Texas SBoE and the Flinstones

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

 And there it is there.

More Cartoons

Did I mention I like cartoons.

Movie Day

Sunday, March 28, 2010
St. Peter's Square in the early morning.Image via Wikipedia
I was a little under the weather the last few days so I kicked back in my recliner and watched movies on Netflix. One of the movies I watched was Angels and Demons, the Dan Brown thriller about the Illumunati.

I remember when the movie first came out that Bill Donohue and the Catholic League denounced the movie. While, the movie certainly purported to show some of the Catholic hierarchy's hypocrisy and may well be true, I am certainly not one to know it's truth. However bizarre Catholic doctrine, the truth is always stranger than fiction.

For the last decade or so we have seen more and more reports of pedophilia in the Catholic church. In the last few weeks the reports and the cover-ups have been reported in several countries. Now we see the reports of pedophilia and the secrecy around it reach all the way to the Pope. (Be sure to check out the links below.)

I wish there was something that could be done to reign in the Catholic church and its harmful effect on society. For starters, I think we need to investigate the church much more deeply than we have and remove the shield of secrecy surrounding them. Additionally, I think the Pope should be considered persona non gratis in the U.S. and any country where there have been cases of Catholic pedophilia.

It's a shame that after watching a good movie my mind went down this road.
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Christian Militia Raided

The Seal of the United States Federal Bureau o...Image via Wikipedia
Christian Militia's? Say ain't so!

Official: Gun charges after FBI raids in Midwest

By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER, Associated Press Writer

ADRIAN, Mich. – The FBI said Sunday that agents conducted weekend raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio and arrested at least three people, and a militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one of the raids was a Christian militia group.

Federal warrants were sealed, but a federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said some of those arrested face gun charges and officials are pursuing other suspects.

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said there had been activity in two southeast Michigan counties near the Ohio state line. She wouldn't say whether they were tied to the raids in the other states.

FBI spokesman Scott Wilson in Cleveland said agents arrested two people Saturday after raids in two Ohio towns. A third arrest made in northeast Illinois on Sunday stemmed from a raid Saturday just over the border in northwest Indiana, both part of an ongoing investigation led by the FBI in Michigan, according to a statement from agents in Illinois.

George Ponce, 18, who works at a pizzeria next door to a home raided in Hammond, Ind., said he and a few co-workers stepped outside for a break Saturday night and saw a swarm of law enforcement.

"I heard a yell, 'Get back inside!' and saw a squad member pointing a rifle at us," Ponce said. "They told us the bomb squad was going in, sweeping the house looking for bombs."

He said another agent was in the bushes near the house, and law enforcement vehicles were "all over." He estimated that agents took more than two dozen guns from the house.

Michael Lackomar, a spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said one of his team leaders got a frantic phone call Saturday evening from members of Hutaree, a Christian militia group, who said their property in southwest Michigan was being raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"They said they were under attack by the ATF and wanted a place to hide," Lackomar said. "My team leader said, 'no thanks.' "

The team leader was cooperating with the FBI on Sunday, Lackomar said. He said SMVM wasn't affiliated with Hutaree, which states on its Web site to be "prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren't."

"We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ," the group's Web site said. "Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.
An e-mail sent to the group by The Associated Press wasn't returned Sunday, and phone numbers for the group's leadership were not immediately available. Berchtold, the FBI spokeswoman in Michigan, said she couldn't confirm if the raids were connected to Hutaree.
Lackomar said none of the raids focused on his group. Lackomar said about eight to 10 members of Hutaree trained with SMVM twice in the past three years. SMVM holds monthly training sessions focusing on survival training and shooting practice, Lackomar said.

In Michigan, police swarmed a rural, wooded property around 7 p.m. Saturday outside Adrian, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit, said Evelyn Reitz, who lives about a half-mile away. She said several police cars, with lights flashing, were still there Sunday evening and 15 to 20 officers were stationed in the area.

Neighbor Jane Cattell said she came home from the movies Saturday night and a helicopter was circling above, its spotlight illuminating her house. She and her sister, Sarah Holtz, wouldn't say who lived in the home but said they knew them from riding their horses past their house.

"They're your average, nice neighbors," Holtz said.

There were rumors about ties to a militia, but Holtz she knew nothing of that from her interaction with them.

One of the raids in Ohio occurred at Bayshore Estates, a trailer park in Sandusky, a small city on Lake Erie between Toledo and Cleveland, park manager Terry Mills said. Authorities blocked off the street for about an hour Saturday night, he said.

"Needless to say, this has everyone talking," said Mills, 62. "We have a lot of retirees here who don't want all this commotion."

Mills said he didn't know the identity of the person arrested.

FBI agents in Ohio also made an arrest in Huron on Saturday night, Wilson said. No further information would be released until after they appeared in court Monday, he said.
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Texas Text Book Controversy - Much Ado About Nothing?

Saturday, March 27, 2010
State Seal of Texas                      Image via Wikipedia
On the Newsweek.com blog section The Gaggle - Press, Politics and Absurdity David A Graham seems to think that the Texas textbook controversy is much ado about nothing. I will agree that the HuffPo has been a shrill alarm but then that is what they do. Graham thinks that while it is petty to replace Thomas Jefferson it is no big deal because his replacements also influenced American revolutions. However, is the object of the Texas SBoE to just introduce other historical figures for examination or to deprecate Thomas Jefferson. I think it is the latter.

