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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Christian Fundamentalist
Attacks on Public Education

June 2008. Fundamentalists drive out principal who arranged presentation on Islam
*June 2008Ohio school district fires fundamentalist Christian teacher despite pressure from community
*January 2008. January 2008. Court orders Missouri district to stop Gideons Bible distribution.
*January 2008. California teacher sued over remarks about Christians, Boy Scouts.
*November 8, 2007. Bakersfield area school board votes to post religious slogans in all classrooms.
*May 10, 2007. Kearny, New Jersey school district settles with student who recorded preaching teacher

Topics on this page: Jewish family flees Delaware school district's aggressive Christianity | Bakersfield, California school district votes to post religious slogan in all classrooms | Teacher preaches to history class in Kearny, New Jersey |Ohio school district fires fundamentalist Christian teacher despite pressure from community | Texas law encourages expression of religious "viewpoints" at school | Fundamentalists drive out principal who arranged presentation on Islam |California teacher sued over remarks about Christians, Boy Scouts | Southern Baptists consider call to remove children from public schools | North Carolina teacher brings anti-Muslim speaker to class | Christocrats fight Kentucky move to secular date alternative | Christian right fights yoga classes | Colorado Christian school shifts state funds to religious programs | Southern Illinois University bows to Christian Right demand | Send-home religious fliers | Giving out fliers at school | Censoring books | Attack on Lexington, Massachusetts district over book | Court orders Missouri district to stop Gideons Bible distribution | Missouri social work student sues for "viewpoint discrimination" | Other attacks on public education

South Carolina church adds foot-washing to its shoe giveaway in public schools
Local Jews cite majority's indifference to church-state separation

by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak and Jane Hunter,, December 20, 2007

A South Carolina church's shoe giveaway in public schools this month included ritual foot-washing "as Jesus did." That, say Jews who live in the area, is typical of local disregard of church-state separation.

The foot-washing by volunteers with the First Baptist Church of North Augusta, South Carolina, was reported last week by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

According to news reports and the church's website, the shoe giveaway, a project called Laces 4 Love, collects donations from the community and gets lists of needy children from the schools. Laces 4 Love then writes the children's parents asking for permission for the children to participate in the program and for their children's shoe sizes.

Our report includes a recorded conversation with the chairman of the Augusta Jewish Community Relations Council. Please click here.

Indian River School District, Delaware: state-sponsored religion

Jewish families settle lawsuit against Delaware school district that sponsored religion
"Jane Doe" plaintiff tells of her family's experience in exclusive interview with

by, February 26, 2008

Two Jewish families who sued a Delaware school district for unconstitutionally sponsoring religion announced today that they have reached a negotiated settlement with the district. The settlement will require the Indian River School District, which spreads over a large part of southeast Delaware, to implement new policies regarding religion. It also provides compensation to the two families, whose children suffered religious discrimination.

Last year JewsOnFirst reported on the case, focusing on the Dobrich family, who felt compelled by threats and anti-semitic harassment to move away from the community. Today we focus on the other family, named "Doe" in the lawsuit, who remained in the school district during the almost three years since the filing of the lawsuit.

Now Jane Doe has given an exclusive interview to, describing her family's experiences leading up to the lawsuit and while the litigation was going on. Doe said she played a significant role in writing the new policies on religion for the school district. She said that, while the settlement lacks some points the families hoped to win at trial, "it gets enforceable and constitutional policies into place immediately." Continue.

Jewish family flees Delaware school district's aggressive Christianity

by, June 28, 2006

A large Delaware school district promoted Christianity so aggressively that a Jewish family felt it necessary to move to Wilmington, two hours away, because they feared retaliation for filing a lawsuit. The religion (if any) of a second family in the lawsuit is not known, because they're suing as Jane and John Doe; they also fear retaliation. Both families are asking relief from "state-sponsored religion."

Their suit describes how the graduation of the sole Jewish student in her class was ruined by a pastor asking in Jesus' name that the "Father" be with "one specific student...and guide her in the path that You have for her." It also describes how a crowd of adults at a school board meeting yelled at her little brother to take off his yarmulke and how his classmates called him "Christ killer." Please click here.

We updated this report on July 11th (see below) and August 23rd (please click here).

Follow-up: Bloggers make JewsOnFirst report on Delaware Jewish family a sensation
Anti-ACLU websites published Jewish family's address, phone

by, July 11, 2006

When major blogs picked up the story of the Dobrich family that fled the aggressive Christianity of Delaware's Indian River School Districts, readers sent expressions of support. The blogs "outed" a religious right anti-ACLU website that encouraged more persecution of the Dobrich family. Please click here.

Delaware district might be using families' lawsuit against it for Supreme Court test
Rutherford Institute encouraging risky school board strategy

by Jane Hunter,, July 11, 2006

JewsOnFirst breaks the story that the Indian River School District, urged on by the Rutherford Institute, a religious right legal group, might be planning to use the Dobrich and Doe families' lawsuit against it as a Supreme Court test case for school board prayer policies. The Rutherford Institute has been encouraging the Indian River School District board to make decisions favoring religious stances. Please click here

Bakersfield, California school district votes to post religious slogan in all classrooms

Bakersfield, California school district will spend $12,000 to put "In God We Trust" posters in every classroom

Background by, November 8, 2007

Led by a fundamentalist Christian board member, the Kern County High School District voted Monday to have wall posters with the slogan "In God we trust" hung in every classroom in the district. The district board voted 4 to 1 in favor of a measure introduced by Trustee and Pastor Chad Vegas (pictured here), after it was modified so that the district would pay for the posters rather than accepting them from the extremist American Family Association.

According to Mike Miller, a community activist and past president of Temple Beth El who attended the board meeting in opposition to the measure and later spoke with (see below), the measure's supporters were unhappy that it was "watered down."

Last year Temple Beth El's Rabbi Cheryl Rosenstein led the opposition to a Vegas-instigated renaming of Winter and Spring Breaks to Christmas and Easter, respectively. (More here) Vegas won a majority of votes for that legislation.

JewsOnFirst Conversation with Bakersfield Community Activist Mike Miller

by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak,, November 7, 2007

Mike Miller, a businessman in Bakersfield and a past president of the Reform Temple Beth El there, attended the Kern County High School Distrct meeting at which the board voted to place posters with "In God We Trust" in every classroom in the district. In this 11-minute conversation, Miller discusses the poster campaign, led by board member and pastor Chad Vegas. Miller says that Vegas and his followers have "a real agenda" to breach the constitutional wall separating church and state. Click here to listen.

Board puts faith in 'In God We Trust'
After months of debate, a Bakersfield school district votes to display posters explaining the motto in 2,300 classrooms and offices

Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2007

After months of contentious debate, a Bakersfield school district has voted to display the phrase "In God We Trust" on the walls of more than 2,300 classrooms, school libraries, administrative offices and the board's meeting room.

Adopted by Congress as the U.S. motto in 1956, the words will be highlighted in a poster along with portions of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the original national motto: e pluribus unum, Latin for "from many, one."

"We're not going to accept the agenda of some radical leftists who want to expunge God from public dialogue," Chad Vegas, an evangelical pastor who sits on the board of the Kern High School District, said in an interview Tuesday. "Instead, we're teaching our citizens -- including our children -- that the very foundation of government is that God gave them unalienable rights that cannot be usurped by the will of the majority or anyone else." Continue.

Posters may cost $12,000
Wall hangings will be available for KHSD classrooms by April 1

Tara Mclaughlin, The Bakersfield Californian, November 6, 2007

The Kern High School District expects to pay about $12,000 to hang a two-foot by three-foot poster of founding documents and both national mottos in all 2,000-plus classrooms, libraries and main offices, trustee Ken Mettler said Tuesday.

"Funding for the posters will probably come out of our instructional materials fund," district spokesman John Teves said. "We don't anticipate any negative impact on any other aspects of the district operations as a result of the cost of the posters."

The board Monday approved a twice-amended motion on Trustee Chad Vegas' proposal to hang "In God We Trust" posters in every district classroom. Continue.

Poster vote prompts pastor to quit interfaith group presidency

Louis Medina, The Bakersfield Californian, November 6, 2007

The Rev. Chuck Cournyea resigned his position as president of the Interfaith Alliance of Kern County on Tuesday over frustration with the Kern High School District board’s decision to place “In God We Trust” posters in classrooms.

“The trustees came to the meeting knowing how they were going to vote. That was evident by the looks on their faces as the speakers came forward to voice their various opinions,” he wrote in an e-mail to alliance members and friends. “It was a done deal before the meeting even started, as (trustee Chad) Vegas told the group at the start of the meeting that he and (trustee Bryan) Batey, the swing vote, met for lunch.”

But Cournyea, senior minister at Unity Church of Bakersfield, also said his resignation was prompted in part by what he called “the apathy of all other groups that did not show up to speak that were in opposition.” Cournyea spoke on behalf of the Interfaith Alliance, which was against the display of posters. Continue.

If you're going to do it, do it right

Editorial, The Bakersfield Californian, October 26, 2007

Chad Vegas may be on to something after all. The Kern High School District trustee, who wants to see the slogan "In God We Trust" posted in each of the district's 2,375 classrooms, has proposed a followup proposition that has merit -- if it's massaged a bit. The school district, Vegas says, should require that all 2,375 classrooms also display the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

If that sounds like a lot of patriotic wallpaper, that's because it is.

Ever taken a good look at the inside of a high school classroom? Some are relatively barren, but most have artwork, announcements, assignments, maps, teacher-honored student work and assorted other things intended to stimulate, encourage or notify students. Would adding founding American documents into the mix truly call attention to their virtues and significance? Continue.

Keeping both jobs separate?

Louis Medina, The Bakersfield Californian, October 21, 2007

Chad Vegas, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Bakersfield, insists he has no trouble separating his life as a minister from his life as a trustee on the board of the Kern High School District. "When I'm a trustee I'm not operating as a pastor -- I'm operating as a trustee," he said. "I really don't want my church caught up in what I do as an individual, politically."

Since setting off a firestorm earlier this month by proposing the motto "In God We Trust" be placed in all district classrooms, many have questioned whether Vegas can keep his religious and political lives apart. Even some of his peers in the faith community wonder whether the distinction is possible -- or necessary. Continue.

Civic issues on agenda for trustees

Tara McLaughlin, The Bakersfield Californian, October 21, 2007

In the name of patriotism, two Kern High School District trustees will propose policy changes at a special board meeting Monday morning. Chad Vegas will introduce a revised option to place posters of the national motto, "In God We Trust," in every district classroom.

