Ohio lawmakers are proposing a new bill that if passed would further protect religious freedoms, including prayer and references to Jesus, in the state's public schools. The bill comes after multiple cases in which public schools were forced to remove Jesus portraits from their campuses or face legal action from atheist groups.
The bill, the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was introduced to the state legislature earlier this week by Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Tim Derickson (R-Oxford), who argued that the legislation would block further encroachment on religious expression in the state. The bill has over three dozen additional co-sponsors.
"God gave us our rights, not the government, not the neighbor, but God. Government is here to protect those rights," Rep. Patmon said of the bill, according to NBC 4 News. "How many of our students, how many of our schools need prayer? It's a disservice that we do when we don't allow it, when we don't encourage it." more >>
Three high school choirs in the Whitefish School District, located in Montana's Flathead Valley, have decided to go through with their holiday concert at a local church despite complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Dozens of student members of the Flathead, Glacier and Whitefish high school choirs performed their annual "Peace on Earth Community Christmas Celebration" at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kalispell Thursday. They will be performing a second time Friday evening. School officials decided to go through with the performance despite recent complaints from the ACLU and FFRF which argued the concert was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state due to public school involvement with church activity.
"We are concerned that public school students will be performing at a place of worship as part of an event that is expressly religious in nature," ACLU Public Policy Director Niki Zupanic wrote in a letter addressed to the principals of the three public schools on Tuesday, as reported by the Missoulian. "This situation poses serious constitutional concerns and demonstrates a lack of respect for the individual religious beliefs of the students involved." Both the ACLU and the FFRF requested that the schools end their participation in the concert. more >>
An elementary school in Texas has banned Christmas trees and the colors red and green at its upcoming "winter" party though a recently passed state law protects traditional holiday greetings and displays at public schools. The school's principal said in an email that she and the PTA chose to ban Christmas at the party to avoid "offending anyone."
The PTA group at Nichols Elementary School in Frisco, Texas, recently sent an email to parents regarding an upcoming "winter" party for students. The email listed three rules that each student had to abide by while attending the party: no references to Christmas or other religious holidays, no Christmas trees, no colors red or green, and no items that will stain the classroom carpet.
The rules listed in the email go against the "Merry Christmas Law" passed in the state in June. The law, co-authored by Republican Rep. Pat Fallon, who oversees the district where Nichols Elementary School is located, protects schools from having to censor religious references during the holiday season. more >>
A major atheist group unveiled its own nonreligious holiday monument at Florida's capitol building in response to the recent installment of a nativity scene.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is hanging a secular banner at the state's capitol building in Tallahassee. The banner is reportedly a spoof on the classic nativity scene of Jesus in the manger. Instead of Jesus, there is a Bill of Rights laid in a manger with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Statue of Liberty gazing admiringly at the slip of paper. The banner reads in part: "Let us also honor the birth of our Bill of Rights, which reminds us there can be no freedom OF religion without having freedom FROM religion in government."
The banner is being hung in response to a nativity scene recently erected at the state's capitol building by the private Florida Nativity Scene Committee. The Capitol building is open to any group that wants to put up a display for the holidays, as long as they are first approved by the Department of Management Services. Another group has already put up a giant menorah to recognize the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The displays are all privately funded, and they include a disclaimer nearby that asserts the state's government does not support any one religion. more >>
The Internet is in an uproar over a recent viral photo of what appears to be a third grade science quiz from a private, religious school in Florida that says "gravity was designed by God."
A photo of the quiz was uploaded to the "WTF" thread of the image sharing website Reddit on Tuesday by username Dtooth0, who claims the quiz is real and was a part of his daughter's curriculum at a private Christian school in Florida. Although the man does not name the school for privacy reasons, he does write in the comments section of the Reddit thread that the school is accredited and that the quiz given to the students holds a copyright from an instate Christian University.
The quiz includes five multiple choice answers relating to gravitational pull, including "Gravity is the force that holds the sun, moon, and planets in place" and "without gravity we would be pulled into outer space." Then, there are two questions at the bottom that seem to be attracting the ire of some atheist Reddit commenters. One reads: "People who do not believe in God do not believe in gravity," and the other one reads "Christians know that gravity was designed by our God." more >>
The U.S. government is being criticized by the American Center for Law and Justice for releasing an Iranian nuclear scientist as part of negotiation talks with the Islamic Republic, while failing to strike a deal for imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini and other Americans held in Iran.
"This is betrayal," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, according to Fox News. "A betrayal because not only did they not get the release of the three Americans, but they said they are working on this 'on the margins.' Our citizens are on the margins and then we are releasing an Iranian convicted on working on the nuclear issue."
The ACLJ, which represents Abedini's wife and two children in the U.S., has spoken at length about the U.S.-Iran negotiations, and asked why the Obama administration did not insist on the release of the pastor, who is serving eight years in prison because of his Christian faith. more >>