England Set to Allow Atheists to Setup Schools

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Richard Dawkins in a lecture in ReykjavíkImage via Wikipedia
This just in from the United Kingdom Press Association:
Aheists could set up own schools

Atheists would be able to set up their own schools under the Government's education reforms, Michael Gove has said.

The Education Secretary said he would be "interested" to look at proposals from individuals such as outspoken atheist Professor Richard Dawkins.

Prof Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said last month that he liked the idea of setting up a "free-thinking free school".

Speaking at a Commons education select committee, Mr Gove said: "One of the most striking things that I read recently was a thought from Richard Dawkins that he might want to take advantage of our education legislation to open a new school which was set up on an explicitly atheist basis.

"It wouldn't be my choice of school, but the whole point about our education reforms is that they are, in the broad sense of the word, small "l", liberal. That they exist to provide that greater degree of choice."

Mr Gove, whose two children attend primary faith schools, told the cross-party group of MPs that he "recognised that there are some people who explicitly do not want their children educated in a faith-based setting".

He said: "One of the principles behind our education reforms is to give people the maximum amount of choice so that those people, and they may not themselves necessarily have a very strong religious faith, but who believe that the ethos and values of faith-based education are right for their child, have that choice but others who want a different approach can take it as well."

Speaking afterwards, Mr Gove said he had seen a reference to Professor Dawkins expressing an interest in establishing a school, adding: "If Professor Dawkins wants to set up a school we would be very interested to look at an application."

Prof Dawkins, a former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, said in a conversation on the Mumsnet website last month: "I like the idea very much, although I would prefer to call it a free-thinking free school.

"I would never want to indoctrinate children in atheism, any more than in religion. Instead, children should be taught to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded."

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Livingston Parish, LA May Add Creationism To Curriculum

Sunday, July 25, 2010
Anti-evolution car in Athens, GeorgiaImage via Wikipedia
Using provisions of the Science Education Act enacted last year by the Louisiana Legislature, the Livingston Parish may present what is termed “critical thinking and creationism” in science classes. I don't know about you but when I see critical thinking and creationism in the same sentence I think oxymoron.

From The Advocate in Baton Rouge, LA

School Board might OK teaching creationism

Special to The Advocate|

LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish School Board will begin exploring the possibility of incorporating the teaching of “creationism” in the public school system’s science classes.
During the board’s meeting Thursday, several board members expressed an interest in the teaching of creationism, an alternative to the study of the theory of evolution, in Livingston Parish public school classrooms.
The discussion came up during a report on the pupil progression plan for the 2010-11 school year, delivered by Jan Benton, director of curriculum.
Benton said that under provisions of the Science Education Act enacted last year by the Louisiana Legislature, schools can present what she termed “critical thinking and creationism” in science classes.
Board Member David Tate quickly responded: “We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?”
"We let them teach evolution..."? Excuse me but who is "them"? "Them" sounds ominous.
Fellow board member Clint Mitchell responded, “I agree … you don’t have to be afraid to point out some of the fallacies with the theory of evolution. Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.”
Board President Keith Martin, while reminding the members that a decision had been made in the past not to teach creationism, suggested that now might be the time to re-examine the issue.
Martin said that one problem with the teaching of creationism versus evolution is that, “You don’t want two different teachers teaching two different things.”
Martin, noting that discipline of young people is constantly becoming more of a challenge for parents and teachers, agreed: “Maybe it’s time that we look at this.”
What does teaching evolution or creationism have to do with discipline?
When Martin suggested that the board appoint a committee to study the possibility of introducing creationism into the classroom, his opinion met with general, if unofficial approval.
“We shouldn’t just jump into this thing, but we do need to look at it,” Martin said. “The American Civil Liberties Union and even some of our principals would not be pleased with us, but we shouldn’t worry about the ACLU. It’s more important that we do the correct thing for the children we educate.”
This is the most intelligent statement from the board.

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A Not So Good Week

Saturday, July 24, 2010
Beschreibung: Konventionelles Röntgenbild des ...Image via Wikipedia
My mother-in-law has not been feeling well for a few weeks. On Monday we took her to the hospital on advice from my doctor that the vertigo she was feeling may have been the result of a stroke. Well it wasn't a stroke. After a CAT scan it was determined that she had three tumors in her brain.

The small hospital in our town is not staffed to deal with the full diagnosis and initial treatment of cancer. So, they sent her to a larger hospital in the county where they determined she had lung cancer that has metastasised in the brain.

