Bashing Religions

Tuesday, February 16, 2010
UCSF in 1908, with the streetcar that used to ...Image via Wikipedia
(I am sitting looking out the window at where the trolley ran.)
While sitting in the surgical waiting room at UCSF MC (waiting to see my wife in the recovery room), there was a group of people sitting near me that was bashing a family members religious preference. Specifically, the group was Catholic and they were commenting on how the family member still hasn't "found her faith" and how she was attending some "Christian" church.

Other than reading about religions bashing religions on blogs and online articles, I have never really been exposed to it much. Growing up most of my friends (and girlfriends) were Catholic and a few friends were Mormon. The only bashing I ever saw was Jehovah Witness, which we all agreed was bat-shit crazy.

Throughout my life I have heard and participated in various types of off-handed comments about different religions but, these Catholics were treating their family member as some type of nut job because she was attending a non-Catholic "Christian" church.

It was obviously lost on them that they were calling "the pot calling the kettle black". It was all I could do not to point out their hypocrisy. But, a surgical waiting room is not the appropriate place.

Now had they asked me....
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Science Teacher Could Be Fired For Venting On Facebook

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase
Although the article in the News & Observer of Raleigh is good. I much prefer PZ Meyer's take on the issue at Pharyngula. PZ gives the parents, administrators, and even the president of the teachers association a good thumping. What is being done to this teacher is wrong and she needs to be supported. As PZ says, "I support Melissa Hussain. She sounds like a fine teacher who made entirely appropriate responses in a difficult situation, and I want more teachers who are willing to oppose the willful stupidity of communities full of science-hating throwbacks who want to impose Sunday School 'rigor' on science education."
Here is the article from the News & Observer of Raleigh:

Teacher may lose job after derogatory comments about her students on Facebook

Monday, February 15, 2010
(Updated Tuesday, February 16 - 6:46 am)
APEX (MCT) — A middle-school teacher in Wake County may be fired after she and her friends made caustic remarks on a Facebook page about her students, the South and Christianity.

Melissa Hussain, an eighth-grade science teacher at West Lake Middle School in Apex, was suspended with pay Friday while investigators review her case, according to Greg Thomas, a Wake schools spokesman. The suspension came after some of Hussain's students and their parents objected to comments on her Facebook page, many of them revolving around her interaction with her Christian students.
Hussain wrote on the social-networking site that it was a "hate crime" that students anonymously left a Bible on her desk, and she told how she "was able to shame" her students over the incident. Her Facebook page included comments from friends about "ignorant Southern rednecks," and one commenter suggested Hussain retaliate by bringing a Dale Earnhardt Jr. poster to class with a swastika drawn on the NASCAR driver's forehead.

"I don't defend what the kids were doing," said Murray Inman, a parent of one of Hussain's students. "I just couldn't imagine an educator, or a group of educators, engaging in this kind of dialogue about kids."
Hussain did not return calls and e-mail messages Monday.

The Wake County district doesn't have a policy on the use of social networking sites, Thomas said. But the district, North Carolina's largest, does have a code of ethics for employees that the school spokesman says applies to social networking. The code says employees' conduct "should be such as to protect both the person's integrity and/or reputation and that of the school system."
Teachers across the nation have been suspended or fired because of questionable material posted on their Facebook pages and other online social networking sites.

In 2008, seven employees of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school system were disciplined and at least one person was fired because of Facebook postings. That led to a memo going to all Charlotte-Mecklenburg school staff warning that offensive postings to social networking sites are grounds for termination or disciplinary action.
Thomas and Jennifer Lanane, president of the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said she wasn't aware of the details of the Hussain case, but said that teachers need to be careful about information they put online.

"We are public figures," Lanane said. "We are held to a higher standard."

In Hussain's case, the comments in question were on the public side of her Facebook page. She has since limited public access.
Parents of children in her class said they learned about the comments last month, leading them to complain to the school three weeks ago.
Parents said the situation escalated after a student put a postcard of Jesus on Hussain's desk that the teacher threw in the trash. Parents also said Hussain sent to the office students who, during a lesson about evolution, asked about the role of God in creation.

On her Facebook page, Hussain wrote about students spreading rumors that she was a Jesus hater. She complained about her students wearing Jesus T-shirts and singing "Jesus Loves Me." She objected to students reading the Bible instead of doing class work.
But Annette Balint, whose daughter is in Hussain's class, said the students have the right to wear those shirts and sing "Jesus Loves Me," a long-time Sunday School staple. She said the students were reading the Bible during free time in class.

"She doesn't have to be a professing Christian to be in the classroom," Balint said. "But she can't go the other way and not allow God to be mentioned."

Hussain, a 2004 Florida State University graduate, has been a Wake County teacher since 2006. Her religious affiliation is not on her Facebook page.

The flash point for the comments came after the Bible was left on Hussain's desk in December. The Bible was accompanied by an anonymous card, which, according to Hussain, said "Merry Christmas" with Christ underlined and bolded. She said there was no love shown in giving her the Bible.