I also take issue that this is Texas' business and that other states are not affected by there textbook decisions. While any state can have their own textbooks written not all can afford to write their own, particularly in this economy. Additionally,I have yet to see any mention of other states choosing or even exploring this option. In my last post I wrote about how the Interfaith Alliance has protested Texas' textbook changes to top publishers. Even if their wasn't an issue with other states and Texas' textbooks there is still the matter of their own students and what they will learn. Remember, these kids will become a part of American society and the lessons the are taught will carry with them where ever they go.

Lastly, I will concede his last point whole heartedly.

Why You Shouldn't Worry About Texas's Textbook Changes

David A. Graham - Posted Friday, March 26, 2010 2:14 PM

We're now two weeks into the row over changing Texas history-textbook standards, and the story seems likely to persist at least until a final vote in May on the changes. That means several more weeks of hysteria.

Liberals are outraged. The Huffington Post exemplified the shrill alarm that's being raised: "Ultraconservatives wielded their power over hundreds of subjects this week, introducing and rejecting amendments on everything from the civil rights movement to global politics." You'd think Texas had decided to wipe slavery from the textbooks, paint George Washington as an evangelical Christian, and depict Franklin Roosevelt as a radical Trotskyite. Here are five reasons not to get too exercised about the Lone Star state's shenanigans.

  • It's not that bad. OK, some of them are pretty offensive: Jefferson Davis's inaugural speech will be studied alongside Abraham Lincoln's, and new textbooks will try to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy. Plus Jon Stewart rightfully skewered a board member's paradoxical assertion that Oscar Romero shouldn't be taught because no one knows about him. But most of them aren't that bad. For example, you may heard that Thomas Jefferson was being eliminated from history books!(!!!) Not quite. The third president—whose deism, authorship of the Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom, and coinage of the term "separation of church and state" enrage some conservative Christians—was replaced in a list of thinkers who influenced 18th- and 19th-century revolutions. That's petty, but it's no less true that his replacements—Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin, for example—did, too. Or what about the inclusion of the "conservative resurgence" of the 1980s and 1990s? Well, love ‘em or hate ‘em, Phyllis Schlafly, the Moral Majority, and the Contract with America were significant figures that affected recent American history. Exhibit A: These textbook changes.

  • It's nothing new. Texas's school board is particularly unhinged now—as excellent pieces in Washington Monthly and The New York Times Magazine have demonstrated—but it's always been a bit of an embarrassment. The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss points out that Texas had a prior textbook fiasco, to the tune of $20 million, in the 1990s, because no one thought to check for the thousands of errors in books. Which brings us to our next point:

  • It's Texas's business. A major source of handwringing is the worry that the rest of the nation's children will be affected by a few wingnuts in Texas. There was a time when a large state like Texas would sway the nationwide curriculum, because publishers would tailor their books to fit major constituents, then sell them to smaller states. But as the Texas Tribune reports, publishers say that's no longer the case—they're now able to sell different books in different markets. That means parents in Berkeley, Portland, and Madison won't have to worry. Of course, parents in Texas may grow concerned about supbar standards, which is why:

  • It's likely to cause a strong backlash. Divisive changes tend to earn voters disdain and lose popular support. For example, when the Kansas Board of Education came close to adopting a creationist science curriculum, it caused similar nationwide hysteria. But Kansans didn't think the changes made any more sense than anyone else, and they responded by voting out the intelligent-design bloc and installing a conservative but evolution-friendly board, saving the evolution-only curriculum. The process may already be beginning in Texas. The worst-case scenario is that the changes make it all the way to the end of the 10-year curriculum-review cycle—at which point one can hope they'll be revised back to reason.

  • Besides, it's not like high-schoolers pay any attention to their textbooks anyway.

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    Interfaith Alliance Protests Texas Textbooks to Publishers

    Friday, March 26, 2010
    One of the biggest issues with the Texas textbook controversy is not just what children in Texas will be forced learn but what children in many other states will be forced to learn. The Interfaith Alliance has come out against the Texas textbooks because it forces other states to buy them or create their own. I am glad that a large organization has come out against Texas' textbooks however I wish it was a large secular organization.

    If Texas rewrites history, do we all need to read the book?

    The national furor created by the curriculum changes approved by the social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education shows no sign of easing.

    Now, the Interfaith Alliance has sent a protest to the top publishing companies. Because Texas is such a behemoth among textbook purchasers, many people fear that its constrained world view will show up in textbooks used in other states.
    In its release, the Alliance said:
    “We do not take lightly the changes approved by the Texas SBOE, and at this point we are working to ensure that other children across the country are not taught an inaccurate history of our country,” said Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance and author of the letter sent to the publishing companies.

    A Christian conservative bloc of the board voted to incorporate the study of the right to bear arms (the Second Amendment) in the curriculum on First Amendment rights and free expression, and to remove Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum that covers the Enlightenment period.  Equally as important as these votes, the Texas SBOE also struck down an amendment that articulated “the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.”  The Texas SBOE felt that the Founders did not intend for the nation to have separation of church and state.

