“While it is important that pupils be taught about religion - all religion - and, if their parents prefer it, instruction in it, there is no room in class for proselytising. Pupils are there to learn, not to be converted.”

Editorial, Melbourne Age

Missouri schools may have to "alert" parents when evolution is taught

Gove urged to strip 'creationist' zoo of educational award - Education - TES News

Read more above

Church takeover of community school blocked by local authority


Jesus christ, the UK does NOT need more fucking religious schools. 

Faith schools blasted on admissions


"It reveals that they not only further segregate children on religious and ethnic grounds, but also are skewed towards serving the affluent at the expense of the deprived.

"Crucially, the research also shows that the more a school is permitted to select children by faith, the greater the extent to which it is likely to socio-economically segregate.

"The data poses some very awkward questions for the state-funded faith school sector, especially as many people of faith are appalled that schools that should focus on the poor have become so elitist."

Faith in schools: The dismantling of Australia's secular public education system

The Separation of Church and State Schools was the theme of a conference hosted in Brisbane by the Humanist Society of Queensland on the weekend of 13-14 October 2012.

With conference speakers including academics and representatives of teacher and parent groups, the conference focused on four key areas of concern:

  1. Religious instruction classes conducted during school hours
  2. Chaplains in state schools
  3. State funding for religious schools
  4. The teaching of creationism and/or intelligent design as “science” in the science classroom

After Christian School Suppresses News Story About Pedophile Professor, a Brave Student Tells the World

You don’t always see student journalists take big risks and break stories but Alex Green, the editor-in-chief of Bryan College’s student newspaper in Dayton, Tennessee, did just that on Monday and it’s really an incredible story.

Bryan College is a Christian school founded in the wake of the local Scopes Monkey Trial and David Morgan was a professor of Biblical Studies there.

Anti-LGBT “Julea Ward Freedom Of Conscience Act” Passes House in Michigan. (SSA Blogathon)

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”  – Christopher Hitchens

Julea Ward, in case you are wondering, was a student at Eastern Michigan University who was kicked out of a school counseling graduate program after she refused, on religious grounds, to affirm homosexual behavior when serving clients. Judge George Caram Steeh of the U.S. District Court in Detroit dismissed the suit, saying that the university “had a right and duty to enforce compliance” with professional ethics rules that bars counselors from discrimination, and ruled in favor of the university.

We’ll Have None Of THAT…!

ThinkProgress reports that the Michigan House passed HB 5040 (Julea Ward Freedom Of Conscience Act). This bill transcends Christian colleges and will, if passed, also effect non-Christian (read: real) colleges that will allow students to refuse to provide any counseling that compromises their religious beliefs. Including those pesky gays…

According to HB 5040, this bill is,

“A public degree or certificate granting college, university, junior college, or community college of this state shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.”

Legislation should dictate ethical standards in a university setting, but this bill seeks to dodge it.

Wayne, Manners…

ThinkProgress closes their article by reporting that activist Wayne Besen said,

“Counseling should be about the client, not the self-serving needs of the therapist.”

Michigan’s distaste for their LGBT community was solidified when they banned all domestic partnerships, and again when they attempted to create a “license to bully” in schools. Their illustrious Governor, Rick Snyder (R), as expected wouldn’t even meet with anyone from the LGBT press.

The Michigan State Motto should be changed from “Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice” (If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you) to “Si vos peto bigotry , vos mos reperio is hic” (If you seek bigotry, you will find it here)

Freethought blogs

Richard Dawkins: evolution will be ‘the new classics’: Evolution should be considered “the new classics”, Richard Dawkins has claimed, arguing that a university course in the subject would produce the most academically polished students.

Whereas employers traditionally fought over classicists because they were seen as the most rounded graduates, students with degrees in evolution would soon gain a similar reputation, the author and renowned atheist said.

Although no such course exists in Britain, with the subject principally being confined to biology programmes, Prof Dawkins said degrees in evolution were sure to appear in future and their students would achieve “polymathic status”.