After Vegas' first proposal met with opposition, he drafted a new one that would also require displaying the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

The issue sparked a public debate with residents as to whether Vegas' motive was civic education or religious indoctrination. Continue.

Vegas says he doesn't have agenda

Tara Mclaughlin, The Bakersfield Californian, October 5, 2007

Kern High School District trustee Chad Vegas, 34, said the death of his father, a Bakersfield police officer killed in the line of duty, set him on a path of civil service. Vegas was 6 years old at the time, the same age his son is now.

Now in his third year as a school board member, Vegas is in the spotlight for proposing a controversial policy change at Monday's trustee meeting.

The Californian sat down Wednesday with Vegas to talk about mandating posters with the phrase "In God We Trust" hang in every classroom in the district. Continue.

Teacher preaches to class in Kearny, New Jersey

School district settles with student and family. Click here.

February 20, 2007. Student says prepared to sue Kearny schools. Click here | January 23, 2007. Kearny schools to ban student recording! Scroll to the updates below.

Teacher proselytizes class in suburban New Jersey

by, November 28, 2006

A public high school teacher lectures his history class that they will go to hell if they don't accept Jesus. A student gives a recording of the lectures to school administrators -- who defend the teacher. The community turns against the student. This is not happening in Missouri or Oklahoma, but in Hudson County, New Jersey, a quick commute from Manhattan.

"This is just like a nightmare," the student's father, Paul LaClair told JewsOnFirst. in a telephone interview this weekend. He said that the Kearny School District has refused the family's request that school officials correct the statements he made to the class disparaging evolution and the Big Bang and favoring creationism. Continue.

Kearny school board cracks down on student recording
Preaching teacher denounces church-state separation

by, January 23, 2007

The Kearny Board of Education is establishing a policy requiring students to get permission from teachers before recording a class -- as Matthew LaClair did to prove that his history teacher preached fundamentalist Christian doctrine during class.

"Students must request permission of the instructor to record a class," the policy states. It also appears to require the consent of classmates. The board approved a first reading of the policy in December, according to its minutes.

To read the policy, a PDF document, please click here.

Matthew LaClair told this evening that he plans to testify against the measure when the board considers adopting it at its February 20th meeting. "I'm going to try to convince them that it's a mistake," he said.

Meanwhile, the the school district issued a news release on January 12 (which you can see here) expressing regret over the "events of September 2006," when the preaching occurred. It suggested that it has taken action against LaClair's history teacher, David Paszkiewicz, saying it was barred by law from disclosing what that action was.

The news release outlines an affirmative adherence to the Constitution and states that teachers must not bring their personal religion into the classroom. It also announces a complaint procedure. It says there have not been any complaints since the LaClair family's last fall.

Paszkiewicz broke his silence earlier this month, with a letter to the Kearny Observer (see link here) declaring that "there is an effort afoot to undermine the very underpinnings of our freedoms." Stating "the words 'separation of church and state' cannot be found in our Constitution," Paszkiewicz then selectively quotes the nation's founders to make the argument, often heard from the religious right, that the authors of the Constitution did not intend to bar the establishment of religion. Paskiewicz is a youth minister at a local Baptist church.

Student’s Recording of Teacher’s Views Leads to a Ban on Taping

By Tina Kelley, New York Times, February 1, 2007

After a public school teacher was recorded telling students they belonged in hell if they did not accept Jesus as their savior, the school board has banned taping in class without an instructor’s permission, and has added training for teachers on the legal requirements for separating church and state. Continue.

Kearny Board of Ed releases memo, policies on church & state issues
Memo: ‘District fully supports and complies with the requirements of Constitution’

By Kevin Canessa Jr., Kearny Observer, January 17, 2007

KEARNY — The Board of Education has circulated a memorandum on its policies and practices on dealing with issues on the separation of church and state. Board President Bernadette McDonald released the memo to the public Friday through Board of Education Attorney Kenneth J. Lindenfelser.

“As many of you are no doubt aware, the district has undertaken to review, investigate and evaluate its policies and practices with respect to the expression of personal religious beliefs by professional staff in the classroom in the aftermath of concerns raised by members of our school community on this issue,” McDonald wrote. “Having concluded this review, I believe it is important to reiterate and reinforce the district’s historic position on this issue. Equally important, I believe it is imperative that we resolve any questions about the district’s policy on this issue and further, that we make clear the specific actions to be undertaken by the district in the future to ensure that such incidents not reoccur or otherwise result in the inconsistent application of our policy.” Continue.

Paszkiewicz defends First Amendment freedoms

David Paszkiewicz, Letter to the Editor of the Kearny Observer, January 10, 2007, via Kearny on the Web (which may have supplied the title)

To the Publisher:

It is my firm conviction that there is an effort afoot to undermine the very underpinnings of our freedoms. Kearny has been characterized as a backward town inhabited by barbarians. This is unfortunate, because Kearny (the town I love, have chosen to live in and serve) is nothing of the sort. It is made up of intelligent, hard-working, benevolent, tolerant people and it pains me greatly to see it maligned. In light of the current controversy concerning church and state in Kearny, I would like to share some thoughts from our founders.

But first let me say this, the words “separation of church and state” cannot be found in our Constitution. Continue.

Putting God in His Place
New Jersey student-warrior for the Constitution gets a death threat

by Nat Hentoff, Village Voice, January 1st, 2007

When 16-year-old Matthew LaClair, a junior at Kearny (New Jersey) High School, 10 miles west of Manhattan, recorded eight lectures by popular teacher David Paszkiewicz in an accelerated American history course, he started a furor not only in his hometown but elsewhere around this country—whose Constitution has been degraded for the past six years by the president and the Republican-controlled Congress,with the acceptance of many of the citizenry, either ignorant of their constitutional liberties or willing to yield them in fear of homicidal terrorists.

Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, a columnist and a litigator in national-security cases, said in an October 18 interview with MSNBC that history will ask this generation of Americans—who "are strangely silent in this national yawn as our rights evaporate"—"Where were you?"

Matthew LaClair will be able to answer that question proudly, although at present he is a pariah among many of his fellow students at Kearny High—and on his computer, there are curses from outraged Americans around the country. He has even received a death threat. Continue.

Matthew LaClair, who recorded his history teacher preaching in class, appears on Air America, Tuesday December 19th, 8:00 a.m., east coast time. He'll be on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC FM, National Public Radio in New York (820 AM or 93.9 FM)or online here. On Wednesday, December 20, he'll beon Good Morning America (ABC-TV). We're sorry we missed him on Anderson Cooper (CNN) on Monday night.

A Strange Silence in Kearny

Editorial, New York Times, December 31, 2006

Just 10 miles west of Midtown Manhattan, a Kearny High School teacher was recorded early in this school year telling his students in an accelerated 11th grade history class that evolution was not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark and that only Christians have a place in heaven.

The teacher, David Paszkiewicz, also was recorded as saying this about Jesus: “If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong.”

The vast majority of Americans deplore such proselytizing in public classrooms. But the truly disturbing aspect of all this, described earlier this month by Times reporter Tina Kelley, is not that one teacher so blatantly crossed the church-state boundary but that so few school officials and community residents seemed bothered by his behavior. Continue.

Talk in Class Turns to God, Setting Off Public Debate on Rights

By Tina Kelly, The New York Times, December 18, 2006

KEARNY, N.J. -- Before David Paszkiewicz got to teach his accelerated 11th-grade history class about the United States Constitution this fall, he was accused of violating it.

Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

"If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong," Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. "He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell." Continue.

Putting God in his place

By Nat Hentoff, First Amendment Center, January 3, 2006

When 16-year-old Matthew LaClair, a junior at Kearny (N.J.) High School, 10 miles west of Manhattan, recorded eight lectures by popular teacher David Paszkiewicz in an accelerated American history course, he started a furor not only in his hometown but elsewhere around this country — whose Constitution has been degraded for the past six years by the president and the Republican-controlled Congress, with the acceptance of many of the citizenry, either ignorant of their constitutional liberties or willing to yield them in fear of homicidal terrorists.

Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, a columnist and a litigator in national-security cases, said in an Oct. 18 interview with MSNBC that history will ask this generation of Americans — who “are strangely silent in this national yawn as our rights evaporate” — “Where were you?”

Matthew LaClair will be able to answer that question proudly, although at present he is a pariah among many of his fellow students at Kearny High — and on his computer, there are curses from outraged Americans around the country. He has even received a death threat. Continue.

Excerpt from a David Paszkiewicz lecture to a Kearny High School class

Recording posted on the site of the Jersey Journal, November 2006.

Please click here to listen to the recording.

Student tapes teacher proselytizing in class
Accept Jesus or 'you belong in hell,' he said

By Ken Thorbourne, Jersey Journal, November 15, 2006

A Kearny High School student has accused a history teacher of crossing the line between teaching and preaching -- and he says he's got the tapes to prove it.

Junior Matthew LaClair, 16, said history teacher David Paszkiewicz, who is also a Baptist preacher in town, spent the first week of class lecturing students more about heaven and hell than the colonies and the Constitution.

LaClair said Paszkiewicz told students that if they didn't accept Jesus, "you belong in hell." He also dismissed as unscientific the theories of evolution and the "Big Bang." Continue.

Kearny school says action was taken against teacher who preached religion

By Ken Thorbourne, The Jersey Journal, November 16, 2006

Kearny school officials said yesterday they have taken "corrective action" against a history teacher who was recorded by a student preaching about heaven and hell in the classroom.

Neither Superintendent Robert Mooney nor Kearny High School Principal Alfred Somma would say what actions were taken against David Paszkiewicz, but both said further action might be taken if necessary.

Matthew LaClair, a 16-year-old junior, said Paszkiewicz spent the first week of class telling students that if they didn't accept Jesus, "you belong in hell." He also dismissed as unscientific the theories of evolution and the "Big Bang" in favor of creationism, and told his class that dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark, LaClair said. Continue.

Kearny High Jeers, Cheers
Kearny school says action was taken against teacher who preached religion

By Ken Thorbourne, The Jersey Journal, November 16, 2006

KEARNY - The high school student who blew the whistle on a teacher who preached about heaven and hell in the classroom felt the wrath of fellow students yesterday, even as school officials divined if the teacher would be subject to further "corrective action."

Matthew LaClair, the 16-year-old junior who took issue with - and recorded - history teacher David Paszkiewicz, said classmates both shunned and cursed him yesterday in the wake of a front-page story in yesterday's Jersey Journal spotlighting LaClair complaints about Paszkiewicz's religious rants in the classroom. Continue.

School for scandal

Editorial by Rebecca Kaplan Boroson, New Jersey Jewish Standard, November 16, 2006

Parents send their children to school expecting it to be a safe place, but as we all know, to our sorrow, this is not always the case. Schools, whether public or private, can be rife with violence. And sometimes the violence is not physical but intellectual.

