Pharyngula

Texans should be concerned about Texas H.B. No. 3678, an act “relating to voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints in public schools.” It’s authored by Charlie Howard, an overly cheerful and zealous member of the far religious right, and Warren Chisum, who will be known forever as the bible-thumping dwarf from Pampa, and it plays the pious fairmindedness card perfectly, while hiding the fact that it emerged from the sleeve of a pair of notorious liars for Christ. It is an underhanded and sneaky bill that, under the guise of promoting religious tolerance, actually has the purpose of stripping protection from minority views and allowing a Christian majority to run roughshod over secular institutions.

Texas Citizens for Science has an excellent summary.

The bill is written to appear to be neutral and lawful, but First Amendment Constitutional law already protects legitimate student expressions of religion. The purpose of this bill is to allow students to aggressively state their beliefs about creationism in science and Protestant Christianity in history, health, and other classrooms without fear of contradiction by teachers. The bill states, “Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Students shall neither be penalized nor rewarded on account of religious content.” Thus, a biology teacher may not penalize a student for giving answers on biology homework, classwork, and exams that invoke non-scientific creationist explanations of natural phenomena. Students may hold such pseudoscientific beliefs, learned in their churches and Sunday schools, but it is a perversion of science and education to permit such expressions in a science class without contradiction by a science teacher.

And here’s another good general summary:

The law, also called the Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberties Act, requires districts to adopt a policy under which certain student leaders must be given opportunities to speak at all school events at which students speak publicly, including graduation, football games and morning announcements.

As long as students do not engage in “obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd or indecent speech,” they will be permitted an open mic to express their religious beliefs. The law attempts to get around the constitutional prohibition against state promotion of religion by requiring schools to provide disclaimers stating that the students’ speech is not school or district sponsored.

What I find most devious (but not particularly clever; it’s a very common trick) is the way the bill sets up all secular purposes as antithetical to all religious ones, demanding an immediate compensatory religious reply. If the high school chess club puts up a notice of a tournament, why, that’s a godless secular event, and therefore religious groups must also be allowed to put up a notice of their prayer meeting. Never mind that all the schools I’ve visited (somehow, I doubt that Texas is different) allow student organizations of all sorts slap up signs everywhere, but when you’re a paranoid theist, you’ve got to see everything as a threat to your beliefs.

“Secular” does not mean anti-religious. It refers to matters of the world, the world that all of us, including the religious, live in. “2 + 2 = 4” is a secular piece of information — it does not oppose a religious position unless you’re in some wacky cult with the weird idea that 2 + 2 is 5, and then, well, you deserve to be slapped around a bit with the great rubber-bladder-on-a-stick of basic arithmetic. Everyone is secular and lives a life of secular concerns, and only some of us have tagged on this additional religious baggage, yet some of these right wing wackos have reversed that to claim the spiritual world has primacy and the natural world is only a minor subset. They need to be wacked with the bladder-on-a-stick of reality.

Similarly, biology and physics are sciences that describe the nature of the world and its origins. These are entirely secular ideas, not anti-religion ideas, and the only conflict is because most of the major religions of the world are wacky cults with the weird idea that they provide some insight into the nature of the natural world and its beginnings. Demanding that you must be privileged to interject your religious opinions into a secular biology classroom is like demanding the right to respond to assignments in your math class with cooking recipes and limericks.

It’s a convenient false dichotomy. If the principal announces the day’s hot lunch special over the PA system in the morning, that’s a nefarious secular purpose that must then be counterbalanced by allowing one of the local Southern Baptist imams to tell the students what’s on the menu in Hell. And this law will state that the competing caterwaulings of diverse and antagonistic religious beliefs, rather than being excluded from the curriculum, are going to be a protected and especially privileged part of it. It’s an excellent way to further degrade the quality of a public school education … which is also part of the right wing’s agenda. It’s synergy!

Note also that the bill expends a great deal of wordage on the crucial issues of high school graduation and football games. At these open events in which all students are supposed to be allowed to participate, and in the case of the former is supposed to be an important honor (in Texas, the latter might also have that distinguished position), they are now supposed to allow the majority to turn them into narrow sectarian events — if a few students want, they can turn the graduation ceremony into a Baptist tent revival, and the school must support it. This is a law that says if you aren’t one of the Christian majority, you might just as well stay home. From football games, too. In Texas. I think that might be blasphemy.

This bill has already been signed and is about to pass into law. Welcome to the theocratic state of Texas! Can we quarantine you yet?

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    August 31, 2007

    Note also that the bill expends a great deal of wordage on the crucial issues of high school graduation and football games.

    Neither of which I ever went to, oddly enough.

  2. #2 PZ Myers
    August 31, 2007

    Probably because you’re one of those goddamned godless heathens.

  3. #3 factlike
    August 31, 2007

    Some clever child could answer “Because Zeus says so… QED!” as the answer to any question on any given test, then sue the school if he or she is failed. Of course, the defense attorneys could argue that such a claim to religious belief is insincere, at which point Texas could pass a helpful law to establish a Religious Sincerity Board, to rule definitively on which religious beliefs do and do not deserve respect. Democracy is a wonderful thing, ain’t it?

  4. #4 Mike P
    August 31, 2007

    I refuse to let football turn into NASCAR. You keep your godly nonsense away from my Sundays! They’re pleasant! (Yes, I know high school football is a Friday thing…I’m fearing a slippery slope.)

    And so help me no-God, if they lay one hand on NBA basketball…

  5. #5 Steverino
    August 31, 2007

    Great!….a law for ignorant/lazy/stupid people!
    Can’t do the math?…GODDIDIT! Can’t do the Science?…GODDIDIT! Can’t do the History?…GODDIDIT!

    Hell, that beats studying any day! I’m guessing the number of “short” buses will increase in every school district in Texass.

  6. #6 Dustin
    August 31, 2007

    Note also that the bill expends a great deal of wordage on the crucial issues of high school graduation and football games.

    Well, in Colorado at least, the position of “Football Coach” is actually the same as “Principal” and it typically requires moonlighting as a “Youth Pastor”. It’s probably the same in Texas.

    Anyway, I think it’s a fair measure. Without presenting opposing religious viewpoints teaching secular equations will lead the kids to eigenvalues. That might undermine parental choice.

  7. #7 Dustin
    August 31, 2007

    The Christians will never get their hands on my authentic and historically accurate version of lacrosse. Mark my words, heads will roll.

  8. #8 FishyFred
    August 31, 2007

    At these open events in which all students are supposed to be allowed to participate, and in the case of the former is supposed to be an important honor (in Texas, the latter might also have that distinguished position), they are now supposed to allow the majority to turn them into narrow sectarian events — if a few students want, they can turn the graduation ceremony into a Baptist tent revival, and the school must support it.

    You’re a little bit off the mark here. If the crowd at a high school football game observes a moment of prayer before the game starts, that is completely within their rights. Same if the players organize their own prayer. The valedictorian at graduation is free to go on about whatever religion they choose. If the announcer/coach/principal leads the prayer, then they are stepping into dangerous territory.

