Teacher sues to include religious beliefs of founding fathers.

Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School—Reuters.com

By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God—including the Declaration of Independence.

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

“It’s a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful,” said Williams’ attorney, Terry Thompson.

“Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country,” he said. “There is nothing in the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence.”

Vidmar could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in San Jose and claims violations of Williams rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

Phyllis Vogel, assistant superintendent for Cupertino Unified School District, said the lawsuit had been forwarded to a staff attorney. She declined to comment further.

Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s journal, John Adams’ diary, Samuel Adams’ “The Rights of the Colonists” and William Penn’s “The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania.”

“He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that’s what the founders wrote,” said Thompson, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which advocates for religious freedom. “The principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity and it is pure discrimination.”

What would be an appropriate way to deal with a teacher proselytizing, given s/he were tenured?

How much leeway does a teacher have to supplement district-approved curriculum?

Are personal diaries of historical figures relevant to history?  I’m thinking about Clinton’s recent library opening and his statements that personal life has little impact on public performance/policy.  If his life doesn’t affect his policy, why should we care or bother teaching children what the founding fathers thought as they created the constitution?

What do you speculate they might find in this teacher’s past?

366 thoughts on “Teacher sues to include religious beliefs of founding fathers.

  1. There’s obviously two issues here, one of a teacher disregarding the rules, and another of a teacher bringing God into the classroom.

    As long as the context of the lesson wasn’t to make a religious point, I personally would never have a problem with historical documents being used in a classroom. That said, if these documents were banned purely because they mention God, there’s something wrong with the system.

    Rececently, a student read the Pledge over his school’s TV closed circuit network but left the words “Under God” out, in express defiance of what was expected of him. He was banned for the duration of the school year from participating in the school TV news program.

    Both guys broke the rules. Obviously, the teacher should be held to a much higher standard, but both were defiant of some ridiculous notions of religion in schools.

  2. I have pondered a lot on the idea of teachers evangelising in schools. Going to a christian school for most of my life I was subjected to it, more in my junior years than in my later years.

    I read reacently what I thought was the most convincing reason that it is a crime for teachers to teach what is myth to a lot of people as fact. Freedom of speech, it is acceptible provided that you have Freedom from speech, the ability to not listen, where you are not forced to listen to a viewpoint.

    IMVHO Teachers who evangelise their students are abusing their position in 2 ways:
    1. They are violating the basic human right to believe what ever you want to believe, by using their position of authority to push their religion. Not as a choice but instead they are told it is a fact on a par with 1+1 = 2.

    2. They are violating the principles of freedom of speech because their audience cannot get up and leave, they are speaking to people who do not have a choice as to whether to listen. It does not matter if the choice would be be made in the favou r of the teacher, the abscence of the choice is the problem.

    2. Adendum. Admitedly a lot of school is taught in this fashion, which causes a flaw in my second argument, however I have yet to have a science or history teach say “X is true, and if you don’t believe it then you will spend eternity in a pit of fire”

  3. “It’s a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful,

  4. Not that I endorse the advocation of any religious view in the classroom, but I think there’s the mistaken assumption that all of the founding father held religious views that would be unacceptable to the more liberal among us. 

    For example consider Thomas Jefferson, he was very much a religious pluralist and his edition of the bible is one that would be acceptable to most agnostics today (in that he tries to draw the story of the historical Jesus from the New Testament without all the supernatural mumbo jumbo and instead placed his focus on Jesus as an ethical example).  I mean if the religious right were trying to push Jefferson’s view of religion I would probably be less likely to object than I currently do to the advocation of the crazy view held by people like Jerry Falwell.

    Now this is not to say that the religious views of Jefferson should be taught in class.  Indeed, I don’t think it should, for a public institution, especially one that deals with our children, to endorse one religious view over another is an infringement to everyone’s right to religious autonomy. 

    For example, how would Christians feel if Islamic views were taught in schools?  I’m pretty sure that they’d be pretty pissy about it, hell some are pissy because science is being taught in schools.  Now some might argue because Christians are the majority in North America that their religious perspective somehow has primacy.