A case in point is that of Matthew LaClair, a 16-year-old junior at Kearny High School.

According to the Jersey Journal, which broke the story on Wednesday, Matthew has accused his history teacher, David Paszkiewicz, who is also a Baptist preacher in the Hudson County town, of proselytizing in class. Continue.

Public school teacher tells class: "You belong in hell"

The Lippard Blog, November 12, 2006

The following is from Paul L. LaClair, a NYC attorney who lives in Kearny, New Jersey, and is posted with his permission. David Paszkiewicz, the teacher described here engaging in incompetent teaching and dishonesty, is apparently a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church in addition to being a public school teacher. Continue.

When Teachers Preach: N.J. Student Records History Teacher’s Sermonizing

The Wall of Separation, Official Weblog of Americans United, November 16, 2006

David Paszkiewicz is a youth pastor at Kearny (N.J.) Baptist Church. He is also a history teacher at Kearny High School. Sometimes, it seems, he gets the two roles mixed up.

Matthew LaClair, a student in Paszkiewicz’s public school classs, recorded his teacher offering his class an array of religious opinions. Continue.

Kearny school district settles with LaClair family

Parents and District Settle Dispute on Teacher’s Religious Remarks

By Tina Kelley, New York Times, May 10, 2007

The Kearny Board of Education in New Jersey and the parents of Matthew LaClair, a 17-year-old junior at Kearny High School, settled their dispute on Tuesday night about a teacher who proselytized in class.

The settlement will include training for teachers and students about the separation of church and state and a public statement by the board praising Matthew for bringing the matter to its attention. Continue.

Student preparing to sue Kearny schools over preaching teacher

Kearny student moves to sue district
He cites harassment after challenging teacher's preaching

By Kelly Heyboer, Newark Star-Ledger. February 20, 2007

A Kearny teenager who made national headlines when he taped a teacher preaching religious beliefs in class said yesterday he will sue the school district for allegedly penalizing him for speaking out, then failing to protect him from the harassment of angry classmates.

Last fall, Kearny High School junior Matthew LaClair secretly recorded his teacher telling his U.S. history class that those who don't believe Jesus died for their sins "belong in hell." The veteran teacher, David Paszkiewicz, also dismissed evolution and the "Big Bang" theory and told students dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark, LaClair said. Continue.

Student, 16, Finds Allies in His Fight Over Religion

By Patrick McGeehan, New York Times, February 20, 2007

NEWARK, Feb. 19 — A Kearny High School junior on Monday drew some legal heavyweights into his battle with school officials over a teacher’s proselytizing in class.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the People for the American Way Foundation and a partner from a large Manhattan law firm stood beside the student, Matthew LaClair, as he and his family threatened to sue the Kearny Board of Education if their complaints are not resolved. Last fall, Matthew, 16, taped the teacher, David Paszkiewicz, telling students in a history class that if they do not believe that Jesus died for their sins, they “belong in hell.” Continue.

Kearny teen files tort claim against district
ACLU Backs Student In Preacher Teacher Flap

By Jarrett Renshaw, Jersey Journal, February 20, 2007

NEWARK - The family of a Kearny teenager who blew the whistle on a popular teacher for turning history class into a Sunday sermon filed a tort claim notice against the district for allegedly failing to properly inform the student body on the hot-button issue and for not guarding the teen from harassment.

"I believe it is important to stand up for our constitutional rights and to make sure that these violations of the First Amendment, which apparently have been going on for years, are stopped once and for all," said 16-year-old Matthew LaClair to a bevy of reporters yesterday. Continue.

Tale Of The Tape: N.J. Preacher-Teacher Defends His Actions

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, February 26, 2007,

And now for a quick pop quiz. Read the following comments and determine if they constitute preaching:

"If you reject [Jesus’] gift of salvation, then you know where you belong."

"[Jesus] did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell." Continue

Mom sees other side of Kearny neighbors

The Jersey Journal, February 20, 2007

Debra LaClair has lived in Kearny for nearly two decades, but it wasn't until her teenage son got embroiled in a controversial debate over the separation of church and state that she saw another side of her neighbors.

"A few people on my block have offered words of support, but mostly they don't say anything," said Debra LaClair, mother of 16-year-old Matthew LaClair, who blew the whistle on his history teacher for proselytizing during class. Continue.

Town hires former DCJ official to investigate

Jarrett Renshaw, Jersey Journal, February 20, 2007

KEARNY - The school district has hired a former director of New Jersey's Division of Criminal Justice to conduct an independent investigation into claims of a high school teenager who exposed his history teacher's penchant for preaching in the classroom, according to school officials.

"Our district fully supports and takes seriously its obligation to ensure that the personal religious beliefs of our professional staff stay out of the classroom. The Kearny school district has abided by, and will continue to abide by, both the spirit and the letter of this Constitutional mandate," said Kearny School Board President Bernadette McDonald in a statement yesterday.

McDonald said the former director, Edwin H. Stier, will conduct the investigation of Kearny history teacher David Paszkiewicz, who has been with the district for 14 years.

The results will be turned over to the Board of Education, which will make a final decision.

The school district plans to adopt a formal policy tonight at its school board meeting, "reiterating" its commitment to the separation of church and state.

In addition, school officials said they have begun internal training sessions for teachers about legal and appropriate presentations and discussions about religion in the classroom. Original text.

Fundamentalists drive out principal who arranged presentation on Islam

JewsOnFirst Conversation with Rabbi Stuart Federow

by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak,, June 17, 2008

Rabbi Stuart Federow is spiritual leader of leader of Congregation Shaar Hashalom in Houston, co-host of the Show of Faith radio program on Radio Mojo 950 AM, and proprietor of the WhatJewsBelieve website. He talks with Rabbi Beliak about the crisis at Friendswood Junior High School that was set off when the school addressed an act of anti-Muslim hatred with a presentation on Islam by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Rabbi Federow notes that the school erred in not giving parents the opportunity to opt out of the presentation. He also notes that a program on the same radio station that hosts his show was responsible for encouraging a wave of complaints to the school district. Federow and Beliak consider the behavior of the Christian majority, which resents constitutional restraints on its religious practices in the public square. Click here to listen to the conversation.

Pro-Islam principal moves to larger school

Jeff Johnson, OneNewsNow, July 11, 2008

A Texas middle-school principal widely criticized for forcing students to sit through a pro-Islam presentation without parents' knowledge or permission has been hired by the Houston Independent School District.

As OneNewsNow reported in June, nearly 900 students at Texas' Friendswood Junior High were required to attend a pro-Islam lecture by two representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The program presented Islamic opinion on religious issues as fact, and included directions on how to practice Muslim religious rituals. After parents and area Christian pastors complained, Principal Robin Lowe was reassigned to another position (see related article). Now Lowe has been hired as principal of the larger Pershing Middle School in Houston. Continue.

Islam presentation causes stir at Friendswood school

Ruth Rendon, Houston Chronicle, May 29, 2008

Chronicle reporter Ruth Rendon files this report after talk radio was buzzing this morning:

A presentation by representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations to Friendswood Junior High School students has created a stir.

Karolyn Gephart, spokeswoman for the Friendswood school district, said the 874 seventh- and eighth-grade students at the junior high sat through a 40-minute presentation on May 22.

Since then some parents have complained to school officials. On Thursday, listeners to Walton and Johnson on Houston radio station 950 AM were encouraged to call and complain to the school district. Continue.

Video of Friendswood school board meeting

Produced by the Houston Chronicle, Posted on Godpod, June 12, 2008

Principal loses job in ‘Islam 101’ furor

Rhiannon Meyer, Galveston County Daily News, June 6, 2008

Friendswood — The Friendswood principal who invited two Muslim women to give a presentation about Islam to junior high students has been reassigned at her own request.

Robin Lowe asked to be reassigned to another job and accepted the position of testing coordinator effective immediately, said spokeswoman Karolyn Gephart.

Lowe could not be reached for comment. Continue.

Controversy highlights pitfalls to teaching faith

Jennifer Radcliffe, Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2008

Faced with the threat of having a hate crime reported to the FBI, the principal of Friendswood Junior High School hurriedly agreed to let the Council on American Islamic Relations make a half-hour presentation to about 875 students last month.

At the assembly, seventh- and eighth-graders learned, among other lessons, that Muslims are expected to avoid pork, dress modestly and believe "Allah is God for all human beings."

But as word of the May 22 assembly spread, outraged parents have flooded the district with calls and e-mails, saying they deserved to be notified before students were pulled out of physical education class for the presentation. The controversy, stoked by local talk radio, cost Robin Lowe her principalship. Continue.

Superintendent's Statement Regarding Muslim Presentation

Trish Hanks, Superintendent, Friendswood Independent School District, Accessed June 18, 2008

In light of the controversy regarding the incident that occurred at FJHS, and the attendant publicity surrounding it, it is appropriate for me to clarify some issues of concern and misinformation about what actually occurred.

This unfortunate series of events began with a minor physical altercation between two junior high aged boys. For some unknown reason, one boy decided to pick up another young man and place him head first into a plastic trashcan. Although this has been widely reported as a hate crime against a Muslim student, our investigation concluded that it was a random, impulsive act that had absolutely nothing to do with religious preference or ethnicity. There is no indication that the action was premeditated or that these young boys had any history of animosity toward one another. The incident was unprovoked and the offending student was appropriately disciplined. Continue.

The real faith base of Friendswood

Rick Casey, The Houston Chronicle, June 7, 2008

In her letter apologizing to the parents and other people of Friendswood for a presentation on Islam to junior high students, school Superintendent Trish Hanks closed by saying:

"Friendswood is a faith-based community and founded on these principles. The school district has always and will continue to honor that heritage."

The letter didn't say what principles she had in mind, and efforts to reach her through her secretary and the district's public information office failed. Continue.

Christian legal group protests Islamic presentation

Tom Jacobs, Friendswood Journal, June 9, 2008

An evangelical Christian legal organization has taken the controversial issue of an Islamic presentation May 22 at Friendswood Junior High to a national audience.

The American Center for Law and Justice this week began soliciting for signatures on a protest petition to send to Friendswood ISD. FISD “needs a lesson in the First Amendment,” according to the ACLJ website.

“In a disconcerting display of discrimination, (FISD) crossed the line – from teaching about religion to indoctrinating students in the tenets of Islam,” the ACLJ states. Continue.

Texas: Muslim Speakers Outrage Parents

Rhiannon Meyers, Galveston Country Daily News, June 2, 2008

A presentation to Friendswood junior high students about Islam has ignited a furor among some parents.

