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Declaration of Independence Banned At School

In California, of course...

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."

"He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote," said Thompson, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which advocates for religious freedom. "The principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity and it is pure discrimination."

Now that they've banned all the holidays, they're on to the history books...

Update: Not to defend the principal, but it would be interesting to see the context in which the information is being presented.


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Comments (33)

Ugh. I live here in SoCal a... (Below threshold)

Ugh. I live here in SoCal and it is not only here folks. Maryland: "You may thank anyone you want for Thanksgiving, except God"; Maryland Schools.

The ACLU and the Bleeding Heart Liberals in this Country has put the fear of Go...., er, lawsuits, intimidating everyone, schools, churches, local Governments, into such blithering Idiots that you will not be ables to say God Bless You if you sneeze in a Govt. building.

I agree with Dr. Savage, "The Enemy Within" will KILL this country before outside forces do. The real question is when will WE stand up and put a stop to it?

- Just as a matter of count... (Below threshold)

- Just as a matter of counterpunching interest a Group of us out here in LaLa land are considering a class action suit against the California school districts authority et al. The suit, if it goes through, will contend that the school authority is acting solicitiously against the will of the majority, responding to illegal secularist political pressure in misrepresenting the clear intent of our founding fathers and their irrefutable documents. One of the key points will be that the school system is systematically infringing on students first amendment rights by preventing personal celebration of things like Christmas, other religious based holidays, and documents that include phrases that properly and legally include references to our Christian/Judao and other religious beliefs. In other words get the f'king PC the hell out of our schools. Its time we used some of the ACLU's own weapons against them....Stay tuned....

This definitely needs conte... (Below threshold)

This definitely needs context. It is one thing if he is teaching American history and "god" happens to come up here and there, as it certainly will. It is another thing if he wears his religion on his sleeve, and has been selecting material to push his agenda, not to teach history. I can't tell from this one article. If he is teaching history, then I would take his side, but if he is pushing his religion, that doesn't belong in the classroom.

Does it really matter what ... (Below threshold)

Does it really matter what context he's presenting the documents in? Even if he had a lesson plan called "God in the Government - How the Faith of the Founding Fathers Shaped the United States of America" it is still history.

There is a historical context and plenty of irrefutable references to back up just such a lesson plan. Not allowing a teacher to present the role played by God and Faith in the founding of this country is ridiculous.

There is no mention of "separation of Church and State" in the Constitution. The Establishment Clause refers to the establishment of a State religion (see: Church of England). The Establishment Clause is not meant to eliminate the acknowledgment of God or religion by our government. Any rational reading of our country's founding documents, and the documents of our Founders, clearly shows the role God, Faith, and Morals played in the Founding.

Secularism has gotten out of hand. This country allows secularists to pursue their religion - materialism - freely. But if you believe in and follow Christ watch out! That's not allowed. Ridiculous. This country was founded on freedom OF religion, not freedom from religion.

Somebody needs to give the athiests and secularists a history lesson.

This is what communist gove... (Below threshold)

This is what communist governments do, not those in a democratic United States.

The entire line of fear-driven madness that sets "the Separation between Church and State" as some paramount motivation for to maintain a "free" society has, in effect, been and is responsible for denying the Right of Freedom of Religion in our country, among others...the guiding principle of the Constitution does not set into law/legislation that citizens will be free FROM religion or the religious freedoms as exercised by others. I realize that some people are atheists and have many issues about any public expression of religion. However, the Constitution does not bestow upon anyone the "right" to be "free" FROM religion. It's a free society and atheists and agnostics need to learn to respect the Constitutional freedoms of others.

This particular case by this principle is an effort to exact a communist form of government in the person's academic feifdom. She should be disciplined if not removed from the office since she apparently has no tolerance for historical and Constitutional information and freedoms in an academic venue...not an indication of a capable administrator of any school unless you're a disciple of Mao.

Let's see....even at my loc... (Below threshold)

Let's see....even at my local Post Office the other day, I asked for special, Christmas stamps.

The lady showed me stamps that "celebrate" Kwanza (spelled?) and another set of stamps that commemorate Native American arts.

No Madonnas. Not even a Christmas tree on a stamp or jingle bells or a Saint Nicholas, much less Jesus Christ (it IS Christmas for billions of us Christians).

I also realize that it is the Holiday season for Judaists but to the exclusion of Christ, commemorating His birth, the Virgin Mary, all that, BUT, still a religious holiday season for Judaists.

