Van Buren School District Responds To Freedom From Religion Foundation

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VAN BUREN (KFSM) - The Van Buren School District responded to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's allegations that constitutional rights were violated when a religious event was held at a Van Buren school on Sept. 3.

Van Buren School District Superintendent Kerry Schneider received a letter on Sept. 8 from the foundation alleging that a religious assembly that violated constitutional rights took place at Central Elementary School at 913 N. 24th St. on Sept. 3.

The letter requested an investigation into the assembly, and it also asked that Schneider “ensure that all school staff members are aware of restrictions on religious activity imposed by the Establishment Clause.”

In a letter to the foundation dated on Sept. 19, Schneider said administrators looked at the foundation's allegations and reviewed the activities related to faith and religion that are constitutionally prohibited in public schools. After looking at the allegations and prohibited religious activities, Schneider said he was "satisfied that all employees understand district expectations to perform assigned duties in compliance with federal mandates and constitutional protections."

Schneider said the Freedom From Religion Foundation could contact him if anyone in the group had any additional issues or concerns.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a secular group based in Madison, Wis.

In the foundation's original letter to the superintendent sent on Sept. 8, the group alleged that a religious assembly was held on Sept. 3 that violated the constitutional rights of students. The assembly was run by school staff, and students were encouraged to ask other students “if they had Jesus in their hearts,” according to the original letter. Students were also told if they didn’t know about Jesus that staff members could help them, the original letter states.

Another issue mentioned in the original letter that wasn't mentioned in Schneider's response was a sign that was allegedly hung in front of the school's main office that said, "God Loves You."

95 comments

    • Bill C

      THINGS NOT IN THE U.S. CONSTITUTION–
      The Air Force
      Congressional Districts
      The Electoral College
      Executive Order
      Executive Privilege
      Freedom of Expression
      (Absolute) Freedom of Speech and Press
      “From each according to his ability…”
      God
      Immigration
      Impeachment means removal from office
      Innocent until proven guilty
      It’s a free country
      Judicial Review
      Jury of Peers
      “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”
      Marriage
      Martial Law
      No taxation without representation
      Number of Justices in the Supreme Court
      “Of the people, by the people, for the people”
      Paper Money
      Political Parties
      Primary Elections
      Qualifications for Judges
      The right to privacy
      The right to travel
      The right to vote
      The separation of church and state
      The Separation of Powers Clause
      Slavery
      “We hold these truths to be self-evident”

    • Mark

      Are you advocating that it’s ok to teach a particular religion in a public school?? Sure sounds that way.. If so.. It’s pretty clear who the idiot is!!

      • Mark

        An assembly.. As if they had a choice to attend?It’s called The Establishment Clause.. You are wrong.. The school was wrong and now they have corrected the situation.. Taken down their god signs and won’t be asking kids to accept Jesus in their hearts.. Case closed..

  • Kevin

    I’m getting very sick of these “organizations” trying their hardest to abolish the Constitutional rights of the people. I’ll be damned if anyone attempts to take away my rights as an American citizen! If people want to pray while in school, then let them! It’s their right to their personal belief.

    • Bill C

      People have Constitutional rights. Institutions don’t. Schools have no right to endorse one religion over another. School employees have the right to their own beliefs, but they do not have the right to preach while they are using their position of influence,

  • Elaphas

    The liberal – socialist – communist – fascist – Marxist attack on American values, the Constitution, freedom and liberty continues. Political correctness can go straight to h***!

  • unbelieveable

    The coward that complained about this needs to come forward. What a chicken &^$# that they had to hide behind an organization.

    • Bill C

      Why not post your name and address here Unbelievable My guess is that you won’t and the reason you won’t is because you fully understand why the complainant(s) chose to remain anonymous.

  • RandyW

    They “hide” behind an organization because there are people who will harass or threaten them, their jobs, safety, or families for demanding enforcement of the Constitution. Perhaps if Christians weren’t so quick to resort to intimidation or worse when their privilege is challenged, there would be no need to hide.

  • Jason

    zztopper -Look up Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the baptists of Danbury Ct.
    Kevin – You have no constitutional right to indoctrinate other peoples children with your silly beliefs or expect them to pay for it. The rest of your inept gibberish does not pertain to the article.
    Elaphas – Please read a book.
    Unbe- It sounds as if you are suggesting a violent response should the person come forward. How very predictably christian of you.
    I’ll keep this simple. Pray at home, church, in public, on the toilet whatever, but do not attempt to to force or compel others to do it with you.

    • unbelieveable

      No Jason I don’t believe I threatened anyone. I would save my violence for ignorant people like you because ignorant people are a threat to everyone. You are to stupid to waste oxygen on. If these people really believe their rights have been violated they should have to guts to speak up. More than likely the people that complained are some meth head trash that just want to try to start trouble. they could probably care less about praying anywhere.

      • Jason

        Let me see if I “comprehend” you correctly. “I would save my violence for ignorant people like you because ignorant people are a threat to everyone.- So a supposed follower of tender Jesus meek and mild promotes violence to those who disagree with him? Again, how very Christian of you.
        “If these people really believe their rights have been violated they should have to guts to speak up.” – Agreed, what could possibly happen? After all history has never shown Christians to react badly to a religious disagreement.
        “More than likely the people that complained are some meth head trash that just want to try to start trouble.” – Does this response of yours really require a rebuttal? Perhaps you should follow the advice I kindly offered Elaphas.

      • jehiahburchfield

        LOL at someone posting under an unidentifiable name calling people cowards. Also, this IS a way for people to speak up, if they want to report illegal activity, they are free to do so. And…I wonder why anyone would be worried to speak up, considering all the immediate threats and juvenile posturing exhibited on this thread? Could it be that they have experienced this type of treatment from Christians before?

