Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Good: Kid Fights Back

We're going to have to watch his one. This kid in New Jersey was upset because the Christian teacher was essentially preaching to them in class. Nobody believed it could be as bad as he said it was, so he brought a tape recorder into class.
... Last fall, Matthew [LaClair], 16, taped the teacher, David Paszkiewicz, telling students in a history class that if they do not believe that Jesus died for their sins, they “belong in hell.”

On the recordings, which Matthew made surreptitiously starting in September, Mr. Paszkiewicz is heard telling the class that there were dinosaurs aboard Noah’s ark and that there is no scientific basis for evolution or the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.

Since Matthew turned over the tapes to school officials, his family and supporters said, he has been the target of harassment and a death threat from fellow students and “retaliation” by school officials who have treated him, not the teacher, as the problem. The retaliation, they say, includes the district’s policy banning students from recording what is said in class without a teacher’s permission and officials’ refusal to punish students who have harassed Matthew. Student, 16, Finds Allies in His Fight Over Religion

Yes, you understood that correctly. The result was a new rule that students are not allowed to tape-record their teachers.

Some people might think this is OK. Others might think it is better to maintain a separation of church and state, such that public schools avoid promoting a particular religion in the classroom. That would be me.
The LaClairs filed a torts claim notice on Feb. 13 against the school board, Mr. Paszkiewicz and other school officials. Such a claim is required before a lawsuit can be filed in New Jersey. “The school created a climate in which the students in the school community held resentment for Matthew,” said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the A.C.L.U. in New Jersey. She said Kearny High School had “violated the spirit and the letter of freedom of religion and the First Amendment.”

Ms. Jacobs added that the A.C.L.U. would support the LaClairs if they sue the school board and might join the action.

Richard Mancino, a partner with Willkie Farr & Gallagher, which is representing the family, said he did not understand why school officials would not “stand up for this student, who had the guts to raise this constitutional issue.” Instead, Mr. Mancino said, they appear “to have adopted a shoot-the-messenger policy.”

I know, I know. <waves_hand_in_air> Is it because everybody is a bunch of gutless conformists who are afraid to think for themselves?

It's hard to stand up for what's right, as this kid is finding out.

Oh, I love this part:
Angelo J. Genova, a lawyer in Livingston, N.J., who is representing the school board, said Kearny school officials had addressed Matthew’s complaints and had reaffirmed their commitment to the separation of church and state in the classroom.

Bernadette McDonald, president of the school board, said in a statement: “We took his concerns very seriously. The result was that we have received no further complaints about such religious proselytization in our schools.”

Because, y'know, the problem was the complaining. And now it's OK, because people have stopped.
For his part, Matthew said he recognized that “there are going to be a lot of consequences” at school from the Monday news conference. He said he had already felt hostility from students after the school switched his history class from Mr. Paszkiewicz to another teacher.

The district would not disclose what action it had taken against Mr. Paszkiewicz, who is teaching the same course to a different group of students. He has taught in the district for 14 years.

Granted, it is difficult to establish a secular education in a world where many people participate in a religion. The problem is that there are a lot of different religions, and some people don't belong to one at all. So the schools, and government institutions in general, are obligated to stay neutral on the issue. It makes sense, unless you start thinking that your specific religion is the only true one, and that everybody else should accept that. And, sadly, some people do think that.

Luckily, there is a whole world of secular topics that do not require a religious explanation. Reading, writing, math, health, science ... you can learn these things without taking a position on which god, if any, is the true God, and what practices should be implemented to honor Him or Her.

Here in Montgomery County, the critics of the new sex-ed curricula can water it down as much as they want, they can claim to have secular objections, but you can't get around the religious underpinnings of their complaints. The fact is, the new curriculum is nice and objective, by secular standards; it was developed by a team of pediatricians, and it is entirely consistent with the current state of mainstream medical and scientific belief. The CRC's appeal to the state was full of religious complaints. Sorry, that's not how it's going to work. They may have gotten away with it for a while in Kearny, New Jersey, but it ain't gonna fly here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kid Fights Back"

What was he "fighting back" against? What evil injustice was done to him? Someone said something he didn't like? Oh dear, maybe the school should provide him with counselors. Good heavens, let's hope he recovers.

When I was going to elementary school, in Montgomery County, I remember a music teacher who would come in periodically and always threw out phrases like "If that's what the Bible says, I believe it." The neighborhood was predominantly Jewish. Most of my friends were. They didn't seem threatened.

How have we become so thin-skinned that we think we should be protected from the opinions and views of others? If a teacher is Buddhist or Zoroastrian or agnostic, what great damage is done if they disclose this to students?

Students would be better educated if they got used to the idea that others think differently than them. When we start trying to protect kids from speech, we have lost a lot.

February 20, 2007 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and a kid in college tape-recorder a professor chanting anti bush rhethoric and 9-11 conspiracy theories...

funny, I didn't see the ACLU rushing to his defense.

February 20, 2007 11:56 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

I assume that was college ... and I don't see the religious angle. But please, don't let that prevent you from feeling persecuted.


February 21, 2007 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I didn't see the ACLU rushing to his defense."

Playing the poor little conservatives get no support card? Get real.

