Tag Archives: schools

Christians want Feds to close Islamic school

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I have posted here many times showing the hypocrisy of the religious right when it comes to religious liberty. Time and time again they want our government to provide special rights to their Christian religion but when it comes to liberty for all religions and the non-religious, they throw a hissy fit.

On October 18th, news outlets reported a federal panel wanted to see an Islamic school in Virginia, funded by the government of Saudi Arabia, to be closed because of reports of a textbook used at the school encouraged religious intolerance.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom singled out the Saudi-supported Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in Northern Virginia in a broader report that accused Saudi Arabia of promoting Muslim extremism and religious intolerance six years after the Sept. 11 attacks. The panel, created by Congress and authorized only to make recommendations, voiced concern about what the private school was teaching.

The commission report did not make specific criticisms of the school’s curriculum. Commission deputy director Tad Stahnke said the panel wrote to Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, who is chairman of the academy’s board of directors, asking to see the school’s textbooks but got no answer. Stahnke said the commission did not try to contact ISA staff.

Commissioner Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he knew enough about ISA’s textbooks to be “very disturbed that this is going on within eyesight of the capital.”

The report relies heavily on a 2006 analysis of Saudi textbooks that found inflammatory passages against Christians, Jews and Shiite Muslims. One example for ninth-graders said that the hour of judgment “will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.”

Federal panel wants to shut Islamic school in Va.

Noticed how no one having an issue with the textbooks has actually seen one. I saw on CNN where a reporter got a student to give him one but since it was written in Arabic and they would need to have it translated.

Regardless if the claims are true, I need to point out that the school is a private school. Private school curriculum normally isn’t subject to oversight by the federal government and I have never heard of a school being closed because of what is being taught. As long as students are making progress according to state education standards then it is basically hands off.

Then there is the fact that the concern is religiously based:

A review of a sample of official Saudi textbooks for Islamic studies used during the current academic year (2006) reveals that, despite the Saudi government’s statements to the contrary, an ideology of hatred toward Christians and Jews and Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine remains in this area of the public school system. The texts teach a dualistic vision, dividing the world into true believers of Islam (the “monotheists”) and unbelievers (the “polytheists” and “infidels”).

Saudi Arabia also distributes its religion texts worldwide to numerous Islamic schools and madrassas that it does not directly operate. Undeterred by Wahhabism’s historically fringe status, Saudi Arabia is trying to assert itself as the world’s authoritative voice on Islam — a sort of “Vatican” for Islam, as several Saudi officials have stated– and these textbooks are integral to this effort. As the report of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks observed, “Even in affluent countries, Saudi-funded Wahhabi schools are often the only Islamic schools” available.

This is a Saudi textbook. (After the intolerance was removed.)

Here is an example (translated from a book):

FIRST GRADE

” Every religion other than Islam is false.”

“Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ______________ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ____________.”

The example was correct as of 2006 so it is probable the books used at the Islamic Saudi Academy might contain the same type of religious indoctrination.

If the people concerned about the school get the federal government to close it, then I want to see them close Christian schools that teach condoms don’t work, evolution is false, abortion is murder, and man lived with the dinosaurs.

Crap would hit the fan then wouldn’t it?

I say if the federal government isn’t going to close a Christian school for teaching lies about science then they need to leave the Islamic Saudi Academy alone.

Shilling for The Last Presentation

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Normally I am hesitant to shill for anyone or anything on this blog, but I was contacted by group trying to improve the perception of non-believers in the minds of the public, and they need money.

The group is The Colorado Coalition of Reason

They are raising money to fund the distribution of a 38 minute video for social science classes in the public schools across the country. The video opens young minds to the importance of logic, reason, and science, and introduces students to the nonbeliever’s point of view. The name of the video is “The Last Presentation” and is the result of comparing notes by various speakers to compile a presentation that can be shown during discussions of diversity and comparative religion. It would address the problem of trying to find a presenter with the knowledge and experience to speak to young people in school and would present a single version of the information.

The fundraising is due to close on 9/15/2006 but they need more funding. Currently the jar stands at $7,035 and their goal is $25,000.

