Jerry Buell, I Rebuke Thee

There’s an update on Jerry Buell, the anti-gay high school teacher who was reassigned from the classroom because of things he posted on his Facebook page, but allowed back into his classroom on Thursday.

A couple days ago, I defended his right to free speech, arguing that he should be able to post his thoughts — bigoted as they are — on his private Facebook page without it affecting his employment. If his classroom was kept free of judgment, and he was a qualified teacher who was doing his job well (and, as far as I knew, he was indeed a good teacher), then why should his personal religious beliefs be an issue for his administration? I certainly wouldn’t want someone offended by my religious views to have any impact on my career when I make sure my beliefs don’t work their way into the classroom.

The ACLU defended him as well:

“The First Amendment protects his right to share his views –- offensive or not,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, in a statement. “Even though we strongly disagree with his opinion, especially considering how hard the ACLU fought to win marriage equality in New York, Mr. Buell should not be subject to disciplinary action by his employer for expressing his views.”

Since then, however, a few developments have turned up. And I’m changing my mind.

First, there was the personal biography Buell put up on the website for Mount Dora High School in Florida.

A Google Cache of the the site (from August 10th) showed Buell’s very godly biography (click to enlarge):

First and foremost, I am a man of God. I try to teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself. That doesn’t mean I give a sermon and serve communion each day…what it means is I try my very best to teach and serve and minister to my students as a teacher led by and connected to the Creator of the Universe…

Lake Co. Schools and Mt Dora HS tell me what to teach; God guides me in how I do that, and it is all done with a Servant’s heart, to the best of my abilities.

That bio has since been purged from the school’s website.

Second, it turns out Buell’s syllabus didn’t shy away from promoting his religious beliefs, either:

His syllabus also offered this warning to students: “I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!” On a separate document, he also said the classroom was his “mission field.”

His syllabus, we’re told, has also since been revised.

Since they’ve defended him, I’m waiting for Liberty Counsel and the Illinois Family Institute to put out a statement saying it would be perfectly fine if my math syllabi said something like this:

I teach that God’s a myth and I make very few compromises. I’m also a Secular Humanist and I’m going to do everything I can to make you strong critical thinkers. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!

I’ve seen a couple interviews with Buell and his lawyer and at no point does Buell mention that there’s anything wrong with the syllabus or the bio. (He’s also the faculty sponsor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a fact that some people are bringing up as if it’s damning, but which I think is irrelevant to this story.)

Fighting back tears, he said: “I’m a social studies teacher, and I knew I what the heck I was doing.

“There’s a thing in this country called the First Amendment,” he told the crowd of a few hundred. “I firmly believe in the right to express my opinions passionately.”

Jerry, I tried to defend you. But it turns out you were lying to us.

Your faith isn’t something you keep confined to your private life, like you claimed. You openly bring it up in the workplace — on the syllabus, on your biography, who knows where else. It doesn’t matter if you think you treat gay students with respect — you’re still breaking the law and I can’t support you. Not to mention the fact that your lawyer would probably be in the front of the firing squad if I ever did the same things in my classroom.

Go ahead. Keep pushing your faith all you want. People are watching you and taking notice.

I hope a student in his class records him preaching in the classroom or saying something homophobic and takes it directly to the press. It shouldn’t be that hard to catch him — he doesn’t even think he’s doing anything wrong.

By the way, if anyone has a copy of the godly syllabus, please send it to me. I’ll give the first person who gets one to me a nice gift!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Scott Rose

    You were wrong to defend Buell’s actions in the first place, because having invited certain of his school’s students onto Facebook as his “friends” in the first place, he became abusive of them.   He told them that if they disagree with his faith-fueled contempt for gay human beings being given equal rights, they should get off his page; he said he would miss them like his kidney stone.  People are missing that Buell was abusive to students on his Facebook friends list, and that he was abusive towards them out of personal anger that those students from his school don’t subscribe to his religious prejudices.
    What chance is there that this vicious anti-gay bigot has never victimized and abused students in the classroom?  One former student, Bryan Blaise told the Orlando Sentinel that Buell in the classroom once was asked if he thought gay people should be allowed to serve in the US military.  His response was “Yes, on the front lines, with heterosexual soldiers deserting them from behind.”  Not only is there no protection for LGBT students in the Lake County Schools; there likely isn’t even protection for heterosexual students who believe the LGBT students merit protection.  The school district for example has no gay-straight alliance, and its anti-discrimination policy and student code of conduct do not list “sexual orientation” as a protected group.  A very influential anti-gay blogger in the region, Dr. Rich Swier, constantly promotes the idea that anti-gay bullying is a “healthy form of peer pressure.”  Hello?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I already said I disapproved of his friending students on FB.

      As for the personal anecdotes, I don’t take them as seriously as hard evidence.

      I was right to protect him on free speech grounds before. But now that I know he’s bringing his views into the classroom, I don’t support him.

      • cipher

        Hemant, there is no such thing as a conservative Christian who keeps his/her religious opinions out of the workplace/classroom/what-have-you. It can’t be done. IT CANNOT BE DONE. They HAVE to preach; they’re compelled by that inner demon of insecurity that tells them, “If you can convince one more person, maybe you really are right and you really will go to heaven when you die.” Plus, of course, the there’s that business of God giving them seconds on  dessert in heaven, or whatever the fuck it is he supposedly promises them.

        The bottom line is that you have to stop approaching them as though they aren’t mentally ill – because that is precisely what they are.

      • cipher

        Hemant, there is no such thing as a conservative Christian who is capable of keeping his religious views out of the workplace/classroom/what-have-you. It cannot be done. Their insecurity compels them to try to convince as many as possible in desperate attempts to convince themselves, to fend off their own nagging doubt. Plus, there’s that business about God giving them an extra reward in heaven for each soul they bring in. There’s a lot of competition and one-upsmanship going on. It’s all very childish.