    • zztopperman

      BTW JASON: NOBODY was forced to do anything. The majority of the people there probably wanted to be there. If anyone didn’t want to be there, they should have left.
      There’s not enough information here about the assembly such as for example, were parents notified and allowed to give their kids permission to participate or not? But while that might have been a nice gesture, it wasn’t necessary as The first amendment was not written to protect people from religion or to keep them from getting their feelings hurt! It was written to protect the people from the government! From the government trying to force them to be the religion that the government declares to be “the official religion”!
      Clearly, America was founded by a Judaeo-Christian majority, but they chose not to force their beliefs by not establishing a national religion.
      Children are exposed to all kinds of things everyday at school that a parent might not approve of. If a parent doesn’t approve of God or Jesus, that is something that parent will surely already be teaching his or her child. I’m quite certain an atheist has already heavily indoctrinated his or her children with his or her denial of God’s existence. So what are they afraid of? Afraid their child might make their own decision? Talk about trying to force ones belief!
      Government is not supposed to tell us where and how we can worship. But the Godless liberal agenda has perverted the first amendment’s actual meaning to be just opposite of what it was, and ignorant judges has gone along with this perversion! Too many people including Christians allowing Godless people to dictate to them what they can and cannot do!
      If atheists don’t like the belief in God, that’s their prerogative. Nobody is going to prevent them from doing that! But according to the first amendment, nobody is supposed to stop anyone else from worshiping God or from being allowed to speak! Nothing in there anywhere about someone’s “feelings”!

      • Michael

        “Clearly, America was founded by a Judaeo-Christian majority”. So, what is your point? Is it that because the majority of the founders believed in a Christian god they intended for us to be a Christian nation? If you agree with this then I suggest you learn a little more about our Constitutional convention from someone other than your priest or pastor.

        “Government is not supposed to tell us where and how we can worship.” You don’t say? So government employees (teachers) leading religious events at a government owned venue (school) while being paid a government salary does not meet your standard of a government lead endorsement of YOUR religion?

        “I’m quite certain an atheist has already heavily indoctrinated his or her children with his or her denial of God’s existence. So what are they afraid of? Afraid their child might make their own decision?”. Hello Pot, my name is Kettle. I regularly work with people who are trying to undo the harmful religious indoctrination they received growing up. The atheist is typically not indoctrinating their children against belief in God. But rather we are inoculating our children against unfounded adherence to ANY ridiculous belief that cannot be backed up by facts or evidence. What are YOU afraid of? That your child may figure out that there is NO, ZERO, Zilch evidence for the existence of your god?

        “Godless liberal agenda”. Our government was intended to be godless and any mention of God was specifically written out of early drafts of the Constitution. Again, a simple education from outside your revisionist church environment about our founding history would clear this up.

        Nothing that is taking place here prevents you and your children from following your religious beliefs in the privacy of your own home or church. What is does prevent is government workers from using public venues to promote one religion over all others. If you insist that your child’s education be grounded in your religious beliefs then you have the option to homeschool them and teach them whatever drivel you want. Otherwise, you do not have the right to insist that government funds go to promote your beliefs…period.

      • Jason

        zztop – Michael responded quite well but I’d like to add a few things.
        The founding fathers, by and large, were quite dismissive of organized religion. While most believed in god they questioned and were suspicious of God (note little g and big G). The beliefs of the founders were primarily deistic, that is to say, they saw god as an initial mover but not as one who intervenes in human affairs. While it is true that some of the founders offered the occasional public propitiation to God this was necessary as they were politicians. Then just as now it was nearly suicidal politically for them to not to do so. There are numerous quotes and even entire books, however, dedicated to expressing what the founders actually thought of Christianity and Christians from their own personal correspondence. The point here is to express that publicly the founders attempted to appease the fundamentalist Christians while privately entertaining thoughts they felt were preferable should they be leading an independent secular nation. I’m telling you this not because I wish to prove you wrong but in the hope that you and those who may happen upon this source of information will look into what I’ve said. What the founding fathers personally felt is deeply important and what they were fighting to establish was not a Judeo Christian nation but a secular one. One where the government can not attempt to compel (using force, insults, captive audience, fraudulent Glenn Beck and David Barton style pseudo-history etc.) someone to join any particular faith. I can only imagine what Thomas Paine would have written in response to these teachers but I think I would be correct in assuming he would not approve. The separation clause was designed to prevent what these teachers were accused of doing just as it is designed to protect you from other faith groups majority pressure.
        One more thing I cannot resist mentioning; “If atheists don’t like the belief in God, that’s their prerogative. Nobody is going to prevent them from doing that!” – Nobody is going to prevent them from doing that because you can’t. Lets not too quickly forget how the christians have acted when they could restrict others using force. Reason has effectively clipped the sadistic claws of your faithful members whose sole recourse now is to occasionally ignore the litter box.

  • Kevin

    Jason must be a scum of the earth member of that pathetic organization. In my opinion, I can pray where ever and when ever I want. If someone who does not know Christianity wants to join in, fine with me. From what I interpreted from the article, thus function was NOT forcing anyone to do anything. This world would be a much better place without control freaks, such as Jason seems to wish to be.

    • Jason

      The article stipulated compulsion as in “The assembly was run by school staff, and students were encouraged to ask other students “if they had Jesus in their hearts,” according to the original letter. Students were also told if they didn’t know about Jesus that staff members could help them, the original letter states.” Again replace Jesus with Allah and ask yourself if it would be troublesome to you.
      Forcing others to follow your wishful fear based belief structure is less common in America than in years past thanks to the fact that Christianity has been largely domesticated by reason and common sense. This does not mean that children are not being compelled to do something that contradicts what they or their parents may choose.

