Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Christians Bearing False Witness

The fringe elements are in a tizzy about "children being banned from reading the Bible" (caution: WorldNutDaily link - may cause loss of intellect) at Karns Elementary School in Tennessee. This is one of those cases that the right-wing Christians like to use as an example of how they are persecuted, and how the crazy liberals have ruined our nation. This manufactured controversy is even being pushed on the front page of the "Presidential Prayer Team", which includes a poll on "Does Bible reading on the playground threaten the separation of church and state?" (I wonder how the site will react if their survey reaches a result they don't expect? Not that I would encourage people to visit the site and vote that way, of course . . .)

Not surprisingly, the version they are pushing is a twisted misrepresentation of what is really going on. With parental involvement (surprise), a few 10 year-olds wanted to forfeit recess in favor of a Bible Study. The school does not allow Bible Study Groups during recess, which they don't consider to be free time. They do, however, allow students to read the Bible during free time.

The principal at the center of this flap is hardly a poster child for anti-Christian bias. She defends the right of children to read the Bible, and she has a Bible in her own office. That has not prevented "good Christians" from calling her a "fascist and a communist" (comparative political theory not being a strong suit of her accusers, I suppose), and at least one call that she "be flogged for her stupidity".

If flogging becomes accepted punishment for stupidity . . .


Blogger Dan said...

Oh, and to anticipate and avoid the misunderstandings, this is not meant as a criticism of all Christians - just those who are willing to mislead people and claim to be victims where they are not (and the foolish people who allow themselves to be misled by those people).

8/03/2005 3:43 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Dan, I don't think you have the facts right. I say that not based on what the WND story says, or the ADF, but simply based on what the school district in question says.

The school district says that no one involved in the current controversy has ever requested an organized bible study during recess. Someone unconnected with the current controversy did, and that request was denied.

Contrary to your post, the school district says that students are free to read the bible during recess, and free to discuss religious topics (including, presumably, topics related to the bible). Reading is not discouraged during recess at this school.

That's all directly from the statement put out by the district. See

Now, based on what the district has said in this statement and on long-standing constitutional principles, if--hypothetically, of course--the school were to tell a student that he couldn't read his bible during recess, or that he couldn't discuss the bible with other students during recess, then, based on the schools stance on reading and discussion generally during recess, there would be a clear violation of the free speech and free exercise rights of the student.

So, basically, none of what you had to say was at all relevant to the issues in this case. No need for flogging or accusations of false witness. But maybe a correction would be in order

8/03/2005 9:04 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Thomas, thanks for the link to the school district's statement. I hadn't seen that, and it pretty much confirms what I was saying - though it appears the school district is more liberal in allowing . The school district will not allow Bible study groups to take up recess time, though they do allow Bible reading. What the World Nut Daily, ADF, and other right-wing bearers of false witness are claiming is simply not true.

8/04/2005 1:03 AM  
Anonymous RHymes With Right said...

So what the school is saying is that the kids can read the book, they just cannot talk about it with each oter.

Sounds to me like a possible First Amendment problem -- especially if children are allowed to discuss other books during this time.

8/05/2005 12:21 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Rhymes with Right (BTW - your name is a fertile playground for sarcastic word-play) -
If you read the press release from the school, you'll see that is not the case at all. Here are a couple excerpts:
- "Summa indicated that the only time she has been approached by anyone about Bible study was when three students and a parent asked about conducting an organized Bible study class during recess."
- “I indicated to the students and the parent that I did not feel that an organized activity of this type was appropriate during the school day,” said Summa. “While we do not discourage students from reading at recess, I think that a daily planned activity that is stationary or physically static in nature defeats the real purpose of recess.
“Another thing I think people need to understand is that our teachers and principals do not try to govern or restrict personal conversations between students. We are not concerned if students are in school having an ad hoc private discussion about a religious issue outside the classroom environment. That is their privilege.”

I accept that your misunderstanding may be based on the fact that I didn't link to the school district's statement in my original post - I wasn't particularly concerned about the rightness or wrongness of the decision, I was focused more on the fact that people who claim to be Christians are so willing to engage in lying and abusive language, in contradiction to the Bible they want the children to study (and, BTW, in contradiction to the vast majority of Christians, including most of those who visit and comment on this site).

8/05/2005 6:38 AM  
Blogger Brian Stayton said...

One of the points you're making, and that the other commentators are missing, is the whole victimhood aspect of the Religious Right. Why must they continue to believe the refusal of organized religious activity on public grounds somehow means they are persecuted? Hey, if you need the Ten Commandments up in stone to remember what they say, have at it. Just don't put it on public property. And don't act like "liberals" or the "liberal media" are causing that result -- it's the First Amendment that both protects you and protects me from you.

8/05/2005 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Rhymes With Right said...

Just a quick FYI -- the nickname (and blog name) refer to the pronunciation of my last name, which many people struggle with.

Every year I have kids ask if it is a typo on their schedule.

8/09/2005 6:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is similar to the Declaration of Independence case out in Cupertino, CA. The parental involvement aspect is a little odd, too. I'm wondering if this was something designed to cause the result they got.

This isn't something that the Left is immune to either, though. The recent NARAL ad was playing loose with the facts as well, though it has now been pulled.

It would behoove groups like this to present the case honestly instead of in ways designed to raise money, which is probably an underlying reason for this.

On the NARAL thing, I think they were trying to link Roberts to violence at abortion clinics, and that was pretty dispicable in its own right.

8/12/2005 3:39 PM  

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