Arkansas State Representative Calls Eight-Year-Old Atheist a Fool

The Arkansas legislature just passed a bill called HB 1690 that will enact a freakishly-long moment of silence in the classroom:

A public school in this state shall observe a one (1) minute period of silence at the beginning of school each school day.

A minute. A full damn minute.

That’s not a “moment” of silence. That’s not a “period” of silence. That an “excruciatingly long goddamn minute” of silence.

Go silent and time yourself for that long. Then imagine 30 students forced to waste classroom time doing nothing, trying to keep their mouths shut during that time. It won’t happen despite administrators’ and teachers’ best efforts. It’s a joke. And it’s really just a way to push prayer into the public schools. The bill even says as much (PDF):

I received an email from a concerned mother who wrote to her representatives urging them (ultimately unsuccessfully) to reconsider their vote for the sake of her daughter:

Last year, when she was a first grader, some of her classmates realized that she does not believe in god. She was harassed on the playground by these children to the extent that she came home crying several times. I finally had to consult with her teacher, twice, to put an end to this destructive and painful situation.

The secular purpose of HB1690 is nonexistent. Obviously, the purpose of the law is to encourage prayer or spiritual reflection while at school. At this point I feel compelled to remind the legislature that, as of 2009, Arkansas was ranked 50th in the United States in terms of college graduation rates (Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation Annual Report) and, as of 2009, ranked 7th in the nation in terms of church attendance (Gallup). It is pitifully clear that Arkansas students would be better served by a period of learning in their public schools than by a period of silence.

Should the legislature pass HB1690 into law, I fear that my daughter would once again be harassed by her classmates, this time for not praying with everyone else. Again, my daughter is a good student, studious and respectful of her teachers. House Bill 1690 will make non-Christian children’s school experience difficult and potentially painful, while doing nothing to improve the education of any student. I implore the legislature to abandon this unconstitutional and pointless endeavor, and concern itself with improving education and the economy for all Arkansas.

Good points. And most, if not all, of them will go ignored by politicians who care more about pushing prayer into schools than making sure kids get a good education.

But here’s the appalling bit.

Rep. John Payton wrote back to the mother.

Rep. John Payton

His email explained the intricate and complex inner workings of the state constitution and why he co-sponsored this awful bit of legislation:

That’s it. That’s the whole response. Bible verses to justify his political decision-making. (It’s not surprising either, given that his website includes links to the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Bill of Rights, the Arkansas Constitution, and… The King James Bible.)

Not that it matters, but what do those verses say?

Here’s Romans 1:19-25:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened… Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools

… the hell?

And, of course, Psalm 14:1 reads:

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

So allow me to recap: A concerned mother writes to her state representatives urging them not to vote for legislation that will inevitably lead to the bullying of her atheist child… and one of the representatives writes back to say the eight-year-old girl is a fool with a darkened heart for not believing in God.

It’s not just insensitive. It’s a form of bullying from a high-ranking government official. He doesn’t give a damn what the little girl has to deal with at school because she doesn’t believe in his imaginary god.

The Arkansas legislature should, at the very least, issue a strong rebuke of his actions. This is unacceptable, intolerable behavior from any politician whose job it is to represent all of the people in his district, not just the Christian ones.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Randomfactor

    Romans 1:33 provides the perfect answer–unless it’s been edited in his version of the Bible.

    Oh, and Matthew 5:22.

    • Verimius

      Romans chapter 1 only has 32 verses. Please clarify.

      • Randomfactor

        When it was first written, it had no numbers either. The very next verse was moved to Romans 2 in the numbering scheme because it’s so devastating to their argument.

        • Blacksheep

          …And that very next verse is key: it completes the whole thought.

          • baal

            Romans 2:1-2 -

            (1)You, therefore, have no excuse,
            you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge
            another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do
            the same things. (2) Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.”

            At least god didn’t choose to capitalize the last word in the snippet. adding in 2 doesn’t help you blacksheep. It’s an underscoring of the prior statement that hypocrisy is a bad thing ™. Surely even you can see that an elected representative sending a letter to an 8 year old to call her a fool is cruel and shitty*.

            You probably read the verse differently but that’s also my point. Bible quotes are Rorschach. *unless you have a less pejorative reading of the bible kibble the rep used?

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    It’s a plot to increase the population of mimes.

    • SeekerLancer

      Oooh you made my joke for me already. Good show!

      • kevin white

        Seeker, i would just like to compliment you on your Protoman pic. It’s awesum.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569655551 Dan Davis

    How is this possible?

  • leslie

    It’s already like that in Texas.

  • http://goddoesnt.blogspot.com/ James Lindsay

    The response of the State Representative is utter crap and deserves a firm rebuking, to be sure. The bill, though almost certainly stealth religion in the classroom, could have a secular purpose. Indeed, it could be valuable to the kids and to the educational process.

    That it lists praying as an acceptable activity is probably inappropriate, but sitting quietly is something that has scientific backing in terms of its neurological and psychological value–and even the wording of this article about how long a silent minute is speaks to the value it could convey (psychological research recommends 10 minutes a day, actually). Indeed, one of the values of quiet sitting is to enable the mind to focus more clearly on the current moment and situation, which could work to calm divergent mental energies in the students which could facilitate the educational process–if done correctly.

    In a truly secular society, instead of one run by Christian supremacists like in Arkansas–which is what leads to the bullying of the lady’s daughter–this could be a very useful introduction to quiet sitting for kids. Since the society is not secular, and the intent of the bill clearly isn’t on the secular up-and-up, though, the issue is dicey because it’s bullshit with frosting on it.

    • Thegoodman

      I certainly respect your perspective and would tend to agree that a few moments of silence throughout the day to clear your mind can be useful, especially for adults who are overworked and stressed about various 1st world problems.