        You have to stop regarding them as though they aren’t cognitively impaired or mentally ill – because that is precisely what they are.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

          I know some conservative Christian teachers. They keep their beliefs out of the classroom. It’s not that difficult.

          • cipher

            I suspect that if I were to meet them, I’d tell you they aren’t all that conservative.

            I have to agree with everything Scott has said in this thread. A guy like Buell is a train wreck waiting to happen, especially in rural Florida, which is. I believe, where the congenital idiots in Deliverance used to go for winter vacation.

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephan-Goodwin/676660806 Stephan Goodwin

              “I suspect that if I were to meet them, I’d tell you they aren’t all that conservative.”

              Yay for the No True Scotsman fallacy!

              • cipher

                Fine. Take a count of all the evangelicals you know who don’t think you’re going to hell. When you get to ten, email me.

                I won’t hold my breath.

                • Kevin S.

                  Whether they believe you’re going to hell is irrelevant.  Whether they use their classroom as a pulpit is.

                • cipher

                  Oh, Jesus H. Christ – that was my original point.

                  I swear – and I’ve said this to Hemant and to Richard – you people are getting to be as bad as the fundies.

                • dauntless

                  I’m glad you’ve found a way to feel superior to both groups.

                • Kevin S.

                  If that was your point, you worded it poorly.  Regardless, I was directly responding to your post immediately above mine, which was talking about something irrelevant to the original point.

                • Graciebaddog

                  Cipher is on the money. What I need to do is put field trip together for folks who have never had real southern state, high school experience. Hemant, if you ever tried to teach in this neck of the woods the mere reflectivity of your skin is going to have the drug dogs sniffing your backpack just for fun, and if they Googled your name and saw your blog you’d be calling friends to post bail.

                  The chance of you getting a job in in state like Georgia is about zero. Think about that. As good and qualified as teacher as you are, there are whole states where you would not be hired after a Google search of your name.

                  You may be fine in your little slice of heaven, but there are way more Buell’s than you may realize.

                  There is a real disconnect between my liberal “yankee” atheist friends take on how far we have come and what is really going on down here.

                  Bus for Macon leaves at 9:00.

                • Anonymous

                  I’ve had a bonafide southern education. Macon, Georgia as a matter of fact. Southwest Highschool class of ’86. I have to say that back then I never heard any religious BS in any of my classes. Biology taught evolution with no excuses. What its like now, can’t tell you. I do know my FB friends from my class are really, really religious now (those that stayed in Georgia), which I find funny considering what they were like back then.

                • Anonymous

                  I’ll add that I left the south and have never looked back.

                • http://www.facebook.com/SemperFly Michael Taylor

                  You’re describing a caricature of the south that most people don’t experience. As for his chances of getting a job, I can recall at least three of my teachers growing up in Georgia who were atheist, one of them gay. 

                • Nordog

                  Clicked the “like” link by mistake.

                  You’ve gone from the No True Scotsman to the Categorical Error.

                  No all conservative Christians are evangelicals.  FTR, I have more than a few issues with what is normally called evangelicalism.

        • Anonymous

          What you refer to is “evangelical”, which literally means a need to spread The Word. Often pathological.

          And while that usually overlaps with being conservatives. Are also non-conservative evangelicals and non-evangelical conservatives.

          • cipher

            I chose the term deliberately, and I stand by it.

            there are also non-conservative evangelicals

            Yeah, I hear they just had their annual meeting in the corner booth at Denny’s.

            • Spencer

              You’re a bigot.

              • cipher

                Okay. You’re an asshole.

                Are we done here?

                • Spencer

                  It’s funny, because you display the very traits you claim the people you despise so much have. Either that, or you’re a troll.

                  Probably both.

                • cipher

                  Spencer, you’re a moron.

                • Nordog

                  “Shut up!” he explained.

        • Nordog

          More ignorant bigotry from the athiest world.

          Given that your first paragraph is universally categorical it takes only one contra example to show it to be false.

          I am that one contra example.

          I have been a conservative Christian for over 15 years and I have never done what you believe I must do by virture of the category of which you are obviously ignorant and which is an equally obviously at least one object of your bigotry.

          But then, given that in your enlightened world I am cognitively imparied or mentally ill, I suspect your freethinking mind is actually closed to the the fact that you are wrong.

          Your post is yet another example of the irony deficit to be found here in spades.

          • cipher

            I haven’t the slightest interest in the opinion of someone who thinks I’m going to burn in hell for eternity. When you got on board with that belief system, you sacrificed the privilege of being taken seriously.

            • NorDog

              Once again, your bigotry and presumption have led you into error.

              I don’t think you’re going to burn in Hell for eternity.  Regarding that particular fate, I reserve and entriely agnostic point of view for all people.

              The real reason you have not the slightest interest in my opinion is because you’re rife with hatred and bigotry.  But then, we knew that already.

              • cipher

                Regarding that particular fate, I reserve and entriely agnostic point of view for all people.

                How big of you.

                • NorDog

                  Nope.  I’m not noble, but you’re still a bigot who’s apparently always wrong about the facts.  No wonder you stick to the ad hominems. 

            • NorDog

              LOL.   Great  shift of focus on your part by the way.  Yeah, totally ignore the demonstration that you are factually wrong by engaging in an ad hominem attack based on, once again, your factually incorrect assumptions born of your prejudice.

              Cipher, you provide a great entertainment value.