Jews have suffered horribly under governments that were intolerant of religious expression. As have nations of peoples. The liberal, ACLU-threatening, anti-religious expression movement in the U.S. is exactly what Lenin in the former U.S.S.R. led and what was enacted in Red China...any personal variation or expression by anyone led to punishments ("lawsuits" by the ACLU seem to equal that retaliatory response in our society), and everyone was/is expected/required to only express what the state/government deemed officially acceptable...

This isn't the United States as founded by our Constitution. It is very specific as to individual right under our Constitution to religious freedom and freedom in religious expression. It's a very important aspect to why the country became a country in the first place, since England in times past -- at the time of our Revolutionary War -- had an "official religion" requirement and practice in place (the Church of England only). I could go on but won't...point is that I wonder how long the country is going to tolerate these kingdoms springing up in regions of the nation that attempt to redraft our Constitution in the model of their sense of liberal intolerance.

Yes, it IS discrimination, what this principle is doing, and students in public schools deserve, at least, an honest exposure to history, even that part of it that individuals are intolerant about.

God is mentioned so often in our founding principles because He was a source to many of the founding principles. He's in the Constitution and for good reason.

VR: every single person al... (Below threshold)

VR: every single person alive, teacher or no, has "an agenda." EVERYone has beliefs and filters information through those beliefs, and most particularly, teachers.

It's alright for liberals today if a gay person uses a classroom to expose students to his lifestyle, under some ruse of teaching "tolerance" (I've encountered faculty just like that, completely off topic, off issue and irrelevant and yet they are allowed to continue with what they have to "share" before students because Liberals endorse that line of principle and belief).

It's alright for liberals to "push" liberalism and 'wear it on their sleeve" by explaining to students why, as a liberal, that religion 'should be" disallowed and removed from making any reference...

Point is is that everyone, even atheists, practice a religious freedom. And everyone, even and especially atheists, "push" THEIR "beliefs" on others...but the standard today seems to go, by liberals who populate school boards and media and entertainment, that, as long as you oppose mention of Christ, God (those two words, particularly), then YOUR "religious freedom" is acceptable.

What it is is that atheists and a certain human group today (let's be frank here) wants their religious freedom to practice atheism and oppose religious freedoms of others to be tolerated.

Atheism is a religous practice. Atheists enjoy their freedom of religion under our Constitution by being "free" to believe as they do. But, it's Christianity, particularly, that they attack. They tolerate Judaism, they tolerate a multitude of other "religious" freedoms of expression and practice, but they really despise Christianity.

A Christian is evaluated as "wearing their religion on their sleeve" and "pushing" their religion when and if they even mention Jesus Christ, or use reference to Christianity and Christian honoraries, holidays. It's righteous to say that you are going to Temple, but it's forbidden to say "Merry Christmas" and such, etc.

Just one example of many. Atheism today is responsible for a blight against the Constitution. Again, the Constitution never promises or endows anyone the freedom FROM religion. It does promise and endow all individuals the freedom OF religion. That means, I am free to mention Jesus Christ, God and Christianity as often as I want to, modulated only by social considerations for others -- which is about where most Christians are: socially considerate, yet not compelled to restrict their beliefs.

A teacher, any teacher, has values and beliefs and those always affect how and what they instruct. But, to single out Christians and the reference to "God" in historical documents, among others, is discriminatory.

I've met Taoists, Pagans, Wiccans, a few Satanists even, and they were all public school teachers. And, I'm sure, presented certain concepts within their own filtering of the information, as affected by their own psychology. To be human is to manifest pscyhology and personality.

It is this sort of self-ric... (Below threshold)
Doug Book:

It is this sort of self-richeous arrogance and assinine political correctness, far removed from reason or common sense, that will continue the demise of the left in future elections. But it must be publicized. The MSM will certainly not do it as they support the left-wing attack on Christianity. A mention by Rush or on Brit Humes' Grapevine is not enough. Keep this and other intrusions on sanity in front of the public and the Democratic Party will soon become an answer in Trivial Pursuit.

Compare this story to the I... (Below threshold)

Compare this story to the Islamic indoctrination in California schools detailed here.

I am wondering why this guy... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

I am wondering why this guy was having all his lesson plans screened, was it school policy or just pertaining to him?

Also, I am bothered that the principle is disallowing actual historical documents from US history. It is fact that those documents referenced God or a creator-that can't be changed.

