How Many Church/State Violations Can One School District Be Guilty Of?

What the hell is going on in Houston County School District (in Georgia)?

They’re not just guilty of one instance of pushing religion onto students. They’re guilty of it many times over and the Freedom From Religion Foundation has proof, courtesy of several local residents who wish to remain anonymous because of the death threats they are getting (including someone who suggested “sticking guns in your mouths and blowing the backs of your god damn heads off”).

It’s not surprising that the residents said administrators say prayers at graduations, assemblies, athletic events, and other celebrations.

But that’s not all.

Here’s what the FFRF found — with documentation (PDF):

  • They pray at school council meetings. And when a secular invocation is offered, they just add on a prayer afterwards.
  • The administrators encourage teachers to join prayer groups.
  • The teachers boast about how they pray — teacher Susan Bray said on a website (using a Facebook comment plugin) that “we (the teachers) did hold hands and have a prayer around the kids. It was lovely.”
  • Warner Robins High School (in the district) begins its school anthem as follows: “On the city’s eastern border, led by God’s great hand, Proudly stands our Alma Mater, dearest in the land.”
  • Their high school summer reading list includes the fundamentalist Christian Left Behind series.
  • The principal of Shirley Hills Elementary School (in the district) listed a Bible verse in her official biography (though she has since removed it).
  • Warner Robins High School did not inform students that the baccalaureate graduation service, held at a local Baptist church, was optional.
  • Tutoring services are offered… at local churches.
  • The district will pay for student meals over the summer… including those at Vacation Bible School.

I didn’t get to every violation, either.

FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel investigated and independently corroborated most of the claims. The 13 enclosures and more than 30 pages of evidence make it “clear that there is a systemic lack of adherence to and respect for the First Amendment in Houston County Schools.” Seidel wrote, “Extensive corrective measures, including training of all HCS employees and administrators on the proper boundaries of the Establishment Clause, are imperative.”

I have no idea how the district plans to respond to these accusations, all of which are supported by pretty damning evidence. If they’re smart, they’ll just put a stop to all of this and save the local taxpayers a hell of a lot of money.

But when they make this many mistakes — presumably knowing it’s all against the law — something tells me they’re going to try and put up a fight. And lose miserably.

And the students are the ones who’ll suffer after the district has to pay for all the legal bills.

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.

  • LesterBallard

    Well, if the Twilight books are on a reading list, I don’t see a problem with the Left behind series. They’re both shit and they’re both complete fantasy.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Also, they both require the reader to switch off their brain to really get into them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=123400843 Stu Minnis

      I was thinking something similar, along the lines of, “Well, that’s a predictable list of fantasy books for children. They should add the bible.”

      • Glasofruix

        I don’t think it’s appropriate reading material, you know, rape, murder, incest…

    • 0xabad1dea

      I’m honestly not even sure which is more emotionally damaging to an impressionable young girl. (Left Behind is actually pretty systematically sexist.)

      • LesterBallard

        Well, I don’t think there are hordes of young female fans of Left Behind, so I would have to go with the sparkly vampires and “I’m nothing without a man to protect me and tell me what to do” of Twilight. 

        • 0xabad1dea

          Unfortunately, at one point I was indeed a young female fan of Left Behind.

          At the time I had no idea what “lesbian” meant and when one of the female characters was outed as a lesbian but “fixed” by Jesus I thought it was some kind of cult.

          • Bek

            Wow.  I’m sorta glad I never got that far in the series.

            • Baby_Raptor

              Yeah. Left Behind has all sorts of issues. I read the series back when it was still being released…For all it’s problems, Twilight is actually LESS horrible. 

          • Barbara

            Wow, glad I didn’t pick up any of that series at the library yet. I imagined the Left Behind books to be some sort of kid-friendly version of Stephen King’s The Stand, not clouded by such silly religious dogma.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000614881964 Joshua Moser

    Actually, Susan didn’t brag about praying on facebook, it was on a news site that ran an article on the case which uses a facebook plugin. I know because that is my screenshot.

