Santorum Calls For Public Schools To Undermine The Teaching Of Evolution

During a meeting with the editorial board of the Nashua Telegraph, Rick Santorum urged public schools to begin teaching claims that undermine evolution, no matter their scientific veracity. He blamed “the left and the scientific community, so to speak,” for the inability of schools to teach about the role of God or a Creator, and said that “maybe the science points to the fact that maybe science doesn’t explain all these things.”

Such attacks on the teaching of evolution are nothing new from Santorum, who attached language in the Conference Report of the No Child Left Behind Act that says a “quality science education” include topics that challenge biological evolution as part of his “teaching the controversy” campaign. He also endorsed the Dover, Pennsylvania school district’s requirement that teachers offer textbooks on “Intelligent Design,” which was developed by proponents of Creationism, and the teaching of “Intelligent Design” was declared unconstitutional in Kitzmiller v. Dover. In fact, the “teach the controversy” approach originates from the anti-evolution Discovery Institute, and the National Center for Science Education points out that evolution “is not scientifically controversial, nor are resources for each side of comparable quality – evidence for evolution comes from peer-reviewed literature whereas evidence against evolution is built on flawed assumptions and popularized misconceptions.”

Watch:  Santorum

Military Atheists Want a Voice

BALTIMORE — Capt. Ryan Jean wanted to perform well on the Army’s psychological evaluation for soldiers. But he also wanted to answer the questions honestly. So when he was asked whether he believed his life had a lasting purpose, Jean, an atheist, saw no choice but to say no.

Those and other responses, Jean says, won him a trip to see the post chaplain, who berated him for his lack of faith.

“He basically told me that if I don’t get right with God, then I’m worthless,” said Jean, now an intelligence officer at Ft. Meade, Md. “That if I don’t believe in Jesus, why am I in uniform, because this is God’s army, and that I should resign my commission in order to stop disgracing the military.”

Jean says experiences such as that confrontation three years ago, when he was serving at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, have spurred him to seek Army recognition as a humanist lay leader — on par with the lay Christians, Jews and Muslims who help military chaplains minister to the troops.

Jean is one of as many as a dozen atheists throughout the U.S. military in the process of applying for the status, which they and their supporters see as necessary to secure acceptance and support for nonbelievers. Continue reading

Charles C. Haynes: A Plea to Politicians: Tell the truth about ‘school prayer’

WASHINGTON — The latest attack on the “godless public schools” — a staple of Republican primaries past — is a new ad in Iowa by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign proclaiming there’s “something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

Advocating for “school prayer” is, of course, a poll-tested winner for politicians seeking to stir voter outrage — and establish Christian conservative bona fides.

Michele Bachmann also took up the cry at a recent town hall in Iowa, declaring that government censors religion in public schools. She added a new twist to the charge by saying that Muslims get to practice their faith in schools, but “Christian kids aren’t allowed to pray.”

The claim that public schools are hostile to Christians may rev up caucus-goers in Iowa, but there’s only one problem: It isn’t true.

Truth be told, students of all faiths are actually free to pray alone or in groups during the school day, as long as they don’t disrupt the school or interfere with the rights of others. Of course, the right to engage in voluntary prayer or religious discussion does not necessarily include the right to preach to a captive audience, like an assembly, or to compel other students to participate.

Visit public schools anywhere in America today and you’re likely to see kids praying around the flagpole, sharing their faith with classmates, reading scriptures in free time, forming religious clubs, and in other ways bringing God with them through the schoolhouse door each day.

As for celebrating Christmas, students are free to say “Merry Christmas,” give Christmas messages to others, and organize Christmas devotionals in student Christian clubs.

It’s true that some public school officials still misunderstand (or ignore) the First Amendment by censoring student religious expression that is protected under current law. But when challenged in court, they invariably lose.

In fact, contrary to culture-war mythology, there is more student religious speech and practice in public schools today than at any time in the past 100 years.

When politicians demonize the courts for banning God from schools, they count on public confusion about the First Amendment distinction between government speech promoting religion, which the establishment clause prohibits, and student speech promoting religion, which the free-exercise and free-speech clauses protect.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that kids can’t pray in school. What the Court has done — and continues to do — is to strike down school-sponsored prayers and devotional exercises as violations of religious liberty.

As a result of those decisions, school officials may not impose prayers, or organize prayer events, or turn the school auditorium into the local church for religious celebrations.

Students, however, aren’t the government; they can — and often do — openly pray and share their faith in public schools.

When asked to clarify his claim that students can’t pray in schools, Perry said he was objecting to the Supreme Court’s prayer decisions in the 1960s because he thinks local school boards should be free to organize prayers if they so choose. He didn’t say whether he understood that kids are currently free to pray in school on their own.

Apparently, Perry wants to return to the days of school-sponsored prayer, overturning Court decisions by what he calls “activist judges.” If elected, he promises to push for a constitutional amendment to allow it — something Newt Gingrich tried and failed to do when he was in Congress.

If state-sponsored religious practices are what Perry, Bachmann and other candidates mean when they call for “prayer in school,” then why don’t they just say so — and stop telling voters that kids “can’t pray in schools”?

Could it be because they know that most Americans, if given the choice, would prefer the religious freedom students now have over a return to government-mandated prayers?

Excellent Religion Debate on NPR

NPR program Intelligence Squared sponsored an excellent debate on the following proposition: “The world would be better off without religion.”  Two proponents and two opponents argued the proposition.  It was an excellent debate, well worth listening to.  Check it out at

House Reaffirms “In God We Trust” as U.S. Motto

From Center for Inquiry…

As you may have already heard, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved a resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto. The non-binding measure, H. Con. Res. 13, also promotes the display of “In God We Trust” in public schools and other public buildings. It passed 396-9, with 2 abstentions.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) strongly condemns this resolution as a hollow, divisive, and unnecessary gesture toward monotheistic faith. It is irresponsible and shameful for lawmakers to use faith as a political tool to divide the nation along religious lines, especially at a time when America is confronted with multiple pressing national issues.

Congress only adopted “In God We Trust” as the national motto in 1956, when American leaders sought to distinguish the United States from the communist Soviet Union. Yet the motto ignores and reinforces the outsider status of the nation’s many nonbelievers, as well as members of minority religions that do not recognize a monotheistic god (including, for example, Buddhists and Hindus). Polls show that 16 percent of Americans have no religious identity, while over 40 million Americans do not identify with a monotheistic God.

A far better motto for the nation is the Latin motto adopted in 1782 as part of the national seal: “E Pluribus Unum,” or “Out of many, one.” America’s original motto accurately describes the nation as a unity comprising people from many religious and nonreligious perspectives.

H. Con. Res. 13 now moves to the U.S. Senate. CFI will track its progress and lobby against its passage.