    However, this isn’t true.  Freedom and equality, if they are concepts that are worthwhile, must apply to everyone even the minority.  Indeed, I think that if freedom (any kind of freedom not just freedom of religion) is to be anything more than lip service it must apply especially to the minority.

    That’s just my thoughts on the matter.

  5. I can’t add much to what Unsomnambulist, Tom H, and OB have said here. The Reuters article didn’t really provide enough information for a judgement.  That said, I found it interesting that the entire article was quoted in the post above, with the exception of the last paragraph:

    In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a California atheist who wanted the words “under God” struck from the Pledge of Allegiance as recited by school children. The appeals court in California had found that the phrase amounted to a violation of church and state separation.

    …so it’s not just Christians who are (possibly) being discriminated against- it cuts both ways.

  6. I could have sworn that the separation of church and state is in the U.S. constitution because not all of the founding fathers were “men of faith”. 
        I really hope that the court case and decision make clear what is and isn’t acceptable.  I really doubt that the principle singled this teacher out solely because he was a christian.
        My guess is he shouldn’t be teaching in the public system but instead at a Christian private school where he can happily promote his views.

  7. I feel there is a lot of judgment and assumptions being made here. We do not know the content of the materials he was providing to his students. For a school to say that any item that mentions god is not allowed would be limiting our students education to a degree I cannot fathom.

    He should not be preaching, but to mention that he feels there is a god and that these men believed in him does no one any harm.

    People seem to freak out when they hear any one say the word god to their children but it is unavoidable. It is too much a part of American history and public discussion today.

    Teach your kids what you want them to know, and let them know that there are other views out there and they may hear tidbits about those other views. If you have a relationship with you kid you’ll not be blindsided when he comes home and mentions such things.

    I cannot agree more with this:

    As long as the context of the lesson wasn’t to make a religious point, I personally would never have a problem with historical documents being used in a classroom. That said, if these documents were banned purely because they mention God, there’s something wrong with the system.

  8. Now this is not to say that the religious views of Jefferson should be taught in class.  Indeed, I don’t think it should, for a public institution, especially one that deals with our children, to endorse one religious view over another is an infringement to everyone’s right to religious autonomy.

    Agreed, SS.  Not to mention we’re talking FIFTH graders here.  They’re only 10!  The concepts of rebellion, revolution, monarchy and government are difficult enough for them to start wrapping their minds around; never mind throwing religion into the mix!

    Zilch, I spend a lot of time lurking at Newdow’s site’s forums – it certainly DOES cut both ways (and more OUR way than theirs).

  9. My personal tendency is to give the teacher the benefit of a doubt. 

    the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity

      :rubeyes:  I pity the poor sap that tries to teach Canterbury Tales.  Or any other Medieval lit.

      If Mr. Williams is providing students with a representative sample of the Founding Fathers’ writings, and then letting them come to their own conclusions, then he is -doing his job.-

      I have a sneaking suspicion that that is -not- what’s going on, though.  It may well be that Mr. Williams’ selections are not truly representative.

      His choice of legal council only heightens my suspicions.

    Alliance Defense Fund

      I know lawyers are supposed to be ‘zealous advocates,’ but I don’t think that’s synonymous with ‘advocate zealots.’

    It’ll be interesting to see how the case ‘shakes out.’

  10. Update at The Blue Lemur:

    Declaration Of Independence banned!

    The seemingly preposterous headline made major waves on the conservative Drudge Report and Fox News network Wednesday, joining Reuters and the Associated Press, in a misleading story that exhibited serious reportorial negligence, RAW STORY has learned.

    The story, which reports that a California teacher has been banned from giving students documents from American history that refer to God, including the Declaration of Independence, is said a product of right-wing spin.

    In fact, Cupertino public school principal Patricia Vidmar banned documents relating to God because the teacher had been forcing students to listen to what some felt was Christian propaganda, a media watchdog site reports. According to the site, the school had told him to stop but he did not comply, at which point the principal required that he submit his lesson plans to her in advance.

    I suspected as much.

  11. I think the words of the “Founding Fathers” should be taught at an early age…

    John Adams:

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    … Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind. [From “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” by John Adams, 1787.]