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

      Fixed. Thanks!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000614881964 Joshua Moser

        Lol, I wasn’t doing it for an in-article correction, pride is just my favorite sin. It took me a long time to get something useful out of that conversation.

    • NewAtheist

      Doesn’t that mean it still shows up in her news feed? Or as a status?

      • Glasofruix

        Not if you choose not to show it.

  • Bob Becker

    Impressive list but I’d be leery of complaining about Left Behind series on summer list. It’s fiction and I don’t see how it can be made into a separation issue. Lots of summer school lists contain fiction that presents ideas students and their parents may find upsetting or objectionable. Think “Lord of the Flies,’ for example. And there is always the chance that students may conclude, having read a book, that it was a pretty bad one. I really don’t think we want to argue that only books we think are ideologically sound should be on such lists. The fundies argue that way all the time remember and we reject their arguments. Need to be careful not to fall into their their ways on this.

    • 0xabad1dea

      Left Behind really stretches the definition of fiction.

      Yes, the exact characters are imaginary, but the entire premise is that it is a literal prophecy of things that will LITERALLY happen. They believe that the overall storyline is factual. It is fundamentalist snuff porn.

      • Bob Becker

        I know what it is. But it is still fiction.  Fantasy if you like. That some children will read it as conveying something profoundly true doesn’t change that.  I’m leery of suggesting that works of fiction on reading lists must conform to our ideological preferences or be banned. It’s an argument that, on it’s face, I find dangerous when I hear it spoken by fundies.  Doesn’t make it less dangerous merely because I’d be substituting my ideological test for theirs.

        • 0xabad1dea

          I’m not for “banning” Left Behind by any means.

          But an assigned reading list in a public school for minors has certain obligations. No pornography and no political party’s or religion’s conversion propaganda.

          • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

            Exactly. The Left Behind series is propaganda. Public schools shouldn’t be recommending conversion propaganda, unless (perhaps) it was identified as propaganda and there was some sort of project involving comparing/contrasting different types of material. I can think of a perfectly legitimate way for, say, Mein Kampf, Mao’s Little Red Book, and the Left Behind series to all be included in such a project.

            • Bob Becker

              Do you really want local school boards deciding which works of fiction are to be designated “propaganda” and which are not? I don’t. FSM deliver us from such a fate!

              The real problem with the list of “series” books recommended is that there is little of any substance on it. Where is ” Lord of the Flies”? Where is “Catcher in the Rye” or “A Separate Peace” or”The Old Man and The Sea” or “The Power and the Glory” or “King Rat” or similar chewy novels that are ( or ought to be) well within the grasp of a decently educated high school senior? Books that might raise questions a littke more meaty than whether Team Edward is the coolest one to be on.

              • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

                I agree.  The general quality of the books on that list is as disturbing to me as the fact that “Left Behind” is on the list.  Maybe it’s a sign of my age, but aren’t kids expected to read “classic” fiction anymore (or at least high-quality contemporary fiction)?

              • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

                The series is published by a fundamentalist Christian press, for the sole purpose of presenting “rapture” belief as a valid truth. I don’t see how these books could be considered anything but propaganda, to be quite honest. Why would a school board have to decide that? It’s self-evident, indicated by the publisher, author, marketing, etc. There’s no way these books could be considered religiously neutral. I can’t imagine evangelistic Muslim propaganda being treated the same way the Left Behind series has been by the Georgia school system.

                • H R

                  I live in Houston County and worked as a teacher in the system and so I can verify the occasionally stifling Christian atmosphere one finds around here.  However, as a former English teacher, I would like to point out that this is not a required summer reading list and that the heading at the top reads “popular series books,” not “handbooks for the way you live your life.”  Yes, many of them are drivel (I would say most, frankly), but when you are trying to encourage your low-interest child to read, sometimes the word “popular” is a good way to pique that interest.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      The Left Behind series was published by a Christian press for the sole purpose of  presenting readers with a fundamentalist Christian worldview. Public schools shouldn’t be telling students to read (or not read) proselytizing material. It’s just as inappropriate as putting books called “Why You Should Become a Scientologist” or “Islam Is the Correct Religion” on the list. If public schools are to remain neutral on religion, they must not encourage students to read clearly biased material.