        • http://www.facebook.com/SemperFly Michael Taylor

          I hope you realize you’re acting exactly like the very same people who would call being homosexual a mental illness or being an atheist a sign of cognitive impairment. You’re not doing yourself or anyone who believes in correcting the misconceptions about atheists any favors. 

          • cipher

            You have no idea of what you’re talking about. Go do some research online before you open your mouth.

    • Anonymous

      I agree.  This is another example of why people need to keep their work and private lives separate.  A lot of schools are starting to ban “Friending” on social networks, which I think is a bit extreme, but if you’re talking about your personal political and religious views, you need to keep that from your students in my opinion.

  • http://diaryofamessylady.wordpress.com/ Lauren

    Why do people still think that you can take something off the Internet? *shakes head* I’d love to see that syllabus too!

  • Scott Rose

    What you should consider is that classroom victims of this hardened type of bigot in that sort of community are afraid ever to come forward to denounce their tormentors, for fear of retaliation from them.  I did an extensive interview with the same student who made that allegation against Buell.   He said that the entire school environment was hostile to gay students and that through therapy, he has overcome much of the internalized homophobia drummed into him there.   There is direct evidence that the school district encourages anti-gay bullying.  The volcanic outpouring of insane anti-gay hate from community members is only one element of the evidence.  If that school district doesn’t retaliate against gay student victims who denounce administrator, teacher and/or student anti-gay bullies, then why isn’t “sexual orientation” included on its anti-discrimination document and its student code of conduct?   I asked the Board when they would be including such language in those documents and was told “No comment.”  And, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a pernicious cancer.  Where it gains dominance in a public school’s athletic department, most students who do not agree with its philsophy and sign its members contract are excluded from school sports. 

  • Susanna

    His email address is listed on the bio copy, so people might feel inclined to send him comments…. Just sayin’.

  • Scott Rose

    Buell is the faculty advisor for the Fellowship at his school.  He has boasted of expanding the group to such an extent that it had to move its meetings from his classroom to the cafeteria.  The Fellowship contract calls for the signer to abstain from homosexuality for life.  The Fellowship tells members that a gay person can pray to Jesus and that he will turn them heterosexual.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Not a club I’d want to join, but it’s not mandatory for students. There are Christian clubs all over the country that believe the same things, and no one’s trying to outlaw them. Again, I’m only concerned with his classroom activity, not his extracurricular bigotry.

      • Annie

        Although I agree with you, as it is not mandatory, I do think this is awfully close to crossing a line.  Every student in a teacher’s classroom should feel safe and free from discrimination or harassment.  If I try to imagine myself being a gay student in this teacher’s class, knowing that he oversees such a “club”, I can tell you, I wouldn’t feel safe or welcome.

        • Ms. Crazy Pants

          I have to agree with Annie. 

          I specifically did not take specific classes in college at one of the places I attended due to it being known that the professor had a problem with women and graded them lower for the same work.  There had also been stories floating around that as a female, you never, ever wanted to stop by his office alone.  If one of his classes had been required for me, I would have been very upset.  There was another professor on that same campus who said to my boyfriend he wouldn’t waste $20 on me, while I was standing there.  I was pretty pissed off that professor saw me as a commodity worth a certain monetary value.  Granted, rather than confront that university, I just left for a better one.  This was over 20 years ago, and admittedly, I was scared to make waves thinking it would make things much worse for me.

          Anyway, my point is that a teacher’s views on certain students, be it by sex, sexual orientation, race, etc., does directly affect a student’s ability to succeed in school.  

          What would anyone think of an open member of the KKK teaching a mixed class?  Do you really think that person would grade minority students fairly? 

          Does anyone really think the teacher in this thread grades gay students fairly, or do you think they get lower grades than the Christian students?  I’d be willing to bet the grades have a difference there.

          • Heidi

            … I’m still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor over that $20 comment. Was he thinking your boyfriend would think that was funny or something? Holy crap. I’m sorry you had that experience.

          • Heidi

            … I’m still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor over that $20 comment. Was he thinking your boyfriend would think that was funny or something? Holy crap. I’m sorry you had that experience.

  • Anonymous

    Hate to say “I told you so.” But, I told you so.

  • Scott Rose

    The Fellowship of Christian Athletes violates LGBT students’ rights to a safe public school environment.   Irrational anti-gay hatred is written into the Fellowships’ members contract.   And, where the Fellowship gains dominance of a public school’s sports programs, gay student athletes are made to feel very unwelcome.  You seem to be unaware that in some places, gay students in US public schools have been told that they may not join the schools sports teams (or even try out for them) unless they agree to pray to Jesus to turn them heterosexual.  The only defense for gay students in areas like that is to hide their orientation as best they can until they are able to get the hell out of the district.  Where students are brave enough to speak out against that insanity, the resolution always involves the gay student getting isolated from the school (i.e. online learning programs at home) while the anti-gay bullies in the school’s administration, staff and student body go unpunished, and continue their bullying.  All in the name of Jesus, of course.

  • http://www.dougberger.net Doug B.

    The guy sounds like John Freshwater from Mt Vernon OH a former middle school science teacher who preached in class and even used a test device to burn a cross in the arm of a student.

    I agree if Buell stuck to his views during his off hours then he shouldn’t be fired or removed from teaching but if he is doing it in the class then he has got to go.

  • Lupita

    You said your syllabus would say ‘I teach God’s a myth’.
    God’s a myth?
    Blasphemy I can handle but bad grammar in a syllabus! Shame on you!

    ; )

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I wrote “I teach that God’s a myth”… where’s the grammar issue?!

