Monday, March 31, 2008

Early childhood religious indoctrination

The facts about early childhood development are fairly well established. Children's little minds are like sponges and they have no critical defenses. Indeed this is what makes the practice of religious indoctrination so morally objectionable. All religions officially sanction the practice, it is calculated, devious, and unfair. Leave aside parental motivations, which as I have stressed over and over I am convinced are noble and well intentioned. I am troubled by institutional motivations -- they have to maintain membership rolls so they have vested interests.

If parents consign their children to religious indoctrination out of love and it is harmful how are we to consider this? It matters not if a drunk driver loves you or hates you when he crashes into you. The result is the same, and the result of a drunk driver's actions are what society goes after them for.

Religions have been given carte blanc in our country to do as they please. Now it is time we take stock and examine where we are. And yes I know the Supreme Court has decided parents can instruct their minor children in whatever religion they chose. This practice is legal (Pierce vs Mass 1944). But, please recall the supreme court gave approval for segregated schools, so that's not an iron clad argument. The supreme court also decided against women's suffrage. In Myner v. Happerstett the US Supreme Court decided that being a citizen does not guarantee suffrage. It was not until the 1920s that women finally had suffrage granted to them.

Times change, Pierce was decided 64 years ago. We move on, our understanding improves, and we should continually strive to make better choices that do not disadvantage one group with respect to another. Particularly, in this case children's interests versus their parents free exercise of religion interests. Why should the free exercise clause be so broadly interpreted? Children have rights, or they sure ought to have them by now.

Children suffer at the hands of barbaric adults

The following information was copied from the Facebook support group, "2,000,000 People Against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)". The author reveals in stark language how primitive and ignorant parents abuse the female children in their families. Apparently, no female child escapes this horror. If you have never read a description of the procedure you will be shocked at the brutality and callousness of the process. There are 55,441 members of this activist group on Facebook and they are adding thousands of supporters daily. Facebook offers many facilities for joining friends, family members and complete strangers together to rapidly distribute information and coordinate group action.

Thank you for your concern for the women who endure this procedure, it means a lot to them to see that the world cares and campaigns for their basic rights. Since its 2008, I thought I would (sic) something different to try and educate as many people as possible about Female Genital Mutilation or Female Circumcision.

I had my Circumcision done when I was 7 years old. When I was little and knew nothing about it. The procedures I had to endure are:
1. Set in a chair, (legs open) and let a midwife (da3ia in Arabic) cut me
and then stitched me while three other women hold me back.
2. For about two weeks I wasn’t allowed to run or play any sports.
3. Using the bathroom was painful for about 3 days. After the process was done women and children came to my house ate candy, drank juice, said Mubark (congratulation) and if I was luck (sic) I got money. Circumcision in Sudan is treated just like a wedding, graduation or even better then a Birthday.

I am asking as Woman, to please to join the group “2 Million people against Female Circumcision {FGM: Female Genital Mutilation”. Two million is the number of women who are circumcised each year {around 000 a day}.

Hopefully by the end of 2008 we can have two million members. The possible side effects of female genital mutilation are numerous. They include urine retention, haemorrhaging, infection,
pain, menstrual complications, infertility, and loss of sexual pleasure or inability to perform sexual intercourse, death and psychological disturbances. In some cases, babies have been seriously harmed during prolonged labor, due to circumcision, resulting in brain damage or
death of the child.

please (sic) have a heart Join and invite others. This is for the four to thirteen year old females who can’t make that decision. Thank you.
This group was createed on the 15th of January,2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Child abuse in southern India province

Child abuse: Media urged to focus on loopholes in law

In order to check child abuse, media should focus mainly on the lacuna
in law which allows perpetrators to get away with this crime, said
Henri Tiphagne, executive director of People’s Watch, at a media
consultation on child abuse here on Wednesday.

mediapersons, human rights and child welfare activists on the role and
responsibility of the media on the increasing violence against
children, Tiphagne quoting a national study on child abuse said that
among the 12,500 respondents, 53 percent were subjected to some form of
abuse, among whom 50 percent were aware of the identity of the
perpetrators of the abuse against them. However, 70 percent of the
child victims were not prepared to complain against the perpetrators.

out to the increasing number of incidents of violence against children
of both sexes, despite the existence of over 150 legally recognised
child welfare and human rights organisations in the country, Tiphagne
attributed the impunity in law towards the perpetrators as the major
reason for this phenomenon.

