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

Christian groups finds gay agenda in an anti-bullying day


On Mix It Up at Lunch Day, schoolchildren around the country are encouraged to hang out with someone they normally might not speak to.

The program, started 11 years ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center and now in more than 2,500 schools, was intended as a way to break up cliques and prevent bullying.

But this year, the American Family Association, a conservative evangelical group, has called the project “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools” and is urging parents to keep their children home from school Oct. 30, the day most of the schools plan to participate this year.

The charges, raised in an email to supporters this month, have caused a handful of schools to cancel this year’s event and has caught organizers off guard.

"I was surprised that they completely lied about what Mix It Up Day is," said Maureen Costello, the director of the center’s Teaching Tolerance project, which organizes the program. "It was a cynical, fear-mongering tactic."

The swirl around Mix It Up at Lunch Day reflects a deeper battle between the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights group founded 41 years ago in Montgomery, Ala., and the American Family Association, a Bible-based cultural watchdog organization in Tupelo, Miss. The association says its mission is to fight what it calls the “increasing ungodliness” in America.

The law center recently added the group to its national list of active hate groups, which also includes neo-Nazis, black separatists and Holocaust deniers.

Association leaders, in return, have gone on the offensive, calling the law center a hate group for oppressing Christian students and claiming its aim is to shut down groups that oppose homosexuality.

"The reality is we are not a hate group. We are a truth group," said Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the association. "We tell the truth about homosexual behavior."

Although the suggested activities for Mix It Up at Lunch Day do not expressly address gay and lesbian students, the law center itself promotes equal treatment for gays and lesbians and that philosophy then informs the school program, he said.

"Anti-bullying legislation is exactly the same," Fischer said. "It’s just another thinly veiled attempt to promote the homosexual agenda. No one is in favor of anyone getting bullied for any reason, but these anti-bullying policies become a mechanism for punishing Christian students who believe that homosexual behavior is not something that should be normalized."

The program is not about sexual orientation but rather about breaking up social cliques, which are especially evident in a school cafeteria, Costello said.

In some schools, cliques are socio-economic. In others they are ethnic or religious or based on sexual orientation. By giving students a way to mix with other students, self-imposed social barriers can be broken down and bullying can be curbed, she said.

"Many of the targets of bullying are kids who are either gay or are perceived as gay," she said.

But the idea that the program is intended as homosexual indoctrination is simply wrong, she added.

"We’ve become used to the idea of lunatic fringe attacks," she said, "but this one was complete misrepresentation."

Parents who are on the American Family Association email list were encouraged to keep their children home on that day and to call school administrators to tell them why.

By Friday, about 200 schools had canceled, Costello said. But exactly why was unclear. Of 20 schools that had canceled and were contacted by The , only one chose to comment.

The Chattahoochee County Education Center in Cusseta, Ga., canceled because teachers were too busy trying to meet basic state teaching requirements, Principal Tabatha Walton said.

"The decision had nothing to do with taking a position on gay rights," she said. "We support diversity."

Although parents did complain to Kevin Brady, the head of the Avon Grove Charter School in rural Pennsylvania, the school is still planning to hold Mix it Up at Lunch Day for its 1,600 students.

Students will each be assigned a number and then paired up by school officials. The school has a large population of special-needs students who can feel isolated and thus benefit greatly from the program, Brady said.

The school started it a few years ago, inspired, in part, by the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado and examples of bully-related violence that surfaced in schools around the country.

He said the email sent by the association described a program that had “absolutely no resemblance to what we do.” Once parents understood how the program worked, they decided not keep their children home that day, he said.

"I think they feel they have been taken for a bit of a ride," he said.

StarAdvertiser

What a load of horse shit. 

~Mooglets

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.

I had an extremely surreal day today.

One of the schools that came today was a Catholic school. So there was a Nun. In full Habit. And she sat in on the classes.

It was surreal 8l 

Just a random thing about my day, today.

~Mooglets

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.

~Mooglets

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.

Christian rock band spreads homophobic message at US high school gig


A high school in Dunkerton, Minnesota, is facing a backlash from parents after a Christian rock band invited to perform for students used the opportunity to impart their anti-gay views, show images of aborted foetuses, and tell female students they should assume a submissive role in their future marriages.

