind this bill is not in the name of religious freedom and tolerance, it’s in the name of freedom and tolerance for one specific religion. As I point out above, I don’t think a radical Muslim would be treated the same way under this declaration as a Christian would. While that may be outside the scope of the bill, it’s important to keep in mind.

In the end, this bill doesn’t have the weight of law, but by simply proposing it — and enacting it, which will take time and materials — it’s a waste of taxpayer money, especially when the vast majority of what it’s stating is already within the existing legislation. If the religious groups are so worried about this sort of thing, then they should pay for this effort on their own time, and give out flyers in church. Doing this through the legislative branch — and, in fact, the whole bill itself — is a bad idea.

If this bill gets out of the Judiciary Committee it will be presented to the Senate for debate and eventually a vote. I’ve already contacted my local Senator about this. If you live in Colorado, I urge you to do likewise.

Remember:

Tip o’ the wall o’ separation to the Boulder Atheists

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics, Religion

Comments (134)

  1. Anonymous College Student

    While I agree this will probably be a failure and will almost certainly be poorly enforced, I have to say that it’s purpose may not be all that redundant. Last year when I was in high school Freedom of Religion was generally defined as no religion, and certainly not openly celebrated religion. And Freedom of Speech was considered a joke well before high school.

  2. If the act passes, we need a Pastafarian as an agent provocateur.

  3. Dawn

    I wonder how they’d feel about the “God is Dead” T-shirt Justin Surber got in trouble for? Or “Born Again Agnostic”? After all, those might be MY beliefs. They have to respect those, too, right? Or are those only allowed for the Christian religions? Can my Indian friend wear something that shows her multi-gods belief? How about my Buddhist friends? If I was in CO I’d certainly protest this too.

  4. Becca Stareyes

    The thing about Bills of Rights, is that they should be designed to protect minorities from the ‘tyranny of the majority’. If we were to have a bill of rights protecting the rights of students to express their religion, I would more be interested in making sure kids can wear ‘There is No God’ T-shirts*, turbans/headscarves, or pentagram necklaces than crosses/Christian-themed T-shrits, for the simple reason that a teenager wearing a cross is relatively un-controversial, since most of the people around him/her are likely to recognize the cross as both a religious symbol and as a good one, since most people in Colorado are some form of Christian.

    I’d also want a POV expressing that as a teacher, your job is first and foremost to teach the secular part of the curriculum. Evolution is secular, sex ed (defined as giving facts about human sex and reproduction, including disease and pregnancy prevention) is secular. Your religion might have morals attached to sex, but you are not in charge of conveying those to students — generally speaking, that’s what their parents and assorted church leaders are for. Similarly, your religion might decide its holy book trumps empirical evidence, but that’s not your job to convey that — again, parents and pastors. If such is unacceptable to you, don’t teach in that area — an Orthodox Jew or a devout Muslim or Hindu doesn’t get a job taste-testing bacon cheeseburgers and then complains because bacon cheeseburgers violate dietary laws of their religion.

    * IIRC, legally speaking, ‘atheism’ is covered under religion, since it is a religious viewpoint, even if it’s a lack of belief in God or gods.

  5. Well, we could always form scientific opinion through the legislature science like they did in Utah.

    http://bit.ly/98cs7r

  6. Charles Boyer

    A freedom to so something implies freedom from that thing.

    What religious zealots don’t like is that not everyone buys into their belief. Even amongst their own kind, they argue constantly that THEY are right and that the other guy is wrong.

    I guess people see their imaginary friends differently and since said imaginary friends can’t really speak for themselves, there lies the rub.

  7. Not to put too fine a point on it, but folks of all political persuasions muck up our legislatures with irrelevant things such as this. As Phil says, all that matters here is already covered by the First Amendment, and I doubt the final bit would hold up under a court challenge anyway.

    complete…waste…of…time

    Ah, but that’s what our government does best, isn’t it? Or is it wasting our money?

  8. I don’t think they realize the can of worms they are opening up for intra-Christian squabbling.
    I’m not sure about Colorado but nationally roughly 77% are some form of Christian. That breaks down to almost half Protestant, 23% Catholic, 5% Mormon, 2% Unitarian, 1% Others.
    All these teach the other Christians are going to hell, except the Unitarians who don’t believe in hell.
    I’m wondering about how the Protestants would feel about a Catholic wearing a T-Shirt saying, “Catholicism: The one true Religion.” or a Mormon wearing a T-Shirt saying something Mormony.

  9. Cheyenne

    Phil – I agree this is on bad form. But this is basically the equivalent of a Governor signing a Proclamation. It isn’t a law (as you noted). My crystal ball is telling me that this isn’t going to be turning up on MSNBC and CNN because it’s a fairly meaningless gesture (and yes, a very silly one) by the Colorado government.

    “…it’s a waste of taxpayer money”. Er, how much exactly?

    Since this is an Astronomy blog and you write frequently about your support for NASA’s flight activities maybe it’s appropriate to measure the cost of the above bill to something that they do.

    Take a guess at how many millions of dollars were allocated to this “science” experiment below (the quote comes from NASA’s press release packet). How does that compare to what they just did in Colorado?

    Yeah, a bit Apples to Oranges. But they’re both entirely stupid. And the NASA one is the one that actually cost us money. Also, check out “analysed” by NASA’s own statement. That’s just too funny.

    “Food Tray in Space
    The objective of the Food Tray in Space experiment is to increase the variety and quality of
    food available to crews in space, more specifically the International Space Station (ISS).
    This will be done by identifying new food items (typical, traditional food) from the Italian
    Lazio region, to be served in a tray-container as a meal on the ISS. FTS will be a
    demonstration that food items, produced from high quality products, are tasty and nutritious
    and they do not loose their quality in space flight conditions. As part of this demonstration
    the astronaut will fill out a questionnaire based on the food tasted. This will be analysed
    after return to Earth.”

  10. @ Anonymous College Student:

    Last year when I was in high school Freedom of Religion was generally defined as no religion, and certainly not openly celebrated religion. And Freedom of Speech was considered a joke well before high school.

    Defined by whom, might I ask? Considered by whom?

    I suspect you are confusing peer pressure with legislative authority. Our constitution and laws grant you no relief from the opinions of others.

  11. This is insanity. So if some nutball history quack decides that the holocaust didn’t exist then he should throw it out and put whatever he thinks really happened in its place? Do the Mormons get to push their golden tablet agenda? The Creationists don’t understand that this could be a nightmare in the court system with every group under the sun promoting their particular theology.
    This all comes from the biblical literalists. They are pushing so hard to command all aspects of education. I know this because I’m around these people all the time. They are growing in both idiocy and numbers, and we must fight them. The difficulty arises because they are so immune to logic or evidence. The bible trumps all. It starts and ends as the last word I say bull!
    In trying a different tack, I have started the Blessed Atheist Bible Study http://blessedatheist.com/ to crawl inside their literalist beliefs and point out the obvious absurdities. I use their literalist leanings against them, and so far it has been a hilarious ride. I never imagined I would have so much fun. You just can’t believe the stuff that is in that book. Oh, how I laugh and laugh. My tweenage son looks at me rather strangely as I read the Bible and chuckle. But that bronze age work of fiction is truly the “undivine comedy”. Much as I dislike the idea, I find that pointing out the undeniable flaws in their literalist young earth beliefs works better than evidence.
    We all must pick a way to fight this battle. If they continue to make ground then science loses, and now, we need it more than ever.

  12. Rachel Walmsley

    There’s been a news story over here in the UK recently about whether or not Sikh children should be allowed to wear their kirpan (ceremonial knife) to school: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8500712.stm

    I can’t imagine that would go down too well with these legislators either.

  13. Gary

    Yeah, the wording of this legislation is over the top. However, there’s quite a bit of evidence (numerous lawsuits) that both citizens and school boards are confused over what rights to free speech and religious practice are constitutionally guaranteed. A well-crafted BOR (call me unrealistically optimistic) could actually calm the waters and reduce litigation. The idea is to set community standards *before* extremists on both sides go looking for a fight.

  14. JJ

    I don’t believe one can honestly qualify atheism as a religion, it’s an oxymoron and contradictory by definition. I also haven’t found any legal documentation stating that is so in this country. However, I have found a few sources of Atheists contesting it is not a religion in itself.

    I do believe the first few clauses are good for protecting a students’ rights because it puts the school’s power in check. There have been numerous cases across the country where children expressing religious views have been sent home or forced to change a shirt, etc. This is not a widespread problem, but often the school has jurisdiction over the students on any matter of personal rights. Illegal search and seizure, for example, is restricted under the jurisdiction of a school. A school has the right to search a student’s locker and property without probable cause, for any reason, at any time. A personal example, when I was in high school, the administration conducted random drug searches of lockers with dogs. That clause now puts the right of a student to express religion over a school’s jurisdiction and helps eliminate some of that gray area. However, I’m sure if it condones violence or contains derogatory material, it will not be permitted under school policy. So, the question of what is appropriate remains somewhat controversial.

    As for the rest of them on teaching to one’s religion, that’s just ridiculous. Evolution is a rather concrete science, until you get to the part that asks about the origin of the universe. That question will forever remain a mystery in my opinion. I don’t see the harm in teachers teaching both science and religious ideologies. Why not establish a class that teaches about various religious theories as a study of religions? It could be taught similar to a college anthropology or sociology class. As long as a class doesn’t preach the religions themselves, there’s no reason why it can’t simply teach about them. It’s a good way for students to gain an understanding of culture in various global regions.