      • Lupita

        If there is no grammar issue I apologize. English is my second language so should not be trying to correct others ; )

        I thought it had to be ‘that God IS a myth’. Didnt realize you could use ‘s.  So Hemant’s right : P

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    1)  I would expect better writing skills out of a teacher. 
    2)  I’m amazed Christian schools aren’t furious at people trying to push Christianity into the public schools, because that hurts the market for the Christian schools. 
    3)  If someone really cares that much about a Christian education, then they belong doing what it takes to send their kids to a Christian school rather than bugging everyone else to change for them.  I’ve heard lots of excuses, and every excuse is lame and just an excuse for trying to find an easier route.
    4)  If a teacher cares that much about teaching for God, then that teacher belongs working for a Christian school rather than forcing secular schools to change for him or her.  If that teacher can’t get hired by one, then maybe there’s something wrong with that teacher.

    • Parse

      For your points 3 and 4, it’s not enough for these people to give Christian educations to those who want it.  They want everyone to have it, whether they want to or not.

    • Timothy Rinehart

      Problem is that Christian schools don’t necessarily have the same salary or materials that public schools offer. Some do, others most certainly do not.

  • Scott Rose

    There are unwritten chapters of United States history, concerning homosexual students hounded out of their high-schools, never completing their educations and never finding substantial employment as a result of the severe societal discrimination against them.  The phenomenon continues to this day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1034366850 Erin Jones

    I’m glad that you explained your reasoning for both posts, it’s important that as critical thinkers we let ourselves form new opinions when more information comes to light, and you’ve always done a wonderful job of explaining your thinking when you change your stance on an issue.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    What if the teacher had been making anti-Arab or misogynist remarks on
    his Facebook page? Would that have been acceptable? I would think not.

    In the end, teachers hired to educate the students of a community should
    reflect the values and mores of that community and of society as a
    whole.

    By making such bigoted remarks in a public forum, the teacher made it
    clear that he does not support the values set forth in the U.S.
    Constitution or by society at large.

    If the school board was to make an exception for bigotry against
    homosexuals, then it stands to reason that they would not have a leg to
    stand on if they were to try to take corrective action against a teacher
    who publicly proclaimed bigotry against other minority groups.

    While it may be seen as a matter of free speech to some, this case cannot withstand the test of common sense or decency.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I know this sounds awful, but frankly, I don’t care what statements the guy makes outside of school. Anti-Arab? Misogynistic? Who cares. They’re irrelevant. All that’s relevant to his job is what he says/does while in class.

      He made the anti-gay statements on his *private* Facebook page. He idiotically befriended some of his current students, and he deserves to be reprimanded for that. Not for the content of his post.

      • Anonymous

        Maybe it should be acceptable (and I disagree, since different standards apply for teachers and other persons in authority over others), but you *know* he would have been more severely punished if he made similar comments against another minority. Maybe not Muslims, but African Americans certainly

        • Anonymous

          Why “maybe not muslims”?

      • MakeTheMostOfLife

        YES is does sound really awful. Do you realise what you are saying here???

        ‘I don’t care what statements the guy makes outside of school.
        Anti-Arab? Misogynistic? Who cares. They’re irrelevant. All that’s
        relevant to his job is what he says/does while in class.’

        Who Cares???

        I go, Gays do, Feminists do, Arabs do, Jews do, Atheists Do.

        Of course he is FREE to make those views, that is what Free Speech is, but views should and do come with consequences that are not protected by free speech.

        He is a Teacher employed by the government.  His views DO matter, no matter how they come into the public light, just as if a previous information of a conviction of his came to light that affected his role as a teacher.

        Take the fact that he is a Christan away.

        You are interviewing a teacher for a job:

        He is an Atheist that tell you that he HATES gays and women, but ‘it won’t affect his job in the classroom’.  He is a teacher looking for a job in your school.  This is important, would you then think it is relevant for consideration, for a post in charge of children’s education and mentoring.

        How the information came to light, & the fact that he already a teacher should not change the outcome.

        • Nordog

          Heck, let’s say you’re interview someone like Cipher for a public teaching job.   Should a Christophobe and bigot like Cipher be denied such a job.  Public schools do serve many Christian families after all.

          • MakeTheMostOfLife

            There is a ‘slight’ difference.

            Hating Gays because they are gay is, not the same a disagreeing with a persons belief.

            A lot of people hate Religion and Christianity finding it evil and wicked because of the doctrine, but do not hate individual Christians themselves.  I would speculate this is far more common then someone who hates gayness, but doesn’t hate gays.

            I presume you as angry about the mental illness remark from Cipher.

            Many high profile public atheist speakers cite Christians as being delusional/ignorant.  Sam Harris has written:

            “It is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our
            society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your
            thoughts while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he
            is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your
            bedroom window.”

            There is an important difference with what Sam wrote using the word
            ‘demonstrative of’ which I would agree with.  It does not mean you are
            mentally ill, just that some Christians would exhibit the same symptoms.

            I can understand you find these things offensive if you are a Christian
            as you state, but it does not mean they are totally devoid of truth.

            However calling all Christians mentally ill and the subsequent posts, I would say that his perspective/current employers should be able to use this information to decided Cipher’s suitability for a teaching job.

            I have not said the Buell should be fired, or categorically denied employment (my inclination would be yes, that is a ignorant judgement with limited information).  But the school however should be able to USE this information without either of them hiding behind ‘Free Speech’ as protection for expressing bigoted mindset.

            • Nordog

              Whatever.  Rationalized bigotry is still bigotry.  However, Cipher’s bigotry doesn’t even rise to the level of having been rationalized.

    • Sinfanti

      “In the end, teachers hired to educate the students of a community should
      reflect the values and mores of that community and of society as a
      whole.”

      And Buell is doing just that.  I think the biggest part of the problem here is that his intolerance is likely indicative of the prevalent bigotry in his community and local society. 

