Still necessary: Banned Books Week 2018

September 29, 2018

Weren’t we supposed to be more free by now?

And yet, we still need Banned Books Week (#BannedBooksWeek) to push against censorship and suppression of books.

I’m running behind. Banned Books Week 2018 started on September 24. I don’t really have much brilliant to say about it, except we’re still fighting to keep history in Texas history standards, to keep history in Texas school history texts, and the latest outrage is the “deletion” of Helen Keller and Hillary Clinton from the list of historic figures kids ought to rub intellectual elbows with in their studies.

So let me offer a quick and dirty, but often compelling compendium of some of the best Tweets about banned books this week, and the celebration of freedom.

Ray Bradbury had it right:

Ray Bradbury had it right: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

What’s the best banned book you’ve read lately?

What books have people tried to ban in your town or state this year?

What good, controversial books have you read that you recommend we read, before it gets banned?

Some old banned books offer great wisdom for our present crises. Like Tom Sawyer:

The Mental Floss list of 35 most-banned books over the last five years is instructive. It tells us something about what issues “authorities” want to keep quiet, and what people read enough to annoy other people enough to complain to libraries. The article lists these:

Since most requests to remove books from schools or libraries go unreported, these lists are not definitive; instead, they offer a “snapshot” of book challenges, according to the [American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF)]. In recognition of Banned Books Week, which runs from September 23 through September 29, we’ve compiled a list of the most banned and challenged books of the past five years (2013 to 2017), including the years they were challenged and the reasons why.

1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Year(s): 2017
Reason: Discussion of suicide

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Year(s): 2013, 2014, 2017
Reason: Anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, and “depictions of bullying”

3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Year(s): 2014, 2016, 2017
Reason: LGBT characters

4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Year(s): 2014, 2017
Reason: Sexual violence, unsuited to age group; was thought to “promote Islam”

5. George by Alex Gino
Year(s): 2016, 2017
Reason: Transgender child character

6. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth
Year(s): 2017
Reason: Addresses sex education; was thought to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex”

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Year(s): 2017
Reason: Violence and use of the N-word

8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Year(s): 2017
Reason: Drug use, profanity, offensive language

9. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell, Justin Richardson, and Henry Cole
Year(s): 2014, 2017
Reason:Anti-family, homosexuality, political and religious viewpoints

10. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas
Year(s): 2015, 2016, 2017
Reason: Addresses gender identity, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

11. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Year(s): 2016
Reason: LGBT characters, drug use, profanity, sexually explicit content

12. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Year(s): 2015, 2016
Reason: LGBT and sexually explicit content

13. Looking for Alaska by John Green
Year(s): 2013, 2015, 2016
Reason: Sexually explicit scene, unsuited to age group; was thought to lead students to “sexual experimentation”

14. Big Hard Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Year(s): 2016
Reason: Sexually explicit content

15. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk
Year(s): 2016
Reason: Profanity and sexually explicit content; was called “disgusting and all around offensive”

16. Little Bill (series) by Bill Cosby and Varnette P. Honeywood
Year(s): 2016
Reason: Criminal sexual allegations against Bill Cosby

17. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Year(s): 2016
Reason: Offensive language

18. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
Year(s): 2013, 2015
Reason: Sexually explicit content, unsuited to age group; was also called “poorly written”

19. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Year(s): 2015
Reason: Offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political and religious viewpoints, anti-family, unsuited to age group

20. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Year(s): 2015
Reason: Profanity, religious viewpoint (atheism), unsuited to age group

21. The Holy Bible
Year(s): 2015
Reason: Religious viewpoint

22. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Year(s): 2015
Reason: Violence and graphic images

23. Habibi by Craig Thompson
Year(s): 2015
Reason: Nudity, sexually explicit content, unsuited to age group

24. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter
Year(s): 2015
Reason: Religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group

25. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Year(s): 2014
Reason: Gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, graphic depictions; was called “politically, racially, and socially offensive”

26. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Year(s): 2013, 2014
Reason: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group; was said to “contain controversial issues”

27. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley
Year(s): 2014
Reason: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit

28. Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Year(s): 2014
Reason: Anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

29. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Year(s): 2013, 2014
Reason: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit

30. A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
Year(s): 2014
Reason: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

31. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
Year(s): 2013
Reason: Offensive language, violence, unsuited to age group

32. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Year(s): 2013
Reason: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

33. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
Year(s): 2013
Reason: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit content

34. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Year(s): 2013
Reason: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit content, unsuited to age group

35. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith
Year(s): 2013
Reason: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

A good list of reading. Irony that The Holy Bible and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night both appear on the list; one might imagine advocates of one book complaining about the other.

A literature or history teacher can find a whole school year’s worth of graphics from Tweets during Banned Books Week.

This post may be updated. Please comment, and come back to discuss.