    The key phrase that makes your point inaccurate is “the school must support it.” Allowing those self-organized prayers is neither supporting nor opposing them.

  9. #9 sailor
    August 31, 2007

    “Thus, a biology teacher may not penalize a student for giving answers on biology homework, classwork, and exams that invoke non-scientific creationist explanations of natural phenomena.”
    Well, this wuld be a big help to backward students. For all biology questions all you have to write is: “God created it that way.”
    I am not sure what happens if you are faced with a multiple choice question that does not offer this answer. Maybe they could legislate that too?

  10. #10 FishyFred
    August 31, 2007

    And this law will state that the competing caterwaulings of diverse and antagonistic religious beliefs, rather than being excluded from the curriculum, are going to be a protected and especially privileged part of it. It’s an excellent way to further degrade the quality of a public school education

    Simple solution: Universities should refuse to recognize Texas biology classes for all purposes. If you take biology in Texas, you have to take it again in college.

  11. #11 Richard Wolford
    August 31, 2007

    Wow. Just…wow. What bothers me the most is that this sets such a bad precedent. What’s to stop other states from doing the exact same thing in the name of student expression? Didn’t some kid lose his case about a banner held at some game which promoted marijuana? Why were his “expressions” denied, yet had he held up a banner recognizing the ritual staking of the offspring of their well-loved creator, it would be protected?

    If anyone here knows of a skeptics group or other such group in the southern West Virginia area, please let me know. I’ve not really searched for any myself, but quite frankly the more I read the more active I want to become. People actually sneer at education here (shocker), and something needs to be done. I’d rather have recommendations for groups rather than try to validate them myself.

  12. #12 Marvin
    August 31, 2007

    Here’s my favorite bit of the bill:

    Sec. 25.153. RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN CLASS ASSIGNMENTS. Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Homework and classroom assignments must be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district. Students may not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of their work.

    Translation: religion is devoid of substance and pedagogical content! So please don’t judge homework based on its inclusion or omission.

  13. #13 stogoe
    August 31, 2007

    I actually went to every home football game in both high school and college. Of course, it’s pretty easy when you’re playing trombone in the marching band, and you have to be there. Luckily neither director took marching band especially seriously – do a good job on the routine, certainly, but we’re not some damn hyperactive drum and bugle corps.

    And it’s not like we were much interested in the game. It was a good way to get some exercise and geek out with friends on a Friday night/Saturday afternoon.

  14. #14 Bad Albert
    August 31, 2007

    Assuming this law is passed, could it still be challenged in the US Supreme Court?

  15. #15 Evan
    August 31, 2007

    Quarantine? How about just secede already. Then we can ship the rest of the Dominionists over there and we can live our merrily secular lives in peace.

  16. #16 Andrés
    August 31, 2007

    Well, since religious right crackpots keep saying that “atheism is a religion”, students should be entitled to say “evolution is real because Darwin said so” and get away with that, right?

    Oh, no, we can’t have that. Doublethink is pervasive among crackpots, and this is one of those issues where it’s not convenient that atheism is a religion. So, in 10-15 years time we’ll have atheist graduates who know their stuff, and Christoid graduates who passed by simply stating their beliefs. And then they’ll say: “Atheists get all the good jobs! We’re been oppressed!”

  17. #17 Andrés
    August 31, 2007

    Well, since religious right crackpots keep saying that “atheism is a religion”, students should be entitled to say “evolution is real because Darwin said so” and get away with that, right?

    Oh, no, we can’t have that. Doublethink is pervasive among crackpots, and this is one of those issues where it’s not convenient that atheism is a religion. So, in 10-15 years time we’ll have atheist graduates who know their stuff, and Christoid graduates who passed by simply stating their beliefs. And then they’ll say: “Atheists get all the good jobs! We’re been oppressed!”

  18. “Can we quarantine you yet?”

    Give me a chance to get the hell out of here first. I love Austin, but this is ridiculous.

  19. #19 other bill
    August 31, 2007

    Demanding that you must be privileged to interject your religious opinions into a secular biology classroom is like demanding the right to respond to assignments in your math class with cooking recipes and limericks.

    I love that. I’m going to steal that quote.

  20. #20 skyotter
    August 31, 2007

    Richard Wolford #11:

    it was in Juneau, Alaska and the banner read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” and was found to be NOT protected due to the implication of an illegal drug

    yet now in Texas it would be protected simply for the “Jesus” part, right? right?!

    (i always wonder what if it had read “Wine Sips 4 Jesus”. would it be condoning under-age drinking? heh)

  21. #21 Tex
    August 31, 2007

    I think Warren Chisum was the legislator who voted against a penal reform bill because he thought it meant mandatory circumcision.

    I was kinda hoping things would get better down here once we shipped our last governor out of the state, but we seem to have an endless supply of nimrods.

  22. #22 lytefoot
    August 31, 2007

    like demanding the right to respond to assignments in your math class with cooking recipes and limericks.

    I don’t know… responding to a math assignment with a limerick is just fine, provided it contains the right answer. Extra credit if your limerick provides a rigorous proof of your response.

  23. #23 Drew Habits
    August 31, 2007

    Does this apply to state-run colleges and universities as well? If so, this might be an outstanding opportunity to add some really easy credentials to the old resume. I could finally get all those doctorates I’ve always just started to want a minute ago!

  24. #24 John
    August 31, 2007

    So, uh, wouldn’t the bit in the law about how students must not be penalised or rewarded for religious content mean that you could *still* give the “GOD DID IT” student a 0, because they didn’t answer the question correctly and you’re prohibited form giving them marks for a religious answer?

    What this prevents you from doing is marking them down for adding “and God did it” to the end of an answer about how finches evolved, or something of the sort, unless the question was “what did Charles Darwin say about the evolution of finches.”

    It’s still an idiotic law, but I don’t think it, as written, lets you get away with answering “God Did It” to every question and insisting on a passing mark for it. It doesn’t make God the right answer, it just means you can’t *take away* marks for screaming about God in the middle of biology class, which is bad enough.

  25. #25 Mrs Tilton
    August 31, 2007

    “Secular” does not mean anti-religious. It refers to matters of the world, the world that all of us, including the religious, live in. “2 + 2 = 4” is a secular piece of information — it does not oppose a religious position unless you’re in some wacky cult with the weird idea that 2 + 2 is 5, and then, well, you deserve to be slapped around a bit with the great rubber-bladder-on-a-stick of basic arithmetic.

    Amen, Brother Myers.

  26. #26 firemancarl
    August 31, 2007

    Well, I fear it will not be long in comming to my state of Floor-EE-Duh. Oh, yea and verily shall I look out from upon high and call forth PZ and Dawkins and yea shall I also make a 911 call to Hitchens and Harris so that we may snuff it.

    My two girls ( 4 & 6 ) can’t get enough of science. When I told my oldest about our local college DBCC having an anstronomy program, she wanted to get into it…now! Her favorite show is “What if we had no moon” I fear that if Florida allows that kind of batshittery the answer to “What if we had no moon” will be “Cause it’s gods will!”