Parents of Friendswood Junior High School students started a letter campaign to school officials in protest of a presentation meant to combat hate and bullying.

On May 22, two Muslim women gave a 30-minute presentation about Islamic culture as part of a yearlong study at the school of respect, tolerance and culture, according to a statement from district officials. Continue.

Pro-Islam principal removed

Jeff Johnson,, June 9, 2008

Pastors in the Houston area who objected to a pro-Islam assembly at an area junior high school are applauding the removal of the principal who arranged the presentation.

As OneNewsNow previously reported, nearly 900 seventh- and eighth-grade students at Friendswood Junior High were required to attend a pro-Islam presentation by two representatives of the Council on American-Islamic relations. The program stated Islamic opinion on religious issues as fact, and contained instruction on how to practice Muslim religious rituals.

Pastor Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, was one of those who complained about the assembly. He is responding now to news that the principal who planned the assembly has been removed from her position. Continue.

Houston Area Pastors Council "warns" of "threat"

David Welch, Houston Area Pastors Council website, June 9, 2008

A video posted on the website of the Houston Area Pastors Council claims leadership for the fight against threats to the "biblical point of view." The council's leader, David Welch was instrumental in mobilizing parents to fight the "threat" to students of the presentation on Islam by the Council on American Islamic Relations. Click here.

Islamic infiltration in Texas school

Jeff Johnson,, June 3, 2008

Parents and Christian pastors in the Houston area are angry after a local junior high school forced students to attend what they describe as an indoctrination to Islam.

Pastor Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, is just one of those angry over a presentation by two female representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations that students at the Friendswood Junior High School were forced to attend two weeks ago.

"The specific details, as we were given by the students, included teachings that Adam, Noah, and Jesus were all prophets like Mohammed; the basic tenets of Islam; the process of how to pray five times a day; again, the pillars of Islam. These were specific, religious instructions," Welch explains. Continue.

California teacher sued over remarks about Christians, Boy Scouts

Teacher's religion remarks spark lively community debate
Capistrano Valley High School history teacher James Corbett is accused of making anti-religious comments in class.

By Scott Martindale, The Orange County Register, December 14, 2007

MISSION VIEJO - History teacher James Corbett is a lightning rod in his high school classroom, questioning the merits of religion on a regular basis and forcing students to think long and hard about their convictions and faith.

Now a lawsuit filed by one of Corbett's Capistrano Valley High School students alleging a classroom anti-religion bias has ignited a flurry of debate about the role a teacher's convictions and faith should play in the classroom.

Mission Viejo sophomore Chad Farnan and his parents filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Corbett alleging the Advanced Placement European history teacher made anti-Christian remarks during class in violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause, which prohibits the government from promoting religious intolerance.

Many of Corbett's current and former students have rushed to his defense, saying he not only had the right to criticize traditional Christian viewpoints on topics such as birth control, teenage sex and homosexuality, but that his talks forced students to think critically about their own views. Continue.

Former and current students converge at Capistrano Valley High School in protest of a lawsuit alleging the instructor made offensive remarks in class regarding Christianity

By Dave McKibben, Los Angeles Times, December 20, 2007

About 300 former and current Capistrano Valley High students rallied Wednesday in support of a teacher accused of making anti-Christian statements in the classroom.

Boosters of James Corbett, an Advanced Placement European history teacher, lined both sides of the street in front of the Mission Viejo campus, chanting "support free speech" and holding signs that read, "He Made Us Think," "Irish Catholic Supports Dr. Corbett" and "Who Would Jesus Sue?"

The 90-minute rally came a week after student Chad Farnan, 16, and his parents filed a lawsuit alleging that Corbett had violated the student's constitutional rights by making "highly inappropriate" and offensive statements in class regarding Christianity. Continue.

Capo Valley High's James Corbett Isn't the First Local Educator to Face OC's Cultural Conservatives

By Daffodil J. Altan and Gustavo Arellano, Orange County Weekly, April 10, 2008

Consider these two quotations:

“You are a liberal asshole. Teach school, not politics and religion. You jackass, you are the type [sic] person poisoning our kids’ minds, not teaching them history. Jackass!!!!”

“His lack of discretion and his callousness toward the patriotic feelings of local citizens have helped to show that a threat exists right here in our community.”

The first is from an e-mail sent last week to James Corbett, the history teacher at Capistrano Valley High School who is now the defendant in a lawsuit filed last year by sophomore Chad Farnan and his parents alleging Corbett insulted Christians and Christianity during class—including by making a much-vilified statement about “Jesus glasses.” Continue.

Farnan vs. Capistrano Unified School District and Dr. James Corbett
Case 8:07-cv-01434-JVS-AN, United States District Court for the Central District of California - Southern Division

Complaint filed by the Farnan family, January 15, 2008

To read the complaint, a PDF document posted on the website, please Click here.

Student Sues History Teacher Over Anti-Christian Comments

By Lawrence Jones, Christian Post, December 17, 2007

A lawsuit filed by a high school honors student and his parents against a California history teacher for anti-religion bias has ignited debate about the role of a teacher’s convictions in the classroom.

Sophomore Chad Farnan tape-recorded his teacher’s alleged “derogatory remarks” about traditional Christian viewpoints and comments that exhibited “hostility” toward Christianity.

Some of the comments by his teacher, James Corbett, included, "When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth” and "Conservatives don't want women to avoid pregnancies – that's interfering with God's work.” The comments were made while he was teaching Advanced Placement European history at Capistrano Valley High School.

"It just shocks me that someone would think that and say that," Farnan said in a report by Orange County Register. "He's my teacher, and I've lost respect for him. I'm offended." Continue.

Ohio school district fires fundamentalist Christian teacher despite pressure from community

Board opts to fire teacher
Mount Vernon man to request hearing

By Alayna DeMartini, The Columbus Dispatch, June 21, 2008

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio -- Supporters of John Freshwater stood in a parking lot yesterday asking God to inspire the school board to make the right decision.

Three hours later, the board announced that it intends to fire Freshwater, an eighth-grade science teacher.

Freshwater preached his Christian beliefs about how the world began, discredited evolution and didn't teach the required science curriculum, the board says. He was told to stop teaching creationism and intelligent design, but he continued to do so, an investigation found. Continue.

Ohio board votes to ax teacher accused of branding

By Doug Whiteman, Associated Press, San Jose Mercury News, June 20, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio—The school board of a small central Ohio community voted unanimously Friday to fire a teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs despite staff complaints and using a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms. Continue.

Teacher Accused of Branding Kid With Cross
An Ohio Teacher Stands Accused of Teaching Creationism and Burning Student

By Russell Goldman, ABC News, June 20, 2008

The school board of a small central Ohio community voted Friday to fire a teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs despite staff complaints and burning the image of a cross on students' arms, according to the Associated Press.

Mount Vernon Middle School veteran science teacher John Freshwater has denies any wrongdoing, his attorney told the Mount Vernon News.

Freshwater also displayed the Ten Commandments in his classroom and taught creationism, according to an independent investigation launched after the parents of the student who was allegedly branded filed a lawsuit.

The suit alleges that he regularly discussed Christianity in his science class, even "teaching the meaning of Easter and Good Friday," and kept at least one and sometimes several Bibles in the room. Continue.

Mount Vernon City Schools Independent Investigation Of A Complaint Regarding John Freshwater

Report by HR On Call, ca. June 19, 2008

The investigation found that John Freshwater taught creationism, said homosexuality was a sin, kept religious books in class for the students, and participated in Fellowship of Christian Atheletes programs with students that included bringing in outside speakers, asking students to lead prayers and leading prayers himself. According to the report, parents had complained about Freshwater for years but they always declined to file formal complaints and didn't want to be identified for fear of retailiation. Click here to read the PDF document.

Teacher sued over religious 'branding'
Parents' allegation comes as inquiry into class lessons is wrapping up

By Alayna DeMartini, Columbus Dispatch, June 19, 2008

The parents of a Mount Vernon boy who says his science teacher branded a cross on his arm have sued the teacher and the school board, saying the teacher violated the boy's civil rights.

An investigator hired by the district has been looking into allegations against John Freshwater, who is accused of inappropriately bringing religion into his classroom. A final report in the investigation is expected to be released by Friday. Continue.

Public speaks out on science teacher's views
His promotion of Christianity in class argued before board

By Alayna DeMartini, The Columbus Dispatch, May 13, 2008 3:22 AM

An investigation into a Mount Vernon schools science teacher drew nearly 200 of his supporters and detractors to a school-board meeting last night.

Tim Beougher stepped up to the lectern to warn that board members would be setting a "dangerous precedent" if they stopped teacher John Freshwater from promoting Christianity in his public-school classroom.

"If you throw the Bible out, you throw God out. And if you throw God out, you throw what's right out," he said.

Many in the crowd offered "amens." Continue.

Dispute with Mount Vernon Teacher
Religious 'healing,' branding charged

By Alayna DeMartini, The Columbus Dispatch, April 23, 2008

The Mount Vernon public-school science teacher who won't remove his personal Bible from the top of his desk also is accused of conducting a religious "healing session" during school and burning crosses on students' arms.

Administrators say John Freshwater taught his own religious beliefs in his classes, including describing the meaning of Good Friday and Easter.

An independent investigator will be hired to look into claims involving Freshwater, an eighth-grade teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School, the school board decided yesterday. An administrator will monitor his classes until the probe ends. Continue.

Mount Vernon Bible flap
Students back defiant teacher

By Alayna DeMartini, The Columbus Dispatch, April 19, 2008

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio -- They painted crosses on white T-shirts and wore them to school yesterday. They carried Bibles and put them on their desks.

Some students at Mount Vernon Middle and High schools want everyone to know they support a science teacher who has refused to remove a Bible from his classroom desk.

Students cheered and offered high-fives to Middle School teacher John Freshwater when he showed up yesterday at a student-organized rally in his honor.

Mount Vernon High senior Caleb McCoy stood on a rock as he told the crowd of students and parents at the Knox County school how much he and others back Freshwater.

"Like him, we're expressing our First Amendment rights. He has the right to express his religion. We have the right to assemble," said McCoy, 18, who led the afternoon rally. Continue.

Texas law encourages expression of religious "viewpoints" at school

Law on religion in school spurs fear

Jenny Lacoste-Caputo, San Antonio Express-News, July 25, 2007

Evangelical Christians point to 1963 as the year God was kicked out of school. That's when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Madalyn Murray O'Hair's argument and abolished the practice of students reciting prayers and Bible passages in public schools.

Since then, there have been scores of legal battles over when, or if, religion can coincide with the school day.

