Freethought Today · Jan/Feb 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

State/Church Bulletin

Indiana rep pushes school Lord’s Prayer

Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, filed a bill which would let public schools have students recite the Lord’s Prayer daily. The bill received first reading Jan. 9.

SB 251 states that “the governing body of a school corporation or the equivalent authority of a charter school may require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day. The prayer may be recited by a teacher, a student, or the class of students.”

It further states, “If the governing body or equivalent authority requires the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer under subsection (a), the governing body or equivalent authority shall determine the version of the Lord’s Prayer that will be recited in the school corporation or charter school.”

The bill lets students or “the student’s parent” choose to not participate.

The South Bend Tribune in a Jan. 11 editoral called the bill a bad idea and urged Gov. Mike Pence to veto it if the Legislature passes it, predicting that “long years of legal challenges would certainly drain the state treasury and end in defeat” if it became law.


Domino’s founder: Birth control ‘immoral’

Tom Monaghan, devout Catholic and founder of Domino’s Pizza, is suing the federal government over mandatory contraception coverage in the new health care law. Monaghan called contraception a “gravely immoral” practice, according to the suit, in which he and Domino’s Farms, Ann Arbor, Mich., are plaintiffs.

According to a Dec. 15 post on Domino’s Facebook page, Monaghan sold the company in 1998: “His views are not our views, nor are his actions in any way related to our actions.”

A Wikipedia entry says Bain Capital bought Domino’s in 1998, netting Monaghan about $1 billion, before it went public in 2004.


Egyptian atheist gets three-year sentence

A Cairo court sentenced atheist Alber Saber, 27, to three years in prison Dec. 12 for blasphemy and contempt for religion. Alber was accused of posting clips online of the short film “Innocence of Muslims,” which sparked violent and deadly protests throughout the Middle East.

“This is an outrageous verdict and sentence for a person whose only ‘crime’ was to post his opinions online,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui of Amnesty International told The Associated Press.

Saber, while awaiting trial, was attacked by other prisoners while guards allegedly looked the other way. He’s appealing the sentence. “Egypt is a religious state,” he said. “If you disobey the norms, you get judged and sentenced.”


Montana high court rules against Hutterites

The Montana Supreme Court ruled Dec. 31 that forcing the Big Sky Colony of Hutterites to pay workers’ compensation insurance for jobs outside the colony is not an unconstitutional intrusion into religion.

The 4-3 decision upholds a 2009 law. The Associated Press reported that Montana has about 50 Hutterite colonies with about 100 members each. Many have expanded into nonfarm ventures, including construction, and are able to bid lower than private firms because of their communal living arrangements.


Silence substituted
for ‘offensive’ prayer

Boyle County’s Fiscal Court in Danville, Ky., has voted to stop starting its meetings with prayers. Instead of a prayer on Jan. 22, there was a moment of silence.

Harold McKinney, judge executive, said he received a camplaint from a person who found the prayer offensive. “After I looked at it, thought about it, the way to do this is to say we’re not going to impose Protestant prayer on those who may not believe in that way,” McKinney told WTVQ in Lexington.

The board was also concerned about legal costs if they kept praying.


Louisiana board deals blow to creationism

The Orleans Parish School Board in New Orleans voted unanimously Dec. 18 in favor of two policy amendments proposed by outgoing president Thomas Robichaux.

One amendment added “zero tolerance” to the parish’s “bullying, intimidation, harassment and hazing” policy. The other addressed concerns about mention of creationism, intelligent design and “revisionist history” in textbooks.

The textbook selection update said: “No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories.”

It also applies to teachers: “No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.”


Wash. pastor prays against gay marriage

Washington state’s opening legislative session in Olympia got off to a rocky start Jan. 14, reported the Seattle Times.

In his invocation, Rev. Jon Sanné prayed for the strengthening of marriage “as You ordained it for our good and Your glory.”

“Completely inappropriate,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. “Regrettable,” said Seattle Sen. Ed Murray, the Democratic leader. They said all pastors are told in advance to keep prayers nondenominational and nonpolitical.

Sanné, pastor of  Calvary Chapel, hosted a rally at the church against marriage equality in September wich featured Rick Santorum. The church donated $5,000 to the campaign against legalization. 


Teacher has bible
but no job now

You’ve got to love how this story starts:
“Just moments before the Phillipsburg [N.J.] Board of Education voted Jan. 14 to terminate a substitute teacher who showed a student a bible, a sudden downpour of rain could be heard hitting the roof of the middle school meeting area.” The WFMZ-TV reporter further mused, “Was there some sort of message to be gleaned from this meteorological event?”

The board had just unanimously approved, with abstentions from three new members, Superintendent George Chando’s recommendation to terminate substitute teacher Walter Tutka three months after he was removed from teaching. Last fall he is alleged to have told a middle school student, who was last in line to leave class, that “the last will be first, and the first will be last” and showed him the passage in his personal bible.

The board wouldn’t disclose the reason for removing Tutka from the substitute list for the rest of the year.

Neighbors target skeptics in senior living

Some seniors living at La Costa Glen retirement community in Carlsbad, Calif., told KERO News they’re being targeted by residents for their nonreligion, the station reported Dec. 26.

“They said, ‘She is a sinner. She’s going to hell and she’s going to burn forever,’ ” said Brigit Smith-Clarke, 84, who started a group called Atheists Anonymous.

It started with 16 members two years ago and has grown to nearly 100 seniors. Smith-Clarke said people are calling her things such as “anti-Christ” and “Jew-lover.” She said she was raised Christian but “is tired of pretending.”

“I think it’s a big place and people do all sorts of things,” said activities coordinator Michelle Chaffee. “It’s not typical of what we see here normally.”

Chaffee says it’s the A-word that is the problem. “That has turned a lot of people off.”


U.S. House proclaims Darwin Day

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., introduced H.Res. 41 declaring Feb. 12 as Darwin Day in recognition of “the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.”

Holt, who has a doctorate in physics, introduced the resolution to honor Charles Darwin’s 204th birthday:

“Whereas Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection, together with the monumental amount of scientific evidence he compiled to support it, provides humanity with a logical and intellectually compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth. . .”

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