    “The Texas SBOE members certainly are entitled to believe whatever they want about our country and its history,” Gaddy continued.  “The problem arises when their religious beliefs begin to essentially rewrite history for our children.  Separation of church and state was a core tenet of our nation’s founding.  Whether you like him or not, Thomas Jefferson was a leading thinker during the Enlightenment.  It’s almost unfathomable to think that Texas schoolchildren won’t learn these basic facts now. We urge the publishers to ensure that other children still will.”
    Update Friday: Please note that the Interfaith Alliance released the following statement clarifying its original statement:
    The proposed social studies standards from the Texas State Board of Education have sparked a national debate, and raised many concerns for those of us committed to protecting the boundaries between religion and government. Based on news reports, Interfaith Alliance issued a press release that implied that the term “Christian Nation” would be included in the new standards; it is now clear that this term is not to appear in the new standards. What is clear, however, is that the amendments proposed to the standards would have the net effect of incorrectly teaching our children that our nation’s founding documents and Constitution were derived from the bible or intended to privilege one religion over another.

    Following conversations with Texas State Board of Education member Don McLeroy and others, it is clear that we have differences of opinion about the proposed Texas standards.  That is no surprise.  We remain committed to advocating for standards that are based on history rather than ideology. We will continue our conversations with Mr. McLeroy and other interested parties in an effort to ensure attention is given to our concerns.  Too much is at stake to not challenge indoctrination perpetrated under the guise of education.
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    Itawamba Teen's Rights Were Violated

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010
    More than Pride:  Equality, equal rightsImage by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via Flickr
    There is an update in the Itawamba County School District case. The judge said her rights were violated. Unfortunately, the prom is still off. How small of the school district to take away the prom for all just because they do not one person to attend.
    Lesbian Prom Date Ban VIOLATED Constance McMillen's Rights, Judge Says

    JACKSON, Miss. — The prom's still off at a Mississippi high school
    that canceled it instead of letting a lesbian student bring her
    girlfriend, but a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the district's
    actions did violate the teen's constitutional rights.

    U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson refused the American Civil
    Liberties Union's demand to force the Itawamba County school district
    to put on the April 2 prom. However, he said canceling it did violate
    18-year-old Constance McMillen's rights and that he would hold a trial
    on the issue.

    That would come too late for the prom to be salvaged at Itawamba
    Agricultural High School. Still, Kristy Bennett, ACLU Mississippi legal
    director, called the decision a victory.

    The American Civil Liberties Union sued the district to force it to
    put on the prom and allow McMillen to bring her girlfriend and wear a
    tuxedo. School officials said in U.S. District Court this week that
    they decided to cancel it because McMillen's challenge to the rules had
    caused disruptions.

    The judge noted that McMillen has been openly gay since she was in
    the eighth grade and that she intended to communicate a message by
    wearing a tuxedo and escorting a same-sex date.

    "The court finds this expression and communication falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment," Davidson said.
    As for McMillen, she said she was happy about the ruling but doesn't
    know what to expect when she returns to school. She attended classes a
    day after the March 10 decision to cancel the prom. But she said the
    hostility and comments from other students led her to miss school. She
    skipped class on Tuesday to go to the doctor and the fight is taking a
    toll, she said. "My nerves are shot," she said.

    District officials said in a statement that they were ready to get back to educating students.

    Davidson said a private prom parents are planning will serve the same purpose as a school-sponsored one. He wrote that "requiring defendants to step back into a sponsorship role at this late date would only confuse and confound the community on the issue."

    McMillen isn't sure if she'll go to the dance.

    "I'm going to school tomorrow (Wednesday) and will get a feel of how everybody feels about me. That will help me make my decision about whether I'm going to the private prom," McMillen said. "I want to go because all my junior and senior class will be there, but I don't want to be somewhere I'm not welcomed."

    Ben Griffith, the school district's attorney, said his clients were pleased with the ruling.

    "What we're looking at now is the fact that the case is still on the docket for a trial on the merits," Griffith said.

    McMillen first approached school officials about bringing her girlfriend in December, and again in February. Same-sex prom dates had been banned in the past, but she had hoped school officials would grant her request.

    "I thought maybe the policy had been in place for a different reason," McMillen testified at a hearing on the ACLU lawsuit. "I wanted to let them know how it made me feel. I felt like I couldn't go to the prom."
    She was told two girls couldn't attend together and she wouldn't be allowed to wear a tuxedo, court documents show. The ACLU issued a demand letter earlier this month and the district responded by canceling the event. McMillen, who lives with her grandmother and has a 3.8 grade point average, has kept her 16-year-old girlfriend out of the spotlight at the request of the girl's parents.

    District officials said they felt not hosting the prom was the best decision "after taking into consideration the education, safety and well being of our students." Superintendent Teresa McNeece said it was "a no-win situation."

    The 715-student high school is located in Fulton, a town of about 4,000 in rural, north Mississippi. The entire county school district has 3,588 students.

    The case is typical of what's happening in schools across the country, said Charles Haynes, senior scholar for The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center.

    "This case is different because this is not just dress, it is a higher claim of personal identity," Haynes said. "I think that if the student prevails in this case, it will send a message to school districts that they need to accommodate students now who are openly gay and lesbian and want to participate in student activities," Haynes said.

