Check Out How a Fox News Reporter Spins This Story About a Preaching Teacher

This is what really happened at Fayette High School in Missouri:

Gwen Pope, a math teacher at the school, led Christian devotional prayers in her classroom every Friday morning. These prayer sessions were announced over the loudspeaker for students, in effect, encouraging them to attend. Both of those things are illegal.

Gwen Pope

There’s more: The prayer sessions weren’t part of an extracurricular club. Pope’s husband Michael would attend the meetings. Furthermore, she told her math students that “God will punish them if they are not good” and had religious literature on her desk during the school day:

‘God’s Game Plan’ sat in plain view on Pope’s desk

The American Humanist Association sent the school a warning letter in May and, seeing as the district was ignoring it, they filed a lawsuit against the district last week.

If a Muslim teacher acted the same way Pope did, that teacher would’ve been fired immediately. But Pope was given plenty of leeway to preach exactly as she wanted and now the school will have to defend its actions.

So guess how fair-and-balanced Fox News’ Todd Starnes covered the story?

The American Humanist Association wants the judge to end all religious activity at the school as well as award monetary damages to the “offended” students, according to the lawsuit.

This over-the-top attack on Christianity is just unbelievable. Then again, what do you expect from a bunch of humanists who don’t believe in anything that really matters?

Actually, the AHA wants the judge to end staff-led religious activity during school hours. Because it’s the law. It’s not an attack on Christianity. It’s a check on people who think their religious beliefs put them above the law. As always, the AHA has no problem with students or teachers who pray privately or as part of an extracurricular group. When it crosses into the classroom, though, we should all be concerned.

But then again, what do you expect from someone who thinks the Bible should take precedence over the Constitution?

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.

  • new_atheist

    “what do you expect from a bunch of humanists who don’t believe in anything that really matters?”

    Thanks for explaining to us how little you actually care about the Constitution. You see, Mr. Starnes, the AHA is filing this lawsuit precisely because they DO believe in the principles laid out in the Bill of Rights.

    Now, if you believe that the AHA “don’t believe in anything that really matters,” then it seems you are relegating the Bill of Rights (one of the things they DO believe in) to the category of “things that DON’T really matter.”

    I’ll keep that in mind the next time you tell me how much you love the Constitution.

  • MsC

    Fire is hot, water is wet, Fox News panders to inbred, ignorant Christian fuckwits.

    • CultOfReason

      “Tide goes in, tide goes out. You can’t really explain that.” – Bill “Ignorant Christian Fuckwit” O’Reily

  • Copyleft

    But if they went with an honest headline like “AHA demands that school stop breaking the law,” what would their loyal viewers say?

    • rtanen

      Which law? The headline sounded boring, so I read a different article. You know, the one that started with “Planet Earth Doesn’t Exist” and went on to explain how errors in the IAU definition of planet excluded Earth.

  • Mick

    I’ll bet Gwen had never bothered preaching to the students until she
    realised it would give her a chance to play the martyr card as soon as
    she was told to stop. She was probably greatly pissed off when she was
    allowed to continue unhindered and had to bring in her husband (and the
    literature for her desk) in an effort to bring things to a head. Now
    she’s got the court case she was looking for – and next Sunday you will
    find her strutting into church under the adoring gaze of her peers while
    bravely declaring, “Aw shucks, twern’t nuthin’.”

  • Michael Jensen

    Being from Europe I can never understand why your religious fundamentalist typically seem to know everything about the second, yet ignore the first amendment!?

    • Kat Transue

      Nono, they cling to it when faced with backlash from spouting hate. It’s just “pick and choose,” like they do with the Bible.

    • Rain

      Well when you look at it…

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ”

      …you can see that it says Congress, and making laws, and then there is the part about free exercise of religion. So it has been subject to a broad interpretation, to say the least. She isn’t Congress, she didn’t make any laws, she was freely exercising religion, etc. So a space alien visiting from outer space reading it for the first time would think it’s a slam dunk for her side.

      • Drew Bentley

        Rain, you clearly don’t understand the wording in the 1st Amendment either. ;)

        Space aliens? Really? Talk about a horrible example to use.

        • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

          Rain is mostly correct. Until the 14th amendment (section 1), there was confusion whether the 1st amendment applied to state or local governments, or whether to the executive branch. Massachusetts didn’t get rid of their state religion until 1833, nearly forty years later. So reading the 1st amendment as is, without any historical context and without any of the other amendments, it is possible to come to the wrong conclusion.

        • Rain

          Yeah, believe something hard enough and then it becomes obvious and true lol.

      • Jeff Walker

        Because Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body. The latter are but the creatures and vicegerents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited: it is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments, more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves. – James Madison

      • John Tremblay

        That is until one of the aliens tells the rest to wait a minutes and explains that Fayette High School is a government run school, Gwen Pope is an employee and represents the government, and that by proselytizing she is in effect establishing Christianity as a government religion. The other aliens would realize their mistake and wonder why nobody said anything sooner.

        • Rain

          That doesn’t sound anything like Congress or making laws or free exercise! I’m glad the aliens are smarter than me I guess.