    James Madison:

    Although prayer groups proliferate in today’s Congress, James Madison, “father of the Constitution,

  12. Spocko, good quotes.

    I imagine I’ll be in the minority here, but I think teachers should be able to talk about their religious faith.  Being a government employee should not mean having to pretend you are objective on issues where you hold strong opinions.  That is a service to no one.

    See, the problem with rigidly controlling teachers’ personal expression is that it sets up an expectation for the kids that teachers speak ex cathedra.  (Or at least, for the kids’ parents’ lawyers.)  The idea is that every word that comes out of the teacher’s mouth somehow carries the full weight of state approval.

    Given that many silly or purely idiotic ideas have made it into the official curriculum in the past, that trust is misplaced.  Kids should learn early on that their teachers are just ordinary schmoes and that even official teachings can be wrong.

    An example of officially pushing religion would be having an assembly for a preacher, saying “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance (because you’re not just saying it to the child; you’re expecting the child to say it back to you,) or any religious expression over the school PA system.  Kids need lessons in how to distinguish person from office.

    It is true that you can hardly talk about US history without talking about religion.  Kids need to know that some founding fathers were devoutly religious men, and some of them were at the other extreme.  Yet they built a nation together by deciding to leave religious beliefs to the individual.  It was the only solution that had – or has – any chance of working over the long haul.

    And the teacher is an individual.  Kids should be taught that instead of thinking their teachers are somehow channeling the founding fathers.  I guess what I’m saying is;

    • Less credibility for teachers, more freedom for everyone
    • More realistic assessment of the role of religion in American History
    • More balanced assessment of the religious convictions of the founding fathers, instead of neocons and secularists both trying to claim “the founding fathers” as their own.

    What I’m suggesting is a big paradigm shift but could break the logjam.  Because… if Christian teachers can be open about their beliefs, so can secularist, humanist teachers.  Fair’s fair, after all.

  13. I think noone actually answered a couple of Ellie’s questions.

    What would be an appropriate way to deal with a teacher proselytizing, given s/he were tenured?

    Assuming that the teacher is proselytizing during school hours, on school grounds, while in the commission of his/her duties as a teacher, then administration should take the same actions that they would take if the teacher were engaging in some comparably illegal activity, say, child molestation (ah, sweet hyperbole.  I jest, of course, I jest).

    But really.  The school could very well be held liable for violating students’ rights.  They have a responsibility to take -some- action, if only to insulate themselves from lawsuits.

    How much leeway does a teacher have to supplement district-approved curriculum?

    I want to say “a lot.”  I don’t want administrators telling me that I can’t teach Shelley or Blake or Milton because they have explicitly religious, or anti-religious, content.    At the same time, I can fully understand why some parents would not want their children exposed to certain writers, or to certain instructors.

    so, um, I gotta say “I don’t know.”

  14. Actually, Dof did just answer some of those questions.

    Kids should learn early on that their teachers are just ordinary schmoes and that even official teachings can be wrong.

    I concur wholeheartedly.  In fact, that’s pretty much my opening statement for every class I teach.

  15. I could have sworn that the separation of church and state is in the U.S. constitution because not all of the founding fathers were “men of faith

  16. DOF,

    I largely agree with you except there’s one small problem with your proposal.  Younger kids in the lower grades tend to only get one teacher for the entire year.  That being the case if the teacher happens to hold a particular religious view and endorses it in class the child doesn’t get any other perspective.  Moreover, given the amount of time young kids spend in school and the great degree of malleability that exists in their perspective.  Getting a very religious teacher in an early grade can result in some very deeply ingrained ideas.

    This is not to say that in higher grades, when the children are a little more capable of critical reasoning, that teachers must suppress their own religious tendencies.  Indeed, in higher grades I think it would be useful if there was some religious discourse if it was had in a manner that allowed the children to dissent from the majority opinion.  However, I think that should be at most informal chatting rather than something that is prescribed by the curriculum.

  17. Socialist, that’s another thing I’d like to change: marooning young kids with one teacher all day for an entire year.  If the teacher and the kid happen to “click,” then it works out just fine.  But if they don’t (as happened to my kids several times) it’s hell for the kid and not much more fun for the teacher.

