Christians Must Have Very a Different Definition of ‘Valentine’…

Second grader Dexter Thielhelm wanted to hand out homemade Valentines earlier this week, but the evil administrators at his school confiscated them before he had a chance to hand them out!

… at least, that’s the story that’s making the rounds.

A couple things to point out:

1) This is part of the valentine he wanted to hand out:

(Gary C. Klein / The Sheboygan Press)

There’s no message better than, “Jesus loves you! And if you don’t agree, you’re going to be tortured for all eternity.”

2) The public school would’ve treated anyone else trying to proselytize in class the same way. They’re not discriminating against Christians, no matter what Thielhelm’s mom or religious activists want you to think. The school administrators have to make things work for everyone and they did the right thing in this case. It’s a very different situation from, say, a high school, where you don’t have to give valentines to everybody and no one would (or should) stop students from writing a similar message.

3) How come no reporter ever asks the parents in these situations how they would react if a Muslim student gave everyone in class a valentine that read, “There is no god but Allah”? How about, “Roses are red, Violets are blue, God doesn’t exist, but I like you!”

Would they be fine with that? Because I’m sure plenty of atheists would chip in and send those valentines to everyone in that second grade class…

4) What seven-year-old chooses that to be his valentine to everyone? Whatever happened to cheesy valentines featuring cartoon characters? Was this valentine his choice or his mom’s choice? If this is the mom’s sneaky way of pushing Jesus in an elementary school via her kids, then it’s just pathetic on her part. Not that it would be ok if it was the son’s decision, but it’s an important aspect of the story and it’s being ignored.

(Thanks to Chris for the link)

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.

  • PJB863

    I agree with the school:  bad grammar and lack of punctuation should not be allowed!  It’s also a bad reflection on the kid and his parents.

    • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Uly

       Word for word what I was going to post.

  • Anonymous

    Christians seem to be completely oblivious to how creepy and culty that friggin’ verse makes them look. It’s only amplified by the poor grammar.

    • guest

      I’m a christian and if anyone is atheist, I don’t care, so why do atheists care that some people believe that there is a god??? If you don’t believe there is a god fine but don’t put people down for not believing what you believe.

      • Scott

        I’m an Atheist it doesn’t bother me if you are a Christian. You’re are entirely welcome to your beliefs and I’m happy you can choose to believe whatever you want. Many Atheists feel the same way. Your beliefs, when kept to yourself, don’t bother me at all. I don’t even think about them until they are pushed into my field of awareness.

        But you’ve missed the point.

        This is happened at a public school where students of varying beliefs (or a distinct lack of) go to learn and develop. Why does a Christian assume that those that are non-Christians would want to receive a Christianity based message?

        This is pushing beliefs into the awareness of others. This does bother people that don’t share your beliefs. It is noise. To an Atheist it is a message based on gibberish. An invisible man. A fairy tale character.

        It is offensive for the same reason that Atheists don’t want politicians that are making decisions based on their faith. In general they want politicians that are making decisions based on logic and the well being of society.

        Peace ! :)

    • guest

      I’m a christian and if anyone is atheist, I don’t care, so why do atheists care that some people believe that there is a god??? If you don’t believe there is a god fine but don’t put people down for not believing what you believe.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    I’m betting  his mum forced him to bring those.

  • Sidewinder

    “Roses are red, violets are blue, there is no God, but I like you!” is my new default Valentines poem. Next year…

  • Richard Hughes

    Hey, when 7 year old kids preach their profound belief in evolution, we aren’t so suspicious. He could just be a super faithful seven year old who is super pumped about Jesus’ saving love and hasn’t, uh, quite worked out the issues with it yet.

    • Charon

       I’d be suspicious of a 7-year-old kid preaching profound belief in evolution. I don’t recall understanding evolution at that age. I did want to be a microbiologist, but that was when I was 9, and I still don’t think I understood evolution, just that microorganisms were cool.

      Hell, most adults don’t understand evolution, and not just the freaky religious ones. I know “decent with modification and natural selection” seems like an easy idea, but… maybe it isn’t for people who haven’t thought about it. It’s hard for me to judge what normal people understand (~90% of my interaction is with people who either already have PhDs or are in the process of getting them).

      I mean, we get astro 101 college students who don’t know the difference between our solar system, the galaxy, and the universe. Never underestimate the lack of knowledge out there.

      • Demonhype

         That astro 101 thing is truly freaky.  I understood the difference between those things in grade school, and I didn’t even have any particular interest in  them.  It’s hard to believe anyone wouldn’t understand that.  But then, there are people who don’t comprehend the difference between private belief, public behavior, and governmental endorsement, so i shouldn’t be surprised.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com/ Robert Madewell

    Not to mention that “Jesus Love You” is grammatically incorrect. Sounds like the valentine is commanding Jesus to love me.