    • Jason S

      They’re the same way about their bible. They take the parts they like and ignore the rest.

    • ShoeUnited

      Mr. Jensen, this will answer your question. Well, it won’t answer why, but it’ll certainly show you that we’re as confused as you are.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGP8MuHx6QI

    • John Tremblay

      I’m one of those odd ball atheist who understand the importance of both. What I never understand is why a lot of my fellow atheist know everything about the first, yet ignore the second amendment or assert it is “out dated”; especially the European atheist have unwavering trust in their governments to provide for their own personal protection.

      • DavidMHart

        As one of those Europeans, I’d say it’s not that we have unqualified trust in our governments, it’s less that we don’t have any less trust in our governments than we do in those of our fellow citizen who would want to carry a gun – especially given our relatively low levels of gun owners to need protecting from.

        The possibility of our imperfect, but still democratically accountable governments one day turning against us in a way that we can stop if many of us are gun owners, but cannot stop by any other means, appears to me low enough to be a price worth paying for the near-certainty of having a much lower chance of being killed or injured by a fellow citizen (or indeed ourselves) either deliberately or accidentally with a firearm.

  • TheMarkness

    Just more low hanging fruit. Fox News’ MO never changes.

    • islandbrewer

      The fruit gets lower and lower each year, it seems.

  • Kip Hartwell

    Having a book on your desk is bad now? That seems a good bit too far. I mean she is breaking the law 2x over, why add that bit in?

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      If that photo is her actual desk, it appears that the God book is placed more as an advertisement than for use. When seated at her desk, she would not be able to see the bindings/titles of the books, whereas students in class facing her desk would be advertised to with the book title. In itself, I doubt anyone would care, but in the context of the more blatant constitutional violations it just show one more example of how she is abusing her government job to use the force of government to promote religion to taxpayers’ children.

      • badgerchild

        That’s right; if the books were for her own use, they would be positioned so that she could see and select them. But in that position, facing the classroom, they are openly offered to the class as resources for student use.

        • Erp

          Actually is that her staff room desk or her classroom desk? In my high school most teachers had to share classrooms so their personal cluttered desk was in the staff room. In such a case the book may be more aimed at her fellow teachers than at the students. However having announced teacher led prayers in a public school goes over the line.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            It depends a lot on the school. My high school, each teacher had hir own classroom and the students switched between class periods. So it could very well be just her classroom (not saying it is just hers, but pointing out the possibility).

          • badgerchild

            Even if it is her personal desk, the books are facing not toward her for her use, but toward the visitor, who is more likely than not to be a student, if not another teacher or school official.

      • ]|||[

        Ha! That looks like an office to me.

    • ]|||[

      I know, right? I’m sure this article didn’t mean to promote book-banning. But it’s playing up the case for its audience, just like Fox News was doing.

      • baal

        nope. The legal question is one of endorsement. You’re allowed to have whatever private views you want but in the class room you’re an agent of the government. Your words are those of the governement and not yourself. The desk and classroom paraphanella are facts that help to determine if she’s incidentally christian and being persecuted or if she’s using her power as a teacher to make children (a captive audience) follow her religion.

        I do need to get in front of some 5th graders and teach them to chant for their deaths while haveing bling from the HPLHS plastered about.

        • ]|||[

          Googling “HPLHS” turns up results for the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Which I am all for promoting in the classroom.
          Let me put it this way: What if that book on her desk is borrowed from the school library? That’d be ok, right? Please articulate an argument for banning that book from a school library.

          My contention: That book has the same right as any other book to sit on a teacher’s desk. Even if that desk is in a classroom and not (as it appears) in the teacher’s office, its use as an implement of indoctrination is 100% speculative. The fact that you would believe it to be one is just a result of this article’s own spin. Maybe she was reading it on her lunch break.

          • baal

            Right on the hplhs. Otherwise, don’t tell me what I think. I made my statements based on my legal knowledge and not via Terry’s priming.

            • ]|||[

              Alright, I figured out HPLHS, but you’ve totally stumped me with “Terry”.

              • baal

                Do you have a preferred pronounciation for ]||||[ or should I call you the commentor formally known as prince?

                19 minutes ago

                • −]|||[•

                  Yes.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                Terry Firma is a frequent contributor of guest blog posts here.

  • mikey nails!

    “If a Muslim teacher acted the same way Pope did, that teacher would’ve been fired immediately.”

    It would be nice if we didn’t speculate like that. Preaching to the kids is enough to go on.

    • Tiktaalik

      You can be quite certain, however, that the religious right and Fox News would have entirely different takes on this if it was any religion other than Christianity that people were preaching in public schools!!!

    • Guest

      A known Muslim would never get hired in this school district so it’s useless to ponder that situation.

    • Robert Carey

      …and why a Muslim teacher in said example and not, say, a Jewish, Shintoist, or agnostic teacher?

      @tik They call themselves the ‘right’ when a lot of what they do feels wrong? What gives?

  • Jim Charlotte

    I’d let the books on the desk thing go, as long as they aren’t being used to proselytize during class hours. The last thing I would want is to appear as though I want a “book ban” of any kind.