    On the other hand, given the stellar results our education system produces, I shouldn’t propose monkeying with it.  Why tamper with perfection?  oh oh

    It really bothers me when a teacher can’t wear a cross, have a bible on her desk, or have any other personal expression of faith.  It means you also can’t have any personal expression of non-faith, or alternate faith, either.  It’s bad for everyone, especially for kids.

    Absolutely right informal chatting is preferable to official curriculum.  Can you imagine the mash that various committees and interest groups would make out of a required religion course? The student would be unable to learn what any religion really says about anything.

    I think I ate too much Thanksgiving dinner!

  18. Socialist Swine, I can see that this teacher omitted Jefferson’s diary in favor of Washington & others who were more religious.  I don’t see Williams as teaching religion, so I don’t think the analogy of teaching Islamic religion follows.  If most of the founding fathers were Muslim, then it would fit more…though I whole-heartedly agree with your recent comment about open religious discourse in higher grades (which I teach in).  I am a little at a loss for younger grades, I think the main problem is how many parents remain uninvolved, then are shocked when their children hold opinions formed more by their teachers than by themselves.  Ideally, I would love to see more homeschooling at younger grades.

    zilch, thanx for posting the rest of that article, it was an accident becuause this is the 1st time I made a post, so I added to the bottom in the wrong section then deleted too much.  Yet I don’t see how that shows discrimination going the other way, the CA supreme court just decided the lawsuit had no basis.

    I personally think the possible motivations of the founding fathers is very important for students to have the opportunity to consider. I strongly agree with nowiser, & thanx for focusing on the ?s again.  I think it’s interesting to see that only 5-10% of the submitted docs mention God.  But as a teacher I know what you submit & what goes on in your classroom can be 180 degrees different.  I have a feeling the principal walked into this trap.  I think the Blue Lemur is the same story, different headline.

    GeekMom, actually, though separation of church & state isn’t explicit, it has been a guiding principle not so we can separate from Judeo-Christian vs. Islamic vs. atheistic values, but because of the Catholic-Protestant warfare tearing Europe apart at the time, England in particular.  Founding fathers, excluding Jefferson (who was an elitist, racist, mysogonistic in my humble opinion,) contrary to Spocko’s biased opinion quotes based in little facts & quotes out of context, though not devout or fanatic, took Judeo-Christian beliefs for universally held common sense.

    I REALLY enjoyed my family’s company, & ate just enough of a delicious dinner!

  19. I definitely agree with DOF’s conclusions.  From what I know of the founding fathers most of them were deists at best.  I certainly would not agree with making a lesson out of the religious background of the founding fathers.  IT could be mentioned but making a lesson out of it would be overbearing.  I agree that the children are there to learn.  Preaching has no place in a public school classroom.  If a teacher wants to mention on the first day of class they are Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, etc.  That they should be able to do that.  I hope though any mention of religious things is never allowed in schools because honestly I think political leanings should be banned as well.  Religion and politics make up a persons worldview.  I think it is best to have variety of worldviews but not to ban any.

    Adendum. Admitedly a lot of school is taught in this fashion, which causes a flaw in my second argument, however I have yet to have a science or history teach say “X is true, and if you don’t believe it then you will spend eternity in a pit of fire

  20. Ellie,

    According to the article you quoted 5-10% of the material that the teacher handed out in class referred to God and/or Christianity.  When you mention that fact you say “only”, but that “only” 5-10% seems to me to be a pretty clear indication that he’s trying to influence his classes into accepting his religious views. 

    I’ve not once ever mentioned anything regarding religion in any of the classes I’ve ever taught, let alone provided any of my students with handouts that referred to religion or rejection of religion.  Now granted my teaching experience has been restricted to University settings so perhaps things are a little different.  However, I think 5-10% of the material referring to religious matters in a class that isn’t about religion (I’m assuming that he isn’t teaching a religion class, otherwise there wouldn’t be any issue) demonstrates a worrying trend.

    Now it’s odd that the case is focussed upon the Declaration of Independence.  However, given the guy’s apparent history of making references to specific religious positions in the milieu of his classroom.  It seems that the case against him isn’t completely without merit.