Why no one believes in evolution, why faith in creationism isn’t Christian doctrine, and why we know Noah’s flood is false

September 2, 2014

I keep forgetting.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub was born in 2006.  That was three years after my first great forays into education policy in Texas, working to make sure science stayed in the science books — and probably about a decade after I started explaining evolution to creationists, patiently at first, and then with a great deal of snark, on the internet.  A lot of that discussion, and some good posts, died when AOL pulled the plug on archiving discussion threads (the schmucks!).

Another sign of AOL’s doom, perhaps.

From time to time I run into an earnest creationist, and rather than re-explain, I start looking for my old explanations here at this blog . . . and then I remember.  The explanations largely do not exist here.

Heck, 2006 was even after the decision in the Dover, Pennsylvania case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. (Read the decision in the case here, key documents and a chronology, here at the venerable TalkOrigins.)

We saw an uptick in creationist activity recently, in 2012, continuing into 2013.  We’ve seen eruptions of ignorance, blind faith and malice, sometimes, that warrant having explanations of evolution around.  So, even though it’s repeating stuff from elsewhere, even though this discussion should have been over by 50 years ago, here we are trying to establish a trail of information explaining why evolution is hard science, and needs to be taught in public schools (and all other schools, too), and why creationism and its mutant clone “intelligent design” are not science, but are instead religious beliefs that have no place in school science classes (nor any classes, IMHO).

There are good sites living in the tubes of the ‘net these days that didn’t exist even nine years ago — but creationists won’t find them quickly or willingly, and they will dismiss them if they do find them at all.   You can find good stuff there, and I highly recommend writings on evolution at these sites:

Recently I provided a brief correction to a post I fell across in some search or other, at a blog by a guy named Daniel Lovett.  He urged that we reject science with regard to evolution.  I responded, and he responded at a greater length.  I had hoped to point him quickly so something I’d written here, and found I hadn’t written it here.

These issues are simmering even in Texas again; I want to create a record.  Here’s a step.

Three points need to be made to the neo-creationists:

  • Evolution is not a faith, it’s based in science and observations of nature.  Consequently, one does not “believe” in evolution; one follows the evidenceThe old creationist snark that “it takes more faith to believe evolution than to be a Christian” is only a statement that one refuses to look at or acknowledge evidence, how evidence works.  It is a confession that one is biased against evidence in reality.
  • Creationism cannot be found in scripture, nor in most Christian tradition.  Creationism is a mostly-American invention falling out of a rather new form of scriptural interpretation called “literalism” which refuses to recognize scripture as documents written by humans about human history.  Creationism starts with an assumption, contrary to tradition and scripture, that God dictated much of the Bible.  In this way it confuses Moslem and Mormon doctrine with traditional Christian doctrine.  This is a long discussion that will only be touched on here even if it seems long.  Creationism claims incorrect authorship of scripture, inaccurately claims only one creation story is told, and assumes as Christian doctrine that the age of the Earth is of importance to the faith, and that contrary to scripture’s claims, one can determine how old the Earth is by following one family tree in the Bible.  Or maybe another family tree.  Serious students of the Bible know that at no place is there anything close to a statement that says, “God created in the Earth in a rush, in six days of slap-dash whim, and one must ignore science in order to be Christian.”
  • Noah’s flood, if it occurred at all, was regional, and not worldwide; assuming a greater cataclysm should not be a point of faith, when it requires one to deny physical reality.

With those preliminaries out of the way, I can answer Mr. Lovett’s arguments specifically, I think.  I stumbled into his blog, and I provided a very brief response to a post of his that makes several erroneous claims about science, about evolution and Christianity, and concludes that creationism is superior to evolution, scientifically.  Mr. Lovett responded, and called me “friend.”

Dear Friend Daniel, you wrote:

I am of the opinion that the Bible is true and accurate in every respect, scientific and otherwise. It can be trusted because Jesus can be trusted. Though I don’t pretend to know “how” God accomplished the creation in 6 days, I know that he did because he revealed that to us (see my other blog post: http://daniellovett.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/creation-science-oxymoron/).

Let’s be clear that the credibility of Jesus is not on the line here.  Jesus didn’t write any of the books we know as “the Bible” today.  So far as we know, Jesus wrote nothing that survives, no text at all.  Could Jesus write?  We don’t know.

So, for all of those reasons which tell us Jesus had nothing to do with the authoring of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, but also the New Testament, putting trust in Jesus has nothing to do with scientific accuracy in the Bible.  If you’re trusting the Bible because you trust Jesus, you’re projecting where projection is not logically required, and where the faith doesn’t ask it.

Evolution is not faith - Global Secular Humanist Movement on Facebook

If the evidence is there, no faith is required. Faith is what we use to substitute for evidence, for things we cannot prove in any rational fashion. In the picture: St. Mary’s Church, the Episcopal Church in Downe where Darwin’s family attended, and several are buried.