      • zztopperman

        I originally commented on here because I figured some idiot would start running his mouth about seperation of church and state being in the constitution, even though it’s not. I knew where the phrase came from (Thomas Jefferson) and the context in which he used it. It was clear that the framers of our constitution were God fearing people for the most part, even though some people (such as Jason) would like to try and prove otherwise using some of their comments to paint an inaccurate picture of them. The fact still remains this nation was originally founded as a Christian-Judaeo Nation, not in the sense that it was forced on anyone to worship that way, but the founders wanted people to have the right to worship as they were led by God to worship and not to establish one national religion that everyone was forced to belong to. Government was set up not to interfere with worship. The same amendment also prohibited telling people what they couldn’t say and therefore allowed everyone freedom of speech! Then enter the atheists. They have successfully dumbed down society to the point that they have completely turned around the meaning of freedom of religion and have effectively destroyed freedom of speech regarding religion by getting the court to side with them. Funny thing is, the atheists will spend their entire lifetimes trying to fight what they believe to be fairytales only to die one day to find all the proof they will need that JESUS is real, and salvation was freely offered and they passed it up because they thought they were smarter than God! And like an injured dog by the roadside biting everyone that tried to lend a hand, they will find themselves dead one day without the SALVATION that was freely offered! But the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those that perish! And all along, these people asking you if you know JESUS were just trying to help! They weren’t trying to force you or brainwash you. Just trying to help you find JESUS!

      • Jehiah

        This is a great example of what we need more of in schools-more instruction in basic reasoning and critical thinking. It is frightening to me that so many potential voters on this thread are exhibiting such poor thinking skills. Posts such as the above are not even possible to respond to without basic education in these sorts of topics. All I can say is that I am glad that the data seems to inidicate that, on the whole, religion seems to be on the decline. Hopefully our education system can do better in the future to nurture and train responsible citizens who know how to critically investigate their views, change them in light of disconfirming evidence, and engage in basic reasoning related to legal topics.

  • Karen

    How does this organization up in Wisconsin keep finding out about what is going on here? It is really none of their business what goes on here. They need to get a life and stay out of everyone else’s.

    • Jason

      Karen – Should unconstitutional acts upon U.S.citizens be kept private? Would you be upset were you to find out that school staff in a small town in Idaho for example, were compelling or even suggesting that students take part in satanic rituals? And if you did find out, would you mind you own business?

    • Nathan

      Because that organization up in Wisconsin has members nationwide, including right here in Arkansas. I’m one of them.

  • Regina Brown Fuentes

    There are some real idiots here. You keep whining about your constitutional rights, though clearly you’ve never read it. The constitution says the school can not establish a religion. The constitution does not protect your right to have religious privileges. The constitution protects you FROM religion.

    • zztopperman

      No! You are incorrect! The constitution’s first amendment was not written to protect you from religion! It was written to protect you FROM GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE and to allow you freedom of speech. “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.”

  • Luvbug

    No, Regina. The Constitution gives every American FREEDOM OF RELIGION…ANY religion you choose to practice. It PROTECTS us ALL from the government forcing all people to practice any ONE religion that they choose and punishing people for practicing any other. No one was forcing anyone to believe or practice anything, they just asked them if they WANTED too. However I do believe the parents should have been present during the assembly to decide if they wanted their children to be a part of this.

    • Jason

      Luvbug – Public schools are government organizations and as such are not allowed to promote faith regardless of majority opinion. Teachers may be members of a religious order or sect but once they enter the public government run school they must adhere to certain rules which have been established and enforced through case law. The students (based on the article) were not forced, however, the teachers acted inappropriately and should be reprimanded. I’ll say it again: If the teachers were merely asking that students attend a satanic ceremony or a Muslim prayer ritual would you be accepting of that? What if they asked repeatedly, coerced or made the students feel guilty for not joining in. There are many good reasons to prohibit religion on government property some of the responses here clearly express why that is so.

  • Keith Babberney

    Parents must drop their kids off and tell them to respect the school’s authority. In exchange, the school must agree not to indoctrinate them into a faith or philosophy. Children cannot distinguish between their teacher’s disciplinary policy and her optional opinions on faith. Public schools belong to everyone. Religion belongs anywhere else. The kids can pray. The teachers can pray. The teachers cannot lead the kids in prayer.

  • Agree

    I agree with you Luvbug. Jason is such an internet troll. It appears that he can read, but cannot COMPREHEND what he’s reading. My child is a teenager, and I believe he has the right to choose what he believes. What my child chooses to believe in…is NO ONE ELSE’S business.

    • Jason

      Agree- you can ad hominem and all caps rage if you like but let me ask you a question. You say “What my child chooses to believe in…is NO ONE ELSE’S business.” If some of the students were Buddhist, and were being asked
      “if they had Jesus in their hearts,” Can’t the parents of these students argue just as you have? Why spare the Christian teachers your vitriol and all caps rage since they were apparently doing precisely what you deem inappropriate?

      • zztopperman

        What if some students that were Buddhists were asked if they had Jesus in their hearts? So what? Does it turn them into pumpkins or make them spontaneously burst into flames? What if they were asked if they had Satan or Allah in their hearts? Would that make the world stop turning? Would that cause some people to get upset? Sure! But people get upset everyday. Nothing in the constitution says it’s against the law to upset people! In fact that would be saying just the opposite of freedom of speech if it did! I have to conclude that you Jason are an idiot. You’ve cracked a book but have learned nothing.

    • Jason

      If that is your best retort, I’ll accept your concession. It was too much I suppose, to expect you to answer the question.

      • Agree

        Let me see if I am understanding you correctly. Are you saying you do not have an opinion in regards to religion, just as long as it is not taught, or a single religion for the matter, or encouraged in schools? By the way, I am enjoying the educated debate.

    • Bill C

      And many other people don’t. The ignorance of the law being espoused by some of the pro-prayer people in this forum is astounding.

  • Jason

    Agree- Indeed I do have an opinion in regards to religion being taught in public schools and it mirrors case law. That it is not acceptable.
    Having hopefully answered your question I do hope you will now in good “faith” (pun intended) answer my previous question; “If some of the students were Buddhist, and were being asked
    “if they had Jesus in their hearts,” Can’t the parents of these students argue just as you have? Why spare the Christian teachers your vitriol and all caps rage since they were apparently doing precisely what you deem inappropriate?”