  21. I think university it about 180 degrees from where this guy is…definitely from where I teach.  90% of my students will never go to college.  His probably will, it’s a fairly affluent area, but they are well below that cognative level.

    Imagine teaching a room full of Christian kids.  Sure, you’re gonna be motivated to make them question it because you KNOW their parents won’t.  You face the dilemma that this is where kids are gonna 1st learn why their country is either a great place with a reasonable way to approach their problems, or why they are living in the worst, most screwed up place on earth.  Children are our most interesting mirrors.  They don’t judge things as off-topic or out-of-bounds, only boring or interesting.  & even if they say something, they see judgement as forming, not final.  I appreciate that I can change my mind around my students all the time, & they are fine with it, whereas adults will rip me apart as hypocritical in a second.

    Teaching history is tricky.  You can find any number of quirks about historical figures to focus on…scandals, vices.  In the area of San Fran he’s in, I don’t find it far-fetched that parents are HYPER-sensitive to religion as an oppresive unnecessary evil, & want it OUT of their children’s experience.  It’s their right to reduce it, but unrealistic to expect to eliminate it.  Yet they’ve probably so isolated themselves from Christianity, they think that’s possible.  Williams has probably been frustrated over the years, & justifies himself, thinking that his students probably get the opposite side at home.  In my opinion the kids are suffering in this tug-o-war between the two.

  22. I think it’s ok to teach a class on religion, in which a survey of many different religions are explained, and I also think its ok to present the religious views of our founding fathers as historical elements—not as ‘this is what they thought, so it’s what you should think, too.  In addition, as others have mentioned, it’s apparent that the ffs were not all fundies, so they should be presented in a survey of resources to show the true variety of their beliefs.

    I imagine I’ll be in the minority here, but I think teachers should be able to talk about their religious faith.  Being a government employee should not mean having to pretend you are objective on issues where you hold strong opinions.

    I have problems with some presentations of personal expression, though.  First, it’s one thing to talk about your beliefs, quite another to tell children what to believe.  It doesn’t have to be an assembly for a priest to constitute inappropriateness.  While I agree that children should be exposed to many viewpoints, and that they should be encouraged to think for themselves and understand that the teacher is a regular schmoe, we have to be careful. The teacher still has to maintain respect in the class, so too much schmoeness could get out of hand in the wrong group. 
    Also, I think its the teacher’s job to encourage students to develop their own thoughts.  If the teacher immediately frames everything in his/her own thoughts, then the students have little room to grow, esp. those who have yet to develop good reasoning skills.  I think the best teachers I had in school, the ones that allowed me to grow the most in terms of thinking, debating, and reasoning, were the ones who kept out of it at first—presented everything in an unbiased manner, and allowed us to present all of our opinions before expressing their own, sometimes interjecting their own thoughts if we needed a jump start or if it seemed like a good place to jump in.  Then it felt as if we were dealing with the teacher as the adults we were becoming. 
    For me, it’s all about presentation.
    That said, none of the opinions the teachers presented were on religion or had to do with their religious beliefs.  They were all politics, history, whatever the topic.  Still, if a teacher feels the need to spill it, then they should still do it in an objective manner…and it really only needs to be addressed once.

  23. zilch, thanx for posting the rest of that article, it was an accident becuause this is the 1st time I made a post, so I added to the bottom in the wrong section then deleted too much.  Yet I don’t see how that shows discrimination going the other way, the CA supreme court just decided the lawsuit had no basis.

    Uh, Ellie, sorry to put this so bluntly, but you might want to read the paragraph that you deleted from the article again, and see if you understand it this time.

  24. The fact that he’s trying to dig so deep into the religious backgrounds of the founding fathers while teaching a bunch of 5th graders kind of puts up red flags to begin with. As was said before, revolution, war, and politics in any form are quite complex ideas for 10 year olds to deal with.
      It should be enough to note that one of the many reasons this country was founded was because of the need for an individuals right to his/her own religious beliefs, and that religious pressure in Europe was one of the reasons that so many made the trip across the ocean at great risk to themselves & their families.
      Save the in depth analysis of the religious background of our forefathers, and whatever impact it had on the framing of our government, for more mature intellects. On a purely educational level, trying to teach such History/Civics material to 5th graders is comparable to trying to teach them Calculus instead of grade school math.

