Thursday, February 27, 2014

Black Bears Maul Atheists in Western NC

Update (March 3): Hemant Mehta has an update and a challenge for local reporters and other students at Pisgah High.

Update (March 1): An "oversized, scruffy, Presbyterian minister and...a petite, brilliant, youthful atheist" from North Carolina show their support for Kalei.

Update (February 28): ABC News 13 in Asheville is now reporting that the school district's attorney released a report (56 pages) saying this whole story is a "fabricated lie" and a "manufactured controversy" that was "caused by a parent's influence on his children and a desire for publicity and potential financial gain" (The Mountaineer)...Meanwhile, Religion News Service reports the following responses by FFRF, ACLU-NC, and SSA: 

FFRF: “It is unfortunate that Haywood County School officials and Attorney Smathers seem to have retaliated against students for bringing forth valid complaints about their ability to form a secular club at their school. We are troubled by the report, which contains many factual errors and focuses on matters that are irrelevant to forming a student club. Persons or organizations who may have been defamed and/or retaliated against by the school system might need to consider legal recourse.”
ACLU-NC: “We will continue to support the right of all students to form extracurricular clubs at their schools. We further call on county officials to respond to such student requests equitably, promptly, and without resorting to tactics that serve to dissuade student free expression.”
SSA: “We are still thrilled to have Kalei as a member of the SSA, as an exemplary student activist, and as an example to other students on how to deal with a difficult situation.” 
Original post:

Well, it looks like that Secular Student Alliance at Pisgah High School in Canton, North Carolina might not "fit in" after all. The student trying to start the group says she will not be continuing it due to "numerous threats," "verbal attacks," and a "witch-hunt...[against] affiliated local [secular/humanist/atheist] groups and our own family."

Makes the latest NC battle in the long War on Christianity look even more like an ice cream social...

It takes courage to stand up to bullies, and I applaud both Kalei and the anonymous Mooresville Blue Devil for their courageous efforts to defend religious liberty in my native state. But I am ashamed to be a "tarheel" today.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Reason Coming to Hickory May 1st & 3rd

Get your tickets now for the first "annual free event" - the "ReAsonCon One" conference in Hickory, NC on May 3rd featuring Richard Carrier discussing the "Historicity Of Jesus and The Origins of Christianity."

And on May 1st, join us for a rally on the square in Hickory for the National Day of Reason!

http://reasonnc.com/

Pisgah High School Allows SSA group, but Student Bows Out

Update (February 28): See this post for the latest updates.

Update (February 27): The student in this case has bowed out due to "numerous threats" and "verbal attacks" and what looks like a witch hunt against local secular group leaders.

Update (February 19): The attorney for the school district wants to learn more about the WNC Humanists and their involvement in this case.

Looks like a Secular Student Alliance will not "fit in" at Pisgah High School after all...




Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pastor at "Virtual Deaf Church" comes out atheist



Hemant has more info...spoiler alert: seminary and intense study of the Bible are what led Justin away from his faith.

"An evil little thing"

"When I was really young, I had no idea there were other atheists out there."
 - Jessica Ahlquist



More on this topic...

"That awful woman"

Recommended documentary for middle, high school, and college level civics classes...
“Between being praised and persecuted, condoned and condemned, I might understandably have become bewildered, particularly at the brand of ethics sometimes displayed by the staunch defenders of Christianity. But of one thing I am sure: I am sure that I fought not only for what I earnestly believed to be right, but for the truest kind of religious freedom intended by the First Amendment, the complete separation of church and state.”
- Vashti McCollum



Or...watch this free talk by Ellery Schempp or this one by Jessica "evil little thing" Ahlquist.

You can help secular students by becoming a Secular Safe Zone ally. And help stop bullying!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Stop Bullying

Bullying comes in many different forms, and there are various resources available to help...
 
Get help now!

http://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now/index.html
 
The problemWhat you can do
There has been a crime or someone is at immediate risk of harm.Call 911.
Someone is feeling hopeless, helpless, thinking of suicide.Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Site exit disclaimer online or at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in our national network. These centers provide 24-hour crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
Someone is acting differently than normal, such as always seeming sad or anxious, struggling to complete tasks, or not being able care for themselves.Find a local counselor or other mental health services
A child is being bullied in school.
 
Contact the:
  1. Teacher
  2. School counselor
  3. School principal
  4. School superintendent
  5. State Department of Education
See more on working with the school.
The school is not adequately addressing harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion.Contact:


Connect with the Secular Safe Zone, a network of secular allies that provide community and support to non-theists around the nation.
http://www.secularsafezone.org/
 

 
Finally, share your story about discrimination and bigotry against the nonreligious and nonbeliever community with the Openly Secular coalition.

