In Georgia, a School Board President Faces Opposition Simply Because He Won’t Reveal His Religious Preference

A man named Leonard Presberg was recently elected to the Fayette County Board of Education (in Georgia). That was back in November. In January, he was named Chairman of the board.

What are his views on education? You would think that’s the only point of concern for local residents… but at a school board meeting last week, resident David Barlow spoke out against Presberg… not because of any particular educational policy they disagreed about, but because it appears that Presberg is a member of — wait for it — the Fayette Freethought Society.

*Cue gasps*

Good evening Chairman Presberg, board members, Dr. Bearden.

My wife and I were here the night you and six other candidates presented yourselves to the board as a possible replacement for the late Dr. Sam Tolbert.

My wife and I were impressed with several candidates and would have chosen Ms. Bonnie Willis. You were our second choice, so we were not disappointed when you were selected.

I was present when you attended the Board of Education meeting as a new board member. You were selected chairman by a 3-2 vote; Dr. Todd and Ms. Key opposed.

Next, I was somewhat surprised with the Smith, Smola and Presberg vote to settle the NAACP lawsuit without input from the citizens.

I began to read articles published in our local paper, The Citizen, revealing disturbing information about you.

I went to the Freethinkers’ website before it was locked out and read, “We’re about freedom from religion, separation of church and state, rational thought and skeptical thinking, secular humanism, agnostic, skeptics, freethinker, atheists, Brights, secular parenting, secularism, wissenschaft, neopagan, recovering from religion, pantheism.”

As a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, I was alarmed that anyone would participate in such activities, much less our new FCBoE Chairman because these views can’t help but spill over into the direction you may take the education of our county’s children.

Because over 70 percent of Fayette County citizens worship Jesus Christ, it’s all the more concerning based on the stated beliefs of these aforementioned organizations.

I wanted answers and emailed you and we arranged a time to meet. I spoke openly about my faith and my concerns, and asked you what your faith is. You declined to answer, but did say you were raised as a Jew.

Here’s another opportunity, I ask you again to please answer this question: What is your faith?

At least someone else on the board objected to the question since it was totally out of line.

Barlow makes it sound like the freethought society is burning crosses at every meeting, when the truth is they basically meet for lunch or dinner a few times a month. And sometimes they clean up a long stretch of road. You know, to help the community.

“Some people are making it out like we’re getting together to make Molotov Cocktails,” [founder of the group, Julie Williams] added with shock. “I think it’s just been an attempt by some people to rile up a community that is largely conservative and Christian. We’re not trying to judge anyone’s beliefs or change their mind. We have members who are religious, and plenty of members that are politically conservative. Our meetings are open to anyone who wants to come.”

Reader Matt has been following this story closely since he lives in the area and he had this to say (in an email):

As a non-Christian myself and a member of the mentioned freethought society, I was appalled at the questions raised about his personal religious beliefs which are protected by both federal and state constitutions and can not be considered relevant in regards to his office of public trust.

Tonight, Mr. Presberg was kind enough to attend a question-and-answer session at our Peachtree City town hall regarding himself and his plans for the school board; this meeting was called by a local ‘concerned citizen’ who repeatedly directed the questions towards Mr. Presberg’s personal beliefs and ‘core values’. This ‘concerned citizen’ even went so far as to directly ask Mr. Presberg’s stance on the Occupy Wall St. movement, as if it was at all relevant to education! The neighbors of this citizen were in the audience and when called upon also referenced Christianity (both obliquely and directly), proper choices of textbooks, ‘majority opinions’, and the ‘California’ way (which is the wrong direction according to them). It was blatant McCarthyism on display to all of us in attendance (many of whom, like myself, attended in support of Mr. Presberg).

To his credit Mr. Presberg did not rise to these aspersions and did his best to provide nuanced and relevant (non-religious) answers to the questions raised, either answering oblique questions about “world value systems”(ominous emphasis) with concrete local education plans or asking for identification of these improper values (of which there was none). He also reiterated several times the creed, which many of us hold, that his personal beliefs are his alone and he does not seek through his office to impose them on our children or anyone else. (While Mr. Presberg feigned ignorance of the assembled ill-will before him, a local police officer was also present at his request.)

Without knowing Presberg’s educational views, it at least sounds like his heart is in the right place. He wants to do what’s best for the kids in his community and he knows that the schools are not a place for him to impose his views about religion. You might wonder: What more could anyone want from him?

But when you’re living in the South, not indoctrinating children with Christianity is basically a crime against humanity.

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.

  • Anonymous

    It’s precisely for this reason that school boards as practiced in the US are a horrible idea. They are just breeding grounds for Christian fundamentalist to take over politics. They aren’t really about the best interests of the students and not about the schools, but the political interests and ambitions of certain people

    • Anonymous

      I’m curious how it would be any different if that authority was moved up a level.  If you put that control all the way to the national level, the shenanigans will most likely expand to the national level too.

