On December 19th, I took an invitation from some McKinney Texas residents to speak at their next school district meeting. One of their children was bothered about all the religious symbols in her classroom, and wanted her parents to do something about that. The parents were already concerned that their school district held meetings in a mega-church and that their Superintendent illegally led those meetings in prayer.
Parents in this district had complained about this for months in some cases and more than a year in another, but this never gets on the agenda. So the board will not discuss it. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has already responded, and there was a story about it in local news, but some Christians feel vindicated by being persecuted, and I’ve actually heard Christians say that they’re being persecuted whenever they’re not allowed to persecute everyone else: whether it is eliminating a stranger’s reproductive decisions or prohibiting some folks’ marriages, or lying to other people’s children in science, sex, and social studies classrooms. So here they imagine yet another “culture war” like their illusory “war on Christmas”. Thus they intend to “stand for their beliefs” and ignore everything wrong with that logically, legally, morally, and culturally–while pretending to have the moral high ground.
Once the board realized there was a non-Christian religious representative speaking, she was interrupted and turned away because the by-laws only allow McKinney ISD patrons to speak. Of course I was barred too for the same reason, which is especially frustrating after I heard all the bigoted ignorance from both of the speakers to follow me.
Note that the first two speakers were civil and ethical with the full support of the law, but the last two speakers expressed only hatred and projected that hatred onto what they mistakenly see as an enemy. They admitted that they want to use public school classrooms as a battleground for their faith in their misguided and grossly misinformed protest against reason. They demonstrated the Dunning-Kruger effect when they said that legal precedents established by the Supreme Court were “misinterpretations of the law” while simultaneously promoting prejudice as though it were a “value”. Likewise they say that the notion of equality that is even expressed in the first line of the Declaration of Independence is “dumbed-down propaganda”. Yet how dumbed-down must their own propaganda have been to mislead them so far afield?
They even said that the notion of fairness-for-all is a form of hatred? This from the guys who also generalized atheists as irrational murderous Communists?! The speaker after me even evoked Christianophobia and Heterophobia? Not only have I never heard of these before, I don’t think either one is even possible. Certainly neither one has anything at all to do with the reality of this situation or the secular perspective. But as the final speaker ironically said himself, “who needs facts when you have an ideology?”Why doesn’t he realize he’s only talking about himself there? Why do the Religious Wrong insist on projecting their own faults onto those who do not have them and will not share them? All the irrational ideology of hate and willful ignorance that some believers have they try to push onto us to establish an illusion of false equivalence, one of the many fallacies their position is based on.
Secularists are the ones defending freedom of religion, which isn’t possible without freedom FROM it too–though believers seldom understand that. It’s too bad that they weren’t able to hear me explain it to them. Had I been allowed to speak, here is what I would have said:
I was raised in a part of the country where Mormons owned and controlled everything and if you weren’t Mormon you weren’t employed. So nearly everyone was Mormon. I was baptized in a Mormon family and expected to believe that simply because my parents did. But heredity should not decide your religion and neither should the culture you’re raised in. But I never identified as Mormon myself, because I hadn’t studied it enough to know if I really believed everything required to be Mormon. Nor had I studied any other religion either. So how could I know if I wouldn’t like one of them more.
Once we moved out of a Mormon dominated area, into a place with a better mix, then I got to see the bigotry between each of the Christian denominations. Once any religion even seems to be established by the state, all other religious perspectives become second-class citizens. Mormons know better than anyone what that’s like—as the governors of Illinois and Missouri both endorsed a Mormon extermination order allowing the mostly Protestant state militia to murder American families simply for being Mormon. Yet Protestants today act like they’re so persecuted.
Though not enforced since before the Civil War, the Mormon extermination order was not repealed until 1976, and stands as one of many examples of why the Founding Fathers wrote in the very first line of the very first amendment that “Congress shall make no law [even] respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. That means that no state-funded institution can even appear to endorse religion.
Public schools are funded by state and federal taxes. Which brings me to the very first article of the Texas State Constitution, which also says that “No man shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent.” The summary established by multiple legal precedents repeatedly thereafter is that public school ceremonies should avoid unnecessary entanglement with religion, (Lemon v Kurtzman) and Engel v Vitale showed that school-sponsored prayer violates the US Constitution and obviously the Texas State Constitution as well.