    • Anonymous

      Um, the kid forgot an “s”. Read the comments in this post for some “real” grammar infractions.

      • Gus Snarp

        The kid didn’t forget an ‘s’, his parents did. And I would spent a little more time checking my spelling and grammar on something I was going to print and hand out than on a quick blog comment.

      • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com/ Robert Madewell

        I still think it wasn’t the 2nd grader that created the valentines. It was probably his mother. Misspelling is very common in the “witnessing for Christ” business. I have a picture of a sign that says, “Jusus Saves” and and another that says,”Jesus is cumming!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthonyjwmoss Tony Moss

    Slightly off topic but my daughter brought home a valentine greeting from her daycare that featured Wolverine.  Yes, nothing says “love” like six razor sharp adamantium claws and a bad attitude.

    • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

      My love for you is ageless because of its mutant healing factor.  You’ve coated my heart in the unbreakable adamantium of your love.  I may have forgotten my past but I’ll never forget you.  Be careful with me because the only thing I can’t regenerate… is my heart.  

      I could do this all day.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Katie-King/1609372166 Katie King

         dude, you’re a genius.

    • Gus Snarp

      Yeah, the commercial valentines parents by their kids today are bizarre.

  • Ryansbigwalk

    Not sure I’m seeing the problem here.  It’s seperation of Church and State, not Church and people attending, but not employed by State.

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to go against the grain here and say that the school probably should have allowed it.    
    By allowing it, it’s doubtful that the school can be considered to be endorsing Christianity and, therefore, it is in no danger of violating the establishment clause. By disallowing it, the school could be construed as violating the free exercise clause as far as the student’s rights are concerned.  Further, this will probably cost a lot of money in the impending legal quagmire, that the school may very likely lose.

    He isn’t hurting anyone, nor violating anyone’s rights.  Plus, kids are going to have to learn how to deal with the kooky religious nuts at some point.  Why not elementary school?

    • http://www.facebook.com/anthonyjwmoss Tony Moss

      I don’t see this as a church/state issue.  I see it as one parent wanting to invade the classroom with aggressive proselytizing and a principle seeing it for what it was.  John 3:16 is I think the most egregious line in the Gospels.  Sure, it says that if you believe in Jesus then you won’t perish – but the subtext is that if you don’t then hey, you’re one of the perishers.

      • Anonymous

        I agree that it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s not illegal.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/musiqueforlife Jennifer Beahan

      Agreed. plus I remember what I did with all my valentines from elementary school – took off the candy and threw everything else in the trash! 

      Besides, as a student he has the right to share his personal beliefs – if that was the valentine the teacher wanted to give everyone, that’s a different story.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

        He doesn’t have the right to terrorize others with his beliefs, and the direct implications of that particular verse are truly awful — saying that if you don’t believe, you WILL go to hell.

        • Anonymous

          A bit melodramatic, but I agree with you.  Unfortunately, it’s still technically within the religious kid’s constitutional rights to do so.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

            Except that no, no, it ISN’T. Nobody is telling this kid he can’t have those beliefs.

            All the school is telling him is that he is not allowed to proselytize.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1133107040 Heather White

      No, forcing your religion on other children is not a case of “he isn’t hurting anyone”. If I were a parent and my child came home with this, I would be in the school the next day to ask some very uncomfortable questions about why this was allowed to be passed out to my child. We are Pagan at my house, do not believe in proselytizing, and would not be amused in the least that someone’s kid was allowed to preach like this to our child. I personally found my “Christian” upbringing abusive, and feel people like this child and his parents should keep their sky-daddy boogey-man to themselves.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, they should keep their religion to themselves.  But, that doesn’t change my point:   They did nothing illegal and the school should not have gotten involved.

        • Anonymous

          Schools – especially elementary schools – restrict all kinds of things that aren’t illegal elsewhere. There is plenty of judicial precedent that freedom of religion and speech can be abridged when dealing with elementary school children, because they can’t judge the consequences and implications of everything. High school is different

          • Charon

             High school isn’t much different. See Hazelwood v. Kulhmeier (1987). Wikipedia actually has a decent article on school speech.

            Schools are allowed to suppress all sorts of student behavior that is legally protected elsewhere.

    • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

      The school isn’t in danger here because they didn’t do anything illegal.  In an environment like elementary school the rights of a child to express themselves freely is balanced by both the rights of the other students and the unique needs of the establishment.