  27. #27 J. A. Baker
    August 31, 2007

    As a native Texan, let me say that Chukles Howard and Warren Chisum are an embarrassment to our fine(?) state. We’re not completely without sane people. After all, we produced Jim Hightower and the late Molly Ivins, not to mention the late Ann Richards.

    The problem is, as you’ve noticed, that for every Hightower or Ivins, there’s about a couple dozen Chisums. It’s because of that fact that we’re now officially a theocracy. Sad.

  28. #28 CalGeorge
    August 31, 2007

    ARTICLE IV
    RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN CLASS ASSIGNMENTS

    Students may express the students’ beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of the students’ submission. Homework and classroom work shall be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school.

    Students may not be penalized or rewarded on account of religious content. If a teacher’s assignment involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards, including literary quality, and not penalized or rewarded on account of its religious content.

    Garbage.

    Why do these people deserve special treatment?

    Religion is not some vulnerable disability that deserves protection. It has spread like the plague.

    No more special dispensations for fundie nuts!

    Education is not about pampering people’s fantasies!

    Gaaaaaaa!

  29. #29 John Pieret
    August 31, 2007

    The part of the law that says:

    Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Students shall neither be penalized nor rewarded on account of religious content.

    … is cribbed almost directly from the “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools” issued by the U.S. Secretary of Education under the No Child Left Liking School” (or whatever it is thay call that law) back in February of 2003. I’s kind of surprising that they have waited this long.

    Oh, and Chisum is the dufus who passed out that memo supposedly from a Georgia state legislator to his Texas collegues that turned out to have been really written by the geocentrist anti-Semite.

    It’s good to see Texas upholding its standards.

  30. #30 Joe C.
    August 31, 2007

    Thank god for this law! As a devout Satanist, I now intend to move to Texas, where I will be free to express my religious beliefs in all of my classes, and will never have to do “Satan-less” homework again.

  31. #31 mschoppe
    August 31, 2007

    Some more background on this law:

    From the San Antonio Express-News:

    Jonathan Saenz, an attorney and director of legislative affairs for Free Market Foundation, helped draft the bill. He said it doesn’t limit districts to the model policy.

    Saenz’s Plano-based group serves as the statewide public policy council associated with Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family organization.

    From the Dallas Morning News:

    Proponents say districts that adopt the state model will be better protected if someone files suit against them.

    “If they’d just go with the law, they’d be clean,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Texas-based Free Market Foundation and chief counsel at Liberty Legal Institute, which has represented many parents suing school districts over religious expression.

    Kelly Coghlan, who was an attorney in the Santa Fe case, drew up the state’s model after he consulted with other attorneys, including those at Liberty Legal.

    But not everyone agrees that the state’s model policy is the best option for districts.

    “I can’t imagine why you would use a policy written by an attorney that sues school districts,” Mr. Eichelbaum said.

    Ms. Clark, the Texas Association of School Boards official, said her agency developed an alternate model because they also felt the state’s model didn’t line up with the language of the law. TASB officials don’t endorse either model and encouraged districts to work with their attorneys to develop a policy.

    From the Waco Tribune-Herald:

    Laws regarding religion in public schools put school districts between a rock and a hard place because litigious advocacy groups are lined up on both sides ready to sue at a moment’s notice, said Tom Hutton, senior staff attorney with the National School Board Association.

    From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

    The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, took the unusual step of including a model policy for school districts to adopt.

    “We thought it would be very, very simple for them,” said Houston attorney Kelly Coghlan, who drafted the law and the model policy. “They could look at the legislation, adopt the policy, and by adopting the policy they would be in complete compliance with the law.”

    But school district attorneys aren’t so sure.

    Some are certain that the law conflicts with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and will lead schools straight to the courthouse.

    “Both sides are going to sue,” said Dennis Eichelbaum, an Austin attorney whose firm represents about 100 Texas school districts, including Castleberry in River Oaks.

    “You may have the ACLU on one side saying this promotes prayer, and you may have Liberty Legal Institute on the other side saying you can’t discriminate against this person based on their religious viewpoint.”

    Districts are getting conflicting advice on adopting a policy to comply with the law.

    The Texas Association of School boards has written a sample policy for districts that differs from the model policy, prompting Coghlan to warn school districts that adopting the TASB policy could open them up to lawsuits

    The different school districts in Texas are under a lot of pressure because of this new law. I get a sense of fatalism from the statements I’ve read from various school officials, like they expect that no matter what they do, they are going to be sued.

  32. #32 Jewel
    August 31, 2007

    Sadly, much of my family is super fundy religious and take the attitude of ‘you’re either with us or against us’ in everything. If it’s a secular activity, then it’s obviously anti-religion. *sigh* They would absolutely love this act, and of course not at all see just how wrong it is.

    I’m glad I don’t have kids. I fear for humanity.

  33. #33 Reginald Selkirk
    August 31, 2007

    Thank god for this law! As a devout Satanist, I now intend to move to Texas, where I will be free to express my religious beliefs in all of my classes, and will never have to do “Satan-less” homework again.

    You will be allowed to freely express your Satanist views, right up until the good little Baptist children are allowed to freely express their disagreement by burning you at the stake. Faculty will not be allowed to interfere with this expression of the students’ religious freedom.

  34. #34 Corey
    August 31, 2007

    No dammit, you can’t quarantine us yet, I still have to evacuate! Maybe I can live with my girlfriend in Oklahoma.

  35. #35 Atheist
    August 31, 2007

    There is no problem if the question is worded corectly. For example: “How does the theory of evolution explain …”, “What is the prevailing scientific explanation for …” etc.

  36. #36 Joe C.
    August 31, 2007

    Don’t worry, Reginald. We Satanists already control Texas politics, as is evidenced by this piece of legislation, and we just get more “ornery” when we get burned.

    In the words of my Master: The Devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape (yes, that is from the Bible, but who do you think put it there, puny mortal?)

  37. #37 Ophelia Benson
    August 31, 2007

    “In the words of my Master: The Devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape (yes, that is from the Bible, but who do you think put it there, puny mortal?)”

    It’s from Hamlet, actually. Written by a notorious Satanist, of course.

  38. #38 Ophelia Benson
    August 31, 2007

    I asked Brian Leiter (scourge of the Texas Taliban) about all this, and he pointed out that this sentence is a partial safeguard, at least for officials in functional schools:

    “Homework and classroom work shall be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district.”

    That’s some help – but on the other hand that ‘identified by the school district’ offers a giant escape clause. Alls ya gotta do is pack that there school board, and that there school board will identify some good God-fearing legitimate pedagogical concerns and not no other kind. Thank you JEsus.

  39. #39 Bryn
    August 31, 2007

    I guess Texas didn’t learn anything from “Santa Fe (Texas) Independent School District v. Doe”. I just finished that chapter in Peter Irons’ “God on Trial.”

  40. #40 Ophelia Benson
    August 31, 2007

    Tell us what happened there! So that we can look forward to the re-enactment.

  41. #41 Andrew
    August 31, 2007

    This Texas Legislature with all their religious bullshit over the past year or so has made me embarassed to be a Texan for the first time in my life.