Reading evolution would broaden scholars’ horizons by giving them a better understanding of economics, social science, philosophy, engineering, medicine, agriculture, linguistics, physics, cosmology and the history of science, he argued.

The author of The God Delusion was speaking as he accepted an award for Distinguished Services to Humanism from the British Humanists Association last weekend.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “I think evolution would do a good job of uniting not just biology and geology and the obvious scientific subjects, but also philosophy, history, economics.

"Rather like classics it gives you the skills of debating, a perspective on life … it would do what classics has always done, which is just teach people how to think."

Prof Dawkins, who is employed by Oxford University but is also affiliated with A.C. Grayling’s New College of the Humanities, added that he would happily lecture on such a course.

Explaining the common ground shared by evolution and behavioural economics in his speech last weekend, he said: “Everything has to be paid for, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You have to pay for whatever you do now in the form of lost opportunities to do other things in the future.”

The evolutionary subject of sexual selection, the relationship between parents and their children and the significance of sex ratios are “rife” within economic thinking, he added, according to a Guardian blog.

Engineering principles such as the refinement of designs to make them more efficient and effective are “central to evolutionary theory” while the modern-day study of molecular genetics is effectively “digital information technology”, he said.

All doctors should be followers of Darwin, he continued, saying that “If doctors had been wise to natural selection we wouldn’t have the problem we have now with antibiotic resistance evolving by natural selection by bacteria”.

Creationists triumph in South Korea, as references to evolution excised from school textbooks

Yesterday I blogged about a new Gallup poll revealing that 46 per cent of Americans hold creationist views, but today attention shifts around the globe to South Korea, following news that school textbook publishers are to remove several references to evolution from future editions as a result of a successful petition by a creationist organisation.

According to a report in the latest issue of Nature, the Society for Textbook Revise, an offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research, launched a petition calling on the South Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to ask publishers to remove examples concerning the evolution of the horse and Archaeopteryx, a winged Late Jurassic creature believed to be an ancestor of modern birds. After the Ministry passed on the petition to textbook publishers, several took the decision to remove the examples from their books.

The focus on the specific example of Archaeopteryx represents a common creationist tactic, whereby genuine disputes among evolutionary biologists are exploited in an attempt to undermine the science as a whole. Archaeopteryx has long been believed to have been an ancient ancestor of birds, but more recent studies have suggested the connection to modern birds may not be as clear as was previously thought. Having successfully taken advantage of that particular scientific debate, the Society for Textbook Revise are apparently now aiming to persuade publishers to remove references to “the evolution of humans”.

Figures for those not believing in evolution in South Korea are relatively high, with almost one-third of those surveyed in a 2009 poll saying they did not. Considering that only 26 per cent of Koreans are Christian, it is possible that the problem lies with science education rather than religion – 41 per cent of those disputing evolution in the 2009 survey cited “insufficient scientific evidence”, compared with 39 per cent who cited religious beliefs. Speaking to Nature Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul National University, suggests evolution is not taught widely enough in the country’s universities, with “only 5–10 evolutionary scientists” teaching the theory to students across the entire university system.


New Humanist

This doesn’t surprise me. This is my neck of the woods right now, and the sheer amount of crosses I see, on every damn street, flashing neon from roof-tops, Religious Iconography in windows and store-fronts…I swear, it’s worse than America.


The church school paradox: Do faith schools have an unfair advantage in Britain today?

A report issued by the Church of England last month declared that its schools were “at the centre of its mission” to society. There’s a technical sense (which the report acknowledged) in which that statement is quite accurate: there are more children in the church’s schools than there are worshippers in its pews every Sunday. There are millions of people in this country whose main or only contact with institutional religion comes through education. You could almost say that the C of E is now principally an education provider with a small but lucrative sideline in weddings and funerals.