      • Anonymous

        Massively curtailing their power would be a great start. They are allowed to decide way too much. It’s one thing for parents to decide how some money will be spent to improve conditions at a local school. That way they can fix things that really need improvement. But they shouldn’t have any final say over the core curriculum or behavioral policies for example.

  • Marguerite


    As a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, I was alarmed that anyone would participate in such activities.”

    He’s alarmed that anyone would participate in “freedom from religion, the separation of church and state, and rational thinking,” apparently. Well, I can certainly understand that. Goodness gracious, what IS this world coming to when people advocate such shockingly horrible things?

    • LifeinTraffic

      People like this think that, because they wouldn’t be a “good person” without religion, no one else could be, either. They don’t want separation of church and state, or at least they don’t want separation of *their* church from the state, because they have absolutely no clue how “good” laws could be made without a guy looking down at them from the clouds. How threatening it must be to think there could be good people out there that don’t need the threat of punishment to be good people, if you aren’t one of those people who can be good without fear or retribution.

      And, of course, they’re crazy religious nutters.

      • NickDB

         My biggest worry about religious people is their argument that you can’t be good without god.

        So effectively what they’re saying is the only reason they’re not mass murdering child eating satan worshippers is they’re scared of the big guy watching them. Remove that fear and they’re worried they will be.

        Maybe that’s why they think atheists are all of those things, they’re projecting again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimikoneko Katie Bojorquez

    I love how at the very end, that woman objected that it has nothing to do with the educational issues at hand. Personal attack indeed. 

  • Matto the Hun

    geeEEEEeeeeez, it’s always projection with these guys. The best thing in all the world that they can think of os to force their beliefs on other people’s children and to ensure that their personal beliefs are held as the standard while all others are condemned. So naturally they assume that a non-Christian would do the same thing they would do.

    I swear we should just break off a chunk of the country and let all the fundie Christians have it. How soon will it take before it turns to shit and resembles the Dark Ages? Not long I think.

    • Mairianna

      “…..we should just break off a chunk of the country and let all the fundie Christians have it.” – Only if it floats free and away from the mainland! 

      • http://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

        Where’s Lex Luthor when you need him?

    • Rwlawoffice

       The country you live in right now was built for more than two hundred years by Christian people and still the vast majority of the population is Christian. We have gotten where we are today in this country in a large part by the efforts of Christian people.   So instead of thinking that Christians will ruin a country, you should really be thanking them. 

      • Gridlock

        .. and have been held back in a number of areas because these same people insist on trying to apply their religion on others.

      • Jean-Paul Marat

        Except that by the 1780s, fewer than 25% of Americans in the thirteen colonies attended church, and a significant number those who constructed the national government (I hate the term ‘Founding Fathers’) were deists, unitarians, and other non-orthodox people. (Mapping America’s Past: A Historical Atlas by Mark Carnes and John Garrity, p. 50). So, don’t thank the Christians. They had little to do with it.

        And for someone who apparently works in a law office, you should really try and learn something about the 14th Amendment incorporation doctrine and the relevant caselaw. It’s kinda important.

        • Rwlawoffice

           Here is the actual list of those that signed the founding documents of our country and their religious affiliation.

           http://www.adherents.com/gov/Founding_Fathers_Religion.html

          You might want to check your facts before you quote Wikipedia.

          • T-Rex

            Freedom of religion. Ever heard of that? Who cares what superstitions and mythology our founding fathers followed? They could have all been Hindu and Buddhist. That doesn’t change the fact that this country was founded on the principle of “freedom of religion”. Why can’t fundies get that through their thick skulls?

            This country was also largely built on the backs, blood, sweat and tears of slaves. Slaves of all colors and creeds. Most of those slave owners were Christian. You still want to argue that we should be thanking these “moral” Christians? The same ilk that are constantly trying to subvert our Constitution by introducing their archaic belief systems and superstitions into our secular government.

            Maybe you should study up on this country’s history before you go spouting off about how Christians made this country what it is today. I’d argue that this country is where it is today in spite of Christianity constantly fighting to take us back in to the Dark Ages. And I’m sure we would be even further along in our evolution if it wasn’t for religion.

            • FSq

              Like T-Rex said!

              If I go to a car dealership, and the salesman happens to be Hindu or Muslim, and he signs his name to the documents where it is needed for the dealership, does this make my new car Hindu or Muslim?

              No. No it does not.

            • Rwlawoffice

               You guys are hilarious.  First you claim that the founding fathers were not Christian and then when I point out that they were you claim it makes no difference.  Of course I understand freedom of religion. What you really express though is freedom from religion which is not the same thing.