The band, Junkyard Prophet, are part of the You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International Christian youth ministry, and were invited to Dunkerton High School to spread their “very strong anti-violence, anti-drug, anti-alcohol” message. Described as “rapcore-nu metal”, one writer has summarised Junkyard Prophet in the following terms: 

"Their sound is grease-bucket funky, with miter-saw guitar work over a tight, bass-heavy rap/rock hybrid, in the vein of Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit on the secular side, P.O.D. and Pillar on the Christian one."

High praise (well, maybe just the Rage bit…), but nothing on what you can learn on the band’s own website:

"Controversial, daring, fearless, and honest: these are just a few words that have been used to describe the Minneapolis-based Christian rap, metal outfit - Junkyard Prophet. […]

If you were to look up the word “independent” in the dictionary, one of the definitions would probably say, “Junkyard Prophet.” They truly take the D.I.Y. (do it yourself) concept to the extreme.”

And according to a local news report, the musical part of Junkyard Prophet’s school visit went very well indeed. “The kids were rocking out,” said the local Superintendent, but once the gig was over things started to go awry:

"After performing, the group separated boys, girls and teachers in the building.

During the breakout session, the young men learned the group’s thoughts on the U.S. Constitution and what one Prophet referred to as its “10 commandments.” The leader also showed images of musicians who died because of drug overdoses, including Elvis Presley.

Members of the group blasted other performers, like Toby Keith, for their improper influence.

The girls, meanwhile, were told to save themselves for their husbands and assume a submissive role in the household. According to witnesses, the leader in that effort also forced the young ladies to chant a manta of sorts about remaining pure.”

Jennifer Littlefield, mother of 16-year-old Dunkerton student Alivia Littlefield, told her local paper what she had heard from her daughter:

"They told my daughter, the girls, that they were going to have mud on their wedding dresses if they weren’t virgin. I couldn’t even understand her, she was crying so hard. They told these kids that anyone who was gay was going to die at the age of 42. It just blows me away that no one stopped this."

The local school district is now trying to recover the fee it was charged for Junkyard Prophet’s appearance.

PS: for those of you who are interested in reliving the days of nu-metal and once again asking what everyone was thinking, here’s a Junkyard Prophet video:

[Find video at link below]

New Humanist

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.

thejournal.ie

'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

AIBS State News on Teaching Evolution


The federal education law, No Child Left Behind, requires states establish standards for student assessment. As a consequence, states across the country are working to develop K-12 science standards and model curricula that will ensure students meet these standards. This process has seemingly reinvigorated a host of organizations that oppose the inclusion of evolution in public school curricula or advocate for the inclusion of “alternative theories” ranging from young-Earth creationism to intelligent design.

The AIBS Public Policy Office works with various national and state organizations to monitor and report on state and local threats to the teaching of evolution in public school science courses. The AIBS Public Policy Office reports on these threats through its bi-weekly public policy report. To enable scientists and science educators to better track current and historic challenges to evolution, past public policy report items on evolution education are organized below by state and date.

Read the article at the above link.

Basically, this is a huge ass list of the various attacks on Evolution, organised by date and state in the US.

~Mooglets

Child Evangelism Fellowship’s After School Good News Clubs Proliferating in Public School Facilities


Since the Supreme Court’s 1962 decision banning prayer in the public school classrooms, conservative evangelical Christians have been at war with public education. Many conservatives point to that decision as the harbinger of America’s moral decline. For years, Christian Right organizations and their leaders have railed against teachers’ unions, opposed tax increases to improve public education, and have even gone so far as to encourage Christian parents to withdraw their children from the public schools. During this period, the Christian Right ran stealth school board candidates and took control of the decision-making process in numerous school districts.

Now, it appears the movement has found another way of imposing its religious views in the public schools; through thinly disguised afterschool Bible study programs.

An unexpected discovery

Most parents with elementary and junior high school-age children are busy focusing on the nuts and bolts of day-to-day life — getting their kids ready for school, preparing lunches and providing the requisite lunch money, emptying out and restocking backpacks and signing notes from teachers, making sure homework is done, providing rides to the school’s doorstep and picking up their kids after school - to get too deeply involved with everything going on behind schoolhouse doors.  

In January 2009, Katherine Stewart, a novelist, journalist, and mother, learned that her children’s school in Santa Barbara, California, had added a Bible-study class to its list of afterschool programs. The afterschool group was called, innocuously enough, the “Good News Club.”