She underwent brain surgery to remove one tumor and send it to pathology to determine what type it is and how best to fight it. She will be starting radiation therapy on Monday for the two remaining tumors in her brain since the are inoperable. After about six to eight weeks she will start chemotherpy.

A not so good week.

Now before all you Christians start offering prayers you need to know she is not religious. And if she were religious she wouldn't believe in Jesus because she is Jewish.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, although it has been a bit cathartic, the real reason is that with all of the heartache and chaos I never once looked for God, Jesus, Yahweh, or any other magical being for help or guidance. In fact, I didn't even think about god(s) until I realized I hadn't given it any thought.

Christians like to tell you that you will come back into the fold when you are in need. Well, if this wasn't a need I do not know what would qualify. So, if ever there was doubt (there never really was) about my being a atheist it has all been erased.

Now I am Truly Offended

Sunday, July 18, 2010
It is bad enough that these creeps stalk military funerals, abortion clinics and colleges but now they are stalking Comic-Con.

It seems that the members of the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church aren't very happy about the San Diego Comic-Con. According to them, it's a gathering of lost souls who are obsessively worshipping false idols like Batman:
Are you kidding?! If these people would spend even some of the energy that they spend on these comic books, reading the Bible, well no high hopes here. They have turned comic book characters into idols, and worship them they do! Isaiah 2:8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: 9 And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not. It is time to put away the silly vanities and turn to God like you mean it. The destruction of this nation is imminent - so start calling on Batman and Superman now, see if they can pull you from the mess that you have created with all your silly idolatry.
Members of the church intend on staging a 45-minute protest during one of the least busy days of the convention in order to get everyone back on the right track. [Blastr via Nerd Bastards]
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Now It's Community Colleges

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Americans United for Separation of Church and ...Image via Wikipedia
Religious groups have been trying incessantly to inject their brand of religion into public K-12 schools at an alarming rate. But, at every turn one group or another has blocked their efforts. Well now they are turning their sites on Community Colleges. I guess they are figuring they won't be challenged at school for adults. Oh how wrong they are, enter Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Calif. Community College Should Not Impose Religion at Public Events, Americans United Tells Appeals Court

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked a federal appeals court to stop a Southern California community college from proselytizing and imposing prayers at public events.

The legal action comes in a lawsuit filed last year by Americans United on behalf of several students and faculty. At issue is the South Orange County Community College District’s practice of including prayer and other religious content in its events.

“Officials at these public schools are forcing religion on students, faculty and staff,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Their actions are unconstitutional and insensitive, and it’s time for this to stop.”

Plaintiffs assert that school officials routinely sponsor official invocations at events for students and faculty at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, including scholarship-award ceremonies, commencements and training programs for faculty.

AU filed the lawsuit in November of 2009. In May, a federal district court denied AU’s motion for a preliminary injunction, saying the request was too broad – although the court conceded that some of the district’s actions might be unconstitutional.

In a legal document filed yesterday, AU asks the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn that ruling.

“Unless this Court intercedes, students and faculty will continue to be subjected to religiously divisive messages as the price for partaking of college life,” asserts the filing.

The Westphal v. Wagner lawsuit notes that students and faculty members have protested the mandatory prayers many times over several years. The student government of Saddleback College has twice passed resolutions opposing the prayer practice, and similar resolutions have been passed by the faculty’s Academic Senate of Saddleback College, the Academic Senate of Irvine Valley College, the statewide Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and the South Orange County Community College District Faculty Association.
Officials ignored the complaints and, in response, actually increased the religious content of these public events, attacking religious minorities and nonbelievers.

In August of 2009, Saddleback officials showed a video titled “God Bless the USA” during a faculty training session. The video included religious images and closed with two pictures of military personnel carrying a flag-draped coffin. Superimposed on those images was the following text: “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you. Jesus Christ and the American G.I. One died for your soul, the other died for your freedom.”

Making matters worse, attendance at some of these events is mandatory. For example, students who are awarded scholarships must attend a public ceremony or forfeit the financial aid.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: Karla Westphal, Alannah Rosenberg, Margot Lovett and Claire Cesareo-Silva, all professors at Saddleback College; Roy Bauer, a professor at Irvine Valley College; Ashley Mockett, a former student at Saddleback and two current Saddleback students who have chosen to remain anonymous.