              As far as your claim about slavery, it is true that slavery was part of our country until the civil war and that is a horrible part of our history.  But you ignore that it was Christians who led the fight to end it (or did you forget that Abraham Lincoln was a devout Christian), just as they did with the civil rights movement in the 1960′s.  And simply on a percentage basis, if  80% or so of the population of this country are Christian then there is a host of unnamed Christians who built this country.

              In response to your comment that you would argue that Christians held us back, why don’t you show some proof of that.

              • TiltedHorizon

                “First you claim that the founding fathers were not Christian and then
                when I point out that they were you claim it makes no difference.”

                Um… no. Jean-Paul said:

                “a significant number those who constructed the national government were deists, unitarians, and other non-orthodox people.deists, unitarians, and other non-orthodox”

                Even the site you linked supports it.

              • AllSeasonRadial

                @Rwlawoffice:twitter : exactly which Christian denomination freed the slaves please? Which Church was it, exactly, that commanded its soldiers to slaughter their sons, brothers and fathers on the Civil War battlefields? 
                And while we are at it, exactly which church was it that founded the United States? Was it an organized religion that wrote the Declaration of Independence? Which House of God produced the Constitution? 

                I think most of the original founders of the United States *were* affiliated with specific Christian churches, most of whose leaders despised each other as with religious conviction can— considering their own countrymen “fallen”, “apostates”, “blasphemers”, or even worse, competition. Colonial pulpits RANG OUT with this message constantly, warning the flocks against their evil neighbors who were damned for worshipping the Devil of different denominations.

                I think churches and organized religion had about as much *real* influence on the political genesis of the U.S. as it has today. Which is to say, none. Maybe even considerably less. Which is a good thing. Because otherwise, a nation united under God might never have come about.

                The Founders of this nation had to rise ABOVE their church’s petty biases and prejudices (not a minor task) in order to unite the populace against a common enemy. Churches railed AGAINST that unification as long as they could, for the most part, all the way up until they had no other choice but to support it because royal rule of the Church of England was even worse. 

              • Julia St. Charles

                I strongly beg to differ.  To be “free of” something also implies to be done with it or apart from it.  “Free of debt,” or “free of worry,” for example.  Freedom of religion implies not only freedom to practice your faith but also freedom to practice no faith, and especially for GOVERNMENT to be free OF religious influence.  Unlike the British, you know, the ones the Colonists fought? 

            • Julia St. Charles

              Standing ovation!  May I add that these “Good Christians” of yore also STOLE the land they chose to occupy from its original inhabitants and ruthlessly slaughtered and otherwise abused them in an unprecedented land-grab, and oh-so-humbly called themselves, “settlers?” Steal the land, prosper from it on the blood and sweat of slaves … yes, just lovely Christians.  I’m sure Jesus would be proud.

          • FSq

            This guy (RW Law) just LOVES the ol’ Cap’n Cut-N-Paste….

            I wonder if he actually has any law books, or if he just uses the online Wikipedia Law Library!!!

            I sincerely doubt RWLaw does anything more than chase ambulances or represent bitter divorcees with little yappy lap-dogs in tote-bags!!!

            • Bayers

              Honestly, I don’t think RWLaw is actually a lawyer.  The fact he’s so hung up on his “you need to decide which point you want to make” argument completely flies in the face of a legal system where virtually every brief and motion filed is structured as “Argument A is true.  However, if the court decides against argument A, then argument B would hold.  Furthermore, if argument B is rejected, Argument C is valid.” completely undermines his claim to be a lawyer.  Hell, any first year law student is familiar with this structure.

          • Jean-Paul Marat

            1. Just because someone is baptized as a (whatever), doesn’t mean they’re a (whatever). I’m guessing the sources on this page are derived second hand from baptismal records. Note that the website is run by a guy who has a CS degree, not a history degree, or even a religious studies or theology degree. I was baptized (but not a confirmed) Lutheran and I’m still on the church rolls in that respect. Does that mean I’m a Christian? Hell no.

            2. Even if every single person on that list was devout,  your claim of Christianity being the founding tenet of the nation depends on who gets to be a “Christian.”
            My Baptist fundie in-laws don’t consider Anglicans to be Christians and of the religious population in 18th century America, most were Anglicans, as were (supposedly) 54% of the “FFs”. Rick Santorum doesn’t consider Protestants (I’m assuming he also means the Church of England here) to be Christians. The Orthodox don’t really consider Protestants and Catholics to be Christians. And the JWs and Mormons don’t consider each other or anybody else to be Christians.

            If Mormonism was alive and in vogue around the time of the founding of the country and a majority (or even a plurality) of the people who wrote the documents were Mormons, would you then claim that America is a Mormon country?

            This is a reason why Christianity is utterly unimportant to the founding of the United States. The people who wrote the AoC and Constitution weren’t stupid. It’s not like there’s some secret Christianity in the penumbras of the Constitution. It’s not there because they didn’t want it there, because nobody can define Christianity. Hell, they can’t even agree on the Nicene Creed.