  • Tracy Starr

    Every time you say AHA it makes me want to break out into “Take On Me”…. ah the 80s!

    • Richard Thomas

      I’m pretty sure that’s what these armchair crusaders hear in their heads too :)

    • islandbrewer

      I always say “Why would the American Homebrewing Association get involved in … doh!”

      • Terry Firma

        I always think it’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    • John

      Damn it, I didn’t think about that before but now I can’t un-see it.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    You have to give Fox some credit. This was their first headline: The American Humanist Association, which was born in Kenyan and thus not a true American non-profit, beat up a sick teacher, and punched Jesus and wants to sell the army to pay for birth control pills so that Michele Obama can impose Sharia Law, because George Soros is a gay nazis.

    Luckily the editors toned it down a little. People remember, baby steps.

    (Also I read God’s game plan. He still wants to run a seven-diamond defense. Really? Three safeties, no corner backs and a linebacker, to cover todays receivers? Good luck with that. And the Notre Dame Box Formation for offense? Two yards and a cloud of dust. Are we still in the 1930′s?! Hasn’t He heard of the forward pass? No wonder the Heaven’s Angels got blown out by the Hell’s Demons 245-0. )

    • Art_Vandelay

      Zero? They couldn’t even execute the last second Hail Mary?

      • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

        They hailed Mary, and she answered. She even started at quarterback. However, despite her ability to read the defense and her canon of an arm, being 4’8″ and 115 pounds, she was just physically over-matched.

        • tubi11

          “…canon of an arm…”

          Too bad. I understand Tobit and Judith are pretty good receivers. But they were unavailable because of a dispute with management.

  • shimpainai

    Our school has teachers who do this too. We have a group at our school who make specticals of themselves in front of the school as students are comming in for the day. The christians gather in front every morning, make a huge hand held circle around the flag and lead loud evangelical prayers. They call their christian club first priority. Feels uncomfortable and somewhat illegal. What if it was another religion besides christian doing that? Wwhat if it were an atheist club meeting people in the mornng with loud chants and rituals?

    • Matthew White

      Well, if you want to call attention to it, you could always encourage the formation of a pagan club or Secular Student Alliance. That always gets the pot stirred and brings attention to the problem.

      I grew up in a school where we had the same thing, but most people, especially the kids, never took it seriously, except those who were in the group.

      • Geiss

        Then the Christians would throw yet another tantrum and demand that all school clubs be shut down. It would be Kentucky all over again.

    • Drew Bentley

      So, start the Jedi Club or FSM Club and do the same thing.. what’s stopping you? Nobody! ;)

      • Guest

        Mmmmm, spaghetti for breakfast every morning. Ramen!

    • Richard Thomas

      Sometimes a dose of scripture is the best cure for annoying christians:
      “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6″But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matt 6:5-6

      Print that out on some flyers, hand them out during the prayer sessions. See what they say.

      • B Dallmann

        Yes. Please do this.

      • Pitabred

        But that’s a parable, not an instruction.

        See, the neat thing about the way people interpret the Bible is that they get to pick and choose which things it supports by simply declaring things they don’t like parables, and things they do like as literal. It’s fun!

      • Robert Carey

        Interesting… just replace the word “synagogues” with the word “churches,” “mosques,” “Kingdom Halls,” or “$cienTOMology Centers” and the meaning of the phrase is still the same!

    • Ingersollman

      Contact FFRF. They will make them stop.

    • Madison Blane

      A common misconception is that prayer isn’t allowed in schools anymore. It is. It always has been. Forced, cohered, and authority-led prayer is illegal. Prayers that take away from classroom instruction time are illegal. Voluntary prayer by students, attended or supervised by teachers, outside of classroom hours, is and always has been legal.

      You are perfectly welcome to do the same thing – to the mythical god of your choosing. I find that most Atheists love the Flying Spaghetti Monster; I prefer My Glittery Fairy Godmother.

  • Matthew White

    Another example of someone thinking their personal convictions trumps the law. Your personal convictions speak for you; the law speaks for us. The book doesn’t seem to be an issue as much as it’s just so out of place…but this teacher’s conduct is a win-win for her. If she is terminated from her position, she’ll go into retirement and I’m sure she’ll be well taken care of. She’ll also, like it was said by someone else, play the martyr card. If she somehow won, which I highly doubt, but “God-forbid”, then that opens a can of worms that none of would probably really want to deal with.

    Either way, this is much more frustrating than it needs to be…

  • Richard Thomas

    I used to think that all the ragging on Fox News was just uber-left wing huffing and puffing. I figured there was no way they could be THAT bad. So I decided to put it to the test. Every day for the past month, I’ve watched at least one hour of programming per day on Fox News, followed by independent research on the stories they cover.

    Conclusion, on day 30: I could start a network that broadcast nothing but a still-shot of a BLT 24/7, call it Pork News Daily, and still be more informative and less biased. Unbelievable.

    • Art_Vandelay

      Every day for the past month, I’ve watched at least one hour of programming per day on Fox News.

      Jesus…that might be the most masochistic exercise that I’ve ever heard.