    Considering we have one of the weakest (if not the weakest) state governments in the country, you would kind of hope that our illustrious represenatives would be spending their time more wisely considering that this bill will end up costing the state and federal government millions in future court battles.

  42. #42 Ophelia Benson
    August 31, 2007

    But think of the children! It’s for the children. Think of the children, willya?

  43. #43 Carlie
    August 31, 2007

    I agree with John – it’s a narrow tightrope, but with a very carefully tight interpretation, the way it’s written does mean that the answer “God did it” can be considered wrong. You just can’t take off points if a student throws in extra God stuff along with a correct answer on an essay question for going off topic, I guess. Where it might get touchy is if a student writes an entirely correct answer, followed by “but of course we know that’s not how it really works, that’s just how the evil Satanists explain it, because really God did it”. Then I’m not sure if you’d be protected if you decide to take off points. You could argue that one can’t answer both true and false to a single question therefore it’s wrong, but it might be on thin ice.

  44. #44 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 31, 2007

    If it wouldn’t make teaching difficult, it would be fun. There are, what, 1000’s of different religious beliefs left – and every one should have their minute at the chatter box. One could make a recording to play each time a specific religion vies for time.

    But why stop there? There are ~ 3000 languages left, is it not? Also, why should just a few species or a few organic compounds be covered in science class? There are a lot more math theorems and physics results around than the pitiful few that are allowed to stand out in class. Teach the variety!

  45. #45 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 31, 2007

    If it wouldn’t make teaching difficult, it would be fun. There are, what, 1000’s of different religious beliefs left – and every one should have their minute at the chatter box. One could make a recording to play each time a specific religion vies for time.

    But why stop there? There are ~ 3000 languages left, is it not? Also, why should just a few species or a few organic compounds be covered in science class? There are a lot more math theorems and physics results around than the pitiful few that are allowed to stand out in class. Teach the variety!

  46. #46 Wicked Lad
    August 31, 2007

    Atheist (#34) wrote:

    There is no problem if the question is worded corectly. For example: “How does the theory of evolution explain …”, “What is the prevailing scientific explanation for …” etc.

    IANAL, but I think mschoppe (#30) identified the real problem:

    I get a sense of fatalism from the statements I’ve read from various school officials, like they expect that no matter what they do, they are going to be sued.

    Sure, the law says students’ work “must be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district.” But it still also says, “Students shall neither be penalized nor rewarded on account of religious content.”

    I’m sure plenty of kids who don’t get A’s will file suit, especially if Mommy or Daddy is a lawyer and can offer free legal representation. School districts have the “academic standards” bit to defend themselves, but they’ll still have to defend themselves. That’s big leverage for the kid. What a nightmare for teachers and administrators!

  47. #47 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007

    Quarantine? How about just secede already. Then we can ship the rest of the Dominionists over there and we can live our merrily secular lives in peace.

    <grabs geologist hammer and raises it high above head, pointy end forward>

    Not before the mess currently called Alamosaurus will have been sorted out.

  48. #48 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007

    Quarantine? How about just secede already. Then we can ship the rest of the Dominionists over there and we can live our merrily secular lives in peace.

    <grabs geologist hammer and raises it high above head, pointy end forward>

    Not before the mess currently called Alamosaurus will have been sorted out.

  49. #49 Moses
    August 31, 2007

    The valedictorian at graduation is free to go on about whatever religion they choose. If the announcer/coach/principal leads the prayer, then they are stepping into dangerous territory.

    Posted by: FishyFred | August 31, 2007 2:41 PM

    I’d suggest a little reading as this was well settled (6-3) in SANTA FE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT v. DOE.

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=000&invol=99-62

    So, personal opinions aside about PZ’s conclusions, your conclusion about what is permitted does not seem to be well supported. Simply put, once the government action has begun (football, graduation, etc.), you can’t introduce religion in any way but within the “comparative religion (i.e. teaching about religions) academic” model.

  50. #50 Tom Foss
    August 31, 2007

    Dustin #7:

    The Christians will never get their hands on my authentic and historically accurate version of lacrosse. Mark my words, heads will roll.

    They already have, in a rare essay by arguably the most important of the church fathers.

    Don’t tell me you’ve never heard about “Jesus: On Lacrosse.”

  51. #51 thalarctos
    August 31, 2007

    Don’t tell me you’ve never heard about “Jesus: On Lacrosse.”

    Very nicely played, Tom, but (and I’ve been waiting for *years* for a chance to say this)L “it’s La croix, darling” (/edina).

  52. #52 dogmeatib
    August 31, 2007

    Hell, that beats studying any day! I’m guessing the number of “short” buses will increase in every school district in Texass.

    They have long buses in Texas?

  53. #53 Carl Schmidt
    August 31, 2007

    Is it possible that the collective representatives and senators of Texas are truly this ignorant or stupid? Bumper stickers can be pithy; one of my favorites during this reign of another Texan is: “When fascism arrives, it will be wrapped in the American flag and carrying a cross.”

  54. #54 Art
    August 31, 2007

    So, since the SAT, ACT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc. people obviously won’t accept a write-in “God did it” or “God won’t let me answer”, does this mean that nationally-administered standardized tests are going to be outlawed in Texas?

    I’m gonna gain a new-found respect for schools that require SATs or ACTs.

  55. #55 David L. Thompson
    August 31, 2007

    Congratulations Mr. Meyers. Your credentials seem to be impeccable and it is apparent that you have set the internet straight with your vast store of infinite wisdom. You have outlined for all an essay written with grammatical correctness and a myriad of big words. However; I have a few concerns when it comes to your style.
    First. If my memory serves me correctly, we in America live in a Republic where each person has a right to their own beliefs regardless of them being religious, secular or humanist. And I Sir, believe that you are no more a “secularist” than the man in the moon as your bitterness and hatred of anything Christian or religious permeates the entirety of your message. It seemse to me that in only 24 sentences you have managed to impugn the lives of all of those people who hold to a religious faith over 15 times. ie: Devious, not clever, Paranoid, Theists, Cultish, Religious baggage, right wing wackos, need to be whacked with a bladder stick, slapped around a bit, most of the religions of today are wacky cults, wierd idea they can provide insight, convenient false dichotomy, Southern Baptist “Imams”, Right wing propagandists, Baptist tent revivalists etc.
    I disturbs me that you who are “educated” can possess such a biased mind and hold to the belief that you be given complete authority and control over educational content in spite of the fact it may interfere with the rights and beliefs of others. Let me tell you, I would never place one of my children, or recommend to anyone else placing theirs in the University of Minnesota knowing you are teaching there. I am a Christian by the way, but have never found myself in any of the positions you have generalized in your article. I believe that the reason our nation retains it’s balance is because from the extremes of the left and the right comes a balanced middle which polishes the sharpness of both ends of the spectrum. By the way, what is a “Southern Baptist Immam?” The last time I had anything to do with the Southern Baptists they had Ministers. I think you have your religions confused! Now, I am not familiar with the bill of which you are speaking, but I believe I could be objective in pursuing its defeat or passage, even though I am a wacko Christian and there are many millions of Christians just like me. In closing, while your degree and expertise appear to be in the general field of Biology and Science perhaps it might be a good good thing for you to, 1. forgive whoever the Christian or church was that embittered and hurt you. Then get on with life and, maybe take a course in, Comparative Religions and get a lilttle better idea of what it’s all about. I think your message might be more credible then. My mom used to say, “Only ignorant people hurt others just to get their point of view heard.” I think your story was written well but was ruined by your very apparent bias. If you look around you might find that some of us even have educations and accept many of the concepts you endorse. Think about it!