  15. Daffy

    Christians want to impose their views on the rest of us; this is nothing more than another attempt to do just that. Much the same way the Muslims want to. We are surrounded on all sides by religious fanatics.

  16. Art

    I believe in personal freedom unless it begins to affect others, which this most certainly will. So I am opposed.
    I live in Texas, though, so they will most certainly support it here. They should amend it to restrict freedom to places other than in the classroom, for the sake of the students who want to learn about reality instead of being oppressed by fairy tales.

  17. Cindy

    I assume this will end when a Sikh brings in his ceremonial dagger (I can’t think of the name of it right now) or a Muslim student wants to wear a full face veil.

    Interesting article in this Sunday’s NY Times magazine section about how Christian were the founders and about the Texas Board of Education now trying to muck up social studies and history.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/magazine/14texbooks-t.html?ref=magazine

  18. Charles Boyer

    @Art

    “but….but….but….those fairy tales are REAL!”

    That’s what they will say.

  19. moifaux

    I’m a Unitarian Universalist and this kind of nonsense sets my blood boiling (well, not really, we’re a fairly mellow lot) especially when it centers around “THE CHILDREN”.

    I was raised Catholic, a muscular, curious and vibrant breed of the faith. My first exposure to hard science came from a Franciscan priest who loved Darwin and saw his faith in nature as much as in a Cathedral. We had religious education, yes, but we had science as well. When I got to college I was stunned at kids whose public schools hadn’t taught them the basics. Like say what a “theory” is or how the scientific method could be applied.

    But, almost to a one, they’d had all kind of fracases (fracii?) about school prayer and other nonsense.

    In short, they’d been sold short on their education because a bunch of adults wanted to play Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faithful with science. No wonder so many kids switch off to science, when it’s neutered, politicized or turned into some weird adult point of argument. Dull…

    I’m not afraid of science. I embrace the whole wonderful panoply unfolding throughout the multiverse. Do I see a meaning behind it all? Yes. Is it my right to believe so? Yes. Will I share that in appropriate venues? Of course. But a school classroom is not such a venue.

    Faith is just that, it’s a matter of personal belief. I’m very tired of “people of faith” acting as if their beliefs must be protected. By choosing to believe you choose to accept that others will not agree with you and you may end up alone in your argument. But that’s what faith is. It’s not a cudgel to go whack the heathens with to protect your sense of righteousness.

    I have a great many friends who are Atheists and Agnostics (or Apatheists, to borrow Bill Maher’s term) and we talk about art and music and politics and science and even religion. I don’t need to be protected from their way of thinking, nor do I need some piece of paper to sustain or affirm my beliefs.

    I could be wonderfully deluded, completely wrong about my conception of God and simply wasting my Sunday mornings having a nice brunch and a sing-along with some fine people at my church. I accept that as an article of my faith. I just wish more “persons of faith” could do the same. Being open is so very liberating.

  20. Scott B

    @Anonymous College Student:

    Mind giving us some details? As far as I know, you can do whatever religious you want in school as long as your not disrupting others. That disrupting others part can be abused so I am curious as to what wasn’t being allowed that you believe should be. You are right about the second part though. Freedom of speech is a joke before college.

  21. Scott B

    @Art

    Almost any personal freedom will effect others in some way. That argument is used to justify all kinds of restrictions on our freedoms that shouldn’t be allowed. There’s a reason that exception isn’t written into our Bill of Rights. Because you do not have the right to not be effected by someone else. I would agree that there have to be some common sense restrictions such as not being allow to preach while class is ongoing. It shouldn’t extend to someone wearing religious clothing in class or restricting how they choose to express their religion outside of class but still on school grounds. Fairy tales don’t oppress people, people do.

  22. interesting comments, all i have to say is that if you live in Colorado and want to do something about this, this website is where you can find out your representative’s contact information:
    http://www.votesmart.org/index.htm
    I urge everyone in Colorado to protect the teaching of science and fact in our schools by following phil’s advice and contacting their legislators.

  23. Cheyenne

    “Freedom of speech is a joke before college.”

    It’s more of a joke when you’re actually in college.

  24. Cindy:

    Gurka (I think)

  25. When I read a student could express his religious beliefs as an answer to a question, I immediately thought to a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where Calvin answers “2 + 7 =” with “I cannot answer this question as it is against my religious principles.”

    Of course, Calvin also calls himself a Math Atheist so you’ve got to wonder where his math beliefs lie.

  26. What is desperately needed is a Religious Bill of Lefts:

    1. Although I vehemently believe in the divine righteousness of my own moral opinions, other people with different opinions will be LEFT alone, and not harassed, slandered, libeled, or assaulted.

    2. I will live my life in accordance with the principles of my religion and within the bounds of the laws of the land. Other people will be LEFT to live their lives in accordance with the principles of their beliefs or un-beliefs within the bounds of the laws of the land.

    3. The making of laws will be LEFT to our elected leaders who, acting on a mandate from all the people, will be LEFT to choose appropriate statutes and regulations without interference from intolerant people wishing to foist a religious agenda on everyone else.

    4. Public places of learning will be LEFT to teach, and students in attendance there will be LEFT to follow the rules of academia, even if those rules disagree with my religious beliefs. Religion is for home and the church, not the lab and the classroom.

  27. I agree with the general arguments and sentiments of your post Phil but,

    As I point out above, I don’t think a radical Muslim would be treated the same way under this declaration as a Christian would.

    I did a double-take on that one. What did you point out before? A turban? That’s a Sikh religious article, not a Muslim one- a fact that was lost on some people who attacked Sikhs in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. I suppose, giving you the benefit of the doubt -’cause I like you and give you credit for being smart- you could have just meant the general case of Things People Object To On A Knee-Jerk Basis. Still, very messy. Also, “radical Muslim” is a bit problematic. There are never “radical Christians” unless they’re blowing up abortion clinics. Considering we are still talking about high school and below, can we just call them “fundamentalist Muslims”? I wasn’t aware “radical Muslims” are so prevalent here in America- but maybe I haven’t been watching enough Fox News.

    Like I said, I agree with this post in general, but I couldn’t resist pointing out what I see as problematic elements.

  28. Annalee Flower Horne

    I have to say that I’m getting sick and effing tired of these bush-league poseur conscientious objectors. I’m a conscientious objector. As a Quaker pacifist, my conscience forbids me from bearing or facilitating the bearing of arms. So you know what I don’t do? I don’t take jobs my conscience forbids me from performing. It’s really that simple.

    If I were to walk into a military recruiting center tomorrow and say that I wanted them to give me a job, but that I would not be doing said job because it was against my religion, I would be either laughed at or arrested for trespassing–and rightly so. My right not to violate my own conscience does not obligate anyone, least of all other taxpayers, to pay me not to work.

    Teachers and pharmacists in the united states are not drafted into their professions, which means they’re free not to choose them. Therefore, if they feel their job is incompatible with their conscience, they’re free to quit. Boy, that was easy. Let’s talk about a real problem next.

    also, kuhnigget @11, Scott B @21: I can tell you that when I was in high school (2000-2003), I was penalized for the exact form of speech the SCOTUS had ruled constitutional in Tinker v. Des Moines. I was also regularly booted from class because my religion forbids me from participating in the pledge of allegiance (sitting quietly in my seat apparently constituted a “disruption of classroom activity”), and spent the better part of a day in the office once for refusing to take an oath.

    Fortunately for me, my mother is the kind of lawyer one doesn’t want to eff with on civil liberties issues, and she backed me up on these things. My best friend, who is the atheist daughter of conservative catholic parents, wasn’t so fortunate. She took way more **** than she deserved, and it came from people on the county payroll, not from peers expressing “opinions.” The First Amendment absolutely is a joke in public schools. The punch line is “sue us, then.” Most students can’t.

    Daffy @16: Hi, I’m a Christian, and I’m not trying to push my beliefs off on you. Don’t believe in God? Cool. Rock on. Neither does my fiance. Generalizations like the one you just made, however, aren’t really in keeping with a reason-grounded world view. There are plenty of Christians who vehemently support the separation of church and state.

  29. Nemo

    I don’t understand the distinction you’re trying to draw between “law” and “act”. I’m pretty sure it’s not correct. You’re thinking of non-binding resolutions or something.

  30. Katharine

    How about a ‘Bill of Hey, Fundies, This Isn’t a Christian Saudi Arabia, So Stick a Sock In It, Assbags’?

  31. Katharine

    I suggest we all start by forbidding anyone without a graduate-level degree from sitting on a school board and require that all chairs of a schoolboard have a PhD.

    Do you want morons governing the curriculum for schools?

    Noooooooo.

  32. Katharine

    Also, the bit about the teachers not doing things that conflict with their religious beliefs should be treated like the idiot pharmacists who don’t dispense birth control: if you won’t teach the whole curriculum, GTFO.

  33. JJ

    Having a degree of any kind doesn’t make you any smarter than other people. I know plenty of people with Masters degrees and they’re still idiots when it comes to the real world. School doesn’t teach common sense and having book smarts don’t mean you’re qualified to do anything, it just means you were able to parrot back material on a test at one time. A college degree only proves the mere fact that you did the work and were able to pass some classes. It doesn’t necessarily dictate future real world performance (See Congress).
    Furthermore, local school board members are elected by the community, at least they are here in NY, and the public school curriculum is primarily governed by the the State Board of Education, in which members must have a qualified education and years of experience in the field. I’m assuming this is the general structure of most, if not all, public school boards in the US.