This is all very simple, yo... (Below threshold)

This is all very simple, you see:

Tolerance of religion is established by being intolerant of Christianity.

I bet George Orwell is smiling somewhere and saying, "I told you so."

VR, you must be one of the ... (Below threshold)

VR, you must be one of the intellectual scientific rational people that populate the blue cities. People that still believe in the possibility of evolution, even though most research scientists now say that macro evolution is an impossibility. The possibility of human DNA evolving is something like 10 to the 320th power. 10 to the 50th power is concidered the realm of impossibility. Micro-biologists have shown that protiens that make up amnio acids could not have evolved. Independent closed loop organs could not have evolved seperatly. We are digital creations that need to have information before we could exist. Of course, teachers and text books still show the out of date, falsified and speculative so called evidence that is supposed to support a bankrupt theory.
So why should it suprise us that you libs want to rewrite the history of the U.S. Look at clinton, he is doing it now while people know better. We were established as a Christian country. Look at the Mayflower compact. Next we will not beable to recite the Gettysburg address because it mentions God. This country has gone to hell since the progressive experiments done in the 60's. We that can remember not having to lock your door, or being able to walk at night alone, want to reclaim those values. We are tired of drive bys, Columbines, kids without dads and abortion for the sake of birth control etc. You don't have to believe in God, but the only way our country can survive is if our culture acts as if there is a God. We must get back to the Christian principles this country was founded on. If it does not hurt your humanist intellectual ego you might want to actually read some of what our founding fathers had to say on the subject, start with Jefferson and Franklin. They are most often said to be deists. Yet they knew the only hope for our country was if it was run on Christian values. A life ran on self will is rarely a success. A country where everyone is a god unto himself will perish.

Happy Thanks Giving. Remem... (Below threshold)

Happy Thanks Giving. Remember to hug the kids, kiss the wife and thank the Lord for all we have in this great country.

Well now, we've gone from V... (Below threshold)

Well now, we've gone from VR's very concise and rational notes on the story to liberal bashing to zealotry.

Lets get back to rational comments here, but first:

Personally I favor Christian ethics as taught in English versions of the Old and New Testament. I can't help it. I was brought up in Presbytarian, Anglican, Seventh-Day Adventist, Methodist, Lutharin (Missouri synod), and Society of Friends churches. Some of my best friends now are LDSer's who have figured out I'll probably never meet them in Zion but know I've made an informed choice.

I draw the line at Evangelical Churches and Baptists in general. (This is supposed to be humor folks, please don't take it personally if you are a Baptist)

I left a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday conference in Germany two years ago when the guest speaker started spouting intolerant, only we true believers will go to heaven crap. That kind of intolerance and zealotry has and will continue to be the cause of pain, suffering and death for millions of people, societies and civilization. It infects Muslims, Christians, Jews, and many other organized religions. Just read your history books (see, I am trying to stay on topic here). That's what I don't tolerate! A whole auditorium of kind, tolerant people just sat there and took it all in. Some were upset that I left, but they didn't realize that what I really wanted to do was stand up and speak out against him right there and then. However, I didn't, mainly for fear my wife would kill me. I did quietly talk to others after. I still don't think they got it. And I still regret not having stood up and spoken out that day.

Chuck -- zealotry like yours is one of the reasons folks like that CA principal act the way they do.

I'd love to hear from someone at that local school district who knows the real story. I'm here in N Cal but a little farther north. I'd be willing to bet the teacher in question was being a zealot, the system couldn't fire him, so the principal had to resort to the editorial process to censor the more outrageous stuff. The submission of historical documents would have been a calculated move by the teacher to get just the MSM response (and some of the blog response) that has occurred. But I am just a cynic.

VR -- keep plugging away.

epador, if you mean I show ... (Below threshold)

epador, if you mean I show zeal to an excess, then I guess I am a zealot. However, I did say that VR did not have to believe in God. I did not say you had to believe in God. Thats your business. However the founding fathers thought our nation had to act on certain principles( I won't mention them so as not to offend you). I don't think that teaching the true history of our country in any way steps on your right to be wrong. Dumbing down our kids for the sake of the secular human agenda is what is wrong. Thanks for reading my post that had to much zeal in it. Please show me where my facts are not right. Use zeal if you wish.

Zealot, as in fanatical par... (Below threshold)

Zealot, as in fanatical partisan. Originally use as label of Hebrew fanatical sect arising in Judea during the first century A.D. and militantly opposing the Roman domination of Palestine. Ironically now quite applicable to Arafat and Hisbollah.