  56. #56 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 31, 2007

    David Thompson:

    However; I have a few concerns when it comes to your style.

    Says the individual who can’t be bothered with paragraph breaks. 😛

    And I Sir, believe that you are no more a “secularist”

    The point isn’t if the poster uses “big words” or has a certain opinion. The point was that there are secular sectors of society.

    A tool has no religion. And science is a tool. Think about it!

  57. #57 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 31, 2007

    David Thompson:

    However; I have a few concerns when it comes to your style.

    Says the individual who can’t be bothered with paragraph breaks. 😛

    And I Sir, believe that you are no more a “secularist”

    The point isn’t if the poster uses “big words” or has a certain opinion. The point was that there are secular sectors of society.

    A tool has no religion. And science is a tool. Think about it!

  58. #58 Ed Darrell
    August 31, 2007

    Mr. Thompson, as a Christian, a lover of liberty, and a Texan, let me note that Dr. Myers has one hell of a lot more horse sense than the Texas idiots who wrote that bill and passed it into law.

    It’s an offense to Christians everywhere, as well as to all other human beings. The law should be repealed. With a legislature that worries someone might get the idea that God isn’t watching them in every sin, but who can’t bother to take care of sick babies (of which we have a few hundred thousand, a few hundred of whom die each year), even some people who know better supported getting that bill passed and into law — because it doesn’t do much but flap the collective lips of Texas liberty. But it’s still an offense to thinking Americans, including the Christian ones, everywhere.

    You should worry that you’re not offended by the bill. Think hard: What essential information is it you’re missing?

  59. #59 ROF
    August 31, 2007

    Hell, that beats studying any day! I’m guessing the number of “short” buses will increase in every school district in Texass.

    Posted by: Steverino | August 31, 2007 2:35 PM

    They have long buses in Texas?

    Posted by: dogmeatib | August 31, 2007 8:28 PM

    In as much as many districts transport special education students in “short” buses, as opposed to “normal” sized buses, I’m guessing that Steverino is inferring that there will be a greater need for “short” buses because of the probable increase in the number of “special” students resulting from the continued incroachment of viral religion.

    Of course, dogmeatlib, perhaps knowing that, may simply be wondering why there’d be any need for “long” buses in Texas now then. ;>)
    o
    o

  60. #60 David Thompson
    August 31, 2007

    Ed. You missed the entire point of my blog. I’m not siding with the writers of the bill. I am taking issue with a College Proffesor who berates and equates all people who are Christians. No, more correctly actually who are even religious. This coountry was founded on the concepts of Christianity as well as other beliefs. While it generated much controversy over the years it didn’t turn out too bad having been built on those precepts. I am not blind to the unrational acts of Christians over the centuries either. Then on the other hand I don’t condemn the non believers because some of them have done bad things. I believe that the people of Texas are intelligent enough to recognize a stupid peice of legislation and will vote it down if it is so. I make no judgement here because as I stated the first time, I have not read the piece. I have merely heard the position of a very biased individual who seems to have a penchant for hating anything religious. I’m older my friend and remember the atmosphere that permeated Germany in the 1930’s as Hitler rose to power. Some of the techniques he used to stir the German people to his distorted view were similar to those used today by many people who dislike or hate religion. As I stated from the begining……… His message may be right but his approach, condeming and ridiculing people just because they are religious is wrong!

  61. #61 raven
    August 31, 2007

    we in America live in a Republic where each person has a right to their own beliefs regardless of them being religious, secular or humanist.

    No one gives a damn what your religion is. The issue comes up because the Christofascists Death cultists keep trying to impose their religion on the rest of us including other Xians. The bill is vaguely worded because it seems part of the attack on science in childrens schools by wingnuts who are upset because science has shown that the earth orbits the sun and other horrible things. Obviously they didn’t want to get specific because it would probably get thrown out of court in 10 minutes. Not very honest for so called Xian legislators.

    The Islamic Christofascist Republic of Texas just might go the way of many Moslem countries. They are still stuck in the medieval ages because a lot of weight is put on the inerrant word of god, the Koran. Science is almost an underground don’t ask, don’t tell occupation with little public or financial support. They do import a lot of technology from the infidels though which always means they will be behind. It’s too bad, Texas is home to a lot of world class institutes and universities. I wonder if they will still be there in 20 years if their voyage back to the third world is successful.

  62. #62 Carl Isaacson
    September 1, 2007

    Others have ventured on serious topics. I want to know, how large is the rubber bladder, how long the stick, and where can I get one for use in my Argumentation class?

  63. #63 Wolfhound
    September 1, 2007

    Wow! It only took our newest troll two posts to invoke Godwin’s Law! Rock on, David!

  64. #64 CalGeorge
    September 1, 2007

    David Thompson may express his belief about religion in written comments free from discrimination based on the religious content of his submission. He shall shall neither be penalized nor rewarded on account of religious content.

    HE SHALL BE IGNORED!

  65. #65 Hatful of Hollow
    September 1, 2007

    Just in case you’re curious, this bill was signed into law by the Governor of Texas on June 8, 2007, and was effective immediately because of the overwhelming support in the legislature. However, it actually applies beginning with the 2007-2008 school year–which has already started. What matters now is how the school districts are going to work this clo’-fo’ into their policies and procedures.

    You should see some of the amendments to the bill that were rejected by the House. Take, for example, two amendments proffered by wacko Lon Burnam:

    2nd reading, Amendment 4:

    “The right to engage in voluntary prayer or religious discussion free from discrimination does not include the right to have a captive audience listen or to compel other students to participate. Teachers and school administrators should ensure that no student is in any way coerced to participate in religious activity.”

    2nd reading, Amendment 8:

    Sec. 25.1551. TEACHER TRAINING. (a) A school district shall provide professional development training to teachers regarding the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the right of a student to express a religious viewpoint.

    These amendments were “tabled,” which essentially means they were killed off (by votes of 90-54 and 97-37, respectively) by a vote of the Texas House of Representatives. There’s no interest in Texas in reducing litigation. How can you argue against providing training to school officials?

    One of my favorite tricks was by Scott Hochberg, who offered two amendments back-to-back:

    Sec. 25.158 STUDENT PRAYER. For the purposes of this Subchapter, voluntary student expression of religious viewpoint may include prayer.

    Sec. 25.158 STUDENT PRAYER. For the purposes of this Subchapter, voluntary student expression of religious viewpoint may not include prayer.

    Both amendments were killed by votes of 78-60 and 104-37, respectively. What this means is that they hated the amendment that said the student expression may include prayer and that they REALLY hated the amendment that said it may not include prayer. So I think their intentions are clear. They want prayer to be required, but they don’t want it to be too obvious.