  34. Daffy

    Annalee, yes there are Christians who support the separation of church and state. They need to get more vocal; passive support is still support. Their religion is being dragged through the mud by power hungry zealots and they need to realize that it is NOT helping them in any way.

    I stand by my comment. I have been to religious meetings (recently) where pastors are openly advocating the overthrow of the U.S. Government, and are advocating a theocracy (based on their “true” vision of what Christianity is, of course). I am not your enemy; those people are.

    Btw, I have seen the persecution first hand that you endured. And it was done by Christians objecting to the behavior of other Christians whom they considered blasphemous (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc.).

  35. Daniel J. Andrews

    Sort of O/T, but I’m riffing off of Phil’s example.

    Don’t know what it is like in the states but we may need a white men’s bill of rights in Canada. Our federal job ads are sometimes for anyone but white males. The NDP had those ads a couple of decades ago, got their wrists slapped, and they disappeared–the ads AND the NDP :-) –but the ads came back again in the last 4 or 5 years (NDP still defunct). And pretty much all job ads that I’ve seen (and applied for) state that preference will be given to First Nations, ethnic minorities and females.

    In 2005 I applied for a federal job and got called for an interview 9 months later in 2006. The reason it took so long was because they first interviewed only those who weren’t white and male. When they couldn’t get a qualified candidate from the first round of interviews, they then picked white males to interview (5 interviews, 5 white males).

    It is called Equal Opportunity but I have difficulty seeing how that is different from discrimination. Every group gets equal opportunity to have some cake…but this group over here gets first pick, and that group there has to wait at the back of the line. What’s that? There’s no more cake left? Don’t worry, there’ll be more cake coming soon–just wait your turn…and go to the back of the line again.

    How is committing discrimination to counter the effects of past discrimination right? This is going to backlash seriously to the detriment of all.

  36. Katharine

    JJ, my point is that having a graduate degree generally means you have experience in a certain subject past the point of just having learned about it in undergrad. A graduate degree generally means, if it is a master’s degree or a PhD, that you have contributed knowledge to the field, or if you have a professional degree, you generally have spent some time practicing your profession.

    I am fully aware that there is a proportion of people with graduate degrees who still have no common sense (case in point: Ron Paul. He may have an MD and know a good bit about obstetrics and gynecology and more general, non-specialist level stuff about other parts of the human body, but about pretty much everything else he’s a wackjob). However, most people with a graduate degree have got common sense, if you go by the fact that most of them are liberal. :D

  37. DaveS

    Project Savior@9, whomever has lumped Unitarians with Christians hasn’t looked at the religion in about 50 years. There are some Christians in UU churches, and they’re welcomed, and some ministers use the J-word and C-word on occasion, but most of us are “other”, and most of us get a might uncomfortable with Christian rhetoric.

    The religious principles of Unitarian-Universalism don’t mention Jesus or Christ, and we’re definitely not evangelical. We’re not a Christian religion.

  38. Fizzle

    Reading through the bill I was suddenly reminded of a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin refused to answer a math problem on religious grounds. If the bill gets through I wonder how long it would take for that to start happening in real life.

  39. Scott B

    Thanks for the details there. That’s the exact type of example I thought should be brought out in the comments. It was absolutely wrong for the school to attempt to force you to say the pledge. Those like Art who state “I believe in personal freedom unless it begins to affect others” sound good, but I’m not sure understand that this can be completely twisted and abused. We do not have the right to not be affected by others. Schools should ensure that teachers can teach their subjects, students are given the opportunity to listen, and the teacher should be able to judge each students’ knowledge of the subject. Beyond that and true safety concerns, they should not be allowed to control what a student can do, regardless of religious implications. The most obvious example I can think of is the dress codes which have become pretty draconian is some areas. Not something that I believe should be allowed in public school because its purpose is exactly to suppress free speech. That’s why, while I don’t specifically support something like this “Religious Bill of Rights” from Colorado because it’s too close to the line between church and state, I would support a general students’ bill of rights (I wouldn’t call it that) that spell out what they are allowed to do would be nice that cover some of the legitimate freedom of speech issues that the Religious bill addresses.

  40. Katharine

    Ms. Flower Horne:

    I’m an atheist. I kind of take the attitude toward your more liberal breed of Christians, of which my mom is a part, of ‘okay, their epistemology’s wacky but morally they’re generally reachable and we all can actually agree on some things’. My mom works at an agency of the NIH; her coworkers are of all different kinds of beliefs – a fellow atheist, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Jew, and so on. They all get along because they are all solidly liberal. So I can get along with you guys, despite occasionally noting the absurdity of the fact that you believe in an entity the likelihood of whose existence is about as likely as a toaster on the other side of Uranus. (Mom usually goes along with this and says she believes in the toaster too.)

    It’s the fundies of any religion and the ones who want to make the world a theocracy and blast everyone back into the stone age who we consider our enemies and who themselves ought to be blasted back into the stone age.

  41. Katharine

    DaveS, I think you may be confusing Unitarian Universalists and Unitarians.

  42. Scott B

    The biggest problem that this issue brings to my mind is that there is no way this bill doesn’t pass if it goes to a vote. Most of us on this side aren’t going base our vote on if they vote for this because there are far more important issues out there to worry about. Yet, on the extreme religious extreme side, vote No for this could easily be used to show they don’t support religion and pull away votes. A problem with “democracy” that I have no idea how to correct.

  43. JJ

    Katherine, I agree with the education part, but I would contend that although Liberals dominate academia, I haven’t met many with common sense. Conservatives/Republicans tend to dominate the business and economic world, many don’t have degrees higher than a Masters, yet they’re some of the smartest and most successful people out in the world. All depends on one’s personal bias.

    I also hope Ron Paul wins the White House someday, we sure could use some Libertarian common sense in Washington. I’m Libertarian and don’t have problems getting along with Republicans or Democrats. Liberals, or Progressives, and Christian Conservatives, on the other hand, are both off the deep end. You can’t be a radical ideologue and expect people to find common ground. Although, they would argue the definition of radical…and the debate continues. Being at either extreme of the political spectrum, of course everyone else is going to be considered extreme, stupid, etc. in their view.

  44. Jean-Denis

    Interestingly, it has been unlawful here in France for a few years to wear any “visible”(1) religious sign at all in schools and any public(2) places. This applies to everybody, teaching personel and trainees alike.

    There are even talks currently going on to enact a law(3) that will simply ban the “Burka”(4) everywhere except in the intimacy of your own home.

    Now for the footnotes:

    (1) The law says “ostentatoire” rather than “visible”. I’m not sure if it’s an English word. It basically means “visible with the intent to be seen”, or something like that.

    (2) “Public places” mostly means here “buildings that belong to the administration”, excluding the streets outdoor places. Though it may be a bit more subtil.

    (3) It might not be a law, but something a bit less binding. Or maybe a law after all.

    (4) The talks clearly mentions and targets the burka (the muslim female attire that fully covers the face). But the legal text that will arise will says “any piece of clothing that will not leave the face visible”.

    France has a very strong, even harsh, tradition of secularism. Sometimes, it may shoot itself it the foot by going too far.

  45. TheBlackCat

    First, as for the last provision, my opinion is that religion should never be an excuse to not do your job. If your religion makes you incapable of doing your job fully, then you should get a different job. If your religion prevents you from teaching everything you are required to teach in your public school class, you need to teach a different class or get a new job. If your religion prevents you from transporting people in your cab or bus because of legally-protected objects or animals they have with them, then you should not be driving a cab or bus. If your religion prevents you from dispensing certain medication as a pharmacist, you should not be a pharmacist.

    I should also point out some specific areas that are ripe for abuse in this act:

    (I) EXPRESS HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS ON A PUBLIC SCHOOL CAMPUS OR AT A SCHOOL-SPONSORED EVENT TO THE SAME EXTENT AS HE OR SHE MAY EXPRESS A PERSONAL SECULAR VIEWPOINT;

    First, this is bad in general. It seems pretty clear to me that this is meant to oppose supreme court rulings that say that students are not allowed to proselytize in graduation speeches because it forces students in a captive audience to participate. This is a ruling I agree with. If you are on school grounds that is fine, because people who don’t want to listen can just walk away. But for things like graduation are a captive audience, people cannot leave. Sure, they can choose not to participate, but that means they have to miss their graduation entirely. So it is basically forcing people to listen to a religious sermon, which is not acceptable.

    But notice the “TO THE SAME EXTENT AS HE OR SHE MAY EXPRESS A PERSONAL SECULAR VIEWPOINT” bit. Although it is a bit of a stretch, I could easily see people of one religious viewpoint saying that a religious sermon matching their own religious views is fine, but if someone tried to do the same thing with a different religion then suddenly that is not “to the same extent” and would be prohibited.

    Leaving these sorts of things vague and open to interpretation like this allows the group in power to express their own views while preventing opposing religious views from being expressed. The next case is even more ripe for abuse:

    EXPRESS HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OR SELECT RELIGIOUS MATERIALS WHEN RESPONDING TO A SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT IF HIS OR HER RESPONSE REASONABLY MEETS THE EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE OF THE ASSIGNMENT;

    Who gets to decide what ” REASONABLY MEETS THE EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE OF THE ASSIGNMENT”? Of course the group with the largest numbers. So, for example, saying the world is 10,000 years old (traditional Christian view) would meet the educational purpose of the assignment, while saying the world is infinitely old (traditional view of some Hindu sects) would not.