This year, the Texas Legislature added more fuel to the decades-old debate by passing a law that could leave the spiritual conscience of a school up to the captain of the football team. Continue.

As Texas State Officials Push Religious Legislation, Small Texas City Launches Push for Prayer in Schools
"I don't think church and state need to be separated," Brazoria's mayor tells

by, April 17, 2007

Amid a surge efforts by elected officials in Texas to legislate religious (read fundamentalist Christian) measures, the small city of Brazoria is organizing Texas cities to reinstitute prayer in the schools.

"I don't think church and state need to be separated," the mayor of Brazoria told us in an interview about that Texas city's campaign to reinstitute prayer in public schools. He said he hopes that school prayer will reverse a slide in morals by bringing religion to children whose parents aren't involved with a church.

Our report also includes an update on last week's report on Texas state legislation that would mandate a Bible studies elective in public schools and notes two more Texas bills that hack away at church-state separation. Please click here.

Southern Baptists consider call to remove children from public schools

At their June 2006 annual meeting, Southern Baptists did not pass a resolution to abandon the public schools for homeschooling and Christian schools, but did decided to become more "engaged" in public school systems. Pullout proponents cite the schools' increasingly respectful treatment of gays and lesbians as a major reason for their "exit strategy." The Southern Baptist Convention claims 16 million members. Please click here for reports and live news headlines

SECTION: School Vouchers and Homeschooling

The religious right keeps pressing efforts to use public education funds for private school tuition --while a growing number of fundamentalist Christian families homeschool their children. Click here

SECTION: Bible study "literature" and "history" courses

A pattern appears to be developing in states' efforts to establish high school Bible courses: The proponents try to avoid a nonsectarian text approved by moderate (and Jewish) organizations and still create the course. Click here

SECTION: Organizing school prayer

Christocrats work unrelentingly to institute religious practice in the public schools. Click here

SECTION: Christian schools sue California university system to force acceptance of religious courses

In August 2005, the Association of Christian Schools International, Calvary Chapel Christian Schools of Murrieta, California, and five Calvary students, filed a lawsuit against the University of California and California State University to force them to accept the Murrietta's courses as meeting admission requirements. The case is being closely watched by defenders of the First Amendment as well as Christian education groups. Click here to read about the lawsuit.

SECTION: The religious right's effort to replace science with religious doctrine and the debate it has instigated

"Intelligent design," also known as creationism, is the notion, vigorously promoted by the religious right as a replacement curriculum for biology -- that life forms are too complicated to be explained by Darwin's theory of evolution and must have been created by a higher power. Some of the efforts to popularize this notion are grotesque and laughable, such as the museum that claims that dinosaurs traveled on Noah's ark. But while the religious right is hardly prevailing in the debate, it has elected school boards which have imposed "intelligent design" on science teaching.

This collection of news reports, essays and debates provides background helpful to appreciating the dimension and intensity of the debate. (Noah's dinosaurs are mentioned in the creationist museum report.) Please click here for material on "intelligent design" and "creationism."

SECTION: Scopes "Monkey Trial" Redux in Dover, Pennsylvania "Intelligent Design" Case

In 2004 the school board of Dover, a small town in central Pennsylvania, voted to incorporate "intelligent design" into its high school biology courses. The new policy required science teachers to read students a statement raising doubts about the universally accepted Darwinian theory of evolution and proposing "intelligent design" as an alternative. Eleven parents sued the school board in federal court. The case, which got considerable national coverage, concluded November 4, 2005, and the judge's ruling is pending. Meanwhile, on November 8, candidates opposed to teaching "intelligent design" swept the school board out of office. Please click here to read a collection of news reports from both the mainstream media and the religious right.

SECTION: Kansas State school authority votes to teach "intelligent design"

On November 8, 2005, the Kansas Board of Education adopted new science standards, requiring teachers to question evolution. The board's new policy does not specifically mention "intelligent design" but, according to news reports, "intelligent design" advocates helped write the new standards. The state's governor and others concerned with its economic future reacted with dismay. But the board members won't face election until November 2006. Click here for coverage of the establishment of "intelligent design" in Kansas.

North Carolina teacher brings anti-Muslim speaker to class

Escamilla seeking big-time backers
Evangelists asked to assist his cause

Yonat Shimron, The News & Observer, (Raleigh, North Carolina) November 25, 2007

Robert Escamilla, the embattled Wake County social studies teacher, never has denied that he is a Christian or that his transfer from Enloe High School to Mary Phillips High School may have been punishment for his beliefs.

Now he is trying to get high-profile evangelical Christian leaders to champion his cause. The latest is Charles Colson, the one-time Richard Nixon aide and now born-again Christian, best known for founding Prison Fellowship, a Christian outreach ministry. Escamilla met with Colson recently during a conference in Charlotte at which Colson spoke.

On Friday, Colson, speaking through a spokeswoman, said he thought Escamilla was "a very solid guy with a strong case." Colson said he was doing more research and may consider a commentary on his "BreakPoint" radio show, which has a weekly listening audience of 2 million, according to the Prison Fellowship Web site. Continue.

Wake teacher raising money for legal challenge
Donations taken at barbecue rally

T. Keung Hui, The News & Observer, (Raleigh, North Carolina)October 31, 2007

Raleigh - Former Enloe High School teacher Robert Escamilla is looking for more than just support; he also wants donations to finance a legal challenge to personnel actions taken against him for hosting a guest speaker who denounced Islam.

Escamilla drew 75 people to a rally Tuesday where supporters solicited donations over plates of barbecue at Hideaway BBQ. Billy Strickland, his lead attorney, said it could cost as much as $75,000 in legal fees.

"If this is going to the next level, it's going to take a lot of horsepower," said Chuck Campbell, the emcee of the rally and the host of Take A Stand, a local conservative television show. "That's not going to happen without a lot of money." Continue.

Teacher fights on in flap over anti-Islam speaker

Yonat Shimron, The News & Observer, (Raleigh, North Carolina) June 13, 2007

The former Enloe High School history teacher who invited a Christian evangelist to speak to his students is not taking his reprimand quietly.

Social studies teacher Robert Escamilla said the Wake County school system squelched free speech and academic freedom -- and he is finding a growing group of supporters.

In the days since he was reassigned to Mary E. Phillips High School, 100 of his former students have signed a petition to have him reinstated at Enloe. The chairwoman of the social studies department at Enloe wrote a forceful letter to the school board calling him a "sacrificial lamb." A Web site ( is being built and bank account has been set up to help with his legal bills. Continue.

Enloe students questioned
Former students say a teacher suspended this week often talked about Christianity

Yonat Shimron, The News & Observer, (Raleigh, North Carolina) March 2, 2007

Students at Enloe High School said they have long heard the kinds of Christian overtures that got social studies teacher Robert Escamilla suspended this week.

An 18-year Wake County schools veteran, Escamilla was suspended with pay while the school system investigates his invitation of a Christian evangelist to several of his classrooms Feb. 15. Kamil Solomon, a Raleigh-based evangelist, denounced Islam and handed out pamphlets titled, "Jesus not Muhammad, Part I," and "Do Not Marry a Muslim Man, Part I."

Enloe students said attorneys for the school system questioned them Wednesday and Thursday. Schools spokesman Michael Evans said those inquiries would conclude today. He could not say when the investigation would be completed. Continue.

Students told to shun Muslims

Yonat Shimron and Kinea White Epps, The News & Observer, (Raleigh, North Carolina) February 22, 2007

Raleigh - A national Muslim advocacy group has rebuked the Wake County Public School system for allowing a Christian evangelist to speak at Enloe High School and distribute pamphlets denouncing Islam.

The Council on American Islamic Relations said the school system will have created a "discriminatory, hostile learning environment," violating federal civil rights law, if it does not investigate the incident and apologize to students.

The complaint stems from a guest appearance last week in several classes by Kamil Solomon, a Raleigh-based Christian evangelist, who urged students to shun Muslims. Continue.

Group: Pupils Given Anti-Islam Material

AP, San Francisco Chronicle, February 21, 2007

Raleigh, N.C. (AP) -- A high school teacher allowed a group whose declared mission is to "raise an awareness of the danger of Islam" to distribute literature in his class, including a handout titled "Do Not Marry a Muslim Man," according to an advocacy group.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says a representative from the Kamil International Ministries Organization, based in Raleigh, spoke to a ninth-grade world history class at Enloe High School and distributed the literature, which also discussed Jesus. Continue.

See also: "In Muslims We Do Not Trust," By Tom Zeller Jr., The New York Times' Lede Blog, February 22, 2007, 7:38 am.

Colorado Christian school shifts state funds to religious programs

Shifting of money could be illegal
Lakewood Christian school using public funds to support religious program

By Lou Kilzer, Rocky Mountain News, November 28, 2006

A private Christian school in Lakewood is shifting tens of thousands of dollars of public funds to support its religious program - a possible violation of state law.

Christian Fellowship charges the public $160,000 a year to rent two small classrooms to Hope Online Learning Academy Co-op. The rent for the space - containing a total of 1,008 to 1,400 square feet - is four to six times the rate of a pricey 17th Street office suite.

In fact, the rent alone for the two classrooms is nearly twice as much as the $85,000 a year of annual mortgage payments that Christian Fellowship pays for its 21,987-square- foot religious campus, according to a trust deed. Continue.

Hope online school tightening controls
One aim is to ensure tax dollars don't go to religious programs

By Nancy Mitchell, Rocky Mountain News, December 1, 2006

The head of a controversial online charter school on Thursday announced 10 steps to tighten operations, including stricter enforcement of policies prohibiting the use of tax dollars for religious programs.

Heather O'Mara, president of Hope Online Learning Academy Co-Op, said the changes result from a six-week review of the school's 81 publicly funded learning centers across Colorado.

"We understand there are things that we need to do to clarify processes and procedures to ensure the focus is on the educational outcomes and success of our children," said O'Mara, who opened the school for at-risk kids in fall 2005 and saw its enrollment more than double to 3,700 students this year. Continue.

Group urges probe into Hope Online's funding
Anti-Defamation League points to mix of taxes and religion

By Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News, November 30, 2006

A civil rights group Wednesday called on the Colorado attorney general to investigate reports that tax dollars are being spent on religious education through the Hope Online Learning Academy Co-Op.

In a separate development, the southeastern Colorado school district that chartered Hope Online came a step closer to losing state academic accreditation. State education commissioner William Moloney said Wednesday that the Vilas School District in Baca County will go on academic probation after several years of poor student performance. That step precedes loss of state accreditation.

Vilas Superintendent Joe Shields said he accepts the decision to put the district on probation.