"I can't believe the cruelty and ignorance of people sometimes," Hussain wrote on her Facebook page.

Hussain also said she wouldn't let the Bible incident "go unpunished."

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Debate Student Can't Wear "God is Dead" T-shirt For Yearbook Photo

Monday, February 15, 2010
Icon for censorshipImage via Wikipedia
The Arlington High School Debate Club President wore a t-shirt with Friedrich Nietzsche's quote, “GOD IS DEAD” for his debate club's yearbook photo, but was later told he needed to reatke the photo without the shirt. 

The school district's lawyer said that the yearbook adviser and the yearbook staff could use their discretion to omit offensive and inappropriate content. So they did. What exactly is offensive or inappropriate about the t-shirt?
Arlington student's 'God is Dead' T-shirt prompts yearbook tussle
He believes it's a matter of freedom of speech, but the yearbook adviser apparently disagrees

ARLINGTON — As debate club president and a top student, Arlington High School senior Justin Surber has studied the constitutional rights of free speech.

Surber, 18, recently took a stand that will keep him from appearing in his club's yearbook photo.

Once a week, Surber wears a black T-shirt featuring the 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's take on religion. In block letters, the shirt reads “GOD IS DEAD.”

Nobody has told him he can't wear the shirt to school. He wears it to provoke debate, he says, and that's why he wore the shirt the day the debate club photo was taken for the yearbook.

Now Surber believes his T-shirt prompted the school's yearbook adviser to ask for a retake of the photo, without the T-shirt.

“I feel I am a victim of censorship,” Surber said.

When a student yearbook staff member came to take a second photo of the debate club a few weeks ago, Surber's friend Reed Summerlin asked for an explanation.

The yearbook staffer indicated she had been asked by the yearbook adviser not to tell Surber the reason for the retake, Summerlin said. “She said it was about Justin's shirt.”

In protest, Surber and Summerlin chose not to be in the second photo.

“I support Justin and his opinions, but this is a touchy case,” Summerlin said. “The loopholes will allow the school to say the T-shirt can't be in the yearbook.”

The school district's lawyer advised school administrators that a student's First Amendment rights aren't violated if the yearbook staff decides not to run a photograph of that student, said district spokeswoman Misti Gilman.

The yearbook adviser's personal beliefs didn't play a part in the decision to have the debate club photo retaken, and she and the yearbook staff can exercise their discretion to omit offensive and inappropriate content, Gilman said.

Arlington's student handbook says that student publications sponsored by the school are not considered the private speech of students but are public activities of the school district, Gilman said.

The student handbook also protects student expression as long as it doesn't disrupt the educational environment, Surber argues.

“It seems the debate club photo was retaken because my beliefs are not respected by this institution,” Surber said. “Given that photos of students in clothing with Christian messages are allowed in yearbook, one has to wonder if they are taking too much power into their hands with the whole discretion thing.”

Some of the other students in the original debate club photo may not have wanted to be associated with Surber's T-shirt, and they may have expressed concern about being in the same photo with Surber, Principal Kurt Criscione said.

“The yearbook staff takes great pride in their work,” Criscione said. “They want to present the best possible snapshot of life at Arlington High School.”

Two weeks ago, Surber wrote e-mails to his principals and the school superintendent, expressing his concern about the retake of the debate club photo for the yearbook. He said he has yet to hear back from anyone.

Criscione said he decided that Surber's note was just an expression of opinion, not something that required any action on the part of the administration.

Instead, Surber should have gone directly to the yearbook adviser with his concerns, Criscione said. “Just think of the learning opportunities he and the yearbook staff could have had if they had discussed First Amendment rights.”

Surber said he did not want to create a personal problem with the yearbook adviser and decided instead to send a note to the principal and vice principals.

“Not one of them could even take the time to respond. To even tell me I should go talk to (the yearbook adviser), I didn't ask the principal for action as I didn't know what actions could actually be taken. This isn't your everyday issue,” Surber said.

Surber has a cumulative grade point average of 3.85 and works 30 hours a week at local fast-food restaurant. His goal is to graduate from law school and enter the political arena.

Surber said he loves his school.

“But I just can't sit back and let censorship happen. The yearbook is for students. I want to be remembered by my peers as someone who stood for what he believed in,” he said. “Whatever happens with this, the process has been an education.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;
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Evolution Weekend - The Clergy Letter Project

Saturday, February 13, 2010
Science iconImage via Wikipedia
I had previously heard of the Clergy Letter Project but not really known what it was about. Today I found info about Evolution Weekend in one of my Google Alerts. I find the premise of the Clergy Letter Project to be intriguing. It certainly shows that there are religious groups that value science and the scientific method. However, I do not think there is any debate on the issue. Evolution and the scientific method must be taught in our schools.

Here are two statements from the Clergy Letter Project web site:
The Clergy Letter Project is an endeavor designed to demonstrate that religion and science can be compatible and to elevate the quality of the debate of this issue.

Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic - to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letters themselves, which have now been signed by more than 13,000 members of the clergy in the United States, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.
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Pastor Mike - What A Dick

Friday, February 12, 2010
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)Image via Wikipedia

In Pastor Mike's most recent post he wonders if Darwin was a racist. While he certainly won't commit to saying Darwin was racist but he certainly paints that picture with quotes from various individuals. Pastor Mike thoughtfully highlights and emphasizes certain "evidence" for us. Pastor Mike also attempts to link Darwin with moral decline, atheism and the rise of Hitler.

A few selected quotes from Pastor Mike's post that he uses as "evidence":

Ernst Haeckel was a German biologist, and a contemporary of Darwin, who laid the foundation of racism and imperialism that resulted in Hitler's racist regime.

Edward Simon, a Jewish biology professor at Purdue University, wrote, "I don't claim that Darwin and his theory of evolution brought on the holocaust; but I cannot deny that the theory of evolution, and the atheism it engendered, led to the moral climate that made a holocaust possible."

Sir Arthur Keith, a well-known evolutionist, assessed Darwin's impact on Hitler and Germany: "We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution produces the only real basis for a national policy....The means he adopted to secure the destiny of his race and people were organized slaughter which has drenched Europe in blood."

I think, however, this is the money quote from Pastor Mike himself (emphasis and highlights are Pastor Mike's): 

Men like Nietzsche (who often said God was dead, called for the breeding of a master race, and for the annihilation of millions of misfits), Hitler, Mussolini, Marx, Engels, and Stalin were all outspoken evolutionists, ( as well as ATHEISTS ! ) , and these people and their theories have been responsible for the slaughter of multi-millions of people, and the destruction of freedom all over the earth. It is amazing that so many liberals, radicals, fascists, communists , socialists , and atheists , as well as the easily impressed worship at Darwin's shrine.

What A DICK!
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Fresno City College Instructor Teaching More Than Science

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Do these teachers think they won't get caught or do they just not think. If they do not think then what are they doing teaching.

ACLU Accuses Calif. Instructor of Religion Lessons 
Published: February 8, 2010

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- The American Civil Liberties Union says a science instructor at a public community college in California is improperly teaching religious views on homosexuality and abortion as fact.
ACLU staff attorney Elizabeth Gill sent a letter to Fresno City College officials on Monday about the introductory science class instructor, Bradley Lopez. Gill says Lopez's teaching methods violate California laws protecting gays from discrimination and prohibiting religious indoctrination at public schools.
Gill says several students have complained that he quoted the Bible to prove that human life begins at conception. They also say he characterized homosexuality as a mental illness that degrades society.
Telephone calls to Lopez and a college spokeswoman were not immediately returned.

The Wrong News For Americans

Monday, February 8, 2010
I just read an interesting article at, Right Side News - The Right News for  Americans:

Texas: Muslim Gubernatorial Candidate Practices Art of 'Talk and Say Nothing'

Written by Robert Spencer of on Monday, 08 February 2010.
In his article Spencer takes Texas democratic gubernatorial candidate, Farouk Shami to task for his, as Spencer says, a "statement [that] is notable for its sly obfuscations and detours..."

Spencer has an interesting analysis of what Shami says (or doesn't say). For the most part his analysis could be applied to any politician's comment about anything. As for Spencer's comment that, "he has mastered the art of claiming victim status," I think Shami did an OK job but to truly see a master you need only look at a Christian conservative politician.
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When Atheism Goes Mainstream...

Sunday, February 7, 2010
First my apologies to Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist for stealing err, borrowing his post title. Hemant asks what will we miss when atheism goes mainstream and I agree that I will miss some of what he offers up. However, what I want to know is what are you looking forward to when atheism goes mainstream?
  • I look forward to being accepted for who I am.
  • I look forward to connecting with people on different level. One that does not have to be about atheism or religion.
  • I look forward to addressing more important issues in society like healthcare and the human condition.
  • I look forward to seeing more secularism in our lives.
What do you look forward to?

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Washington High School Discriminates Against Male Cheerleader

Thursday, February 4, 2010
He wasn't allowed to move his legs or hips when cheering. It sounds like the 50's when Elvis Presley was censored.
PALOUSE, Wash., Feb. 3 (UPI) -- A male high school cheerleader in Washington state says administrators discriminated against him by not letting him perform the same routines as the girls.

Benjamin Grundy said he was told at the start of the year at Garfield-Palouse High School in Palouse that he would be able to participate in dance routines and other activities performed by the female cheerleaders, only to be pressured later to wear a mascot's uniform and barred from moving his legs or hips while cheering, Spokane's KXLY-TV reported Wednesday.

Grundy's mother, Suzanne, said her letters to state officials, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups -- including KXLY -- pressured the school to give her son an official cheer uniform and pompoms. However, she said she does not consider the case closed and she wants further measures taken, including seminars against discrimination and reprimands for involved school officials.

"I think the combination of a biracial, mentally challenged gay male may be too much for them," Suzanne Grundy said of school officials.
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