RELIGIOUS FREEDOM by Hal G.P. ColebatchNews Weekly
The bizarre North American campaign against Christianity
, November 8, 2014
A stream of cases in the United States indicate a nationwide attack by militant atheist jacks-in-office on even the smallest manifestations of public Christianity, schools and the armed services being particular targets.
Some of these cases are ludicrous, but it seems nothing is too minor to attract the litigious attention of the latter-day witch-hunters, apparently filled with fury against even the slightest manifestations of belief in a God they allege does not exist.
There are now demands that atheist chaplains be appointed to the armed forces, presumably to evoke non-prayers to Nobody, and that non-chaplains who proselytise in favour of religion, even in private discussions, be subject to court-martial. (My own experience suggests that when sailors are on watch at night under the stars, the name of God crops up quite often in their speculations. C.S. Lewis reported something similar in World War II when he gave talks on religion to the Royal Air Force).
A high school student, Kendra Turner, at Dyer County High School in Newbern, Tennessee, was recently suspended because she said “Bless You” when a classmate sneezed.
“We do not do Godly speaking in my class,” the teacher reportedly said.
The 17-year-old later wrote on Facebook: “I stood up for my belief and said I have a constitutional right to speak about my God!!”
In medieval Europe, “Bless you” was said in deadly earnest when someone sneezed. Sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the plague.
According to the girl, the teacher sent her to the administrators, who supported the teacher’s action and she was forced to finish the class in detention.
Her classmates brought the matter to public attention by sending the local news station, Channel 5 WMC Action News, a picture of the teacher’s white board, which lists “Bless you” and other politically-incorrect expressions that are banned as part of the classroom’s rules.
Children are evidently to be inculcated with the idea that there is no such thing as freedom of speech or worship — the very concept is to be destroyed when they are at an early age.
The students’ youth pastor, Becky Winegardner, also spoke to the local media about the issue, because she had been approached by several students of the same teacher. “There were several students talking about this particular faculty member [who had been] very demeaning to them in regard to their faith,” the pastor said.
This does not appear to be a matter of one over-zealous atheist teacher gone rogue — in which case it would hardly be worth reporting — because the teacher’s actions are supported by the school authorities.
The teacher, Eva Kindle, says that Kendra Turner was being disruptive and aggressive. However, after the incident, several of her classmates showed up to school wearing handmade t-shirts that said “Bless you” — suggesting they understood what was at stake and had made their own judgment on the girl’s — and the teacher’s — behaviour.
An atheist organisation from Madison, Wisconsin, called Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), and one in Washington DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA), have combined in an attempt to prevent some children in a small town in Georgia being contaminated by two Bible quotations.
A monument at Madison County High School in Danielsville, Georgia, contains two Bible verses — Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” and Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It also has the school logo and slogan.
The FFRF and the AHA argue the monument violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
They claim: “The district violates the Constitution when it allows its schools to display religious symbols [or] messages. Schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion.”
FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel asserted: “The Bible verses on this monument violate this basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the school, and by extension the district, prefer religion to non-religion and Christianity to all other religions.”
“[T]he school’s prominent inclusion of Bible verses in a large permanent monument unconstitutionally ‘convey[s] a message that religion or a particular religious belief is favoured’,” claimed AHA. “There is no question that the permanent monument placed on the school’s property is ‘state-sponsored’ and thus, prohibited by the Establishment Clause.” The “Establishment clause” in the U.S. Constitution says Congress is not to establish any religion. However, it does not refer to private monuments at local high schools.
A spokeswoman for the private American group, Institute on the Constitution (IOTC), Ricki Pepin, has commented: “We’re told by progressives and many public educators [that] Christianity in the classroom is wrong: that God, specifically the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, has no place in the classroom. Not only, they say, is this a bad idea, but it’s actually breaking the law — a violation of students’ religious liberties. Really?
“I was recently invited to teach a 12-week Constitution course, using a room at a local public high school in Springboro, Ohio. The class was open to the public — parents, grandparents, students. A few community agitators seized this opportunity to flex their politically-correct muscles by calling in the American Civil Liberties Union” [a body now largely taken over by leftist activists] “and threatening a lawsuit if we did not cancel the class.