Christian faith has done and continues to support good things. It has also been used to justify genocide and murder. Most of the good things were done by folks who may or may not have been particularly zealous (demonstrating eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something). The Inquisition and Indian slaughters in North and South America were perpetrated by greed, lust for power and Christian zealots.

I am not worried by your zeal, but your Creationist zealotry. Similar zealotry have prompted individuals to assassinate abortionists (not that I support abortion). I'd be careful how you wield your opinions. A misguided person might be moved to assassinate a teacher of Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

Zealotry is used by the bin Laden crowd as a method of recruitment and manipulation. We have to be careful to not fall into the same trap in motivation strategy regarding our citizenry and military lest we lose sight of our Founding Father's principles and ideals.

Zeal = OK
Zealotry = Beware

Is that clear enough?

VR's got it right. For all... (Below threshold)

VR's got it right. For all we know, this teacher could be a nutcase piece-of-work, as bad as Newdow in his own way.

We need to know the history. Is the principal vetting all lesson plans to remove any reference to supernatural belief? If so, his bad.

Or is it just this one teacher? If so, what is the reason? Did he assign the Bible as a history text, or some such thing? Does he cherry-pick historical items for God-references? Does he fill his classroom with religious symbols that he claims are all "historical"? There ARE people like this, just as there are people who have seizures at the sight of a crucifix.

We don't know any of this, and until I do, I'm not going to invest too heavily in this story.

A quick Google today shows ... (Below threshold)

A quick Google today shows umpteen million blogs with the pricipals name, phone number and address. A local newspaper article http://insidebayarea.com/ci_2474161 sheds little light but gives just a hint more than AP story: This started after a local parent complained about a handout on President Bush's Prayer Breakfast.

Agreeing with Kevin, despite knowing all too well the machinations of local California citizenry, school administrations and local politics (see my cynical theory above), its inappropriate to jump to conclusions and set up either the teacher or the principal for harrassment by the general public. Unfortunately, that appears to be what the blogsphere has done. When more is known, then have at 'em.

Interestingly, the local school web site/school district site is down. Guess they got a few too many hits recently. http://www.cupertino.k12.ca.us/Stcreek.www/

Alliance DF http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/story/?id=549

Hmmm... no links to the teacher in blogsphere I can find. Is this one-sided or what?

I note that the rational, "... (Below threshold)

I note that the rational, "let's see if we can get to the bottom of this" comments don't seem to be carrying the day here.

Please, everyone, admit that we DON'T know the facts yet. This may be a vindictive, nasty, atheist-with-an-agenda principal inappropriately trying to scrub references to God from history, or it may be a fanatic born-again-with-an-agenda teacher who is trying to make God the inappropriate focus of his history lessons.

It's always tempting to presume we know what motivates people in these contentious situations, especially one that seems as stark as this.

Stories like this foster the sense of persecution that some Christians seem to depend on for validation. The folks who think Christians are being persecuted should consider this story a gift from God, since it makes the secularists look both mean and foolish, and promotes sympathy for the Christian teacher.

Now, concerning the off-the... (Below threshold)

Now, concerning the off-the-wall ravings of Sean, -S-, and chuck. First, Christians are the majority – the vast majority – in this country. They are not a persecuted minority, and no one restricts their freedom to practice their religion as they see fit. I’m not even sure how people can twist their worldview around to see it otherwise, unless they just ignore reality or make up an alternate reality.

The U.S. Postal Service, by the way, is offering, as it does every year, Christmas stamps, both non-religious and religious. This year, the religious stamp is a work from the Middle Ages, Madonna and Child by Lorenzo Monaco. These stamps are always big sellers and represent hundreds of times more sales than the Kwanzaa and Hanukkah stamps combined.

I presume that chuck is referring to a creationist article that he has read, what with the “macroevolution” and “10 to the 50th power” and all. Please realize that there is no question – none at all – about evolution as the developmental force in biology. It is a not an opinion; it is how biology works. Period. There are new findings all the time that enlarge and change our understanding of the precise manifestations, sometimes even of the particular workings, but the framework as established by Darwin and Wallace is solid and indisputable.

It is very unfortunate that (speaking of dumbing down) some school boards have been shanghaied by persons with a religious agenda and that schoolchildren in much of this country are being told that scientific realities are nothing more than a point of view. This may explain why the United States is no longer among the top 10 countries of the world in scientific literacy, and why most of our science and engineering PhD candidates are foreign students.