"I totally understand," Shields said. "We have accreditation standards and we have to find a way to bring our kids up in achievement." Continue.

Christocrats fight Kentucky move to secular date alternative

Secularites Get Clocked
With governor’s blessing, Kentucky votes to mark history the Christian way

Joanne Seiff, The Jewish Week (New York), September 22, 2006

Bowling Green, Ky. What’s the date?

As we begin the year 5767 in Kentucky, we know Jews aren’t the only people thinking about marking time. In April, the Kentucky Board of Education voted to introduce the secular terms of B.C.E. and C.E. (Before Common Era and Common Era) alongside the terms Kentuckians consider traditional: B.C. and A.D. (Before Christ and Anno Domini: Year of Our Lord). Educators made this recommendation because national standardized tests, universities and other states all teach history with these more secular terms. There was a brief mention that these terms, C.E. and B.C.E. also were seen as more acceptable to Jews.

This preliminary decision resulted in a huge outcry from Kentucky’s conservative Christians, supported by Kentucky’s Republican governor, Ernie Fletcher, an ordained Baptist minister. Protesters said they felt the change amounted to an assault on Christian values and reflected another effort to remove religion, i.e. Christianity, from public schools. The Board of Education held hearings in Kentucky’s big cities and allowed feedback by other means as well. .Continue

Note: There is a discrepancy between the Religion News Service report and those of the Kentucky papers, which see the struggle heating up as Christocrats resist adding B.C.E. and C.E. to dates.

Kentucky Wrestles With Religious Dates in Classrooms
After evolution fights comes dispute over A.D. vs. C.E.

by Michael Jennings, Religion News Service, posted May 31, 2006 by Christianity Today

Kentucky's state school board has apparently resolved a spat over historical date references in social studies classes, but not before the state's governor, facing an uphill re-election bid, seized on the issue.

And while the immediate controversy over the use of B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, Latin for "in the year of the Lord") may have subsided, related fights over the proper role of religion in public schools appear to be far from settled.Continue

The state Board of Education voted in April to add the secular date designations to the state's program of studies, which details the concepts students should be taught in each grade and subject, from preschool to high school.

Under the proposal, B.C. and A.D. would be used alongside B.C.E. and C.E., respectively.

But outcry over the decision could prompt the state Board of Education to reconsider at its June meeting, especially since the 11-member board has changed

Board seeks views on date markers C.E., B.C.E

By Nancy C. Rodriguez, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), May 30, 2006

Some say it's simply an attempt to keep Kentucky education current with changes in educational institutions and college-entrance exams.

Others call it political correctness run amok, an attempt to further "religiously sterilize" public schools.

In either case, the fight over supplementing the historical date markers B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, Latin for "In the year of the Lord") in Kentucky classrooms likely will heat up again this week. Continue

Hearing's attendees clamor to use only B.C. and A.D.

By Raviya H. Ismail, Herald-Leader (Lexington, Kentucky), May 31, 2006

The attendees of a public hearing today regarding a recommendation to change the designation of time were overwhelmingly against the measure.

In April, state board of education members approved a proposal to include BCE, or Before Common Era and C.E. for Common Era with the traditionally used terms B.C., or Before Christ and A.D., for Anno Domini, or in the year of our Lord.

The changes are recommendations to curriculum standards for students from preschool through 12th grade. The proposal would use both kinds of dating. For example, a date could read 500 A.D./C.E.

Emotions ran high at the hearing on the issue, which could be revisited by the board at its June 13-14 meeting. Opponents of the bill say it is an attack on their faith. Continue

Send-home fliers from religious groups

Judge Orders School To Allow Student's Religious Fliers

The Daily Record (Dunn, North Carolina), November 3, 2006

DUNN (AP) - A federal judge ordered a Sampson County high school to allow a student to hand out religious leaflets, saying its policy on distributing literature is potentially unconstitutional.

The ruling, which partially granted a request for a preliminary injunction, didn't address whether Benjamin Arthurs' actions were disruptive or whether he was fairly suspended by Midway High School administrators.

Benjamin, now in the 10th grade at the school, clashed with Midway High officials last spring over his desire to stage a one-person counterdemonstration to a gay rights event.

A federal lawsuit filed on Benjamin's behalf by the Alliance Defense Fund, a national legal organization founded in part by Christian group Focus on the Family, said the youth was wrongfully suspended for disregarding a warning about expressing his Christian faith. Continue

Schools to review flier rules
County examines legality questions

By Matt Deegan, the Daily Progress (Charlottesville, Virginia), September 8, 2006

Religious groups’ contention that the Albemarle County School Board’s flier distribution and building access policies are unconstitutional has prompted the division to change its guidelines.

The board, however, has yet to reach a consensus on whether to allow all groups to distribute fliers and use buildings or limit circulation and building use to school and government organizations. A third option for flier distribution is to end it altogether.

After students at Hollymead Elemen-tary were denied permission to hand out fliers announcing a church-sponsored vacation Bible school during summer session, their father contacted Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit group that offers litigation and policy advice. Liberty Counsel sent a letter to Albemarle County officials advising that the school system’s flier distribution policy was unconstitutional. Soon after, county School Board attorney Mark Trank called Liberty Counsel explaining that the board would change its policy. Continue.

Giving out fliers at school

Federal court strikes down school policy in case involving student’s religious flyer

Empire State NewsNet, April 3, 2007

A federal district court has issued an opinion finding that school officials had violated a fourth grader's free speech rights by denying her request to distribute religious flyers during non-instructional time. The court also ruled that the school's literature distribution policy is unconstitutional. The student, Michaela Bloodgood, is represented by Liberty Counsel. Continue.

Judge: District Can't Ban Student Faith Fliers

By William Kates, Associated Press Writer, Christian Post, April 3, 2007

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - A school district violated a fourth-grader's constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection by refusing to allow her to distribute "personal statement" fliers carrying a religious message, a federal judge has ruled.

The Liverpool Central School District in upstate New York based its restrictions on "fear or apprehension of disturbance, which is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression," Chief U.S. District Judge Norman Mordue wrote in a 46-page decision Friday. Continue.

School Scolded for Blocking Girl's Attempt to Share Faith

Payton Hoegh,, Crosswalk, April 5, 2007

A New York court has chastised a school for preventing a fourth-grader from sharing her Christian faith with her classmates.

Civil liberties law firm Liberty Counsel took up the case after the Liverpool school district denied Michaela Bloodgood's request to hand out flyers she had written to her classmates.

Michaela said that with the flyers she could tell her friends "about my life and how Jesus Christ gave me a new one." The flyer included a list of things she said Jesus had done for her. She told her classmates Jesus helped her parents decide to get remarried - "and then I will get to see my Dad everyday" - and that he helped her learn to play the piano. Continue.

Censoring books

Banned gay penguin book tops "challenged" list, August 29, 2007

Not all penguin stories are equal in the public's mind.

And Tango Makes Three, an award-winning children's book based on a true story about two male penguins who raised a baby penguin, topped the American Library Association's annual list of works attracting the most complaints from parents, library patrons, and others.

Overall, the number of ''challenged'' books in 2006 jumped to 546, more than 30% higher than the previous year's total, 405, although still low compared to the mid 1990s, when challenges topped 750. Continue.

Maryland school district removes novel from curriculum over gay references, April 10, 2007

After receiving complaints from about 40 parents, a Maryland school district has pulled a young-adult novel from its curriculum in part because of its references to homosexuality. Harford County school superintendent Jacqueline Haas made the decision to stop using Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, about a boy who is harassed in school, in class because of parents upset at the novel’s profane language and homophobic slurs, reports the Associated Press. Continue.

Review Of Gay Penguin Book Nixed

by Newscenter Staff, January 10, 2007

(Charlotte, North Carolina) A planned formal review by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board of a children's book about a gay penguin couple has been overturned by the board's own lawyer.

The book, "And Tango Makes Three" has been at the center of an internal board squabble for the better part of a month.

Schools superintendent Peter Gorman first order the book to be removed, because it focuses on homosexuality, was too controversial, and was not vital to primary school students. Gorman cited complaints about the subject matter. Continue.

Gay Penguins Return To Charlotte Schools - For Now

by Newscenter Staff, December 21, 2006

(Charlotte, North Carolina) A book about two male penguins who set up housekeeping and become parents is being returned to bookshelves in Charlotte-Mecklenburg public schools but the return may be short lived.

Wednesday Schools superintendent Peter Gorman admitted he made a mistake in ordering the book to be removed without following district policy. Continue.

Parents upset by swearing in books
Fair Oaks group urging San Juan school officials to form review panel.

By Deepa Ranganathan, The Sacramento Bee, May 21, 2006

Tyler Grimsman came home from school one afternoon with a novel he was reading in his ninth-grade English class. The book was full of characters who profaned God's name, he told his parents.

"My husband sat down and started to read the book, and said, 'He's right. Every other page or so, there's swearing,' " said Cori Grimsman, Tyler's mother. Continue

Idaho school board rejects minister's request to ban book

By The Associated Press, May 11, 2006

SALMON, Idaho — Salmon School District board members have rejected a minister's request that a book be banned from Salmon High School's freshman English curriculum that he says portrays Christians in a negative light.

The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier, had been pulled last March after the Rev. Timothy Gordish, a Lutheran minister, complained to the school district.

The book tells the fictional story of a teen who refuses to sell chocolate bars for a fundraiser at an all-boys Catholic school. The American Library Association ranks the book as the fourth most-challenged book in the U.S., as indicated by written complaints to public libraries and schools. Continue

Christian right fights yoga classes

Yoga causes controversy in public schools: Some parents say it violates the separation of church and state

By The Associated Press, January 28, 2007, via The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy

In Tara Guber's ideal world, American children would meditate in the lotus position and chant in Sanskrit before taking stressful standardized tests.

But when she asked a public elementary school in Aspen, Colo., to teach yoga in 2002, Christian fundamentalists and even some secular parents lobbied the school board. They argued that yoga's Hindu roots conflicted with Christian teachings and that using it in school might violate the separation of church and state. Continue.

Southern Illinois University bows to Christian Right demand

SIUC: We don't discriminate on basis of religion
University responds to Christian group's demands

By Andrea Zimmermann, Southern Illinois University Carbondale Daily Egyptian, March 20, 2007

In a letter sent Monday responding to a national Christian legal group, SIU cited an existing policy as assurance the university does not discriminate on the basis or religion, but largely declined to comment on the claims that a professor violated a student's rights.

Jerry Blakemore, lead counsel for the university, complied with the demands of the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom by sending the organization a letter Monday afternoon.

