Thursday, September 30, 2010

Biology Teacher Fired for Mentioning Intelligent Design?

At George Mason University, teacher Caroline Crocker was fired. She taught Biology and made a couple of fatal mistakes. She did not teach the Darwin theory of evolution as proven and indisputable, and she also spoke favorably of the Intelligent Design concept.

Even Darwin himself did not think that his theory was any more than that - a theory, not proven science. See challenging the absolute authority of that theory would seem reasonable for that reason alone. And universities are supposed to allow teachers latitude to challenge the students' minds with viewpoints that are controversial.

George Mason was a Founder and a patriot. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Along with James Madison he is called the "father of the Bill of Rights."  He said, "The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth." Part of the mission statement of George Mason University is "Encourage freedom of thought, speech, and inquiry in a tolerant, respectful academic setting that values diversity." Wouldn't all that point to a more tolerant attitude about the theory of intelligent design? The Founders prayed to God; are we to assume they were just fooling themselves about the existence of God? Or are we to think that they were right about the existence of God, but that teaching students that God had anything to do with creating us is folly? Or would a teacher be fired for teaching about the meaning of George Mason's own words?

Read more here:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hate Crimes Against Muslims Fewer but Over-Reported

Here are the facts discussed in the article linked below. The mainstream news (i.e. New York Times and similar) have been shouting about the rash of anti-Muslim crimes in this country. We have a term in our lexicon of "anti-semitism" and a term of "islamophobia." If you search Google for each of those, you will get about 3.5 million for the former and 5.2 million for the latter. Yet there are 10 times as many hate crimes reported by the government against Jews than there are against Muslims. Not in the article is the fact that there are about twice as many Jews as Muslims in this country. Given that, one might expect twice as many hate crimes against Jews if all else were equal, which could be attributed to opportunity. But there are 10 times as many hate crimes.

Who is accountable for this seeming discrepancy? In my eyes that would be the media. If I walk around complaining about one kind of crime or the other, few people will hear me or be influenced. If I post a complaint on this blog, the reach will still be limited. I think it takes the power of the large media to get this slanted message to "stick."

What do you think?

Read the whole story below:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Early History: Proclamation for Day of Thanksgiving to GOD

 Our country was founded by people of religious faith. They had God interwoven throughout the early documents, from the voyages of Columbus through the landing on Plymouth Rock through this example from the Governor of Connecticut in 1721. Our Founders believed we owe gratitude to God for our blessings, and that we need to appeal to God for forgiveness of our sins.

The U.S. Constitution was ratified years later, and limited the power of the Federal Government to make laws about religion (either creating one or limiting any). But it left in place the official religions the majority of our states had in place at the time. The Founders wanted the Federal Government to leave this kind of thing to the states.

The proclamation is below, courtesy of the Library of Congress (forgive the computer's text recognition, although some of the "odd" words are simply forms in use during these days):

Gurdon Saltonstall, Esq;
GOVERNOUR of His Majesty's Colony of Connecticut in New-England

For a Publick Thanksgiving.

ALTHOUGH, Considering the Judgments of GOD, which are on the Earth, in the great Distress & Desolation brought upon many Nations, both by WAR and PESTILENCE.

And Considering also particularly, the awful Tokens of GOD's Righteous Anger against us, Especially, in the Contagious SICKNESS which has been in divers Places of the Land, and in the continued RAINS, by which great Losses have been sustained, It becomes Us to be deeply Humbled before the LORD.

IT is Nevertheless our Duty to Acknowledge the many Instances of Divine Goodness, which the LORD whose Ways, are not as Ours, has Graciously vouchtaled Us and which are never to be forgotten...........Namely,

THE Smiles of Providence on the BRITISH Empire, and particularly, On Our Sovereign Lord the KING, in the Prosperity of His Life and Reign: On Their Royal Highnesses the PRINCE and PRINCESS of Wales, and and on all the Branches of the ROYAL FAMILY, not only, in Their Happy Increase, by the BIRTH of the Royal Prince WILLIAM AUGUSTUS, but, also, in the Lives of Others of Them when in Hazard by Sickness, have been Mercifully Spared.