            Find the word “Jesus”, or a description of the trinity anywhere in the Constitution and I’ll eat my socks and proclaim you king. You can’t do it.

            • Rwlawoffice

               Your original post tried to proclaim that the founding fathers were not Christian. When I point out that in fact they were, you now try to claim yes but they were not devout or it doesn’t matter. You need to decide what point you want to make. As far as them being devout here is a site with some of their quotes and you can decide for yourself:

              http://www.aproundtable.org/tps30info/beliefs.html

              And for the record, I am all for freedom of religion.

          • TiltedHorizon

            Jean-Paul says:
            “a significant number those who constructed the
            national government were deists, unitarians, and other non-orthodox
            people.deists, unitarians, and other non-orthodox”

            Rwlawoffice,

            Seems you will need to explain how this is wrong as the site you linked also lists Deists, Unitarians, and groups who were considered non-orthodox at the time in the list.

      • Fentwin

        It was built  largely  by slave labor and indentured servitude. Now the question is who owned these people?

      • TiltedHorizon

        The country we live in right now was built by Christian people who escaped tyranny and oppression by the hands of a self righteous Christian majority; the Church of England. I guess by your logic a thanks is needed. So….

        Thank you Church of England for showcasing that a when a religious majority oppress a minority on the basis of faith, it should be fought against, as the founding fathers intended.

        • Anonymous

          The Puritans who fled England in the 17th century were theocrats and tyrants themselves. They were just pissed that they couldn’t oppress people like they wanted. It was England who ended their reign of terror in the colonies after they executed a bunch of Quakers.

          • Gus Snarp

            The Puritans weren’t the only ones who fled religious persecution in England. And that the Puritans were religious wackos does not change the fact that State and Church were deeply entwined in England and that many early settlers left England because of it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

        The problem is not that they are Christian. The problem is that they can’t keep religion private like it should be. And before some idiot accuses me of trying to censor religious speech, I am not. You can talk about your faith all you want, but don’t use it to try to get laws passed. 

  • FSq

    Once again it is the south. Now, before any southerners get their collective underpants wound up and bound in their anuses, take a true look at just how often this type of nonsense takes place below The Mason-Dixon Line. 

    Always the south. What the hell goes on down there, and why will no one stand up to this effectively?

    It is too bad we took the south back into the fold post war…

    • Secular Planet

      Jessica Ahlquist’s school is in Rhode Island. If that doesn’t qualify as “nonsense” from the school, then I don’t know what you’re talking about.

      • FSq

        Statistically speaking, the rate of southern digressions versus the northeast, west coast or upper midwest is far greater.

        Facts don’t lie. Even if you don’t like what they say.

        Your arguments is interesting, nay, a little fascinating because it operates on just the same argument lots of idiot christians use, which is the “True Scotsman” argument. 

        • Secular Planet

          You said “always.” Now you’re saying it’s statistically higher. That’s called moving the goalposts.

          No True Scotsman? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m saying nonsense includes the Cranston affair, and you’re accusing me of unjustifiably excluding something from a category. If anything, you’ve gotten in precisely backward.

          • FSq

            Oh you are so disingenuous! Yes, it is absolutely the True Scotsman argument.

            And my use of  “always” is done as hyperbole. You do know hyperbole don’t you? But way to deflect and try to shed light on something other than the fire of southern ignorance.

            • Anonymous

              I don’t really understand where you’re coming from, FSq. You often make valid points, but then just as often seem to be trolling (or at the very least trying to get someone’s hackles up). I don’t get it. Are you just playing the role of contrarian?

              • FSq

                Its the Bourbon talking, and boy is it chatty!

                But, seriously, can we talk about me?

                • P. J. Reed

                  You are one of the most frustrating, infuriating people here, and you never contribute anything worthwhile to a discussion.  I cannot understand why anybody would willingly engage in conversation with you.

                  But that’s just hyperbole!

                • FSq

                  And yet Peej, here you are, responding to me…..I find that incredibly funny and fascinating.

            • Secular Planet

              I clearly explained why it’s not a No True Scotsman argument, and you respond by saying “yeah-huh!” and calling me a liar and an idiot. I’m done here. If I ever leave the south, I hope it’s very far away from people like you.

              • FSq

                yes, but your argument about the True Scotsman was hokum!

        • Anonymous

          Saying that something SEEMS to be true isn’t good enough, especially not here.  Show some real data and the stats on it then maybe what you are trying to say can make it to the realm of legitimate argument and begin to approach fact.  Otherwise you’re just making a claim of anecdotes as data.  That doesn’t cut it here, FSq.

    • Secular Planet

      And yeah, it’s “too bad” you didn’t abandon us freethinkers—like the ones explicitly mentioned in the article—to the Confederacy. We’re totally not worth it.