“The ACLU informed us that if we proceeded with this class we would be violating the students’ First Amendment rights. I was stunned. Teaching the Constitution was to be deemed unconstitutional by the ACLU? Their objections stemmed from what they referred to as the ‘religious content’ within the course.…
“In seeking the original intent of our founders and using their writings, you cannot leave out the Bible and Christianity. Their writings are overflowing with both.
“To our utter amazement, the objections and lawsuit threats of the ACLU to our teaching this course stemmed from the ‘religious content’ contained within the founders’ own writings!
“For example, in the Mayflower Compact the Pilgrims wrote that the reason for their voyage and their purpose in founding a new nation was ‘for the glory of God and to advance the Christian faith’. This direct quotation of the Pilgrims presents a profound and powerful truth from history: America was actually birthed for the purpose of advancing Christianity. Were you taught this in school? The ACLU is doing all they can to be sure no one is.
“The Declaration of Independence — within this document the Founders wrote that all men are ‘created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights’. This statement pre-supposes a Creator God. They further wrote the basis of law would be: ‘The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God’ — the 10 Commandments and your God-given conscience. They were continuing the purpose of this new nation as stated by the Pilgrims — advancing the Christian faith. Were you taught this in school?…
“Indeed, prior to 1964 when the Bible was removed from the classroom, the main disciplinary problems in schools were chewing gum and throwing spit wads. Today we have metal detectors at high schools in an attempt to stop such unthinkable, horrific events as students shooting other students (i.e., Paducah, Kentucky; Columbine, Colorado; Virginia Tech, etc.).
“Christianity in the classroom is not about bringing in doctrine from different denominations. It’s about teaching Christian values such as integrity, kindness, loyalty, courage and purity.
“How would schools be different, and students’ behaviour improved if we returned to teaching the moral values found in Scripture? Spit wads or bullets? Which would you choose for your children to face on a daily basis? Maybe it’s time to bring Christianity back to the classroom.”
Meanwhile, in Canada, Bethany Paquette, a graduate of Trinity Western University (a Christian college in Langley, British Columbia, Canada), applied for work with a private environmentalist company, Amaruk Wilderness Corp. in British Columbia.
However, the company’s hiring manager, Olaf Amundsen, replied that she was being rejected because, “unlike Trinity Western University, we embrace diversity, and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want”. He added: “The Norse background of most of the guys at the management level means that we are not a Christian organisation, and most of us actually see Christianity as having destroyed our culture, tradition and way of life.”
The reference to “Norse background” is surely intriguing. Would Bethany Paquette have been acceptable if she had professed belief in Thor, Odin, slavery and human sacrifice, all part of the previous Norse “culture, tradition and way of life” which Christianity displaced?
Or if she had professed that earthquakes are caused by Midgard Serpent’s venom dripping on the imprisoned giant Loki’s face? That it was necessary for men to die with sword in hand to get into Valhalla? (What happened to women was rather obscure).
Or subscribed to the “culture and way of life” in which one particularly gentle, even girlie-man, Viking raider was known as “the children’s man” because he actually let children live? (“Suffer the children to come unto me”, as the Viking saying doesn’t go?). The culture in which one Archbishop of Canterbury, taken prisoner, was pelted to death with soup-bones at a jolly Viking feast?
What is even more notable, however, is the confirmation here that, in practice, Christianity, alone of the religions, can be mocked and insulted with impunity — the Canadian courts zealously prosecute “hate speech” attacks on other religions.
The wilderness company hiring manager then continued to send insulting, obscene and offensive e-mails, obviously intended to cause distress — all of which is quite weird behaviour for a private commercial enterprise towards a young woman who had simply applied for a job.
One American commentator concluded: “Now we’ll see if Canada’s hate speech laws really do apply to everyone or only to Christians and conservatives.”
Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer. His most recent book, Fragile Flame: The Uniqueness and Vulnerability of Scientific and Technological Civilization, is available from News Weekly Books.