  • matt

    I wish we could send all the atheists to an Islamic country. I’d be willing to bet after a few be headings they would pull the stick out of their butts when they see, or hear mention of any god.

    • Jason

      Matt, If you are a Christian your statement should trouble you as well as your fellow Christians. Does what you said resemble in any way to the words of your savior? Or does it more resemble the disgusting rhetoric of the terrorists?

      • matt

        Not a card carrying member of any faith. I don’t get butt hurt over little things like this. Do you need money for a plane ticket?

    • jehiahburchfield

      Matt, did you really just suggest that people who don’t agree with you should be sent to a place where they could be beheaded by terrorists? I saw a video of a Christian being beheaded over there, and it literally made me sick to my stomach, even thought I completely disagree with the Christian religion. Are you saying you are incapable of this basic sort of human empathy? Have you read in the bible the exhortation to love your enemies?

    • Bill C

      Matt—-are you sure you not the Muslim? Your comments see to go hand and hand with Sharia Law. You need to grow up and realize that you live in a diverse country where not everyone believes in the same god or gods that you do.

  • Agree

    I will answer your question with my 14 year old in mind. Hypothetically, if my son was Buddhist, and he was asked if he had Jesus in his heart by a teacher, I know he would correct the teacher, or inform the teacher of his religion and he would not change his mind. Now, if the teacher continued to press my son to convert religions and giving any respect to my son’s religion, then (I stress “then”, no caps) I would be upset.

    • Tom

      Agree, so your teenage son grasps the religious beliefs you taught/instilled in him. That’s not a bad thing. But the school in this case was an elementary school. Do you really think first and second graders would have the same ability to correct the teacher? Would they even understand that the religious belief being presented- that may differ from their own families beliefs- is the teachers opinion, and not in the same category as the facts taught in class?

    • Jason

      Agree – I am pleased to see a young person take an interest in such a discussion. This is not sarcasm. Sincerely I commend you for that. May I say that having a son not much older than yourself who has had the occasional run in with teachers and their respective religiously inspired pressures it is not so easy as you suggest. Teachers are adults and young people tend to afford them a degree of authority. Not many students would act as you would hope your child would. As Tom so aptly noted, these students are in elementary school and as such are not capable of fully understanding what is being offered. Nor would the have the capacity or likely the willingness to reject the teachers proposals. The article is reporting a story in which teachers were attempting to indoctrinate children without parental consent into a faith that may be disagreeable to the children’s parents. Pure and simple and illegal.

  • Poot

    What if a student ask a teacher if they had Jesus in their heart? Would that student be reprimanded? If these teachers did this it was constitutionally wrong. Come on folks, there are worst things going on in our school system than asking a child if they believe in GOD. I am a firm believer that the choice of religion should be left to the parents to teach their children. This forum could go on forever with different opinions. Many lives have been lost over different religious beliefs.

  • Agree

    Well Tom, I actually remember when my son was in first and second grade. Even at that age, he would question the teacher and remain faithful to his religion of choice. I do agree with you now, as I just moved to the area, and where I’m from, elementary school was first grade through sixth grade. In my honest opinion on this subject, I believe there are more important things to worry about with our children….such as bullying in the schools, making bomb threats just to cut class or because they were dared to. My main concern for my son is that I am raising him, and I am teaching him life skills that not a single teacher can teach him. Now, that I think about it, it is the parents job to teach their children about matters of life, and to help with education. It is not the teachers’ job to teach Sunday School. However, if my son needed immediate guidance while he was at school, I have no problem with the teacher cracking open the Bible, or relevant religious book, as long as it pertains to specific guidance and my son asked for it.

  • Jason

    Agree – Why would your son ask a teacher for spiritual guidance? (After all the teacher may be Hindu, Sikh etc. Hence his Bible would differ from yours) Secondly, if this were a public school setting the teacher would not be allowed to do as you suggest for legal reasons.

  • Jehiah

    I am really appalled at the lack of reasoning ability that I see on this thread, and with the quick leaps to threatening remarks. Really strange and disheartening. This is simple-if you are in a position of influence over young children as an employee whose work is funded by tax dollars, you are not allowed to proselytize. The fact that Christians on this thread can’t see how vehemently they would oppose this if the shoe were on the other foot is baffling.

  • Jason

    Lets see if I can simplify this.
    “The assembly was run by school staff, and students were encouraged to ask other students “if they had SATAN in their hearts,” according to the original letter. Students were also told if they didn’t know about SATAN that staff members could help them,”
    Now do tell if you see a potential problem worthy of a rant.

  • matt

    The two of you should thank a higher power for living in a country that gives you the freedom to be butthurt over religion. I dare both of you to move to Iran and try this. This might surprise you, I am a non believer. I don’t get butthurt over things like this, I also like Christmas lights.

    • jehiahburchfield

      Matt, we have the rights granted to us by our system government to thank-not some alleged higher power. Those ideas come from political philosophers…no religion that I am aware of lays out guidelines for government to refrain from establishing a religion-if you have evidence of such a thing, please let me know. On the other hand, your implied threats make you sound childish and insecure; if you have an intelligent argument to make (for example, any evidence of what I referred to above), please add to the educated, adult conversation we are trying to have. Otherwise, there is no use in our conversing any further.

      • matt

        Nothing I can say will satisfy you. You are truly a product of the public education system, or had two moms. If you think me suggesting people like you try this no mention of god in a foreign land is a threat you are a vag. Put your big boy panties on son the world outside what your mamma told you is a cruel place.

    • Bill C

      A national group, with members in all 50 states received at least 1 complaint from someone in Van Buren.
      The question you should be asking is “”Why does a group in Madison Wisconsin NEED TO care what happens to a school in Van Buren, AR?””

  • Kyle

    I go to school in van Buren, I’m a high school student. And I strongly believe that the freedom of religion should be in school and that we should be thought more about our religion. The person who complained in probably a hypocriteic scrub!