Ellery Schempp: "It is about power, not about religion"

"There are persons in every community—often deeply devout—to whom any version of the Judaeo-Christian Bible is offensive. There are others whose reverence for the Holy Scriptures demands private study or reflection and to whom public reading or recitation is sacrilegious.... To such persons it is not the fact of using the Bible in the public schools, nor the content of any particular version, that is offensive, but the manner in which it is used."
 - Justice Brennan's concurrence in Abington School District v. Schempp
Ellery Schempp spoke last summer on the 50th anniversary of the case that bears his name:
"It is about power, not about religion"
 - Ellery Schempp 
You can watch his talk here:




See also: "That awful woman"

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mooresville NC goes ALL CAPPS in "War on Religion"

Updated: April 29, 2014
"It upsets that some people can just dictate what you do because of their beliefs and not take into consideration your own" - Mooresville, NC resident (Christian News Network)
The latest battle in the "Long War on Christianity" is currently underway in my area, so I wanted to do a little research on the origins of this particular battle. The chronology so far goes something like this (based on the various press reports and additional information I have seen)...
 
  • About a year ago - On behalf of a concerned parent and/or student at a Mooresville public high school student, FFRF sends a letter to the school district about the Blue Devils football coach (Hal Capps) allegedly praying with, and baptizing, the team. The letter apparently referenced a video of a team baptism, but the district responded with "the video is not Mooresville" (and FFRF basically responded "OK, sorry to bother you").
  • Last fall ("during the playoffs") - FFRF sends another letter to the school district referencing local news stories about the coach praying with the team.
  • December? January? ("after the season ended") - District school superintendent meets with the coach and tells him to stop praying with the students (or actually, it sounds like they just told him to stop leading the prayer and let a student lead it). Capps allegedly agrees to stop.
  • Jan 27: Capps lets team players and family know he will no longer lead the team prayers during a Jan. 27 football banquet.
  • Jan 28 - A Twitter hashtag (#ISupportCapps) is started and some students, the "Twitter page of the 3a/4a North Piedmont Conference in North Carolina," and others start using it to show their support for Capps.
  • Jan 29 (5:37 pm ET) - Statesville Record & Landmark publishes the first piece on the story (“Anti-religion group targeted Mooresville coach Capps”), and Capps posts the following to his Facebook page (HT to Tricia):
  • Jan 30 – The story makes the Local TV news (who blame FFRF in the end - "the same group that started the fight against Rowan county commissioners"). The hashtag shows its first spike (less than 80 posts), featuring this one with 10 retweets and 18 favorites - including one of each by the "Twitter page of the 3a/4a North Piedmont Conference in North Carolina""Whoever is complaining about coach Capps, you better not come out cause almost all of Mooresville will hate you." Capps posts the following to his Facebook page:
     
  • Jan 31 - TheBlaze, Raw Story, and other other local TV stations pick up the story, and Capps is quoted by the Mooresville Weekly ("Capps can no longer lead post-game prayers"):
    “It’s not going to go away,” Capps said. “I can guarantee that as long as I’m here, it won’t go away. I just won’t be leading them in prayer.”
  • Feb 1 - Hemant Mehta blogs about it, and the local paper that apparently broke this story editorializes:
    "A debate erupted following a complaint made by the Freedom from Religion Foundation concerning Mooresville High School football coach Hal Capps leading players in prayer. From all accounts, Capps is a respected coach and leader, and we are sure his intentions were good. However, his actions were a violation of the law, and we hope, as Superintendent Mark Edwards said, the issue is settled and the law will be followed."
  • Feb 2 - Keyhole real time tracker analytics (of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts) as of 4:40 pm ET shows 191 users (73% male) and 448 posts (only 29.2% original) with a reach of about 130k people. I first blog about it (the original version of this post).
  • Feb 3 - Fox News enters battle and Keyhole as of 9:30 pm ET on Feb 3 shows 220 users (73% male) and 510 posts (only 30% original) with a reach of almost 160k people.
  • Feb 4 - Capps is named head coach for the 78th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
    "I think somebody has given me another platform,” Capps said. "With all the stuff I’ve been through the last few weeks and now this honor, I think this God is saying, 'Let’s go on and move forward.'"
    As of 6 pm ET on Feb 4...84% of posts originating from North Carolina (70% male, 30% original posts).