Marvin Straus. the video’s producer and director had this to say:

Some nonbelievers, including myself, have made similar presentations to high school classes. When other speakers and I shared notes, we identified common themes. Generally, students at these social science presentations:

1) Were very interested in the opinions of nonbelievers.
2) Wanted to know more about the subject.
3) Were supportive of the speakers and his or her views.
4) Asked identical questions at different schools.

A few students did display deep-seated negative feelings such as “all atheists are communists” or “since nonbelievers have no religious background to guide them, they are probably immoral and unethical.”

After the presentations, many students said they had a more positive view of nonbelievers.

The problem: It is difficult to obtain an invitation to speak to a social science class. Teachers seldom invite nonbelievers, sometimes because they do not think of it. Attempting to contact each school or school board to ask for the opportunity to address high school students would be inefficient and time consuming.

The solution: Send TLP directly to the 16,000 public, high-school teachers. By doing so, with your help, we can

– open young minds to the secular world of logic, reason, and compassion,
– encourage the separation of church and state, and
– encourage the teaching of evolution instead of Intelligent Design.

These students are future voters and potential supporters of Jefferson’s wall. They will become citizens who hopefully will protect the rights of minorities, including nonbelievers. After watching the video, we hope the audience will think of nonbelievers as friends, not possible enemies.

For more information or to donate visit the video’s website at:

http://www.cocore.org/last_presentation.php

In light of Dover, Ohio Board of Education to reconsider their ID lesson plan

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Ohio’s Board of Education (OBE) in March of 2004 adopted a “critical analysis of evolution” model lesson after a long hard fought campaign between those who support real science and those who want to force children to learn religion in the public schools.

I happened to attend a public forum on the topic the OBE offered in March of 2002. Here is some text I wrote about the event back then:

Last issue I detailed the fight by religious conservatives to add Intelligent Design to the 10th grade Biology standards. On March 11th I attended a forum held by the Ohio State Board of Education (OBE) at Veteran’s Memorial Hall in Columbus. Joining me was HCCO Board member, Roger Marcum. We sat with Frank Zindler from American Atheists. Approximately 1,500 people attended the event with more than a dozen print and broadcast reporters from Ohio, the US, and the world

The OBE invited two Intelligent Design proponents and two Evolution supporters to present arguments and answer questions from the Board. The public was allowed to attend but we were not allowed to participate. Dr. Jonathan Wells and Dr. Stephen C. Meyer (from the Discovery Institute) presented the argument to include Intelligent Design and Dr. Lawrence Krauss and Dr. Kenneth R. Miller made the presentation on why to exclude ID from the science standards.

Dr. Meyer followed and he covered the same ground as Wells about “problems” with Evolution and that there is a controversy that needs to be told to students. He also threw a curve ball by offering a compromise solution. He said instead of mandating that ID be included, the Institute would like to see the proposed text to say only that it “permit” alternative theories be taught.

From: Update on the Science Education Battle, Central Ohio Humanist May/June 2002 pg. 2

The OBE adopted a lesson plan similar to that mentioned above. It didn’t require Intelligent Design to be taught but didn’t prohibit it. It used language similar to “teaching alternative theories”.

In 2005, Americans United for Separation of Church and State made a records request for material used to develop the lesson plan the OBE adopted.

At that time, some members of the board and supporters of ID insisted there is nothing in the lesson about intelligent design.

But documents released by the Ohio Department of Education reveal that staff scientists and outside reviewers alike regarded the lesson as embodying intelligent-design creationism without labeling it as such. Even pro-creationist reviewers of the lesson thought it contained ID. One urged the department to add yet more information about intelligent design.

During the lesson plan production process, state Department of Education staffers went so far as to comment that one aspect of the lesson was a lie. Other notes made clear that material presented was wrong, off-topic and an oversimplification. Outside reviewers of the lesson agreed. One noted the lesson linked to websites including ones that were ID thinly veiled and obviously ID, and a slick ID site.

Americans United and Ohio Citizens for Science Cast Critical Eye on Ohio’s Evolution Model Lesson

During the process, supporters on both sides of the issue tried to get Governor Bob Taft to support their side. The Governor appoints several of the OBE members and it was thought a statement of support would help sway the Board to one side or the other.

The Governor refused to publicly back any position and claimed the Board needed to make the decision without influence from any outside interest.