While you say “I don’t pretend to know ‘how’ God accomplished the creation in 6 days,” you assume God worked in a fast slap-dash fashion, and your entire post is dedicated to denying that God could have used natural processes of chemistry, physics and biology.  So you do pretend to know how God did it; and you make pretense to knowing that all of science is in error, for theological reasons that escape me.  For Jesus to be right about philosophy, or sin, or any other topic expounded on in Christian scripture, it is not necessary that science be in error.

As with Jesus not being the author of scripture, so we know — in Christian tradition — that God is not the author of scripture, either.  The earliest books we know were written by Jews; the first five books of the modern canon, in both Judaism and most sects of Christianity, we attribute to Moses by tradition, but by the words of the books themselves not to God.  In those books we find the clear command from God to Moses and the Jews to ‘write it down’ with regard to their history and laws.  Nowhere, according to scripture, does God say, “This is what to write down.”  Nowhere does God say, “Here is what I have written.”  The Old Testament was not written by God, was not dictated by God, nor is it the biography of God.

In a few places in those texts is there a claim that God revealed the when and why of creation.  In no place is there a claim God revealed the how of creation.   There are several places where various, different and frequently conflicting creation stories are told, however.  We get the history of creation, though, perhaps like Billy Pilgrim it is “unstuck in time.”  Creation occurred sometime before each story is told — but how long before is never a topic of scripture.  Depending on the version of the Bible one chooses, especially Catholic versus Protestant, there are four to eight different creation stories in scripture.  In Genesis 1 and 2, we find two different, often contradictory creation stories.  In Job, we find a story that is wholly different from both of the Genesis stories — and this is the one that is said by the author to be from God’s lips, explaining to Job what happened at the beginning when God wrestled a dragon to see who would have control of the Earth — no six day creation at all, no day of rest, no Eden, no Adam and Eve.

How can you “know” God revealed something when scripture doesn’t support that claim?  Do you claim to be a prophet?

Wholly apart from what you don’t know about science, I fear you’re unfamiliar with scripture, or you’re hiding those parts that simply do not support your own beliefs.  If the Bible is “true in every respect,” one should respect it; I don’t think you do.  How can you be said to respect scripture, when you ignore all the other creation stories, and the actual instructions of scripture as you do?

Daniel Lovett wrote:

So why do we believe Jesus or the word of God? Short answer: Because Jesus has been proven to be the Son of God and the Messiah, having fulfilled over 300 prophecies, lived a sinless life, worked miracles (all of which went unquestioned – people could have verified the facts by interviewing eyewitnesses), and finally the clincher – he rose from the dead.

I see.  You believe that you are correct, not for any rational reason, but because you believe what you believe.  Faith is a powerful quality; its exercise can be a bold act of tenacity, or a foolish act of stubbornness.  We need to take care when resting on faith, that which can be fact checked, lest we become the poster child of the Dunning Kruger Effect.

We don’t need to contradict your claim that the Bible is correct, but instead we might observe that at no place does the Bible claim to provide a literal and scientifically accurate story of creation.  Your trust in the Bible may be well placed.  Your claim that it presents a creation story in scientific accuracy, however, is not correct on the Bible’s own terms.

You have stretched the Bible to cover material it does not claim to cover, to make claims it does not claim to make.  At no point does the Bible, read as a complete collection, deny evolution, nor an old Earth, nor physics, nor chemistry.

Title page of James Ussher's Annales veteris t...

Title page of James Ussher’s Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine — the text upon which 6-day creationism is based. No, it’s not in scripture. (Photo: Wikipedia)

For example, at no place does the Bible claim that the Earth is young.  That conclusion was misapprehended through a misreading of the work of an Irish bishop, in the 17th century.  Bishop James Ussher, who passed for a geologist in his day. Studying nature was believed to be a rather divine calling for people who claimed faith in God in that time. Learning about nature was learning about God’s creation from a testament unsullied by mistranslation, church politics, or language difficulties.  Nature provided a solid, irrefutably correct second testament of God, and direct from God with God’s fingerprints on it.  In short, Ussher, and Darwin 200 years later, studied nature because of their belief that God was the creating force behind it.

Isn’t it ironic that, today, you reject the traditional Christian view of nature and its study, and instead adopt a more Pharisaic stance, that scripture written by men trumps God’s own creation?

Lovett wrote:

Jesus believed in creation:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’” Matthew 19:4

Now I grow concerned.  You say you put your faith in the Bible, but then you cite this passage as somehow evidence that Jesus disputed Darwin and geology and cosmology and biology.

Jesus was talking about divorce.  How in the world could you have missed the plain meaning of that passage, and how could you have confused it to say anything about science, and the science of creation of the planet?  In context, it’s clear Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees for their clinging too strongly to scripture and not paying attention to reality; but at no point does Jesus pause and say, “By the way, the Earth was created in 6 days just a few thousand years ago.”  Jesus mentions a shorthand version of biological observation (I say shorthand because he ignores species with no gender, species with gender other that male and female, transgender, misgender, and species with more than two genders — if he’s relying on biology being accurate here, this passage would nullify all Abramic faith-based questioning of homosexual rights, since God also made them Adam and Steve, and Alice and Eve; but by now I’m digressing).  Jesus says mating is from God, and men shouldn’t create laws to undo it.