      However, we are talking about young school children, many of which do not have a worry in the world. Nor do they have the understanding of meditation to use it effectively. They are certainly capable, but (I would guess) few have been instructed on how to use these moments of silence to their benefit.

      Your statements also beg the question..what does “to calm divergent mental energies” mean exactly.

      • baal

        Maybe the teacher could instruct the kids that they can use the time to clear their minds. Notice each though and then let it float off. I assume that’s the kind of idea of the “to calm” snippet. Any passing resemblance to mindfulness mediation would be entirely accidental.

        • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

          “…without interfering with or distracting another student…”

          sadly, even with their sloppy redundancy and/or lack of imagination (listing “a silent activity” as a ‘third option’ of things to do “during the silent period”), they actually did think of that. :

          • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

            this was meant to reply to Randomfactor’s comment, but when it was deleted and placed properly, something caused my account to log out and when i reloaded, i had been denied responsibility. :P

      • http://goddoesnt.blogspot.com/ James Lindsay

        Perhaps you’ve spent time in a classroom with children, and perhaps you haven’t. If you have, you’ll probably quickly appreciate that my saying “divergent mental energies” was a way of saying that each one (usually in small groups or pods of 2-4 kids, although sometimes alone) gets off on their own social tangent when given a few minutes of opportunity to do so. Indeed, they seem to seize that opportunity whenever it arises.

        By calming it, I simply meant pulling them away from that for long enough to reset into a different frame of mind, hopefully one that could be bent toward educational purposes more easily.

        Also, I should note that I didn’t argue that schools *should* do this. I merely pointed out that a non-religious purpose for the practice is justifiable. I’ve found that one of the quickest ways to lose the high ground in an argument, and thus invite infinite (often irritating) picking, is to say something patently false as part of your case. Here, saying that the moment of silence could have no secular purpose is one such example that will be seized upon and used to dismiss this argument (probably by arguing annoying technicalities).

        I also said I think the bill as stated is stealth religious legislation that is inappropriate and that the State Representative’s behavior is an embarrassment unbecoming of an elected official.

      • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

        agreed; even if it were more realistic, this sort of training would have to start in pre-school and kindergarten at the absolute latest…

    • Randomfactor

      Presumably making silly faces during the silent time would be acceptable, so long as it’s silent.

      • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

        “…without interfering with or distracting another student…”

        sadly, even with their sloppy redundancy and/or lack of imagination (listing “a silent activity” as a ‘third option’ of things to do “during the silent period”), they actually did think of that. :

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=599157740 Jeff Keasling

      My school had these moments of silence as well. It started out with about a full minute then gradually whittled down to probably less than half of that. I’m an atheist, but I found these moments to be beneficial for similar reasons to what you’re saying. However, for the most part, I found it ironic that almost all of the christian students took that time to be obnoxious and do silly things. The actual reality of the situation, in my particular case, was that the moment of silence was beneficial to me, an atheist, and just time wasted on most (but not all) of the Christian populace.
      Which leads to the question, if most non-religious students at these ages aren’t of the training or desire to meditate or make use of silent moments for reflection, and most christian students at these ages (which was high school, in my example, by the way) do not make use of this time set aside by praying, reflection, or meditation, is it not, generally speaking, almost entirely a waste of time?
      Although the time benefitted me, and the small amount of religious students who take the moment seriously and pray or do other mental activities, I believe that the ratio of students who the time is wasted on to students who make effective use of that time is too great to be considered a practice that logically should be continued. I, although sacrificing beneficial time for myself, would be perfectly willing to not have that time in school every day and instead focus on learning. There are many hours of the day outside of school where, if they choose to do so, secular or religious students can pray, reflect, meditate, or do any form of mental activity and have far more time than one minute to do so.
      If any religious person only prays because the school sets aside a minute for silence, or any secular person exercises the mind only because the school sets aside a minute, then the former person doesn’t care enough about praying to need that minute, and the latter person doesn’t care enough about mental exercise that they will be bothered by the removal of the minute of silence.

      • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

        as well as an upvote for the whole comment, i just wanted to thank you for the refreshing drink of water that is seeing “populace” spelled correctly for the first time in – i lost count…

      • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

        your description of events also indicates yet another practice that individual teachers cannot or will not enforce – another nail in the coffin of certain forms of imposition by administration…

  • David23

    April fools, right. No! Crap.

    • Richard Hughes

      Hemant didn’t post any sources. This could well be a particularly tasteless April Fool’s joke.

      • Gus Snarp

        The story doesn’t read like an April Fool’s joke, but the representative’s website sure does.

  • rhodent

    Here’s hoping that e-mail soon becomes “Exhibit A” in a court case regarding the constitutionality of this law.

    • Rain

      Yeah, he quotes Bible verses saying secular people are fools to explain why the legislation is secular. I guess it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be a state representative.

      • duh

        If it did there wouldn’t be any State representatives.

      • http://twitter.com/tunaquarter Heretic

        “…whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” [ Matthew 5:22 ]

  • baal

    Nothing like punching down.

  • A3Kr0n

    I would have been expelled on the first day, and proud of it.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EYZCDG3OAPGD3PDG7XD7SM7OAM ElizabethS

    Mother fucking asshole! PLEASE tell me FFRF can get involved!

  • GodlessPoutine

    I feel sorry for the 8 year old having to grow up in a society like that.

    • C Peterson

      I feel sorry for society, just being a society like that! Face it, we’re all screwed as long as we have idiots like this holding public office.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

        And since our community abhors organization we (atheists) will never be a significant constituency to elect officials to office.

        • C Peterson

          Well, it would make little sense to elect atheists to office, just because they are atheists.