However in August of 2005, the Columbus Dispatch had a front page story talked about how emails showed Taft’s office manipulated Board of Education and suggested ties to larger movement to undermine the integrity and legitimacy of teacher education in Ohio at the service of the extreme Religious Right.

Emails to and from Taft’s former chief of staff, Brian Hicks (convicted on July 30 of ethics violations), reflect the staff’s acknowledgement of the role of the Religious Right, led primarily by OBE members Deborah Owens Fink of Richfield and Rev. Michael Cochran. Fink is a University of Akron Associate Professor of Marketing; Cochran, former Franklin Co. assistant prosecuting attorney, is rector of Christ Church, a parish of the breakaway Episcopal Missionary Church.

The Cochran-led science standards subcommittee appears to have packed the 2003 writing team with “intelligent-design” creationists, including Glen Needham and Bryan Leonard. Leonard, author of the controversial creationist lesson plan, “A Critical Analysis of Evolution,” adopted by the Ohio Board of Education last year, is a student at OSU working toward his PhD in science education while teaching at Hilliard Davidson high school.

Taft Backed “Intelligent-Design” Creationism

In light of the Dover decision and this new evidence of the behind the scenes manipulation, Americans United are prepared to file a lawsuit against the OBE.

The Board has been meeting with its legal team and is trying to decide if they will remove the lesson plan.

The OBE will meet next Tuesday January 10 starting at 8 AM in Columbus. The location is:

Conference Center
Ohio School for the Deaf
500 Morse Road
Columbus, Ohio

The group that has been supporting Evolution in the schools since 2002, Ohio Citizens for Science is asking for people in Ohio to e-mail the members of the OBE and encourage them to remove the lesson plan to avoid a lawsuit.

I am using an image of the addresses to thwart spam harvesters. If you have a problem with the addresses you can get a PDF file of contact info for the OBE here:

http://science2.marion.ohio-state.edu/ohioscience/OHIO_BOE_DIRECTORY.pdf

Is Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito a friend to religious liberty?

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Samuel Alito’s confirmation hearing is going to start in January and one area he is sure to be questioned about is his legal views on the separation of church and state.

Unlike the failed nomination of Harriet Miers, Alito has a judical history to look at to see if he may be a friend of real religious liberty – one that supports the separation of church and state.

According to an AP report this weekend, Alito’s record on religious cases is all over the spectrum.

During his 15 years as an appellate judge, President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee has written decisions in favor of Muslim police officers in Newark, N.J., who wore beards; a Native American from Pennsylvania who raised sacred black bears; and a Jewish professor who said she was pushed out of her job for refusing to attend faculty events on Friday evenings and Saturdays, her Sabbath.

“Intentionally pressuring a person to choose between faith and a career … by manipulating the job requirements” is a form of illegal discrimination based on religion, Alito wrote in ruling for Gertrude W. Abramson, the professor.

He also upheld the holiday display in Jersey City, N.J., that featured a creche, a menorah, a Christmas tree and a plastic Frosty the Snowman. In doing so, he rejected the complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that the display in front of City Hall promoted an official religion. Last year, Alito held that an evangelical Christian group had a free-speech right to pass out fliers on school property to invite students to attend Bible study meetings.

In dissents, Alito said he would have allowed high school seniors to elect one of their own to deliver a graduation prayer.

And he would have allowed a mother to sue a school principal for damages because her kindergartner’s drawing of Jesus had been temporarily removed from its prime place in a hallway. “Discriminatory treatment of the poster because of its religious theme would violate the 1st Amendment,” he wrote.

Alito, unlike the court’s current conservative wing, also has supported the rights of religious minorities. In the beard case and the case of the Native Americans raising Black Bears, he said the Constitution’s protection for the “free exercise” of religion required the government to bend its rules for religion if other exceptions were permitted.

Newark allowed exceptions to their beard rule for medical reasons and Pennsylvania had wild animal exemptions for zoos and circuses.

However Alito has written in support of religion in the schools as a case of free speech:

In 1996, Alito joined a dissent saying that students at a New Jersey high school had a free speech and freedom of religion right to deliver a prayer at graduation. Under a policy adopted by the Black Horse Pike Regional School District in New Jersey, seniors voted and the prayer option won, 128 to 120.