Jesus talks about divorce, and how it’s not part of the plan.  He says nothing against Darwin, and in fact appears to be relying on Darwin-style science, what we actually see in nature, to ground his argument against divorce.

I find it interesting that Jesus does not appeal solely to scripture here, but instead to nature.  If we stick to the words recorded, and the events, we get Jesus denying the religious laws of the day and saying, ‘Hey, Pharisees, haven’t you noticed that in nature things pair off; in humans, people naturally pair off in opposite-gender couples most of the time?  That’s an indication of God’s plan.  Divorce isn’t a key value of God’s scheme of marriage.  Don’t muck it up with a misinterpretation of scripture.’  You appeal to scripture, as the Pharisees did, to deny nature, where Jesus based his argument.  Plus, you do that on a topic that was nowhere mentioned in those 12 verses.

Let’s check the text.

In the King James version (so the fundies won’t squawk about mistranslations from Jesus’s English):

Matthew 19

King James Version (KJV)

19 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Indirectly, Jesus bases his argument on creation; you stretch that to say He was putting his faith in creation, something that Jesus does not say there.  Then you stretch that farther to suggest it means He also believed in creationism.  We can fairly deduce a belief in the existence of creation and some natural order; but it’s adding much to the text, to claim that passage contradicts science.  I find that an unfair and unholy twisting of scripture.

At no place is there anything close to “Darwin goofed.”  At no place is there a testament from Jesus to the short slap-dash creation you insist.

Lovett said:

He also believed in the flood:
‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the Ark. Then the Flood came and destroyed them all.’ Luke 17:26–27

Again, I think you ignore what Jesus intended, and instead try to stretch a small part to say something else.

During the time Christians believe that Jesus lived and ministered, one of the divisions in Judaism broke over the issue of whether there is an afterlife, and what will be the signs of the Messiah’s coming, and later, of the end of the Earth.  Again, Pharisees try to hold Jesus to scripture, and again Jesus suggests different interpretations.  Notice that, again, neither side is talking about how the Earth as we know it was created.  That’s your add-on.

Again, from the King James Version, much of that chapter of Luke:

20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.

23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.

24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.

25 But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.

27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.

30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.

32 Remember Lot’s wife.

33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

Jesus is reported to have referred to a flood here, the flood of Noah.  As we noted earlier, Jesus is not the author of scripture, particularly not the author of the scriptures of the Pentateuch, in which the story of Noah is found.

But he’s not talking about whether a flood actually occurred.  Jesus uses literary allusion here.  Jews had their scriptures (not yet bound into the Torah), and observant and non-observant Jews, including especially the Pharisees, would have been familiar with the story of the flood of Noah.  When challenged about which side of the dispute he was on with regard to afterlife, Jesus didn’t fall into the trap.  He said, just like in the story of Noah when most people had no clue about the pending disaster, no one can know when “the Kingdom of God” will come (let alone exactly what that means).

So Jesus wasn’t saying, “By the way, the whole world was covered by a flood that can be pinpointed in time.”  Jesus was saying, “You Pharisees know the story of Noah; here’s an analogy:  The Kingdom of God will come when people don’t expect it, and they will be caught by surprise, as in the story of Noah people were caught by surprise by the flood.”

Critically, Jesus nowhere claims that the story is wholly, scientifically accurate.

Which is good, because that would make Jesus out to be a liar — and in your schema, where your faith seems to rest on whether Jesus is trustworthy in all things, that would destroy the basis of your faith, right?

I think perhaps you don’t understand what Christians mean by “faith.”  That colors your reasoning, and it clouds your understanding of scripture, and it completely fogs your view of science.  We call it faith because we don’t have the evidence to back it up.

If we did have the evidence, none of us could be anything more than agnostics — the agnostic position is that belief will come when the evidence is sufficient.  Christians believe, despite that lack of evidence.  We call the process a “leap of faith.”  We call it “stepping out on the word of God.”  It’s risky.  It takes faith, which is why we call it that.  (Jews and Muslims also make such leaps.)

It must be faith, because the evidence is not there — as the Bible occasionally acknowledges (see 2 Corinthians 4.18, or Hebrews 11.1; faith is in the things “unseen,” as they are eternal).

Built around the story of the flood of Noah, there is a trap a lot of people of faith fall into, a false dichotomy that, if divinely inspired, surely was intended by evil forces to turn otherwise faithful people away from knowledge and science.  I fear you’ve fallen into it.

Daniel said:

So to cling to a belief that Creation or the Flood is not true is to say that Jesus was a liar.