      • Heather

        My thoughts exactly!! Richard, how did you tolerate it for ‘at least’ an hour every day *for a month*? I can barely get through the time I’m forced to listen to it, if it’s on a TV at a restaurant, doctor’s office, etc.

        • John

          I play at a restaurant that is owned by a couple of very nice, and very misguided, right-wingers. They have at least two of the TVs on the deck set to Faux News at all times (until they leave for the evening and the staff sets them to MSNBC!)
          I started making sure I sing Todd Snider’s “Conservative Christian” every time I play there….

      • katiehippie

        That’s why I let Colbert and Jon Stewart watch it for me.

    • Terry Firma

      I have Sean Hannity on the radio during a nighttime twenty-minute drive twice a week, mostly out of curiosity … mixed in with a bit of masochism.

      I usually feel like I need a shower by the time I switch off the engine.

    • Neko

      I salute you!

  • Goape

    If I really didn’t “believe in anything that really matters” I would be free to drive a large vehicle at top speed directly at Todd Starnes. Too bad I’m beholden to those pesky secular morals of mine.

  • B Dallmann

    I’m confused. I’m not inclined to believe anything Starnes says, but he does mention that the prayers were held “before the start of the school day.” Does anyone have any more information about it?

    • Mario Strada

      If it’s teacher led and announced over the loudspeakers it makes no difference when it’s held. The only praying allowed is student led. The use of the loudspeaker, unless the students bought it and installed it, is tantamount of school endorsement.

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

      The first bell marking the beginning of the school day rang, the prayers happened, and then classes began right after that.

  • xXElephantGodXx

    Todd Starnes can choke on a bowl of raw monkey balls.

    • Artor

      Poor monkeys! Couldn’t they keep their balls attached while Starnes chokes on them?

      • xXElephantGodXx

        That probably be traumatic for the monkeys. I was thinking maybe the balls of monkeys that have died naturally.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    “who don’t believe in anything that really matters”

    Funny, because I would say that the things I believe in matter like my friends and family. My belief in that we as humans are able to better ourselves and society matters. Your belief, in an almighty deus ex machina, doesn’t really matter.

    • Obazervazi

      Well, one of the big themes of the bible is that only God really matters. Friends, family, human life and dignity? “God gives and God takes away.”
      They even have it in their gorram worship songs. “Oh He gives and takes away!”

      • Iramohs

        Well God IS the most horrific serial killer ever. Why should I worship him and not John Wayne Gacy?

  • Fredrick Charles

    This story illustrates a lot of what is wrong with America. Here you have the AHA wanting to shut people up and stop religion when it really doesn’t hurt them in any way, much less financially. It’s all part of the “you hurt my feelings” mentality that is rampant in America. It’s not possible to live and let live, there must be controls placed on other people’s words and deeds.
    Really this is all just a money grab by the AHA. They see an opportunity to go to court and get free money and they go for it.
    Funny how this was all legal and fine up until just a relatively short time ago. I guess they must have dug up the founding fathers and had them rewrite and reinterpret the Constitution.

    • islandbrewer

      *sigh* No, it was never legal. It just continued because people didn’t care, enjoying being in the majority, or were too scared to speak up.

      It’s not about hurt feelings, it’s about the government not bullying people into pretending to be religious just to avoid harassment and targeting.

      And the AHA is suing to stop the practice, it doesn’t make money from it’s lawsuit.

    • skyblue

      Let’s break this down, as there’s a lot wrong with your post:

      Here you have the AHA wanting to shut people up

      Nope. The AHA would have no problem with this woman preaching at her church, her home, well, anywhere but her job as a public school teacher.

      and stop religion

      Again, no. This has nothing to do with religion outside of her job as a public school teacher. She is free to practice whatever religion she wants, but as a representative of the government, she cannot infringe upon her students’ rights.

      you hurt my feelings

      More like “you violated my Constitutional rights”

      it really doesn’t hurt them in any way, much less financially

      If you think this woman’s actions don’t hurt, you have never been in the position of being a child from a minority religion in a classroom where a teacher oversteps their bounds. With some empathy, you should be able to at least put yourself in that child’s position, and think about how they might feel. As for “financially”, as islandbrewer already pointed out, the lawsuit is to get the school to stop, not to benefit financially.

      It’s not possible to live and let live

      It seems to be this teacher who can’t live and let live. Again, imagine being a non-Christian student in her class.

      there must be controls placed on other people’s words and deeds

      This woman has the same freedom of speech and religion as any other American. However, the job she has taken requires her to behave in an appropriate and legal manner at work. Nobody is calling for her arrest, or suggesting she change her behavior outside the classroom, but she is behaving in a manner unfit for a public school teacher at work, and that needs to change.

      Your next line (“money grab”) has already been addressed, as has the point about the behavior being “fine and legal”. It is, in fact, the language specifically put into the Constitution by its authors, that makes this woman’s behavior illegal. They could have put language into the Constitution making the US an explicitly Christian country. They didn’t. Instead they guaranteed freedom of religion. Think about that.

    • katiehippie

      So if it was a teacher that was telling her students that being a muslim was the best way to be it would be ok too? It wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings would it?