Leading national organisations unite to ask Gove to prevent anti-abortion groups making false claims in schools

Leading sexual health groups, unions and religion and belief organisations have together written to Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, to ask that he issues guidance to prevent groups making false claims about abortion and contraception in schools. The letter particularly focuses on the behaviour of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), Lovewise and Life, and was coordinated by Education For Choice (EFC) and the British Humanist Association (BHA). EFC and the BHA recently uncovered falsehoods spread by SPUC in schools through secret recordings, and are aware of similar inaccurate claims made by the other two groups. 

Study: Conservatives’ Trust in Science Has Fallen Dramatically Since Mid-1970s

Trust in Science Has Also Declined Among People Who Frequently Attend Church  

WASHINGTON, DC, March 29, 2012 — While trust in science remained stable among people who self-identified as moderates and liberals in the United States between 1974 and 2010, trust in science fell among self-identified conservatives by more than 25 percent during the same period, according to new research from Gordon Gauchat, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

“You can see this distrust in science among conservatives reflected in the current Republican primary campaign,” said Gauchat, whose study appears in the April issue of the American Sociological Review. “When people want to define themselves as conservatives relative to moderates and liberals, you often hear them raising questions about the validity of global warming and evolution and talking about how ‘intellectual elites’ and scientists don’t necessarily have the whole truth.”

Relying on data from the 1974-2010 waves of the nationally representative General Social Survey, the study found that people who self-identified as conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to self-identified moderates and liberals, and ended the period with the lowest.

In addition to examining how the relationship between political ideology and trust in science changed over almost 40 years, Gauchat also explored how other social and demographic characteristics—including frequency of church attendance—related to trust in science over that same period. Gauchat found that, while trust in science declined between 1974 and 2010 among those who frequently attended church, there was no statistically significant group-specific change in trust in science over that period among any of the other social or demographic factors he examined, including gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

“This study shows that the public trust in science has not declined since the mid-1970s except among self-identified conservatives and among those who frequently attend church,” Gauchat said. “It also provides evidence that, in the United States, there is a tension between religion and science in some contexts. This tension is evident in public controversies such as that over the teaching of evolution.”

As for why self-identified conservatives were much less likely to trust science in 2010 than they were in the mid-1970s, Gauchat offered several possibilities. One is the conservative movement itself.

“Over the last several decades, there’s been an effort among those who define themselves as conservatives to clearly identify what it means to be a conservative,” Gauchat said. “For whatever reason, this appears to involve opposing science and universities and what is perceived as the ‘liberal culture.’ So, self-identified conservatives seem to lump these groups together and rally around the notion that what makes ‘us’ conservatives is that we don’t agree with ‘them.’”

Another possibility, according to Gauchat, is the changing role of science in the United States. “In the past, the scientific community was viewed as concerned primarily with macro structural matters such as winning the space race,” Gauchat said. “Today, conservatives perceive the scientific community as more focused on regulatory matters such as stopping industry from producing too much carbon dioxide. Conservatives often oppose government regulation, and they increasingly perceive science as on the side of regulation, especially as scientific evidence is used more frequently in the work of government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and in public debates over issues such as climate change.”

The study also found that the declining trust in science among conservatives was not attributable to changes among less educated conservatives, but rather to rising distrust among better educated conservatives. “It is a significant finding and the opposite of what many might expect,” Gauchat said.

As for the study’s implications, Gauchat said it raises important questions about the future role of science in public policy. “In a political climate in which all sides do not share a basic trust in science, scientific evidence no longer is viewed as a politically neutral factor in judging whether a public policy is good or bad,” said Gauchat, who is also concerned that the increasingly politicized view of science could turn people away from careers in the field. “I think this would be very detrimental to an advanced economy where you need people with science and engineering backgrounds.”


An interesting read.


Atheists criticise religion exam at student teacher college

AN ATHEIST GROUP has called on a teacher training college to remove notes from its curriculum which say that atheism produced “the worst horrors history has ever witnessed”.