      • fett101

        It all depends on how the material is presented. It’d be perfectly legal to teach the Bible in public schools as long as it’s done as literature and in a neutral manner. Considering the list of other books I wouldn’t be too worried about the Left Behind series being an option.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          Yes, it’s perfectly legal to teach the Bible as literature, but it’s not okay to encourage students to read proselytizing material from any religion. The school is supposed to remain neutral. It’s not supposed to make a recommendation that students read books designed to promote one religion over all the others.

          • Erp

             Actually that would be legitimate if for instance the students were expected to take apart the arguments and critique them not just swallow them as truth. Ideally readings proselytizing different, contradictory ideologies should be used.  

            • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

              Well, yes, in that case students should be presented with material from competing ideologies. If there were a class devoted to different worldviews, and the Left Behind series was presented as an example of fundamentalist Christian ideology, that would be fine. Of course, that’s not what’s happening in Georgia. The Left Behind series is being recommended for recreational reading, despite the fact that it exists solely for evangelical purposes.

            • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

              “…if for instance the students were expected to take apart the arguments and critique them not just swallow them as truth.”

              Given the flagrancy with which they disregard the separation of church and state, I’m pretty sure that “taking apart arguments” and “critiquing” are not in the purview of the Houston County school board.

          • Susan OConnor

             Again, the House of Night series could easily be viewed as proselytizing material for pagans.  Uglies is an atheist book series, there is /zero/ mention of god or religion if I recall correctly.

            • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

              Actually, no. The House of Night series is not intended as proselytizing material for pagans. The authors are not pagan. The publisher is not pagan. The books are not meant to lead readers to adopt paganism as their religion.

              Secular books are simply not the same as books that are specifically written to encourage people to adopt certain religious views. Secular books are not atheist books. The Uglies series is not atheist. If it had been published by an atheist press, written by an atheist author, and intended to get people to adopt atheism, then, yes, it would be atheist propaganda, and equally unsuitable for public schools.

      • Bob Becker

        “Why you Should Become a Scientoligist” or “Islam is the Correct Religion” would both be non-fiction works, and so raise serious questions not raised by works of fiction like the Left Behind series. Using your standard, seems to me, writers like Flannery O’Conner would be impermissible because she was a demonstrably Catholic writer whose works conveyed clearly her faith.   Works of fiction, again.

        When we start to delve into the intentions of writers of fiction to discern the worthiness of including what they write on recommended reading lists we apply an ideological test to them that I am not at all comfortable doing.  The fundies are all for applying such ideological tests to school readings and I [and I think most of us there] are opposed to their doing that, to objecting to books that do not pass their ideological test.   We should not be doing it either, for works of fiction.   Slippery slope argument?  Absolutely, which does not make it one iota less compelling. 

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          There is a difference between works that explore religious themes and works published specifically to promote one particular religion. We had this discussion back when a public elementary school was offering books published by an evangelical company for their book fair. The books were not appropriate because there was no secular or educational purpose in offering them. A picture book titled “Jesus Loves the Little Children” is no more appropriate for the public school classroom than the Left Behind series. Fiction or not, they were published for a very specific purpose, and that purpose is incompatible with the public education system, which must remain neutral on religious matters. 

          • Susan OConnor

             The House of Night series presents worshipping Nyx (goddess of the night) as a valid religion, and is somewhat critical of fundamentalist christians.  I have no issue with the Left Behind series being included. 

            • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

              If you really think the two series are equivalent, you must not be familiar with with purpose behind the Left Behind books. The House of Night series is published by a secular press, not a pagan one, and is not intended to lead people to adopt paganism. Intention is what matters. The intention of the fundamentalist Christian author and publisher are for the books to convert people to Christianity. They are not intended to be a secular reading, are not religiously neutral, and serve no educational purpose. It would be the same as recommending a series by a fundamentalist Muslim press that encouraged readers to adopt Islam.