  • Jason

    zztop – “What if some students that were Buddhists were asked if they had Jesus in their hearts? So what? Does it turn them into pumpkins or make them spontaneously burst into flames? What if they were asked if they had Satan or Allah in their hearts? Would that make the world stop turning? Would that cause some people to get upset? Sure! But people get upset everyday. Nothing in the constitution says it’s against the law to upset people!”
    Case law does restrict a teachers capacity to compel students into religious instruction. Yes that means it limits their freedom of speech which is legal under certain circumstances, this being one of them.
    So if teachers in the school your son is attending were doing as you say, you would be upset but nothing more? You would not seek to stop them from doing it? If you decided to change schools only to find out that the were doing the same thing? Would you home school your children?

  • I am Anon

    As an American you have rights. You should stand for those rights. They are granted by the Constitution and the laws of our land. As a Christian, you have NO “rights”. The Bible grants you NONE. Your first loyalty is to God. You are promised persecution. There will be persecution and it will get worse, but there is coming a day when the King of Kings will return and then everything will be set right.

  • zztopperman

    Michael: my point in writing “Clearly, America was founded by a Judaeo-Christian majority” was to point out that back in the time when we were being founded the majority of our founders were believers in God! Seems like a pretty straightforward statement that most people that completed the fifth grade could understand without explanation! Apparently it may be too difficult for you to understand, so I will try to use small words that you can understand.

    You see, if people like you had been in the mix, the founders would never have completed the Declaration of Independence nor would they have ever written a constitution, because they would have protested where the founders mentioned God, our creator, divine Providence, and sacred Honor! Though our founders believed in God, they didn’t believe in a national religion that everyone was forced to belong to. So they wrote into our constitution an amendment that was supposed to prevent government from interfering in anyone’s choice of religion. It was not so government could appease the people that didn’t believe in God by silencing ones that did! Another part of the first amendment guarantees freedom of speech, which is completely opposite of what people like you are trying to do by telling people they can’t ask someone if they’ve got Jesus in their heart! That was the point I was trying to make. I’m sure you don’t get it, but I tried.

    You questioned my comment:“Government is not supposed to tell us where and how we can worship.” You don’t say? No, actually I did say!! YOU WROTE: “So government employees (teachers) leading religious events at a government owned venue (school) while being paid a government salary does not meet your standard of a government lead endorsement of YOUR religion?” What religion is MY religion Michael? You think you know so much! The schools are owned by the public, not the government. The teachers aren’t teaching what the government tells them to teach if they are talking about Jesus, because the government breaks the law telling these teachers what they cannot say by telling them they cannot talk about God or Jesus! They break two parts of the first amendment: one by telling them what they cannot say, and two by interfering with their choice of worship!

    You wrote: ” The atheist is typically not indoctrinating their children against belief in God. But rather we are inoculating our children against unfounded adherence to ANY ridiculous belief that cannot be backed up by facts or evidence. What are YOU afraid of? That your child may figure out that there is NO, ZERO, Zilch evidence for the existence of your god?” LOL! Zero evidence of the existence of my God? How can I address an ignorant statement like that? Nothing that I can say that you would understand! You believe in a god, a false god and you see him EVERYTIME you look in your mirror! And he cannot save you from what you deny.

    You wrote:”Our government was intended to be godless and any mention of God was specifically written out of early drafts of the Constitution. Again, a simple education from outside your revisionist church environment about our founding history would clear this up.” Perhaps it requires more than a simple education. That’s what it appears that you have, or you’re just blind!

    YOU WROTE: “Nothing that is taking place here prevents you and your children from following your religious beliefs in the privacy of your own home or church. What is does prevent is government workers from using public venues to promote one religion over all others. If you insist that your child’s education be grounded in your religious beliefs then you have the option to homeschool them and teach them whatever drivel you want. Otherwise, you do not have the right to insist that government funds go to promote your beliefs…period.”

    Again, the point I was trying to make is that government was supposed to leave people’s religious beliefs alone. You think that because a teacher is paid with tax dollars that government has the right to silence that teacher! That’s NOT FREEDOM OF SPEECH! Just the opposite! That’s not freedom of religion! That’s interfering with someone’s religion! Governments not supposed to interfere with anyone’s religion! Period!

    • Mark

      Yes they have the right to silence that teachers personal beliefs when they are conveyed/taught in a govt setting with govt dollars .. Public schools are not the forum for this.. That is the entire point of this debate..why can’t you see this?? It’s black and white.. Why don’t you comment on something you can comprehend.. Maybe you can tell us all about the NRA and why assault rifles are good for society??

    • Jason

      zztop – There are two main things actively negating your argument, history and law. The explanation of the law has already been offered to you by Thomas Jefferson’s own words and reinforced repeatedly by case law. You said: “The schools are owned by the public, not the government.” This is your misunderstanding. Schools are managed by local and state government backed by federal law and payed for largely by tax revenue from property taxes which is also government run. What the teachers were doing (as representatives of the government) misrepresents the duties they were hired for and attempts to ignore years of legal precedence. The separation clause is secular and it’s intent was to protect you as much and anyone else. As Mark Smith so aptly noted, I’ve made this point too many times for you to not grasp it. I repeated the point in good faith hoping it was something merely requiring more explanation for you to understand but this is not the case. It will be of no benefit to you to explain this further.
      To the students of Van Buren I’d like to say this; By standing against the teachers and their misguided attempts to proselytize in your school, you have chosen a side. Understand that you are not alone in your desire for fairness and equality, many like minded people share your views and will stand with you. You should also take solace in the fact that despite the possible backlash from the faithful community for you bravery, those who came before you Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Jame Madison and Benjamin Franklin would be most proud. Since we would do well not to forget John Adams I’ll leave you one of his quotes: “…There is a germ of religion in human nature so strong that whenever an order of men can persuade the people by flattery or terror that they have salvation at their disposal, there can be no end to fraud, violence, or usurpation.”
      Lets keep building up that wall.