  46. Neeneko

    One thing people need to keep in mind with religious laws. Athesists like to think it is ‘all about them’, and yeah, a lot of the voting public on the religious side tends to see things as a war between theism and atheism…. when it comes down to it relgious freedom laws (originally) were designed to protect religions from each other.

    The biggest threat any particular christian faces in this country is from other sects of christianity that wish to push themselves as the ‘one twue way’ and force other sects to obey their laws and interpretations.

  47. Tom Jones

    We already have a ‘Religious Bill of Rights’ – it’s called the ‘First Amendment’.

  48. Andy

    While not necessarily a religious belief, it would certainly be ridiculous for a history teacher who denies the Holocaust to refuse to teach it. This whole thing is ridiculous.

  49. @Fizzle, Great minds think alike. I said the same thing, though my post (#26) might have been held up for moderation because of the “math atheist” link I included.

  50. Adam English

    I would love to fly to Colorado and participate in a protest of this thing. Holy crap, this borderlines ridiculous. I was raised Christian but the more my mother got into it hardcore seeing things like this in the news drove me away from all religion. I’m not sure if it’s this country, or the fact there is just a large statistical pool of Christians/ US citizens but it is disheartening that this can happen. Makes you lose faith in humanity.

  51. @Annalee Flower Horne,

    I think the generality problems arise because people like you and me are more soft-spoken than the fundamentalists that would like nothing better than to forcibly convert everyone to their version of religion and enshrine their beliefs as the law of the land. We don’t force our religions on others on others (Quaker in your case, Judaism in my case) but the fundamentalists try to every day. So they tend to be louder (even if there are less of them). It can be hard for people who take a personal view of religion (i.e. religion or lack thereof is for each individual to decide upon by themselves) to speak as loudly as people who think it is their duty to convert as many people as possible to their “one true religion.”

  52. This reminds me of when some law-makers in CA tried to get around the non-establishment clause in school funding. Their approach was to fund all religious schools equally. It seemed like a good idea until the Wiccans said “Cool!” Then they dropped the idea.

  53. Daffy

    JJ: “You can’t be a radical ideologue and expect people to find common ground.”

    This from a Libertarian?!?!?

  54. Hannu Siivonen

    So creationists teaching evolution is good because…?

  55. JJ

    Yes Daffy, I’m Libertarian, socially moderate and fiscally conservative. I share a little bit of common ground with both major parties. If you’re way off to the left or right, you’re pretty much off the deep end. It’s impossible to hold such strong ideologies either way and be willing to see reality. Look at the Democrats today, the Liberals are at odds with their own party on major issues. They had a super majority for over a year and failed to get anything substantial done with healthcare, energy, and jobs, they didn’t need Republicans at all, so we know it wasn’t them holding up the process. It’s caused the Democrats to lose 3 major elections and centrist Democrat, Evan Bayh, to retire after this term, citing partisanship within his own party. Republicans tend to share an overall similar philosophy with Conservatives, except when it comes to issues that involve social policies. The Democrats tend to be at odds over fiscal policy most often. I share a little bit with both extremes, sometimes moderate on certain issues. I’m actually a registered Independent.

    As for this debate, there’s nothing wrong with religion in schools in my opinion, as long as the students and parents are allowed to choose for themselves. I’m personally not religious, but I also don’t see religion as taboo, it’s a personal choice. I’m not going to push my non-believer theologies on them, just as I wouldn’t want them pushing their religion on me. That was the intention of the first Amendment. It wasn’t written to prove religion right or wrong, but to protect others from having beliefs forced upon them. In that respect, it’s just as wrong to push atheist views in public schools, as it is to push any other religion. Science and religion should be kept separate, however I don’t abject to teaching the theories of both. If one has the right to reject saying the Pledge because it mentions God, then by the same logic one must have a right to reject learning evolution because it goes against their religion. One can be pro-science and still have respect for those who are pro-religion. Also, pro-science doesn’t necessarily imply anti-religion.

  56. Nathan

    Send that piece of legislation where it belongs. The sewer. I sincerely hope for all you coloradans (sp?) that this one doesn’t make it. Its foolish, and insulting.

  57. Annalee Flower Horne

    Daffy @36: Those people (the ones being asshats in the name of Christianity) are absolutely the problem.

    Here’s the thing, though: when bigots and morons use Christianity to justify harassing, oppressing, or belittling others, they’re claiming the power of the majority. They’re insinuating 78.5% of the country agrees with them. They’re not just wrong; they’re dead wrong. Wrong like the young earthers wrong. When you generalize by saying that all Christians act like they do, you’re reinforcing their claim that they speak for the majority.

    Certainly it’s right and proper to say “I don’t care how many people agree with you–you’re still wrong.” Because they are. But it’s also important to note that they do not speak for the majority. They’re the wackadoodle fringe, and they’re trying to claim the lurkers support them in email.

    Which is why I do a purple unicorn check-in every time someone generalizes that all Christians are like them. Because we’re not. They don’t speak for me, and I am not going to let them claim that they’re being jerks in my name.

    Katharine @42: Hey, you’ve gotta love toast. I also claim to be a pastafarian, if it helps. I acknowledge that my religious beliefs are not grounded in science. I’m just ok with that. I am not ok with other people telling me or anyone else that we must adhere to their equally-not-grounded-in-science beliefs and practices.

    Scott B: I think a student’s bill of rights would be a smashing idea, but I think it would be even better if we just started applying to students the bill of rights we’ve already got (aside from the one that would let them bring guns to school, thanks). Students are in an awfully vulnerable position, and there are far too many people willing to take advantage of their powerlessness.

  58. T_U_T

    biblical view of science

    Imagine how would this guy teach a science class according to that act.

  59. mike burkhart

    Phill you worng this is the fundamentlists extreamists fantics bill of rights not religious bill of rights your right about one thing If your religon is not based on a fundamentlist interpation of the bible you are going to be fired and ousted let me say as a Catholic I don’t feel that my rights are in any viloted in this country so therfore I don’t feel a need for a bill of rights for religon I don’t see people being rounded up and put in concetration camps for beeing religous we arn’et feeding Christans to lions so who is this bill realy ment for?

  60. DaveS
    In the polls that the fundies push saying that the nation is 77% Christian count UU as a Christian religion. Which is funny as hell since adding us in pretty much invalidates any point they think they are making by saying the nation is 77% Christian, since we disagree almost 100% with the fundies.
    The more realistic statistics would exclude UUs as Christian and show that the nation is 46% Protestant, which would also invalidate any claim they make about their religion having a majority.
    But that just shows that Math has a Liberal Bias.
    Tom Jones
    I totally agree that the 1st amendment is the only Bill of Religious rights we need.

  61. Avery

    Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from reality.

  62. I think that World Religions should be discussed in all public and private schools.
    Here in the U.S. we deal with alot of religious tolerance from political parties and agendas.
    For what?
    Separation of Church and State!
    I am a Philosopher in training, and I think it is important for all individuals to be well researched in the Atheism vs. Theism debate. In schools students should be exposed to this debate, and free to choose a side, even though the argument comes very strong from the Atheism side.

  63. Joe

    What’s wrong with a student wearing a turban, Phil? A few more remarks like that and you’ll have me convinced we actually need this.

  64. Joe (66): Wow, what a great way to completely mischaracterize what I said.

    Read what I wrote again. There’s nothing wrong with a turban. The point I was making was how the sponsors of the bill would feel if a student came to school wearing a turban or the t-shirt I mentioned.

    Sheesh.

  65. Joe

    Phil, instead of relying on opaque insinuations, why don’t you tell us how you imagine they would feel and what reason you have to think so? Surely they (and you) realize that the phrase “religious garb” is most often applied to non-Christian religions? Are you claiming that Colorado is a teeming hotbed of anti-Sikh sentiment, or what? Frankly, until I see some evidence to the contrary, I’ll have a hard time believing that a student would face any difficulty wearing a turban to class now.

  66. I’m convinced the ardent bible pushers have never read the Holy Bible from cover to cover, because doing so would most certainly turn the reader into an atheist.

  67. jcm

    Yet one more possible crack in the already crumbly wall of separation between church and state.

  68. Andrew

    I think everyone should mind their own business. People should spend more time worried about themselves and less time on the stupid crap. Parents who try to pass a bill of rights are just as bad as the ones who bitch about religion in the first place. Schools are a place to learn about everything.

  69. Joe, how about instead of trying to find something to catch Phil on, you try reading the friggin’ post, paying attention, and just generally not being a jackass for no good reason?

  70. ndt

    JJ Says:
    February 15th, 2010 at 8:51 am

    I do believe the first few clauses are good for protecting a students’ rights because it puts the school’s power in check. There have been numerous cases across the country where children expressing religious views have been sent home or forced to change a shirt, etc.

    And in every single one of those cases, the child or the childs’ parents sued the school and won.

  71. Love the blog, but…

    Well, I guess I can’t complain, too much. When you use the Slippery Slope debate fallacy, at least you call it what it is. But really, I’d love it if you could avoid it.

    (Yeah, according to wikipedia, there is the potential to demonstrate every step of the way that each bit logically happens after the next, but really that’s a causal chain and seems to me more of an apologetic for using the illustrative metaphor.)