Curious as to what this “Good News Club” was about, Stewart discovered that it was part of a nationwide effort, sponsored by a conservative evangelical organization called the Child Evangelism Fellowship (http://www.cefonline.com/), a group aiming to “take back” America’s public schools. Backing this effort, she found, are three long-term Christian Right founded and funded legal enterprises, the Alliance Defense Fund, the Liberty Counsel, and the American Center for Law and Justice,.

Stewart didn’t stop at merely being surprised by the agenda of the “Good News Club” (http://www.cefonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=ca tegory&id=13&Itemid=100049). She explains in the introduction to her new book, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children (Public Affairs, January 2012), that doing the research for the book took her to “dozens of cities and towns across the country … . [where she] found religion-driven programs and initiatives inserting themselves into public school systems with unprecedented force and unexpected consequences.”

The Good News Clubs is a nationally based effort “coordinated and given strategic direction by extremely well financed groups whose leaders write the scripts that are followed in classrooms, playgrounds, and courtrooms from New York to California,” Stewart writes.

Good News Club v. Milford Central School

Religious-based after school programs burgeoned after the Good News Club v. Milford Central School (a K-12 school in upstate New York) Supreme Court decision in 2001.  Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the 6-3 majority, “laid out a philosophy that essentially destroyed the postwar consensus on the separation of church and school,” Stewart reports. Religion was now redefined “as nothing more than speech from a religious viewpoint.”

The Supreme Court’s decision essentially made it seem like the Good News Club’s sponsoring organization, the Child Evangelism Fellowship, was not a fundamentalist Christian organization that actually claimed that salvation was only available to those that believed Jesus is their savior, but rather just another group offering a religious viewpoint. The decision essentially allowed religious organizations access to the same public school facilities as other non-sectarian groups.

"Unfortunately, the Supreme Court upheld the right of CEF to meet in public schools at the end of the school day," Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst with Americans United told me in an email. "In some parts of the country, the group is very active and creates the impression that it is a school-sanctioned extended day-care program."

Good News Clubs take hold

Stewart found “student athletic programs turned into vehicles for religious recruiting”; “services [taking place] at dozens of the hundreds of school facilities that double as taxpayer-financed houses of worship”; and “children … [that] have been subject to proselytizing in classrooms and school yards.” She met with “school board officials” that are “rewriting textbook standards to conform to their religious agendas,” talked with many of “the people promoting and attending `Bible Study’ courses that turned out to be programs of sectarian indoctrination,” and she “sat in on training sessions with instructors for the Good News Club, which now operates in nearly 3,500 public elementary schools around the country.”    

One parent described to Stewart how members of a newly-formed Good News Club in an elementary school in Seattle, Washington, “came in like a bunch of gangbusters”: “They started putting a Statement of Faith in kids’ mailboxes. They distributed flyers. They were doing everything they could to have as big a presence on campus as possible.” The Club’s three-foot-high signage made sure to note that candy and cookies would be available.

Stewart cites numerous examples of Good News Clubs running amok in the public schools; inspiring culture clashes between children with different faiths and from different ethnic backgrounds. In many cases, young children who cannot yet read are fooled into thinking the Bible sessions are official school activities.

Good News Clubs were set up by the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), a worldwide organization founded seventy-five years ago in Warrenton, Missouri, by J.I. Overholtzer, a man who, according to the CEF website, “dreamed of an army of child evangelists encircling the globe.” years ago.

The website points out that Overholtzer’s dream “has largely become reality,” as the ministry is embedded in 175 nations and “reach[es] over 10 million children in face-to-face ministry annually.” In addition to the Good News Clubs, the ministry runs the “Truth Chasers Club,” “Camp Good News,” Military Children’s Ministries,” Ministry to Children of Prisoners,” and “Wonderzone.com,” a ten-year-old “site allows trained counselors to disciple children in a real-time, interactive environment.”

In pulling a latter-day Sara Diamond (the pioneering researcher and author of books on the Religious Right, who attended numerous movement meetings in the early 1980s) Stewart’s most eye-opening experience came while attending CEF’s May, 2010, triennial National Convention, held at the Shocco Springs Baptist Convention Center in Talladega, Alabama.

(Neither Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly nor Sacha Baron Cohen would be there to get her through those Talladega Nights.)

The vast majority of the 450 or so attendees were affiliated with CEF, including senior officials, staff, regional leaders, and heads of CEF’s youth, military and prison ministries. Stewart points out that, “We’re going to kick in the doors of every public school in the country!” is a phrase she keeps hearing.