    Her case has become a cause celebre.

    She has appeared on the "The Early Show," "The Wanda Sykes Show" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to talk about how she is fighting for tolerance. DeGeneres presented her with a $30,000 college scholarship from Tonic, a digital media company. A Facebook page set up by the ACLU for McMillen has over 400,000 fans.
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    Gay Teen Can Take Date To Prom But Gets Booted From Home

    First we have a school district that does the wrong thing and now we have a school district that does the right thing but the parents do the wrong thing (see bolded text below).

    Gay-rights backers reach out to Bleckley senior - jhubbard@macon.com

    Gay-rights supporters from across the country are offering to buy everything from boutonnieres to dinner for a Bleckley County High School senior who was granted permission to take his boyfriend to the prom.
    At least two supporters have offered to rent a stretch limo for Derrick Martin and his boyfriend.
    Martin asked his principal this year if he could take another male to his senior prom, set for April 17.
    At first school officials told the 18-year-old that the town of Cochran, with a population of 5,200, wasn’t ready for it.

    The high school only had a policy that barred bringing a date older than the age of 21, so school officials subsequently told Martin they granted his request.

    Many gay-rights activists are now posting the story on their Facebook pages. And an Atlanta filmmaker said he hopes to document the story.
    “I sent flowers to his high school,” said Randi Reitan, a resident of Eden Prairie, Minn., who sent a bouquet of yellow flowers with a rainbow-colored balloon to Bleckley County High on Tuesday to show her support.

    “We have a gay son. I wish he could’ve danced with a young man at his prom,” Reitan said.

    She also has offered to buy Martin and his date, who is from Tift County, boutonnieres to wear on prom night.

    Drew Dowdell from Pittsburgh is setting up a link on his Web site for people to leave donations for Martin to help buy the 18-year-old a limo ride to the prom.

    “I want to help Derrick have the best prom he can because I worry that anti-gay people in his school will be doing their best to ruin it for him,” Dowdell said. “I’m proud that he was willing to go to the school to make an issue about it.”

    Martin said he got 54 messages Tuesday on Facebook.

    “I appreciate it,” he said. “I was speechless that they said they would buy me dinner or buy me a tux in case someone messed mine up.”

    But because of the media attention, Martin’s parents have kicked him out and the teen is staying with a friend, he said.

    Martin said he pushed to take his boyfriend to the dance after hearing about a girl in Mississippi who asked to take her girlfriend to the prom.
    Her school eventually canceled the dance rather than allow them to attend together.

    “Maybe (other gay students) will think if Bleckley County will let them, maybe my school will,” Martin said.

    School Superintendent Charlotte Pipkin said the move is a first for Bleckley County.

    “I’m not aware of it having happened in the past,” she said.
    School officials have said they have no plans to cancel or change plans for the prom.
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    Spanking Still Happens in Public Schools?

    Monday, March 22, 2010
    Schoolboy receiving bare bottom birching, from...Image via Wikipedia
    Sometimes when I read something I just say WTF? I am pleased to see that a group is trying to reduce corporal punishment in schools. But, excuse me, shouldn't we be trying to eliminate it completely? Honestly, why is this still done at all?

    Groups Aim Again to Reduce Spanking in N.C. Schools

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    Editorial to the Houston Chronicle About Texas SBoE

    Sunday, March 21, 2010
    Thomas Jefferson (1762, LL.D.Image via Wikipedia
    In this unsigned editorial to the Houston Chronicle the author sums up the Texas SBoE very nicely.

    Textbook failure
    Memo to the Texas State Board of Education: America isn’t a theocracy

    HOUSTON CHRONICLE - March 20, 2010, 4:09PM

    For years the Texas State Board of Education has fallen somewhere between “embarrassment” and “disgrace.” But lately it's reached a new low: hijacking our kids' textbooks to teach a mindset that's downright un-American.
    In its revamp of the state's social studies curriculum, a majority of the board has consistently voted to reshape our history. Instead of the messy, complicated past, the extremist members prefer a simple story of triumphant Christian soldiers.
    Last week the board voted to remove Thomas Jefferson — Thomas Jefferson! — from a list of Enlightenment thinkers who changed the world. The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on reason over tradition, doesn't sit well with the board.
    Equally inconvenient is the Constitution's First Amendment, which begins: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The idea — one of those brave young Enlightenment ideas — was that the United States doesn't officially embrace any single religion.
    We are a democracy, not a theocracy; a live-and-let-live country where we're all free to worship as we choose. It's a crucial idea, and one that separates Texas from the Taliban.
    But the board didn't like it. By 10-5, it voted down a proposal that teachers “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from protecting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.”
    Religious freedom? Phooey.
    How did we get into this mess? Unfortunately, we elect our board officials in partisan elections that few Texans notice. And since democracy works only when people pay attention, it's easy for extremists to slide into office.
    You could argue that democracy is already repairing that wound, that the board has become so terrible that we voters have started to pay attention. In the most recent Republican primary, of the five ultraconservative incumbents running, three lost outright, and one is in a runoff.
    But should we have a system that works only after it has sunk this deep into dysfunction? We agree with state Sen. Rodney Ellis, who argues that the entire State Board of Education should be put up for a sunset review and reconsidered from the ground up.
    Maybe we should elect our board members in nonpartisan elections. Maybe they should be appointed by the governor and approved by the state Senate (a process similar to the way federal judges are appointed). Or maybe curriculum authority should move from the state board to the Texas commissioner of education, who's appointed by the governor — a higher-level politician that more voters pay attention to.
    None of those solutions will be free of politics. Refining a school curriculum is always messy, a battle among competing interests with fiercely held beliefs.
    And that's OK. Theocracies are simple. Democracies aren't.
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    Yet More Prayer in Public Schools

    Saturday, March 20, 2010
    This time we find ourselves in Alexandria, Alabama where a high school had morning prayers over the schools public address system. We join the the story over at the Anniston Star.