          The community that matters here- and it is real and organized- is made up of secularists, skeptics, and freethinkers. Already this community has been enormously successful in getting mainstream exposure for its ideas. It has been enormously successful in increasing the number of people who are skeptical or outright suspicious of religion, especially where it intersects public interests.

          The solution isn’t to find a few atheists and get them elected, it’s to change the culture of the voters. And that’s happening, although it’s not very apparent in the Bible Belt.

        • baal

          The vast majority of what our community wants is actually the current law – separation of church and State. Politically, I’d like secular humanists in office (though I’d vote for a (R) that was religious so long as they got the humanism part right). That’s not exactly the same thing as atheism. Prior to about 1.5 years ago, I didn’t think it was possible to disagree (now I know better, folks with an ideology first mentality will spat over anything).

          • C Peterson

            I’d say essentially all of our community wants the separation of state and church to be enforced. But a healthy part of that community also wants to see the population become less religious, if not fully atheist, since that is reasonably seen as a requirement for society to advance, whereas state/church separation is only a partial fix.

            • art man

              Being a teacher in Arkansas, I can tell you from my own small experience first hand, that MOST teachers would LOVE to have a prayer time in class. Not me. While the others would make them pray, I’d say “keep painting! Quit wasting your time – you’re at school, not church!”

  • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

    Well that guy is a freaking idiot. Ignorant idiot that is. And his geocities webpage is as lame as he is. No email that I could find initially.

    • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

      Dur, I’m an idiot. The email is right there in the email. I went straight to his webpage looking for a comment section. Email of disapproval sent.

  • xueye

    Sounds like we need a phone call campaign.

  • howjay

    Masturbation is a silent activity that might be accomplished in one minute with a good imagination.

    • Pepe

      Lol

    • LesterBallard

      Thirty seconds if I’m in the zone.

      • townandgownie

        15 seconds if the teacher helps.

        • fsm

          depends on the teacher, it could take longer.

          • abeleehane

            Stop talking….I can’t concentrate !

          • JA

            If it were my 7th and 8th grade English teacher, that length of time sounds about right.

        • The Commenter

          Atheists joking about child abuse again.

          • Octoberfurst

            Oh shut up!

          • Chicken and Egg

            We just make jokes. Your priests do the actual raping, so I ask you, which is worse?

            • Sam Rudloff

              oh snap! checkmate theists

            • http://www.facebook.com/brandy.green1976 Brandy Gillaspie

              WIN!

          • TephieAtheist

            Since when is a teenage boy jerking off to his hot teacher “child abuse”? I’m pretty sure it was the subject of many an 80s rock song.

          • TephieAtheist

            Since when is a teenage boy jerking off to his hot teacher “child abuse”? I’m pretty sure it was the subject of many an 80s rock song.

      • kevin white

        We shall call you Mister Hurricaaaaane. :)

    • http://twitter.com/xllx_wyld_xllx Kristen

      i find it kind of hard to masturbate in silence

      • Aita

        Stealth Fap is an important skill to learn!

        • http://twitter.com/maxbingman1 Max Bingman

          It’s the sound of the bed springs that can blow your cover.

      • http://www.facebook.com/abbot.kaplan Abbot Kaplan

        When you find it kind of hard you’re half way there.

    • Matt

      I was about to post this. Little did I know I’m not the only one with a sick mind.

  • Sideshow Billybob

    Did anyone take the time to see his welcome page? He’s sporting a Reagan quote which says “We are never defeated unless we give up on God.” The idiot is a fucking zealot

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    I have always been contrarian, even in my elementary school days. Since reading is a silent activity I would probably prop open a copy of The God Delusion for all to see and read to myself for a minute each day.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1199783929 Jonathan Duran

      Until you get beat within an inch of your life on the play ground an hour later…it’s not as easy as you think for an 8 year old being bullied by everyone around them.

      • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

        Indeed. I was beaten-up more than a few times for going against the majority.

  • Mark W.

    I will silently pray that the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Zombie Raptor Republican Jeebus forgive John Payton his sins.

  • jdm8

    Sounds like the setup of an episode of Scooby Doo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/XrayAgent J Michael Carter

    This rule has much in common with other non-academic rules in school. A few years ago (I want to say that is was after the Columbine Massacre), many schools began enacting uniform (actually just extra restrictive dress codes) policies in the name of safety and academic rigor. Like the rules on moments of silence and mandatory pledges, it’s all flash, no substance, and another layer of work for teachers and administrators who then must discipline students who aren’t quite during the entire minute, don’t say the pledge, or don’t wear the right color shirt.

    • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

      i was very impressed, and slightly terrified, when i read J.T.Gatto’s underground history of american education several years ago. i don’t know whether to fight for reform of the corporate obedience factories or just broaden my own skill-set so that i can home-school my kids (and maybe my friends’ kids)…

  • Belaam

    60 seconds a day to practice juggling?! Weee!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Austin-Konrad/100002696297060 Austin Konrad

      i’m rastfarian can i smoke weed for 60sec

  • Michael Waters

    Well at least she’s qualified to run for state representative.

    • Gus Snarp

      I see what you did there.

  • Stonyground

    “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

    This statement is demonstrably false. On average, the more intelligent and better educated someone is, the less likely they are to believe in any kind of gods. Many of history’s social reformers and philanthropists have been either outright atheists or religious sceptics.

    • kagekiri

      Unfortunately, those who hold these anti-atheist beliefs don’t really accept evidence that contradicts their beliefs.

      My own father, upon learning about my atheism, accused me of not even loving him and said I couldn’t be trusted to be a good person. Apparently, knowing me for my entire life hadn’t convinced him of my character, and I only heard his apparent disdain for me after I revealed I was an atheist.