  • VB Mama

    This was NOT an assembly. Students did NOT have to attend. The teachers in attendance were not on “school” time, they were there freely as were the students. Local youth pastors from many denominations speak during this time. My daughter is a part of a similar group at her middle school. I was in it when I was in school. It is more like a club. Just like any other clubs that schools have. You don’t have to run or vote to get in. You don’t have to ask permission except by your parents. All you do is show up and get a dose of God’s love and encouragement before the day begins. If you don’t believe in God, don’t go. If your undies are going to get all bunched up, don’t go. But leave these kids alone. The teachers aren’t there to force them to accept Jesus into their heart, they will guide them to the youth pastor there that day or encourage them to talk to mom and day about it. This world is a big pile of mess already, why take away people’s choice to pray or seek guidance from a spiritual leader? Some of these kids don’t have a great home life, but they find God’s love and they make the best of it until it’s time to get out or God finds them a way out. Without God, there is not hope. I’m tired of people telling me where I can and cannot pray. I pray for our country every day, and will do so until my last exhale. That includes you.

    • Jason

      “All you do is show up and get a dose of God’s love and encouragement before the day begins.”
      There is no way to make that sound appealing. One has to wonder how many adults received this dose in their youth and still have nightmares. Yes VB Mama leave the kids alone, please.

  • matt

    If you are offended by people showing kindness how does an atheist enlistment work? Do you hand out goat heads, or leaflets with god hates you? Maybe those who where offended should take an active role in their child’s upbringing. Right and wrong can be taught without the bible, or any other religious book.

    • jehiahburchfield

      Matt, I can’t tell if you are a grown person or not (I know 14 year olds like to play pranks that look a lot like your last couple of posts), but I will assume you are and try once again to appeal to any sort of reasoning ability that you may have. First, I will point out blatant falsehoods that you have asserted as fact, and from an obvious place of complete and utter ignorance. 1) I am not a product of the public ed system, I was homeschooled by conservative christians my entire life except for kindergarten, 2) I am well aware that the world is a cruel place-this is one reason I find the christian worldview to be untenable, 3) I have had extended personal involvement with Islamic terrorists as I was a detainee guard at camp X-ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba shortly after the 9-11 attacks. I have had many of these same conversations that are happening on this thread face to face with actual members of the Taliban, several of whom had killed for their faith (allegedly, of course), 4) I am deeply engaged in my children’s upbringing as I love them dearly and want them to be productive members of society-this is why I care about things like not allowing teachers to endorse religion to children, 5) you seem to have confused the lack of a particular belief (a-theism…the prefix “a-” means “not” by the way) with a very specific (and poorly informed) view of a set of beliefs that you think belong to atheists. I don’t have time to educate you on that, and from what I have seen you don’t seem willing or capable of having a mature conversation, but I thought I would try. Honestly, most of what I have written is for the benefit of any readers who may be emotionally mature/intelligent enough to gain something from the distinctions and facts laid out above. If you are, as it appears, simply an 8th grader who is just now learning how to cuss and is trying to impress your buddies with a prank, please disregard all of the above as it is likely over your head-and know that I understand, I acted in a similar fashion when I was 14. If you are an adult, no worries, we can all learn how to improve our thinking skills and understanding of the complexities in the world, and I hope that I have provided some opportunities for you to improve in that regard.

  • zztopperman

    When one considers LIFE and the Universe, it’s really quite amazing that some people would prefer to accept that all of this came from “A BIG BANG ” rather than from God! They say believing in God just doesn’t make any sense. Oh really? Well consider this question: Where did the “stuff” come from that became the “BIG BANG”? Was it just a void? Was it space? If it were a void or space, where did that come from? If you use any kind of logic, one has to conclude that something (or someone) had to have ALWAYS EXISTED! (That is, always was there without beginning or starting point) There is absolutely no way around that conclusion. And yet they have to conclude THAT with ABSOLUTELY ZERO SCIENTIFIC PROOF! And they mock people for believing in God!!!
    And how much sense does it make to conclude that all of this came from nothing that has always existed and that THAT “NOTHING” WITH ZERO INTELLIGENCE, at one moment in time somehow started evolving into SOME FORM OF MATTER, developing LOGIC AND somehow developed into a living organism! Now how on earth can anyone logically explain that? YOU CANNOT!!! Yet it’s accepted as FACT without ANY PROOF!!! It appears that our deniers of God, have used the same thing us CHRISTIANS have used all along, yet come up with a totally OPPOSITE CONCLUSION!!! And that THING IS: FAITH!!! They have to conclude this on FAITH THAT THEIR THEORY IS CORRECT! (Because there is ZERO EVIDENCE…THAT THING THAT THEY MOCK PEOPLE THAT BELIEVE IN GOD FOR NOT HAVING!!! (EVIDENCE) People that say believing in God doesn’t make any sense, mainly like to do so because they think they are too smart to believe in something that cannot be proven! People cannot prove where any of this came from, yet they cannot deny its existence!!!!
    So, the logical conclusion: Since we all have to conclude that something or someone had to have always existed for all of what we know exists to be known, it makes more logical sense that it was a person and not something that created us, since you cannot get something from nothing! But with God, all things are possible. This also explains the existence of order,logic, good and even evil. Not to the point that we can understand it completely, because God is unmeasurably complex and unexplainable!

    • Jehiah Burchfield

      ZZTOP-very true that the origin of the universe is a hard thing to even think about. The fact of existence beyond amazing; I am in awe whenever I contemplate it! You stated emphatically that something cannot come from nothing-so, why does that not apply to the “God” that you are proposing? It solves nothing to move the explanatory story one step further back and then to pretend that solves the problem. There are numerous other problems with what you have written above, but this is the first one. Can you give a reason why you think that the “something from nothing” idea applies everywhere except to your particular God?