In order to change this scenario,
the media should focus on this factor in their reports, Tiphagne said
and suggested that Tamil Nadu should enact an exclusive act to protect
child rights and set an example to other States.

Director-General of Press Information Bureau (PIB), Ganesan said that
the recurring violence against children despite the plethora of schemes
and laws to protect their rights clearly showed that the government
machinery could not handle the situation single handedly and wanted the
fourth estate to work in coordination with the non-governmental

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Instead of putting the bible and testament into the hands of the children

The first stage of this education being the schools of the hundreds, wherein the great mass of the people will receive their instruction, the principal foundations of future order will be laid here. Instead therefore of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children, at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious enquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European and American history. such as, when further developed as their judgments advance in strength, may teach them how to work out their own greatest happiness, by shewing them that it does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed them, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.

-- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TPaine posted the following in the comments section of a USA Today article by Nica Lalli entitled Am I Raising Atheist Children?

I have respect and admiration for many people who happen to be Christians. At times my Christian friends can be simply infuriating.

As an Atheist myself, I repeatedly hear the patronizing sermon from Christians that:

"You need Christianity to have Morals." or: "Your Morals will float in the wind"

How can they not see the inherent insult and self-congratulation in these statements?

I have a mind that functions normally, therefore I am capable of understanding Morality without having a group, or one specific book think for me.

I have spent decades studying Philosophy, Ethics and Morality from a wide variety of sources. No one source is complete, or without its problems.

It is when you restrict yourself to one narrow belief that you risk believing wrongly.

The Bible contains many wonderful ideas. It also contains others I find disturbing, to say the least.

I see no evidence this world was created and directed by any “supreme being” referenced in organized religions. The Natural Laws we see about us every day are elegant and amazing. They don’t require the presence of the specific “being” referenced.

My Atheistic belief is not a Religion, as some would suggest, simply a normal human brain functioning in reality.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What it means to be free

"When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free--free to think, to express my thoughts--free to live my own ideal, free to live for myself and those I loved, free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination's wings, free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope, free to judge and determine for myself . . . I was free! I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously faced all worlds."

--Robert G. Ingersoll

An unbeliever should not allow the mind of his child to be deformed, stunted and shriveled by superstition. He should not allow the child's imagination to be polluted. Nothing is more outrageous than to take advantage of the helplessness of childhood to sow in the brain the seeds of falsehoods, to imprison the soul In the dungeon of Fear, to teach dimpled infancy the Infamous dogma of eternal painfilling life with the glow and glare of hell.

In the orthodox Sunday schools, children are taught that it is a duty to believe -- that evidence is not essential -- that faith is independent of facts and that religion is superior to reason. They are taught not to use their natural sense -- not to tell what they really think -- not to entertain a doubt -- not to ask wicked questions, but to accept and believe what their teachers say. In this way the minds of the children are invaded, corrupted and conquered. Would an educated man send his child to a school in which Newton's statement in regard to the attraction of gravitation was denied -- in which the law of falling bodies, as given by Galileo, was ridiculed -- Kepler's three laws declared to be idiotic, and the rotary motion of the earth held to be utterly absurd?

Why then should an intelligent man allow his child to be taught the geology and astronomy of the Bible? Children should he taught to seek for the truth -- to be honest, kind, generous, merciful and just. They should be taught to love liberty and to live to the ideal.

