Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mess in Ohio

When I first read about this story of a public school Bible brouhaha over on Ed Brayton's blog, I didn't think much of it: I assumed the teacher, John Freshwater, was just another creationist who thinks that his right to religious expression extends to using his position as a school teacher to impose his particular brand of fundamentalist tripe on other peoples' children.

Objectionable, of course: but hardly anything out of the ordinary for the Uber-Christian crowd. If anything, I thought that the school was over-reacting in telling him to remove his personal copy of the Bible from his desk during class. Having it on his desk would seem no more harmful to me than having a picture of a family member there, or any other personal effect.

Silly me. There's always another shoe waiting to drop with these people, isn't there? This just in from the planet WTF:

In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, Superintendent Steve Short said, “The allegations against Mr. Freshwater are very serious. This is not about his personal Bible on his desktop. It is about the totality of his conduct.”

One of the complaints was that Freshwater used an electrostatic device to burn crosses onto students’ arms.

Now, color me intolerant, but I just think that's a mite over the top. These are 8th graders. And he's branding them?! This man should not just be disciplined. He should be fired and charged with assault. His name should be put on a public list of People You Want Nowhere Near Your Children. And as it seems, according to this article from the Columbus Dispatch, that the school knew last December about the branding and chose not to do anything about it, some heads on the admin side should roll, as well.

Of course, according to the WorldNetDaily, this is all just a case of discrimination against Christians. I guess Christian Fundamentalists have some hidden constitutional right to torture 14-year olds. Funny, my teachers at the religious schools I attended must have skipped over that amendment. Typical of those scheming atheist commie pinkos.

What a debacle. It will be darkly fascinating to see what develops from this. I can't imagine that with this popping up, that there aren't any more surprises to follow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Obligatory "Expelled" Post

Well, little Ben Stein's gripping Intelligent Design documentary, "Expelled: No Honesty Present Intelligence Allowed" has been released, and by all indications, it's even poorer than expected. It's being thoroughly panned by critics, and not making much in ticket sales, either. Not many people out there seem to have bought the regurgitated creationist arguments and faux martyr stories that form its foundation.

For those unaware, this is a documentary-style movie (I refuse to call it a documentary, as a documentary is an exercise in journalism) which purports to show a) a pattern of persecution by eeevil utionist educators, universities, and institutions against anyone who dares mention the words "intelligent design"; b) a connection between Darwinian Evolutionary Theory and Nazi-ism and/or Soviet Communism, and c) weaknesses in evolutionary theory.

Apparently, it gets everything right except for items a-c. For an in-depth response to it's claims, see the National Center for Science Education's web site, Expelled: Exposed.

This is not really a surprise to anyone who has followed the dishonest shenanigans of those who made this movie. They interviewed scientists under false pretenses, quote-mined the hell out of their responses, and even tried to prevent the people who they interviewed from seeing the movie (with somewhat hilarious results). They apparently plagiarized graphics and used at least two artists' music without permission. This is not a group of, erm, rocket scientists.

HT: PZ Myers, ERV, Richard Dawkins, Greg Laden, the NCSE, and everybody else who has helped make sure that this travesty does not go unchallenged.

Tight Lines!

FINALLY! Fishing season is here again. I thought winter was never going to let go. While it wasn't particularly cold this year, we had more snow than we've ever had in one year as long as I've been around. The ice just went out on area lakes two weeks ago.

The Milwaukee River is still too high to fish, but the Menomonee is down and the steelhead are running. Had no luck yesterday, but I'm gonna try to get into one today before the rain gets here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Oh, Those Kooky Evangelicals!

From the Chicago Trib comes a not-too surprising story of an Illinois State Rep castigating an atheist for trying to bring about the collapse of civilization. Or something like that.

Seems that the Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, attempted to direct $1 million of state funds to a private school under rather shifty circumstances. A local secular activist, Rob Sherman, protested that such funding is unconstitutional. As Sherman testified before the Illinois House State Government Administration Committee, Monique Davis (D-Chicago), said the following:

I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy -- it’s tragic -- when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.

I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous--

When Sherman asked her exactly what was dangerous, she screamed

It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

To a chorus of approving 'Amen's from other law makers present. Audio of the festivities can be found here.

I find attitudes like Davis' embarrassing, and more than a little exasperating. I may not agree with the stated philosophy and activism of some in the atheist and anti-theist communities, but the notion that, because they don't profess religious beliefs, they are a) a threat to society and b) not possessed of rights to fundamental participation in our society and the functions by which it is governed, is anathema to me. It demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of our rights, and invariably of the tenants of whatever religion is the basis of the rant du jour.

Mz. Davis is currently being pilloried in the blog sphere, as she should be, so I won't waste any more time on her obviously fisk-able rant. I just wish people in this country would elect representatives who understand what rights are and how they apply to government policy.