      • zztopperman

        Jehiah, Sure! I’d be glad to respond! I never implied all of this is “something from nothing”….but THAT is what “THE BIG BANG” and all other theories of how everything came to be implies!
        One reason it’s hard for us to even think about this is because as humans, we all had a starting point. Everything that we have proof of, has a starting point. So when we ponder where everything came from, we try to use “reason and logic” because there is no “proof”! That is where what we call “science” gets very hypocritical! People claiming to be too smart to believe a creator existed because He’s not provable, mock people that believe in a creator! They cannot prove their scientific theory YET they HYPOCRITICALLY accept it as fact!
        This is where REASON SHOULD TAKE OVER FOR THE NONBELIEVERS, AND HERE IS WHY:
        1.) WHEN you conclude, before there was anything, there still had to be SOMETHING, BECAUSE EVEN SPACE IS “SOMETHING” 2.) The only LOGICAL CONCLUSION is that that “something” had to have always existed! 3.) Nobody can explain how that something could have always existed. (If you disagree with number 3 then go ahead and explain!) 4.) Now this is where you need to use “REASON” as best as you can, while having to admit that you and all the world’s greatest scientists cannot explain #3! You have to reason: What is more probable? A.)Is it more probable that something, that was nothing, that has always existed suddenly exploded into planets and stars and galaxies with some sort of life form that would now have logic and science and method. Or B.) Is it more probable that the “SOMETHING” that has always existed is actually a “SOMEONE” that has logic, science , reasoning and method and that this SOMEONE ACTUALLY HAD THE POWER AND ABILITY TO CREATE ALL THIS?
        The reason we cannot explain #3, is because NOBODY can explain GOD! HE is simply TOO COMPLEX AND MAGNIFICENT FOR US TO COMPREHEND! But you have to believe something!
        You can choose to believe that you are too smart and too scientific,EVEN THOUGH YOUR SCIENCE GIVES YOU ZERO EVIDENCE to support science’s theories that all this came from nothing, OR YOU CAN MAKE THE MORE LOGICAL CONCLUSION AND you can believe WITHOUT PROOF, that God did all this! BUT you will be a hypocrite if you try and say science proves God is a fairytale OR THAT SCIENCE MAKES YOU DENY GOD EXISTS. Either side you choose will be a decision based on FAITH!!! It takes a whole lot more FAITH and IMAGINATION TO BELIEVE ALL THIS CAME FROM NOTHING! (And you still cannot answer #3!)
        And where we both agree that contemplating all this is hard to do, I will contend it’s mainly because what we are trying to comprehend is GOD!!! And GOD, THE ONE THAT IS TOO awesome to describe with words, THE ONE that has ALWAYS EXISTED WITHOUT BEGINNING OR END is way too awesome for us to even begin to comprehend without our brains short-circuiting!
        You see that AWE you are talking about is all about the one you deny! Problem is, you can’t believe in God based on proof…..not in this life anyway.

    • Jason

      zztop – The point to my commenting here was threefold. First was to make a factually and hopefully well written defense of the necessity of Jefferson’s wall of separation. Second was to explain, or rather allow you to explain, just how ill advised and dangerously ignorant the erosion of that wall would be. And now, finally and completely, you’ve helped expose the third justification of my post, to show this was never an issue of separation of church and state to the Christians but the fear of relentless marginalization. Almost on his own zztop has shown the true colors of many Christians and what they fear most, loss of power and control. That fear is readily apparent with each ALL CAPS expression and every exclamation point. A person who appears to have never read an argument against his position feebly attempts to prove his hypothesis through the medium of loud grunts. “one has to conclude that something (or someone) had to have ALWAYS EXISTED!” No, one does not have to conclude that, any more than the the ancients had to conclude that the reason the volcano destroyed their city was because the didn’t stick enough virgins into it’s fiery void. You conclude this because it’s convenient, you lack imagination, it’s what you hope to be true, it’s what you need to feel special, whatever the reason, your conclusion is irrelevant. Not having an answer (that is to say a scientifically explained and verified proof) does not open the door for unsubstantiated, unnecessary assumptions such as you make. I dare say you no longer assume sea monsters, mermaids or hydras (just to take the aquatic myths) as true. I could be wrong. No, the beginnings of the universe are something unknown to us all and your conclusion might be no more threatening that that of the fabled turtle supporting the earth (it’s just turtles all the way down!) were it not for the insidious and wretched characters who have usurped the will of the people and replaced it with the painful shackles and occasional genocidal and torturous mobs of the faithful. You claim “God is unmeasurably complex and unexplainable!” How you could awkwardly claim to know this aside. Surely, were you allowed the generally noble position of teacher (god forbid) and had at your will, a captive audience of unsuspecting and innocent young children (I can almost hear the priests salivate) you would no doubt claim not only to know god but his thoughts as depicted in your bible as well. Your purpose would be the same as all those cretin and hucksters before you, to enslave in the same idiotic dogma those who would in five to ten years see biblical tales of truth as at least laughable at worst sinister. I frankly think Christians who peddle this rubbish on children should be ashamed, sadly the suffering of others makes no difference to them and why? Because, like that withered Albanian dwarf mother Theresa it is necessary for others to suffer for their salvation. As Marx rightly said: “To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.” The Christians need the illusion, you do not. Choose reason always.

    • zztopperman

      Jason, Mine was not a concession. There’s absolutely no point in arguing with an idiot. (You consider me an idiot, and I consider you one! ) Your comments were only a bunch of psycho-babble nonsense, written to stroke your own ego. I want no part in puffing you up any more than you already are…you’re so full of yourself now you are in danger of exploding like a bloated dog tick! The points I made were reasonable. Something you could not understand. God says the fool has said in his heart there is no God. Just remember that. You believe what you want to believe. God gives you that choice. You choose your own fate. I was merely trying to help.