      • FSq

        If you are among the free thinkers, then what are you doing to correct this obvious problem in the south besides jump onto an Internet blog?

        Are you going to town PTA meetings? School board meetings? Are you actively fighting against this shit?

        • LifeinTraffic

          Um..actually, yes. Tomorrow, I am attending a protest rally (for another issue related to women’s rights & separation of church and state). I attend local political meeting of all kinds, as do the other (very few) secularists I know in this community.

          What we really need is the support of others around the country, not their ire and smart remarks, to help us fight the good fight. It’s exhausting, and while it’s easy to say “just move,” that lacks some reality for many of us who are stuck here for one reason or another (in our case, until my fiance is doe with school next year).

          • FSq

            I understand, but the incidents of this shit is ridiculous down in your part of the world. 

            And yes, I do agree that the “love it or leave it” argument is nonsense, but jesus titty-fucking christ, what the hell is wrong with the south?

            It is a fucked up place, in many ways, this being only one of them.

            • LifeinTraffic

              “I understand, but the incidents of this shit is ridiculous down in your part of the world. …It is a fucked up place, in many ways, this being only one of them. ”

              That, I agree with. I am originally from the north, and moving here was culture shock in a way that I probably wouldn’t have experienced if I’d moved to the wilds of Africa.  Most of the time, my entire thought patter for the day is: “What the hell? They can’t have meant that…wait, they meant that? What the hell?”

              I spend a lot of days banging my head against my desk, not because it’ll feel good when I stop, but because the pain distracts me from the idiocy going on around me. I’ve never met so many uninformed, intentionally ignorant people who will literally believe anything someone tells them if the person saying it claims to be Christian. 

              There are islands of reason in this stream, people who–religious or not–are reasonable thinkers. But yes, they are small islands in a fairly big river and can be difficult to find.

              • FSq

                Well, don’t bang you head against the desk anymore! We NEED people like you down there!!! FIGHT THE FIGHT!

                (and yes, don’t bang the head!!! Try to fight them as best as possible!)

        • Secular Planet

          I live three states away, so no, I’m not going to this particular school board meeting. I fight against things within my own metropolitan area as I become aware of them. No, I don’t spend every waking hour as a watchdog, attending every single public meeting of every single public body.

          • Secular Planet

            I misread the location as Fayetteville, North Carolina, so it’s only one state away, but still a drive of over 300 miles.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

      I’m from Mississippi, and I see exactly what you’re saying, but don’t stereotype all of us. 

      • FSq

        Point taken.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      You’re volunteering to move south to help stand up to this effectively?

    • Anonymous

       Now, please explain Colorado Springs, Idaho and Utah and how they fit into your skewed opinion that it’s ‘always the south”.

  • Matt

    It isn’t letting up.

    http://www.thecitizen.com/articles/02-21-2012/question-belief-presberg-won%E2%80%99t-answer

    (Matt, who was at the meeting, but not the same one quoted above)

  • MariaO

    Many “good” words in therem but if they are “neopagan pantheists” they are not actually that secular, are they?

    And is not “Brights” some sort of New Age nonsense?

    • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

       “Bright” was an attempt to rebrand atheism with a positive term. While several people might still answer to the term, it hasn’t really taken off. It isn’t meant to have any New Age connotations, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some New Agers also used the term independently.

      Regarding neopagans and pantheists, I think the point is that the way they treat the natural world is indistinguishable from an atheist worldview, differing only in the metaphysical. As such they might be of one mind in that respect.

  • Rwlawoffice

    As a Christian I do include a person’s religious beliefs in my list of items that I consider important when evaluating a client.  That is my right. 

    • Rwlawoffice

       sorry, political candidate not client

      • Gridlock

        You don’t live in a theocracy. Kindly act like it.

        • Rwlawoffice

           I am fully aware of that but last I checked I still had the right to determine the issues that are important for me in a political candidate. Not unlike those that are up in arms about Rick Santorum and his religious views.

          • Piet Puk

            The sad part is that, for a lot of voters, the religion of a canditate is more important than political views.
            Hitchens was correct, religion poisons everything

            • T-Rex

              Religion is very important to me when selecting public servants. The more they chirp about their gawd and belief system, the further I distance myself from them. Religion has NO place in politics or our government. None!

              • FSq

                As stated in Robert’s Rules of Order, I second that!

          • FSq

            You, are an idiot.

            Santorum. Really?

            Tell me oh great counselor, why this man should run the country?

            Santorum represent tyranny and oppresion.

            Sinclair Lewis said it best, “Tyranny will arrive to this country wearing a flag and carrying a cross”…..and here we have Mr. Santorum.

            I don’t believe in prophecy, but DAMN, Sinclair must have borrowed the ol’ Mormon Seeing Stone….

          • FSq

            And RW…Think about this…

            In 1960 conservati­ves were worried that the Catholic Democratic candidate would get his directives from the Pope; JFK had to reassure America that his religion is secondary to his oath of office. 