    • baal

      You’d really be ok with me teaching my religion to your kids and not telling you that I’m doing it? Part of my teachings include that you, fredrick, are a horrible person and bad things will happen to you soon. Where could we find fault with that?

    • ArthurPaliden

      Then why can’t these kids organize a black mass to Satan?

    • NathanExplosion

      I’m not aware of these types of cases producing large monetary judgments. Instead, they typically result in some wrong being righted. (I suspect you would be on the side of the AHA if this were a Muslim teacher).

      Please feel free to backup your assertion.

    • Iramohs

      I can feel the indoctrination coming from your post. I understand when you grow up in a religious household you’re forced to become completely closed minded, but even you should realize what’s wrong with your post.

    • Gehennah

      It has nothing to do with “feelings getting hurt” and everything to do with upholding the Constitution.

      If it were a Muslim teacher preaching from the Koran on Fridays, during school, while the students were in Math class, would you have a problem with it? I would. I’d also have a problem with an Atheist teacher saying that there is no god. The reason being is that, as a public school teacher, that teacher is working for the government. And by preaching their religion, they are having a government employee showing preference of one religion over others to children. This goes against the Constitution.

      If she wants to preach outside of school, cool, go for it. But when she is at work, supposed to be teaching kids, she should be religiously neutral.

    • Carmelita Spats

      I know right? Last Sunday I was thrown out of church again for teaching pre-school students to recite a beautiful bible verse, Ezequiel 20:23, “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.” They kicked me out of church because it’s all part of that “Let’s-Cherry-Pick-the-Bible” mentality that is rampant in churches. It’s not possible to live and let live in Sunday school, there must be controls placed on GOD’S words and deeds. I tried teaching the pre-school students this one, “That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.” (Genesis 19:33-36). When even Christians feel the need to censor GOD’S word in church, we’re more fucked than Lot’s daughters. Fortunately, we have The Brick Testament for the K-2 Sunday school classes:

      Lot’s Daughters:

      http://www.thebricktestament.com/genesis/the_seduction_of_lot/gn19_33b.html

    • Richard Thomas

      This comment perfectly encapsulates the “persecuted christian” mentality that is all too common in our society. You’re called out for running roughshod over the Constitution, therefore fed to lions or some such nonsense. Grow up.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Got to love the lying for jesus.

    • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

      Todd Starnes has made a pretty good career out of it.

  • ]|||[

    I’m sorry, but this article is reaching. You can’t condemn the books a teacher keeps on her desk. That would be crazy intolerant, or petty, or—what’s more likely—just a way to fluff up that sentence.

    Say, is that snappy line at the end of the article based in fact? Is that a belief the teacher has expressed? Or was the article just not long enough?

    Frankly, all this teacher’s misdeeds are presented without a whiff of context. What kind of sources did you use to write this article? I see, like, zero quotes from people at the school. Frankly, it doesn’t sound like anybody at the school—student or faculty or staff—had any problem with what was happening; all the complaints came from an external organization, which seemed to take issue with the practice on purely legal grounds. But you’ll also notice that the AHA’s letter to the school, thought it references court cases, never once actually quotes the constitution. Why? Because separation of church and state is a catchphrase, not a specific law. Sure doesn’t sound like anybody was getting hurt or upset by these totally voluntary prayer sessions.

    Sorry, but this is not journalism, this is just more spin, except it’s at a person’s expense.

    • ]|||[

      Which is not, you know, to suggest that the AHA wouldn’t win in
      court, nor to condone threatening students with the wrath of a god. But that closing line is inflammatory and personal, and contradicts the author’s pretense of telling us “what really happened”. I see my comment has been down-voted three times, but I don’t see any comments explaining why.

      • WhatTheWhat

        “What really happened” doesn’t apply to the whole article. That statement ends once the article got into Fox News’ version of the story. That is basic reading comprehension.

        People can downvote without commenting. That is their opinion of what you wrote and their right to disagree. They do not owe you an explanation.

        • ]|||[

          lol @ at your first point.
          and, true dat, to your second point.

          • ]|||[

            at @ at @.

    • Pitabred

      Even if “nobody has a problem with it”, it’s still illegal (obviously someone did and didn’t feel safe fighting the issue themselves directly, otherwise the AHA wouldn’t know about it). You can’t use your position of government-employed authority to proselytize, which is what she was doing.

      The rest of your comment is just bloviation.

      • ]|||[

        Yeah, I admit to over-reaching myself.

        But I think you have it backwards— it’s my longer paragraph that’s the bloviating. The (on my reading) excessive characterization of the teacher’s misdeeds (like talking about the books on her desk, which looks like an office desk, or the rhetorical grab in the final line) are not really taking the high-road relative to the Fox News article.

    • ]|||[

      My comment was prompted by the image topping the article— it is over-reaching to include “having a book with ‘God’ on the spine in a school” among her crimes. It’s an obvious case of spin in an article about media spin. Is calling that out really just bloviation?

      It’s very likely if the case went to court the AHA would win,
      especially given the teacher’s personal attacks on students in her math
      class. But judging from the title, that wasn’t the point of the article.