If you're talking about Rebecca Beach, she didn't need the ACLU. She ended up with Young America's Foundation, ReganRanch.org, and Sean Hannity of FOX News behind her. She was celebrated as YAF's "Conservative Student of the Year 2006" http://students.yaf.org/gallery/index.php?level=picture&id=247

And then Sean Hannity of FOX News jumped on the bandwagon and came up with a campaign urging conservative students to tape their professors to fight back against them giving their personal political opinions in class. http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=47601

Of course this has nothing to do with attempts by some people to add their personal religious opinions to public schools' curricula in spite of our uniquely American wall of separation between church and state.

But just for fun, what's the latest rightwing press report on how much progress Hannity's effort has made?

February 21, 2007 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean like when MCPS tried to call the baptist church bibilically misguided and got its' hand slapped for violating the establishment clause ? Like that ?

By the way, I agree with you. The teacher should not be preaching in a public school unless this was a study of religons class and he was asked by a student what he personally believed. Then it woudl be okay to give a short answer.

But, the previous curriculum also critized religons that felt homosexuality was immoral. You will agree that this was also wrong ?

February 21, 2007 12:18 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Anonymous, its wrong to teach that people will be eternally tortured for their harmless innocent belief in something other than Christianity just as its wrong to teach that harmless loving committed gay relationships are immoral and deserve eternal torture. In both cases religion is the hateful aggressor against those who hurt no one.

February 21, 2007 8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you ever consider, Randi, that if these people think you're condemned, that they may think they're helping you out by letting you know about it? Do you think they subject themselves to all this verbal abuse for kicks?

February 21, 2007 9:27 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Anonymous, the idea that anyone believes LGBTs are unaware that Christianity says we should be eternally tortured for our love is preposterous. We all hear that countless times from the religious and non-religious alike.

The idea that gays will go to hell is simply justification for these people's hatred and condemnation of those who hurt no one. Without that the anti-gay bigots would have no excuse. They enjoy beating gays over the head with that threat, they don't care about gays, they want to punish them and oppress them - that's why they constantly bring up this "its a sin" BS. Those that want to help gays have recognized that its impossible for a loving and just god to eternally torture anyone for simply being in a loving committed relationship. Either your god does not exist, does not eternally torture gays or he is not loving and just - you can't have it any other way.

February 22, 2007 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you show me a Judeo-Christian scripture that says God will eternally torture anyone?

The doctrine is that people choose to deprive themselves of God's presence.

February 22, 2007 3:49 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

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February 22, 2007 5:06 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

February 22, 2007 5:09 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

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February 22, 2007 5:41 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

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February 22, 2007 5:45 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Anonymous said "Can you show me a Judeo-Christian scripture that says God will eternally torture anyone?".

Sure can. Mark 9: 43-49

"If your hand does wrong, cut if off. Better live forever with one hand than be thrown into the unquenchable fires of hell with two! If your foot carries you toward evil, cut if off! Better be lame and live forever than have two feet that carry you to hell.

And if your eye is sinful, gouge it out. Better enter the Kindom of God half blind than have two eyes and see the fires of hell, where the worm never dies, and the fire never goes out - where all are salted with fire."

And I might add that there's never been a presence of god - people can't choose to deprive themselves of god's presence because they can't choose to be in god's presence, it simply doesn't exist.

February 22, 2007 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I asked for verse saying God was eternally torturing some people. These verses simply say they won't be in God's presence. Doesn't even say who threw them out.

Fire, BTW, is a metaphor. Other places hell is described as cold. If you look at all the descriptions, I think you'll come to the conclusion that hell is a place where God's protection is no longer present. It's hell because those who have rejected God will get their way.

February 23, 2007 10:29 AM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Anonymous, you're a laugh. Being thrown into the unquenchable fires of hell isn't torture - how absurd, you are pathetic. And as hell isn't accessible by mere humans, its obvious who through them into the fire.

Don't forget now, your bible is the literal inerrant word of god. If you want to say these words aren't the truth then you have no basis upon which to say any of the bible is the truth, including those passages that supposedly condemn gayness - its all open to whatever wild interpretation anyone wants to put on it.

February 23, 2007 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scripture is obviously open to interpretation. It's a field of theology called hermeneutics.

Most protestants don't believe in a blanket literal interpretation of scripture. That was one of the issues of the reformation. Look up transubstantiation.

That doesn't mean you rationalize any behavior you want to. The orthodox approach to scripture is perpiscuity. That is, its meaning is obvious. On any topic, to make a definitive statement, you need to look at all the scriptures pertaining to the topic. It's called context.

Metaphors are sometimes more precise than literal descriptions. For example, a poet can probably use language to help you experience how cold it is better than a weatherman. The Bible obviously uses metaphors frequently.

In any case, even literally, I don't see the verses saying what you said.

February 23, 2007 1:34 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Anonymous said "The Bible obviously uses metaphors frequently.".

Where in the bible does it say this is a metaphor? Hard core Christians say the bible is the literal inerrant word of god, why should I take your opinion over theirs? In any event, metaphors are usually obvious, this emphatic reference to being thrown into the fires of hell doesn't come across like a metaphor, it comes across as a literal.

Anonymous said "In any case, even literally, I don't see the verses saying what you said.".

Now that's funny - you don't see being thrown into fire as torture. Surely you don't expect anyone to take you seriously on that, no one can be that self-deluded unless you're setting the world record for denial. I suppose you think you can fly and walk through walls too? Maybe you're the second coming of Christ yourself.

I'm a bit of a BSer myself, but occaisionally I like to listen to an expert, by all means please continue.

February 24, 2007 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice design of blog.

August 13, 2007 3:22 PM  

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