Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Bible in Texas Schools

15 April 2007

Texas may become the first state to require an elective Bible course in a school if 15 students sign up, according to the Los Angeles Times. Religion is a major force in the world, and something the religious and non-religious should both have an understanding of, so in some ways this does make sense. Even with teacher training aside however, I see two major problems.

1. All major religions are a major force in world events, so any reasoning that applies to the Bible applies to the Koran, Rigveda, etc. Either there should be electives for other world religions equally available, or it should be an elective that covers religions as a whole.

2. The primary textbook for the course would apparently be the Bible. According to Represenative Warren Chisum, “It just makes sense to use the Bible if that’s the course that you’re talking about, it’s the most available book in the world.” Firstly, availability is not an issue, that’s what FedEx is for. More importantly, learning about the Bible primarily from the Bible is obviously going to be biased. In high school, I read only excerpts from the Communist Manifesto for school, we learned about communism primarily from the textbook.  Primary sources are great, they should not be, so to speak, the primary source in a public classroom.

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Evidence Against Charity Apparently Fabricated

26 February 2007

Five years ago the government shut down the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the nation’s largest Muslim charity, on the basis that it was linked to terrorism, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of hours of FBI wiretapping transcripts were classified, and the defense lawyers have been working with government summaries.

When they compared one transcript they had of a conversation to its government summary though, it was found that a number of comments never actually in the conversation were in the summary. Defense attorneys say that “not only are the summaries so inaccurate and misleading as to be useless,” but that the “author of the attached summary has cynically and maliciously attributed to the defendants racist invective and inculpatory remarks the defendants never uttered.”

Though the attorneys have the clearance to view the original documents, they cannot show it to their clients.

There were also apparently issues with translation, and some of the material was translated from Arabic to Hebrew, then to English.

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Muslims Rights Activist’s Certificate Rescinded

15 January 2007

In November, Basim Elkarra of the Sacramento chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) received a certificate of merit from Senator Barbara Boxer, but it was rescinded January 3rd, largely due to calls from the right for her to disassociate herself from Elkarra and CAIR, according to the Progressive. Two days after that, he received a death threat in an e-mail message.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Boxer said that “We made a big mistake not researching the organization… My organization created this problem. I caused people grief, and I feel terrible, yet I need to set the record straight.” Among her reasons to rescind the certificate were that CAIR had failed to denounce bin Laden by name after the 9/11 attacks, even though it said that “American Muslims utterly condemn the vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all American in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts,” and added on December 13 of 2001 that “For anyone who was not convinced of Osama bin Laden’s complicity in the events of September 11, the content of this videotape should remove all doubt… Bin Laden seemed to revel in the death and destruction in Washington and New York” and that “he made the sickening statement that the attacks ‘benefited Islam greatly.”

Also, she said that two founding members of the Texas chapter have been indicted. Nihad Awad noted that “CAIR has tens of thousands of members, hundreds of volunteer board members, and several dozen paid staff members nationwide. It would be unfair and un American to hold any organization responsible for the actions of every individual, especially when such actions originate outside the scope of their employment or association.”

Another group said that Elkarra called Israel “racist” and “apartheid,” though Elkarra says “He was cutting and pasting my quotes in a way to make me look bad, I was highlighting concerns about government tactics, such as not allowing people to speak to their attorneys.”

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Congressman Warns Constituents of Elected Muslims

22 December 2006

In one of the odder arguments against immigration, Virgil Goode told his constituents that, without stricter immigration policy, more Muslims will be elected to office, according to the Los Angeles Times. Representative Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-VA) sent a letter to hundreds of the people he represents, telling them that “The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district, and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.” It was in response to letters from people regarding Representative-elect Keith Ellison, a Muslim Democrat in Minnesota who became the first Muslim elected to congress.

At his swearing in ceremony, Mr. Hoode probably demanded to use the Bible.

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Bill of Rights Day

16 December 2006

A few days ago, George Bush made a few extra holidays:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 10, 2006, as Human Rights Day; December 15, 2006, as Bill of Rights Day; and the week beginning December 10, 2006, as Human Rights Week. I call upon the people of the United States to mark these observances with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

To show how important the Bill of Rights’ separation of church and state, he went on to say that that he had done it in the “year of our lord,” which I sincerely hope but doubt that he meant in a secular sense somehow.

This post is obviously a day late, but I figure the Bill of Rights should be read more often than it is, so I’m posting it.

First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Second Amendment
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Third Amendment
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner; nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fifth Amendment
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

Sixth Amendment
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.

Seventh Amendment
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of common law.

Eighth Amendment
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Ninth Amendment
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Tenth Amendment
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Hopefully the 110th congress will read them more often than the 109th does.

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Wiccan Symbol Not Allowed on Gravestones

2 October 2006

A number of supporters of the Public Expression of Religion Act (which makes it harder to file lawsuits against the government if it infringes on the right of freedom of/from religion) say that without the bill, veterans might not be able to have religious symbols on their gravestones. As the ACLU noted though, that right is already constitutional and protected. However, the National Cemetery Administration of the US Department of Veteran Affairs is denying veterans of certain religions that right, according to the ACLU.

Veterans and/or their families are allowed to pick from 38 different symbols to put on the headstones, which are free for eligible veterans. When a new one is requested, it is usually added within months. The Wiccan pentacle symbol though is not on the list and the agency has refused to add it. “The government has no business picking and choosing which personal religious beliefs may be expressed. All veterans, regardless of their religion, deserve to have their faith recognized on an equal basis,” said ACLU of Washington staff attorney Aaron Caplan.

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Public Expression of Religion Act

27 September 2006

The Public Expression of Religion Act would actually make it more difficult to challenge threats to freedom of or from religion, according to the ACLU. It would prevent individuals who went to court to protect their freedom of religion rights from recovering attorney’s fees, regardless of whether or not they won. That means that if someone’s rights were violated and they went to court to challenge it, and won the court case, they would have to pay the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost to do so themselves.

Supporters of the bill have apparently suggested that if the bill is not passed, religious markers at military cemeteries would be threatened. Those markers, however, are constitutional and protected.

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Parolee Practices Religion at Direction of Government

19 September 2006

First, William Stanley’s release was delayed three months, according to the ACLU. Apparently West Virginia has a prohibition on cohabitation if you’re unmarried (no joke), and since he had been planning on moving in with his fiancée, he couldn’t leave.

Then, he was placed in the Union Mission, where he attended religious classes and had to go to an approved church. “Being forced by the government to practice a religion is the antithesis of what it means to be an American,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the West Virginian branch of the ACLU.

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The Evolution of the Kansas Board of Education

3 August 2006

The Kansas Board of Education has come a long way since removing almost all mention of evolution from the high school biology curriculum in 1999. Voters in Kansas voted for moderates that favored evolution in Republican primaries last week, according to the The New York Times.

The First Amendment requires a separation between church and state, thus, religious views cannot be taught in public schools. Intelligent Design is not supported by any actual facts or believed in by anyone not religious, and its connection to religious beliefs is not disputed. One wonders what went wrong in 1999.

When it comes to boards of education, the best curriculums survive to next September, and the Biblical biology classes mandated by the religious right were killed off by Kansas voters.

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