      • Mario Strada

        You are a troll.

        • ]|||[

          ok . . .

          • Mario Strada

            Good.
            Please do not think I called you a troll because of your opinions. When I see a page full of multiple posts by the same author, answering his own posts, that’s trolling.

            • ]|||[

              Honestly, I just feel like my original post was very poorly written, and failed to convey what I genuinely think is a hypocrisy in this article. I’ve tried to ride on top of these comments in order to try and correct that first impression, but I just seem to be attracting increasingly vapid replies.

              • baal

                Whooosh went the breeze over the ocean on a stormy day.

      • SansDeus

        It’s not that the book is “among her crimes”.

        The intent of the picture of the book is to bolster the claims of the complaint. The teacher now has to defend herself from the lawsuit claiming she had prayer sessions. In fact that’s all that’s mentioned in the article/references/lawsuits, there is nothing about the book or the size of the font or position of it. So you’re focusing on the wrong point of the story.

        The citation and references are in the links provided by the author of this article showing the “warning letter” with the link of the same name and “filed” showing the original article which has more references that you demand and the actual lawsuit referencing the anonymous plaintiffs. Why should he have to duplicate work, when all the information he points to prove he’s not exaggerating?

        Besides, the point of the article is that the Fox news correspondent is calling it an attack on Christianity. When it’s absolutely not. The lawsuit is to ensure that people don’t preach on the government’s dime to a captive audience, which is illegal.

        So your comments come across as:
        1) You didn’t read the article
        2) You didn’t read the references provided
        3) You don’t understand the law
        4) Trollish

        Those reasons are why you received all of the down-votes.

        • ]|||[

          “There’s more: The prayer sessions weren’t part of an extracurricular club. Pope’s husband Michael would attend the meetings. Furthermore, she told her math students that “God will punish them if they are not good” and had religious literature on her desk during the school day: [Img]”

          It is definitely supposed to be an enumeration of misdeeds.

          That being said, I appreciate your ocmment. So far it’s the only response that actually deals with my post in a reasonable way.

          The point of the article is that Fox News spins the story to demonize someone (the AHA) that its audience wants to see demonized. The point of my post is that this article does the same thing, though certainly to a smaller extent.

          I was a little hot when I wrote the original post, but I’ve found most of the responses to it way more acrimonious.

    • ]|||[

      In fact, honestly, it’s the big paragraph that’s the irrelevant one. You’re right, people being upset was not the issue.

    • Brandon Reisinger

      Obviously you did not read the article. The AHA is acting on behalf of 2 students that asked for their assistance. Original they tried to settle the matter by sending a formal letter to the school district and received no reply so now they are seeking to settle this in the court. Perhaps next time before you write comments about how the author his not done their research you should at least read everything they have written.

      • ]|||[

        Interestingly, that information isn’t reported in this article. It’s reported in the Fox News article being lambasted by this one.

        • ]|||[

          Wait, am I missing something here? Why is this reply down-voted?

          • ]|||[

            cute.

          • Artor

            Because you’ve already displayed your mendacious ignorance, so commenters have lost patience with you. You could post “The sky is blue” and you’d get downvotes now. Try not being an ignorant asshole, and you’ll get different results.

            • ]|||[

              I’m not sure what about my post seemed “mendacious”, nor do I see how I’ve imposed myself on anybody’s patient. But sure, I’m the asshole.

          • Richard Thomas

            Just as an aside, you must be new to the internet. Complaining about downvotes ALWAYS = more downvotes.

            • ]|||[

              I am new to the internet. But I don’t care about downvotes. I’m confused because the original commenter accused me of not reading the article, then cited information from the Fox News article as evidence. Which illustrates that the Fox News article was in some ways more informative than this one. Seemed like a good point to me, not to mention the way it turned Brandon Reisinger’s criticism back at him.

    • Spuddie

      You are an idiot.

      “separation of church and state is a catchphrase, not a specific law. ”

      Its a catchphrase to describe the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. It is the law of the entire nation.

      Obviously you are too stupid to realize why it is a bad thing for government employees to use their position of authority to extol their religious beliefs. She is Christian so, you are OK with it. After all Christians are the only people whom government should care about in your eyes.

      • ]|||[

        (1) I’m not sure why you think I’m Christian. I’m trying to point to a small but meaningful hypocrisy on the part of this article’s author; my point has to do with journalism (since this is an article about spin), not with Christianity or with the government.

        (2) But since we’re talking about it, the first amendment pertains to legislation, not the books possessed by government employees in government buildings: http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

        (3) I maintain that having a book with the word “God” on the spine whilst teaching is no more criminal than wearing a crucifix whilst teaching.

        • Spuddie

          (1) You certainly like to use their same overused arguments “Nobody was offended”, “separation of church and state is illusory”. You sound like one. For all intents and purposes you are one for the sake of discussion.

          Your real point has to do with your inability to read an article prior to giving an opinion of it.

          (2) The first amendment pertains to acts of government. The books were prominently displayed for the class to take notice of. It might as well have been a religious icon. Btw the prayer sessions are illegal. There is no excuse for it.