...Children should be taught only what somebody knows. Guesses should not be palmed off on them as demonstrated facts. ... What I insist upon is that children should not be poisoned -- should not be taken advantage of -- that they should be treated fairly, honestly -- that they should be allowed to develop from the inside instead of being crammed from the outside -- that they should be taught to reason, not to believe -- to think, to investigate and to use their senses, their minds.

--Robert G. Ingersoll

From the lecture "The Enemies of Individuality and Mental Freedom."

Friday, March 7, 2008

Is Homeschooling in for a Major shakeup?

An examination of recent events in California

March 10, 2008

No one argues that the phenomenal growth of homeschooled children now reaches millions of families although no one can say precisely how many children are affected. But, there is little doubt that well heeled and highly motivated conservative Christian groups are the driving force behind what can only be described as a movement. Until now, these partisans have met with success in their state by state battles, but drastic change is in the wind. More and more citizens are beginning to understand what is happening and see the danger homeschooling poses to our civic integrity.

The calculations for homeschooled children are unreliable because state laws vary widely with respect to regulation of home schools and no one seems to be keeping score, least of all the Department of Education under the incompetent administration of President Bush. Some estimates put the number at 1.5 to 2.0 million children nationwide. Most opinions seem to agree that 80% of homeschooled children are in conservative Christian homes. However the most often quoted estimates come from people with an agenda, for example the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). These are only two of the many Christian organizations and associations advocating for home schools.

Brian D. Ray, according to his resume, is one of the best-known scholars, internationally, on the topic of homeschooling. He is president of NHERI, a nonprofit research and educational organization that sells services to home, private, and public educators by conducting research on home-based education, developing a network of researchers, and educating the worldwide public about Homeschooling. He has homeschooled his eight children.

His book Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling, Facts and Stats is available on for 9 cents. There is only one reader review and that is by an individual that apparently only reviews books with a Christian theme or connection. One has to wonder that with such a slim fan base how impartial Mr. Ray’s facts and stats can be.

Even if you assume the lowest estimate of 1.5 million kids and 80% are in conservative Christian homes that means 1,200,000 children are trapped in a parent dominated cocoon where they have no choice of what music to listen to, what books or magazines to read, what television to watch, or where they can go on the internet. Their contact with people outside the home is limited to church families and their children and every attempt is made to shield them from outside influence 24 hours a day. Can you say stifled?

Everything these sequestered children see, or touch, or hear is pre-approved. What chance will they have to develop their own individual patterns of thought or habits of mind? This point of the constant monitoring is to shield children from “the dreaded homosexual agenda” and from learning about their sexuality and human reproduction. Parents hiding from the law can indoctrinate their children with their backward sexist stereotypes of what it means to be a man or a woman, which directly violates the letter and spirit of curriculum requirements of the state of California that are aimed at leveling the field for females in our California. What chance would a girl in such a home have of ever becoming an astronaut?

In 2007 California enacted SB777, The Student Civil Rights Act, authored by Shiela Kuehl, which applies to the curriculum home school parents must now abide by and is aimed at ending discrimination of gay or transgendered children (among others) in the public school system.[1] The new law merely extends the reach of these rights to home schools and just took effect in February 2008. The reason for such a law is patently clear because Christian conservatives choose to home school their children precisely because they will not agree that such discrimination is wrong.

The Safe Place to Learn Act requires the California Department of Education to regularly monitor what steps school districts have taken to ensure compliance with the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, AB 537 (Kuehl). The legislation will help to ensure that current school safety standards regarding harassment and discrimination are fully and properly implemented.

Another important event transpired very recently when a California appellate court ruled February 28, 2008 that California home school children must be taught by a credentialed teacher. It is doubtful that the majority of home schools are meeting this requirement. Those that are in compliance have nothing to fear. The opinion of three judges in the Jonathan L. and Mary Grace L. v. Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles case states:

“The educational program of the State of California was designed to promote the general welfare of all the people and was not designed to accommodate the personal ideas of any individual in the field of education.”