      They really are convinced by the Romans passage, thinking I MUST still believe in God, that I’m just rebelling or wanting to sin.

      • AtheistsAreUs

        My mother still thinks I am “going through a stage”,… I’m 48. :/

        • kevin white

          My mom thought that about me until i sat down with her and a bible… and all my research i’ve done over the years (Was going to go to seminary.) She still believes in God, but she’s no longer thinking i’m going through a stage. :P

      • Aita

        Meanwhile, look at what it says about them: if there *isn’t* a god, *they* can’t be trusted to be good people.

        Divine Command theory is fucking scary…

        • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

          well, when one’s discouraged from thinking for oneself, and told that one of the most important things that ever happened was this guy bringing ten rules carved in stone from the mountain where only he spoke with the LORD… it’s not much of a surprise that one never gets around to thinking that there might be actual reasons to follow [a few of] those tenets…

    • Rain

      I don’t blame them if that’s supposed to be a convincing proof. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Wow, yeah that’s some real convincing proof. Only a fool would think it’s not good proof that “addresses concerns”. *yawn*

    • TephieAtheist

      The problem is, they consider it a mark of pride to be “not of the world” which means our disgusting secular degrees and intelligence is actually a distraction from Satan to make us have “false pride”. In that way, we are still the fools. Regardless of our test scores, degrees, or accolades, they are “worldly” achievements. So…worth nothing. Scripture is all that matters. And they will twist it to always make their side the “right” side.

  • Sven2547

    Haha, look at that big ol’ hat on Rep. Payton. Pardon my brazen stereotyping, but it’s easy to guess this guy’s stance on church-state separation just from his picture.

    • SeekerLancer

      People like him are practically self-parodies.

  • Richard Hughes

    Hemant, if this is an April Fool’s joke, it’s not funny at all.

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

      Sadly, it’s not a joke. Totally serious.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    (2) Pray; or(3)Engage in a silent activity.

    Bolding added by me for emphasis. Is he proposing that students be allowed to pray out loud during this time? Because otherwise #2 is encompassed by #3, and is therefore superfluous.

    • Reality Rules

      Smart kids would pull out a copy of Dawkins, “The Magic of Reality” and read it silently, but making sufre the teacher, admin and other students see it. If the kid gets it taken away or is told it is not an appropriate activity, SUE THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THE SCHOOL and all involved.

    • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

      that was the first alarm bell for me. the list is prefaced with “during the period of silence” – meaning this was drafted and approved by people who either a) failed to identify senseless redundancy, perhaps because they were obsessed with applying the ‘rule of three’ to a list of ‘options’; or b) recognize how far behind their state is in education and felt that it would be necessary to remind readers of the core premise of the proposition after that tedious slog through a dozen or so words, numbers and punctuation marks…

  • C Peterson

    All over the Web, on April 1, fun pages appear- the best requiring a little thought before recognizing the cleverness of their authors and dismissing the stories. But here? It’s tough, because almost every day seems like April Fools’ Day. I read these stories and can’t believe they aren’t made up, that Hemant isn’t just pulling our legs. I mean, these can’t be true… can they? Day after day?

    It’s scary.

    • kevin white

      I live in Arkansas. Depending on what part of the state you live in, there may be some laws that allow the cops to ARREST you if you’re atheist on that charge alone. I don’t know if those laws are followed through on, but still. This state sucks when it comes to anything from equality to just talking to someone. You’re an enemy of the good people of Arkansas if you believe in reason, which sucks major amounts of donkey testiculars.

      • Baby_Raptor

        I live in Arkansas as well. I stay firmly in the closet. When I first moved down here, the most common question I got was “Where do you go to church?” and most people reacted rather viscerally to my response of “Nowhere.” I got a lot of crap for it.

        • kevin white

          Yeah, I get that a lot too. They also ask me to go to church with them and to bring my “Girlfriend”. There’s a reason i want to move out of this state. :(

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

            Scary! Where I live, a question like that would be considered rude and intrusive. No one’s ever assumed that I’m Christian or asked me where I go to church. I don’t think I’d last very long in Arkansas, LOL.

            • kevin white

              But around here, it’s as accepted as “What’s for dinner?”

              • http://www.facebook.com/hobgoblinuk Steve Hobgoblin Schofield

                I have numerous American friends and things they tell me plus stories like this makes me glad I am british with regard to my lack of religion. Only been asked which church I attend once it was last year at a christening. The parent have confirmed me Atheist parent so their child can choose his own path when he is older and christened him so that door is fully open too. :). But on to the point I was asked by a lovely lady I was chatting too and my reply was I am an atheist I am here as the parents are close friends. She didn’t bat an eyelid and we carried on chatting. Not everbody is that cool but Atheism is much more accepted here.

        • Willy Occam

          Yep, same here in good ol’ Texas. The question when we first arrived was always, “Have y’all found a church home yet?”

          “Church home”… uggh!

        • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

          20 years ago I moved to the southern U.S. the person next to me was asked first, “where are you from?” And he answered Boston. Second question, “would you like to come to our church?”

          Then they turned to me, and when I said I was from South, those people stopped talking to me. I think it’s the first time I was happy to encounter bigotry.

        • Fllora

          It was the same in Tennessee. I spent five miserable years in a tiny town there, always on the outside because I didn’t belong to a church.

      • TephieAtheist

        I’m also from Arkansas. I moved out and I refuse to go back. Get over here to San Diego! I just had a giant RuPaul Drag Race viewing at one of the 15 gay bars next to my house. Oh, and I’m a straight woman. So there is hope for people raised in Arkansas. You just have to have half a brain and more love than hate.

        • kevin white

          I have it worse as a gay man. I live in the part where athiests get shunned and lgbt people get attacked, so the few athiests around here are still pretty much so far in the athiest closet, they can see Narnia.