    • http://theravenspoke.blogspot.com/ TheRaven

      The Left Behind series is clever propaganda, written by a fundamentalist pastor to advance the Rapture-ready agenda. I have no issues with it being studied & criticized at the college or even high school level, but I definitely wouldn’t let 10-12 year old kids read it. 

  • BrentSTL

    “…courtesy of several local residents who wish to remain anonymous because of the death threats they are getting (including someone who suggested “sticking guns in your mouths and blowing the backs of your god damn heads off”).”
    Yep, real “Christian” of these folks.

    • ScarabDrowner

       If they’re already receiving death threats, they must not have done a good job of remaining anonymous.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        I’m not familiar with the particulars of this situation, but remember that death threats can be delivered in a “To Whom it May Concern” manner, where the threat is uttered or publicized in some way saying like,

        “Ifen ah fahnd ayout wut muthuh fuckuh is trahyin tuh stop our school prers, ahm agonna dee-liver Jesus’ love to ‘em with mah twelve gayge.”

        Such a non-focused threat should still be taken very seriously.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

          “Ifen ah fahnd ayout wut muthuh fuckuh is trahyin tuh stop our school
          prers, ahm agonna dee-liver Jesus’ love to ‘em with mah twelve gayge.”

          I had to go to Google for a Redneck-to-English translator on that sentence, Richard!  :-)

      • http://www.facebook.com/thomtrue Thomas True

         Small town. I am sure they don’t want wackos from all over the country joining them.

  • NewAtheist

    I have to say, having lived in the bible belt for some time, that this action does not really suprise me. There is a stronghold of belief here that god will fix everything, all you have to do is pray; that it will work out if it’s god’s will; that you just have to put it in god’s hands; and other such platitudes that means no one is really working on the problem. They also think that if you don’t go to church, there’s something wrong with you that needs fixin’; or that if you’re having difficulties in life it’s because you haven’t put it in god’s hands or submitted to his will; and that prayer is the cure-all. There’s a lady here at work who has set up weekly prayer walks through her son’s rather troubled high school (after school hours, which is the only reason I haven’t complained about it), and can’t understand that there’s a lot of training and seminars that need to happen, hiring of competent teachers, and that prayer won’t accomplish those things. On my first day at work, I was approached at work by no less than 5 people asking what church I go to. All of this is just to give you an idea of the mentality that has as much of a stranglehold over the people as does either the past or the humidity.

    Which means that in the minds of these “educators”, prayer and god-fearing is why they are having issues in their schools. They’re not confronting, head-on, any racial or gang tension which provides a barrier to learning; they’re neither addressing nor correcting academic deficiencies; they’re neither addressing nor correcting administrative or educator issues that are providing barriers to learning. And, to add insult to injury, they’re grossly violating the Constitution.

    • A Reader

      I live in an area with a pretty similar culture. Generally people my age (under 20) are more open-minded, and a decent percentage ignore church altogether–but it’s still a small minority, and there are still a lot of people, even people my age, who are strongly, force-it-on-you religious. It’s a little sad, especially in such an economically disadvantaged area, that there isn’t more cultural focus on science and education. It would help a lot of people  & empower them to do more about some of our local issues, IMO.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      This passive “It’s God’s will” mentality is so alien and bizarre to me. It sounds like hackneyed dialogue out of a low budget movie about an Arabian Sheik in the 1800′s. What’s even more puzzling to me is how people turn that passivity on and off depending on the problem they’re facing. When the Mississippi River starts flooding their town, they usually don’t stand around praying while the brown water rises around their ankles; they start stacking sandbags. If the sandbag barriers collapse, then they talk about God’s will.

      When the problem is simple, obvious, and primal, like mud flowing toward their town, they get busy doing practical things, but when the problem is complex, subtle, and might require careful thought and discussion such as sociological and educational problems, oh no, they turn it over to the Cosmic Consultant.

      • http://theravenspoke.blogspot.com/ TheRaven

        But yet most of them are Republicans opposed to “big government”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

      Awesome description. Matches where I live perfectly. I wanted to say something about the issue being systemic. Even if the entire school district were educated about the Establishment Clause, it wouldn’t help. They would need to educate my entire county and even then, folks would probably resist it.

