Saturday, February 13, 2010

How Christian Were the Founders?

Montage by Carin Goldberg
Original Image: “‘Declaration of Independence,” by John Trumbull/The Bridgeman Art Library

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EXCERPT: LAST MONTH, A WEEK before the Senate seat of the liberal icon Edward M. Kennedy fell into Republican hands, his legacy suffered another blow that was perhaps just as damaging, if less noticed. It happened during what has become an annual spectacle in the culture wars.


Finally, the board considered an amendment to require students to evaluate the contributions of significant Americans. The names proposed included Thurgood Marshall, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, William F. Buckley Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton and Edward Kennedy. All passed muster except Kennedy, who was voted down.

This is how history is made — or rather, how the hue and cry of the present and near past gets lodged into the long-term cultural memory or else is allowed to quietly fade into an inaudible whisper. Public education has always been a battleground between cultural forces; one reason that Texas’ school-board members find themselves at the very center of the battlefield is, not surprisingly, money. The state’s $22 billion education fund is among the largest educational endowments in the country. Texas uses some of that money to buy or distribute a staggering 48 million textbooks annually — which rather strongly inclines educational publishers to tailor their products to fit the standards dictated by the Lone Star State. California is the largest textbook market, but besides being bankrupt, it tends to be so specific about what kinds of information its students should learn that few other states follow its lead. Texas, on the other hand, was one of the first states to adopt statewide curriculum guidelines, back in 1998, and the guidelines it came up with (which are referred to as TEKS — pronounced “teaks” — for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) were clear, broad and inclusive enough that many other states used them as a model in devising their own. And while technology is changing things, textbooks — printed or online —are still the backbone of education.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

AU 2010 Agenda

The 2008 election results led some to think the battle to maintain separation of church and state would ease up.

Far from it. If anything, Americans United is busier than ever! And there has never been a more important time to renew your membership by becoming a monthly donor or making a one-time renewal gift.

AU is still fighting tax aid to religion under the guise of the "faith-based" initiative.

AU is still working to defend our public schools, which remain under siege by aggressive Religious Right groups determined to force their dogma into the classroom.
AU is still standing up to sectarian pressure groups that have gained unprecedented influence over our nation’s laws.

AU is still battling controversial appropriations of your tax money to religious schools from members of Congress and state lawmakers.

Can I count on you to help Americans United continue this vital work in this new year?

Barry W. Lynn, AU Executive Director

P.S. Your renewal now is critical for our 2010 agenda. As a special thank-you, we're offering an option for you to receive a copy of the funny and informative book Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church-State Wars for your donation of $60 or more. Please become a monthly donor or make a one-time renewal donation today!

© 2010 Americans United for Separation of Church and State
518 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002
Unsubscribe or change your email preferences.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shout-Out for Successful Legislative Preview & Latest Action on Religion in Okla Public Schools


Until we can get our Google Group going with your responses to the invitation, I'm taking the liberty of whetting your appetite for religious separation by posting two messages from our OKC president, Mike Fuller, and former executive secretary, Jim Huff.

1) Mike Fuller gives a thanks to those who attended and a shout-out to those who helped make our first Legislative Preview at the Senate chamber a success.

2) Jim Huff gives an update on the actions being taken in regard to Sen. Tom Ivester's bill, SB 1338 concerning the teaching of religious classes in Oklahoma Public Schools. It's in the safe-to-open attachment with this email.

Best wishes,

James Nimmo, communications chair/website moderator

1) ************************
Message from Mike Fuller, chair of OK AU,

By all accounts, our first ever "Legislative Preview Forum" was a resounding success. We had 44 very enthusiastic people in attendance and the discussion was very spirited and informative. In preparing for this event, we identified at least 26 bills and/or resolutions that we thought warranted scrutiny from from a church/state separation point of view. There were 3 bills dealing with teaching about the bible in public schools, no fewer than 8 dealing with abortion, 5 dealing with various schemes to siphon off tax money for private (religious) schools, 7 dealing with marriage and divorce and numerous miscellaneous bills on everything from changing the State Motto to "Oklahoma- In God We Trust!" to an embryo adoption bill.

Obviously, due to time limitations, we were not able to cover each of these bills. We kicked the Forum off with the 3 "Bible" bills (SB 1338, HB 2938 and HB 2938), presented by Tamya Cox from the local ACLU, followed by the "Freedom of Conscience bills (SB 1891 and HB 3110) presented by yours truly. Next up was the "Motto" bill (SR 56), presented by our Treasurer, Damion Reinhardt, followed by our VP Nick Singer presenting one of the 5 school bills. Wrapping up bill discussion was our Communications Committee Chair, Jim Nimmo with a discussion of HB 3408 about criminalizing unauthorized marriages. By that time, we just had 30 minutes left in the program so Nick Singer and our Secretary Jeanette Schreiber led the discussion on lobbying congress.