          • kevin white

            Also, that show is frickin hilarious. One of my straight friends got me watching that show. Hilarity ensues.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        It’s imaginable you’d be arrested. It would almost certainly be grounds for a federal lawsuit seeking punitive damages against any officer and jurisdiction who would do so, as such laws are massively unconstitutional since at least Torcaso v Watkins.

    • A3Kr0n

      He had me fooled for a bit with the Huckabee post.

      • kevin white

        When i saw that, i proceeded to spew soda out my nose. Everything still smells like orange. Darn Huckabee.

  • Inbred Hillbillies NOT Welcome

    What a shit stain on the buttocks of life.

    Evil and vile man. Scumbaggery at its finest.

  • http://twitter.com/maxbingman1 Max Bingman

    I have educators in my family. Every minute of class time counts. No reason to waste them. A moment of silence is just an opportunity for the class clown to fart and disrupt the class.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    The NIV for Psalm 14 has the following footnote:

    Psalm 14:1 The Hebrew words rendered fool in Psalms denote one who is morally deficient.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+14&version=NIV

  • curtcameron

    “…and one of the representatives writes back to say the eight-year-old girl is a fool with a darkened heart for not believing in God.”

    Not just a fool – he’s saying that the little girl is incapable of doing anything good – everything that comes from her is bad.

    Anytime you hear Psalms 14:1 trotted out, you should push back on that very point. The verse says that an atheist is incapable of doing good – does the person who brought out that verse agree with it?

    • Aita

      I like to counter with “So computers are evil? Awesome, I expect to never see you in cyberspace. The father of computing was an atheist (and gay, to boot), the box you own was designed by a crew probably mostly containing atheists (Hackers and techs have a higher percentage of the godless than most groups), and just about everything you use thereon is too (Google, as a company, is anti-theistic in many ways, Gates was an atheist, Jobs was an atheistic buddhist, Torvalds is an atheist). FB counts too.”

    • Aita

      I like to counter with “So computers are evil? Awesome, I expect to never see you in cyberspace. The father of computing was an atheist (and gay, to boot), the box you own was designed by a crew probably mostly containing atheists (Hackers and techs have a higher percentage of the godless than most groups), and just about everything you use thereon is too (Google, as a company, is anti-theistic in many ways, Gates was an atheist, Jobs was an atheistic buddhist, Torvalds is an atheist). FB counts too.”

      • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

        sadly, some demagogue is likely to [re-]convince plenty of them that they need to ~defend/promote the faith~ in these villainous tubes.

    • phantomreader42

      When I see Psalm 14:1 vomited forth by some god-besotted moron, I quote Matthew 5:22 and tell them to go to hell. Literally, as that verse says anyone who calls someone a fool (which they just did) is in danger of hellfire. They don’t like being beaten about the head with the allegedly holy book they use as a bludgeon.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Oh gee, what a surprise, he’s against alcohol too http://thecabin.net/news/2013-02-23/lawmaker-seeks-local-rule-over-alcohol-sales-dry-counties

    Ron Fuller, who has served on the ABC Board for 16 years, said courts have ruled that moral objections can’t be considered in deciding whether to approve an application for an alcohol permit because alcohol is a legal product and is taxed.

    “A lot of the objections that we get at the ABC Board are religious in nature when opposing alcohol permits,” he said. “We are not allowed by the courts to consider religious and moral objections to alcohol. We are obligated to follow the laws of the state of Arkansas when considering these permits.”

    • digibud

      I’d want to draw pictures of Satan and 666 and other Satanic art and see them try to put an end to it….

    • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

      could legal abortion find a loophole here if it were (or isn’t already) a taxed service?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Projectile-Vomit/100000736984839 Projectile Vomit

    May their moments of silence be filled with the sounds of gas expulsion.

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

      Er… right… but I think a good old silent-but-violent* would do the job nicely.

      *Peels the paint off the walls, curls your nose hairs, kills plants, and clears entire airports…

  • http://twitter.com/N_J_Wilkes Nathan Wilkes

    The man just gave perfect evidence of the divisiveness that his bill can promote. The mother was complaining that her atheist child got bullied when her christian classmates found out and that this bill would likely make it happen again and the man responds with clear bullying. No reason at all, he just posts some bible verses that “justify” his poor behavior.

  • coyotenose

    Apart from John Payton being a bullying trashbag who knows he can’t mount an actual argument (thus the Biblical citations in lieu of one), this bill makes me think that we need to mount an effort to teach all schoolchildren in the state how to juggle and play serious air guitar.

    • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

      the sponsors of the bill might double down and require teachers to put blindfolds on everyone for the Minute. (it does mention “without distracting another student”… which skillful or evocative antics could easily fit)

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 Gregory Marshall

    Just what is “engage in a silent activity”? Does that mean I could start masturbating? I mean, that is a silent activity.

    • baal

      It’d probably disturb the class and violate local decency ordinances. May be you could settle with just mentally disrobing everyone?

      • Thackerie

        That’s what I did when the “moment of silence” was forced in my high school. As I recall, the administrators backed off from the moment of silence stuff after a few months, because no classroom was ever able to keep quiet for 30 seconds, much less a minute.

        • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

          there was a brief (less than a week) trend in one of my middle school math classes of passing a note around to get everyone to simultaneously do something when the clock struck x:xx. once, it was to fall completely silent. (we were well-enough behaved anyway that there hadn’t been any conversation going on, but it was noticeable when even writing and page-turning ceased.) the teacher looked up from his desk after about four seconds, gave a fake glare, and said “shut up!”

  • Blacksheep

    “Last year, when she was a first grader, some of her classmates realized that she does not believe in god. She was harassed on the playground by these children to the extent that she came home crying several times.”