          Don’t bother arguing separation of church and state does not exist as a matter of law. All it will do is show how ignorant you are.

          (3) Like a part of the male anatomy, it depends on the size and how you use it. If you are displaying it to the point where it is of prominence, waving it about and using it to intimidate others with it, it is probably not legal.

          • ]|||[

            Look up that book on Amazon. It would be very hard to intimidate anybody with it. It sounds mostly like a self-help book.

            • Spuddie

              How about if you were beat on the head with it?

              That’s the use you seem to advocate.

          • ]|||[

            Your issue can’t possibly be with the size of the font in which the word ‘God’ is typeset. Could it?

            • Spuddie

              You are just upset I equated prominent religious displays with public indecency.

        • TCC

          No, the First Amendment does not pertain only to legislation. Reading only the text of the First Amendment without considering precedent (and a little thing called the “Fourteenth Amendment”) will leave you with a seriously misguided conclusion.

      • ]|||[

        (4) In fact, the book is better than the crucifix. First of all, taken on its own, the book might even be a novel. Probably not though. Still, it’s hardly promoting any particular religion, so all we know is it’s a book that probably relates to some god in some way— maybe critical, maybe religious, maybe historical, who knows? It’s a book’s spine. A crucifix would display a teacher’s commitment, and hence endorsement, of some religion. That book is just a collection of ideas, which is A-Ok in a school.

    • Areid

      I agree with Spuddie below. You’re not that smart. Feel free to research, and know your facts on the subject before forming an opinion. Perhaps you’re a poster child for confirmation bias…you just make up stuff to support your views and choose to ignore reality when it conflicts with your opinions.

      • ]|||[

        I don’t know what this means. It sounds like you could post it on any comment on the internet and it would sort of sound relevant.

    • Mario Strada

      This is not CNN. It’s a private blog with guest writers reporting on another article by a news organization well known to spin the truth (Pray for a sick child. Shameful).
      It has been decades since we have established what this teacher has been doing goes against the law.

      • ]|||[

        I really wish I could edit my original post, because the legality of what the teacher is doing was just a tangent.

        • baal

          Make a disqus account. Edit is then enabled.

    • Iramohs

      Hey guy, it goes against the Constitution. You know that document that laid the foundation for this entire country. Are you just gonna disregard it because you don’t like it.

    • Gehennah

      It doesn’t matter if anyone voiced any problems with it, (and it probably wouldn’t have came to the attention if someone didn’t have a problem with it), what matters is that it is illegal.

  • Dan Weeks

    She probably became a math teacher because math is magical.

    • Lisa

      Completely off-topic but – yay Peter Capaldi! Can’t wait to see him as the Doctor!

  • murray57

    The constitution and the majority of laws when this land was settled are based on the Bible.

    • http://tch3.com C High

      Citation, please.

    • Sugar

      Really? Tel me more…

    • amomymous

      can you prove this? Last time i checked in the Constitution it doesnt state
      “This is based off the bible.”

    • NathanExplosion

      Yes, Christians love slavery and use their Bible to justify the enslavement of black/brown people.

      Good for you and your history of slavery!!!1

      Derp.

    • Mario Strada

      That’s not the case, when this land was settled Christ was not even born, but even if it was, the First Amendment superseded that “tradition” and it states that the government cannot establish a religion. A teacher is an agent of that government. If she was teaching at a private school no one would be even discussing this.

    • Spuddie

      Almost correct but not in the fundamentalist Christian theocratic anti-democracy, sectarian discriminatory way you think it is.

      The separation of church and state was a religious concept. Came from Anabaptists. Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island put it to words over a century before the Constitution. Such a belief holds that Christianity and all other religions have no place in government. That religion has no basis in our laws.

      Stop listening to David Barton. He rots your brain.

    • Artor

      That’s funny, you’d think if that was so, the Constitution would actually mention the Bible or Jesus somewhere in it, and that most of the Ten Commandments wouldn’t be illegal under the Bill or Rights.

    • 3lemenope

      I’m torn between asking if you’ve ever read the Constitution or if you’ve ever read the Bible.

      It takes active effort to be this ignorant. The Constitution is four pages long. Seriously, I could write a comment in the next ten minutes that would take longer to read.

      Normally I’m more patient with ignorance, because it is often not directly the fault of the ignorant. But the Constitution is four pages long. You have no excuse. Read the things, then come back and tell us all how one comes from the other.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I wasn’t aware we had laws that included stoning adulterers, killing rebellious children, forcing rape victims to marry their rapists, making working on the Sabbath punishable by death, forbidding the use of graven images, and so forth.

      I guess our laws really aren’t based on the Bible after all.

    • Iramohs

      Are you educated? Can you even think rationally without your religious beliefs getting in the way? If not then go back to your hole.

    • Gehennah

      If that were true, then more than 2.5 of the 10 Commandments would be illegal (I add .5 because lying is only illegal under oath). We definitely would not have a freedom of religion since your god wants no god before him, and he has a habit of smiting non-believers (or having his minions do it for him).

      So about the only things from the Bible this country was founded on was 2.5 of the 10 Commandments, and slavery.