The inarticulate “fear-driven madness that sets ‘the Separation of Church and State’...” screed is both uninformed and bigoted. The principle of church and state separation simply requires that no group of people, whatever their beliefs, be permitted to impose their beliefs or practices on anyone else. Whatever -S- means by “free society,” it is quite certainly not a normal, usual, or even rational use of the phrase. (It’s a free society, so shut up? It’s a free society, so do what we tell you? It’s a free society for people who believe the way we do?)

By the way, liberals are the ones who promote tolerance of differing views, not the ones who suppress views with which they disagree.

Q. Whats the definition of ... (Below threshold)

Q. Whats the definition of a Zealot?

A. A person of faith winning a debate with a atheist.

Zarquan, could you please give me your sources and proof of Macro evolution. You say there is no question about it so it should not be hard for you to do. I have a bachelor of science in forestry and have studied both the pros and cons. I have researched more than just "an article". I find both views in the end come down to faith or belief. To sum up I don't have enough faith to beleive in evolution. However, I will concider any info you make available. Thank you. I do realize this has not alot to do with the start of the thread. VR I do apologize for any excessive zeal. I reread your post and found I had taken it out of context.

Sorry, chuck, I tried to e-... (Below threshold)

Sorry, chuck, I tried to e-mail you directly rather than take this thread further off-subject, but the mail was rejected as being "not our customer." Here it is:

Hello, chuck.

As you mentioned in your post, we strayed quite a way from the topic of the post, so I thought I'd contact you directly rather than take the whole thread even further off on a tangent.

So far as proof of evolution goes, there is a lot out there. I recently found, though, a wonderful, up-to-date gloss of the subject in, of all places, National Geographic Magazine. Their November 2004 issue carried a superb piece titled, "Was Darwin Wrong?" It sums up the current knowledge very well, without requiring a lot of esoteric knowledge to make sense of it, and it provides plenty of references for further reading, if you really want to pursue the subject.

I'd also recommend The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, as well as The Blind Watchmaker, also by Dawkins (it's a little dated now, twenty some-odd years on, but the fundamentals hold up quite well). The Panda's Thumb by Stephen Jay Gould also is quite good.

I realize this isn't as good as saying, "Here's a ten-word proof," but, as with most things, there's more to the case than a sentence or two can adequately address.

Best regards,

Brilliant discourse Zarquan... (Below threshold)

Brilliant discourse Zarquan. Only add to your two possibilities from your first post a not unlikely third: they are both zealots [sorry chuck, I can't find your definition in any reputable dictionary] for their own causes who will end up wasting a fair amount of public and private money because the United School District didn't stop this nonsense sooner.

Strangely, epador, the poss... (Below threshold)

Strangely, epador, the possibility that each side might be gaming the other never even occurred to me. This case interests me more all the time. I hope the outcome - whatever it turns out to be - is reported as widely as the sensational "Teacher Prohibited from Reading Declaration of Independence to Class."

I do owe chuck an apology for the "referring to an article he has read" comment. I really didn't intend to sound condescending or disparaging, but I was in fact both condescending and disparaging. Mea culpa.

I suppose that everyone her... (Below threshold)

I suppose that everyone here can admit that 'Declaration of Indepedence banned from School" or othre such headlines were misleading, if not intentionally misleading to begin with? At no point was the DoI banned. What the principal told the teacher not to use was a specific handout prepared by the teacher, that included among other things the Declaration of Independance. It also apparently contains a copy of a document that was written as part of an email protesting the ABC show "The Practice" for airing an episode about gay marriage.

Williams also alleges that "the principal will not permit him to use any [lesson plans] that contain references to God or Christianity." Which seems likely to be another misrepresentation, given that the official portions of lesson plans themselves make such references. Given that Williams is being represented by a radical group that was on hand to file this lawsuit almost immediately, and given that this story was hyped p by conservative sources right before thanksgiving (so that we'd have to wait until monday to hear more detail on exactly what the real facts of the case are or at least hear from both sides instead of just one side) my trust level on this story is quite low.

I don't think this story is something outraged Christians should hang their hats on. They might well get burned.

<a href="http://www.bluelem... (Below threshold)


Declaration of Independence ban at public school said bogus: Teacher reportedly forced pupils to listen to Christian dogma
Filed under: General— site admin @ 10:24 pm Email This
Declaration Of Independence banned!