      It’s ingrained. The theists here have been doing this for generations. Nobody is telling them it is not allowed.

      My wife drove school buses for a local district. She regularly ferried kids from school to church for after-school activities. She said as many as eight buses would do this every day.

      The sheer penetration of religion in schools around here is disgusting. My coworker tried to get me to go to this Fields of Faith thing (http://www.fieldsoffaith.com/). They do it at the high school football field. They encourage all kids to go. Then they try to get them to “give their hearts to Jesus”. With the large number of parents and kids already in their cult, the peer pressure is very strong.

      Hmmm… I wonder if I could go to one of those and stand on the side with a “Field of Reason” banner or some such. lol.

      • kdp

         “News at 11….an alleged lynching was reported at a high school football field in BlindAndIgnorant County.  The victim was allegedly standing on one side of the field with a banner that read, ‘Field of Reason’, during a Field of Faith event.  One witness was quoted as saying, ‘That feller should’a known better than to insult our young-uns’ belief in Our Lord and Everlasting Savior Forever and Ever Amen Jeebus Christ!’”

  • ruth

    I found it especially odd that you were to be a baccalaureate at precisely 2:27pm.  Not 2:30, not 2:45, but 2:27.  Weirdly authoritarian.  

    • A Friend

      Hi. I hope you don’t mind me commenting that many times, people working with students use an odd time to make it stand out, so it will be noticed and remembered. (It got you, right?) It has nothing to do with legalism whatsoever. Truly, it’s just that simple – nothing nefarious.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Wow, some horrifying stuff. This makes me feel lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I can’t imagine trying to raise secular kids in the Bible Belt. 

    • Tainda

      I raised my daughter here in Missouri, it wasn’t easy on her once she realized she didn’t believe in all the hooey either.  She has good friends though and that helps.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    In the context of the other fantasy works, I don’t see a problem with Left Behind. The paying for summer lunches thing may be ok as long as they are also doing it for other camps, but the fact that they say it specifically about Bible Camps is worrying.

    And of course even without these two, the rest of the list is damning. 

  • Alex

    Lovely work, FFRF! I live right in this area (a couple counties away), and it’s pretty bad around here. From what I hear, Schley County High school is pretty much a Christian club with their own load of church/state violations. South Georgia Tech in Americus blatantly puts preacher-led invocations in their graduation events.

    Houston county is home of Warner Robins, which is relatively large and more diverse, so I can only imagine what one could dig up in any one of the local high schools and colleges just a few miles away. It may be high time to stir the hornets’ nest, but I wonder if it would be as interesting for them to mess around with small Southern towns.

  • Barbara

    “Yet evil still lurks in the hearts of the unbelieving.” Shaking my head at that. I was interested in reading that series because I enjoy good horror novels, but this line puts a bad taste in my mouth. Guess it makes for a ‘joyful’ read for most Christians (because they sure do like to think us atheists are automatically evil). 

    • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

       I’ve read most of them & TRUST ME they are NOT good “horror novels” & you will be very disappointed. The writing is pretty childlike & if it wasn’t for the religious theme they would never have even been published. In a nutshell, they’re crap, both as literature & as a worldview.

    • amycas

      You should read the reviews of that series by Slacktivist. One of his biggest complaints is actually the LACK of any type of horror (or tention built from horror) in those novels. It’s almost erie how the authors don’t develop that at all.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Every time I see something like this, it’s just one more nail in the coffin. Christians blatantly ignore not only their own God’s rules, but general laws, and they get no punishment for it. They treat people like utter shit, and not only does their supposedly loving God do nothing about it, he forgives them and sends the wronged people to suffer for eternity. 

    Frankly, I have no idea if the Christian god actually exists or not. What I do know is, he is NOT a being worthy of worship if he actually does. And I get new reminders of this fact daily. 

  • TheKevinBates

    Why is the required reading for a high school full of children’s shitty fantasy novels?