            In 2012, Republican­s and conservati­ves wish to let Catholic Bishops decide what is acceptable when it comes to employer based health insurance. We seem to be going backwards.And you are now actively SEEKING a candidate who wishes to govern a multi-cultural nation with ONE religion.Yes, that is scary and evil.

            • Rwlawoffice

               It is in the first amendment. It is called the free exercise of religion. The government cannot force a religious institution to buy insurance that goes against their religious beliefs.  A someone who believes that this country was founded on the basis of freedom of religion I would assume you would support that. 

              • FSq

                So, do you advocate a President who is going to promote one religion or ANY religion?

                • Rwlawoffice

                   Churches and religious institutions are not just any “company”.  Like it or not they are exempt from some laws because they have the right to freely exercise their religion. So forcing a Catholic church or institution to pay for birth control is a violation of that right.

                  As for your question about Kennedy, I’m afraid the illness I have caused you is effecting your ability to ask a rational question.  I simply don’t understand it.  

                • The Captain

                  Of course as we see, these people that cry “freedom of religion” when it come to employers, have no concern about the freedom of religion of the employees.

                  All this is is a way to use the church as employer to force it’s employees to practice it’s religion through it’s health care plan. So your concerns about freedom of religion ring hollow.

                • Anonymous

                   Then it’s very obvious that we REALLY need to get religion out of some businesses such as health care. 

              • FSq

                And dingleberry, the government CAN and DOES tell companies what they can and cannot sell. Especially when these organizations suckle off the public teat. 

                And the Constituion advocates freedom FROM religion and as much as the ability to practice your flavor of myth.

                And did you have a cow when Kennedy was running? And how do you justify the sea change from 1960 when the conservatives were frothing at the mouth over the papacy connection to Kennedy to today’s world where if you are a GOPer you HAVE to say you are going to take your marching orders from the bible and church?

                You sicken me.

              • Anonymous

                 Since when do corporations and such HAVE religious beliefs?  How about the individuals working at a company get to decide if they want to use birth control or not.  To do otherwise is to take away an individual’s religious freedom.

          • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

            It is not just Santorum’s religious views that concern people. It’s his openly declared theocratic views. Through his declared intent to force his religious views as civic law he made his religion a factor in this election.
            Which is exactly the opposite of what Presberg has done.

            • Rwlawoffice

               Cite where he has said he would do that

              • LifeinTraffic

                No citation needed. He says it at pretty much every rally, just pick a You Tube speech.. “As god intended,” etc. There’s a live-blog on there of one of the speeches,  in fact, so it should be easy to find.

                • Rwlawoffice

                   “Through his declared intent to force his religious views as civic law he made his religion a factor in this election.”

                  From what I have heard him say he says that his religious views are his and that he will not push them on others through government.  For example, he said that exact thing in regard to the contraception issue.  if you are aware of him saying something different, let me know.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  I think that he’s smart enough that when pushed on the issue, he falls back to what he knows is required by his oath of office, which is to uphold the constitution.  Even so, he has expressed his support of prayer in school (what’s the atheist’s prayer again?)   His understanding of climate change is driven at least in part by his theology.  He tried (and failed) to get ID into ‘No Child Left Behind’.

                  He’s obviously very anti-gay marriage for purely theological reasons.

                  Not really a direct policy issue, but he has stated that secularists are intolerant, and that that intolerance is because the opposition come from “people who use reason, common sense, and divine revelation”.

                  Let me say that again, ‘his’ side, the non-secular, uses “reason, common sense, and divine revelation”.

                   Everyone is going to claim ownership of reason and common sense.  But to claim divine revelation?  Which divine revelation?  If you really think he’s going to pray for guidance, then you have to wonder what he’s going to hear.  Or is he going to do what he ‘knows’ is right, and say God told him to?

                • Anonymous

                   He is also anti-evolution and pro-Creationism. He is not just anti-abortion, but anti-birth control (in general, not just that recent controversy).

                  And in a mindboggling display of studpity he has said that public universities are a threat to religion because people learn to think there and often reject faith by the time they graduate.

                  Santorum is absolutely insane

                • LifeinTraffic

                  Speaking to Catholics in Massechusets, he said he was appalled by the growing secularism of American life. He called President Kennedy’s remark in the 1960s declaring separation of Church and State absolute “appalling.”

                  “We’re seeing how Catholic politicians, following the first Catholic
                  president, have followed his lead, and have divorced faith not just from
                  the public square, but from their own decision-making process,” -Rick Santorum

                  He’s criticized President Obama’s policies as “not based on the Bible.”

                  It goes on in this vein. I am not sure what other conclusion could be drawn other than, since he is so critical of separation of church and state and policies not based on the bible, that his Presidency would be “marred” by neither.

