Did a Tennessee College Professor Really Force Her Students to Wear a Rainbow Ribbon?

Here’s the story as the conservative media tells it: Linda Brunton, a liberal professor at Columbia State Community College in Tennessee, forced students to wear rainbow ribbons and tell people who asked them about it that they were supporters of gay rights.

Students then had to observe public reaction and write a paper about how they were allegedly “discriminated against” while wearing the ribbons.

When several students objected to being forced to support conduct that violates their faith convictions, Brunton brushed aside their concerns, described their views as “ignorant and uneducated,” and explained that she hoped this assignment would cause them to change their beliefs. Regardless of their convictions, students had to express the views she mandated in order to receive class credit.

The Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom even sent the school a letter (PDF) demanding an apology and a promise that this assignment will never be given again.

Of course, I’m having a hard time believing that a professor would “force” students to do this against their will. But let’s take this one issue at a time.

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Ellery Schempp Looks Back, Fifty Years After His Supreme Court Victory

This is a guest post by Ellery Schempp.

I was in a contemplative mood as I wrote this. Somewhat overwhelmed by good wishes from good people.

I thank you for remembering this anniversary. I am happy to have lived long enough to remember not only the Abington decision (1963), but also pioneers like Vashti McCollum (1948), Steve Engel (1962), Madalyn Murray (joined with Abington, 1963), and later cases such as Lemon and Weismann, Epperson, Edwards, Griswold, many others. All these cases came from real people, and often the children suffered.

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Chairman of Irish School Board Resigns After Distributing Pro-Life Propaganda to Children

After spending some time as the spokesperson for now-retired archbishop of Dublin Cardinal Desmond Connell, Eddie Shaw became the chairman of a Catholic school board. Maybe that position makes sense for someone who has spent a long time within the Church environment, but what he did a couple of weeks ago (no, not that) has led to his resignation.

Shaw asked all teachers to send home with students — some of whom were as young as five years old — a leaflet promoting an anti-abortion Vigil for Life rally:

“… The parent body were outraged that the children were being used as vehicle to promote a controversial campaign,” [minutes from a parents' association meeting] said.

Parents who spoke to The Irish Times were very angry at their children being used in this way. One parent of a five-year-old was asked by the child what an abortion was and felt deeply annoyed to have been put in that position.

Shaw apologized at the meeting and admitted that he made a mistake, adding that he really should’ve sent those leaflets home in an envelope, a solution one parent correctly said “[missed] the point entirely.”

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Court Strikes Down New Hampshire’s Tax-Money-For-Religious-Schools Law

On Monday, New Hampshire was the scene of a state court verdict (PDF) that struck down a recent law allowing tax dollars to flow into religious schools:

The program provided a large tax credit to businesses that contributed to scholarship organizations that paid for tuition at private schools. Though the program was purportedly designed to expand educational opportunities, Justice John M. Lewis held that the program violated the state’s constitution because it had the effect of diverting public funds to religious schools.

“New Hampshire students, and their parents, certainly have the right to choose a religious education,” the Stafford County Superior Court judge wrote in the ruling. “However, the government is under no obligation to fund religious education. Indeed, the government is expressly forbidden from doing so by the very language of the New Hampshire Constitution.”

With that phrase, Lewis was referring to the Blaine Amendment that is enshrined in the Constitution of no fewer than 39 states, including his.

The amendment has a pretty fascinating genesis.

In the 1870s, Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, frequently expressed his commitment to keeping tax money out of religious education. In fulsome tones, Grant praised the separation of church and state, and attacked the idea of government support for “sectarian schools” run by religious organizations.

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Hey, New Zealand, Stop Trying to Be Like America

Another public school. Another prayer. Another administrator who thinks those two things belong together.

The only surprising thing is that this is happening in Auckland, New Zealand.

At the beginning of the day at Kelston Intermediate School, students recite karakia — a Maori prayer. The principal doesn’t see anything wrong with that:

Kelston Intermediate principal Phil Gordon said he had no idea some staff were unhappy with karakia in the classroom until contacted by the union representative.

Gordon said he reassured the union representative the karakia was a cultural component of school life and an expression of beliefs that reflected the Kelston community.

“I guess what they might have been inquiring about is the presence of karakia, etc, within school so we talked about what we’re doing is not a religious thing but a cultural thing.”

Staff and pupils were free to abstain, he insisted. “I think perhaps there has been a mismatch in understanding.”

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