    I’m a Christian, and I’m showing this to my kids tonight to remind them to NEVER to be a part of making someone feel unloved and left out because of what they believe.

    • baal

      One up vote from me. I agree fully with this comment of yours (which is worth remarking so I have done so).

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Whenever I talk to my son about bullying, I try to emphasize three things:

      Don’t suffer alone. Tell us (your parents) or someone.
      Don’t be a bully.
      Stand up for others being bullied.

      And I firmly believe that last one is the most critical part of the cycle.

    • melly henderson

      i’m a christian, and i find it awful that i would have to defend my right to NOT have other christians teach MY child their version of christianity. even as a christian, i FIRMLY defend strong separation of church and state. teaching my child our religion is MY job, not that of her school teachers. it’s one reason i want to homeschool. not because of general sex ed, birth control, evolution, ancient history BEFORE 6000 years ago, or other secular things (which i am honestly afraid she WON’T learn in arkansas schools!!) but because i can’t trust other christians to keep their views to themselves, nor my government to protect that.

      and big props to you. we all need to teach our children to be compassionate, kind, and loving, not to perpetuate hate and meanness.

  • Witchgawd

    Nothing under that big ol hat of his is there?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I was born an atheist.

    Reading the bible confirmed it.

    Reading Genesis 22 made me an anti-theist.

    Reading Psalm 14 confirmed it.

    • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

      the more i reflect on the story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac, the more i think i’d be tempted to banish it from thought (were such a thing possible), being something like an autocratic psychopath’s advice for a loyalty test.

  • Carpinions

    This law is evidence of their cowardice. They know that if the law was written to address praying specifically – and we all know which religion would be the focus of those prayers – they’d get drummed out of court before the lawyers could arrive. If they call it a moment of silence, well, there’s enough grey there for the Christians to get their way in public schools with a wink and a nod.

    Clearly another case of, if it brings people to Jesus, then lie your pants off.

    • Hippocrates

      Exactly. How will they react when a nine year old Muslim kid brings his prayer Matt in and unrolls it during the minute of silence and goes through the genuflecting and prayers toward Mecca? They are going to say the child is creating an uncomfortable situation for the other kids and either make him sequestered for his prayer time or they will shut him down totally.

      These idiots inarkansas make me sick

      • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

        “prayer Matt” – autocorrect?

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    And Mt 6:1-6, Mt 7:21-23, Lk 6:39-42 & Lk 18:16 address Payton’s concerns.

  • DougI

    The students can spend that minute praying for school funding so they can have history textbooks that don’t end at the Vietnam War. But it’s Arkansas, those prayers will be answered, just like tar sands pipelines will be leakproof.

    • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

      Yes, their history books end right before the confederates lost the civil war.

  • Rain

    1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

    2 The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

    3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

    So that means Rep. John Payton is too stupid to read ahead a couple verses, and is filthy, corrupt, and doesn’t doeth any good, right? Yeah didn’t think so.

  • DMagnoher

    It makes me sick when things like this occur, especially in a country where tolerance is supposed to be upheld everywhere.

  • Pluto Animus
  • http://www.facebook.com/dal.bryn Dal Bryn

    “Engage in a silent activity”

    How much do you want to bet they won’t let a kid pull out a comic book and relax for a minute during this moment of silence?

    • guestpest

      Or, they won’t let them pull out their cell phone and text-message or web browse with it.

  • Sven2547

    “People who don’t believe in God are stupid.”
    –The Bible (paraphrased only slightly)

    Not exactly the most compelling argument I’ve ever seen.

  • Batman

    Our country is fucked up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DaBookie Danny Cackler

    The legislature has a sworn obligation to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. The bible and their religion are NOT part of that document. They should all be kicked out for violating that oath.

  • maevwen

    Wait a minute. pun intended. One minute of silence is a great compromise for inclusion of all faiths or lack thereof. Whatever someone else’s spin on it, it’s not saying one minute of prayer, but one minute of [pick your own option]. I think that’s respectful of everyone. And one minute of silence is not a stretch for students. In addition, one can google the positive outcomes of general meditation in helping students focus their intention for learning. Some guy can rant all he wants on what HE thinks a student should be doing during silence, and he’s wrong for attacking someone based upon his interpretation. But I don’t think this is something that atheists should oppose. And if students cannot be silent for one minute? Just one minute? Really?

    • TheG

      And if they cannot pray/meditate/clear the mind in the other 3599 minutes in a day, they need far more psychological help than a public primary education can provide. There is plenty of time before bed, after breakfast, or while masturbating in the shower.

      The minute (or moment) of silence only serves as an artificial legal way to make others feel excluded and to highlight to bullies whom the state feels they should be bullying. And it makes parents feel good that schools are doing something so important that it has to be legislated, but not so much that the parent can’t spare 0.2% of their day for it.

      • maevwen

        Making it a mandate is bullocks. However, incorporating intentionality, and the skills to be able to sit still for a minute or few and focus, into the learning curriculum teaches a valuable skill and has positive outcomes to learning specifically. May any teacher take it up as a challenge and report the results.
        Granted that’s not the specific aim necessarily of this edict. But it IS inclusive, and if atheists cause an uproar about something like this that is tailored to be inclusive and doesn’t require that it’s religious, atheists are going to look as rigid and uncompromising as any other religious militant.

      • TheG

        Pardon me, that should be 0.02% of their day.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=628665833 Bill Santagata

      The bill likely conflicts with Wallace v. Jaffree. As nitpicky as I personally find the complaint in that Supreme Court decision to be, that decision nonetheless exists and it must be followed.