The seemingly preposterous headline made major waves on the conservative Drudge Report and Fox News network Wednesday, joining Reuters and the Associated Press, in a misleading story that exhibited serious reportorial negligence, RAW STORY has learned.

The story, which reports that a California teacher has been banned from giving students documents from American history that refer to God, including the Declaration of Independence, is said a product of right-wing spin.

In fact, Cupertino public school principal Patricia Vidmar banned documents relating to God because the teacher had been forcing students to listen to what some felt was Christian propaganda, a media watchdog site reports. According to the site, the school had told him to stop but he did not comply, at which point the principal required that he submit his lesson plans to her in advance.

The teacher, Steven Williams, sued for discrimination and is now being represented by a conservative Christian legal group, Alliance Defense Fund.

Alliance Defense Fund boasts of other legal “successes,” including the right of Boy Scouts to refuse gays from ascending to leadership positions.

According to People for the American Way, a watchdog group, ADF was founded by 30 Christian ministries to serve as a counterbalance to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The organization defends the right of Christians to “share the gospel” in workplaces and public schools, asserting that efforts to curb such speech at work and schools are “anti-Christian.”

None of the major news agencies reporting on the story included quotations from the school or the principal, stating that a spokesman had referred them to a staff attorney. The articles suggest they did little research beyond the statements provided by William’s attorneys.

Reuters included scant information about the group who sued on Williams behalf, saying only that the group advocates “religious freedom.”

A media watch site, Seeing the Forest, first caught the story Wednesday evening.

“The school did not ‘ban the Declaration of Independence’ – that is just a lie,” Editor Dave Johnson, who is a fellow at the Commonweal Institute, wrote. “This story is like when you hear that a man was ‘arrested for praying’ and you find out he was kneeling in the middle of a busy intersection at rush hour and refused to move.”

California’s Education Code does allow “references to religion or references to or the use of religious literature … when such references or uses do not constitute instruction in religious principles … and when such references or uses are incidental to or illustrative of matters properly included in the course of study,” as William’s lawyers have pointed out.

It does not, however, allow for forced religious dogma in public schools.

Regarding Sean's November 2... (Below threshold)
Etaoin Shrdlu:

Regarding Sean's November 24th comment about needing a history lesson ("There is no mention of "separation of Church and State" in the Constitution. The Establishment Clause refers to the establishment of a State religion".), I humbly suggest he needs one as well. If you follow the versions of the First Amendment drafted by the Constitutional Convention you will see that the first drafts read as he claims: "nor shall any national religion be established". Eventually, the amendment was revised, and modified, until the form we know today was adopted and approved by all 13 states. Clearly, in the process it went beyond merely prohibiting a "State religion".

Moreover, consider the plain text of the Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". Note that one word (religion), first appearing in the Establishment clause, governs both parts of the Amendment. That clearly means that the meaning, extent,and scope of that word must be the same for both the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses. In short, whatever the government is prevented from prohibiting, it is also forbidden from establishing.

The issue is not whether there can be religion in America, but whether the goverment has any power to promote or inhibit it. The answer is no. We are all free to worship as we choose precisely because the government can neither forbid it, nor require it. We should all be grateful that when we praise G-d we do so as free men and women, and not as the slaves or pawns of the state.

Regarding the comments Post... (Below threshold)
Etaoin Shrdlu:

Regarding the comments Posted by: -S- at November 24, 2004 09:01 PM:

"Let's see....even at my local Post Office the other day, I asked for special, Christmas stamps . . . . No Madonnas. Not even a Christmas tree on a stamp or jingle bells or a Saint Nicholas, much less Jesus Christ (it IS Christmas for billions of us Christians)."

What Post Office did you go to? Every year the Postal Service releases two Christmas stamps: a religious one consisting of a beautifull painting of the Madonna and Child taken from the National Gallery (I actually wish they'd change the theme and use other appropriate pictures as well - the visit of the Magi, etc., but why quibble), and the other is usually more "secular" - Santa Claus, Reindeer, a wreath, etc.


"I also realize that it is the Holiday season for Judaists..."

What, pray tell is a Judaist? Are you trying to show off your erudition? What's wrong with just using the word Jews?


"Jews have suffered horribly under governments that were intolerant of religious expression."

Particularly by Christian governments that sought to forbid all faiths but their own. That's one of the reasons my ancestors came to this country; it was a land where they could follow their faith freely because the government had no say in matters of religion.


"God is mentioned so often in our founding principles because He was a source to many of the founding principles. He's in the Constitution and for good reason."