The appeals ruling said California law requires “persons between the ages of six and 18” to be in school, “the public full-time day school,” with exemptions being allowed for those in a “private full-time day school” or those “instructed by a tutor who holds a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught.”

The judges ruled in the case involving the Longs that the family failed to demonstrate, “that mother has a teaching credential such that the children can be said to be receiving an education from a credentialed tutor,” and that their involvement and supervision by Sunland Christian School’s independent study programs was of no value.”[2]

Nor did the family's religious beliefs matter to the court.

Their “sincerely held religious beliefs, are not the quality of evidence that permits us to say that application of California's compulsory public school education law to them violates their First Amendment rights.”

“Such sparse representations are too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to homeschool his or her child,” the court concluded.”

Randy Thomasson, of Campaign for Children and Families, said:

“Under California law parents have the legal right to create a private school in their home and enroll their own children. Children belong to the parents, not to the state”. But he acknowledged that there's a great deal of misinformation about the status of homeschooling in California.

Note the language – “children belong”. On the contrary, children are not property, they are not chattel. The patriarchal concept that children are chattel is abominable to our enlightened age. Yes, there is a lot of misinformation and it comes from the likes of Randy Thomasson and other right wing Christians who claim rights over children they do not have. The case is not about the right to homeschool children, it is about meeting legal requirements.

The California Appellate Court ruling is good news for all Californians who support the right of children to a quality education in tune with the mores and morals of the majority of California citizens. We simply must not allow thousands of California’s children to be shunted off into religious ghettos where they may never recover from the sexism, enforced ignorance of science, distorted American history, and mind rape they are subjected to 24 hours a day seven days a week. The greatest danger is that a secretive fifth column is being primed to create a theocracy (for example the Dominionists) and it is slowly growing right under our noses.

As could be expected, homeschool parents are now beseeching sectarian schools in hopes of enrolling their children. They no doubt will discover there is little room in these expensive schools for adding students and not much to recommend them anyway. Law Professor James G. Dwyer is an advocate for reforming the law with respect to children to give greater weight to their right to self determination and autonomy. The synopsis for his book, Religious Schools v. Children's Rights reads:

Despair over the reported inadequacies of public education leads many people to consider religious schools as an alternative. James G. Dwyer demonstrates, however, that religious schooling is almost completely unregulated and that common pedagogical practices in fundamentalist Christian and Catholic schools may be damaging to children. He presents evidence of excessive restriction of children's basic liberties, stifling of intellectual development, the instilling of dogmatic and intolerant attitudes, as well as the infliction of psychological and emotional harms, including excessive guilt and repression and, especially among girls, diminished self-esteem.

Courts, legal and political theorists, and the public typically argue that families and religious communities are entitled to raise their children as they see fit and that the state must remain neutral on religious matters. Dwyer proposes an alternative framework for state policy regarding religious schooling and other child-rearing practices, urging that the focus always be on what is best, from a secular perspective, for the affected children. He argues that the children who attend religious schools have a right to adequate state regulation and oversight of their education. States are obligated to ensure that such schools do not engage in harmful practices and that they provide their students with the training necessary for pursuit of a broad range of careers and for full citizenship in a pluralistic, democratic society.

In a distressing reaction to the court decision, Governor Schwarznegger has sided with lawbreaking parents.


“Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide what's best for their children. Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will.”


Equality California Org Sponsors

Here Brian Ray tries to establish that there is a constitutional right to home school children. Since he is not an attorney, one wonders how accurate his information could possible be. What seems to be happening when you look at the businesses that are raking in millions of dollars, they simply are trying to maintain their income by bolstering the morale of their customers with flim flam.

[1] Refer to internet URL under resources.

[2] This school is pretty secretive about course offerings and curriculums. Judging from their web page one must contact an official of the school to really find out what they are all about. They do admit they are a Christian organization.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Religious backed group spreads misinformation and fear (excerpt)



The precarious state of parental rights within our nation is reason enough for serious concern. With cases like these filling the courts, every parent should be concerned about the protection and preservation of their rights.But another storm is rapidly forming on the horizon.

