That’s four for four, unless i’m forgetting one. I wouldn’t’ve published this (i really intended it for the Editorial Board themselves), but perhaps there’s value in its publication i just don’t see (or perhaps a publisher is ill-advised to pass up any opportunity to let atheists look silly).
I was disgusted by the editorial “GOP candidate E.W. Jackson doesn’t speak for all Virginians of faith.” (24 May 2013) The editorial downplays as “fair enough” some of the most overt bigotry by any recent candidate for Virginia office, as though Jackson’s faith-which reaps him votes-absolves him of wrongdoing and of any expectation of an apology.
Yet it expects him to apologize to other Christians for speaking in their name! Evidently Christians are the true victims of Christian homophobia.
Atheists are routinely accused of paving the way for Stalinism. That’s an absurd accusation, but i certainly don’t mind condemning church-burnings (not to mention mass executions of Christians) when someone imagines i would support them. Nor do i pretend that these acts victimized me or other atheists.
Every decent Christian has the option of leaving the church and renouncing the label if they are unwilling to defend it from this kind of abuse. It’s on them if they do neither.
I kept my own structure for the blog this time, and decided my own title, since the Roanoke Times provided one perhaps best-suited to helping readers miss the point.
I got a letter published in The Roanoke Times Monday (though they didn’t print the hyperlinks):
In his letter “Prisoners have more religious freedom” (Aug. 7), Mark Riley makes a regrettably common error: confusing the individual right to practice religion with the prohibition of state-sponsored religion.
Students in Giles County are as free as they’ve ever been to practice religion by posting Scripture on their lockers, wearing Christian emblems or organizing prayer groups outside class time. The American Civil Liberties Union defended such rights for Floyd County High School students in February.
Unfortunately, Giles County public schools have been violating the First Amendment for so long that many residents and administrators are blind to it. A public institution that promotes Christianity above other religions marginalizes every non-Christian student every day of school — half the days of their lives. These students cannot just pick a different school.
A comparison to prisons is strained by the fact that few incarcerated Muslims take the prison bus home each day to pray with family. Moreover, there are Christian prisons, and they don’t demand taxpayer funding. If some residents want Christian schools, perhaps they should extend taxpayers the same courtesy.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the Valleys need to be exposed to the notion of Christian privilege itself. These separate incidents are raising awareness of injustice but possibly not of prejudice.
I have serious misgivings over private schools, which strike me as exemplarily libertarian and intrinsically disposed toward widening the wealth and income gaps. Furthermore, i have dire concerns over the proliferation of religious schools, which introduce the added effect of confounding wealth, privilege, and influence with Christianity, pseudoscience, and authoritarianism. Let me, at the outset, set aside these concerns and affirm that no structural restrictions should be in place against the founding of private Christian schools, and that the burden of averting their spread rests with the adequate funding and management of public educational institutions, hence ultimately with us.
I therefore wish to raise no objection to Charnika Elliott’s newly opened Noah–Christian Academy. The Valleys are ripe with well-(enough)-to-do isolationist Christian parents that should keep the academy funded for several years (although — as Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett have argued, albeit orthogonally to one another — one of the best catalysts against organized religion may be institutionalized religious education).
What everyone should object to is what passed for a hearty endorsement of Elliott’s character and devotion (to her students, presumably, as well as to her god) at the outset of the article:
When she was a third-grade teacher at Roanoke’s Forest Park Elementary School, Charnika Elliott would play gospel music softly in her classroom. She’d pull aside students who shared her religious faith and quietly pray when no one else was around.