  • http://twitter.com/jesscapps Jessica C

    Would anyone to partake in a wager, that “silent activities” will not
    be encouraged, and that most teachers will only allow their students to sit (no writing, no fidgeting, no stretching, no juggling) in silence for this one, long minute?

    The longer this legislation is allowed to stay in their seats, the more they will regress our state back to the dark ages. Are any of them impeachable? Please, sleuths, uncover something!

    • Aita

      This is pretty much what it was in TX (which still legally requires students to say the pledge(s) unless their *parents* opt them out).

      • AmyC

        Texas cannot legally require that any student says the pledge, whether or not the parents opt them out. The students who don’t say the pledge can just sit or stand (whichever they like) while everybody else does it, but they cannot be punished for not saying it and they can’t be forced to say it.

  • http://twitter.com/jesscapps Jessica C

    Would anyone to partake in a wager, that “silent activities” will not
    be encouraged, and that most teachers will only allow their students to sit (no writing, no fidgeting, no stretching, no juggling) in silence for this one, long minute?

    The longer this legislation is allowed to stay in their seats, the more they will regress our state back to the dark ages. Are any of them impeachable? Please, sleuths, uncover something!

  • AtheistsAreUs

    I encourage peope to contact John Payton (AR State Rep) at paytonforthepeople@yahoo.com and give him a piece of our minds. This kind of ignorance and in-sensitivity (especially directed at small children) is unacceptable.

  • jesusHfuckingchrist

    Im sure some one could snuff that fucker out in a minute too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/theimagecollector David Scott Moyer

    I am an atheist, and i agree that Paxton is a self-righteous prick, but the rest of this article is nonsense. It is a minute of silence. Nobody is going to know what her girl is doing. She will be silent like everyone else. A moment of silence when people may, if they so choose, pray to the hairy white guy in the sky or the flying spaghetti monster, or fantasize about blowing Justin Bieber, is not equivalent in any way to organized prayer in the school

  • http://twitter.com/Kirk_Robinson Kirk Robinson

    This is terrible. This is probably one of the worst things I have read about a politician using religion to justify his decisions. I want to throw up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.orsi Anne Orsi

    Arkansan here. This is embarrassing, mortifying, and horrifying for
    those of us who believe in separation of church and state. It’s even
    worse for those of us with atheist children in public school. Arkansas
    is an unconstitutional theocracy, and my heart breaks for this otherwise
    beautiful state.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MaxwellXTug Maxwell Lessard

    the bible says that people who don’t believe in the bible are wrong? damn…

  • Madison Blane

    If God really is all powerful, can’t he hear Christians pray when and wherever they are? Why must it be done out loud, in public, with gestures?
    Or can we be honest and admit that it’s not so that God hears them but so that everyone else knows they are praying, just like their Jesus said NOT to do! (Matthew 6:5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.)
    Maybe, and this is just a suggestion here, we shouldn’t be letting kids who won’t graduate and can’t even spell, use prayer as a platform to make themselves feel superior to those kids who actually believe in proven science and universally agreed upon facts.
    I believe that kids today are too stressed out, they could use some time to meditate, and a moment of silence and reflection is in theory a good thing. However, having grown up in the culture of southern Arkansas schools and the normality of religious uniformity, I understand fully how kids end up with a kind of Stockholm syndrome concerning religion just to survive.
    Parents, you get to teach your child about your religion 2/3 of the day, 5 days a week, and all day long the other two. It’s not asking too much that your child be able to focus on facts while s/he is at school.

  • MrZombro

    When the response justifying a law is quoting a religious text, it instantly proves that it is unconstitutional. That is literally all the evidence you need.

  • cipher

    There are cowboys in Arkansas?

    • http://twitter.com/TheNuszAbides TheNuszAbides

      in Arklatexoma, which culture would you suspect would dominate, even if in affectation only?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=628665833 Bill Santagata

    In Wallace v. Jaffree, the Supreme Court of the United States held that a state cannot pass a moment of silence law that suggests prayer as an activity to engage in by the students. Public schools do not have a secular purpose in suggesting that children pray during a moment of silence. (Of course students have the right to pray at this time, it’s just that the school can’t be nudging them in that direction either directly or indirectly.)

  • Swen.Ardere

    The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
    The wise man says it out loud.

  • Cletus

    Okay, send a muslim kid to the school, with a prayer rug. During the one minute silence/pray/silent activity time, have the kid unroll the matt toward Mecca, go through the genuflections – silently – and see what these hillbilly inbreds do then. I guarantee you they will try and claim the kid is causing a distraction or unsafe situation and shut it down or sequester the kid.

    Silent moment is code for christian dominance.

    Hillbilly trailer trash all of them.

  • Tobias2772

    You can contact this asshat at paytonforthepeople@yahoo.com
    Please be as respectful of him as he is to his constituents.

  • Ben_Hall_AU

    Shouldn’t the response to Payton been, I refer you to the constitution in which explicitly prohibits you from making this law.

  • matttwithonet

    Yeah, that guy looks real friendly towards children.

  • Azazyll

    Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

    Bloody hypocrites. Read all of your book.

  • Greenwood ,AR

    There are others in the world that share the same mindset of religious righteousness over the democratic process as Rep. John Payton. You can find them in the middle east stripping people of thier human dignity citing ancient religious text that’s meaning has been lost in 2000 years of language. His actions and statements however few are not to the same extreme. however his choice of refusing an open dialouge and his choice of passages clearly demonstrate that he believes that a well behaved child dealing with bullying and discrimination for her religious views is the one who is wrong and will never bring any “good” to society

  • Zoe

    Writing “God does not exist” on a piece of paper is silent activity. Might piss of the teacher, which would be less silent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ruth-Walker/528948232 Ruth Walker

    Bombard him with messages pointing out his cruelty. paytonforthepeople@yahoo.com
    I can’t believe the official Website at http://www.arkansashouse.org/member/332/john-payton has a space for the lawmaker’s religion!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=525325393 Bob Senatore

    Impeachment is too mild.. then hang him by his bible from the nearest Decalogue!

