Skepchick Quickies 4.18


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. I think a lot of people forget that the 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of but also freedom from religion, especially in a government funded setting. Although my initial reaction is that the display of itself, while certainly an endorsement, is not necessarily promotion, which I believe is the standard, from my personal experience with teachers that would display a Bible in the classroom I feel safe in assuming:

    a) There was explicit promotion of religion in that classroom

    b) Removing that Bible won’t stop said promotion.

  2. From what I understand of it, he just had a bible on his desk. That’s all. I have a bible on my shelf, that doesn’t mean anything. If he has a bible on his desk, and even if he reads it in his free time, then there shouldn’t be an issue. If he’s reading passages out loud to the class during class time, then that would be an issue, but just having a bible, sitting on the desk doing nothing, isn’t an issue.


    Freshwater complied with the request to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments from display in his classroom, but is resistant to removing the Bible. He said the district’s mandate is an infringement of his First Amendment rights to free speech and to freely express his beliefs.

    Clearly he’s demonstrated that he’s willing to meet them halfway.

    I wouldn’t feel safe making the same assumptions. I would have to make room for the benefit of the doubt.

  3. I went to that school a hundred years ago. I’m a teacher. I don’t know that teacher, but he sounds like a nutjob. That being said, he can have The Anarchist’s Cookbook sitting on his desk if he wants. It’s a book. Sitting on his desk. He can even read from it silently while the kids are working or whatever. He can even silently pray all day long if he wants. As long as he doesn’t promote it he can do what he wants. Should I be worried that I have Carl Zimmer’s Evolution on my desk right now? As long as he keeps his beliefs to himself he’s fine. Now if he is promoting religion or teaching creationism or somehing crazy like that, THEN they should go after him. Oh wait, they have:

    Like I said, nutjob. But the nutjob does have the right to his books.

  4. Peregrine You’re right. It would be unfair of me to let my experiences of others taint my opinion of someone I don’t even know. I guess my improperly articulated point is that if you believe he’s promoting religion go after that and not something that, by it’s absence, wouldn’t stop him and, by itself, is within the bounds of law.

  5. We’re agreed on that point. From what I can tell, the original article doesn’t give us enough information to decide if he’s crossed that line. The link teacherninja posted may have more information, but I haven’t read all of it yet. Looks a little out of date, though, so it might just be background.

  6. I have a simple question for all the outraged Christians on this one. Would they have the same reaction if it was a Qu’ran? How about The God Delusion? Or would it suddenly seem like state-sponsored advocacy of a view on religion then?

    Augustus: “I think a lot of people forget that the 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of but also freedom from religion…”

    I always get a little uncomfortable when people state it this way. We do have freedom from religion in the sense that we have the right to follow no religion, but we do not have the right to expect that people keep their religion out of our sight any more than we have the right to keep speech we do not like away from us.

    In this case, it is a teacher in a public school who represents the government and government-run education. We have a right to expect that he keep his religion out of his job because he is backed by the state and anything he does while on the job is state-sponsored.

    He can have his Bible and wave it around in public all he wants…outside his job. If we are annoyed then, that is the point where it becomes tough shit for us.

  7. In retrospect, I should have ommited the word “especially.” I know that only applies to the government and I feel a little foolish stating it any other way. I really should stop trying to write comments and work at the same time. If you’ll excuse me a moment, I’m going to go quit my job.

  8. Re: the Ohio teacher claiming that asking him to remove the bible was infringing his right to free speach:

    Dude, you’re at your place of employment. There are rules you have to abide by to work there and get paid. Free speach ain’t got shit to do with it.

  9. The bible’s presence really is a nonissue.

    I have exactly the same level of concern over the presence of the bible as I would a copy of the Koran or the Tao De Ching. Even if its presence does constitute endorsement, it’s clear that this endorsement does not come from the institution itself, but is a personal one, allowable under any reasonable interpretation of Amendment One.

    Had he preached from it, it would be very very different.

  10. “We have a right to expect that he keep his religion out of his job because he is backed by the state and anything he does while on the job is state-sponsored.”

    Don’t let’s forget that the bible is not merely a religious document, but a literary one as well.

  11. That Charles Darwin link is going right into my “Illuminators” linkybox! What an awesome resource!

    You can even read stuff in his own hand (a steady, spry script. Good ductus, very legible.)

  12. It is worth mentioning that the 7% consists of precisely one “positive” review…and if you read the review it is a damn lukewarm one at that.

    Of course, I’m sure it’s all just The Man(tm) keeping those poor beleaguered creationists down.

  13. That 17 year old they interviewed in the article about a teacher was a bitch, its time for Christians to stand up my ass, actually that wouldn’t feel very nice at all.

  14. We all know what’s going to happen with Expelled. Half the people going to see it is going to be uptight Christians who want to see how great it is, and how it’s about time someone showed a “balanced perspective,” and the other half are going to be uptight atheists and science types who want to see how lousy and unbalanced it is.

    Reviews won’t matter in the short term. The measure of the movie is not how right or wrong it is, or how convincing it is, or what kind of reviews it gets. It’s how profitable it is. And if the movie is profitable, the net profit is going to go right to Ben Stein’s pocket book, and right to his head. And the cdesign proponentsists will somehow attempt to manipulate the “success” of the movie as proof of Intelligent Design.

    Of course the success of a movie is no scientific proof, but that doesn’t make any difference in the political arena. All that matters is how well you can energize your base.

    This is one film that I would, (hypothetically speaking, of course) have no guilt whatsoever downloading for free. Because I have no desire to give the argument or the controversy any credence by paying money to see it.

  15. I don’t see much to worry about from Expelled.

    The producers apparently are hoping the model represented by Passion of the Christ will carry their project to success. I call this “success by lottery”. If someone with your ideology wins the lottery, you should play too, since ideology between yourself and the winner is the common feature.

    Cold numbers like those present in the Blue Collar Scientist’s post suggest this is just another lottery ticket.

    What I actually worry about is that films like Expelled is a symptom of a demographic we find difficult to reach, one which has embraced victimhood to the exclusion of reason.

    I find that just as sad as anyone who pins actual hopes on winning the lottery, day after day, instead of doing something practical about their situation.

  16. Books on desks are a good thing. All kinds of books. Fiction, non fiction fantasy, text books, religious books and comic books. Who cares. When studying literature and some aspects of history knowledge of the bible is essential to understand what other people were thinking and what archetypes were being used by an author.

  17. As for the Bible as a work of literature and “freedom from religion,” how would you feel if your kids had to read the Book of Job in an AP English class? (The Book of Job is in fact in the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, for example.)

  18. As a lifelong atheist, I hope that my kids read some books from the Bible in English class. I also hope they read from the Qur’an, Atlas Shrugged, The God Delusion, and a host of other books that large numbers of people feel are important.

    If I’ve done my job as a parent and taught them to evaluate the “evidence” offered by people of differing viewpoints, then reading those books will be to their benefit. Knowing what other people are basing their beliefs on – no matter how ultimately false – is a good thing, and to be encouraged.

  19. One really does need, at least a general understanding of the Bible and a basic understanding of Christian doctrine to fully understand many issues, some huge and epic and some trivial in history, literature and the arts. Education need not be indoctrination and a ‘Bible as Lit.’ class is a fairly common thing in many public schools. I would hope the teacher would take a historical and literary perspective and leave room for the discussion of broader issues not pertaining to personal or individual belief. For a teacher to stand up and say the Bible is a load of crap or the path to salvation would be equally inappropriate.

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