    Alexandria HS stops morning prayers after student complains

    by Laura Johnson, Star Staff Writer
    ALEXANDRIA — The Christian influence at Alexandria High School is visible, but as of this week it’s a little less overt.

    There, brightly colored flyers printed with Bible verses hang on the walls, weekly Bible studies are held before class begins and, until recently, prayers were spoken over the school’s intercom system. But that regular practice stopped this week when a student questioned the legality of the practice.

    “Every day in the morning we would have student-led prayer over the PA system and I looked this up. It’s illegal,” the student said. “It wasn’t just me; there were a bunch of other students who wanted it stopped.”

    He said he demanded it stop in a voicemail sent to Superintendent Judy Stiefel. He also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union by e-mail and by hand-written letter to complain about the issue.

    The student requested he not be named in this story because he expected his classmates would not react well to his actions.

    In response to the complaint Stiefel sent out an e-mail earlier this week to every school in the system. She said Wednesday the e-mail “reminded them of the law.” The morning prayers at Alexandria High stopped Tuesday.

    Alexandria Principal Ronald Chambless declined to comment for this story.

    Supreme Court decisions have set precedents prohibiting school-sponsored religious activity, based on the First Amendment, which states Congress may make no law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

    “The U.S. Supreme Court has made it pretty clear that school officials cannot sponsor prayers,” said Bryan Fair, a University of Alabama law professor. “They control the PA system; the student doesn’t control the PA system. That is going to be considered government speech rather than private speech.”

    However, the law does not prohibit all prayer. Private prayer and voluntary student prayer is permissible by the law and is allowed at Calhoun County Schools, according to school board attorney Robin Andrews.

    “Each student is free to pray individually or with other students during non-instructional time, during lunch, before or after school; even during class, providing it’s private and doesn’t interfere with instruction,” Andrews said.

    Allison Neal, legal director of the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said these issues are common in the state and that they usually are resolved without taking any legal action. Neal said that her group normally handles such complaints by talking with school superintendents, but Stiefel said Wednesday the ACLU had not contacted her about the issue.

    “I have only had one student to comment about this,” Stiefel said. “It has not been a major problem.”

    The student said he was motivated to take action because he didn’t think it was fair for the student body, which he described as overwhelmingly “fundamentally Christian” to subject all students to Christian prayers and Bible verses.

    “What bothered me about it is that it’s illegal and I don’t want the school breaking the law like that,” the student said. “I want to stand up for fairness. I’m a person that embraces all religion and I love everyone.”
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    So You Want A Revolution

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010
    United States Declaration of IndependenceImage via Wikipedia

    While looking through my Twitter feed I found a Tweet from @wiseguyeddie about, "15 Reasons Why We Need a Revolt in This Country." While I may be a bit of anarchist, I am not sure what we need is a revolution. However, this post has an interesting quote in it.
    "The 1776 Declaration of Independence stated that when a long train of abuses by those in power evidence a design to reduce the rights of people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is the peoples right, in fact their duty to engage in a revolution."
    Based on the statement above we probably should be revolting. In fact, in many ways I think we are in a revolution and not just as atheists. There is not many segments of society that is not partially or completely disillusioned with government.

    If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention. However, be careful what you wish for, sometimes the new boss is the same as the old boss. 
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    It's Time to Mess with Texas

    Sunday, March 14, 2010
    You would have to be living in a cave to not know what is going on in Texas with text books. Texas is doing its damn best to earn the title of, "Most Fundamental Creationist State". Not only are they white washing their text books by removing such important Americans as Thurgood Marshall and Cesar Chavez, they are also removing the teaching of Enlightenment and Thomas Jefferson from a standard about the influence of great political philosophers on political revolutions.

    A few other highlights lowlights:
    *There was never such a thing as the separation of church and state.

    *"Capitalism" is being replaced by "free-market system" in all books that talk about economics because "free-market system" is warmer and fuzzier because we all know that "capitalism" is great!

    *Sen. Joseph McCarthy was right. There were communists in all branches of government so he had a right to bring people before Congress, accuse them of stuff, and cause folks to rat out their neighbors.

    *The Japanese Internment wasn't racist because we locked up Germans during World War II as well.

    *While the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was the face of the Civil Rights Movement, those violent Black Panthers were there, too. Besides, King and the other African Americans who marched for their rights weren't the main people responsible for the advancements in civil rights. They wouldn't have been able to do anything without the votes of those kind, white Republicans in Congress.