    • Xeon2000

      I actually agree with you. The school is not endorsing religion so I don’t see a legal problem.

      Sure the valentine thing sounds annoying. Sure it might be uncomfortable to explain it to your child (doubtful they’ll even understand at that age). Still, it’s not illegal. Just right it off as the “weird religious kid” that passes out Jesus Valentines that nobody wants.

    • Rma42084

      It’s a good point, but by allowing the student to hand out the valentines in what is, essentially, a school sanctioned project, the school can be held liable for the behavior of the student. while i agree that what he was doing was technically not illegal, nor was the school’s prohibition of his behavior. The latter strictly protects the school much better should there be litigation. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

      If I’m not mistaken, not only would the school not be creating a church-state issue by allowing him to pass out the valentines, I think they MAY be running afoul of constitutional law by stopping him from doing so!  I’m a little vague on the limits of the prohibitions, but generally prohibiting student speech is a big no-no.

      His mom still sucks for doing this.  What a load of garbage.  But, I believe it may be protected.

    • John Sherman

      The Bible quote may be creepy, but I don’t see the problem. It is a student exercising his First Amendment rights. I see no state-run entity forcing religion on anyone in this situation.

  • Lmaris Lmaris

    One doesn’t “preach” evolution.  One teaches it using actual proof.  Preaching about Jesus in this valentine  (a) pushes belief of an individual of whom there is absolutely no contemporaneous proof of existence, and (b)  promotes a specific religious faith in a public school which is unconstitutional.

    Had the kid merely wanted to give valentines, he could have done it after school, off school grounds.  But no, his parents encouraged him to do it during school hours. 

    Imagine how outraged if he’d handed out texts promoting worship of Allah, or the Giant Spaghetti Monster, Satan, or no god at all.  

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately, the school (theState) would not discourage a child from promoting worship of Satan, Allah, or no god at all. It happens every day. Not sure about the Spaghetti monster.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

         Liar.

  • http://twitter.com/happy_skeptic David

    It’s unfortunate that Christians are so hot for dropping John 3:16 everywhere, especially when considering that the next verse reads, “For god sent not his son into the world to condemn the world.” Oh, if only they focused a little more on that one, we might all be able to live in peace.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy2q

    I’m amazed at how many Christians scream about “parental rights” then think nothing about violating the ‘parental rights” of others by proselytizing to other peoples’ children (or attempting to).

    • Anonymous

       Anything is permissible if god commands it

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=862685220 Chris Dunbar
  • Anonymous

    Apparently, I have 2 accounts. 

  • Jo

    Honestly, I just don’t care. We don’t have a right to not be offended. I think the school should have let the kid hand them out. I probably would have tossed them away and used it as a teachable moment with my children, but honestly this just isn’t worth getting my panties in a bunch.

    My seven year old is more than able to tell people what she believes. Her grammar might not be perfect, but she happily told a minister who was bugging my husband that “me and my mommy don’t believe in god!” A 7 year old might not have put that Valentine together , but I do think it is possible that a child that age is capable of expressing their beliefs and could support sharing them this way.

  • Xeon2000

    I think the school was in the wrong and they should have let the kid pass out his cards. There was no state endorsement of religion here. I am an atheist and I support the separation of church and state.

    • Charon

       This isn’t a separation of church and state issue. It’s a “kid being a jerk (probably at the urging of a parent)” issue. Schools are allowed to restrict that behavior (1st-Amendment rights are not very protected in K-12 schools). You can argue whether or not the school should have acted, but it was clearly legal for the school to restrict this behavior, and it’s not helpful to confuse this with a church and state issue.

      • Anonymous

        You can damn sure bet the religious kids’ parents will make it a free exercise issue and, whether they win or lose, it’s going to cost the school district a lot of money.

      • Xeon2000

        Limits are correct when applied appropriately. In a pluralistic society, correct application of limits is tricky.

        Religion is particularly murky. You want citizens to be allowed the free exercise of potential religious beliefs, but you don’t want to endorse them. I interpret this as a state remaining neutral.

        You say this isn’t a church/state issue though. Ok. If that’s so, then was the schools reaction appropriate? Was the kid being a jerk?

        I would say no, he was not. He was just a confused, albeit indoctrinated, kid. Moreover, I would suggest that the school was likely touchy about the subject of religion in school due to the increased press coverage of public school church/state issues. I would then suggest that this is indeed a church/state issue because that’s likely what motivated their decision in the first place.