THE PEACE which has been Continued, and Confirmed to Our Nation, after so many Endeavours to interrupt It.

THE Preservation of the British Dominions from the Raging PESTILENCE, which has laid so many Places waste, within their View, and Neighbourhood.

THE General HEALTH that has been Enjoyed in the Land, notwithstanding, The SMALLPOX has prevailed so much, in the Principal Place of our Neighbouring Province.

THE Preservation of Our COLONY, in so great a Measure from that Contagious Sickness, when We have been in great Danger of It; The Continuance of Our Privileges both Civil and Sacred; The Peace which we have Enjoyed: And the good Supply of the Fruits of the Earth, which the present Year has been Crowned with.

WHICH are, (All of them) Blessings from the LORD, whose Mercy therein We ought to Celebrate with great THANKFULNESS.

I have therefore thought fit, with the Abbice and Consent of the Council, and at the Desire of the Representatives, to Appoint, and do hereby Appoint Wednesday, the Eight Day of November next, to be Observed as a Day of publick THANKGIVING throughout the Colony. Exhorting all both Ministers & People, with Unseigned Devotion, to Bless the Name of the LORD, and praise him for all the Wonders of his Goodness; And, to Beg that the mercy which we Adore, may in all the needful Instances thereof be manifested to Us.

And all Service Labours on the said Day is hereby strictly prohibited.

Given in New-Haven, the Fourteenth Day of October, Anno Domini 1721, In the Eight year of the Reign of Our Sovereign lord GEORGE, by the Grace of GOD of Great Britain, France and Ireland, KING, Defender of the Faith, &c.


GOD Save the KING.

NEW-LONDON: Printed by Timothy Green, Printer to his Honour the GOVERNOUR and COMPANY, 1721.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In What Year Did the Federal Government Declare the Bible 'The Word of God'?

Seeing the question above, you might first think it's a trick question. It's got to be a joke, right? After all, we have a separation of church and state. But, no, it's not a joke. This actually happened. The words "separation of church and state" are just a metaphor that describes one aspect of our First Amendment. The actual Amendment intended that the Federal Government be prohibited from forcing people by law to give up their preferred religious practices.

Accepting that, you might answer that this must have happened during our early history, thinking it was influenced by very religious Founders like George Washington. That is a good guess, but not what I am looking for.

But I'm thinking of time later in our history. So might you guess it was in the middle 1800's, influenced by the man who brought us the concept of one nation under God, Abraham Lincoln.

Both those would be logical guesses, but they would be wrong. The year was 1982, less that 30 years ago. It came to us via Public Law 97-280 (October 4, 1982), a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, signed by the President of the United States. The full text is below - notice the 2nd paragraph:

Joint Resolution authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim 1983 as the “Year of the Bible.”

Whereas the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people;

Whereas deeply held religious convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures led to the early settlement of our Nation;

Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the constitution of the United States;

Whereas many of our great national leaders among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson paid tribute to the surpassing influence of the Bible in our country's development, as the words of President Jackson that the Bible is “the rock on which our Republic rests”;

Whereas the history of our Nation clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the Scriptures in the lives of individuals, families, and societies;

Whereas this Nation now faces great challenges that will test this Nation as it has never been tested before; and

Whereas that renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through Holy Scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national “Year of the Bible” in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our Nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
Approved October 4, 1982.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

State Dept. Publishes Book Supporting Muslims, but No Other Religions?

Our own U.S. State Department has published a book called Being Muslim in America, which talks about the ways that the U.S. supports freedom of religion. It is, and should be, supportive of the right of Muslims to be Muslim. But the PDF document makes no mention of our Constitution and does not talk about the need for every religion to follow the laws of our land.

But a more interesting fact is that the State Dept. apparently publishes no book with any of the following titles:

• Being Buddhist in America
• Being Christian in America
• Being Hindu in America
• Being Jewish in America
• Being Sikh in America
• Being an Atheist in America

Does that mean that there is a particular need to assure Muslims, over any other faith, that their religion is welcome in the USA? Based on government statistics on hate crimes, there are more such crimes against Jews than Muslims when measured relative to their populations. So why do we not have a book assuring Jews that they are welcome here, and that their practices are OK in this country? There are about twice as many Jews in the USA as there are Muslims, but the hate crimes against Jews are 10 times as numerous as those against Muslims.