    *The students will be taught about the Republican resurgence, the Moral Majority, the Contract With America, and the National Rifle Association.
    So what should be done? How do you mess with Texas? There are the traditional methods of letter writing and boycotting both of which are a good start.  But, I think we need to go much further. I think we should ask our respective state's higher education systems to deny credit to students of Texas public schools. California's UC system has already blocked credit for certain courses taken at Christian schools and prevailed in court.

    It is time to mess with Texas.
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    Indiana High School Sued Over Graduation Prayer

    Saturday, March 13, 2010
    Graduation SpeechImage by alykat via Flickr
    Sooner or later school districts will start paying attention and stop getting themselves into these un-winnable lawsuits. However, I think it is more apt to be later.

    From the Indiana Star.

    Greenwood High School faces suit over prayer
    Greenwood High let seniors cast ballots on graduation practice
    By Jon Murray
    Posted: March 12, 2010

    Greenwood High School honor student who learned in class about court rulings striking down school prayer has found a real-world application -- his own graduation ceremony. Eric Workman's lawsuit, filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, challenges the high school's practice of allowing seniors to vote on whether to have a student-led prayer at graduation.

    ACLU attorney Ken Falk said allowing the vote and even having the prayer run afoul of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that found prayers at public school-sponsored events to violate the First Amendment.

    "This is particularly egregious when it's coming from a student who's going to be sitting on the stage," Falk said.

    Workman, 18, is ranked first in his class, the lawsuit says. He declined to be interviewed, but Falk said Workman approached the ACLU because he found the practice troubling in light of what he's learned in government classes.

    Greenwood Schools Superintendent David Edds said a student-approved prayer has been a long-standing feature at graduation.

    Controversy over school prayer has faded from the forefront since the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in 2000 that a Texas high school could not allow students to deliver prayers over the public address system at football games.

    Eight years earlier, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that a public school could not offer a prayer at graduation.
    Avon High School attracted attention in 2004 when it decided to forgo an invocation after the ACLU threatened a lawsuit.

    The high court's decisions leave little wiggle room, but many schools have tried to accommodate prayer in other ways, often by allowing moments of silence.

    According to the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, some schools, particularly in the South, are treading in murkier waters by allowing students to elect graduation speakers who can address nearly any topic, including religion, as long as the students don't vote on whether to have a prayer.

    In Greenwood's case, the vote was about a prayer. Edds said the lawsuit was a surprise to him and that the school's principal, Jim Kaylor, has not yet announced the outcome or whether a prayer would be included this year.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, says the prayer question was on a ballot about several issues that school staff passed out during a mandatory senior assembly in September. Workman learned from an unnamed school employee that a majority of seniors had voted in favor of the prayer, the lawsuit says, though some students dissented.

    "Through this election scheme," the suit says, "the defendants have established a forum, in the school itself, for religious debate and have subjected religious practice to a majority vote."The lawsuit names the school district and the school's principal as defendants.

    The Rev. Shan Rutherford, pastor of Greenwood Christian Church for more than three decades, said he disagrees with the proposition that such a prayer would violate a student's rights.

    "If I lived in a Muslim nation, a Hindu nation or anything else, I would expect to go along with the majority," Rutherford said. "He's trying to go with minority rule. To me, that's wrong in a democracy, one that was founded on Christian principles."

    "If you don't agree, I don't think you should try to stop other people from exercising their rights."

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    Lesbian and ACLU Sue When School Says No Prom for You

    Friday, March 12, 2010
    Itawamba County School District board of education cancelled their high schools senior prom rather than letting Constance McMillen, a lesbian senior, bring her girl friend. There are so many things wrong with this I am not sure where to start.

    This decision hurts all students, divides the community and shows the school board's bigotry and intolerance. But, more importantly it unfairly targets Constance McMillen for retaliation and continued discrimination in an obviously backwards community.

    However, Constance McMillen and the ACLU of Mississippi are now suing the district to reinstate the prom.

    You go girl!

    **UPDATE** American Humanist Association offers to Hold LGBT-Inclusive Prom in Mississippi.
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    South Dakota Wants to Teach a New Kind of Crazy

    Global Warming CredibilityImage by wstera2 via Flickr
    South Dakota has passed HCR 1009 which is a resolution. "Calling for balanced teaching of global warming in the public schools of South Dakota." One of the most egregious clauses is:
    WHEREAS, more than 31,000 American scientists collectively signed a petition to President Obama stating: "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, or methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the earth's atmosphere and disruption of the earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide will produce many beneficial effects on the natural plant and animal environments of the earth":
    The petition being referred to which is from the Global Warming Project has been repeatedly discredited. In fact the majority of "scientists" who have signed the petition either do not exist, do not have science credentials, or have science credentials that have no basis in global warming or climatology.
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    Religion Clause: Texas State Board Rejects Teaching About Establishment Clause

    From Howard M. Friedman's blog.

    Religion Clause: Texas State Board Rejects Teaching About Establishment Clause

    Mandatory Religion in Schools?

    In an anonoymous editorial at JacksonSun.com a group is proposing that all public school students take bible and world religion classes in order to understand the context of our world.

