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Religious Tolerance logo


Religious freedom to denigrate others:

2015: Mississippi High school student called "fool."
Response by the American Humanist Association.

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Bible quotation from the King James Bible attacking Atheism and Atheists:

Psalm 14:1 "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good."

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Quotations dealing with the teaching of religion in public schools:

The following quotes come mostly from the executive or judicial branch of the U.S. federal government. They are sorted in chronological order:
  • "... [when] church and state are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other. But where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued. Rev. Isaac Backus, Baptist minister in New England. (1773).

  • "Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separated." Ulysses S. Grant, speech to the Army of the Tennessee, in Des Moines, IA. (1875).

  • "There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed." Supreme Court of Wisconsin, Weiss v. District Board, (1890-MAR-18).

  • "I do not believe that any type of religion should ever be introduced into the public schools of the United States." Thomas Edison (1847 - 1931).

  • "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith ... We need believing people." Adolf Hitler, (1933-APR).

  • "A union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion." U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, Engel v. Vitale, (1962).

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Additional quotations:

  • "It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment." Abington Township v. Schempp, (1963).

  • "When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some." U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Lee v. Weisman, (1992).

  • "Public schools can neither foster religion nor preclude it. Our public schools must treat religion with fairness and respect and vigorously protect religious expression as well as the freedom of conscience of all other students. In so doing our public schools reaffirm the First Amendment and enrich the lives of their students". Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, (1998-JUN).

  • "School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. " U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Santa Fe v. Doe, (2000).

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2015: The alleged incidents in Mississippi:

Rev. Rick Hammarstrom is a pastor of Rehobeth Baptist Church and a history teacher at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, MS. He has allegedly:

"... repeatedly promoted Christianity and God belief during class time, while making hostile and disparaging remarks about atheists." 1

This type of teaching is a violation of the First Amendment clause of the U.S. Constitution which erects a "wall of separation" between religious faith and government.

He allegedly told his class recently that:

"Atheists are throwing a fit because they don't have their own day. They do have their own day; it’s called April Fools’ Day, because you are a fool if you don't believe in God."

The teacher's use of the word "fool" to describe all Atheists may have been based on Psalm 14:1 in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible, cited above.

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humanism symbol 2015-OCT-13: "Humanism," The American Humanist Association (AHA):

Unfortunately, in religions and philosophical systems, words often have multiple and even mutually exclusive meanings. "Humanism" is an excellent example of this.

The AHA has a brief description of Humanism in its web site:

"Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity." 3

The AHA's symbol for Humanism is shown above in blue. Their motto is: "Good without a god."

They advocate:

"... progressive values and equality for humanists, atheists, and freethinkers."

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a "freethinker" as:

"One who forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority; especially :  one who doubts or denies religious dogma." 6

Fred Edwords describes various forms of Humanism on the AHA web site, including Christian, Democratic, Ethical, Literary, Modern, Naturalistic, Philosophical, Religious, Renaissance, Scientific, Secular, and Western cultural Humanism. 4

On this web site, we generally use the term "Humanism" to refer to "Modern Humanism" which is also known as Democratic Humanism, Ethical Humanism, Naturalistic Humanism, and Scientific Humanism. One of the main proponents of Modern Humanism is Corliss Lamont, who defines it as:

"... "a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion."

Modern Humanists are generally strongly supportive of the "separation of religion and government," often referred to as "separation of church and state."

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The AHA's response to events in a Mississippi High School:

Monica L. Miller of the Appingani Humanist Legal Center at the American Humanist Association sent a letter of complaint on behalf a parent who has a child in Hammarstrom's class. The letter was addressed to Ben Stein, the Principal of Northwest Rankin High School. 1 Both the student and parent feel unwelcome in the school because of the teacher's religious comments.

This is not the first conflict between the AHA and the school board:

  • During 2013, the AHA and a former student filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. It concerning religious assemblies held for students by the High School in Flowood, MS. The plaintiffs were successful, and the defendants acknowledged that they had violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 5

  • During 2015-JUL, the AHA filed a motion for contempt with the District Court, because the school board had sponsored:

    "... an award ceremony with Christian prayers and by permitting Bible distribution in an elementary school."

    The Court granted their motion.

During 2013-OCT, the AHA has sent a letter to the High School principal asking:

"... that school officials warn the teacher to stop his behavior or he will be subject to disciplinary action, including possible termination. It also demands that all school employees receive instructions not to promote religion or disparage atheism and that the district provide a list of steps it will take to ensure that staff do not promote religion during school hours." 1,2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Letter from Monica L. Miller, Esq. of the Appingani Humanist Legal Center to Ben Stein, Northwest Rankin High School, American Humanist Association, 2015-OCT-13, at: http://americanhumanist.org/
  2. "Mississippi teacher calls atheist student a 'fool,' Humanist group intervenes," American Humanist Association, 2015-OCT-13, at: http://americanhumanist.org/
  3. "Exploring the idea of Humanism," American Humanist Association, 2015, at: http://americanhumanist.org/
  4. Fred Edwords, "What is Humanism," American Humanist Association, 2008, at: http://americanhumanist.org/
  5. "Mississippi High School Student Victorious in Lawsuit Challenging School’s Religious Assemblies," American Humanist Association, 2013-NOV-26, at: http://americanhumanist.org/
  6. "Freethinker," Merriam-Webster dictionary, at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/

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How you may have arrived here:

Home page > Christianity > Christian history > Prayer > Religion/prayer in US schools, etc > here

or: Home page > Law menu > Religion/prayer in US schools, etc > here

Home > Religious freedom > Religious freedom to discriminate > here

Home > Important essays > Religious freedom > Religious freedom to discriminate > here

Home > Religious information > Religious freedom > Religious freedom to discriminate > here

Home > Human rights > Religious freedom > Religious freedom to discriminate > here

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2015-OCT-29
Latest update : 2015-OCT-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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