Arkansas State Representative Who Called Eight-Year-Old Atheist a Fool: ‘I Regret’ the Comment

On Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe signed into law a bill that will force all public school students in the state to observe a 60-second-long “moment” of silence.

It’s a horrible decision, it’s 60 seconds longer than any school needs, it accomplishes nothing that can’t already be done at home, and everyone knows it’s just a way to sneak prayer into public schools.

Earlier this week, I posted a message from state Rep. John Payton to a mother concerned about the effect the legislation would have on her atheist daughter:

As I summarized the message then:

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.

It’s been a few days, but Payton has finally responded to the posting. A local paper got him to comment on his message (the article is unfortunately behind a paywall):

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="200"]Rep. John Payton[/caption]

Arkansas’ bill gained attention outside of the state Monday when the “Friendly Atheist” blog posted an e-mail from one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. John Payton, R-Wilburn, to a mother who had written several lawmakers with concerns about how the legislation would affect her daughter, who does not believe in God.

“Romans 1:19-25 and Psalm 14:1 address your concerns,” Payton wrote in that e-mail, citing two verses that address disbelief. In the New International Version of the Bible, Psalm 14:1 says: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Payton said Tuesday the e-mail was “a sarcastic and unmeasured reply, and I regret making it. But I think they’re using an 8-year-old girl as a pawn.”

More like he regrets his email going public.

But the eight-year-old girl isn’t a pawn. She’s a student who doesn’t believe in God and, because of this useless drawn-out-”moment” of silence, she’s going to have a hard time dealing with her “loving” Christian classmates.

He doesn’t care, though. The bill passed. He’s Christian. He’s thrilled.

For what it’s worth, I had an email conversation with the girl’s mother last night — she told me Rep. Payton hasn’t apologized to her at all, despite only being an email address away.

Class act, that man.

Arkansas State Representative Who Called Eight-Year-Old Atheist a Fool: ‘I Regret’ the Comment

On Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe signed into law a bill that will force all public school students in the state to observe a 60-second-long “moment” of silence.

It’s a horrible decision, it’s 60 seconds longer than any school needs, it accomplishes nothing that can’t already be done at home, and everyone knows it’s just a way to sneak prayer into public schools.

Earlier this week, I posted a message from state Rep. John Payton to a mother concerned about the effect the legislation would have on her atheist daughter:

[More…] [Read more...]

The Giant Portrait of Jesus is Finally Coming Down

It looks like the giant portrait of Jesus that was hanging at Jackson Middle School in Jackson, Ohio is finally coming down for good:

Last we heard, it was being moved to a local high school while the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lawsuit was going through the court.

[More...] [Read more...]

The ‘Stomp on Jesus’ Professor Finally Tells His Side of the Story

Last week, I wrote about a controversy concerning a student at Florida Atlantic University, his professor, and “Jesus” written on a piece of paper. I asked the question “Did a student really get suspended for refusing to ‘stomp on Jesus’?”

The answer, it seems, is probably not.

If you didn’t catch it, here’s a quick recap:

Junior Ryan Rotela, a Mormon, was in his Multi-Cultural Communications class taught by Dr. Deandre Poole. As a class activity, Dr. Poole asked all students to get out a piece of paper and write “JESUS” on it. He then asked them to put the paper on the ground and step on it. Rotela refused and, as a result, was suspended from Dr. Poole’s class… or, at least, that’s Rotela’s version of the story.

Last week, I postulated that it seemed unlikely that this is was how the story actually went down, but we only had Rotela’s account to work off of.

Normally, I really love being proven right, but this particular story has me pretty unhappy with the way it panned out.

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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.

[More…] [Read more...]

Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Krieger Doesn’t Care if Atheists Get Harassed by Christians

Back in December, I posted about a Ten Commandments monument that sits outside Valley High School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh):

Three plaintiffs (including two students) filed a lawsuit against that monument with the help of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They wanted to remove that obvious promotion of Christianity from the school. Initially, though, there was a stumbling block: In order to proceed with the case, the students were not allowed to hide behind pseudonyms. They had to let everyone know who they were.

In other words, instead of proceeding with the case on the basis of merit and defending the Constitution, they had to expose themselves to harassment from their classmates and community. As we saw in Jessica Ahlquist‘s case, people are not very kind to perceived threats against their religious privilege.

There were already threats coming to the third plaintiff (a parent in the district), so a judge agreed the students could use aliases. And all was well and good.

But now, a state representative is disregarding all of that. He wants young atheists to deal with the consequences if they fight back against monuments dedicated to his faith. He has written a bill — House Bill 922 — that would no longer allow those students to remain anonymous:

[More…] [Read more...]


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