  72. Annalee Flower Horne

    ndt @73: You’re incorrect. When I was in school, I was in the best position there was for this: my mother is a lawyer, my religion founded one of the original thirteen colonies, and I was in a school district far more diverse and sensitive to these issues than most. I still got stomped all over. Suing the school requires 1. Parents willing to back up their student (which is not a given, especially when the student is a different religion than their parents/an atheist when their parents are not), 2. Time, and 3. Money.

    The ACLU and other organizations get swamped with requests for help. You hear about the cases they take, not the ones they don’t.

    We need strong protections for students’ rights in place and in force BEFORE someone has to sue, because the sad fact is that most students just plain can’t.

    Which isn’t to say that I’m defending this nonsense “bill of rights,” which is clearly biased towards the religious right. We’ve already got a bill of rights. It’s just not enforced properly, when at all.

  73. Wayne on the plains

    This is why we need more libertarians (small l) in government. Left vs Right doesn’t matter when your philosophy of government is “It’s none of our business”. Student’s free speech should be vigorously protected, as should the teacher’s. Not doing your job, though, should always be grounds for dismissal.

  74. CRB

    Religion *is* under attack–by the zealots proposing that stupid bill… and I don’t mean other religions, I mean ALL religions.

    Those zealots are causing rational people with common sense who just happen to believe in Jesus and his teachings, and who happen to find a bit of comfort in believing in God, to back up and say, “whoa, I don’t want to be associated with these nuts!”

    It is, believe it or not, entirely possible to believe in God and Jesus (and so on) and still believe that the universe was created billions of years ago via the Big Bang.

  75. Daffy

    JJ, with all due respect, if you are a registered independent (as am I) then you are NOT a Libertarian. And your reply to me—while I agree with some of it and disagree with some it—is certainly not the posting of a true Libertarian.

    In a world of various shades of gray, Libertarians believe only in black and white. Which is why I challenged (and still do) your original statement.

  76. Cory

    @62. Tom foolery. You have to count in Protestants and Catholics. Christianity is, undoubtedly, the primary religion in the United States. Evangelicals push matters to a head, sure, but a lot of other Christian groups will vote their religion when it comes to brass tacks. Proposition 8′s success in California more or less emphasizes this point (in a “blue” state, no less).

    @77. Daffy, libertarianism is a wide set of viewpoints which only require a predilection for smaller government and personal liberty. Actual positions and worldviews will vary from self-described libertarians pretty widely. Some libertarians can hardly agree with themselves. Even the “Libertarian Party” (capital L) is a pretty wide umbrella — getting much agreement and unity is pretty much impossible. Perhaps it should be expected in a philosophy that tends towards individualism.

    @73. There are many public schools with standing uniform policies. The potential for legal challenge is there, but is expensive and timeconsuming — dissidents are browbeaten by threats of suspension and expulsion. Most parents would rather backdown rather than risk their child’s future over a religious t-shirt.

  77. Joe (68): What you have just done is akin to moving the goalposts. Since I caught you out on your gross misinterpretation of what I wrote, you are bypassing that to go on to your next accusation.

    My insinuation was opaque to no one but you.

    But to be more clear, given that this is Colorado, home of Focus on the Family, the megachurch, and various other fundamentalist institutes, it’s clear that the motivation behind this bill is not to protect the Muslim. If you honestly think that’s true, then you seriously need to acclimate yourself to the religious climate of this country and my home state in particular.

    If you are honestly interested in finding things out instead of accusing me based on logical fallacies, then try googling “student wearing crucifix”, bearing in mind once again the climate in Colorado, and tell me this bill is aimed at someone who is perhaps going to wear a turban at school.

    And let’s not forget about the Satan reference I made. I’m sure that would go over great in Colorado Springs.

  78. Daffy

    Cory,

    My experience with party organizers has apparently been very different from yours. Doesn’t make me more right…just different. I’ll try to keep an open mind.

  79. JJ

    I agree with Cory on Libertarianism, it’s a very widely defined ideology. If you check out Wikipedia, you’ll notice the many forms of Libertarianism. Some Libertarian views can be as extreme as anarchism, while others gravitate toward the Liberal or Conservative ends of the political spectrum.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism

  80. Regarding the “all caps.” Colorado follows a legislative drafting convention whereby all new language (and this bill would be 100% new) is in all caps. All deleted language is in strikeout. When you see a bill where it is 90% old language and 10% new, it makes a lot of sense–you can find the new stuff right away and it can’t be hidden.

    Having read the bill, here is my favorite part–again in all caps.

    4 22-15-106. Liability. NOTWITHSTANDING THE PROVISIONS OF 5 ARTICLE 12 OF THIS TITLE, A MEMBER OF A LOCAL BOARD OF EDUCATION 6 SHALL BE HELD PERSONALLY LIABLE IF THE MEMBER WILLFULLY AND WANTONLY FAILS TO ADMINISTER HIS OR HER DUTIES WITH RESPECT TO THIS ARTICLE, INCLUDING ESTABLISHING AND IMPLEMENTING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES. IF A PLAINTIFF PREVAILS IN AN ACTION TO DEFEND HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS RIGHTS PURSUANT TO THIS ARTICLE, MEMBERS OF THE LOCAL BOARD OF EDUCATION SHALL BE PERSONALLY LIABLE FOR THE PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY FEES AND THEY SHALL BE SUBJECT TO PERSONAL LIABILITY FOR DAMAGES.

  81. @ Annalee Flower Horn:

    lso, kuhnigget @11, Scott B @21: I can tell you that when I was in high school (2000-2003), I was penalized for the exact form of speech the SCOTUS had ruled constitutional in Tinker v. Des Moines

    Sorry to hear that. But Anonymous College Student didn’t make any references to what specifically he got heat for (if anything…maybe he was just reporting in general), so again, my question would be was he officially sanctioned in some way by the school, or was the “no religion” attitude something his peers expressed?.

    BTW, my one run-in with this issue in public school occurred in the sixth grade, and in that case it was a teacher defending my right to believe the Bible was a book of mythology from a loud-mouthed student who thought I should be ostracized.

    Of course there were far better reasons for why I should have been ostracized, but I’m happy to say that teacher stood up for me on that one.

  82. Also to all:

    Regarding the all caps thing….

    Frequently when new legislation is introduced, it is included in the record in all caps, thus to distinguish it from other portions of existing codes. I don’t know that that’s the case here, but it might be.

  83. PJE

    I found that I read nothing in ALLCAPS because I found it very distracting.

    That is all

    Pete

  84. Joe

    Phil, if you choose to mischaracterize my take on your initial post as a “gross misinterpretation” rather than a straightforward reading, I won’t contest your take on it at this point. But again, if you’re going to accuse your fellow Coloradans of some gross bias against turban-wearing religions, substantiation, rather than insinuation, will be necessary for most of us to take your claim seriously. (Can you or can you not establish that the State of Colorado persecutes public school students – say, young members of the Colorado Singh Sabha – for wearing turbans to class? Yes? No?) As for Islam, I’m unaware of a single sect that – unlike Sikhism – mandates a turban. Seriously, dude, crack a book, or at least hit up Wikipedia, before you begin writing your next post on a religious topic. I mean, you’re paid to do this, right?

    As per your advice, I Googled “student wearing crucifix” and didn’t find the phrase anywhere on the Internet, although a number of pages include the individual words. I also couldn’t find a single case where the scenario itself has caused any sort of controversy in Colorado. Remind me what it is you suggest I should be looking for again?

  85. @ Joe:

    Remind me what it is you suggest I should be looking for again?

    Definitely not the humorless sense of moral outrage.

    Got that one down pat.

  86. Ben

    The goal of this “Bill of Rights” is the same goal as creationists have had for so long. It’s the same goal over and over, just changing the language.

    Up until this point, all anti-evolution tactics have been proscriptive. I.e. “You WILL teach that Earth is 6000 years old” or “You WILL teach that there are serious flaws in the theory of evolution” on and on.

    What they realize is that even though this opens the door for Satanists, Pastafarians, and Atheists to disrupt their classrooms just as much as it does for Christians to replace Science with Dogma, they don’t care. Or at least aren’t worried about it. The reason is simple: they make up 90% of the population (or at least are the vocal minority that hides within that 90%, digging their spurs into it to advance some agenda), which means the goal these days is not to require their viewpoint be taught, just to institute complete anarchy, and then get their way through SOCIAL majority rule.

  87. Digital Ruse

    More proof that we need to do away with the public school system… IMHO, anyway.

  88. Just me

    Really, the people behind this so-called “Religious Bill of Rights”, if they were honest, would more rightly call it the “Bill of the Right of Fundamentalist Christians to Push Christianity on the Unsaved”. This would be a whole different can-o-worms (spaghetti?) if this were being put forth by an ecumenical, inter-religious group, and all religious expressions were somehow under threat. But they’re not. And more pertinent, Christianity is not under threat, so this whole thing is completely unnecessary—and scary.

    Back in my day, religion expression on public school campuses was a non-issue. We had religious people intermingling with non-religious people and no one felt alienated or trampled on or pressured. Ah, the good ol’ days.

  89. [...] A Colorado group has proposed a “Religious Bill of Rights” for public schools [...]

  90. Yeebok

    This is one of the craziest ideas ever. Imagine, a creationist teacher giving an evolution-believing student an assignment on intelligent design. The student will have to write for what they don’t believe in to appease the teacher.
    Other way around and the teacher can just refuse to teach it.. ?
    Is that right ? Utter craziness.