Quite to the contrary, to claim that Jesus said creationism is true, or that Jesus vouched for the historicity of Noah’s flood, is false.  Jesus didn’t intend that, as we can see from the context, and stretching his meaning to topics way beyond what Jesus was discussing puts us in the uncomfortable and unholy position of adding words to scripture that are not there.

[Hmmm. There’s supposed to be a brief explanation of the science that disproves the idea of a worldwide flood as many creationists believe the Bible describes . . . pending. Maybe later.]

Sorry if I offended you by saying your religion has blinded you, but my position is that a Godless scientific world view is a religion. An unbiased look at science will always reveal the Designer. The scandal of the Gospel is that this Designer then became the man Jesus who died for your sin and rebellion and to restore you to your loving heavenly Father. I pray you find him.

your friend Daniel

Then what is a godful scientific position?  As creationists are too often wrongly happy to remind us, many scientists of the past were faithful, often good Christians.  Darwin, for example, studied for the clergy, and stuck with the church to his death.

Claiming that science is godless, or Godless, is a biased and inaccurate view of science, and as we have seen here, a biased and inaccurate view of  Christian religion, too.

Scripture tells us that regardless how the universe, matter, stars, galaxies, planets and life were created, God is behind it.  The scandal of creationism is the denying that God can be behind what the universe shows us to be true and accurate.  Jesus died for your sin and rebellion, too, Daniel — even your rebellion against God’s creation and the science that explains how and why it works.  You can’t find God if you refuse to look.

More:

The grave of Charles Darwin, in the Nave of the Collegiate Chapel at Westminster Abbey. Darwin is interred near Sir Isaac Newton. Bishop James Ussher is interred in the St. Paul's Chapel, a few dozen yards away. Photo from Laurence Moran's The Sandwalk Blog

The grave of Charles Darwin, in the Nave of the Collegiate Chapel at Westminster Abbey. Darwin is interred near Sir Isaac Newton. Bishop James Ussher is interred in the St. Paul’s Chapel, a few dozen yards away. Photo from Laurence Moran’s The Sandwalk Blog

Darwin's grave in Westminster Abbey

The grave of Charles Darwin, in the Nave of the Collegiate Chapel at Westminster Abbey. Darwin is interred near Sir Isaac Newton. Bishop James Ussher is interred in the St. Paul’s Chapel, a few dozen yards away. Photo via Graveyard Database.

(Yeah, this one’s kicked around in the draft file for a long, long time.)

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Daily Flogging of Teachers Dept., Alabama Division: ‘Bible says no teacher raises’

February 4, 2012

Borrowed completely from ThinkProgress — I’m too flabbergasted to add more at the moment:

Alabama State Senator Thinks Increasing Teacher Pay Goes Against A ‘Biblical Principle’

By Amanda Peterson Beadle on Feb 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Tool for flogging teachers?

According to Alabama state Sen. Shadrack McGill (R), the Bible says that increasing teacher salaries would only lead to less-qualified teachers. McGill said at a prayer breakfast that doubling teachers’ salaries — starting pay for Alabama teachers begins at $36,144 — would not help education. In fact, he said that keeping teacher pay low is a “Biblical principle“:

If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach.

“To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK?

“And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity.

“If you don’t keep that in balance, you’re going to attract people who are not called, who don’t need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance.”

McGill found justification in the Bible for not increasing teacher pay, but he evidently found nothing in scripture preventing him from approving a 67 percent pay increase for legislators in 2007, which increased annual salaries for the part-time legislators from $30,710 to $49,500. He said that the higher pay helped to stop corruption.

A 2011 report showed that while Alabama teachers have the highest starting salaries in the nation, the state lags far behind the national average for teacher pay. Currently, a part-time legislator in Alabama is making more than a full-time teacher with a Master’s degree and 15 years of experience.

If we don’t increase teacher pay, we get less than the best for our children.  Which should we sacrifice, our children, or this brain-dead legislator’s complete misinterpretation of the Bible?

Somebody help me out here:  Where in scriptures is there any suggestion that teachers shouldn’t get fair pay for fair work?

These guys are making a mighty effort to prove that prayer breakfasts are dangerous, anti-social gatherings that should be avoided by patriotic Americans and legislators.

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God changed His mind, for the sake of justice. What’s your excuse?

January 28, 2012

Slacktivist tells the story, and the moral of the story, at “Five women who changed God’s rules.”

So, if God can admit He goofed in the case of Zelophehad’s daughters, what’s preventing any of the rest of us from admitting error?

Daughers of Zelophehad, from from The Bible and Its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons. Edited by Charles F. Horne and Julius A. Bewer. 1908. Via Wikipedia

Daughers of Zelophehad, from from The Bible and Its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons. Edited by Charles F. Horne and Julius A. Bewer. 1908. (Who did the engraving?)


Religious freedom for students in public schools — what is the law?