Atheist Ireland says the module on religion at Hibernia College is unfair on people who don’t believe in god or who are not Roman Catholic.

It has called on the college to revise the religion module in its HDip in primary school education to teach students in an “objective, critical and pluralistic manner”.

Students at the college who are training to become primary school teachers are given course notes during the module which say that “atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed, namely Nazism, Fascism and Marxism,” according to Atheist Ireland.

Students are also expected to answer ‘True’ to the exam statement: “Atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed”.

Atheist Ireland has called on the college to remove the statements from the course notes and examinations, calling them “disgraceful” and “untrue”.

“Hibernia College should not be teaching the disgraceful [coursework] that very few modern atheists are bothered about the causes of the worst atrocities in history, and that we feel anything is morally justified in the absence of gods,” the group said in a letter today.

In Ireland, we have got used to Roman Catholic educational institutions discrimination against atheists and against religion people who are not Roman Catholics. It is sad that we now find Hibernia College, a nonreligious educational institution, doing the same.

A call to Hibernia College had not been returned by this afternoon.


'Anti-gay' book puts Gove at centre of faith school teaching row: Education secretary says Equality Act does not extend to school curriculum – allowing faith schools to use homophobic material

Michael Gove, the education secretary, is at the centre of an escalating row over how faith schools discuss homosexuality in sex education classes.

The TUC has accused Gove of failing in his legal duties by insisting that equality laws, which prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, do not extend to the school curriculum.

The TUC complains that the current situation sends mixed signals to the playground, because schools are legally obliged to condemn discrimination on sexual-orientation grounds but free to use religious materials that equality campaigners claim is homophobic.

Brendan Barber, the TUC’s general secretary, wrote to Gove in December expressing alarm that a booklet containing “homophobic material” had been distributed by a US preacher after talks to pupils at Roman Catholic schools across the Lancashire region in 2010.

The booklet, “Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be”, discusses a boy dealing with “homosexual attractions” which it suggested may “stem from an unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to other guys, or even sexual abuse”.

The booklet, which claims that “scientifically speaking, safe sex is a joke”, explains that “the homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals. Both acts are directed against God’s natural purpose for sex – babies and bonding.”

Referring to the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits discrimination against individuals, Barber said: “Schools now have a legal duty to challenge all forms of prejudice. Such literature undermines this completely.”

But Gove insists: “The education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics (including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act.”

Gove’s response has triggered anger from the TUC. “Having written to the education secretary to express our worry about the distribution of homophobic literature in faith schools, his lack of concern is very alarming,” Barber said.

A DfE spokesman insisted: “Any school engaging in the promotion of homophobic material would be acting unlawfully.” But the row highlights a grey area over the teaching of sex education. A review intended to provide new guidelines on what was appropriate for schools to teach was kicked into the long grass when the last election was called.

"It would certainly be helpful if there was clarity as to what is appropriate for young people of all ages," said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall. “The water could no longer be muddied by people pushing age-inappropriate sex material on the one hand and fundamentalist anti-gay religious materials on the other.”

The row comes at the end of an extraordinary week in which the role of religion in society has come under acute scrutiny.

The chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, said religious rules should be left “at the door of the temple” and give way to the “public law” laid down by parliament. Phillips said: “Once you start to provide public services that have to be run under public rules – for example, child protection – then it has to go with public law.” Phillips spoke out after Baroness Warsi, the Tory minister, warned Britain was under threat from a rising tide of “militant secularisation”.

Lord Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, warned that Christianity was being marginalised. Days earlier, the high court ruled that councils had no statutory power to hold prayers in meetings, while the Christian owners of a bed-and-breakfast lost an appeal against a ruling that their policy of restricting double rooms to married couples discriminated against a gay couple.

Concerns that faith matters are being marginalised at school has prompted the creation of a new coalition of faith groups and politicians. The Religious Education Council of England and Wales is to back the creation of an all-party parliamentary group that will focus on protecting religious education in schools and stressing its value to young people.

The Guardian