No, he's not. The closest the Constitution comes to mentioning G-d is at the very end where it says "Done in Convention . . . in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven . . . ." Hardly a basis for claiming G-d as the source of our "founding principles".

More importantly, the only mention of religion in the original Constitution (Article 6) is for the purpose of banning a religious test for public office. Thus anyone could be a member of Congress or even President - Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Infidel, or even Athiest. No less a figure than Patrick Henry opposed the Constitution for precisely that reason. He wanted Article 6 reversed so that only Christians could serve in the goverment. He also wanted the Preamble changed to acknowledge Christ as the source of all Americans' rights, and the government's power. You might notice he didn't get his way.

Regarding the OT discussion... (Below threshold)

Regarding the OT discussion of evolution, I believe the poster who mentioned probabilities is absolutely correct (although incorrect regarding the issue of proteins and amino acids; the latter forms the former not the other way around). Most biologists are not mathematicians and so most pursue their particular discipline without regard for the fact that abiogenesis is a mathematical IMPOSSIBILITY. Because of this, evolution as a theory, especially Darwinian evolution, is far from a proven fact. Indeed, it is a theory in crisis, and not because we haven't found transitional fossils or because no one has recreated macro-evolutionary processes in the lab or because radiometric dating is being called into question due to new research on the declining value of c. No, the reason is that more and more scientists are learning that life, at even its most fundamental, is unbelievably complex. We can give Darwin a break because he knew nothing of RNA or DNA but today's scientists do not have this excuse. The more honest ones are moving onto alternate theories of evolution including multiverses, and panspermia as it becomes more and more clear that the math is working against them as long as they continue to pursue outdated Darwinian notions. Even Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" has lost favor as its mechanism continues to elude even the most faithful of his followers.

The best research I have ever read on the math side of this subject is by Dr. Dermott J. Mullan. His explosive paper on the probabilities of life arising by chance can be found here: http://www.iscid.org/papers/Mullan_PrimitiveCell_112302.pdf

An excellent debate on the paper (wherein Mullan kindly but forcefully blows his critics out of the water) can be found here: http://www.iscid.org/boards/ubb-get_topic-f-6-t-000233.html

If you don't want to read all 47 pages of the paper or the discussion thread (both of which contains some highly nuanced math) then here's the summary...

The most time that anyone can reasonably (read "scientifically") claim that life had in order to first evolve is 1.11 billion years. (If you don't know why go to section 3 of his paper). Mullan's area of study seeks to answer the question, "is 1.11 b.y. long enough for a given set of amino acids to form the proteins necessary to build the first primitive cell?" I find his paper compelling because he is errs so far to the side of life arising by random chance.

For example, he grants, for optimization sake, that the first proteins would be more primitive than any we know of today, containing only 12-14 amino acids (compared with say, insulin, which has 51). There are no proteins in existence today with this low of an amino acid count. But he uses the number anyway so as to give some window of possibility for life to have arisen through random interactions of primordial amino acids into a protein that might have given rise to the first living cell.

After all his calculations he does believe that life could have arisen without intelligent intercession: "With all of these assumptions, we find that the probability of assembly of the RNA required for even the most primitive cell by random processes in the time available is no more than one in 10^79."

Editorially, and from a background in information theory, I have to say that this is about as impossible as anything ever gets.

The allegations that the s... (Below threshold)

The allegations that the school banned the constitution are false. The damage done to the school community by such allegations was considerable.

It would be helpful if all the persons who helped propegate this fallacy would post retractions--not just buried here in the comments, but actual updates, easily found or linked to the original story.

Details can be found at:


Stevens Creek Elementary has not "banned the Declaration of Independence"

It has been widely and incorrectly reported that the Declaration of Independence has been banned by the principal of Stevens Creek Elementary School, Patricia Vidmar, and the Cupertino Union School District. This started with a press release issued by the Alliance Defense Fund in late November, in connection with a lawsuit being brought by Stephen Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at the school. The assertion has been extensively repeated on the television and in newspapers across the country, and even abroad.

As concerned parents at Stevens Creek, we do not have ready access to the media to correct these misrepresentations. This website is our attempt to set the record straight. Misleading and inflammatory reporting in a number of places has subjected school staff and parents to over 3000 hostile phone calls and emails, many of them profane. As a result, the teachers, staff and principal of Stevens Creek Elementary operate under the protection of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's department.