"This is an old organization with ties to well known evangelical mission groups," Talk2Action’s Rachel Tabachnick told me in an email. "But CEF has mastered stealth evangelism of children, one of the goals for infiltrating society from the grass roots up, instead of top down."  

Tabachnick added: “CEF is a good example of how stealth evangelism” operates successfully in hundreds of communities across the country.

As anyone who witnessed the recent Focus on the Family-sponsored television commercial during a Denver Broncos football game — which used young children to explain what the Bible verse John 3:16 (one of Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow’s favorite Biblical verses) is about — understands that children are frequently used by conservative evangelical leaders as tools to spread the “Good News.” So it should not be surprising that children from 4-14 are seen as fertile recruiting ground.

The Child Evangelism Fellowship “targets very young children,” Americans United’s Rob Boston pointed out. “The group has even produced a `wordless book’ for children who are too young to read,” he said.

"Religious nationalism has now become part of American political theater, and we take notice of it mostly during election campaigns," Stewart writes.

"When it shows up in our backyard, in our schools and local communities, we reach instinctively for our First Amendment, interpreting the whole matter in terms of whose rights are being respected and whose feelings are being hurt. The most important issue before us, however, is not just a question of the rights and feelings of individuals. The fact is that there is a movement in our midst that rejects the values of inclusivity and diversity, a movement that seeks to undermine the foundations of modern secular democracy. It has set its sights on destroying the system of public education - and it is succeeding. Unless we confront that fact directly, we may well keep our rights but lose the system of education that has long served as the silent pillar of our democracy."

Boston added: “In light of the Supreme Court ruling, parents need to be diligent. They should not assume that any group operating in a public school is secular. The hard-core proselytizers are out there, often finding homes in public schools.”

Talk To Action

Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists


Leading scientists and naturalists, including Professor Richard Dawkinsand Sir David Attenborough, are claiming a victory over the creationist movement after the government ratified measures that will bar anti-evolution groups from teaching creationism in science classes.

The Department for Education has revised its model funding agreement, allowing the education secretary to withdraw cash from schools that fail to meet strict criteria relating to what they teach. Under the new agreement, funding will be withdrawn for any free school that teaches what it claims are “evidence-based views or theories” that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations”.

The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has led a campaign against creationism – the movement that denies Darwinian evolution and claims that the Earth and all its life was created by God – described the move as “highly significant” and predicted that it would have implications for other faith groups looking to run schools.

Dawkins, who was one of the leading lights in the campaign, welcomed confirmation that creationists would not receive funding to run free schools if they sought to portray their views as science. “I welcome all moves to ensure that creationism is not taught as fact in schools,” he said. “Government rules on this are extremely welcome, but they need to be properly enforced.”

Free schools, which are state-funded and run by local people or organisations, do not need to follow the national curriculum. Scientific groups have expressed concerns that their spread will see a reduction in the teaching of evolution in the classroom.

Several creationist groups have expressed an interest in opening schools in towns and cities across England, including Bedford, Barnsley, Sheffield and Nottingham. Critics say they seek to promote creationism, or the doctrine of “intelligent design”, as a scientific theory rather than as a myth or metaphor.

One creationist organisation, Truth in Science, which encourages teachers to incorporate intelligent design into their science teaching, has sent free resources to all secondary schools and sixth-form colleges.

A BHA campaign, called “Teach evolution, not creationism”, saw 30 leading scientists and educators call on the government to introduce statutory guidance against the teaching of creationism. The group said if the government would not support the call, an explicit amendment to the wording of the funding agreement could have the same effect. Last week the Department for Education confirmed it had amended the agreement, although a spokesman denied it was the result of pressure from scientists. He said the revision made good on a pledge regarding the teaching of creationism given when the education secretary, Michael Gove, was in opposition. “We will not accept any academy or free school proposal which plans to teach creationism in the science curriculum or as an alternative to accepted scientific theories,” the spokesman said, adding that “all free school proposals will be subject to due diligence checks by the department’s specialist team”.

The revised funding agreement has been seized upon by anti-creationists who are pressing for wider concessions from the government.