  91. Bahdum (aka Richard)
  92. Messier Tidy Upper

    Can’t we all apply the basic BA blog code of “disagree but don’t be jerks about it, be polite to everyone, consider others feelings and rights to think differently & back up what you’re saying with y’know some sorta evidence?” ;-)

    @ 87 Joe : I mean, you’re [the BA] paid to do this, right?

    Actually Joe, I don’t think he is paid for this blog is he? I could be wrong but.

    @ 92. Bahdum (aka Richard) Says:

    We’re doomed.

    Possibly we are but i dn’t think this ineffectual act dooms us. I can’t see it really having much if any actual impact. Not that its a good idea or anything, it just doens’t seem to add anything new or practical.

    To me, it seems just a waste of everybody’s time tackling a non-problem that’s already covered under freedom of speech and freedom of religion laws that already exist, In My Humble Opinion Natch. ;-)

  93. The part that scares me the most is the part where it wants to give teachers the right to “(I) TEACH A RELIGIOUS TOPIC IN PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR HISTORICAL, LITERARY, OR OTHER EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE RELIGIOUS ORIGINS OF VARIOUS HOLIDAYS;”

    This is blatantly an attempt to get Creationism into the school. It’s not even veiled. I learned about religious topics in a few courses in my schooling (High School Religious Studies class – also included the Koran and Buddhism, World History and Humanities in college) but it was all through a secular viewpoint.

    To be able to teach a religious topic for some ‘educational’ purpose blatantly allows the teacher the ability to teach Creationism as a possibility instead of evolution. Scary stuff.

  94. JJ

    I just heard today that the Tennessee Board of Ed. is now allowing Bible studies classes in public schools. The classes will not be preaching scripture, but be taught like a college anthropology or sociology class. The classes will be optional as well and teachers are restricted from taking any views for or against any aspect. It’s a neutral ground in the Church and State debate, I applaud their efforts.

  95. @ JJ:

    It’s a neutral ground in the Church and State debate, I applaud their efforts.

    Why? Efforts at what?

    Oh, wait. While reading the “Bible in Schools” website (sponsor of Tennessee’s “bible studes” courses), I find this, buried deep in their text:

    It alone (the bible) is a safe guide to the soul, able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    So it’s not really about the bible as literature. It’s not really about “cultural heritage.” It’s about pushing Jesus, pure and simple.

  96. mike burkhart

    I don’t think any one on this blog has the any idea of the fundamentlists game plan I think I do and if I’m right it’s shocking this is it in a nut shell: 1 claim that we are a “persecuted minorty”2claim that seperation of Church and state is atireligous hate 3 claim that athiestsare persecuters of us out to destory us and most important 4 convince the majority of the American people and politicians of this

  97. @ Mike Burkhart:

    Dude. Honestly. You seem like a smart guy. But please, please, please. Find the punctuation keys on your keyboard. The colon is a start, but a few periods and commas would be helpful. :)

  98. DaveS

    Katherine@43, I am certainly not confusing UU with Unitarians. The Unitarian and Universalist churches merged in 1961. Wiki is a little confused about that, it seems.

    Both Unitarianism and Universalism started off as very liberal Christian churches, but have been distancing from that for the last 50+ years.

    To wit, every “Unitarian” church I’ve run across is actually affiliated with the UUA, making it Unitarian-Universalist.

    That said, some eastern UU churches do more God&Jesus talk in sermons, but still the by-laws and lack of Christian doctrine separate them distinctly from Christian churches.

  99. Mark Hansen

    Joe, I think that the point was to find a case or cases of discrimination based on the wearing of a crucifix in the U.S. The Colorado bill is a reaction to that case and is really only intended to protect Christians. I also think that you know this anyway. Phil also never mentioned that there was a hatred of Sikhs in Colorado. What he mentioned was that the sponsors of this bill would likely not be supportive of a child wearing a “Satan Rules” T-shirt or a turban. Not supportive is different from hatred. I think you also know that.

  100. JJ

    “While reading the “Bible in Schools” website (sponsor of Tennessee’s “bible studes” courses), I find this, buried deep in their text: It alone (the bible) is a safe guide to the soul, able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

    A sponsor of Tennessee’s Bible study is not the Tennessee Board of Education. It’s against Federal Law to preach religion in school, therefore the school cannot preach it. Being pro-science doesn’t necessarily imply anti-religion, they can and do co-exist. Anthropology and sociology are social sciences, the Bible falls into those categories. Just today a Tennessee Board of Ed. member was questioned on the issue and he stated exactly what I stated earlier, the class is designed as a neutral ground between Church and State. Preaching for or against the text is prohibited and attendance is voluntary, freedom of choice is present.

    Preaching Atheism is exactly the same as preaching a religion, it violates the first Amendment. Simply because you don’t agree with religion doesn’t hold any defense for prohibiting a voluntary Bible study course. Those who choose to study the origins and nature of the Bible should be free to do so, just as Atheists have the right to refuse to acknowledge the Pledge because of the word “God”. If one has the right to publicly refuse God, then one certainly has the right to publicly acknowledge him. I’m not religious myself, it’s just common respect for others’ beliefs as stated under the 1st Amendment. As long as religion isn’t forced on anyone, there’s no reason why it should be prohibited, even if it does open doors to other religious courses being offered in public schools. As long as parents and students have the freedom to choose, the 1st Amendment is upheld.

  101. ndt

    Annalee Flower Horne Says:
    February 15th, 2010 at 12:57 pm
    Daffy @36: Those people (the ones being asshats in the name of Christianity) are absolutely the problem.

    Here’s the thing, though: when bigots and morons use Christianity to justify harassing, oppressing, or belittling others, they’re claiming the power of the majority. They’re insinuating 78.5% of the country agrees with them. They’re not just wrong; they’re dead wrong. Wrong like the young earthers wrong. When you generalize by saying that all Christians act like they do, you’re reinforcing their claim that they speak for the majority.

    Well it’s easy to believe they do speak for the majority, when few, if any, other Christians speak up to correct them.

  102. @ JJ:

    You are naive, at the very least, if you think the promoter and funding source (“Bible in Schools”) is setting this up as a “neutral ground” between church and state, when their agenda is clearly spelled out on their own website.

    And what exactly is this “neutral ground” you keeping bringing up, anyway, and why do you believe it is necessary? We have church over here, free to do what they do, and we have the state over here, doing what it’s been mandated to do.

    Anthropology and sociology are social sciences, the Bible falls into those categories.

    Again, look at the website of the group promoting this. They are not presenting the bible as the subject of objective anthropological study. Quoting from their own website again:

    The textbook is the Bible – students bring their own Bibles from home.

    Nowhere in their discussion of curricula are any sociological, anthropological, cosmological, nor any other -logical texts mentioned. Odd way to present an objective view of the bible, wouldn’t you say?

    Furthermore, if you look at the teacher’s guide presented by this same group, a document which outlines the syllabus for the course, nowhere do you find listed in any of the lessons anything even remotely like an objective examination of the bible. It’s sunday school on weekdays.

    Preaching Atheism is exactly the same as preaching a religion, it violates the first Amendment.

    Preaching a religion is not a violation of the first amendment. Teaching religion as fact in public schools, is not, either. It’s a violation of the separation of church and state as laid out in article 6 of the constitution.

    And please don’t roll out that old canard about atheists “preaching” anything. Presenting overwhelming evidence for an idea, based upon observation of the actual world, is not preaching.

  103. JJ

    Freedom of religion applies to those that choose to worship and those that choose not to. An atheist doesn’t have a right to tell people what they can/can’t believe in, just as a religious person has no right to force their beliefs on others. That is the neutral ground of Church/State. Science has no relevance in debating the right to worship, that’s a personal belief.

    As for the class, many colleges offers anthropological an sociological courses that focus on the study of Christianity, Judaism, etc. If the college is public, students are given the freedom to choose whether they’d like to take it or not. This is the exact same principle being applied to schools in Tennessee. The courses are secular in nature and voluntary.

    “The textbook is the Bible – students bring their own Bibles from home.”

    Of course they do, it’s a Bible study class!

    “Preaching a religion is not a violation of the first amendment. Teaching religion as fact in public schools, is not, either. It’s a violation of the separation of church and state as laid out in article 6 of the constitution.”

    I agree, preaching is not a violation of the amendments, but being forced to listen to and accept preaching is and that’s not what’s going on here. Separation of Church and State only implies that religion cannot be forced upon students. If interpreted by your all or nothing implication, no Catholic schools would be able to exist because it’s a clear violation of Church and State. Parents have the right to choose to send their children to Catholic school, just as they will have the choice to enroll their students in this Bible study class, which is also secular in nature and neglects preaching.

    “You are naive, at the very least, if you think the promoter and funding source (”Bible in Schools”) is setting this up as a “neutral ground” between church and state, when their agenda is clearly spelled out on their own website.”

    I believe you are being purely political and speculative while ignoring the facts. The article below explains exactly what I’ve said earlier. Just because a group promotes or approves a measure doesn’t mean they’re dictating the curriculum. The curriculum is set by the Board of Education and approved by the state. Failure to abide by the approved guidelines will result in the termination of the teacher and possibly the course or entire program. Do you really think the entire state of Tennessee wants to deal with numerous lawsuits and possibly a trip to the Supreme Court? If this was obviously unconstitutional, it would have never made it this far. It may be contested in the future and the court will decide if it violates Separation of Church and State.

    http://www.examiner.com/x-30908-Nashville-Christian-Living-Examiner~y2010m1d30-Tennessees-new-state-approved-Bible-class

    http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/01/30/Tenn-approves-guidelines-for-Bible-class/UPI-73111264828513/

    “And please don’t roll out that old canard about atheists “preaching” anything. Presenting overwhelming evidence for an idea, based upon observation of the actual world, is not preaching.”