      To refer to sense and decency as “common” is far too generous and optimistic.

  • Filippo Salustri

    With respect to all my American colleagues, one might ask if part of the problem is the 1st Amendment.

    It’s been my experience that allowing demonstrably idiotic language to be used arbitrarily (i.e. letting people like Buell go about their business) also allows that kind of thinking to fester within weak minds.  Language can be a weapon, and we must try to control its use as such, especially when those wielding it do so for malevolent reasons.

    I would suggest that there is no benefit to anyone in allowing people to, for instance, deny the Holocaust on 1st Amendment grounds – nor to promote any patently false claims, such as that evolution is “just a theory,” that the bible is literally true, that women are subordinate to men, that vaccines cause autism, that Obama is not an American, or that homosexuality is a “choice.”  Once it is clear that people who make such obviously false claims have had opportunity to correct themselves, then they should be legally obliged to stop making such claims on penalty of substantive imprisonment.

    There will be a large grey area where certain claims are highly contentious, but not really demonstrably wrong.  Such claims must be allowed.  And it must always be treated on a case-by-case-basis.

    The point is: I believe that allowing the propagation of falsehoods allows the propagation of “bad” ideas, which in turn increases the proportion of the population that do stupid things – witness Buell.

    Again, I mean no offence.  I know how important the 1st Amendment is to Americans.  I just think that society – any society – is not yet mature enough to be given 100% freedom of speech.

    • Alice

      What, people should be imprisoned for thoughtcrime?

      I understand your concern and accept that bad ideas can have dangerous consequences (anti-vaxxers, for example), but shouldn’t legal repercussions be limited to what people actually DO, rather than what they think or say?

      Buell is perfectly free to say any damn dumb thing he wants, but when it came to DOING something (namely, proselytizing to a captive audience instead of doing his job), then it crossed a line. I think that is how it should be. It isn’t fair or just to police people’s thoughts, only their actions, otherwise I’d be in the slammer for life because of that one time I wanted to murder my boss (we have made up since that little incident, though ;).

      I’m not offended, just a little appalled.

      • Timothy Rinehart

        I agree with you, but I am also crusading against the overuse of 1984 references in internet discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed totally.  I was also defending this guy for the same reason.  The Facebook account was his and he has the right to post his own feelings there

    But that goes out the window with his Biography and syllabus on the school’s website.  His tight to free speech doesn’t include the classroom where he is paid to teach.  This is  obviously a train wreck waiting to happen ad it’s not safe to leave him with students.

    http://godlessconservative.com

  • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

    Hmm. I kind of wonder why so many of the commenters have their respective panties in a twist over his comments made outside of the classroom; yes, it certainly gives insight to the amount of bigotry in this man (full to bursting!) but I’ve seen an awful lot of bigotry expressed by teachers that didn’t interfere with their ability to teach. I’ve known teachers who were anti-religion or conspiracy theorists or conservative whackadoodles or…whatever. 

    Of course beliefs affect what we do in the classroom, but it doesn’t affect each and every one. A conservative Christian would undoubtedly choose different novels to read than I would, but we can both do a great job teaching our separate books without inserting our personal beliefs.It’s can and should be a separate thing. My atheism wouldn’t affect my ability to make espresso or be a cocktail waitress; same thing with teaching. Also, I wouldn’t want a potential employer to be concerned that my identity as a pro-porn, pro-sex feminist would make me unfit in the classroom; I just make it a point to keep those issues separate (or, if they do need to be addressed, to address them within the context of a classroom activity). 

    They don’t affect my abilities as a teacher. Period.

    (On a side note, Buell is an idiot for adding students to his facebook. I don’t think I would ever do that, simply on the grounds that my private life is my own. Lord knows I don’t need teenagers invading it any more than they already do.)

  • Alex

    I think you were absolutely right to defend Buell’s remarks on his Facebook page (obviously he shouldn’t have friended students). And equally right to condemn him now.
    To blame the First Amendment for his attitude towards what he can say and where is just blindsighted. How many times a day do we hear that another Athiest billboard was rejected? The First Amendment protects the moral MINORITY, and guess what, that includes us too. The only problem here is that Buell works in a state funded PUBLIC school, and on that grounds the First Amendment doesn’t apply to him at work.
    It really gets to me when I see people bashing freedom of speech because they’re offended. Nothing in his syllabus or biography could remotely be construed as hate speech (though it always skeeves me when someone explains they love god far more than their family, and their family about as much as college level football). Just because you’re offended by what someone is saying on their own, private time, doesn’t mean we should shut them up. We should argue with them certainly, but never, ever take away their right to express themselves.
    Who do you think would be hurt more without the First Amendment, Conservative Christians in the upper eschelons of power, or the Athiest community? Exactly.

  • cipher

    Hemant, Richard – please look at this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2011/08/27/jerry-buell-i-rebuke-thee/#comment-297041174

    This is what I was talking to you about last year, and it’s the reason I stay away for long periods of time.

    You have some serious assholes participating here, and I don’t mean the Christian trolls.

    • NorDog

      The level of projection here is astounding.

  • Reetz Scott

    Mr. Mehta,
    Your analogy is apt, and very stimulating. However, I’m not sure I agree for a couple of reasons. First of all, Mr. Buell was forthcoming about his biases, which I think is good. The students are taught that this is a conservative Christian point of view, because the guy is honest. I’m not sure I’m crazy about this “neutrality” I keep hearing about. Nobody is neutral. Everyone imparts their own point of view (religious, political, philosophical, whatever)–the smart ones mask it as neutrality. The second reason I’m glad he was re-instated is that passionate individuals are often quite engaging. I’m a Christian, but I had a wonderful teacher in high school who was atheist (and passionately so). I won’t lie to you, I push my own point of view just like everybody else does, and I can’t say I want the schools pushing an atheist point of view any more than you want them pushing a Christian one, but one learns a lot from getting the other side. One more point I’d like to make. Atheists might benefit not only from evolution in the science classroom, but Bible study in a Christianity class. You can’t participate in the dialogue if you don’t know what’s in the Bible. 