  25. I have problems with some presentations of personal expression, though.

    Sure.  If I owned a business and one of my employees answered the phone with “DOF’s Business; Jesus Saves!” you can bet there’d be a conversation.  If it happened 3 times that person would be looking for work.  But I would have no problem with an employee wearing a cross.

    Same thing at school. The teacher isn’t there to proselytize and that would have to be clear.  But it’s hardly a good example for the kids (and their parents) to forbid all religious expression. It’s… un-American!

    Save the in depth analysis of the religious background of our forefathers, and whatever impact it had on the framing of our government, for more mature intellects. On a purely educational level, trying to teach such History/Civics material to 5th graders is comparable to trying to teach them Calculus instead of grade school math.

    I’m not so sure about that.  Granted it would be a mistake to have 5th graders reading The Federalist Papers but you do need to teach those things in an age-appropriate way. And there’s no harm in telling kids that some of the founding fathers were more religious than others, and that the solution they worked out was for the government to just stay out of the church bid’ness.  That would lay the groundwork for deeper studies in later years.

  26. DOF the same can be said for the reverse be true, that the church should stay out of the Governments’ business?  My concern is for balance in my kids education.  If you are going to teach national history, especially the founding of the nation, shouldn’t both sides be given equal weight?  The whole point of separation of church and state is to keep religious policy out of good state policy, not to keep the government out of the churches.
      Exactly what relevant point is being made by pointing out how religious the founding fathers were?  I suppose if the point is being made that they were all of different faiths and that they were trying to find middle ground OK.  But I feel the hand of religious revisionists trying to once again move forward the “One nation under GOD”
      It’s real simple “IF” god exists he doesn’t give a damn about America, which is a construct of man.  He cares about man himself.  So this ongoing delusion fo the religious right that America is the chosen nation of god is really anoying!  The U.S. is the way it is because the freedom to choose made it possible.  Moses did not part the atlantic and lead his choosen people to freedom.
    K I feel beter now. Rant over

  27. I don’t think they were trying to find middle ground – the point is that they laid the groundwork for a pluralistic society.

    OTOH when I look at church attendance figures for Europe, I start to see the attraction of an official state church.  Apparently the most effective way to undermine the myth is to give it gov’t sponsorship…  vampire

  28. ellie,

    I live in Calgary, which is in the heart of the Canadian bible belt.  I would assume that probably about 80% of the kids that I do teach are Christians.  Indeed, about 80% of my friends are Christian (with varying degrees of commitment to the creedal claims of their denominations).  Yet I have not once tried to convince any of them that they’re wrong and that they should hold a more agnostic viewpoint.  Indeed, I often talk to them about their faith so that I can better understand where they are coming from. 

    Also your argument about Williams doesn’t really hold given that the vast majority of people in the US report themselves as being Christian (I think it’s upwards to 76% of adult Americans).  With that many people reporting as Christian why should Williams feel the need to balance out the views of atheistic parents?  Most the parents probably are Christian, and in the cases where the parents aren’t Christian, why should Williams feel that he should influence other people’s children to believe in something that their parent’s might not want them to.  How would you feel if someone went around trying to get your kids to believe something that is contrary to what you believe?

  29. How would you feel if your childs’ teacher used the history lesson to try and prove that the founding fathers didn’t believe in god and that organised religion is a danger to freedom as laid out by the Founders?

  30. SocialistSwine – I mentioned “cause them to question,” not “convince them they’re wrong.”  I taught in a college area of LA, I know friends who have lived in SF bay all their lives, & my cousing having just moved to Hartford Conneticut, I can tell you that despite what the figures are for the country, they are reversed in certain regions.  I got 26 complainst from parents when we were covering myths of creation, I read 14 different ones, only 1 of the 14 was Adam & Eve, & they complained because I added that this is the myth for Jews, Christians, Mormons, & Islam.  When I looked @ cesus figures, the city I was teaching in, only 17% of families identified themselves as Christian.  These kids had no idea that the Bible was Christian, or who Jesus was!