    To you or me, this may be the case. However, if one wants to believe in creation, we have no right to tell them otherwise. It’s not unlawful to present real world evidence, but it is to infringe on one’s right to worship by forcing atheistic views upon them, which is essentially preaching (defined as speaking, pleading, or arguing in favor of something). Also, religious folks, for the most part, don’t disagree with the majority of science. For example, if they get sick, they take drugs and see a doctor, they don’t believe that God will magically heal them.


  104. “The textbook is the Bible – students bring their own Bibles from home.”
    Of course they do, it’s a Bible study class!

    Kind of missed the point, JJ. You said it would be studied objectively, like anthropology and sociology. If your only reference text is the one you are studying, you kind of miss the objectivity part.


    If interpreted by your all or nothing implication, no Catholic schools would be able to exist because it’s a clear violation of Church and State.

    Not at all, because a Catholic school is a private institution. Now, if my tax money starts paying for vouchers for that Catholic school….

    That’s why I don’t understand your “neutral ground” idea. Why is such ground necessary? State and church are not at odds. There is no competition between them, no battle, no need for “neutral ground.”


    Do you really think the entire state of Tennessee wants to deal with numerous lawsuits and possibly a trip to the Supreme Court? If this was obviously unconstitutional, it would have never made it this far.

    The entire state might not, but the religious zealots pushing their own agenda apparently wouldn’t mind. And lots of inane laws get through the legislatures before being struck down. That’s the eternal push and pull of our system.


    It’s not unlawful to present real world evidence, but it is to infringe on one’s right to worship by forcing atheistic views upon them, which is essentially preaching.

    So, if real world evidence directly contradicts someone’s religious views, a teacher who presents such evidence is “preaching?” I don’t think so.

    But I will grant your point that Tennesseeans must wait and see what the approved curricula ends up being. However, if the zealots follow through as they have in Hamblen county (where my mom was born, BTW, so I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the locals), where some counties are apparently turning for guidance, then the end results are pretty much guaranteed a date with the supreme court.

  105. JJ

    I’m not positive the kids would have Bibles, I doubt it, but they can be used for referencing material. Most of the things in the Bible are assumed to be real world accounts of the life of Jesus. If one was to study Jesus, they certainly can use a Bible for reference. It’s nearly impossible to study any religion without examining the things that compose their beliefs. If one was to study Christianity in college, they would likely reference the history and origins of their traditions, as well as their respective texts. I have no idea as to the locals, but if it’s deemed secular, I’m assuming it will be taught as such.

    I agree with you on the tax issue, that’s quite a gray area. However, it’s a non-issue if the class is deemed secular. The Federal government uses out tax dollars to fund groups that are pro-abortion, like Planned Parenthood. Same for partisan groups like Acorn, yet it’s illegal for the Federal government to fund such organizations. I’m not sure how they get around that, but they do.

    “So, if real world evidence directly contradicts someone’s religious views, a teacher who presents such evidence is “preaching?” I don’t think so.”

    Real world evidence may contradict religious beliefs, but that doesn’t discredit one’s religion. They’re free to believe what they will. It’s dependent on one’s interpretation, not all people interpret religion literally. Some of the most brilliant scientists were also religious. They can co-exist without contaminating each other. Contradictory views become preaching when they’re forced upon someone. It’s one thing to have a rational discussion, but another to tell someone religion is pure rubbish because science thinks otherwise. People hold all kinds of contradictory ideas. For example, someone that refuses to fly when statistics prove it’s the safest form of travel. You can preach to them with numbers and facts, but it likely won’t change their mind about flying. It’s an emotional decision, which is the same principle behind religions (at least in my view).

    I believe science will stick to science and religion to religion in this case, as it should. You can’t force a student to learn or accept creationism and any science teacher that teaches creationism should be fired. Same for science teachers that specifically teach against creationism (as opposed to simply teaching evolution and not referencing religion at all), which is an example of promoting Atheism.

  106. Same for science teachers that specifically teach against creationism (as opposed to simply teaching evolution and not referencing religion at all), which is an example of promoting Atheism.

    Okay, you were getting all rational on me until that last sentence. :(

    Teaching against creationism is absolutely NOT promoting anything…except science!

    Science is about evidence and testing and retesting against further evidence. There is NO evidence for creationism. None! For a science teacher to teach otherwise is BAD SCIENCE and that teacher shouldn’t be in the classroom. It has nothing to do with his or her religious views or lack thereof. It’s just bad science teaching!

  107. JJ

    You can’t target a specific religion, creationism in this case, and have it be acceptable in a school setting. This is a legal issue, not an issue of what is scientifically correct. It’s a violation of Church and State because it brings religion into the argument, whether you agree or not is irrelevant. There’s no problem with teaching evolution in bio because it’s a scientifically held theory, however once you specifically refer to any religious ideas and rant about how they’re all wrong, it becomes preaching Atheism. The fact that you’re using science and logic to debunk religious claims are irrelevant, you are purposefully attacking specific religious ideas. The fact you believe creation to be bunk by means of science is a personally held view, just as religious views are personal. The separation of Church and State goes both ways. It’s designed to protect the religious/non-religious rights of students. Forcing the idea upon them is against Church and State, under it, schools are meant to simply present the ideas and let kids decide for themselves.

  108. JJ

    Taken from the Nation Science Teachers Association:

    “Science curricula, state science standards, and teachers should emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science and its overall explanatory power.”

    “Science teachers should not advocate any religious interpretations of nature and should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.”

    These 2 points emphasize that science teachers should simply teach evolution in conjunction with science (neglecting creationism) and not use it as a means to criticize any personally held religious views.

    http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/evolution.aspx

  109. JJ

    Also see:

    “A district court judge in southern California has ruled that a teacher who described creationism as “superstitious nonsense” was making a religious statement, which is impermissible in US public schools. ”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/11/creationism-schools-science-us

  110. There’s no problem with teaching evolution in bio because it’s a scientifically held theory, however once you specifically refer to any religious ideas and rant about how they’re all wrong, it becomes preaching Atheism.

    So, if the creationists win and allow their “belief” to be taught alongside evolution, the merits or demerits of creationism cannot be discussed because they hinge around God? How, then, is one supposed to analyze their “theory?” Isn’t that the dilemma this point of view would lead us to?

    These 2 points emphasize that science teachers should simply teach evolution in conjunction with science (neglecting creationism) and not use it as a means to criticize any personally held religious views.

    Hm. So what happens when those “personally held religious views” get in the way of a student’s ability to understand science? If a teacher fails a kid because he turns in a paper equating creationism with evolution as a valid theory, is that “criticizing” their beliefs? Would the teacher be doing his job if he allowed that student to pass when their grasp of this basic subject was so poor, or would he have no choice but to let the kid slide?

    “A district court judge in southern California has ruled that a teacher who described creationism as “superstitious nonsense” was making a religious statement, which is impermissible in US public schools. ”

    Yeah. Well, we’ll see if that ruling stands. I do think it’s ironic that the religious right will have one of those “activist judges” from California in their corner.

    Nighty night. This little kuhnigget’s going to bed.

  111. JJ

    You’re missing the point, you mixed the ideas of religion and science again. Simply because you believe in science doesn’t imply that it takes precedent over one’s personal religious views. It is your personal view to reject religion, just as it is one’s choice to accept it. Creation has already been outlawed as a non-scientific, religious notion in numerous cases. If you search Google, you can find them. There’s no problem with a student making his/her own deductions on the theories of evolution and creation because the student is making the choice to do so, even if the teacher only teaches evolution. A paper comparing evolution and creation is simply a point of view, whether you agree or not is a personal issue. As I said earlier, science teaches science and religion teaches religion. Any overlap due to personal beliefs is a personal matter. Teaching specifically against religious beliefs is indoctrination, as opposed to teaching in accordance with science, which is simply presenting the scientific point of view and allowing students to make their own deductions. If science and religion were not compatible, then religious scientists wouldn’t exist.

    Presenting science as the answer to everything is a personally held view. Science cannot prove, nor disprove religious beliefs, as far fectched as they may seem, therefore science has no right to demean religious beliefs, that’s just condescending and disrespectful. They’re 2 different schools of thought. I’m also not defending religion over science, I’m just defending the right to religious freedom. After all, creation and evolution are both theories, and therefore not declared facts. One can believe God created life and it evolved over millions of years, that’s compatible with both schools of thought because science can’t yet answer the origins of life and the universe.

  112. You’re missing the point, you mixed the ideas of religion and science again.

    But that’s what we are talking about here, right? Religion getting mixed in to science class! If a religious person wants to equate their religion with science, that is their right. But it is the teacher’s right, and duty as a science teacher to educate them otherwise. Religion is not science, and telling a student that fact is not denigrating their beliefs, it’s just teaching them the facts.

    After all, creation and evolution are both theories, and therefore not declared facts.

    True, but evolution is backed up by mountains of good, testable, verifiable evidence, while creationism is backed up by…nothing! Nothing, except religion! And religion (wait for it) is not science and hence should not be equated with science in a science curriculum.

