Church-State Appeal Arguments

I haven’t posted much recently because I’ve been very busy with legal work. One thing I’ve been working an is an appeal of a church-state case in Colorado. It finally went to court yesterday, in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado. The case involves a school district that has actively and repeatedly supported Christian missionary organizations.  Coverage here from the Denver Post.


First-Ever University Chair Endowed for Study of Atheism

The nation’s first university chair for the study of atheism, humanism, and secular ethics is being created at the University of Miami. The post is made possible by a $2.2 million donation from businessman Louis Appignani, who for years has been an active supporter of atheist and humanist groups in the United States.

According to the New York Times the position might have been created earlier, but there were hesitations on the university’s part in creating a chair that had “atheism” in the title. To Appignani, that detail was not negotiable “I’m trying to eliminate discrimination against atheists,” said Appignani. (Full disclosure: Appignani is also the primary benefactor of the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, this author’s workplace.) 

The university is creating a committee of faculty members to search for a scholar to fill the seat. Not surprisingly, the secular community responded positively to the news. Richard Dawkins called it a “bold step.” With religious studies found in universities all over the country and the world, many see an academic seat for atheism as long overdue. The full story from the Times is here.

Pledging Allegiance: Does It Instill Healthy Values or Toxic Nationalism?

My experience in helping students who have been mistreated for exercising their constitutional right to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance has opened my eyes to what the daily exercise is doing to our national psyche. Far from instilling a healthy and benign patriotism, it instead nurtures a dangerous nationalism and militarism. I write about this phenomenon in my latest Salon piece, which can be found at this link.

Stop Bible Distribution in Elementary Schools

UPDATE, November 13: Chalk up another victory for the AHA’s legal center. The school district sent us a letter assuring that the Bible distribution will cease immediately. See link here.

Original story:

We sent a letter to Geary County Schools in Kansas this week, warning that the distribution of bibles in an elementary school is unconstitutional. It’s clear that this school is encouraging its young students to embrace Christianity, as staff made the bibles available on a table in a high-traffic area and then told students they could leave class to get one. This is part of a project of the Gideons, who are known for evangelizing Christianity through bible distribution.

Our letter pointed out that numerous courts have ruled that this kind of bible distribution violates the Establishment Clause. The violation is particularly troubling when the target audience is elementary school children who are vulnerable to manipulation and coercion.

Many Christians will no doubt cry persecution because they aren’t allowed to proselytize in public school. If that’s so, however, we have to wonder if their defense of religious freedom would be so vigorous if the holy text being handed out were a Koran, or even a Satanic text. Funny how religious liberty in schools seems to be a uniquely Christian privilege.

Entire letter is here. No response yet from the school. Stay tuned.

National Superiority on the School Curriculum

Reading, writing, arithmetic . . . and American Exceptionalism?

We might expect nationalistic, chauvinistic pandering from politicians, but it’s especially troubling when we hear it from public school administrators who seem to sincerely believe that we need to indoctrinate students with the idea of American national superiority. Read about the Florida school superintendent who “loathes” having to inform children that the Pledge of Allegiance is optional. My latest Psychology Today article, here.