  • Ibis3

    The only thing I don’t have a problem with on this list is the principal’s bio including a Bible quotation.  The implication is that she finds that bit of text inspiring to her, she’s not forcing religion on anyone else. It could easily be swapped out for a quotation from the Bhagavad Gita or the Tao Te Ching or Shakespeare or whatever. Then again, I could be persuaded otherwise…

    As for Left Behind, well if the description had said “Yet evil still lurks in the hearts of black people” or even a more specific type of unbeliever, say, “Yet evil still lurks in the hearts of the Jews” I don’t think many people here would continue to voice their support. It’s just as bad to have propaganda demonising non-Christians as a whole being recommended reading endorsed by the school.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1487131092 Ari Bakke

    Wow.  Deep South, you sicken me sometimes.  I sometimes wonder how my (atheist) mother managed to even survive Georgia’s school system.  Anyway, how many Church/State violations can one COUNTRY have?  The prejudice against atheists in America is present to a sickening degree.  If Thomas Jefferson became a zombie, I imagine he would pull the covers over his head and go back to his grave.

    • Ken

      I live here.  I agree totally.  I am sorry, but you can oly lead a horse to the water.

  • Exmai

    I have no problem with the Left Behind series being included, since that list has more book choices on it than most kids will ever read in 4 years. The point of including wildly-popular series on summer reading lists is to encourage kids to get hooked on an author, any author, when they might otherwise not be reading at all. The Left Behind books are addictive, numerous, and easy reading and are a good suggestion for religious kids branching out into fantasy.

    • amycas

       No the Left Behind series is terrible. If you want to give Christian kids a fantasy series they’ll be allowed to read at least make it Narnia or LOTR. Both of those have overt (Narnia) and subtle (LOTR) references to Christian theology and morals and they’re written well.

  • anonymous

    This is where I grew up – went to elementary, middle, and high school here.  It is an absolute horrible town to live in if you aren’t southern baptist.  Most people attend church a minimum of 2x a week (Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings), however most are there every single day during the week for different activities.

    In high school I graduated high in my class and was told to give the graduation prayer.  I did – as I was indoctrinated in the religion then.  After the prayer, I was criticized because I didn’t ask the men to take off their hats.  It blew my mind.

    Even now, many years after I’ve left the town, when I go back I have a sinking feeling of all the religion that suffocates the area.  You cannot drive any distance in the town without seeing another church.

    Their schools could use more focus as it is, the education there (at least when I went) was absolutely horrid.  Thankfully I was accepted into an amazing college where I was encouraged to think for myself.

    Good luck FFRF – there are many people from Warner Robins / Houston County that support you.

    PS – if you’re going to say “Houston County” out loud – it’s pronounced like House-ton.  Not like the Texas Houston.  :)

  • Clarissa

    THAT’S their required summer reading list? The teacher in you should be sorely disappointed, never mind the fundamentalism. Hmph, math teachers…

    • amycas

       Not required, suggest summer reading–still, I would never suggest Twilight or Left Behind.

  • Doug D

    I grew up in neighboring Alabama, and sadly my experiences have taught me that this is the norm in the region. I was exposed to blatant proselytizing from school faculty on a regular basis. In the seventh grade, during science class, upon reaching the chapter on evolution in our textbooks, our science teacher simply said “We all know that God created the Earth and Man in 7 days, so we’l just skip this chapter.” 

    This was in the 1990′s and to hear my brother’s reports of his children’s recent experiences in public school, things haven’t changed much. His 2nd grader returned home from class the other day with questions about why “people used to live to be hundreds of years old but not anymore”. Apparently his PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER had been teaching her class bible stories. 

    At my niece’s public high school graduation a couple of months ago, the principal delivered a prayer to begin the ceremony. Not a vague call to a higher power, but a Bible-specific, Jesus-Christ-Holy-Ghost-God-in-Heaven-Amen prayer. 