  • Feb 5 - The Huffington Post notes this tweet from an NC district attorney (son of the NC Senate's President Pro Tempore and a candidate for the 6th Congressional District). They also quote a school "spokesperson" as saying "It's actually a community thing. People leave the stands and go down on the field." 
  • Feb 6Godwin's law still holds, and my Keyhole free trial has expired - as a result, it looks like the data in their tracker is now stale. However, Hashtags.org estimates no real activity in the last 24 hours (and Twitter shows only ~20 Tweets in the last 24 hrs as of 10:00 ET).
  • Feb 7 - Less than 10 tweets over the last 24 hours via Twitter realtime search (as of 8 pm ET).
  • Feb 8 - Only two tweets (from the same account in Virginia) over last 24 hrs (as of 9 pm ET)...
  • Feb 9 - Hashtag shows no tweets over last 24 hrs as of Noon ET.
  • Feb 16 - Only 3 tweets on hashtag since Feb 9 (and no activity after Feb 11).
  • April 12 - Only one tweet since Feb. On April 2, Coach Capps creates a GoFundMe page to raise $7,500 to take students to a camp for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (Note: In NC, there are currently 75 FCA groups at middle school, high school and college campuses in the 11 counties of the Triangle area alone!). As of April 12, $1,070 is raised by 11 donors in  9 days.
     
    I really don't like doing this but...... I need your help !!!!!!!! Last summer we took 28 kids and 10 coaches to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp. We had 8 kids accept Christ for the first time and 12 others rededicate their life to him.Our kids have and will continue to work with some fund raising opportunities . We are going big !!!! trying to take 55 kids this summer !!!!! Yes I am asking for all my friends to consider giving any amount, so all these kids may have the opportunity to attend a Godly camp. The cost for the three day,two night camp is $150 each. Anything you feel led to give will be a blessing for a young man.
    Checks are tax deductible , make out to Mooresville FCA.
    Mail to :
    Mooresville HS
    Att. Hal Capps ... 
    God Bless
    Last year we took 28 players,10 accepted Jesus as their savior for the 1st time. 11 other rededicated there one and only life. Hoping to take twice as many kids this year !!!!!!!
Note that a meaningless and confused bill (passed by the NC Senate in their last session and sent to the House Education Committee), SB 370, appears to be designed for cases just like this - to "get the Bible and prayer back in school" and promote school sponsorship of religion ("respectful posture" as in bow your head?). This bill now has a "poster boy" in Mooresville...
 
http://www.donotlink.com/dp9

NC Secular Values Voters: Please contact your state house representative and ask them to oppose SB 370 and HB 751 if they comes up in the "Short Session" this spring (and ask your state senate and state house representatives to oppose any new Bible Study bills in North Carolina).
"Our constitution mentions religion just twice, and both times the word 'no' are attached." 
 - Ellery Schempp
 
I'll leave you with a few ALL CAPS in support of Capps (collected from a local TV station's Facebook page):
DEVILS 
TYRANNY 
DONT STOP COACH!!! STAND FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN!!!!! 
STILL SAYIN THE PRAYERS FOR EVERYBODY!!! I THINK HE SHOULD GO BACK TO PRAY!!! PRAYERS ALWAYS A GOOD/BAD THINGS IN LIFE!!!
THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE SCHOOL SYSTEMS NOW , THEY HAVE TAKEN PRAYER OUT OF THE SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL SPORTS WHEN I WAS GROWING UP WE ALWAYS STARTED THE DAY OUT WITH PRAYER AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE TO OUR AMERICAN FLAG NO ONE COMPLAINED THEN WHY??? BECAUSE WE HAD LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER RESPECT FOR ONE ANOTHER AND WE WERE NOT ASHAMED TO SAY WE WERE CHRISTIANS !!!!!!!!! HERE IS THE PROBLEM WE AS CHRISTIANS NEED TO STAND UP FOR OUR RIGHTS AND NOT BE ASHAMED THAT WE WORSHIP AND RESPECT OUR GOD WE WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THIS ONE DAY SO COACH CAPPS BE STRONG IN WHAT YOU BELIEVE AND STAND UP AND TELL THEM NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY YOU WILL NOT STOP PRAYING WITH YOUR BOYS BEFORE THE GAMES!!!!!!! CHRISTIAN COACH MAKE A STAND FOR YOUR PRAYERS!!!!!!!!
 
Permalink: http://j.mp/BattleOfCapps (case sensitive)