The litigation is being conducted by AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan, AU Assistant Legal Director Richard B. Katskee and AU Madison Fellow Jef Klazen, as well as Christopher P. Murphy of Mayer Brown LLP in Los Angeles.
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MS Junior HS Needs Some Talking To

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Sumner Hill Junior High School in Clinton, MS, is a public school. They are part of the Clinton Public School District. The following is from their website:
We believe...

Faith in God is the cornerstone of our community.
Again, this can be found on the web page of a public school in Mississippi.

Contact information for the school is as follows:

Sumner Hill Junior High School
400 W. Northside Drive
Clinton, MS 39056
Phone: (601) 924-5510

The school's principal, Willie McInnis, can be reached via email at wmcinnis@clinton.k12.ms.us. Please remember to keep any correspondence respectful, and please share any responses you receive.

It may also be worth contacting the Freedom From Religion Foundation and/or Americans United for Separation of Church and State, both of whom make it easy to report violations via online forms. It would probably be most effective if the reports were made by someone in Clinton.

h/t @ Mississippi Atheists
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One Amendment, Five Freedoms

Monday, July 5, 2010
The Newseum's Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by ...Image via Wikipedia

Citizens live by it and soldiers risk their lives to defend it.

Ken Paulson thinks Americans just don't know enough about the rights he calls the cornerstone of a free democracy.
"I challenge your readers, as they sit at the kitchen table tonight, to ask each other what they know about the First Amendment. I think they would be surprised," said Paulson, president and chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and Diversity Institute.
People tend to be able to recall one or two of the key words of the five freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, or religion, but only one in 25 Americans can name all five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, according to recent surveys conducted by the First Amendment Center.

With the support of more than 1,000 associations, foundations and news organizations, a new national campaign -- "1 for All" - was recently launched to educate Americans about those freedoms.
"This is an unprecedented campaign marshalling the resources of thousands of organizations who rely on the First Amendment," said Paulson, who was among the team of journalists who founded USA Today in 1982.
"As we reflect on the Fourth of July, let's also reflect on teaching the First Amendment in a meaningful way," he said.
The campaign was developed using the agency that oversaw the popular "Got Milk" advertising push and will feature a series of advertisements hosted by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, musician John Mellencamp and David Gregory of "Meet the Press."

The interactive programs featuring celebrities and citizens will appear online, in print and on multiple media platforms across the country.
"Every time a person expresses a point of view, enjoys the arts, prays or posts a message online, the First Amendment is at work," Paulson said.
"So many people around the world long for the freedom we enjoy every day. These freedoms make the United States unique and we must never take them for granted."
For more information, visit: www.1forAll.us.
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Finally Someone Gets It

Thursday, July 1, 2010
Schoolboy receiving bare bottom birching, from...Image via Wikipedia
I have posted a couple of times recently (here and here) about corporal punishment in schools. Well, finally someone gets it and has proposed legislation to stop its use.

From ACLU.org:

WASHINGTON – Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) today introduced the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act, a bill that would eliminate the use of corporal punishment in public and private schools that serve students receiving federal services. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly supports the bill, and urges Congress to swiftly pass the legislation.
“Children have the right to learn in a safe, supportive environment that allows them to reach their full academic potential; the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act will help create the kind of classrooms they need,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The American Civil Liberties Union has fought long and hard to make corporal punishment in schools a thing of the past, and we urge Congress to finally put an end to this cruel and outdated form of punishment and swiftly act to pass this bill.”
Corporal punishment is a legal form of discipline in 20 states, and according to U.S. Department of Education data, it is disproportionately used against African-American students and students with disabilities. There is currently no federal ban on the use of corporal punishment against students, despite evidence that the practice injures students and hinders achievement in the classroom. The ACLU, along with dozens of coalition partners, sent a letter to Rep. McCarthy voicing strong support for the bill.
In addition to banning corporal punishment in public and private schools that receive federal funds, the bill also establishes a grant program for school-wide positive behavior supports, an evidence-based approach to school discipline which allows schools to proactively target potentially problematic behavior and develop approaches that can improve school climate and academic outcomes by reducing school discipline referrals.
“By adopting positive behavior supports and abandoning ineffective and brutal discipline, schools can create environments that encourage academic success rather than hinder it,” said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “It’s time that Congress step in to end this arcane and destructive practice so that our schools can be places where students and educators interact in positive ways that foster students’ growth and dignity.”
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