    As a previous commenter noted, this sort of thing is the norm in the bible belt, the status quo. I agree with their statement that many of these people simply do not understand that what they are doing is strictly and legally not allowed. They believe that they are doing God’s work in spreading His word, and that any attempt to stop them from doing so is either an infringement on their freedom or a demonic attempt by a literal Satan to do evil upon the world. It’s truly frightening. 

    I’ve known some people that take “biblical literalism” to a whole new level. I’ve witnessed seemingly rational adults have sincere debates about the ways in which Noah could have fit all the animals on the ark, fully believing that the event actually occurred. I had a community leader, when I was volunteering with the Jaycees, inform me that dinosaurs never existed and were a Satanic lie. He told me that he knew this was a fact because he once visited the Smithsonian and the dino skeletons that he saw were all made of plaster. 

  • archaeopteryx

    Amazing how these people will be the first to point to the Constitution when it comes to bearing arms, and last, to consider separating church and state.

    • http://theravenspoke.blogspot.com/ TheRaven

      Guns, rural America and myth that sublimates history is a toxic brew.

  • A Friend

    After reading down your list of responses, it seems to me to be awfully one-sided. I was just wondering if I claimed to be a reasonable Christian if my comment would be even be posted. If so, and if invited, I would be happy to return and engage in constructive more constructive dialogue.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Hi Friend, we have a number of Christian commenters on this blog. If your intention is to dialogue with us in an honest, civil manner, then you are definitely welcome to contribute.

      • A Friend

        Thanks. I’ll look forward to reading more entries so I can be more informed.

    • http://theravenspoke.blogspot.com/ TheRaven

      If you belong to a mainline faith, i.e., you aren’t evangelical, Mormon or a Scientologist, I’ll withhold annihilation unless and until you attempt to advance a religious agenda, at which point, you’ll be vaporized. The constitution bestows freedom of religion, which means you have an unlimited right to practice your faith at home and at church. Keep your religion out of the statehouse and away from public schools. Prove to the world your faith exemplifies decency by keeping it off the airwaves. Feel free to exercise your 1st amendment rights but bear in mind, I make liberal use of mine.

      • A Friend

        Okay. I don’t want to be vaporized. I understand the issues with government and public schools. But by the airwaves – surely you don’t believe that religion has no right to public broadcast. Public access radio and television is open to all as long as they don’t profiteer. Further, I don’t understand the implication that religion is indecent if it is broadcasted. With all of the truly indecent things that are broadcasted (and for much profit, I might add) I don’t understand why you would single out religious broadcasting as indecent. Hopefully, we can continue to dialogue – without fear of annihilation.

        • amycas

          lol, I believe TheRaven was using hyperbole. 

  • http://theravenspoke.blogspot.com/ TheRaven

    If you want to understand America, read Albion’s Seed (DH Fischer). America’s four founding cultures came from distinctly different portions of Britain.  Southern culture originated in the lawless, violent and uneducated English/Scottish borderlands. 

    That culture seized Christian fundamentalism after its transplantation. America had no experience like the French wars of religion or 30-years war to break its grip. The ACW devastated the south but we didn’t experience the greater devastation of WW1 or WW2 on American soil. The ACW birthed a little cynicism, but nowhere near enough to break the grip of religious backwardness. Plus, Andrew Johnson scuttled Reconstruction right quick. The combination of WW1 and especially WW2 eradicated religion as a political force in most developed European countries. We remained untouched at home.

    Georgia, like most other southern states (partial exceptions being Florida and Louisiana), has been primarily shaped by borderlands culture. Ignorance is a virtue. Diversity is a curse. The striking thing about the south is a lack of diversity among white people. Study southern surnames and you’ll find a paucity of Italian or Eastern European ancestry. Even Irish surnames are in relatively short supply. Outside influences are limited to larger cities, like Nashville and Atlanta. College towns are exceptions that define the rule. 

    So it’s no surprise that a bunch of white southerners flout the constitutional separation of church and state by forcing their religious beliefs on others. The south is almost monolithicly fundamentalist. Sneering at secular outsiders and (especially) death threats are hallmarks of borderlands culture.

  • Timothy

    You can’t take that book list seriously . . . it has Twilight listed.


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