    Stepen Prothero, a religion professor at Boston University says, "To understand the world around us - everything from art, to music, to politics, to international relations - we must have a working knowledge of the Bible and of the world's religions.
    Religion, Prothero said, is a key motivator and, in fact, "is the most powerful force in world history.""

    Although, he claims that he does not want these classes used to convert students to Christianity and he may well mean it. What assurance do we have that the many Christian groups in the nation, already pushing for these classes, won't use them for conversion.

    Schools can increase our religious literacy

    Religion professor Stephen Prothero is tired of teaching students who come into his class with little basic knowledge of religion - even their own. One way to fight that, he says, is to make two courses mandatory in all public schools: one on the Bible and one on world religions.

    We couldn't agree more.

    Prothero is a professor of religion at Boston University and the author of the New York Times best seller "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." He spoke Wednesday at Union University as part of the Union Forum.

    We are grateful to Union for this continuing series, which never fails to draw speakers who make us think in new ways about matters crucial to our society.

    Prothero's proposal should not be misunderstood. He does not want these courses used to create converts to Christianity or any other faith. His point is this: To understand the world around us - everything from art, to music, to politics, to international relations - we must have a working knowledge of the Bible and of the world's religions.

    Religion, Prothero said, is a key motivator and, in fact, "is the most powerful force in world history."

    Prothero notes that religion, specifically Christianity, is playing an ever larger role in the American political world. A lack of religious knowledge means voters are not able to make sound judgments about those who use religion in creating their political identities. It means journalists aren't able to ask important questions. It is a matter of accountability.

    On the world stage, a lack of religious knowledge can lead to misunderstanding and even war.

    To use public school courses to promote a particular faith would be unconstitutional, and that is not what Prothero, or we, recommend. But a framework has been established in this state that would allow all schools to offer Bible courses without worry of losing a lawsuit.

    The General Assembly approved a bill in 2008 that was sponsored by state Sen. Roy Herron and state Rep. Mark Maddox, both of Dresden. The bill directed the state Board of Education to develop a curriculum for the academic and non-sectarian study of the Bible. The state attorney general issued an opinion confirming that the bill is constitutional.

    Herron said Thursday that the state Board of Education recently completed its work on the curriculum, which should be available for use in public schools next school year.

    While many schools in Tennessee already offer Bible courses, this new system, if properly implemented, offers a higher level of constitutional safety.

    We encourage all public school systems to offer the type of Bible course promoted by Prothero and made available under the bill sponsored by Herron and Maddox. And we encourage the schools to go a step further in offering studies on world religions, as Prothero suggests.

    The value of the lessons learned will be beyond measure.
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    Texas Text Books May Be As Bad As Home School Text Books

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010
    Evolution in TexasImage by Colin Purrington via Flickr
    Yesterday, I posted about home school text books and the removing of evolution. Today we have Texas text books, of course, Texas text book controversy is not new. Despite the recent Texas BoE elections there is still a lot to worry about with Texas text books. Because Texas is the largest purchaser of text books many states must purchase what Texas specifies for their text books or pay dearly to have their own written.

    On one side we have to fight the creep of religion into public education and now we have to fight the re-writing of history and the white-washing of text books.

    Texas School District Accused of Trying to Re-Write History
    From My Fox Phoenix
    Published : Monday, 08 Mar 2010, 7:47 AM MST

    AUSTIN, TX - Student textbooks are making news and there's a heated debate underway after one school district is accused of trying to re-write history.

    It's a story you're going to be hearing about a lot more in the coming days from Texas.

    For much of the past year, the Texas State Board of Education has been discussing changes to the way the state teaches history - they basically plan to re-write social studies textbooks.

    So why should people in Arizona care about what's happening in Texas?

    The debate over which historical figures should be included in the social studies curriculum will likely impact Arizona because Texas is the single largest textbook purchaser in America.  Changes to its curriculum will probably affect the rest of the nation, because most states follow Texas' lead and purchase the same books.  It's becoming a heated issue because someone has to pick and choose what goes in and what doesn't.

    The process that put these textbooks in the classroom started in the late 1990s.  A re-write is underway, which is why protestors vow to continue gathering at school board meetings in Austin, Texas.
    Members of the Texas Freedom Network are on a mission to protect the way the theory of evolution is written in textbooks and they're fighting what they now believe is an attempt to re-write history with an Evangelical Christian slant.

    "I'm concerned about the efforts to simplify, sanitize and sanctify the subjective content of these standards."  said Williamette University's Steve Green.

    Organizers accused some Republican appointees of trying to slip in their Christian beliefs.

    "David Barton, one of the reviewers, called for the circullium to teach students that George Washington was saved from death in battle by devine intervention or by a miracle."  said Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network.

    That may have been suggested, but nothing like it has been drafted.  However, conservative groups have their own list of controversial proposals.

    "So what they support is a review committee that took out Independence Day, a review committee that took out Veterans Day, A review Committee that took out Christmas .... Rosh Hashana, Neil Armstrong and Albert Einstein."  said Jonathan Saenz of the Free Market Foundation.

    For school board members, this discussion, which happens every ten years, is anything but textbook.

    "The lobbying effort is not just limited to the secular and patriotic spin there is also a cultural influence going on."

    Latino community advocates are also joining into the fight.  There are those who fear new history books will leave out or gloss over individuals like labor activist Cesar Chavez.