    Lord klegg – “The whole point of separation of church and state is to keep religious policy out of good state policy, not to keep the government out of the churches.”  If you go by the founder’s intentions, you’re actually wrong.  They did want to keep the gov’t out of church business more than vice versa.  Not that I agree, but that was their original intention.

  31. zilch – again, I reread it, & I don’t see what you’re talking about.  The Supreme Court decided his suit had no basis (I know this from having read more) because God was non-specific, & the child was only forced to stand, not to repeat it herself.  Trust me, from a court that sympathizes with gay marriage, that’s kind of a difinitive “this guy’s a wacko.”

  32. But if a teacher did, I’d simply teach them how that teacher is wrong, I probably wouldn’t complain unless s/he was cruel to children who disagreed.

  33. ellie- Having to say “under God”, to an atheist, is pretty specific: it assumes belief in a supernatural being.  Forcing children to say it (or stand silent, and be subject to ostracism by other children) is clear discrimination against atheists.

    So someone’s a “wacko” for insisting on the Constitutional separation of Church and State now?  Not to mention someone who sympathizes with gay marriages…

    I guess I’m really a wacko, then, because I think the whole idea of pledging allegiance to a flag is a bad idea.  If one doesn’t love one’s country without reciting an oath, the oath won’t help, and is rather likely to lead to cynicism.

  34.   The Supreme Court decided his suit had no basis (I know this from having read more) because God was non-specific, & the child was only forced to stand, not to repeat it herself.

    If you are referring to the Newdow case, that is incorrect.  The 9th circuit court found in his favor.  They said the pledge did -not- constitute “ceremonial deism.” 

    Ultimately, the Supreme Court decided that Newdow didn’t have legal standing to even -file- a case, because he wasn’t the custodial parent.  They did NOT equate the pledge with ceremonial deism, or say anything about whether or not it was ‘ok’ to make students stand, as long as they weren’t forced to recite.  They made NO decisions regarding the merits of the actual case.

    In other words, SCOTUS basically “ducked” the issue.

    Which means that Congress either has to pass an amendment to the Constitution, or some other poor schmuck has to jump through all the necessary legal hoops to challenge the “under God” phrase.

  35. decrepitoldfool: I’m not so sure about that.  Granted it would be a mistake to have 5th graders reading The Federalist Papers but you do need to teach those things in an age-appropriate way. And there’s no harm in telling kids that some of the founding fathers were more religious than others, and that the solution they worked out was for the government to just stay out of the church bid’ness.  That would lay the groundwork for deeper studies in later years.

    That’s pretty much what I was saying…  You teach students in layers they can build upon. You pretty much just restated exactly what I was saying.

  36. Ellie accuses me of having a biased opinion and taking quotes out of context…

    Founding fathers, excluding Jefferson (who was an elitist, racist, mysogonistic in my humble opinion,) contrary to Spocko’s biased opinion quotes based in little facts & quotes out of context, though not devout or fanatic, took Judeo-Christian beliefs for universally held common sense.

    ellie on 11/25/04 at 09:43 PM

    So, yeah ok, let’s just forget the author of the DOI ‘cause he didn’t truly mean it when he wrote “all men are created equal” since he was just a horny slave owner. I guess his opinion, and Washington’s too, doesn’t matter.
    Jefferson is THE founding father of this nation and I take none of his words out of context.


    Thomas Jefferson

    “Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on a man.”

    “The Christian god is a three headed monster, cruel, vengeful, and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites.”

    “I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.”

    “In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot … they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purpose.”

    “Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

    “History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.”

    Clearly Jefferson does not think much of this thing called Christianity!
    I don’t believe the other “fathers” held much reverence for this so called “Judeo-Christian common sense” either. Since you don’t value the words of Jefferson(!) how about more from Madison?


    James Madison

    “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial.  What have been its fruits?  More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.  Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy.  … What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society?  In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people.  … we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.  … Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?  that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment [of a particular religion as the official state religion], may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever? (1785; in an argument in Virginia’s General Assembly against proposed legislation to require a three-pence tax for support of religious education, in arguing his case Madison had to out-argue the greatest orator of the day, Patrick Henry, and he successfully out-argued Henry and the legislature did not approve the proposed tax)

    “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history” “In the Papal System, Government and Religion are in a manner consolidated, & that is found to be the worst of Govts.