Read more below.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Just How Broad IS the First Amendment?

This blog is mostly about the First Amendment, and also has many posts about court decisions that turned the original meaning of the First Amendment on its head. Perhaps it will be useful to look at a recent circuit court decision on another part of the First Amendment, the free speech provision. Here is the entire text of the First Amendment (underlining added):

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That's simple enough.  The underlined portion is the free speech clause. We all want free speech, right? As with the religion clauses, we would hope to understand the intention of the Founders in order to properly interpret the Amendment in court. Is free speech unlimited? Free honest speech is, and I'm sure that was part of the intent. Free political opinions are protected, and that may have been one of the primary motivations for the clause. But it also seems reasonable that the Founders did not intend people to get away with dishonest speech. We don't accept libel or slander. You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater. Etc.

The recent case, decided by the 9th Circuit Court by 2 to 1, is about a Federal law that makes it illegal for someone to misrepresent his/her own military valor. The case is about a man who claimed to have won the Bronze Star, a very high honor for military members. This man, probably for political advantage, claimed to have won that award even though that is not the case. The court said the Federal law violates his free speech rights because his lie does no harm.

So the voters are left to think, by his own claims, that he is a man of different character. He also diminishes the honor of those who have actually won the award (if anyone can claim it, then it will not strike people as much of an honor to say, even honestly, that one earned the award). Would it be a logical extension to say that the military's uniform regulations, which allow the wearing of only awards actually received, is unconstitutional? Does that do any actual harm to the others in uniform?

What about perjury? If the false testimony does not change the outcome of the case, is it illegal? How about lying about my age on an application of one kind or another? Lying about my age to get into the military? Lying about my age to be able to make that Presidential run I've been secretly planning? Isn't it my free speech right to "embellish" my resume, even to the point of outright lies?

Do we want courts interpreting the Constitution this way? How much of this kind of interpretation will it take before the Constitution becomes meaningless?

Read more details below:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

School Principal Threatens Teachers for Religious Activities

There are already several posts on this blog about how some school officials are not supportive of any religious activities or recognition. Most often, by a very great margin, are instances where the intolerance is toward Christians rather than those of other faiths. And virtually always the discrimination has been due to a misunderstanding about the meaning of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

The latest case I heard about is from Fishersville, Virginia. In this case, it would seem the principal of Wilson Middle School wants teachers to stay very far away from any organized student religious activities and organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In a letter to the faculty, Principal Curtis said, “As I trust common sense and your elementary knowledge of the law should remind you, the Constitution includes an amendment that expects 'The government will not establish any religion,’... Be as religious as you want when you’re not in your official role as a teacher. Your official role as a teacher starts anytime you’re involved with students. Please check with me or your attorney if you need clarification so I can avoid termination proceedings for those of you that don't believe me or wish to test this concept. I’m being somewhat of a smart a&*, but I trust ‘You’re feeling me!’”

The part of the amendment Curtis references says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" It was clearly understood at the time of its writing to be a limitation of the power of the Federal Government, because more than half the states had laws establishing religion. The states would not have ratified the Constitution if they believed the Federal Government would interfere with their state religions. A later amendment is interpreted to bring the same mandate on the states. Even if that were the case, the amendment prohibits a law from being established. Individual participation by faculty in religious activities is hardly establishing a law. And the principal completely ignored the equally important second half of the Amendment, which intended to protect the free exercise of religion.

The non-profit Rutherford Institute has stepped in to help the teachers. The organization said, in part:

“By intimidating teachers, through threat of termination, into refusing to provide the same types of administrative assistance to the FCA as are made available to other student groups, Principal Curtis has pitted himself in direct opposition to the spirit of the First Amendment” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “School administrators need to act immediately to correct the erroneous impression conveyed by the principal’s e-mail that religion has no place in the public schools.”