        • amyc

          One thing I hope the school learned: before valentine’s day, send a note home to parents explicitly stating what is and is not allowed on valentines. The worst part of this is that it probably wasn’t the student’s fault, the parent probably made these, and then the student wasn’t allowed to pass them out (I think for good reason), but then that kid probably felt like crap for not having valentine’s to pass out. There should be clear-cut rules for this type of thing. There always were when I was in elementary school.

  • Anonymous

    How about Ecclesiastes 9:5-6? 

    “For the living know that they will die,  but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward,  and even their name is forgotten.  Their love, their hate  and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.”

    • Anonymous

       Those were the good old days before sweet hippie Jesus invented hell

  • Anonymous

    Song of Songs could produce some decent Valentines.  But John 3:16?  Not so much.

  • Anonymous

    It’s just a simple bible verse. In fact, it is arguably one of the most popular verses in the entire bible. It describes how much God loves us. Why are you so intolerant?

    • Anonymous

      Yes,  God loves us so much that he gives us the choice of believing in him with no evidence or burning in hell.

      • Anonymous

        It’s not burning in a literal pit of fire. it’s simply separated from God. We have the choice and it requires faith. Atheists and other non-believers simply live apart from God, for eternity. God doesn’t want to impose his will on us. He wants us to want to be with him. What are you afraid of?

        • Gus Snarp

          You seem to subscribe to a particular version of Christianity and think it’s the only one anyone else subscribes to as well. For a great many Christians it is very much a literal pit of fire. Don’t make the mistake of believing that just because your sect has a milder version of hell, it somehow isn’t a scary story for a child, or that anyone else reading it is absorbing your message rather than the one clearly described in the actual text that the vast majority of Christians for two thousand years have very much believed.

          And no one here is afraid of hell, because we’re pretty confident that no such place exists. But some of us don’t want nightmare inducing stories, however fictional or devoutly believed, told to our small children.

          • Brian Scott

            Ah, yes, I forgot to mention that. Abandonment is a very legitimate and extraordinarily strong fear for children. This “mild” concept of hell is just as terrifying for them as would be a fire pit: you are literally telling the child that she will be alone, forever, because they did something bad. That they will be abandoned and never be happy again.

            Under any other context, this would be egregious child abuse.

        • Brian Scott

          http://carm.org/hell

          “Hell is a place of eternal fire and punishment”

          http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07207a.htm

          “The poena sensus, or pain of sense, consists in the torment of fire so frequently mentioned in the Holy Bible. According to the greater number of theologians the term fire denotes a material fire, and so a real fire. [b]We hold to this teaching as absolutely true and correct.[/b]”

          Note that above text has been accorded imprimatur and nihil obstat.
          I could probably quote you all over the place on theologian and church officials past and present acknowledging that hell is a genuine [i]punishment[/i] (i.e. not an accidental occurrence, though that would also be wretched, but a wilful imposition by the Christian god) made of tortuous pains.
          I can link you cases of people suffering trauma due to persistent and unceasing indoctrination of hell full of fire and brimstone.  Look up religious trauma syndrome.

          I could tell you right off the top of my head the arguments various apologists use to justify and demonstrate the justice of such a hell.

          If you don’t believe it? Fine, but don’t pretend that this is somehow a fringe opinion while your interpretation is mainstream.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for clearing that up Danarone, that’s much less ridiculous.

          • Brian Scott

            It’s less immoral, to be sure, but I wouldn’t call it less ridiculous. It has the underlying assumption that without their god, humans are ultimately miserable. Given how much of the world lives without him happily, it illustrates how ridiculous it is.

            • Anonymous

              I know I was being sarcastic, the conversion of an aggressive-aggressive god into a passive- aggressive one adds an extra layer of ridiculousness

        • Anonymous

          The “separation from god” part is the Old Testament. Compare it to the Jewish beliefs about the afterlife. I thought True Christians didn’t believe in that anymore. When Jesus came along he preached about fire and brimstone.

          It’s true that much of the specifics about hell and purgatory were invented later, but Jesus mentions the pit of fire several times

        • T-Rex

          You sure know an awful lot of what gawd wants and requires of us. Why is that? Can you provide some proof or evidence please? That’s all us atheists ask. I’ve got an open mind. Show me some hard evidence and I’ll be at church Sunday saying all the magic words, chanting the mantras, singing the magic songs and communicating telepathically with the malevolent jerk.

          • Anonymous

            I  wish I could provide hard evidence. But there’s are so many theories that contradict each other. Big gaps and leaps of faith that must be taken. No demonstratable repeatable experiments to prove it. things that make sense logically, but they fall apart under further examination.

            But enough about atheism.

            • Gus Snarp

              I’m not sure what makes you more clueless: That you think that was funny, that you think it actually makes any sense, or that you made a comment earlier about how the comments here have worse grammar than the Valentine and then wrote this.