    • usorthem3

      Your LIES show your ignorance and your Christian hate filled faith towards all other religions as you are a religious bigot.

  • murray57

    I guess I should clarify that because many of the men involved in creating our government were Christians, they used their beliefs. As much as I know you want to get into a head butting contest on the issue, I’m not going to. You can find research to support my claim as well as yours if you really want to know. That way it’s not “some Christian” making unsubstantiated claims. Have a nice Thanksgiving!

    • Eddie_Merkin

      They were not “Christians” in the modern sense of the word, but best described as Deists

    • Artor

      You can find “research” to support your claim only if you take lying shitstains like David Barton as reliable sources. You made an ignorant and factually wrong statement, and now you’re doubling-down on it. I hope you have a miserable Thanksgiving. May your children come out as gay Democrat atheists.

      • Randy Bobandy

        lol

      • LonesomeDove

        Of the 7 people considered the main “Founding Fathers”, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, George Washington, and John Jay – only John Jay can be considered an orthodox Christian, and he argued (unsuccessfully) for a prohibition forbidding Catholics from holding office.- the others preferred to identify as Deist, or Unitarian – David Barton is a hack who has no credentials in the areas of “expertise” he claims – anything he claims should be highly vetted – And really, if Thomas Jefferson was a Christian – would he have made the “Jefferson Bible” and remove all divinity and supernatural from the biblical text?

    • usorthem3

      According to the 1st Amendment of the USA this country is NOT a Christian ONLY nation, never was, never will be. I know you Christians want to FORCE your faith on everyone and think yourself “superior” to anyone not Christian but my religious faith matters just as much as yours. Billions of people live happy, healthy, prosperous lives without your “god” and Christians can’t stand that fact. Blessed Be for a pagan that has the same right to freedom of religion as you. Happy Holidays

  • John Tremblay

    Of course Starnes is going to spin the story (lie) because it’s all for
    the glory of his imaginary friend. You see Starnes is suppose to be a journalist,
    reporting the facts and getting the scoop. Instead he takes stories
    where Evangelical Christians are using the power of government to
    further their religion and spins the Christian into the victim.

    Make no mistake about the man people, Todd Starnes is a hardcore
    fundamentalist Christian who worked for a short time at a local AM radio
    station in my city. After he he began working at WTJS he cashed in
    his retirement account and rented an entire movie theater for the
    opening night of Mel Gibson’s gore movie, “The Passion of The Christ.”
    Then he gave away all the tickets on the air.

    I’ve been seeing his stories crop up online and in my Facebook feed from people every time there is an event where Christianity is said to be under attack. I read his stories so I can compare them to unbiased accounts and laugh a little at how much he twisted and ignored facts.

  • usorthem3

    The core of the Christian faith, 2 Chronicles 15 13 All people, young and old, male and female who REFUSE to dedicate their life to the LORD GOD of Israel were to be put to death. Says a lot about a religion that needs to kill anyone that does not believe.

  • UnePetiteAnana

    “If a Muslim teacher acted the same way Pope did, that teacher would’ve been fired immediately.”

    You don’t know that; is there a muslim population of students at this school that would like to have devotionals – or does their religion even teach that devotionals should be had? It doesn’t matter anyway because you’d want both/either to be fired. This entire post/opinions are laughable because Hemant “…serves in leadership positions for atheist organizations nationwide, including the Secular Student Alliance …” You’re telling me that Hemant doesn’t let anything about his personal beliefs about religion/God permeate anything he does at school? When you say Pope led devotionals on Friday morning in her classroom – was this during instructional time? Also, what’s the problem with having “religious literature” on her desk? What’s the problem with it being announced over the loud-speaker about the devotionals in her class (if you’re saying this encouraged students to attend … wouldn’t this mean it *wasn’t* during instructional time?)? Isn’t anything and everything announced over the loud-speaker – why can’t this activity be announced?

    What’s really strange to me is that this zero-tolerance attitude is what sets dangerous precedent for both “sides”, the religious and non-religious, and neglects the human factor. I would argue the only reason for this zero-tolerance attitude is to keep religion out of schools. Oh, but wait, isn’t it true that lack-of-belief isn’t a religion at all … so what does this say?

    What’s really stupid is the AHA sent a warning letter to the school district. A “warning” letter? The school district doesn’t answer to the AHA – the AHA should have just filed the lawsuit. Don’t pretend to think the AHA was doing someone a favor by sending a warning letter – shew! A militant group of atheists sent us a threatening letter to warn us about their impending lawsuit. They were TOTALLY doing us a favor!

    https://www.secularstudents.org/speakers/HemantMehta

  • W.A. Jones

    I’m still wondering about that book on Mrs. Pope’s desk….It’s been mentioned by more than one non-free free-thinking person on here that the photo was meant to emphasize this woman’s illegal behavior in a public school setting. But the display of “Christian literature” was mentioned in the May letter sent by AHA to the high school. So I’m wondering, if that’s evidence of illegal behavior, what would they say about “The God Delusion” on her desk? That book discusses religion. I wonder if you reason-loving atheists would accept sort of a Three-Fifths Compromise on Biblical references? No? Us either. At least we can agree on that.


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