Blakemore referred to the university's non-discrimination policy, which including religious affiliation. He then explained that he was bound by federal privacy laws to not publicly discuss academic matters of students and employment matters of faculty. Continue.

Attorneys want promise SIU won't violate student's religious freedom

By Caleb Hale, The Southern Illinoisian, March 13, 2007

CARBONDALE - A religious freedom advocacy group is seeking a promise from Southern Illinois University Carbondale it won't violate a student's right to use Christian principles in her studies - this coming after the student claimed a professor threatened to penalize her grade for mentioning faith-based initiatives in a final paper.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based attorney group funded by 35 ministries, has asked university officials for a written statement promising they won't infringe upon student Christine Mize's First Amendment right to incorporate faith into her class assignments.

Mize, a 45-year-old graduate student in social work from Murphysboro, said SIUC associate professor Laura Dreuth-Zeman informed her in December she wouldn't be able to write a term paper about faith-based therapy for women experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder from abortions. Continue.

Illinois Professor Refuses to Issue Grade to Christian Student

Focus on the Family, March 8, 2007

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) intervened after a professor at Southern Illinois University refused to grade the paper of a Christian student.

Christine Mize, a social work graduate student, had to create an eight-week therapy program based on a topic of her choice.

She chose to create a therapy model for women who suffer from post-abortion syndrome and told her professor, Laura Drueth Zeman, that the recovery portion would be faith-based. Drueth Zeman told Mize that she would downgrade the paper if it included a faith-based element. Continue.

Attack on Lexington, Mass. district's notification policy

Federal Court Mulls Classroom Gay Subject Matter

by The Associated Press, February 7, 2007

(Boston, Massachusetts) Officials from a suburban Massachusetts school district asked a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two couples who claim their parental rights were violated when homosexuality was discussed in their children's classrooms.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf did not immediately issue a decision in the case from Lexington, but peppered lawyers on both sides with questions and said he understood the importance of the case to both parents and school administrators.

Tonia and David Parker sued after their 5-year-old son brought home a book from kindergarten that depicted a gay family. David Parker was later arrested for refusing to leave his son's school after officials would not agree to notify him when homosexuality was discussed in his son's class. Continue.

Parents File Federal Suit Over Gay Book

by Michael J. Meade, Boston Bureau, April 27, 2006

(Boston, Massachusetts) Two Lexington, Massachusetts families filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging that their civil rights were violated when a gay-themed book was read to their children in school.

A teacher read the book King and King to second-graders at the Estabrook elementary school earlier this month as part of a lesson about weddings. Continue

Parkers allege son assaulted

By Bethan L. Jones, Lexington Minuteman (Lexington, Massachusetts), June 15, 2006

Parents who are suing to force the Lexington school district to notify them when sexual orientation was discussed in their son's classroom allege that their first-grade son was beaten up by eight to ten schoolmates on the second anniversary of gay marriage in Massachusetts. Neither the school district nor the police had any knowledge of the attack, which was alleged in a news release by a religious right organization, MassResistance. Click here.

Where’s the Outrage Over the Beating of David Parker’s Son?

Executive Director, Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of Traditional Values Coalition, The Church Report, June 21, 2006

The mainstream media has ignored a major news story out of Massachusetts involving a first grader who was dragged and beaten on the playground at Estabrook Elementary School in Lexington. His crime? He is the son of David Parker, a concerned parent who objects to his son being taught about homosexuality. School officials have admitted that the attack on his son was planned and premeditated! Continue

Parents rip school over gay storybook
Lesson reignites clash in Lexington

By Tracy Jan, The Boston Globe, April 20, 2006

"In a controversy with a familiar ring, parents of a Lexington second-grader are protesting that their son's teacher read a fairy tale about gay marriage to the class without warning parents first.

"The teacher at Joseph Estabrook Elementary School used the children's book, King & King, as part of a lesson about different types of weddings. A prince marries another prince instead of a princess in the book, which was on the American Library Association's list of the 10 most challenged books in 2004 because of its homosexual theme." Continue

Massachusetts 2nd-grade teacher reads class 'gay marriage' book
Administrator backs her

Michael Foust, Baptist Press, April 20, 2006

Religious right activists are criticizing a Massachusetts second-grade teacher for reading a book about gay families to her class. According to the article, "conservatives say it is an example of what happens when a state redefines one of society's most important institutions." Click here

Court orders Missouri district to stop Gideons Bible distribution

Judge orders halt to distribution of Bibles in public schools in rural Missouri district

Jim Salter, The Associated Press, The San Diego Union-Tribune, January 9, 2008

St. Louis – A rural school district's long-standing practice of allowing the distribution of Bibles to grade school students is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.

An attorney for the southeastern Missouri school district said Wednesday he will appeal the judge's injunction against the practice.

For more than three decades, the South Iron School District in Annapolis, 120 miles southwest of St. Louis in the heart of the Bible Belt, allowed representatives of Gideons International to give away Bibles in fifth-grade classrooms. Continue.

ACLU Applauds Decision Ending Bible Distribution to Public School Students

American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, News Release, January 8, 2008

St. Louis, January 8, 2008 - The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri applauded the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri that found the practice of Bible distribution in the public school of a rural Missouri county was unconstitutional. The ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed suit against the South Iron School District in February 2006. The court had earlier entered a temporary injunction against Bible distribution, which was upheld by the Eight Circuit appellate court in August 2007.

In today’s decision, District Judge Catherine D. Perry found the school district’s past and current policies unconstitutional violations of the Establishment Clause.

“Based on the undisputed evidence before me, I conclude that the defendants’ purpose is the promotion of Christianity by distributing Bibles to elementary school students,” Judge Perry wrote in her 42-page decision. “The policy has the principle or primary effect of advancing religion by conveying a message of endorsement to elementary school children.” Continue.

Missouri social work student sues for "viewpoint discrimination"

Is There Disdain For Evangelicals In the Classroom?
Survey, Bias Allegation Spur Debate

Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post, May 5, 2007

Frank G. Kauffman was teaching a course in social work at Missouri State University in 2005 when he gave an assignment that sparked a lawsuit and nearly destroyed his academic career.

He asked his students to write letters urging state legislators to support adoptions by same-sex couples. Emily Brooker, then a junior majoring in social work, objected that the assignment violated her Christian beliefs. When she refused to sign her letter, she was hauled before a faculty panel on a charge of discriminating against gays.

The case has fueled accusations by conservative groups that secular university faculties are dominated by liberals who treat conservative students, particularly evangelical Christians, with intellectual condescension or worse. Continue.

Missouri State Settles Student Lawsuit

MissouriNet reported on November 9th: "Missouri State University in Springfield has settled a lawsuit with a student who says she was punished because she refused to sign a class-project letter supporting homosexual adoption. School president Michael Nietzel says the school's investigations of allegations by student Emily Brooker raised some concerns about some actions but did not support all of her allegations. The professor named in the suit is no longer the head of the Master of Social Work program. Professor Frank Kauffman remains on the faculty but has been relieved of classroom duties. The settlement will pay Brooker $9,000, waive academic fees for two years of work toward a Master's degree, pay her living expenses during that time, and will clear her official record of a grievance filed in the case."

Missouri State University settles former student's lawsuit
Instructor remains employed but put on nonclassroom duties for semester.

By Steve Koehler, Springfield News-Leader, November 9, 2006

Missouri State University has settled a lawsuit brought by a former student who accused a faculty member and the school of violating her First Amendment rights.

Emily Brooker, who graduated from MSU last spring, will have her academic record cleared, be paid cash for her attorneys' fees and have her tuition fees waived for graduate school as part of the settlement.

In addition, her instructor, Frank G. Kauffman, will give up his administrative duties and be put on nonclassroom duties for the rest of the semester. Continue.

Other attacks on public education

The State of Schools in American Perception: From Dissatisfaction to Religious Necessity

Daniel Downs, American Chronicle, May 26, 2007

When it comes to education, over 82% of Americans still send their kids to public school. So why are Americans not happy with public education? Socialism may not be such a good thing, but socialism does seem to be the problem. As will be shown, secularism, an offshoot of American socialism and humanism, is the problem.

According to the most recent Gallup Polls, 52% say they are very dissatisfied with America’s education, and only 37% are only somewhat satisfied. The educational reform No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is not the reason for the negativity about public schooling. If most Americans really understood NCLB, they would probably feel something is finally being done about our educational problems. The dissatisfaction is not about school safety either. For only about a third voiced any concern about school security. More emphasis on academics does not appear to be a major problem. Only between 30% and 40% of Americans believe there is not enough emphasis on the 3Rs, History, Science, Health, Arts, and Foreign Languages. Although a significant number of people think better teachers are needed.

So why then are so many Americans dissatisfied with American schools? The answer may surprise you, but the real problem with America’s public schools is the lack of religion. Sixty percent (60%) said they believed America has too little religion in its public schools. Continue.

A More Porous Church-State Wall

By Scott Jaschik, Inside HigherEd, March 14, 2007

Last week saw two court rulings and one campus dispute focused on church and state. In all three cases — and in several others in the last year — advocates for religion won, and supporters of a strict separation of church and state lost. Continue.

Court keeps pro-life literature distribution at Michigan school

Ed Thomas,, March 28, 2007

A permanent injunction from a federal court judge in Michigan will affirm the right of a Jefferson Middle School student and any other pro-life students like him to hand out literature promoting that cause in the school.

On Monday Judge Victoria Roberts ruled in a case that centered around student Michael Amble-Lucas. According to attorney Byron Babione of plaintiff counsel Alliance Defense Fund, Amble-Lucas attempted to distribute information, during non-instructional time, to fellow students during last fall's "Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity" for the unborn. Continue

Michigan middle school was wrong to prohibit pro-life silent protest, court says
Student wore T-shirt, put tape across his mouth

by Erica Hudock, Student Press Law Center, April 5, 2007

MICHIGAN — A federal court granted a permanent injunction March 26 against Jefferson Middle School in Monroe, Mich., which prohibited a student from wearing a pro-life T-shirt and from putting tape across his mouth as a silent protest against abortion.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal religious and civil rights organization, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Michael Amble-Lucas against his principal and other school officials who told the then eighth grade student he could not wear his sweatshirt that read, "Pray to end abortion" and would need to remove the tape from his mouth and wrists that read, "John 10:27 – My sheep listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me." Continue.

Jefferson eighth-grader files federal lawsuit

By Monroe News (Michigan), January 27, 2007, via The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy

A Jefferson Middle School student has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that his constitutional rights were violated when he was prevented from participating in an anti-abortion protest during school hours. Continue.

Caving on the Cross

By Scott Jaschik, Inside HigherEd, March 7, 2007

The cross is coming back for good to the Wren Chapel at the College of William & Mary.