              Atheism has no theories, let alone contradictory ones, and obviously can’t be proven because you can never prove a negative. It is simply a lack of belief in gods. You know, kind of like the way you’ve come to the conclusion that
              all the religions and holy books  in world are wrong except your Christian sect. We just take that to the logical conclusion and include Christianity with the rest of the myths.

              • guest

                well, at least if we are right, then we will at least be in heaven, and if your right then we have nothing to lose 

              • guest

                well, at least if we are right, then we will at least be in heaven, and if your right then we have nothing to lose 

  • Demonhype

    Also, a religious tract is not a valentine.  A valentine is a card
    expressing personal affection for another human being, not a card
    expressing God’s love for those who hold the correct beliefs and eternal
    damnation for those who don’t (ie: proselytizing).  If it said
    something along the lines of how God wants us to love one another, or
    about how God can be found in the love we show others, or something
    about how  God is in all of us and so he (the child)  loves everyone, or
    something to that effect, that might pass muster IMO.  It’s religious,
    but it is technically a valentine.  It expresses love and affection for
    other people from himself, even if it’s at God’s command or because God
    is present in all of us, or whatever.  But this is nothing of the sort.

    Besides all that, a message that someone murdered his son to show how
    much he loves you is less a message about “how much God loves” anyone
    but more a message about how incredibly horror-movie creepy God is. 
    Imagine if I came to your door with the mangled body of my kid and said
    “lookie here, I murdered my child so I could finally forgive you for
    playing your records too loudly/letting your dog crap on my lawn/etc,
    aren’t you impressed at how very much I LOVE you?”
     

    • Anonymous

      You are incredibly misinformed about the fundamental premise behind Christianity.

      • Gus Snarp

        Someone is, anyway.

      • Brian Scott

        The fundamental premise as I understand it is this:

        Humans were created by a single god who made them such that they are at their best when in communion with him. Due to sin, this communion is severed and live apart from this god to their own detriment.  Furthermore, due to sin, they are apportioned punishment for offence against the sovereignty of this god. This god being just requires expiation for these offences to be forgiven, however there is sacrifice by human hands that can fulfil this. Therefore, this god made himself human and suffered torture and death to satisfy the sacrificial requirements and/or judiciary apportion of punishment as a substitution for humanity so that their sins may be forgiven and they may be restored into communion with this god, which they may accomplish by believing in him and “accepting” his gift.

  • Gus Snarp

    There is very little creepier than people who gladly turn their children into proselytizing machines. Please, leave my children alone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

    And I disagree with MFMonroe that “he isn’t hurting anyone”.  What an awful message to be handing out at Valentine’s!  but I believe it is constitutionally protected…

  • Ryan Jung

    “Jesus Jew-Jew-Jews you.”

  • SJH

    There’s no message better than, “Jesus loves you! And if you don’t agree, you’re going to be tortured for all eternity.”

    I do not feel like looking it up right now but is there something in the Bible which states that if you do not believe in Jesus then you will go to hell? It seems that statements like John 3:16 are speaking about what would happen if you do believe but do not imply what happens if you do not believe.

    In fact I believe there are many verses which state that there are those that believe but will not attain heaven because their actions don’t reflect love.

    • amyc

      Which goes to show how self-contradictory the bible really is. Seriously, if Christianity is true, then explaining how we get to heaven would be one of the most important things that god/jesus would need to do. Why then is the Bible so profoundly ambiguous about this? Is it faith, works, predestination or some combination of these things? We don’t know, because there is no clear-cut explanation anywhere. When I was a Christian, this bothered me. If there is such a thing as hell, I wanted to make damn sure I wasn’t going there, but there were no consistent answers given in the Bible. Some churches I went to claimed they had answers, but they all contradicted each other. This is such an important issue in Christianity, yet the Bible does not explain it clearly. If ever there was evidence that the Bible was not written by a god (or at least an all-loving god that wanted you in heaven)–this is it.

  • SJH

    This is no where near a “separation of church and state” issue. This is a private citizen using their freedom to speak.  We do not loose our first amendment rights just because we enter into a public building.

    • Parse

      Students lose some of their rights while they’re in a school building.  As an example, see BONG HITS FOR JESUS.

  • Boysawcomet

    If you guys don’t believe in God, why keep talking about it? If this isn’t real then why not focus on other matters? I wouldn’t waste my time talking about God, Christianity, or Bible verses, lol!

    • amyc

      Really? If you lived in a country where the vast majority of people believed in a different religion than you and they spent most of their time trying to write that religion into law/get it into public schools, would you talk about it?


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