              • FSq

                Are you for real? Jesus titty-fucking Christ, just turn on your TV and watch him talk and you see his obvious tyrannical theocratic wish. 

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Since ALL candidates are religious (well, ok, current example for a local school board excepted), I don’t have the option of rejecting a candidate based on their religion.  However I do evaluate candidates on their intelligence.  So if they insist on getting their biology, geology and climatology from a book of myths, I’m not going to vote for them.

          • Sw

            Santorum’s religiosity is really not the issue.  As it is, every presidential candidate has expressed faith of one form or another, so if I had an issue with religion I would simply not vote at all.  What I object to in a candidate is when they think their religion should drive the law of the land or be enforced in every aspect of public and private life, which is what we’re seeing widespread in the Religious Right’s exclusive promotion of Christianity not just in their communities, but on a national scale.

        • Number Six

          I don’t know – most of the time I think we DO live in a theocracy. For example, in many states you can be put in jail if, when serving jury duty, you refuse to say what your religion is.

          • NickDB

             ^This! From an outsiders perspective I have to wonder if the religious people in the USA really have a problem with say a place like Iran, since they seem to have a similar mindset. The only difference is they don’t have the (legal) backing of the military and police, so they can’t commit the same atrocities.

    • The Captain

      Hey, your correct it’s your right to be a bigot.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

      I don’t think anyone is saying you can’t do that. I do something similar. Their religious beliefs don’t bother me. I judge them based on how openly they express their beliefs and by how much their beliefs affect their political ideas.

    • FSq

      Well, considering your clients are busy trying to heal from a car accident and are doped up on morphine drips while you stalk the hospital hallways, it is good to know you have standards….

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Yes, it is.  And it’s our right to point out that if you’re going to flip out because you found out that someone who was otherwise your 2nd choice is *gasp* an atheist *gasp* then you are a) suffering from severe privilege b) almost certainly have never met any real atheists and c) are a dumb ass.  Ok, that last one was childish.  But I quite frankly see the whole thing as childish.

      There’s a difference between an atheist using religion as a factor in picking a president, and a Christian trying to start a witch hunt to get someone who’s already elected, and shows no signs of

      these views can’t help but spill over into the direction you may take the education of our county’s children

      Either do your research and don’t vote for the guy in the first place, or if he’s already elected, give him the same credit you’d give any other elected candidate who doesn’t have the same religious beliefs as you.

      I think Santorum’s religion would dictate his politics, but that’s not because he’s a Christian.  In the same way, just because someone’s an atheist is no reason to assume that his atheism is going to drive his politics.

      • FSq

        Or the fact that a sitting judge in California who happens to be gay is going to be tilted to make a decision on human rights just because he is gay!

        (yes, a GREAT Prop 8 reference here, and a great retort to those idiots who all screamed that he couldn’t make the ruling because he was gay. Now they want to use the argument for their OWN!!! Hypocrite, thy name is Christian)

    • Anonymous

       Well, that depends on the type of business you have.  There are many times and places where discrimination on the basis of religion is ILLEGAL. 

    • Julia St. Charles

      Are you stating that as an ATTORNEY you consider a person’s religious beliefs when taking on a client?  Are you saying you will not represent persons not of your faith? 
      I sure hope you state bar association finds out about this.  

      The only place where it may be appropriate for an attorney to consider matters of faith is if you specialize in representing religious discrimination cases or similar faith-based representation.  You have NO right denying representation to clients in general practice based on faith. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    Barlow’s name is very appropriate. He sure sets the bar low.

  • Forrest Cahoon

    Next, I was somewhat surprised with the Smith, Smola and Presberg
    vote to settle the NAACP lawsuit without input from the citizens.

    Info on the lawsuit is here: http://www.ajc.com/news/fayette/fayette-school-board-settles-1298490.html What input from the citizens is needed? They would insist on the current system which keeps blacks off the school board, it would go to court, and end up costing the taxpayers a lot more money to reach the same result. It’s very, very, very telling that this is the starting point for his taking offense. As other posters have noted, this is the South.

  • Gus Snarp

    I just want to live in a world where think I’m some kind of Satan worshiping hedonist because I don’t believe in gods. I’m a human being, a father, and as good a man as I can be. That people think this way about other people because we don’t share their religion makes me so sad. It’s especially enlightening to go back and listen to the whole thing and just replace every instance of “atheist” or “freethinker” with Jew.

    • Gus Snarp

      um, that should say “…a world where people don’t think I’m some kind of…”

  • Jean-Paul Marat

    “First you claim that the founding fathers were not Christian and then when I point out that they were you claim it makes no difference.”

    Do you have a sworn statement from each of the FFs saying they believe in the Nicene Creed? I’m willing to bet that the sources from those books pulled from that page are pulled from baptismal records, which are not a reliable indicator of religious devoutness. I was baptized Lutheran, but because I can’t get off the church rolls that doesn’t make me a Christian by default.

