The Freedom From Religion Foundation is opposing a proposed bible class in an Arkansas school district.
Bentonville School Board member Brent Leas has recommended adding an elective academic bible study class to the 2017-18 curriculum. He is justifying it under Arkansas Act 1440, which was passed three years ago.
FFRF contends that such classes violate the notion that public schools should not play favorites when it comes to religion. And they are legally problematic under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Arkansas Constitution.
"Such a course is at odds with Article II, Section 24 of the Arkansas Constitution, which guarantees that 'no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination or mode of worship above any other,'" FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor writes to the Bentonville School Board.
Besides, federal courts have a number of times ruled against schools for allowing proselytization to seep into the classroom.
The Christian bias in such a course proposal is obvious. If the Bentonville School District feels that its students will benefit from a deeper understanding of different belief systems, why has it not proposed classes on the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita or, indeed, Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion"?
Certainly in theory, a bible course may be permissible as part of a public high school curriculum, but, in practice, such classes are rarely taught in a legal manner, FFRF asserts. Southern Methodist University Professor Mark Chancey did a study in 2013 of bible classes that Texas had introduced six years before and found that many of them "are blatantly and thoroughly sectarian, presenting religious views as fact and implicitly or explicitly encourage students to adopt those views." The study surveyed bible courses in 57 school districts and found that a lot of the materials "are written specifically for Christian audiences for the purpose of strengthening their faith."
FFRF asks the Bentonville School District not to inject religion into the city's public school system.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 23,800 nonreligious members nationally, including more than 100 in Arkansas.
Contact your U.S. senator, who sits on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, today!
FFRF helped make history last year when it successfully lobbied to add atheism as a protected class in Madison, Wis. Now, the U.S. Congress is considering adding language to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 that would include nontheists, humanists and atheists under its protective umbrella. This would be a momentous signal to the international community that the "Nones" (those of us free from religion) are deserving of equal protection under the law and that discrimination against nonreligious people abroad will not go unnoticed.
H.R. 1150 passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously on May 16. You are receiving this action alert because at least one of your state's senators is on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, where H.R. 1150 has been referred. You can make a difference by contacting your senator now!
The legislation would amend the definition of "violations of religious freedom" to include protections for those "not professing a particular religion, or any religion." It would also specifically recognize the act of "forcibly compelling nonbelievers or nontheists to recant their beliefs or to convert" as a violation.
These changes are all greatly needed, since violence against the nonreligious has recently become a serious international issue.
In Saudi Arabia, atheist blogger Raif Badawi has been in prison since 2012, and was sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes during his 10-year sentence, for professing his nonbelief online. In February of this year, another atheist in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for the same "thought crime."
Since 2013, at least 16 different prominent atheist bloggers and publishers in Bangladesh have been killed or seriously injured by Islamist extremists, simply because they dared to publicly declare their lack of religious belief. In the past year alone, six Bangladeshi nonbelievers who have spoken out have been hacked to death on the streets of Bangladesh in broad daylight.
(Please be aware that Nonbelief Relief, a charity of which FFRF is sole member, is working at this very moment to help enable seven endangered Bangladeshi bloggers leave the country. More information on this soon.)
H.R. 1150 has been referred to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, which must vote favorably on the resolution if it is to get to a floor vote and become law. Your senator sits on this committee. Speaking points follow. Below are the committee members by state:
Arizona: Jeff Flake
California: Barbara Boxer
Colorado: Cory Gardner
Connecticut: Chris Murphy
Delaware: Chris Coons
Florida: Marco Rubio
Idaho: Jim Risch
Kentucky: Rand Paul
Maryland: Ben Cardin
Massachusetts: Ed Markey
New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen
New Jersey: Bob Menendez
New Mexico: Tom Udall
Tennessee: Bob Corker
Virginia: Tim Kaine
Wisconsin: Ron Johnson
Wyoming: John Barrasso
Please contact your senator at the link above to voice your support for H.R. 1150. Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below.
I am writing as your constituent and a nonreligious American. H.R. 1150, which is currently in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, would amend the International Religious Freedom Act to include protections for those "not professing a particular religion, or any religion." This change is incredibly important and comes at a time when violence against nonbelievers like me has become a serious human rights issue abroad.
The House passed this legislation unanimously, and now the Senate has a chance to make history and ensure this bill becomes law.
Since 2013, at least 16 different prominent atheist bloggers and publishers in Bangladesh have been killed or seriously injured by Islamist extremists, simply because they dared to publicly declare their lack of religious belief. In Saudi Arabia, atheist blogger Raif Badawi has been in prison since 2012, and was sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes during his 10-year sentence, for professing his nonbelief online. In February of this year, another atheist in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for the same "thought crime."
I urge you to take up H.R. 1150 in your committee and ensure that the amendments to add protections for the nonreligious are passed.