  113. JJ

    “If a religious person wants to equate their religion with science, that is their right. But it is the teacher’s right, and duty as a science teacher to educate them otherwise. Religion is not science, and telling a student that fact is not denigrating their beliefs, it’s just teaching them the facts. ”

    That’s exactly it, religion is not science. I posted a response to this, but for some reason it didn’t post. So, I’ll try to recreate it again. As decided in the decision by the California judge, a science teacher can teach evolution, but cannot use religious beliefs as a contrast. There’s nothing wrong with a bio teacher teaching evolution, but they cannot specifically target religious beliefs. What if a bio teacher challenged the beliefs of Islam or Hinduism? It’s the same principle. All a science teacher can do if present the facts of science and evolution by saying this is the theory of evolution and this is how it came about in the field of science. Religious beliefs should not be used for comparison.

    “True, but evolution is backed up by mountains of good, testable, verifiable evidence, while creationism is backed up by…nothing! Nothing, except religion! And religion (wait for it) is not science and hence should not be equated with science in a science curriculum.”

    Exactly, religion is not science and science is not religion. Science is based on logic and evidence, but religion is not. Religion isn’t supposed to make logical sense, it’s an emotion/spiritual practice. A religious person may present evidence as the Bible, for which science cannot confirm or deny the accounts. Religion should not be equated with science and science should not be equated with religion. Evolution should be taught as a scientific theory and creation taught as a religious belief. I’m not advocating for teaching religion in science classes, as you seem to assume is the case. They should remain separate under Church and State on both sides of the issue. No mention of creation in science classes.

  114. JJ

    Bottom line…you can’t spew anti-religious statements in a science class (no matter how much you disagree with the religious beliefs) and science classes should not teach religious material. Church and State operates in both directions. I’m not sure how to explain it any clearer.

    “If a religious person wants to equate their religion with science, that is their right. But it is the teacher’s right, and duty as a science teacher to educate them otherwise. Religion is not science, and telling a student that fact is not denigrating their beliefs, it’s just teaching them the facts. ”

    That’s exactly it, religion is not science. I posted a response to this, but for some reason it didn’t post. So, I’ll try to recreate it again. As decided in the decision by the California judge, a science teacher can teach evolution, but cannot use religious beliefs as a contrast. There’s nothing wrong with a bio teacher teaching evolution, but they cannot specifically target religious beliefs. What if a bio teacher challenged the beliefs of Islam or Hinduism, etc.? It’s the same principle. All a science teacher can do is present the facts of science and evolution by saying this is the theory of evolution and this is how it came about in the field of science. Religious beliefs should not be used for comparison, neglected from discussion.

    “True, but evolution is backed up by mountains of good, testable, verifiable evidence, while creationism is backed up by…nothing! Nothing, except religion! And religion (wait for it) is not science and hence should not be equated with science in a science curriculum.”

    Exactly, religion is not science and science is not religion. Science is based on logic and evidence, but religion is not. Religion isn’t supposed to make logical sense, it’s an emotion/spiritual practice. A religious person may present evidence as the Bible, for which science cannot confirm or deny the accounts. Religion should not be equated with science and science should not be equated with religion. Evolution should be taught as a scientific theory and creation taught as a religious belief. I’m not advocating for teaching religion in science classes, as you seem to assume is the case. They should remain separate under Church and State on both sides of the issue. No mention of creation in science classes. You’re also assuming all religious folks interpret scriptures literally, which is not the case in the majority of religious folks.

  115. science classes should not teach religious material

    But now you’re in Calvin and Hobbes territory, because anyone can define anything as “religious material” and thus have it set aside as off limits! Don’t like evolution because it contradicts biblical literalism? Off limits! The Earth is the center of the universe? No astronomy! Cows are reincarnated souls of your grandparents? So much for animal husbandry! See where that goes?

    Religious beliefs should not be used for comparison, neglected from discussion.

    But this ignores the key point I bring up: what if a student substitutes their religion for science? How can the teacher not respond, and still be a responsible teacher? The issue must be addressed if it is brought up, otherwise you open the door to any sort of nonsense being equated with testable, verifiable, evidence-based theory.

    A religious person may present evidence as the Bible, for which science cannot confirm or deny the account

    Nonsense! There are all kinds of ways that scientific methods can and have contradicted the stories in the bible. See any of a dozen previous posts by the good doctor BA on this subject and you’ll discover lengthy discussions about such. Archaeological science contradicts the bible (and in some cases, confirms the basis for biblical stories, too, but in non-religious terms, e.g. the city of Jericho being destroyed by massive attack by political enemies); astronomical science contradicts the bible; geographical science contradicts the bible; biology…botany…linguistics…you can go on and on and on. In this regard, the bible is no more a sacred cow than any other religious text that is confused for literal truth.

    You’re also assuming all religious folks interpret scriptures literally, which is not the case in the majority of religious folks.

    No, I don’t, actually. But the ones who do are the ones who are trying to cram their non-science into science classrooms. And they must be fought tooth and nail at every attempt.

  116. JJ

    I agree with you on the last part, but I think those radical people are few and far between and creation will never be taught in a classroom, it has also been decided in numerous court cases, it’s a non-issue.

    http://ncse.com/taking-action/ten-major-court-cases-evolution-creationism

    You also can’t define anything as religious, I find that absurd. For example, if you find cows sacred as part of your religion, that’s religion, not science. Science has no place in telling people they shouldn’t worship cows if that’s what their religion believes. Likewise, you can’t pick up a spoon and decide it’s a now a sacred religious artifact. The examples you posted are ridiculous, nobody is declaring science wrong because religion says so.

    If a student writes about creation, the teacher has the obligation to explain why evolution disagrees. The teacher doesn’t have to say religion is wrong, but simply explain this is what science thinks. They shouldn’t take a position for or against it and they shouldn’t openly denounce religion as part of a lesson plan on evolution. That’s a clear violation of Church and State.

    We’re addressing Church and State here, not whether science can prove religion false. It’s a legal issue, not an issue of science vs. religion….Religion has no place in a science class, period. Whether you speak for or against religion in a bio class, you’re still referencing religion. Either way is a legal violation of Church and State. It is intolerant to push science on people’s religious beliefs, no matter how strongly you disagree with their views, even if they’re not scientifically sound. Religion is not logical as I mentioned earlier. It’s equally intolerant for a zealot to push their religious beliefs on those who think otherwise. Our country is not centered around any particular religion like the Middle East for example and there’s no Christian war on science. That’s just as ridiculous as the Atheist war on Christmas.

  117. …it’s a non-issue.

    We’ll disagree on that one, philo mou. If it were a non-issue, the court cases wouldn’t keep cropping up.

    Science has no place in telling people they shouldn’t worship cows if that’s what their religion believes.

    No, but if their religion prevents them from understanding the true biological nature of a cow, then an ag teacher certainly has a place telling them what’s what.

    Likewise, you can’t pick up a spoon and decide it’s a now a sacred religious artifact.

    Ho no? How do you think any object became a “sacred religious artifact”? Somebody picked it up and decided it was holy. Anthropology 101.

    They shouldn’t take a position for or against it and they shouldn’t openly denounce religion as part of a lesson plan on evolution.

    Unless that religion is presented to them by a student as science. And yes, I don’t think a science teacher should go out of their way to stir up the religious mud (unless they’re trying to create a human being out of same), but that’s a far cry from ignoring it if it is presented to them as a response to a science-based subject.

    We’re addressing Church and State here, not whether science can prove religion false.

    You brought it up. :)

    And now, I suspect we’ve beaten this particular burning bush to death and beyond. Have a good one.

  118. JJ

    “Ho no? How do you think any object became a “sacred religious artifact”? Somebody picked it up and decided it was holy. Anthropology 101.”

    Do you honestly see this becoming an epidemic? People grabbing onto anything and declaring it a sacred object of some new crazy religion to denounce science, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but that’s just as likely as proving we didn’t land on the moon or that Bush orchestrated 9-11. I agree, this issue has been beaten quite heavily and religion should never be presented as science, as I advocated earlier as well. Good talk.

  119. Do you honestly see this becoming an epidemic?

    Ever chat with a Scientologist? They have an odd take on all things related to Mr. Hubbard. ;)

    No, not an epidemic. But the existing religious literalists already have a full set of sacred spoons.

  120. JJ

    Point taken. I haven’t, but I know they’re quite wacky. Ironic how their title implies there’s something scientific about it.

  121. Fred Peachman

    The First Amendment to the U.S. Bill of Rights:

    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.

    Sounds like there’s nothing left for the govt to say. A ‘religious bill of rights’ is what the First Amendment already is.

  122. Robert Carnegie

    Isn’t the turban just because they grow their hair way long? Not allowed to cut it? So could you work out something else instead?

  123. Will

    I like the idea of making religous freedoms explicit, precisely because it MUST allow “satan owns my soul” or “the FSM > your god” t-shirts. Mainstream religious people need to be reminded at each and every opportunity that these bits of silly BS are just as valid as their imaginary friend in the sky.

    The part about not teaching students things they don’t believe, or forcing them to do assignments contrary to their beliefs, is so wrong it would be funny if it weren’t insidious and evil. When I was young, I had a friend who FIRMLY believed that addition worked by concatenating the numbers you meant to add (eg 1 + 2 + 3 = 123). If we can’t tell kids they’re wrong when they say the earth is 6000 years old, despite the fact that it demonstrably is not, what right did those decadent immoral math teachers have to teach my friend how to do addition? Why did no one respect his right to believe? What the law really seems to be saying is that no-one is allowed to contradict factually inaccurate beliefs if the believer really, truly, believes them. Which makes me wonder why no one has brought this up in the hearings on the law yet.

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