The college’s president and board issued a joint statement Tuesday saying that the cross — whose removal led to months of controversy — would be returning. The statement called the new policy a “compromise,” but it amounted to an abrupt reversal for President Gene R. Nichol. He originally ordered the cross removed last year — except when used in religious services — so the chapel could be used by groups and students of all faiths or of no faith without people feeling that a central focal point of campus life was officially designated as Christian. He said at the time that he had heard from students of a number of faiths who avoided the chapel, one of the most historic and celebrated places on the campus, because it made them feel excluded. Continue.

Blessing for FCAT success raises ruckus

by Tom Marshall, St. Petersburg Times, February 22, 2007

Desks were still oily when teachers and students returned to a Brooksville school.

It had been a hard Friday at Brooksville Elementary School, with lots of misbehavior that didn't bode well for the start of state testing the following week.

So the principal and a few staff members appealed to a higher power.

They prayed and blessed their students' desks with prayer oil.

While the Christian prayers and anointing took place after school hours on Friday, Feb. 2, the oil was still on desks the following Monday when teachers opened their classrooms.

Some felt the extra help crossed a line. Continue.

Maryland School District Drops Plan For Graduation At Church
Americans United Praises School Officials For Providing Proper Funds For Appropriate Setting

American United for Separation of Church and State, News release, January 30, 2007

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today praised a Maryland public school district for dropping plans to allow a high school to conduct its graduation ceremonies in a church.

This afternoon, Montgomery County school officials backed off a decision made yesterday to allow Montgomery Blair High School, one of the county’s largest schools, to hold its 2007 commencement exercises at Jericho City of Praise, a Pentecostal church covered with religious iconography, including an exterior wall with a large sign declaring "Jesus is The Lord!!!" Continue

Religion rights bill proposed for schools

By Alan Gathright, Rocky Mountain News, January 27, 2007 via Faith in Public Life

A Colorado Springs lawmaker has proposed a "Public Schools Religious Bill of Rights" to combat what he calls mounting, nationwide violations of students' and school staffs' constitutionally protected religious freedom.

Sen. Dave Schultheis said the purpose of his bill is to raise awareness "of the religious liberties bestowed by the Creator and guaranteed to students, faculty and staff, in accordance with the 1st Amendment to the Constitution."

He added: "I believe that this thing is going to be a huge bill nationwide."

But other lawmakers said the bill doesn't have a prayer.

"Schultheis' thing has no chance," said Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, who said parts of the bill of rights sound like previous laws that courts have struck down for violating the separation of church and state doctrine. Continue.

Abortion protest allowed at school
Eighth-grader settles with Shenendehowa district, can wear T-shirt, offer fliers on Roe vs. Wade anniversary

Michele Morgan Bolton, The Times Union (Albany, New York), January 19, 2007

ALBANY -- A settlement reached between a 13-year-old Gowana Middle School student and Shenendehowa officials will allow him, during the school day, to protest the upcoming 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Roe vs. Wade that affirmed a woman's right to have an abortion.

This morning, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn will review the agreement that was forged just hours before oral arguments in the case were to begin.

It's the right thing to have done," said Tom Marcelle, a Bethlehem resident and co-counsel in the case allied with the Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Ariz., which is representing M.G., as the child is referred to in court papers. Continue

Attorneys ask U.S. Supreme Court to hear part of Poway T-shirt case

By Scott Marshall, North County Times (San Diego County), November 2, 2006

NORTH COUNTY ---- Attorneys for a brother and sister suing the Poway school district over the way Poway High School officials responded to a T-shirt that labeled homosexuality as "shameful" have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review part of their case.

Tyler Chase Harper, then a sophomore at Poway High School, wore the controversial shirt to school in April 2004, the day after a campus group held a "Day of Silence" to promote tolerance of homosexual, bisexual and transgendered students. Continue .

9th Circuit Hits Christians Again
Infamous anti-Pledge court rules against a high school student's right to wear a T-shirt proclaiming the biblical view of homosexuality

by Gary Schneeberger, Citizen Link (Focus on the Family), April 21, 2006

"The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- which found the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional for its reference to America being one nation "under God" -- has upheld a high school's decision to forbid a student from wearing a T-shirt expressing the biblical view of homosexuality." Click for the article

Furor over fasting Muslims

By Michael D. Clark, The Cincinnati Enquirer, October 26, 2006

MASON - Mason school board member Jennifer Miller, who ran on a conservative Christian platform, thinks Christianity should be part of public school education.

So when she heard that two Muslim students had been offered a separate room during lunchtime at Mason High as they fasted during Ramadan, it raised her ire. Continue.

Mason sees a clash of cultures
'Christian conservative' board member a polarizing figure

By Michael D. Clark, Cincinnati Enquirer, January 4, 2007

MASON - In some ways, self-proclaimed Christian conservative Mason school board member Jennifer Miller has come into political office exactly as advertised.

In October, Miller stirred controversy far beyond the boundaries of the school district when she criticized Mason High School for setting aside a room for Muslim students to avoid the cafeteria during their Ramadan fasts.

She blasted district leaders for being "overly accommodating to non-Christian religions." Her outburst - caught on local cable TV - was so extreme that fellow school board members ended the meeting early.

"We are a Christian nation, not a Muslim nation," Miller said. Continue.

Are We a Christian Nation?
Congregationalist Minister Inaugurates Lecture Series at Synagogue's Center for Religious Inquiry

Rev. Jerald Stinson of First Congregational Church of Long Beach, September 26, 2006

Rev. Jerald Stinson, minister of the First Congregational Church of Long Beach, California, was the main speaker at the launch of the Center for Religious Inquiry at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. His talk, entitled Are We A Christian Nation? is part of the Center's series: Symposium On America: The Moral Nation.

Stinson emphasized the importance of maintaining the "wall of separation" that the authors of our Constitution established between church and state. He spoke about the experience of his childhood in theocratic Utah and his experience in northern San Diego County during the period when a Christocrat school board implemented religious right policies in the Vista school system. Please click here to read Stinson's speech (a PDF document).

SoCal parents file appeal on sex survey

Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, August 29, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO -- Southern California parents represented by a conservative organization have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge an elementary school's right to survey their children about their sexual feelings. Continue

Education Leader Urges Teachers to Consider Alternatives to NEA

By Jim Brown, AgapePress, August 4, 2006

A non-union conservative teacher's group says it is holding the National Education Association (NEA) accountable for its liberal agenda by offering state and local alternatives to that most powerful of America's teachers unions.

In response to the NEA's endorsement of homosexual "marriage" at its recent convention in Orlando, Florida, teachers have been fleeing the union for other groups, such as the Christian Educators Association International and the Association of American Educators (AAE). Tracey Bailey, the 1993 National Teacher of the Year and Director of Education Policy for the AAE, says tens of thousands of teachers have called his group to express their outrage over the NEA's political agenda. Continue

Steve Crampton Christian Attorney: Time May Be Right to Push for Religious Instruction in Public Schools

Jim Brown, Agape Press, June 27, 2006

A constitutional attorney says school districts often employ a double-standard when making religious accommodations for students.

Last week The Washington Post reported that the Howard County (Maryland) School Board may continue a policy that has allowed Muslim students to leave school 20 minutes early on Fridays to attend prayer services. Opponents of the policy say the students are missing too much instruction time over the course of a year. But Joshua M. Kaufman, chairman of the Howard County Board of Education, told The Post that "constitutionally, we are obligated to make reasonable accommodation to those who wish to practice their religion Continue

Risk Audit Project Gains Momentum
Traditional Values Coalition, Stephen Bennett Ministries, Parents, Friends Of Ex-Gays and Gays, and Numerous Additional Grassroots Pro-Family Organizations Endorse Public School Homosexuality Risk Audit

The Church Report, May 19, 2006

COLUMBIA, SC (Christian Newswire) -- The Risk Audit Project, launched in April with strong endorsements from a coalition of pro-family groups including American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, many state chapters of Eagle Forum, and AFA of Pennsylvania, continues to receive endorsements from additional major pro- family groups.

Developed by Mission America’s president, Linda Harvey, the purpose of the Risk Audit Project is to help pro-family organizations, parents, churches, and community activists determine whether their local school districts are betraying their community’s trust by collaborating with homosexual activists or attempting to indoctrinate schoolchildren with the view that homosexual behavior is safe or morally acceptable.

The Risk Audit Project is being implemented through a survey instrument that can be used by pro-family organizations, churches, parents, and citizens to assess the level and types of pro-homosexual material, activities and curricula utilized in any given school district. Continue

Groups Endorse Risk Audit as Tool to Fight Homosexual Agenda in Schools

By Jim Brown, Agape Press, April 27, 2006

Several pro-family, conservative groups are backing a new method of assessing the extent of homosexual activism at work in public schools. The "Risk Audit Project" involves a comprehensive survey to measure the promotion of homosexuality in a given public school district.

The project was developed by Linda Harvey of the Ohio-based group Mission America following last year's approval of a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolution urging parents to investigate whether their school is collaborating with homosexual activists. Continue

God's Word Reaching Public School Students

Randall Murphree, Agape Press, June 28, 2006

A million Bibles, a million teenagers, and who can imagine how many changed lives. The impact is immeasurable. For the fifth year, American Family Association (AFA) is partnering with Truth for Youth (TFY) distributing free Bibles for Christian teens to share with unsaved friends. American Family Radio (AFR), AFA's 180-station network, will host TFY founder Tim Todd in studio August 7-11 to encourage listeners to order the free Bibles. Continue

First Person: Ninth Circuit madness

By Penna Dexter, Southern Baptist Convention, November 17, 2005

Using as a launching pad an appeals court decision about parental rights to opt children out of a school survey, Dexter writes: "Liberal planners have long seen public education as the training ground for molding compliant citizens who will serve as 'worker bees' in a society run by an increasingly powerful government. In an attempt to subject the individual's desires to those of the state, socialist and communist elites have historically used their educational systems to break down moral and sexual mores and to tear away at the child's ties to his family."

She concludes: "This summer, the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling on parents to make sure they know what their children are learning and being exposed to in their public schools and to ask for change when necessary. Southern Baptist churches were encouraged to support these efforts. State conventions are considering similar resolutions. There ought to be a national movement among Christians to influence public schools. Southern Baptists are well positioned to lead it." Click here to read the column.

Teacher settles lawsuit over curriculum content

The Boston Globe, December 15, 2005

"BANGOR, Maine --A social studies teacher who claimed that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was reprimanded for teaching about non-Christian civilizations has settled his federal lawsuit against his Aroostook County school district." Click here to read the report.


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