    This is the same legislature that put “In God We Trust” in the House and Senate chambers and stuck “under God” into the Texas Pledge (which nobody had memorized, anyway).

  66. #66 Samnell
    September 1, 2007

    “I’m older my friend and remember the atmosphere that permeated Germany in the 1930’s as Hitler rose to power.”

    You mean the ostentatious public affirmations of Christianity?

  67. #67 Miguel Garcia-Blanco
    September 1, 2007

    “Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Students shall neither be penalized nor rewarded on account of religious content.” Thus, a biology teacher may not penalize a student for giving answers on biology homework, classwork, and exams that invoke non-scientific creationist explanations of natural phenomena.

    I think the key point is the part about “Students shall neither be penalized nor rewarded on account of religious content.” This essentially means that the teacher is required to ignore the religious content and asses the submission based on what remains. So actually, the teacher can penalize the student, but not for invoking a non-scientific explanation. The teacher can penalize the student for lacking a correct scientific explanation. Hence, an answer of “Magic Man done it” would be marked as incorrect, since once the religious content is ignored, the student’s submission is essentially blank!

  68. #68 Peter
    September 1, 2007

    I thought I remembered the name Chisum. I read this in Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?, but I found the quote here.

    The seventy-third session (1993) of the Texas Legislature is pretty much typified by the following Warren Chisum story, Representative Chisum being the Bible-thumping dwarf from Pampa who has added such je ne sais quoi to the proceedings this year.

    The Texas Senate had a rare moment of courage early in the session when it voted to remove homosexual sodomy from the revised version of the penal code. All were astonished.

    Their vision made its way over to the House, where Chisum promptly rose and introduced an amendment to reinstate the damn thing. The Housies were afraid everyone would think they were queer if they didn’t vote for Chisum’s amendment, so they did.

    Then some scholar explained to Chisum that unless he reinstated the ban on heterosexual sodomy as well, the law would be declared unconstitutional. So Chisum promptly got up and did just that.

    Whereupon we had one of the more bizarre debates in the history of the Lege, with assorted avant garde members rising at the back mike to say, approximately, “Uh, Warren, uh, suppose I am in bed with my lawfully wedded spouse and I, like, kind of misaim and wind up in the wrong hole. You don’t want to send me to prison for that, do you?”

    Chisum would stoutly reply, “Yes, I do. It’s against nature and The Bible.”

    So the Housies were afraid everyone would think they were perverts if they didn’t vote for it, and they did. Chisum then shook hands with his ally, Talmadge Heflin of Houston, in celebration of this double triumph, and the Speaker had to send the Sergeant-at-arms over to reprimand them both.

    Because under Chisum’s own amendments, it’s illegal for a prick to touch an asshole in this state.

  69. #69 Circe
    September 1, 2007

    My children are in Texas public schools and the extent to which God apparently trumps that pesky Constitution is surreal.

    Teachers hand out bibles in class, my daughter was told to look up bible verses, the teachers and staff daily wear tee-shirts proclaiming various Christian ideology.

    As a preface to teaching science, the teacher apologizes for having to state that the earth is 4.6 billion years old in contradiction to what “our faith tells us.”

    It’s unreal. It’s appalling. And apparently I’m too chicken to be the only parent in the district to complain…

  70. #70 Circe
    September 1, 2007

    Oh wait. The earth’s only 4.55 billion years old? It just *seems* a whole lot more like 4.6 billion years, doesn’t it?

  71. #71 latisha
    September 1, 2007

    I am both a Christian and a proud Texan, and must say I am very discouraged to see that this bill is on it’s way to being law.

    I think it’s wrong and should have no support, I will write my congressman and the two men who are sponsoring the bill because this isn’t helping anyone.

    As a Christian it has never been my goal to force my religion upon someone else. To each his own I say, I fault no one for their beliefs of lack of.

    I do my best to keep religion out of school and the workplace as well. As a Texas it’s crazy that we are being shoved in such a crazy direction.

    Since all religions (well the Christian belief) do not all believe in the same doctrine we cannot share in sponsoring this bill. I’ve never wanted to lead or follow in prayer offered up by someone at school.

    I could go on and on, but know this is a limited case of the “religious right” trying to bullying everyone.

    And it’s so NOT Christ like, in my opinion.

  72. #72 Barn Owl
    September 1, 2007

    Wow, 66 comments in this thread (maybe more by now), and not one useful suggestion for how we Texan scientists should address this legislation and its implications. At the distinct risk of being labeled a troll, I’ll say that I keep scanning this blog in hopes of gleaning some pearl of wisdom that I could use to address science education issues in my home state…but alas! no such luck.

    The real issue in this state, in which 25% of children live in poverty, is educational disparity. Wealthy, educated parents can afford to homeschool their kids, send them to private schools, live in neighborhoods with the best public schools, pester me by phone and e-mail until I let their kid spend time in my lab for a science fair project, take their kids to museums, send their kids to science camps, buy natural history books for their kids, find physician friends for their kids to shadow, etc. etc. That is the Texas in which I, a privileged individual, grew up, but that’s not the situation for most kids in Texas. Many children are lucky if they’ve had sufficient sleep and breakfast to maintain concentration for an hour, and if their teachers can control the class well enough to teach them one or two basic things in a day.

    I volunteer at the Education Center at the local livestock show every year (this is the only exposure to any sort of living non-human animal that many children have had), and I was disheartened to discover how many kids are convinced that the horses are machines or puppets. Much of my time is spent preventing kids from smacking the animals with toy whips or from climbing the barriers, rather than answering questions and talking to them about what horses eat and how long they live, adaptations of different breeds, horse anatomy, coat colors, wild equids, etc. (i.e. biology). Just a small taste of what many teachers in the public schools here must struggle against daily.

    So practically speaking, what do the great sages of Pharyngula suggest that we Texans in the reality-based community *do* to address these educational disparities? My daily experience tells me that addressing disparities late, in undergrad university or professional school classes, is difficult, and sometimes unsuccessful. No, it would be best to address them early, in the public schools. And I’m not stupid enough to believe that pissing and moaning about Christians and the woeful state of public education on a blog is going to fix matters, nor do I think that starting a club or wearing special shirts or attending meetings with fellow smug illuminati is going to change anything…such things would only mark me as one of the rant-and-rave do-nothing elite. Running away from Texas is not an option either, unless you’re a wussypants. Any ideas?

    Yeah, I thought not.

  73. #73 raven
    September 1, 2007

    Teachers hand out bibles in class, my daughter was told to look up bible verses, the teachers and staff daily wear tee-shirts proclaiming various Christian ideology.

    As a preface to teaching science, the teacher apologizes for having to state that the earth is 4.6 billion years old in contradiction to what “our faith tells us.”

    I would yank my kids out of school and sent them to a private school. And think about moving to another state. Easy for me to say, not living there in the first place but still…..

    IIRC, Texas rates high on many measures of a dysfunctional society. For example it has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the US.