      • Jason

        I was expecting such a reply, so soft hearted and sincere. No, you know your were not trying to help but may have accidentally. I should also, I think, congratulate you for having a sense of humor, even if unintentionally so.
        My comments were not necessarily directed at you but to expose your parochial and arrogant assumptions for others. The points you made were reasonable to you because you wish them so. That is fine of course as I alluded my intention was not to convince you but hopefully embolden others to reject your notions. Simply put, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Your claim: God is eternal is no different than saying I don’t know. Your claim (as you see it) is not opinion but a fact requiring extraordinary evidence which you’ve not shown. If you are a Christian, as it would seem from your posts, your claim becomes increasingly untenable. Gods supposed omniscience omnipotence and omnipresence alone is much more than necessary to show this. Added to this fanciful concept of course is that this god knows and cares about you, loves you, sacrificed his son for you (and you note my ego) but can and will send you to hell for eternity for not following certain edicts which are even now hotly debated among the faithful. Based on the sheer lack of agreement between Christians the likelihood of your being heaven-bound (were any of this nonsense true) is slim. I’ll return to my earlier point: I presume you don’t believe in Thor, Zues, or Apollo, in fact you likely don’t believe in any of the ancient gods. I just go one God further. I have to note (as it is so nauseatingly predictable) that you still offer the threat of hell as if it were actually worthy of fear. Sadly to children it is effective, you know this don’t you, in fact you and so many like you count on it. That zztop is the really disgusting part of your belief. Your not content to just believe it, you have to make others believe it too. And if giving children nightmares, watching them tremble in horror as you gleefully rattle off the details of the torments of hell brings them to your side, so be it.

  • zztopperman

    Jason:
    Oh, you were expecting me to respond soft heartedly and sincere? Hmmmm…
    You made the following statement: “Simply put, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” REALLY? Where exactly did you get that from? Is that written somewhere in “THE BOOK OF JASON”? So you think YOU ARE THE ONE THAT DECIDES HOW EVERYTHING IS?! That’s YOUR problem! God exists regardless of if YOU believe it or not! He gives everyone FREE WILL to decide to believe or not. Those that truly seek Him will find Him. And those that wish to have eternal life must go through His son, which you have mocked! Clearly, you aren’t seeking the truth. You are believing the lie and are stroking your own ego, and have set yourself up as god in place of the real God. You have decided that you are smarter than God and have established rules that (you think) He must follow to prove His existence to you! How arrogant! No disrespect to God intended here, but it’s His game, not Jason’s or zztopperman’s! It will be God’s way, no matter how much you object and no matter how smart or clever you think you are! If that is disgusting for you, well, that’s just too bad!
    I don’t know what you think I get out of this. You seem to think I like scaring little kids?! It’s my duty to proclaim the truth. An analogy: If the bridge was out and I didn’t warn travelers what kind of scum would that make me? You’ve not seen the bridge and yet you are telling people it’s not out and to keep on trucking! What does that make you?
    Give up on that ego and seek the truth. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” Matthew 7:7 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
    So easy even a child can do it!

  • zztopperman

    P.S. This was scripture that just happened to be linked to a daily devotion I read today. It seemed relevant to our conversation Jason.: “Psalm 5:
    1 Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation.
    2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
    3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
    4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.
    5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
    6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
    7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.
    8 Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.
    9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.
    10 Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.
    11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
    12 For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.”

    • Jason

      1) The quote “Simply put, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I think it can originally be credited to David Hume and revised by Carl Sagan and Christopher Hitchens among others. Maybe someone can explain it to you.
      2) “So you think YOU ARE THE ONE THAT DECIDES HOW EVERYTHING IS?!” No. Though I thought I’d made this point enough, I’ll state it more clearly. Decisions (serious ones) should be made by rational thinking educated people, typically Christians are not up to the challenge.
      3) “God exists regardless of if YOU believe it or not!” You cannot know this and your feeble tautological attempts will not change this, even if you pray.
      4) “He gives everyone FREE WILL to decide to believe or not.” No. Because he’s make believe.
      5) “Those that truly seek Him will find Him.” Why is he hiding?
      6) “And those that wish to have eternal life must go through His son, which you have mocked!” I have no interest in eternal life nor do I fear death. As for mocking him yes I did, what’s he going to do bleed all over me?
      7) “You have decided that you are smarter than God and have established rules that (you think) He must follow to prove His existence to you! How arrogant!” I didn’t set up the rules, if you believe god created nature then god created the rules by which I judge him non-existent. You might need a moment with that one.
      8) “It will be God’s way, no matter how much you object” Then there is no free will.
      9) “It’s my duty to proclaim the truth.” Perhaps you should start. How about your try saying “I don’t know” instead of “god did it and if you say I’m wrong, BURN IN HELL!!”
      10 “So easy even a child can do it!” When an adult does it though it’s just embarrassing.
      And then with the praying. Look zztop, (not a bad band up to the eliminator album) there is something on the way that you may have sensed. It may in fact have heightened your concern for those whom you worry could end up harmed by what you may describe as poor choices or turning from god. The fear of that something presses you further toward a belief that is appealing and comforting. A belief that forgiveness of your many human flaws and weaknesses is at hand. A belief that you can become wiser and understand more and that you can share that knowledge and grow beyond this primitive and ignorant unworthiness and chase the very stars in heaven. That sense of something on the way compels you to want others to join in this realm and know true happiness. What you sense is death and it is coming. No prayer will stop it no incantation will prevent it. You fear it, many do, so you cling to the imagined afterlife and hope others will too. You may have even seriously convinced yourself that it is real but deep down something keeps gnawing at you, picking at you, challenging this notion of divinity. This is your conscience and it is relentless, nearly impossible to turn of, and it will not stop reminding you that your blissful thoughts are an illusion. At some point it will begin demanding that you enjoy the life you have. The founding fathers are all gone now, so are many of the greatest authors whose words touched so deeply as to arouse in the living a profound joy. Musicians too have passed leaving behind them the elegant and sublime chords we even now enjoy. Embracing this life and enjoying its many exhilarating moments means not needing to fear death. Sharing the knowledge, the memories, the sweet music and the words of all those brilliant authors reduces death to little more than a footnote.

  • Jason

    Agreed zz, we’re hogged the comments section too long I suppose. I appreciate your prayers and in turn I’ll simply hope you eventually reject your faith. Take care.

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