    During the last meeting, one board member even surrounded herself with portraits of Hispanics she believes are worthy to make it in print.  But with so much history to consider, board members are hard pressed to get everything into the textbooks.

    On Wednesday, a vote on a final draft will happen, then the final vote on the new standards will be held in May.  If approved, school books on U.S. history, world history, U.S. government, economics, pyschology and sociology would have to be re-written to reflect the new changes.
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    Home School Text Books Replace Evolution With Creationism

    Monday, March 8, 2010
    home work routineImage by woodleywonderworks via Flickr
    There are a lot of valid reasons to home school a child. Poor quality and dangerous schools come to mind. However, whatever the reason, having quality text books and educational materials is critical in making home schooling a success.

    Obviously, the battle for secularism in education is not just in public schools it also needs to be fought with home schools.
    Top home-school texts dismiss evolution for creationism

    LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Home-school mom Susan Mule wishes she hadn't taken a friend's advice and tried a textbook from a popular Christian publisher for her 10-year-old's biology lessons.
    Mule's precocious daughter Elizabeth excels at science and has been studying tarantulas since she was 5. But she watched Elizabeth's excitement turn to confusion when they reached the evolution section of the book from Apologia Educational Ministries, which disputed Charles Darwin's theory.
    "I thought she was going to have a coronary," Mule said of her daughter, who is now 16 and taking college courses in Houston. "She's like, 'This is not true!"'
    Christian-based materials dominate a growing home-school education market that encompasses more than 1.5 million students in the U.S. And for most home-school parents, a Bible-based version of the Earth's creation is exactly what they want. Federal statistics from 2007 show 83% of home-schooling parents want to give their children "religious or moral instruction."
    "The majority of home-schoolers self-identify as evangelical Christians," said Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association. "Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program."
    Those who don't, however, often feel isolated and frustrated from trying to find a textbook that fits their beliefs.
    Two of the best-selling biology textbooks stack the deck against evolution, said some science educators who reviewed sections of the books at the request of The Associated Press.
    "I feel fairly strongly about this. These books are promulgating lies to kids," said Jerry Coyne, an ecology and evolution professor at the University of Chicago.
    The textbook publishers defend their books as well-rounded lessons on evolution and its shortcomings. One of the books doesn't attempt to mask disdain for Darwin and evolutionary science.
    "Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling," says the introduction to Biology: Third Edition from Bob Jones University Press. "This book was not written for them."
    The textbook delivers a religious ultimatum to young readers and parents, warning in its History of Life chapter that a "Christian worldview ... is the only correct view of reality; anyone who rejects it will not only fail to reach heaven but also fail to see the world as it truly is."
    When the AP asked about that passage, university spokesman Brian Scoles said the sentence made it into the book because of an editing error and will be removed from future editions.
    The size of the business of home-school texts isn't clear because the textbook industry is fragmented and privately held publishers don't give out sales numbers. Slatter said home-school material sales reach about $1 billion annually in the U.S.
    Publishers are well aware of the market, said Jay Wile, a former chemistry professor in Indianapolis who helped launch the Apologia curriculum in the early 1990s.
    "If I'm planning to write a curriculum, and I want to write it in a way that will appeal to home-schoolers, I'm going to at least find out what my demographic is," Wile said.
    In Kentucky, Lexington home-schooler Mia Perry remembers feeling disheartened while flipping through a home-school curriculum catalog and finding so many religious-themed textbooks.
    "We're not religious home-schoolers, and there's somewhat of a feeling of being outnumbered," said Perry, who has home-schooled three of her four children after removing her oldest child from a public school because of a health condition.
    Perry said she cobbled together her own curriculum after some mainstream publishers told her they would not sell directly to home-schooling parents.
    Wendy Womack, another Lexington home-school mother, said the only scientifically credible curriculum she's found is from the Maryland-based Calvert School, which has been selling study-at-home materials for more than 100 years.
    Apologia and Bob Jones University Press say their science books sell well. Apologia's Exploring Creation biology textbook retails for $65, while Bob Jones' Biology Third Edition lists at $52.
    Coyne and Virginia Tech biology professor Duncan Porter reviewed excerpts from the Apologia and Bob Jones biology textbooks, which are equivalent to ninth- and 10th-grade biology lessons. Porter said he would give the books an F.
    "If this is the way kids are home-schooled then they're being shortchanged, both rationally and in terms of biology," Coyne said. He argued that the books may steer students away from careers in biology or the study of the history of the earth.
    Wile countered that Coyne "feels compelled to lie in order to prop up a failing hypothesis (evolution). We definitely do not lie to the students. We tell them the facts that people like Dr. Coyne would prefer to cover up."
    Adam Brown's parents say their 16-year-old son's belief in the Bible's creation story isn't deterring him from pursuing a career in marine biology. His parents, Ken and Polly Brown, taught him at their Cedar Grove, Indiana, home using the Apologia curriculum and other science texts.
    Polly Brown said her son would gladly take college courses that include evolution, and he'll be able to provide the expected answers even though he disagrees.
    "He probably knows it better than the kids who have been taught evolution all through public school," Polly Brown said. "But that is in order for him to understand both sides of that argument because he will face it throughout his higher education."

    Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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