December 7, 2011

 

It's engraved in stone. The First Amendment, at the entrance to the Bremen Public Library in Bremen, Indiana. The Bremen Public Library serves the citizens of German Township in Marshall County, Indiana. Photo from Bremen Library.

It’s engraved in stone. The First Amendment, at the entrance to the Bremen Public Library in Bremen, Indiana. The Bremen Public Library serves the citizens of German Township in Marshall County, Indiana. Photo from Bremen Library.

 

President Clinton directed the Secretary of Education and the Attorney General to inform  each school district in America about the law on religious freedom in public schools.  This was the law in 2000 when Clinton left office, and it still is the law.  This statement is still accurate. [And if that site stays weird or doesn’t work for you, check it out here at the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.]

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
THE SECRETARY


“…Schools do more than train children’s minds. They also help to nurture their souls by reinforcing the values they learn at home and in their communities. I believe that one of the best ways we can help out schools to do this is by supporting students’ rights to voluntarily practice their religious beliefs, including prayer in schools…. For more than 200 years, the First Amendment has protected our religious freedom and allowed many faiths to flourish in our homes, in our work place and in our schools. Clearly understood and sensibly applied, it works.”

President Clinton
May 30, 1998


Dear American Educator,

Almost three years ago, President Clinton directed me, as U.S. Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Attorney General, to provide every public school district in America with a statement of principles addressing the extent to which religious expression and activity are permitted in our public schools. In accordance with the President’s directive, I sent every school superintendent in the country guidelines on Religious Expression in Public Schools in August of 1995.

The purpose of promulgating these presidential guidelines was to end much of the confusion regarding religious expression in our nation’s public schools that had developed over more than thirty years since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1962 regarding state sponsored school prayer. I believe that these guidelines have helped school officials, teachers, students and parents find a new common ground on the important issue of religious freedom consistent with constitutional requirements.

In July of 1996, for example, the Saint Louis School Board adopted a district wide policy using these guidelines. While the school district had previously allowed certain religious activities, it had never spelled them out before, resulting in a lawsuit over the right of a student to pray before lunch in the cafeteria. The creation of a clearly defined policy using the guidelines allowed the school board and the family of the student to arrive at a mutually satisfactory settlement.

In a case decided last year in a United States District Court in Alabama, (Chandler v. James) involving student initiated prayer at school related events, the court instructed the DeKalb County School District to maintain for circulation in the library of each school a copy of the presidential guidelines.

The great advantage of the presidential guidelines, however, is that they allow school districts to avoid contentious disputes by developing a common understanding among students, teachers, parents and the broader community that the First Amendment does in fact provide ample room for religious expression by students while at the same time maintaining freedom from government sponsored religion.

The development and use of these presidential guidelines were not and are not isolated activities. Rather, these guidelines are part of an ongoing and growing effort by educators and America’s religious community to find a new common ground. In April of 1995, for example, thirty-five religious groups issued “Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law” that the Department drew from in developing its own guidelines. Following the release of the presidential guidelines, the National PTA and the Freedom Forum jointly published in 1996 “A Parent’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools” which put the guidelines into an easily understandable question and answer format.

In the last two years, I have held three religious-education summits to inform faith communities and educators about the guidelines and to encourage continued dialogue and cooperation within constitutional limits. Many religious communities have contacted local schools and school systems to offer their assistance because of the clarity provided by the guidelines. The United Methodist Church has provided reading tutors to many schools, and Hadassah and the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism have both been extremely active in providing local schools with support for summer reading programs.

The guidelines we are releasing today are the same as originally issued in 1995, except that changes have been made in the sections on religious excusals and student garb to reflect the Supreme Court decision in Boerne v. Flores declaring the Religious Freedom Restoration Act unconstitutional as applied to actions of state and local governments.

These guidelines continue to reflect two basic and equally important obligations imposed on public school officials by the First Amendment. First, schools may not forbid students acting on their own from expressing their personal religious views or beliefs solely because they are of a religious nature. Schools may not discriminate against private religious expression by students, but must instead give students the same right to engage in religious activity and discussion as they have to engage in other comparable activity. Generally, this means that students may pray in a nondisruptive manner during the school day when they are not engaged in school activities and instruction, subject to the same rules of order that apply to other student speech.

At the same time, schools may not endorse religious activity or doctrine, nor may they coerce participation in religious activity. Among other things, of course, school administrators and teachers may not organize or encourage prayer exercises in the classroom. Teachers, coaches and other school officials who act as advisors to student groups must remain mindful that they cannot engage in or lead the religious activities of students.

And the right of religious expression in school does not include the right to have a “captive audience” listen, or to compel other students to participate. School officials should not permit student religious speech to turn into religious harassment aimed at a student or a small group of students. Students do not have the right to make repeated invitations to other students to participate in religious activity in the face of a request to stop.

The statement of principles set forth below derives from the First Amendment. Implementation of these principles, of course, will depend on specific factual contexts and will require careful consideration in particular cases.