  74. #74 Jerry
    September 1, 2007

    I am a Texan with a Masters degree in Political Science, and I am a Methodist. I am also a retired school adminintrator who knows full well that as long as we have algebra tests, there will be many silent prayers said as students make their way to a math class. And yes, our legislature is full of nuts like Chisum and Howard. All of the Radical Religious right wingers think this is a grand idea to use teenagers to get their message out, but all hell will break loose when a 16 year old radical high school sophomore Muslim gets the mic during graduation and preaches an Al-Queda message. However, under this holier than thou law, his rights must be protected by the school and that will fall upon the unfortunate shoulders of school administrators. Please let the world know that I did not vote for those two goofballs who sponsored this bill.

  75. #75 Tennille Merkle
    September 1, 2007

    15 years ago, at my public middle school in Tennessee, the principal read Bible verses and offered prayer every morning via the school-wide intercom. My sister once had her head pushed down by the teacher because she forgot to bow her head.

    Despite our trying to hide the fact that we were not Christians, we also couldn’t bring ourselves to lie about it. (Our parents taught us not to lie, imagine that!) So the kids in school quickly found out we were heathens, then proceeded to bully us both daily while the teachers all turned a blind eye. I believe the kids thought their behavior was just fine, because as Christians they were always right, and we were horrible monsters.

    This is why religion should stay far away from schools. Religion divides people and makes them emotional. Kids in schools have yet to master the social graces necessary to keep the peace around people different from them.

    At that same school, my science(!) teacher obviously grudgingly covered the chapter on evolution, stating on several occasions, “Now y’all know this is bull****, but I have to read it to you anyway.”

    I did crow with delight when I found out later he was fired for excessive use of corporal punishment.

  76. #76 Jim Carls
    September 1, 2007

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s possible that this isn’t as bad as it sounds — that is, it’s just grandstanding that won’t have a true effect on most kids. But if it does, there are two counter-measures (although I really like the idea of colleges not accepting Texas biology credit. Hoooeee!): 1) It should be made clear by teachers that they expect the kids to know the scientific explanation for any questions, but are free to add their own religious beliefs. That is, you are being tested on knowledge of science, but not faulted if you don’t believe it. That seems to fit the wording of the law and would allow the teachers to bring down the hammer on the intellectual slackers. 2) If graduations and football games begin to take on religious trappings, representatives of other religions must demand equal time and if any kind of protest occurs during their “presentations”, air horns and other loud counter-measures must be used from then on during the wingnut sessions. It should devolve into chaos as quickly as possible.

  77. #77 Carl Schmidt
    September 1, 2007

    Really Barn Owl —It should not be too difficult to figure out what Texas should do- vote the single digit IQ’s out of the legislature and replace them with individuals who have enough neurons to make a synapse.

  78. #78 Zurzal
    September 1, 2007

    As a Texan atheist, I don’t really see it as a problem, I see it as an advantage. It means that a 2nd grader could go to his class and pass out pentagrams to the other students, and the teachers couldn’t stop him. I personally think that we should try to pass this suggestion on to any local wiccan groups in Texas, or especially in the Plano area where the incident that caused this got started. Passing out pentagrams is no diffrent from passing out candy canes with religous sayings on them. I believe that there would be a very humorous response from the very wealth, religous parents in Plano.

  79. #79 Matthew Cloud
    September 1, 2007

    You all miss the point of the law.
    It gives the students the freedom to openly express their religious beliefs which has been if not in law at least in practice been constrained. That means, if a Muslim wants to have a prayer to Allah then as long as they do not threaten anyone then that’s great! More importantly it allows them to be creative in their writing and that those items which do not pertain to the subject are not to be weighed.

    For example, when I was in second grade we were asked to draw about whatever we want. Well… my father had been watching many movies about World War II, and I had been fascinated by it, so I drew a war scene between the US and Germany complete with infantry, armory, US Flags and Nazi swastikas. Because it had swastikas on it the teacher made me go see the counselor, gave me an F, and for the rest of the year she thought I was some sort of fascist sympathizer. Had this law been in place she could not have held what I drew against me at least from the point of my grades.

    A more poignant example was when in ninth grade a friend of mine was suspended from school for bringing Mr. Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to school. He was agnostic and simply wanted to talk with some of his “Christian” friends about what they thought of the book, so maybe he could determine better if he believed in God or not. He was far from threatening anyone, but the laws had just changed about no more prayers in school and that was what was used against him for bringing religious materials to school….

    School should be a place for learning and open thought, not a place of dictatorship. While 2+2=4, that only applies if both of the 2’s represent the same item or simply in pure theoretical form. The more true formula is 2x+2y=4z where x, y, and z represent the actual items, like x being single donutes and y being a dozen donuts. What happens if one of the donuts is bigger than the others, etc…?

    My point here is that science is not exact, and through advances studies in sub atomic particles my faith has only grown stronger. You can only answer so many questions and at that point you can choose to not believe, believe, or continue to question.

    Your struggles with belief along the way should not hamper your efforts to learn the educational tools along the way to make you a better person and citizen. For too long the pendulum was swung too far to the right and for the past twenty years too far to the left. It’s time for it to come back to a centrist’s view and allow personal judgment (not governmental judgment) to come back into play.

    Sincerely,
    Matthew Cloud

  80. #80 raven
    September 1, 2007

    This really sounds like a sure fire recipe for Death cult fundie kids and their teachers to bully everyone else in school, atheists, unitarians, moslems, buddhists, hindus, jews, etc..

    A friend of mine got a great job in Utah, 70% Mormon. She had to send her kids to a private school. There was a lot of overt and covert discrimination against pagan kids and the whackadoodle value system was weird. Mormon girls are decidely raised for the back of the bus and encouraged to get married and pregnant very young and not necessarily in that order. From what I gather, any “gentiles” or pagans or subhumans with money invariably end up doing that.

  81. #81 raven
    September 1, 2007

    You all miss the point of the law.

    Given the source of the law, Xian Dominionist theocrats, you know it will be unconstitutional, pointless, dumb, and decidely favor the theocratic Death cult agenda.

    From what I’ve seen, if these guys could get away with it, there would simply be a pogrom or two, a huge pile of burning bodies and the heretic and unbeliever problem would be solved. Read what Rushdooney or Robertson had to say and it isn’t at all far fetched. Rushdooney would love it for sure.

  82. #82 Mike
    September 1, 2007

    Perhaps it’s all a question of consideration and fairness to everyone. I see definite benefits to having prayer and/or expressions of spiritual beliefs in schools and it could serve to possibly reduce hatred and violence in our society.

    If a Christian student wants to share their beliefs and offer a prayer during Monday mornings opening announcements they should be allowed the opportunity; as long as the same opportunity is open to the Jewish child on Tuesday, the Muslim child on Wednesday, the Satanist child on Thursday and the Atheistic or Agnostic child on Friday (Thank No One It’s Friday)and on and on giving equal opportunity for all to express and hear these views.

    As a humanities and cultural lesson, the performance of the Holy Communion in from of the whole student body could serve to edify those unfamiliar with the customs and traditions of the sect; just as the demonstration of a Seder, or a Black Mass would help in perhaps fostering a better understanding or respect for other people’s views and beliefs.