"It is clear that some faith schools are ignoring the regulations and are continuing to teach myth as though it were science," Dawkins said. "Evolution is fact, supported by evidence from a host of scientific disciplines, and we do a great disservice to our young people if we fail to teach it properly. "

A spokeswoman for the BHA said: “The government’s new wording is quite wide and in practice could prevent those who promote extreme religious or particular spiritual or pseudoscientific approaches from including them as part of the school curriculum as science or as evidence-based.”

The Guardian

Thanks to pintucks for the submission :) 

~Mooglets

Reading, Writing And Rebellion? 50 Years Later, Some Public Schools Still Resist the School Prayer Rulings


The New York Times ran an interesting piece recently about religion in public schools, making it clear that even though the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory, school-sponsored prayer nearly 50 years ago, many problems remain.

In some parts of the country, especially in areas where there isn’t a lot of religious diversity, some public education officials demonstrate great resistance to the high court’s school prayer rulings, noted Times reporter Erik Eckholm.

Americans United has been grappling with this issue for a long time. We believe most public school teachers and administrators are professionals who realize that it’s not their job to preach to students. But there are approximately 14,000 public school districts in America, so there are bound to be some misguided individuals who ignore the law. Attorneys at AU receive a steady stream of complaints related to religion in public schools.

What amazes me about some of the issues we deal with or read about in the media is the incredible arrogance of the proselytizers. In Chesterfield County, S.C., where the American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit over fundamentalist Christian practices in public schools, a North Carolina “traveling evangelist” named Christian Chapman said, “I definitely think that we should try to get our relationship with Christ back into the schools. Jesus represents everything we want our students to live by.”

Worse yet, Chapman was captured on tape claiming that a school principal told him, “I want these kids to know that eternal life is real, and I don’t care what happens to me, they’re going to hear it today.”

The principal, Larry Stinson, isn’t talking to the media, so we don’t know for sure what he said. But we do know that this school allowed a fundamentalist Christian evangelist and a Christian rapper to preach to youngsters in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Now for a thought experiment: Imagine if the principal had said something like, “I want these kids to know that Allah is God, and I don’t care what happens to me” or “I want these kids to know that Scientology has the answers, and I don’t care what happens to me” or perhaps even, “Too many of these kids are fundamentalists. I want them to know that liberal Christianity is a better way, and I don’t care what happens to me.”

Imagine if that school official brought in a speaker to tell the kids all about Islam. Or a Mormon who told them that there is another testament of Jesus Christ equal to the Bible called The Book of Mormon. Or an atheist who told them that all religion is hogwash.

I suspect what would “happen” to that school official is unemployment.

Put aside the fact that these school officials are ignoring 50 years of Supreme Court precedent. Put aside that they are mocking constitutional values. Put aside that what they’re doing is illegal (nice message to send to youngsters, right?).

The real problem with what they’re doing is that it violates parental rights – a concept religious conservatives claim to hold sacrosanct. When principals, administrators, teachers and others who work in public schools turn children over to evangelists or pressure them to take part in sectarian activities, those school officials are saying, “I don’t care what these kids are learning at home. I don’t care what their parents are teaching them. I don’t care what religion or philosophical system their parents have chosen. I know what’s best for them. And I have the right to pressure them to change their views.”

This astounding arrogance infuriates many parents, and it motivates them to contact Americans United for help. AU is eager to assist, and our attorneys never hesitate to step right up. We send a simple, but powerful message to the public school proselytizers: Stop what you are doing immediately – or we’ll see you in court.

It’s discouraging that we still have to fight this battle 50 years after the Supreme Court ruled on this issue, but as we do we always remember this: How bad would the situation be if Americans United wasn’t there to defend the rights of parents and their kids?

SND

Tennessee private school bans homosexuality


A Christian school in America has updated its policies to ban gays and any mention of homosexuality.

News Channel 3 of Memphis, Tennessee, reports that a letter was sent home to parents of the 300 children at Rossville Christian Academy outlining the ban.

The policy reads: “Homosexuality is forbidden in scripture (Romans 1:27, Leviticus 18:22).  A staff member or student who promotes, engages in, or identifies himself/herself with such activity through any word or action shall be in violation of this policy. 

"Should the administration determine a violation of this policy, the person involved will be subject to disciplinary action with the possibility of permanent dismissal.  Any applicant who is not in compliance with this policy will not be admitted.”

A lawyer has told the news channel he sees no legal issues within the new policy because the school is a private institution and there are no state laws protecting gays.

The school is yet to comment on its new policy.

From Pink Paper

Seriously, people. Seriously

~Mooglets