    “Of course I understand freedom of religion. What you really express though is freedom from religion which is not the same thing.”

    Okay, so let’s say the Mormons have a banner year with witnessing and they have a whole mess of converts. They get to be 51% of the population.

    Would you be comfortable with Mormons designing and implementing the curriculum in your child’s school, including everything from history, philosophy/ethics, and religious studies, all from a perspective “as derived from Jesus Christ and the prophet Joseph Smith?” What if they decided to run the government the same way, with references to Joseph Smith, golden tablets, and the Garden of Eden being in Missouri? What if the Muslims have a banner year after this is and decide to do the same thing “with respect to Allah and His Most Holy Prophet Muhammad?”

    If not, THIS is why the separation of church and state exists. Not to protect atheists (although they benefit from it), but because religious people can’t figure out which imaginary friend is better.

    “But you ignore that it was Christians who led the fight to end it (or did you forget that Abraham Lincoln was a devout Christian), just as they did with the civil rights movement in the 1960′s.”

    1. Except for all those Southern Baptists and Methodists who fought for the South and fought tooth and nail for Jim Crow. The SBC didn’t even renounce/denounce racism until 1995.

    2. As far as the Lincoln thing goes, that’s already been covered on this medium: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2008/04/08/was-abraham-lincoln-a-christian/

    tl;dr He may have been religious in his later years, however, that doesn’t mean he was a trinitarian, “Bible-believing” Christian by any stretch of the imagination.

    ” And simply on a percentage basis, if  80% or so of the population of this country are Christian then there is a host of unnamed Christians who built this country.”

    1. Remember that the 1780-90s were a period of religiosity. 

    2. Again, if 80% of the country was Mormon right now, would you then consider the country as a “Mormon country” and support policies which reflect that?

    “In response to your comment that you would argue that Christians held us back, why don’t you show some proof of that.”

    Off the top of my head?

    Slavery. Desire to  drive native peoples off their land and destroy their culture to convert them to Christianity. Prohibition. Anti-Semitism. 

    I have to go back to work now.

  • Thomas

    I think the community reserves the right to question its board members if a majority of them believe that faith is an important factor in public service.  For many individuals, how someone identifies and speaks about their faith is an indicator of how they will conduct their public service.  Just like a business reserves the right to hire employees or not on any basis they choose, this community reserves the right to question its public servants on any matter where they draw consensus.

    • LifeinTraffic

      Um, you do know that businesses aren’t allowed to hire an employee or not on a basis they choose, right? That we do have anti-discrimination laws, and that they include religion?

      • LifeinTraffic

        *any basis they choose. Sorry.

  • Rebecca M

    I hear the writer about the schools in the South. Now, I know not all are like this so no one yell at me, but I recently started work as a staff member of an agency assigned to a  public school (non-teacher), and EVERY SINGLE OFFICE has an “in god we trust” sign FRAMED and hung on the wall. The standard around here is to just hang one in the lobby somewhere. But at this school you cannot get away from it! So I, a non-believer, walk into my new office to clean it out and rearrange furniture and here is this big framed poster about god! I just stood there and looked at it, and my supervisor (who is a Christian but really is a “do what you want” as long as your are a good person type of person) goes, “yeah, that’s probably not comfortable right? Let’s take it down.” She wanted to hide it with her stuff and take it with her to her site so that they couldn’t bother me, but I told her she could get in trouble for that. So get this: I come in the next day and someone has come into my office and hung it back up! I took it back down. We’ll see who wins the battle of the wills!

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’m assuming you probably need your job, so this might not be a practical solution, but wouldn’t it be great to just swap it out with “In Allah We Trust”?

      • Anonymous

        A better idea might be to pretend to be a Jew. Though she’d probably be accused of murdering Jesus

        • Rebecca M

           Ha ha, yes Rich, I do need my job. To be honest, I get a lot of the kids who are not Christians or who are LGBTQ in my office because they feel so alienated, so in a way I am happy I am here.

          And Stev84, if I chose any religious figure to “trust in,” it would probably be Buddha. There are at least philosophical aspects of that religion (like accepting change and trying to be aware of reality) that I like, and lets face it… At this school no one would even know what a Buddhist was so they’d have no clue what to do if they saw that on my wall. LOL.

  • Anonymous

    So if and when  Mr.  Presberg decides to run for re-election or another position, I’d like to know where to send my money.

  • Cosmic Ray

    I was in attendance at the latest q&a session. Mr.Presberg’s opening statements included that the topics remain about school related issues and would rather not talk about religious issues. So the first thing the fundies do is show a total lack of respect for him and bring up religious issues. They claimed to hold a monopoly on morals after their display of utmost disrespect and even go so far as to say that learning about the world should not be done at school, but at home! I couldn’t believe my ears.


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