    But that is not what this is all about.

    Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. A Christian parent would seem within their rights to demand that Satanic rituals not be allowed to be performed in the schools because it offends (and threatens) the beliefs they are trying to instill in their child. Why should it be any different for the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist,Satanist,Druid or Great Pumpkin believers?

    The people who have hijacked spirituality for reasons of political and social control are not interested in freedom, their pursuit is using religion to subjugate and dictate. (as in: “I’m not telling you not to do what I don’t want you do, I’m telling you that God is telling you not to do what I don’t want you do) This has always been the problem and extreme danger with organized religion.

    “HEY PREACHERS, LEAVE THOSE KIDS ALONE!!!”

  83. #83 D
    September 1, 2007

    Speaking of NASCAR…is that not the perfect neoconservative sport? I mean, you have god-fearing walking-endorsement inbred rednecks with names like Cole Trickle and Billy Bob whatever, fans who think its cool to sport car stickers like Texaco racing fuels and China-made yellow ribbons, confederate flags galore, cars wasting HUGE amounts of fossil fuel going around in circles for hours, not to mention the fuel wasted by the HUGE number of specators, and…oh yeah…not a single negro, latino, or any other race other than SUCCESSION WHITE anywhere in site. Go figure.

  84. #84 robhoofd
    September 1, 2007

    The bill says ‘religion’. That’s not very specific. But it’s the religious right, and being vague is their thing.

    But isn’t it the very same religious right that says that atheism is a religion to itself? If they keep to their word, this bill is going to lead to christians fighting atheists for airtime on morning anouncements, seperate chess clubs, and lots and lots of other drama.

    I can see the headlines now: “Texas at war with Texas” and “51 States: The bill that split up Texas”.

  85. #85 ronhohn
    September 1, 2007

    “Everyone is secular and lives a life of secular concerns …..”

    Am I wrong, but I have always considered as ‘secular’ a type or form of institution, like government, health services, schools, but not being a personal attribute.

    A person may be religious, atheist, agnostic or heathen , or whatever, but secular is what he wants the above named institutions to be.

  86. #86 Ed Darrell
    September 1, 2007

    My children are in Texas public schools and the extent to which God apparently trumps that pesky Constitution is surreal.

    Teachers hand out bibles in class, my daughter was told to look up bible verses, the teachers and staff daily wear tee-shirts proclaiming various Christian ideology.

    A couple of the books of the Bible are acceptable for use in English lit classes — as it should be — but passing out Bibles is illegal under the Texas Constitution as well as the federal. I hope you call the attention of your district superintendent to the fact — even if you have to do it anonymously. You may hire a lawyer to contact them for you. Heck, call the ACLU and Texas Freedom Network, and ask for help.

    T-shirts? I’d complain about the slovenly dress. Male teachers need to set an example. T-shirts are against our district’s dress code. I wear a tie every day and urge my colleagues to dress as well. It’s a relief for some teachers to know they can dress up.

    I also have some power ties that work wonders. Sometimes, when a kids asks about dress, I tell them about the power ties and how they change classroom behavior. They get the point that dress affects how others react to you.

    Complain. Maybe better, volunteer to work in the class first.

    As a preface to teaching science, the teacher apologizes for having to state that the earth is 4.6 billion years old in contradiction to what “our faith tells us.”

    That’s a serious problem — the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) require the kids to know the science, to know evolution and how it works, for example. Each year our kids had biology I asked the teachers how they handled evolution and age of the Earth problems. Each time they said they taught to the standards at least, so the kids would do well on the annual exams. I then informed them that I support them in that quest, and I told them I am willing to be the plaintiff in a lawsuit to make sure no young Earth folderol makes it into their classroom if other parents, or worse, administrators, complain. One year the teacher called me before she started the evolution unit, to ask if I was still willing; I told her I’d print out a complaint that afternoon and file it by the next day if she wanted. She thanked me, said she’d let me know if it was necessary. When I asked her about it a few days later, and asked whether she had complaints from parents, she said, “No, not a parent.” The evolution unit went on as planned.

    I recommend letting the teachers know you support their teaching evolution and geology as the sciences stand. It’s a good way to start a relationship, unless the teacher is a creationist, in which case it’s a good way to smoke them out and put them on notice.

    It’s unreal. It’s appalling. And apparently I’m too chicken to be the only parent in the district to complain…

    At a minimum, call the Texas Freedom Network in Austin, and get them to send you what they have on schools and such displays of faith. http://www.tfn.org

    And call the ACLU. Or have your lawyer send the letter, shielding your name.

    You can be sure you’re not the only one. Remember the football prayer case in Santa Fe, Texas? The high school held an election to determine whether there would be prayers – can you imagine, voting on such a thing? Patently illegal. Then, they had an election for “student pastor.” The Baptist preacher’s kid won, swamping the Mormon. The prayers were anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon. A Catholic family and a Mormon family sued. The kids retaliated by beating up the only Jewish kid in town (hey, you couldn’t make up such foolishness).

    The courts shut down the prayers.

    Here in Duncanville, we had an outstanding athlete on one of our championship teams complain about pre-game prayers. It went to the Supreme Court, and the coaches were prevented from requiring prayers, or leading them, and the message was made clear that students have religious rights.

    Plaintiffs in both cases were unidentified to protect them. But they won. The law is on your side.

    Let’s be clear about it. The U.S. Constitution, for which thousands of people are under arms and sacrificing pieces of their lives, or their entire lives, is on your side. We need to stand up when pseudo-patriots urinate on the Constitution and the flag. It’s against the law to deprive people of rights.

  87. #87 Mooser
    September 2, 2007

    By the way, if the student scheduled to say the spontaneous prayer is a Baptist, as a Methodist I demand to pray after him so I can point out his errors. I suppose them damned Pabsterterians Blue Riband youth group ‘ll wanna do a dance, too.
    If one denomination’s gonna pray, we is all got to have our chance. T’only fair.

    And we will sue for this “right”.

  88. #88 Ex-drone
    September 2, 2007

    Austin Atheist writes:

    “Can we quarantine you yet?” Give me a chance to get the hell out of here first. I love Austin, but this is ridiculous.

    John Carpenter’s Escape from Texas
    Tagline – “2007. Texas is now a state-sized megachurch. Separating church and state is impossible. Combining them is insane.”

  89. #89 Mooser
    September 2, 2007

    So what happens when this bill bumps up against America’s famous denominationalism and litigiousness? Exactly who gets to determine who gets to decide the religious character of the school? Will it be Catholic? Will prayers be said for the Pope and the Virgin Mother? Will it be Cold-Water Baptists or Hard-Water Baptists (they consider suds an abomination) Over-Land Baptists or Land-Rover Baptists?
    Of course, the “youth pastors” of the various denominations and sects would want their adherents to dress a certain way, or display a symbol of affiliation.
    Christianity could get real muscular.

    But wasn’t that the fly in the annointing-oil from the beginning? As soon as you let religion in, you must, you can’t avoid it, choose which religion or denomination will be the established religion.

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