Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Judge Declares National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional

Posted in News by Skepdude on April 15, 2010

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT GAWKER.COM

A year-old, incorrect story about Barack Obama “canceling” the National Day of Prayer made the rounds today. Meanwhile, in reality, Obama’s Justice Department was defending the Day of Prayer to a U.S. District Court that just ruled it unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared section 119 of US Code 36—establishing an annual National Day of Prayer—to be unconstitutional. Her decision is available here. We certainly agree with everything she writes, and we’re sure there will be no major controversy over any of this.

The Freedom from Religion foundation brought the suit, claiming that the statute calling on the president to proclaim a National Day of Prayer each year is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Crabb found that the plaintiffs had the standing to challenge section 119 itself, but not presidential proclamations generally.

In Crabb’s reading of the case law, the government can encourage prayer when it has “a significant secular purpose,” but the National Day of Prayer has no point beyond encouraging everyone to pray.

Unfortunately, § 119 cannot meet that test. It goes beyond mere “acknowledgment” of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience. “When the government associates one set of religious beliefs with the state and identifies nonadherents as outsiders, it encroaches upon the individual’s decision about whether and how to worship.” McCreary County, 545 U.S. at 883 (O’Connor, J., concurring). Accordingly, I conclude that § 119 violates the establishment clause.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT GAWKER.COM

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A completely demented ruling on religious proselytization in a high school classroom

Posted in Preliator pro Causa by Skepdude on March 2, 2010

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT PRELIATOR PRO CAUSA

First, take a look at these photos:

Faith banner in public school math classroom: “In God We Trust / One Nation Under God / God Bless America / God Shed His Grace On Thee”
Faith banner in public school math classroom: “All Men Are Created Equal / They Are Endowed By Their CREATOR”

Okay, standard preachy Christian rubbish. Nothing exactly new or interesting, by itself.

But … guess where these banners are located? As hinted by the geometric pie (or whatever that blue divided thingy is called), the posters about calculus and the overall “educative”-like feel of the surroundings, this is actually in … a public mathematics classroom, hung by Bradley Johnson, a math teacher at Westview High School in the Poway Unified School District in California. Because, obviously, what students want to see as they enter a supposedly secular public math class is their very Christian teacher’s public declaration of faith, as opposed to, say, anything that’s actually useful.

As you can imagine, anyone who’s aware of this little thing called the Establishment Clause – ie. Separation of Church and State – can tell you in just how many ways this violates the law. So, naturally, the Poway school district came down on Johnson and forced him to remove the banners. (Note the irony of the term “forced”, seeing as those banners should never have been present in the classroom in the first place.)

Naturally, lawsuits were filed. Because, you know, forcing a teacher at a secular institution of education to remove his proselytizing rubbish from his public classroom surely fits so well with “oppressing his religious freedom!” and all that. But, here’s the true punch to the story: the verdict.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT PRELIATOR PRO CAUSA

Illinois moment of silence ruled unconstitutional

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 22, 2009

CHICAGO —

A federal judge has ruled that a state law requiring a moment of silence in public schools across Illinois is unconstitutional, saying it crosses the line separating church and state.

“The statute is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion,” U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman said in his ruling Wednesday.

The ruling came in a lawsuit designed to bar schools from enforcing the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. It was filed by talk show host Rob Sherman, an outspoken atheist, and his daughter, Dawn, a high school student.

Gettleman’s ruling was not a surprise. He had already ruled in favor of Sherman in two previous decisions.

As passed by the Illinois General Assembly, the law allows students to reflect on the day’s activities rather than pray if that is their choice and defenders have said it therefore doesn’t force religion on anyone.

But Gettleman backed critics such as the American Civil Liberties Union, who say the law is a thinly disguised effort to bring religion into the schools.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT THE SEATTLE TIMES.