International law that seeks to empower the government to intrude upon the child-parent relationship is becoming an increasing threat. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a seemingly harmless treaty with dangerous implications for American
families, is approaching possible ratification by the United States.

If this treaty is made binding upon our country, the government would have the power to intervene in any child's life to advance its definition of "the best interests of the child." The scenarios that could occur—and are occurring—as a result of this dangerous notion are both manifold and frightening. Under the UNCRC, instead of following due process, government agencies would have the power to override your parental choices at their whim because they determine what is in "the best interest of the child."

In essence, the UNCRC applies the legal status of abusive parents to all parents. This means that the burden of proof falls on the parent to
prove to the State that they are good parents—when it should fall upon the State to prove that their investigation is not without cause.



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Firstly, the laws that will implement the CRC (providing it is sucessfully ratified) must be written and passed by legally constituted US legislative authority, which is what is supposed to happen in a democracy. So making wild statements about the effects of ratifying the CRC does nothing except stir up fear, which is the purpose of propaganda. The people behind are right wing Christians. There is nothing precarious about the current state of US law, which if anything is heavily biased in favor of parental free exercise of religion. If the legislatures do enact laws that are more restrictive, then that is the will of the people and patriotic Americans are expected to obey the law.

Secondly, there is nothing to suggest the country would ever amend the US Constitution as the schemers at would like. This propaganda scheme is intended to keep a few cunning attorneys rolling in donations, but is never going anywhere.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Humanism -- The alternative to supernatualism and dogma

Humanism is:

A lifestance which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality." -Minimum Statement of Humanism, International Humanist and Ethical Union

Humanism is an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone." -British Humanist Association

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. The framework of Humanism -- guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience -- encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance. -The Humanist magazine, published by the American Humanist Association

Humanism is a philosophy, world view, or framework of that helps us understand the world and find meaning and value in life. It is a lifestance based on naturalism -- the conviction that the universe or nature is all that exists or is real. Humanism serves, for many humanists, some of the emotional and social functions of a religion, but without belief in deities, transcendental beings, miracles, immortality, and the supernatural. Humanists seek to understand the universe by using science and its methods of critical inquiry -- logical reasoning, empirical evidence, and skeptical evaluation of conjectures and conclusions -- to obtain reliable knowledge. Humanists affirm that humans have the freedom to give meaning, value, and purpose to their lives by their own independent thought, free inquiry, and responsible, creative activity. Humanists stand for the building of a more humane, just, compassionate, and democratic society using a pragmatic ethics based on human reason, experience, and reliable knowledge -- an ethics that judges the consequences of human actions by the well-being of all life on Earth. -The Virtual Community of Humanists

From the Continum of Humanist Education web site:

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Free the Children Vow of Silence Campaign

The following is reproduced from a Canadian Press article.

TORONTO - Surfing the Net, posting messages on Facebook and texting have become as routine for many young people as eating and sleeping.

But this Saturday, some students are choosing to power down their laptops and cellphones in support of the Vow of Silence campaign.

Students who participate will refuse to use all sorts of communication methods, including cellphones, e-mail, text messages and even hand gestures as part of the 24-hour campaign. Some participants may even decide to go without speaking all day.

The initiative organized by Free The Children is to recognize youth around the world "who do not have a voice."

"Each year on March 1, thousands of students involved in Free The Children's Youth in Action groups refuse to speak to raise awareness about children's rights issues worldwide," said Allison Sandmeyer, Free The Children's youth programming director, in a release.

"On this day, young people use the power of silence to protest against child rights issues and to illustrate what youth around the world, unable to speak up about the injustice done to them, experience daily."

All funds raised from pledges collected during the campaign will support Free The Children's long-term development programs in Kenya, Sri Lanka, China and Sierra Leone to provide youth access to quality education.

On The Net: