Cherry Creek School District Lawsuit Settled

A while back, Cherry Creek Public Schools began promoting “40 Developmental Assets” — a program that would help students become “responsible and confident young adults.”

One of those assets was Asset Number 19. It suggested “young adults spend one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.”

cherrycreekflyer

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents in the district.

The case lasted two years. It was finally settled this week.

The new wording for Asset Number 19?

“Intergenerational Activities — Young person spends one or more hours per week in activities with civic, social, governmental, scientific, educational, charitable, faith based or secular (non-religious) organizations.”

That’s it. That’s the compromise. Two years.

“We would have preferred that the asset had been expunged entirely, because it’s not the business of a school to encourage students to spend an hour a week in a ‘faith-based’ pursuit. However, it’s probably a ‘first’ that a school district has ever encouraged students to spend an hour a week on pursuits including those that are ‘nonreligious,’ so we consider this a unique victory,” commented Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

I’m glad the case settled the way it did. Other than getting rid of that asset altogether, it’s the best possible outcome. However, I’m wondering if it was really worth all this time, work, and hassle.

Should atheists fight these seemingly “minor” battles? Do they have a meaningful impact?

  • J. Allen

    They do, because people will want to avoid a lawsuit because they are no fun, and if they hear about this one they will perhaps make the easy switch to secular instead of risking an arduous process. We need to make it worse than offending the religious nuts by leaving it out.

    It’s all about the lawsuits we don’t have to fight I guess.

  • Dave

    Sometimes, my fellow Colorado residents really grind my gears.

    There were weeks, during college, when I couldn’t walk to the student center without hearing about how I was going to hell.

    Two men were outside of the Bears-Broncos pre-season game on Sunday, trying to introduce the drunk and disappointed (Go Bears!), departing crowd to Jesus. I asked if Jesus liked football. No response.

    I’m glad Creek got smacked over the head with the Establishment Clause. It’s of continuing importance to maintain a front in the legal battle to create sectarian society.

  • Demetrius Of Pharos

    I keep hearing this stuff about “little battles” – this case, the words “In God We Trust”, etc. If we were to extend the metaphor then battles are a part of the larger war to preserve the separation of church and state. Ask any military tactician – there has never been a war in history won because of one decisive large battle, instead, small skirmishes and victories in “little battles” are the key.

    Think of it this way, in these “little battles”, we are wearing down our “opponents” for lack of a better word. They become battle-weary, well aware that even “small” things like this case are inviting lawsuits and unwanted publicity. The opponents begin to weigh their options – is it really worth the time and money to fight a lawsuit? They may enter a mindset (indeed it already happens, to a degree) that atheists will jump on any little thing. Eventually, they begin thinking of atheists when making this proclamations, and whether out of respect or fear of lawsuits they take into account more than just their own point of view.

    A little optimistic, perhaps, but overall I think its realistic. In what is essentially a battle for civil rights, what we have to realize is that its is a long battle that can’t be won overnight. We have to continue to fight (and win) these smaller battles if for nothing else than to build legal precedence for the future.

  • Unbeliever

    It’s by NOT fighting the “little battles” that we lose the overall war. It’s all the little things, added up, that enable them to argue, “See? It’s a Christian nation.”

    We must fight, EVERY TIME, until school districts and government agencies finally “get it” regarding separation of church and state…

  • teammarty

    Every battle we don’t fight, and fight again later when we lose, is conceding defeat.

  • http://jonathan-keith.com Jon

    It’s unfortunate this ended the way that it did. It’s a perfectly reasonable suggestion to ask students to attend a religious institution for one hour a week.

    The Freedom From Religion (which doesn’t even understand the definition of the words in its own name) cost taxpayers a lot of money with such a frivolous lawsuit.

    Another example of irresponsible atheism.

  • Alun

    Yes because this is statement is now an inclusive statement. I don’t want my potentially none religious kids to be encouraged to be involved with religious activities how do would be feel being a non-religiouse child and being told that you need to be religiouse. However I am happy with the encouragement for them to be involved with community groups religious or not.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org RBH

    Demetrios has it exactly right. Failing to fight the small battles concedes the ground to the opposition. ‘Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile’ is stopped by not giving them that inch.

    Further, fighting and winning those small battles, as is the case here, has broader impact. For example, it gets publicized on a blog called “The Friendly Atheist” and thus disseminated to a wider international audience, emboldening our folks to fight the small battles in their neighborhood.

  • J Myers

    It’s a perfectly reasonable suggestion to ask students to attend a religious institution for one hour a week.

    No it’s not, you fucking moron troll.

  • http://www.allysonwhipple.com Allyson

    It’s unfortunate this ended the way that it did. It’s a perfectly reasonable suggestion to ask students to attend a religious institution for one hour a week.

    If the institution is a private religious school, sure. But not a public school. The Cherry Creek PUBLIC schools cost the taxpayers a lot of money by violating the Establishment Clause in the first place and necessitating this lawsuit.

  • CatBallou

    Is Jon being a Poe? I hope so. Otherwise he’s just babbling.

    I agree with the other posters on the importance of smaller battles. Certainly it’s ridiculous that this took two years, but the next one, or the one after that, won’t take as long—and eventually it won’t be an issue.

    As one of a set of developmental activities, though, suggesting that children become involved in their communities isn’t unreasonable.

  • bigjohn756

    Michelangelo didn’t create David with three or four whacks of the chisel. Similarly, we cannot sculpt a nation of freethinkers without chipping away until we create a society of clear thinking individuals.

  • Gabriel G.

    Maybe if the issue had to do with a group of adults, but considering it had to do with school children of impressionable minds, these kind of “minor” issues become the major ones.

  • Lurker

    I think this ended well :) Frankly, the wording is encouraging from all aspects and doesn’t given those who engage in religion a large amount of room to complain as that’s still in there.

    Of course, people will complain. I’m sure that Jon would not feel the same if the information had read “I spend some time each week questioning religion”

  • RPJ

    I heard an allegory that NYC fought rampant violent crime by throwing the book at jaywalkers.

    The bigger picture is that America is ostensibly a secular nation, but its larger culture is extremely steeped in Christianity. In this situation, it is much more difficult to win “big victories”, and their effect is lessened when foist upon a grudging public. In order to properly fight superstition, it must be thoroughly rooted from the cracks in the nation’s culture. We must shift the culture, and that can only be done by removing the small bits scattered here and there that reinforce the atmosphere of religion that pervades the culture, even though they seem to be inconsequential.

  • Takma’rierah

    Oh, Jon, you just reminded me–I need to donate to the Freedom From Religion Foundation! It is based in my state’s capitol, after all. =)

    ETA: Okay, done, donated.

  • JJR

    Fixed this for you:

    The Freedom From Religion Cherry Creek School District cost taxpayers a lot of money with such a frivolous lawsuit.

    Another example of irresponsible atheism theism.

    there you go.

  • Miko

    It’s easy to predict the victor in a fight that only one side realizes is worth winning. Ask why the theists are going to such length instead of just saying “yeah, that sounds reasonable” and settling immediately. While they phrase it in nice rhetoric, they want to dominate others and bend them to their will. That requires a long and drawn out process of breaking down their self-esteem, not a quick and flashy display.

    If we take care of the little things, we’ll create a zeitgeist in which the big things take care of themselves. If we ignore the little things, we’ll accomplish nothing and stand around hopelessly wondering why we’re not.

  • John

    Good idea, Takma’rierah! I was going to post some boring rebuke, but instead I’m now going to donate $100 to the FFRF’s Legal Fund.

    Thanks for encouraging me to support secularism, Jon!

  • flatlander100

    Dave:

    In re: Jesus and football: I had a friend once who swore that a hymn called “Dropkick Me Jesus Through The Goal Posts of Life” came t-h-a-t close to making it into the Methodist hymnal.

  • Richard Wade

    Since I’ve already paid my dues to FFRF, I’ll do the boring rebuke.

    Jon, should your tax dollars be spent on a school that promotes the children going to specifically atheist (not just secular) but atheist events and organizations, like say, a lecture by Richard Dawkins, or a meeting of American Atheists? Should you be forced to pay taxes for a school that actively discourages or prohibits students from attending religious activities of their choice on their own time?

    You don’t like the idea of being forced to pay for promoting stuff like that? Then don’t support forcing others to pay for promoting religions that they don’t necessarily follow or support.

    Freedom is a two-way street Jon. The government must neither promote NOR prohibit religion. It must stay out of it. The separation of church and state protects YOUR freedom. You should be as eager to protect that separation as anyone. If not for that separation, you would not be practicing the religion of your choice. You’d be forced by the state to worship as the state dictates. You’re naive if you think the government would be promoting your particular faith.

  • Richard Wade

    To answer Hemant’s question,

    Should atheists fight these seemingly “minor” battles? Do they have a meaningful impact?

    As several others have expressed here, it’s better to fight the small battles and prevent the big ones.

    Should dam maintenance crews plug the little leaks, or only the big ones?

    Well, little leaks don’t stay little. They erode into big ones. I watched that happen once. A garden hose-sized leak in a dam grew into a complete burst in a few hours, and completely destroyed a whole neighborhood and killed five people.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Yes, it’s worth fighting these small battles.

    There’s a famous saying: All politics are local. It’s small battles like these that affect people’s day to day lives. And it’s small battles like these that get our issues on people’s radar.

    Besides, when we do fight the bigger national battles, it’ll be easier if we’ve been fighting little local ones: getting people familiar with the issues, and getting our side geared up and ready for action.

  • Siamang

    As a question for everyone:

    What ARE the big battles?

    What would you list as the big battles that atheists face?

    If this is a small one, what are the big ones?

  • RPJ

    I would consider a large battle as a fight against something that actively promotes superstition, especially such that is marginalizes rationalism – such as teaching Creationism in schools, or adding “just a theory” stickers to textbooks, or religious exemptions to protect parents who eschew proper medicine for their children.

    A small battle is something that is part of the culture but is usually passed over, such as religious phrases on money or small public endorsements of religion (as in this example).

  • http://alliedatheistalliance.blogspot.com advertisinglies

    I wrote a blog about this post ( http://bit.ly/kOTNg ) but basically yes, it’s very important to point out and defend against these seemingly insignificant transgressions against the establishment clause because ANY infringement of our rights is unacceptable.

  • Epistaxis

    Hey, if this means the school is giving kids credit for going to the resident atheist/humanist/whatever group, I’m all for it.

  • Demetrius Of Pharos

    @Siamang:

    Bloody good question. One that I struggle to think of an answer to.

    I think Dawkin, Harris, Hitchins and so forth are answering it in their way – they are challenging the idea that religion and morality are synonymous in their respective books. Thats a big one.

    On a strictly America level – we need to remove the silly notion that America is a Christian nation or founded on any Christian religion.

    Removing the stigma associated with atheism – the kind of prejudice that keeps open atheists (or gays, or whatever) from getting jobs for no other reason than for being who they are.

    These are, of course, more intellectual battles. You may have been speaking of lawsuits. I think the FFRF (and others) have the right idea in fighting the National Day of Prayer. There is also a huge problem (especially here in Utah) where religion is used to brute-force laws into place (come to think of it, any law banning gay marriage is a strictly religious-based law as I can’t think of any other basis for being against it). Stem Cell research seems to this biology-illiterate programmer to be a veritable panacea, yet the opposition is strictly religion-based as far as I can tell. Not to forget abortion, something I think we can all agree we would like to see minimized as much as possible (by teaching real sex education, for instance) but again, the opposition seems based on the religious notion that life beings at conception.

    The biggest battle of all though – Evolution vs Creationism. Or to put it more glibly – Science vs Shit We Just Made Up. The biggest problem here is that Creationists and Young Earthers have no trouble parading PhD after PhD to support their nonsense – rather proving the old joke about PhD standing for Piled Higher and Deeper. There are many (Francis Collins, for instance) who are other wise intelligent, capable individuals and they make it incredibly difficult to educate the general public about Science.

    Obviously, none of these issues are strictly Atheist vs Religion issues – civil rights, womens rights and even basic education are all at risk – but when groups trot out The Resurrected Zombie to support their case, we have to be ready to take up arms, so to speak.

    P.S. Turns out it was easier to come up with an answer than I expected.

  • Richard Wade

    Siamang,

    What ARE the big battles?
    What would you list as the big battles that atheists face?
    If this is a small one, what are the big ones?

    Good questions, and RPJ and Demetrius have good answers. I’ll add:

    Kitzmiller v. Dover was a very big one. We won.

    Hein v. FFRF was a big one. We lost.

    Proposition 8 was a very big one. We lost, but we’ll eventually win.

    The battle over stem cell research is a big one. We’re entrenched.

    The medium-sized ones where some principal keeps praying at school assemblies defying a court order happened because of hundreds of small ones where teachers subtly proselytize in class that were not prosecuted. The big ones happened because of medium-sized ones that were not prosecuted.

    Right now, my town is covered in smoke and ash from gigantic wildfires. Not a single spark flying in on the breeze is acceptable. In two minutes they are burning houses.

    So to answer your question, they’re all big ones.

    It’s a real honor to fight the good fight with such as you.

  • Christophe Thill

    “Faith-based or secular organizations” is “A or non-A”. It’s a tautology. It could be replaced with just “organizations”, and that would be much better.

  • http://jonathan-keith.com Jon

    you fucking moron troll

    @Jmyers – This is another example of irresponsible atheism.

    @RichardWade

    Freedom is a two-way street Jon. The government must neither promote NOR prohibit religion. It must stay out of it. The separation of church and state protects YOUR freedom. You should be as eager to protect that separation as anyone. If not for that separation, you would not be practicing the religion of your choice. You’d be forced by the state to worship as the state dictates. You’re naive if you think the government would be promoting your particular faith.

    We’ve had this discussion before. See the Christmas Tree/nativity scene post from several days ago. Separation of Church and State would be a nice ideal, but it isn’t really possible. When two belief systems are in direct conflict, it is not possible to remain neutral because all positions are occupied by one of the belief systems. The only mechanism the government has for choosing is by what is most popular. At times that would be Atheism, at other times, it could be another religion.

  • J Myers

    @Jmyers – This is another example of irresponsible atheism.

    How is that, you lying, fucking moron troll? Your stupidity is epic; what I said has no necessary connection to atheism. It could have just as easily and accurately been stated by a theist who was tired of your trolling.

    We get it, Jon: you’re an idiot. No need to come back and prove it over and over, we’re all well aware of it. Move along, now. There must bill thousands of other blogs that have no idea how stupid you are, but with a little effort, I’m confident you can change that.

  • Siamang

    We’ve had this discussion before. See the Christmas Tree/nativity scene post from several days ago.

    … which you vacated after others made points you could not counter, like the troll you are.

    Sorry, but there’s a community here, and we, for the most part, strive to understand people with different points of view than our own.

    You don’t respond when we attempt to make understandable and well-reasoned and (at least for the first few tries) polite responses. That makes you unworthy of further attention. Sorry, respect is a two-way street. You show none, so you get none. Maybe it’s different for you at church, and you can piss on anyone you like and they still give you a pass because you love Jesus. But here we expect two-way respect.

    Prove you can be well-behaved, and people might stop calling you ‘lying, fucking moron troll’.

    Might.

  • Richard Wade

    Jon,

    When two belief systems are in direct conflict, it is not possible to remain neutral because all positions are occupied by one of the belief systems. The only mechanism the government has for choosing is by what is most popular. At times that would be Atheism, at other times, it could be another religion.

    This is a false dichotomy and is not born out by reality. For the most part, government on all levels manages quite well to avoid promoting or prohibiting religion. Religionists constantly try to insinuate their agendas into schools, town councils, state and federal agencies, but for the most part those in office quietly say, “Sorry, can’t do that.” So we seldom hear about it. In the few times that the separation is breached, guess what? The MINORITY wins most often. The few seculars get the many sectarians to get out of where they don’t belong.

    This is because the First Amendment was written down, and it was written to protect the MINORITY. Our liberty is not subject to the whims of whatever is the majority opinion at any given moment. That would not be a country. That would be chaos.

    Jon, you really don’t seem to have the courage to stand up for freedom as a principle. Do you only go whichever way the wind is blowing? You can thank principled people who don’t share your beliefs for protecting your freedom. They have spines. Try to find your own.

  • Magnifico

    Evolution happens in tiny increments over great periods of time.

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    I think it was a worthy battle. While the asset is still there, it is now inclusive and the religionists can’t whine that the mean atheists “shoved God out of the school”. It’s rather a win-win situation in that regard.

  • Siamang

    Jon,
    Because you haven’t specifically endorsed the Boston Red Sox every post, that must mean it’s a tacit endorsement of the Yankees.

    Now, I can get along with Christians. Not sure about Yankees fans.

  • Rob Stuart

    As someone who fought to keep this 2 year battle going, I’m very happy to see so many people support the time, effort, and emotional energy put into this “small” victory.

    Making the statement inclusive was a great outcome especially given how hard the individuals responsible for promoting this in the schools fought for their ‘first amendment right’ to promote religion in schools. Just to get them to move off their position and make the change to the new statement had to be a huge blow to their overinflated religious ego and to the Luthern-based organization that sells the school districts this developmental asset propoganda.

    While it may have been a small step for free thinkers nationally, many small victories will lead to the acceptance of a non-religious point of view in this country.

    I just wish the School District wouldn’t have wasted so much of my taxpayer money defending religion…


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