    • MakeTheMostOfLife

      Do you need to have read to Koran in order to ‘participate in dialogue’ with a Muslim and reject that doctrine?  In any case I would not worry too much Atheist’s knowledge about faiths, they were the highest scoring category.

      http://pewforum.org/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey-Who-Knows-What-About-Religion.aspx

      The Bible should be taught as literature or religious studies which covers all main faiths, & there should be no such thing as a Christianity class.

      There is a difference between a Christian pushing a point of view and an Atheist.  You have the point of view and and Atheist rejects it.  That is it. The Atheist point of view only existed because of your view.  If all religion disappeared there would be no atheist view to push.  You have specifically become a Christian because someone pushed their point of view on to you.  You can’t push and non christian point of view any more then you could push a non infinite number of points of view.

      If a class mate from when you were in school came in hell bent on convincing you he was abducted by aliens, ghosts (Or insert belief that you reject).

      Are you equally ‘pushing a point of view’ by just rejecting this claim.  Your rejection only existed because the claim was made and a point of view was pushed on you.

      • Anonymous

        “You have specifically become a Christian because someone pushed their point of view on to you”

        This is a stereotype and/or assumption at best, regarding Reetz and Christians in general.

        15 years ago, I tried to take my life.  I rarely received visitors at my apartment and I was on disability, so I knew no one would come looking for me.  The one person who would come looking for me, my girlfriend at the time, I called and told her I would be going out of town to visit my friend.  That evening I went and purchased sleeping pills and a bottle of alchohol as I knew it would amplify the effects of the sleeping pills.  I returned home, took a handful of pills with the alchohol.  I layed down with the expectation I would not be discovered until the stench of death was discovered.  I closed my eyes and drifted into darkness, never to wake up again. At some point into my slumber, I heard a voice which commanded me, “Go get help” [Your free to ascribe this 'mental illness', but when does a mental illness tell one to get help?].  I knew this could only be the voice of God and I did as I was commanded. By the time I reached the hospital, numbness was setting in rapidly and had set in up my thighs up to where my groin area begins.  Had I not heeded that voice, I would not be replying to your comment, today.

        This is why I am a Christian; because I had an encounter with the living God.  No one had to push their point of view on me.

        • MakeTheMostOfLife

          Honestly that is a really tragic story and I feel for you.

          Your rational for your conviction is a voice you heard in you head while in a drunk slumber mixed with sleeping pills.

          If god exists and loves you, why did you even end up in that position in the 1st place?

          Why are you utterly convinced it was the Christian God and not a different God, spirit, Guardian angel, ghost, sub-consciousness?

          Why did God choose to save you but not others who commit suicide or are murdered?

          Why did God choose to save you but let 9 million children under the age of 5 die, some of horrific painful diseases every year. (34,000 of starvation)…. but save you?

          You would advise to read some books explaining the science of the mind and the voice you experienced can easily be explained.

          Indecently I have a friend who years ago tried to kill himself in exactly the same way, but he also mid way through changed his mind and got himself to a hospital.  Whatever went on in his mind it certainly didn’t make him religious.

          Your are a Christian because you were indoctrinated with the ‘idea’ of
          Christianity and then heard a voice in your head, and matched it up. 
          Otherwise you could not ascribe the voice to the Christian God.

          Glad u pulled though :)

          • Anonymous

            It appears no one can have a conversation with you, without you telling them what they think or don’t think and what their motives are.

            From a biblical standpoint, I would attribute this to pride, but since you are an atheist and prefer to be addressed from that frame of reference, I will address you from such.  

            From a psychological standpoint I would attribute your actions to an overbearing father, mother, and/or guardian who constantly subjected you to the abuse of telling you what you thought or didn’t think or what you real motives were.  I would even go as far as to speculate that this individual may have even presented themselves as religious.  As a result of this, you feel the need to subject others to this abusive behavior, as it empowers you to be the subjector versus the subjected.

            I have no issue with your desire to debate your opinions and I have even went as far as to present you with a venue to do such.  What I do have an issue with is your desire to force your opinion of an individuals motives as fact.

            I have engaged in healthy dialogue with more die hard atheist than yourself and in the end I myself, as a Christian, and them, as an Atheist, can I agree to disagree. 

            In closing, I feel we’ve both been disrespectful to monopolize Mr. Mehta’s blog with a heated discussion that is far removed from the topic.  If you wish to continue this discussion, you’re more than welcome to provide me with an alternate venue (ex. e-mail, messenger, etc) where we can continue.  Otherwise, I wish you the best in life.

            • MakeTheMostOfLife

              My friend, all I have done is ask you tough questions, and challenged your ascensions, that you have kept making.  You deserve to be challenged for the posts you made, claiming the mind of Jesus and Bible texts as facts about the universe.  You seem to have a problem with this, even resorting to some wacky offensive psychological assessment on my upbringing, while simultaneously giving yourself a pat on the back for how mature you are, and all the ‘healthy dialogue’ you engage in.   Did that make you feel good??  It’s a shame you let yourself down resorting to that kind of attack, but if it is easier then answering the questions I challenged your faith with, then so be it.