In issuing these revised guidelines I encourage every school district to make sure that principals, teachers, students and parents are familiar with their content. To that end I offer three suggestions:

First, school districts should use these guidelines to revise or develop their own district wide policy regarding religious expression. In developing such a policy, school officials can engage parents, teachers, the various faith communities and the broader community in a positive dialogue to define a common ground that gives all parties the assurance that when questions do arise regarding religious expression the community is well prepared to apply these guidelines to specific cases. The Davis County School District in Farmington, Utah,is an example of a school district that has taken the affirmative step of developing such a policy.

At a time of increasing religious diversity in our country such a proactive step can help school districts create a framework of civility that reaffirms and strengthens the community consensus regarding religious liberty. School districts that do not make the effort to develop their own policy may find themselves unprepared for the intensity of the debate that can engage a community when positions harden around a live controversy involving religious expression in public schools.

Second, I encourage principals and administrators to take the additional step of making sure that teachers, so often on the front line of any dispute regarding religious expression, are fully informed about the guidelines. The Gwinnett County School system in Georgia, for example, begins every school year with workshops for teachers that include the distribution of these presidential guidelines. Our nation’s schools of education can also do their part by ensuring that prospective teachers are knowledgeable about religious expression in the classroom.

Third, I encourage schools to actively take steps to inform parents and students about religious expression in school using these guidelines. The Carter County School District in Elizabethton, Tennessee, included the subject of religious expression in a character education program that it developed in the fall of 1997. This effort included sending home to every parent a copy of the “Parent’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools.”

Help is available for those school districts that seek to develop policies on religious expression. I have enclosed a list of associations and groups that can provide information to school districts and parents who seek to learn more about religious expression in our nation’s public schools.

In addition, citizens can turn to the U.S. Department of Education web site (http://www.ed.gov) for information about the guidelines and other activities of the Department that support the growing effort of educators and religious communities to support the education of our nation’s children.

Finally, I encourage teachers and principals to see the First Amendment as something more than a piece of dry, old parchment locked away in the national attic gathering dust. It is a vital living principle, a call to action, and a demand that each generation reaffirm its connection to the basic idea that is America — that we are a free people who protect our freedoms by respecting the freedom of others who differ from us.

Our history as a nation reflects the history of the Puritan, the Quaker, the Baptist, the Catholic, the Jew and many others fleeing persecution to find religious freedom in America. The United States remains the most successful experiment in religious freedom that the world has ever known because the First Amendment uniquely balances freedom of private religious belief and expression with freedom from state-imposed religious expression.

Public schools can neither foster religion nor preclude it. Our public schools must treat religion with fairness and respect and vigorously protect religious expression as well as the freedom of conscience of all other students. In so doing our public schools reaffirm the First Amendment and enrich the lives of their students.

I encourage you to share this information widely and in the most appropriate manner with your school community. Please accept my sincere thanks for your continuing work on behalf of all of America’s children.

Sincerely,


Richard W. Riley
U.S. Secretary of Education



RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Student prayer and religious discussion: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not prohibit purely private religious speech by students. Students therefore have the same right to engage in individual or group prayer and religious discussion during the school day as they do to engage in other comparable activity. For example, students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray before tests to the same extent they may engage in comparable nondisruptive activities. Local school authorities possess substantial discretion to impose rules of order and other pedagogical restrictions on student activities, but they may not structure or administer such rules to discriminate against religious activity or speech.

Generally, students may pray in a nondisruptive manner when not engaged in school activities or instruction, and subject to the rules that normally pertain in the applicable setting. Specifically, students in informal settings, such as cafeterias and hallways, may pray and discuss their religious views with each other, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other student activities and speech. Students may also speak to, and attempt to persuade, their peers about religious topics just as they do with regard to political topics. School officials, however, should intercede to stop student speech that constitutes harassment aimed at a student or a group of students.

Students may also participate in before or after school events with religious content, such as “see you at the flag pole” gatherings, on the same terms as they may participate in other noncurriculum activities on school premises. School officials may neither discourage nor encourage participation in such an event.

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

Graduation prayer and baccalaureates: Under current Supreme Court decisions, school officials may not mandate or organize prayer at graduation, nor organize religious baccalaureate ceremonies. If a school generally opens its facilities to private groups, it must make its facilities available on the same terms to organizers of privately sponsored religious baccalaureate services. A school may not extend preferential treatment to baccalaureate ceremonies and may in some instances be obliged to disclaim official endorsement of such ceremonies.

Official neutrality regarding religious activity: Teachers and school administrators, when acting in those capacities, are representatives of the state and are prohibited by the establishment clause from soliciting or encouraging religious activity, and from participating in such activity with students. Teachers and administrators also are prohibited from discouraging activity because of its religious content, and from soliciting or encouraging antireligious activity.