Four years ago, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a similar policy adopted by a Texas school board. In a 6-3 decision, the court said a religious message should not be broadcast at school-sponsored events. The justices also said they were troubled by the notion of holding a school election to decide a question of religion.

Then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. Like Alito, they said the free speech rights of the majority should prevail.

In a lawsuit from New Jersey, a boy in school had his Thanksgiving poster removed from display at school because it thanked Jesus then put back up by the teacher but in a less prominent place, then the next year the child wanted to read from his Bible during story time and the teacher refused to let him. The mother sued but lost in the appeals court. Alito wrote a strong dissent describing how the plaintiff should have won the case.

He wrote:

“Public school authorities may not discriminate against student speech based on its religious content,” he wrote. Zachary’s “poster was given less favorable treatment than it would have received had its content been secular rather religious.”

Alito’s view would cause issues for schools across the country:

Julie Underwood, the former general counsel for the National School Boards Assn., said Alito’s view would put schools in an untenable position.

“If you allow the religious speech from the podium or in the classroom, you can be accused of promoting religion,” said Underwood, now dean of education at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “If you don’t, you can be sued for discriminating against religion.

“This issue comes up in all kinds of contexts. Whether there can be prayer at school board meetings or at graduation. Or evolution versus intelligent design.”

Alito Put Faith in the 1st Amendment

Unlike Christian conservatives, Alito supports religious freedom for all, but his views on religion in the schools are an issue that is of great concern.

We’ll see more when his hearings start.

Kansas Board of Education redefines science *again* plus the fall out from the Dover trial

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For the 3rd time in six years the “experts” in science on the Kansas state Board of Education redefined science to fit their religious biases.

Imagine someone who is mathematically challenged decides that 4+4=4 looks “pretty” and gets a Board of Education to agree.

That’s what happen in Kansas on Tuesday.

The new standards includes statements like there is a lack of evidence or natural explanation for the genetic code, and claims that fossil records are inconsistent with evolutionary theory.

It also says some evolutionary explanations “are not based on direct observations… and often reflect… inferences from indirect or circumstantial evidence,” and the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Back in 1999, the Kansas Board removed Evolution from the state standards. The result, besides the national outcry, was that voters removed 3 of the supporters of ID. The Board then changed the standards back to be Evolution friendly.

In recent years the Board has become more conservative and 6 of the 8 Republicans voted to approve the change back to the Dark Ages while 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted against the changes.

Kansas school board redefines science

Evolution suffers Kansas setback

Meanwhile back in Dover, PA:

The just concluded Federal trial against the inclusion of Intelligent Design by the school board of the Dover Area District had some influence in all 8 incumbents losing their jobs in the elections Tuesday night. The losers also included Alan Bonsell who was at the center of the controversy.

A group of candidates, supported by the Dover CARES group, said that if intelligent design is referenced, it should be in an elective course, such as comparative religion.

Dover CARES sweeps school dir. seats

I wonder if the Kansas Board read newspapers? Of course they would need to get their heads out of their asses first.

Watch an Evolution vs Intelligent Design forum on C-SPAN website

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On October 21st, the American Enterprise Institute sponsored a forum on the issue of teaching Intelligent Design in the public schools. It started with a debate on the “science” of Intelligent Design (ID) with Prof. Paul Nelson of the Discovery Institute and Prof. Ken Miller of Brown University. Both men appeared as witnesses in the Dover ID case that is going on through early November.

The second part had a priest, Father George Coyne, gave the Vatican perspective on the issue of Evolution and ID and science. He had some harsh words for the ID crowd. He reaffirmed Pope John Paul II’s statement that Evolution and faith are compatible.

The final part was a keynote speech by Dr. Lawrence Kraus from Case Western Reserve University who has been active in defending the school science programs from ID.

Miller and Kraus debated the Discovery Institute at a forum in 2002 in front of the Ohio State Board of Education when the issue or allowing ID into the schools came up.

Forgive me if I miss spelled the names as I don’t have a transcript to refer to.

C-Span has Real Media videos of all three sessions available to view online at least through the first or second week of November. I haven’t watched them all yet as they total about 5 hours of video but I have heard it was a good event for supporters of Evolution.

Check it out – the link goes to a search results page that lists all three parts of the event:

AEI forum on Evolution and ID and the public schools on C-SPAN3 10/21/05