              The reason I am passionate about challenging you, is that I think faith is the most dangerous, divisive, threat to our existence as a species there is.  It’s nothing against you personally, its all faith & globally we are in trouble

              I’m certainly have no immediate plans to go to a rapture forum to debate anyone there….. I don’t know if that is your thing, but I tell you upfront that is a big, dangerous cup of crazy as far as I’m concerned.  Never say never, but I can’t personally see any point on getting teamed up on by people looking forward to an apocalypse.

              If you would like to answer the ream of unanswered points I made, I would be interested in your response, but that is up to you.  My email is the tag I use here at gmail.com

              I can’t promise I really up for debate, that is not my intention from the start.  It was specifically to publicly challenge you about quoting bible verses as facts and ‘knowing’ the mind of Jesus. People who do that deserve nothing less.  I have no delusions about you changing your mind from anything I write, but it could always be worth it for the fence sitters, who come across these kind of dialogs.

  • Anonymous

    I post this comment with a reasonable expectation that EVERYONE is entitled to his/her choice and/or opinion and with no desire to engage in a theological debate.I would like to address a few points addressed in this blog:

    1. “I was right to protect him on free speech grounds before. But now that I know he’s bringing his views into the classroom, I don’t support him.”- Hemant, it is my hope that you would continue to support Mr. Buell at least on his right to free speech.2. “One former student, Bryan Blaise told the Orlando Sentinel that Buell in the classroom once was asked if he thought gay people should be allowed to serve in the US military.  His response was “Yes, on the front lines, with heterosexual soldiers deserting them from behind.”

    - Scott, if Mr. Buell did in fact (he said, she said) make this statement; as a Christian, I totally disagree with and do not condone such a statement.  Without a doubt I believe Jesus Himself would rebuke such a statement as evidenced in Luke 9:52-56: – 52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him.53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."] And they went on to another village.

    3. “Plus, there’s that business about God giving them an extra reward in heaven for each soul they bring in. There’s a lot of competition and one-upsmanship going on. It’s all very childish.”

    - Cipher, could you please cite the chapter and verse which you are referring to?  My understanding as a Christian is found in Ephesians 2:8-9 –  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast

    Healthy conversation begins with respecting each persons free-will to have a choice and opinion and not resorting to insults when those choices and/or opinions do not agree with our own.

    • MakeTheMostOfLife

      No desire to enter into a theological argument, but start spouting the mind of Jesus, bible verses, and challenge others to cite chapters and verses from your magic book?

      I’m sure the bible is really important for you life, just like the Koran is really important in a Muslims life.

      How important is the Koran to you? How important are the texts showing that Muhammad assured his followers that Jesus was not divine (Koran 5:71-75; 19:30-38) and that anyone who believes otherwise will spend eternity in Hell.

      What goes on inside your mind when you read that?  Understand THAT is how the Koran & the Bible are to Atheists. Literature, and it proves nothing in discussion. 

      Further more offering these passages as some sort of defense of your point of view in my opinion show narcissistic arrogance at its worst.

      You post out a few texts from a book that is utterly self-contradictory as evidence that you alone have correctly interpreted the exact mind and will of God and Jesus.  I’ve met Christians convinced the Pope is going to hell as a heroic because of his views on evolution. You all have slightly different versions and opinions and interpretations.  But isn’t it just fabulous for you that you alone have deciphered the true mind of the creator, and teachings of Christianity while all others have failed?

      The Koran says you are going to hell for believing Jesus is divine.  There are many Christians who without a doubt believe you are going to hell for your ‘version’ of Christianity.

      Think about that the next time you want to quote bible verses, and start sentences in your defense with “I without a doubt I believe Jesus would……Insert bible verses”

      You can’t prove anything to atheists by quoting bible passages.

      • Anonymous

        1a. I stated my intent and If you choose receive it in a different context, that is your prerogative.

        1b. My request to cipher was just that and not a challenge, again it is your choice if you chose to receive it in a different context.  I was merely seeking a reference to his statement, to satisfy my own curiousity.

        1c. I don’t own a magic book as witchcraft is considered a sin and I don’t practice sin – note: I did not say that I was without sin, only that I did not practice it.

        2. Yes, the bible is really important to my life as I am sure the text you read in your life are to you.

        3.The Koran is important as a reference to understanding what a fellow wo/man of the Muslim faith believes. The text you refer to (Koran 5:71-75; 19:30-38) are an important insight into what a fellow wo/man of the Muslim faith believe as stated previously.

        4a. What goes on inside my mind; see #3 response. In healthy discussion there is an exchange of thoughts, ideas, and opinions; in a debate there is something to prove.

        5a. At what point was I trying to ‘defend’ my point of view? Again, it may be that you’ve received something out of context.  I am secure in my beliefs (faith); thefore, I have no need to defend it.

        5b. And your opinion is just that, an opinion.

        6a. Self-contradictory – your more than welcome to cite your facts, if you so choose.

        6b. If you have taken my statement, “Without a doubt I believe…”, as I alone having correctly interpreted scripture; again, my statement appears to have been subjected to your interpretation.  My statement, ‘I believe’, is an assertive opinion at best, based on the words of Jesus.

        6c. A Christian is commanded to not judge as there is only one who judges and that is Jesus (ref: John 5:22)

        6d. I only need to read the Bible to understand the mind of God; ex. Thou shalt not commit adultery and Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife.  That is pretty cut and dry, I shouldn’t covet (desire, wish for) my neighbors wife or sleep with someone else’s wife; for example, my neighbors wife.

        7. Is not a fellow wo/man of the Muslim faith entitled their beliefs whether I agree with them or not?

        8. I did consider when I started my sentence with, ” Without a doubt I believe”, see #6b

        9. Once again, if you have received my comment thread as trying to ‘prove anything to atheist by quoting bible passages’, that is entirely your prerogative. I had nothing to prove, as I stated, “… and with no desire to engage in a theological debate”

        • MakeTheMostOfLife

          You have not challenged yourself at all with the
          points I made.