  37. zilch – again, I reread it, & I don’t see what you’re talking about.  The Supreme Court decided his suit had no basis (I know this from having read more) because God was non-specific, & the child was only forced to stand, not to repeat it herself.  Trust me, from a court that sympathizes with gay marriage, that’s kind of a difinitive “this guy’s a wacko.

  38. Witchfire, if we are saying the same thing, great!  I had misunderstood you to be saying that it wasn’t appropriate to discuss the wide range of founding fathers’ beliefs at all with 10-year-olds.

    In a semi-related matter, our local paper ran a letter to the editor that said “Bible more important than the US constitution,” which has resulted in a couple letters to the contrary, and today a whole slew of letters to the affirmative.  Along with (predictably) a number revealing “the truth” about the founding fathers as all devout Christian men.

    Sigh.  If you repeat it often enough…

  39. Wow, Spocko.  When you attach *pictures* to the quotes it really puts them in context…because they were obviously men who never thought anything through or changed their minds.  Any complex sbject they thought about can be easily summed up in one short, simple quote, that was never altered or affected by anything else that happened in their long lives.

  40. Nice show Spocko!  It is tiring to watch the fundamentalists attempt to reconstruct the history of this country in the same fashion they have reconstructed their own religion.

    Who knows, maybe Jesus changed his mind and we can disregard his words also.  tongue wink

    Upon further reading on this topic of the teacher, it runs out that the incident that started this whole mess was a question in regard to the ‘Pledge of Allegiance”.  One of Williams’ students had inquired as to why the words ‘under God’ were in our pledge and Williams responded in the normal ignorant fashion that ‘the country was founded under God’ and that was reasoning behind the inclusion of the words.

    A parent, upon hearing of this misconstrued history being presented in the classroom, complained to the school and Williams was subsequently warned.  After a second undefined incident of this nature occurred, Williams lesson plan was subjected to review before presentation.

    All this guy is doing now is wasting school district monies to garner a pulpit to present his beliefs.

  41. that was never altered or affected by anything else that happened in their long lives.

    That falls far short of proving Spocko wrong. In particular, it doesn’t speak to their intententions when founding the US.

  42. I’m not really concerned with proving anything.  y’all are intelligent people who can research & form your own opinions.  I’m just explaining my own views.  If you have no interest in understanding, then by all means, ignore me!  It frustrates me that I’m labeled closed-minded or delusional when I don’t agree.  Those are personal attacks, not persuasive arguments.  Spocko didn’t exibit an understanding of their biographies & interpersonal relationships, which is what I generally give more value.

    The explaination of the pledge sounds fine to me.  The fact that the kids would even ask that question smells of a set-up by parents.  & if not, then their kids really are obscenely ignorant, even for the age of 10.

    As for Jesus, His death & resurrection were His teaching, so unless he decides to go back to being dead to me, I’ll continue to work with Him…

  43. quote[Wow, Spocko.  When you attach *pictures* to the quotes it really puts them in context…because they were obviously men who never thought anything through or changed their minds.  Any complex sbject they thought about can be easily summed up in one short, simple quote, that was never altered or affected by anything else that happened in their long lives.]/quote
    Ellie, Your sarcasim and apparent inability to accept any view that differs from your own, especially a view that has abundant evidence and facts behind it, helps to prove my theory: the strongest human motivation is fantasy. Facts are boring. When you have invested that much effort in some belief, it becomes a part of you and your strong emotions blind you to any other view. Try to divest yourself of the emotions and review the information with an open mind and make an informed decision. Most of us have a great deal of trouble doing that, and fifth grader even more so. grin

  44. & wow. leguru has provided me a perfect example of what I’m referring to.  I am not ignoring what they have said, but simply feel that in light of the fact that I’ve called God a few names & struggled with inconsistencies a few times, I still work out a relationship with Christ out in my life, as I see several (maybe not even most) founding fathers doing.  But now that you’ve insulted me & put me down, I see the error of my ways & feel like sharing even more with you!

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