Read more about the story below:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Christians Not Welcome In Some College Programs

A while ago I wrote about students who were not allowed to be part of programs to teach them to be counselors because of their Christian beliefs. The particular "fault" was that they could not affirm the gay life style. The issue was not that the treated any gay people badly or that they expressed a desire to withhold treatment from gay people, or even that they said they would try to "reform" gay patients.

Below is another example, this time from Augusta State University in Georgia. The school wants to require that the student do follow this plan, in part:

"They say the plan requires her to take steps to change her beliefs through additional assignments and additional 'diversity sensitivity training' and to 'work to increase exposure and interactions with gay populations. One such activity could be attending the Gay Pride Parade in Augusta.'"

While Christianity is the most common religion in the USA, it is not the only one. A substantial percentage of our population follow other religions, but stories like this seem limited to Christian students. I am waiting to hear of a story where a Muslim or Jewish student has been required to accept sensitivity training to accept the gay lifestyle. If you know of an example, please leave a comment.

Read the whole story below:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Challenges to Prayer on the Increase

Readers of this blog know I have already written about several court cases that arose when one or more people were offended by some form of public prayer. It has seemed to me that I am seeing more of these cases, and an article on documents that to be the case.

One example: employees of the University of Texas were fired for praying over a follow employee's cube, even though it was after hours, when the employee was not there, and without the employee's knowledge (even after the fact). Why did the school fire these people? The cited "harassment." At least one of those directly involved did not actually utter a prayer, but simply said "Amen" at various times. So that person was fired either for saying "Amen" or for silent actions.

It is clear from history that our Founders did not intend the First Amendment to mean anything like this. The phrase "separation of church and state" comes to us from Thomas Jefferson. This is the same Thomas Jefferson who issued proclamations for days of prayer in Virginia, and who specified that certain areas of the University of Virginia be set aside for prayer between students and faculty.

Read more below:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

First Amendment Limits Campus Law Enforcement??

A recent court case held that Davidson College, being a Christian college, could not enforce laws on its campus. It is the practice of the Attorney General of North Carolina to delegate enforcement duties to college police departments. But the court has said that it violates "separation of church and state" to give law enforcement rights to a college if that college is Christian.

The Founders, if one looks at their writings and actions, wanted to keep the government from establishing an official religion which citizens would be forced to follow. The college is being prohibited from enforcing laws solely because it is Christian (or religious). But allowing this police department to enforce laws such as DWI does not establish a religion. It has nothing to do with religion.

And the remedy? The college will now need to local police to patrol the campus, extending their workload and in effect channeling more tax dollars to support the college. The Supreme Court has ruled that it is not unconstitutional for local services, like fire and police or even school buses, to serve religious schools. So the local police may do this job. But I fail to see how the Founders' intentions would have led to religious schools being denied rights (or duties) that any other school would have.

Read more here:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

God Not Allowed in Shopping Mall

In Roseville, California, a youth minister wished to go to a shopping mall and share the Gospel with shoppers. Apparently he was very careful to not force himself on others; all those who spoke with him did so voluntarily. But for doing this he was arrested, handcuffed, fingerprinted, and book on criminal charges.

The mall has a policy that "...forbids anyone [from] ever sharing their faith or political views with anyone else in the shopping mall at any time if they did not know that person prior to entering the shopping mall." The story did not make it clear if the minister knew this policy beforehand.

This story raises some conflicts for me. On the one hand, I believe that private businesses should have latitude to run their business freely. And having the Constitutional right to free speech and free religious exercise does not mean anytime anywhere. (i.e. you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater)

On the other hand, the courts have often recognized that commercial establishment like malls are, in effect, part of the public square. And the Supreme Court ruled years ago, I believe during the Viet Nam war, that a man had the First Amendment right to wear a jacket with "F*** the Draft" on it, and presumably he could have worn that into a shopping mall. The Roseville mall discussed above has a rule prohibiting wearing clothes with political messages, so where would that leave an anti-draft jacket?

Feel free to comment if you have an opinion about this. It remains to be seen if this or a similar case will work its way to the Supreme Court.

Read the story below:

Mention SCOTUS case that said young man can wear a F___ the Draft jacket in public.