           

          You stating your intent is meaningless in the
          context you used.  It’s like saying “I
          don’t mean to offend you, but….” Further more, the evidence from you posts
          shows your curiosity will never be satisfied with anything that challenges your
          faith, not matter what you write.

           

          Complete evasion of the Bible/Koran (books I
          read!?) point.  You are not quoting bible
          verses to give people reference of your understanding.  You are trying to use it as proof.  But it doesn’t matter, you are GUARANTEED
          Hell.  Other Christians believe that for
          you.  The Koran states it as fact.  It is not just an ‘important reference’ to
          their understanding.  For you to be right
          Muslims are profoundly deluded about the nature of reality & millions base
          their entire life around a ‘magic book’ which is false.  You agree with this.  How about you write a piece on the legitimacy
          of the Koran as the perfect word and law of god?

           

          It’s not about a Muslim giving you an insight into
          what they believe.  Why is it not a fact
          for you that believing Jesus is divine guarantees you hell? Why have you
          critically discarded all the other faiths? You are clearly utterly unwavered by
          the Koran stating the fact that you are going to hell.  You have effectively brushed it aside as,
          they are entitled to there deluded opinion, by my god/understanding is the real
          one.  Quoting the Koran has clearly had no
          effect what so ever on you.

           

          Do you get an understanding of what you bible
          quoting is to others yet?

           

          It has
          a lot of good teachings, which you are cherry picking, but is it also filled
          with scientific errors, moral blunders, self-contradiction, and horrendous
          violence.  If you disagree/don’t admit
          that, then you have not read the Bible.

           

          I also don’t care what the bible says about
          witchcraft being a sin. Do you see what you did there…again?  You claim you don’t but you do.  You are stating a fact about the universe,
          using the bible as proof. Once again. NOT INTERESTED.  What about the people who do believe in
          witchcraft?  I’m pretty sure they ‘know’
          they are right and don’t give a hoot about what your bible says.

           

          The
          truth, should you ever arrive at it, is to accept, is that the Bible is just a
          book that has been crudely cobbled to by utterly ignorant mortals.  There are 100s of such claimed divine books,
          most a mutually canceling, but all are nothing more then a claimed magic book
          by its followers.

           

          You are Christian only because you have been
          indoctrinated, to be so.  If you had
          grown up in all manor of other cultures, you (& I) would be anything from
          fanatical Muslims to Aborigines believing in spirits and a thousand things
          more.  You would have a different magic
          book/belief set that guides your life.  That
          should be a scary thought for you, and give you pause in your unwavering conviction.  Given a change of birth you could be plotting
          murder over someone drawing a picture of Mohamed, burning the Koran, or even a Christian that believes god wants you to murder abortion doctors.

           

          Such is the danger of blind faith.

          • MakeTheMostOfLife

            eh… what happened with the crazy spacing…..

          • Anonymous

            As I stated time and time again, my intent is to not engage in a theological debate on this thread.  I am quickly coming to the conclusion, by your antagonistic responses,  anything less than a theological debate will not satisfy you.

            If you wish to engage in a theological debate, you are more than welcome to do so at the following link:

            http://www.rap-con.com/forum

            Under general discussion you can enter the Skeptics’ Corner.

            I will gladly accommodate your desire for a debate there in the discussion thread.

  • Sasquatch

    EVERYBODY brings all their views, religious or otherwise into the classroom, or wherever they go. Anyone who thinks they don’t is a liar. But it really doesn’t matter- people are who (or what) they are. Like the song says- what I am is what I am, you’re what you are or what. (I love that line.) 70-90% of people in the US believe in God. It doesn’t really matter. A lot of teachers are atheists too. That doesn’t matter either.

    What matters is the nuts and bolts- the subjects being taught. As long as they are, personal opinions about religion, politics, or anything else is just considered opinion. We all have one of those, last time I checked. I defend Mr Buell. And I am appalled at anyone who tries to silence an opinion- any opinion, in the United States, where freedom of speech is king (not to mention freedom of religion). I like it and I welcome it, whether I agree or not. It promotes debate, and makes us all smarter in the end.

    He has every right to tell his students he believes in God. And they have every right to tell him they don’t. Just as a teacher should have the right to tell his students he doesn’t believe in God, and the students are welcome to agree or disagree. that’s life. Welcome aboard.

  • BGDad

    Instinct Magazine is today reporting (http://bit.ly/mWABvx) that Mr. Buell made statements, in the classroom, to the effect that gay soldiers should be intentionally set up to be killed in combat. From the article:

    One of Buell’s former students shares with EF [Equality Florida] a discussion held in his classroom about repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

    “I looked up when he said he supported
    gays in the military, stunned by the answer. He immediately followed
    that comment with the statement that we should then put them on the
    front lines, and pull back.”

  • http://fred5.myopenid.com/ fred5

    Just so you know how this whole situation ended up the School District found that he did not violate the district’s code of conduct or the code of ethics and reinstated him to his position. 

    The current article on the situation can be found here.

    Please note that according to  the blogJoe My God a reference to the KKK was edited out of the article as well as a statement  that the School Board was of the opinion that Buell  had violated the rules. 

    The exact paragraph deleted was this:

    Sources close to the investigation told WFTV, the school board chose the easy way out. Our sources say, the board thought Buell had violated the rules, but didn’t want to deal with a costly legal battle or backlash from the KKK which had threatened to protest in front of the district headquarters.

    Source for above paragraph:  Google Cache

    What a world.


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