I want to thank everyone mentioned above, plus Dena Sher from National AU for providing us with great analysis and talking points on the various bills, Wanda Stapleton and Rob Abiera for their invaluable help in tracking church/state bills, and Darla Sheldon for helping to advertise this event. Without their help, this event would not have been possible. If anyone would like to learn more about the bills which were discussed at this event, plus those that weren't, check out the two links below.

Mike Fuller
President, OKAU

Advocates, Friends and Concerned Oklahomans,

This is a “shotgun” notice to as many people as possible. SB 1338 (Instructing the State Department of Education to develop guidelines and materials for Bible related classes in Public Schools) is moving pretty fast through the legislative committee process.

I believe the intent of the Bill has merit. Oklahoma does need guidelines from the State Department of Education that have been approved by the State Attorney General’s office to meet national and state constitutional requirements. BUT, IT IS NOT A PERFECT BILL. Several amendments would make it better.

1. There must be a requirement that the teacher is a CERTIFIED Oklahoma teacher.
2. The Teacher must be trained BEFORE the class instruction begins…NOT during the time the class is being taught.
3. The Bible MUST NOT BE the only text source used in the class.
4. The OTHER SOURCES must discuss the history of how the Bible Books came to be canonized (official). They did not fall from the sky in book form with “red letter” editions.
5. Following the State Department’s Guidelines and Materials (APPROVED BY the state Textbook committee), the individual district and the teacher conducting the class develop the SYLLABUS for the class.

Look the bill up at You can also locate Senator Ivester’ and other senator’s contact information at the same site.

Attached is the 2007 handout that I used to raise these issues with legislators during that session. At that time the proposed bill never got out of committee. Things may be different this time.

A visit to Sen. Ivester’s office with your written concerns, a brief letter with your concerns or an email message describing your concerns would all be useful in attempting to improve the bill. Also, messages to your own senator would alert them to the needed changes.

Jim Huff

Contact information for Sen. Ivester--
Capitol Address
Senator Tom Ivester
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Rm. 529A
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
(405) 521-5545
Executive Assistant: Pam McLerran

Roth takes on anti-gay shell bill

OU Daily has posted an insightful analysis of HB 3408, which (as currently drafted) would legislatively reaffirm the State's power to incarcerate religious leaders who exercise their constitutionally protected freedom of conscience to perform religious ceremonies for whomever they so choose.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Church-State Watchdog Group Urges Obama To Keep Promise To Fix 'Faith-Based' Initiative

graphic courtesy of John Braly

On One-Year Anniversary Of Obama 'Faith-Based' Plan, President Should Ban Government-Funded Religious Bias And Proselytizing, Says AU

February 2, 2010

President Barack Obama should honor his pledge to reform the “faith-based” initiative by banning job discrimination in tax-funded programs and making it clear that public funds cannot support proselytizing, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In a letter sent to Obama today, Americans United urged the president to reverse Bush-era faith-based policies that remain in effect today and follow through on reforms he proposed when he was a candidate.

“We’ve waited long enough,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “The faith-based initiative has serious constitutional defects, and it’s time for a fix. Billions of federal tax dollars are going out the door without adequate religious liberty and civil rights safeguards.”

In a July 1, 2008, speech in Zanesville, Ohio, Obama promised to end Bush administration policies that allowed publicly funded faith-based social services to proselytize and discriminate in hiring on religious grounds.

Read the full press release at

PDF Link to the letter delivered to President Obama and Attny-Gen. Eric Holder

Intolerant Agenda Of National Prayer Breakfast Sponsor

Americans United Speaks Out Against Intolerant Agenda Of National Prayer Breakfast Sponsor

AU’s Lynn Calls On Leader Of ‘The Family’ To Repudiate Extreme Anti-Gay Law In Uganda

February 2, 2010

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today deplored the intolerant agenda of “The Family,” a secretive Religious Right group that sponsors the annual National Prayer Breakfast.

At a Washington, D.C., press conference this morning, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, joined religious leaders in criticizing The Family for its ties to David Bahati, a Ugandan legislator who is pushing a draconian anti-gay law.

The Family, also known as the Fellowship Foundation, sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, which attracts the president and a large number of members of Congress each year, as well as foreign dignitaries. According to researcher Jeff Sharlet, Bahati is a member of The Family.

Lynn called on President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to attend the prayer breakfast, to condemn the Ugandan proposal, which calls for the execution of gays and the imprisonment of those who promote homosexuality.

Read the full press release at

Monday, February 1, 2010

Federal Court Strikes Down Sectarian Prayers At Forsyth County, N.C., Commission

Watchdog Group Hails Decision Curbing Government Intervention In Religion

January 29, 2010

A federal court has struck down a North Carolina county’s policy of opening board meetings with sectarian prayers.

U.S. District Judge James A. Beaty held that the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ preference for Christian prayers violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Observed Beaty, “[T]he prayers offered in the implementation of the Policy here did not reflect diversity and inclusiveness, and instead were divisive and had the effect of affiliating the Government with one particular belief.”

Plaintiffs in the Joyner v. Forsyth County lawsuit are Janet Joyner and Constance Lynn Blackmon, two county residents and members of the Winston-Salem Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

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