Teaching about religion: Public schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about religion, including the Bible or other scripture: the history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature, and the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries all are permissible public school subjects. Similarly, it is permissible to consider religious influences on art, music, literature, and social studies. Although public schools may teach about religious holidays, including their religious aspects, and may celebrate the secular aspects of holidays, schools may not observe holidays as religious events or promote such observance by students.

Student assignments: Students may express their beliefs about religion in the form of homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free of discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school.

Religious literature: Students have a right to distribute religious literature to their schoolmates on the same terms as they are permitted to distribute other literature that is unrelated to school curriculum or activities. Schools may impose the same reasonable time, place, and manner or other constitutional restrictions on distribution of religious literature as they do on nonschool literature generally, but they may not single out religious literature for special regulation.

Religious excusals: Subject to applicable State laws, schools enjoy substantial discretion to excuse individual students from lessons that are objectionable to the student or the students’ parents on religious or other conscientious grounds. However, students generally do not have a Federal right to be excused from lessons that may be inconsistent with their religious beliefs or practices. School officials may neither encourage nor discourage students from availing themselves of an excusal option.

Released time: Subject to applicable State laws, schools have the discretion to dismiss students to off-premises religious instruction, provided that schools do not encourage or discourage participation or penalize those who do not attend. Schools may not allow religious instruction by outsiders on school premises during the school day.

Teaching values: Though schools must be neutral with respect to religion, they may play an active role with respect to teaching civic values and virtue, and the moral code that holds us together as a community. The fact that some of these values are held also by religions does not make it unlawful to teach them in school.

Student garb: Schools enjoy substantial discretion in adopting policies relating to student dress and school uniforms. Students generally have no Federal right to be exempted from religiously-neutral and generally applicable school dress rules based on their religious beliefs or practices; however, schools may not single out religious attire in general, or attire of a particular religion, for prohibition or regulation. Students may display religious messages on items of clothing to the same extent that they are permitted to display other comparable messages. Religious messages may not be singled out for suppression, but rather are subject to the same rules as generally apply to comparable messages.

THE EQUAL ACCESS ACT

The Equal Access Act is designed to ensure that, consistent with the First Amendment, student religious activities are accorded the same access to public school facilities as are student secular activities. Based on decisions of the Federal courts, as well as its interpretations of the Act, the Department of Justice has advised that the Act should be interpreted as providing, among other things, that:

General provisions: Student religious groups at public secondary schools have the same right of access to school facilities as is enjoyed by other comparable student groups. Under the Equal Access Act, a school receiving Federal funds that allows one or more student noncurriculum-related clubs to meet on its premises during noninstructional time may not refuse access to student religious groups.

Prayer services and worship exercises covered: A meeting, as defined and protected by the Equal Access Act, may include a prayer service, Bible reading, or other worship exercise.

Equal access to means of publicizing meetings: A school receiving Federal funds must allow student groups meeting under the Act to use the school media — including the public address system, the school newspaper, and the school bulletin board — to announce their meetings on the same terms as other noncurriculum-related student groups are allowed to use the school media. Any policy concerning the use of school media must be applied to all noncurriculum-related student groups in a nondiscriminatory matter. Schools, however, may inform students that certain groups are not school sponsored.

Lunch-time and recess covered: A school creates a limited open forum under the Equal Access Act, triggering equal access rights for religious groups, when it allows students to meet during their lunch periods or other noninstructional time during the school day, as well as when it allows students to meet before and after the school day.

Revised May 1998


List of organizations that can answer questions on religious expression in public schools

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Name: Rabbi David Saperstein
Address: 2027 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 387-2800
Fax: (202) 667-9070
Web site: http://www.rj.org/rac/
American Association of School Administrators
Name: Andrew Rotherham
Address: 1801 N. Moore St., Arlington, VA 22209
Phone: (703) 528-0700
Fax: (703) 528-2146
Web site: http://www.aasa.org
American Jewish Congress
Name: Marc Stern
Address: 15 East 84th Street, New York, NY 10028
Phone: (212) 360-1545
Fax: (212) 861-7056
National PTA
Name: Maribeth Oakes
Address: 1090 Vermont Ave., NW, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 289-6790
Fax: (202) 289-6791
Web site: http://www.pta.org
Christian Legal Society
Name: Steven McFarland
Address: 4208 Evergreen Lane, #222, Annandale, VA 22003
Phone: (703) 642-1070
Fax: (703) 642-1075
Web site: http://www.clsnet.com
National Association of Evangelicals
Name: Forest Montgomery
Address: 1023 15th Street, NW #500, Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 789-1011
Fax: (202) 842-0392
Web site: http://www.nae.net
National School Boards Association
Name: Laurie Westley
Address: 1680 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 838-6703
Fax: (703) 548-5613
Web site: http://www.nsba.org
Freedom Forum
Name: Charles Haynes
Address: 1101 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209
Phone: (703) 528-0800
Fax: (703) 284-2879
Web site: http://www.freedomforum.org

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