  • fgbbhn

    Its Arkansas. Not terribly surprising.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1426215526 Robert Schmid

    How pathetic. A mere 60 seconds of silence is “excruciating” to you?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Austin-Konrad/100002696297060 Austin Konrad

      ya school is boring enough!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Austin-Konrad/100002696297060 Austin Konrad

    what a shit bird i’d like to punch this dingbat in the eye

  • Antinomian

    I believe we would call him “all hat and no cattle”.

  • dork

    While rep. John Paytons mind might be stuck in the middle ages, his website is only stuck in the early 90′s – http://www.paytonforthepeople.us/

  • Roshan Menon

    Send John Payton the following message: Matthew 5:22

    “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

  • mofosho

    I went to his website and emailed him a very strong worded letter. I can’t believe people like this make it into public office. M

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nathan-Phoenix/100001009669803 Nathan Phoenix

    I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in any deities. But let’s, for a minute, assume that I’m wrong, and of the thousand+ gods humans have worshiped throughout our time on this planet, the one in the King James Bible is the one true one that isn’t made up.

    “Last year, when she was a first grader, some of her classmates realized that she does not believe in god. She was harassed on the playground by these children to the extent that she came home crying several times”

    This strikes me that the harassing children have been raised like the vast majority of Christians I met, to be what I call “Christian in name only.” They quote bible verses to suit their bigoted purposes and don’t care one whit about being good people, and they certainly don’t care if they raise their kids to be good people. They’d rather instill their prejudices into the next generation. They don’t live by anything of what the Christ in their Bible said.

    So, again, assuming all of this is real, do you think people like this would be going to the heaven they believe in? I sure don’t. I can’t imagine that if such a god were real it would give a weekly mass or an occasional prayer the power to grant them a full carte blanche to be a completely horrible human being the other 99% of their time here and still expect a post-mortem heavenly reward.

    On a certain level, it almost makes me wish I were “wrong” so I could meet those people in the hell that they believe in and laugh at them.

  • LukeMorris

    Sadly this is a prime example of the Arkansas Legislature this year. Both the bills and the rude tone with constituents. See also: Jason Rapert, Nate Bell.

  • EmbarrassedArkansan

    This is why I am ashamed of where I live.

  • Realistic Christian

    So when the one Muslim kid in the class brings his prayer rug I assume the school will have no problem storing that for him and will have no problem with him getting it out and kneeling/praying toward Mecca during his time of “reflection”.

    Hell will freeze over before the nut job Christian extremists running our state government let a Muslim pray in a school.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hellbound.alleee Hellbound Allee

    Interpretive dance?

  • Wilson

    Are we sure this is a real response? You’d think a senator would have a better email address than one ending in “@yahoo.com”

  • The Other Weirdo

    You… can’t be silent for one minute? You can’t entertain yourself for one minute? You can’t spend a minute silently recapping the last Doctor Who episode? You can’t spend that minute to think of an answer to your freakishly outlandish math problem? Maybe it’s not a bad idea to teach kids how to just be. No need to speak, no need to listen to music, no need to text. Just be. There is freedom in that. I am sorry if you’re incapable of that.

    As to the rest of it, I agree with you, but not on minute of silence. Technically, I don’t agree with the religious motivation for said minute of silence, but its fact doesn’t bother me.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      A moment of silence is one thing, but a minute of silence is definitely overkill. Moreover, it doesn’t serve much purpose, even in the “learning how to be quiet for a minute” or “having a minute to meditate, reflect, pray, or otherwise do something passive.” Unless the teacher is using that time to take attendance or something (which is something I often do during our moment of silence, although not during the pledge just out of regard for my students), the minute is wasted, and time for a teacher is – or at least should be – precious.

  • glorrierose

    Setting aside the religious purpose of this minute, I still have to ask: what is wrong with a minute of silence?

    I can see a minute of silence used as a way to quiet children down and to get them to focus, using deep breathing. Quite honestly I believe every child could benefit from practicing meditation — not only, but ESPECIALLY children with ADHD.

    Can children do this? You bet they can. Ask any child who grew up Quaker. A minute is actually NOTHING.

    Now, do I think this should be forced on children as a moment of prayer, with religious purpose. ABSOLUTELY NOT. But the objection on the basis that a minute of silence is absolutely unbearable and useless — sorry, but you’ve lost me on that one.

  • http://twitter.com/SecularAdvocate Secular Advocate

    Yeah, but the more we get these folks to speak, the more they condemn themselves out of their own mouths.

  • http://twitter.com/BillyFnWilson Billy Wilson

    Payton is a dumbass attempting to legislate fairy tales. Sometimes, I’m extremely embarrassed to live in the Arkansas wilderness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/FestinaLente.VT Virginia Mackey

    So who is it exactly that’s acting like a child? Not the 8 year old, that’s for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johndhutcheson John Hutcheson

    One must about man who while pushing an end run around the constitution, publicly labels a child a fool.

  • Pizza

    The author’s state of Illinois recently upheld a law having the exact same effect.

  • Freedomfromthisguy

    It is morons who write articles like this that make our society full of neck jerkers and over reactors. Bullying? Really? Did you write your own definition of bullying? HIs response is in no shape, form, or fashion bullying.
    If that is bullying, then your entire article is bullying and insensitive. We live in a society of ultra sensitive softies who can’t stand it when someone doesn’t agree with their position or beliefs.
    Some words of advice: First, realize what country you live in and its roots in Christianity. Second, If you don’t like the way things are done here, there is always China or Korea.


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