We, the Parents, a grassroots organization of over a hundred Stevens Creek parents, invite you to browse our site and discover for yourselves the true face of Stevens Creek Elementary.

[letters to editors of papers which printed Nat Hentoff's Column]


Nat Hentoff's op ed piece on December 20, "Lesson Plan for the Nation", is another example of the media's rush to judgment on Stephen William's lawsuit against the Cupertino Union School District. As a parent of a child who attends Stevens Creek Elementary School, I was outraged by the initial inflammatory news reports which falsely asserted that teaching the Declaration of Independence at our school has been banned. For the record, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and other founding documents are, and have always been taught at our school.

We are not a community where political correctness runs amok. Our children daily recite the Pledge of Allegiance with the proper reference to "under God", sing God Bless America and other patriotic songs, and learn about the meaning of religion in the founding of our nation in an age-appropriate way. In the 5th grade social studies curriculum, living history is incorporated at an overnight camp where students actually re-enact a Revolutionary War encampment and assume the role of British and American soldiers (including singing "God Save the King"!). I am amazed that Mr. Hentoff would spread misinformation about our school without first learning the facts.

The circumstances preceding the lawsuit are complex. What is known within our community is that a number of parents complained to the school principal that Mr. Williams, an evangelical Christian, may have exceeded what is generally acceptable while discussing religion in the classroom on several occasions, which led to the principal reviewing his lesson plans and supplemental hand outs to students. If Mr. Williams felt that he was unfairly treated, or felt strongly that the supplemental documents he wanted to provide his students were important to a balanced curriculum, he could have taken his case to his colleagues at the school, the teacher's union or even the board of education. He did not. Instead he obtained representation by the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal organization with a clear political agenda, and filed a lawsuit alleging violation of his constitutional rights. Since then, our wonderful school has been inundated with thousands of hostile letters, e-mails and phone calls, almost entirely from outside of our community, because of the incendiary claim in the ADF's press release that the Declaration of Independence had been banned. I wonder how many more profane, hate filled messages will find their way to our school because of Mr. Hentoff's article.

Stevens Creek Elementary School ranks academically in the top 2% of schools in California. It is an excellent school with a curriculum that enriches our children and challenges them intellectually. More importantly, it is an environment where children, who reflect the diversity of Silicon Valley, can feel at home and where learning takes place. I wish that every child in our nation were blessed with the opportunity to attend a school like ours.

Nat Hentoff (Lesson plan for the nation, 12/20) argues compellingly, but not from the facts. This is understandable, as the Cupertino Union School District has remained tight-lipped about events, apparently in the hope that Stephen William's lawsuit would be tried in the courts rather than in the media. As a parent of two children at Stevens Creek Elementary I do not have the full picture, but I can clarify the following.

First, a number of parents complained over a period of time about Mr. Williams proselytizing in class. These may turn out to be unjustified, but there was not just one complaint.

Second, Mr. Williams has not been stopped from passing out the Declaration of Independence. It is printed in full in the text book that he uses. It also hangs prominently, where it always has, in the school library.

Third, no children at Stevens Creek are deprived of their right to receive information central to their education as Americans. Fifth grade history, which is taught in full compliance with State and District standards, does as good a job as one could hope to find in presenting the religious and social setting of the Nation's foundation. (My daughter, who was not taught by Mr. Williams, developed a fascination in the religious beliefs of the early puritan colonists as a result of history lessons). The full Pledge of Allegiance, with "under God", is recited daily in the school.

The principal, Patricia Vidmar, is in no need of a remedial course on the Constitution. She is a conscientious, patriotic and fair person, who bears no resemblance to the God-forsaken monster portrayed in some quarters.

Hmmmm...no comments after a... (Below threshold)

Hmmmm...no comments after all the offhand bashing now that the story has proven false? I guess if there's no blood in the water the sharks stop circling and move on.

I have not followed this st... (Below threshold)

I have not followed this story recently and if the first allegations were false then a mea culpa is in order.

Of course, pretty much all of the allegations continually hurled at the Right and George Bush specifically these days have long been proven false but that doesn't stop the Left from continuing to hurl them.

That of course, does not justify the Right doing the same thing but, to my knowledge, no one on the Right is continuing to allege that the DOI is banned in this district. If they were to do so I would be the first to condemn it.


thats messed up, im only 17... (Below threshold)

thats messed up, im only 17 and i think people need to stand up for what they believe in. im a christan and im proud to be one. it pisses me off that people have to be so F****** stupid






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