Category: Diversity

Grand Junction’s Satanic Invocation a Success, More Diversity Likely Coming Soon

Grand Junction, Colorado’s first Satanic invocation went off without a hitch yesterday evening, with an audience of about 50 interested onlookers and five out of seven city council members present.

The audience and was quiet and respectful as the speaker made the following statement to Council:

Grand Junction City Council to Host Satanic Invocation August 2

Look out! The Devil is coming to Grand Junction.

Hold onto your hats.

On August 2, 2017, Grand Junction City Council will become the first city in Colorado, and one of the first in the nation, to host a Satanic invocation at a council meeting.

Central High Seniors Take Steps Toward Eliminating Religious Baccalaureate

Word is out that Central High School’s Senior Student Senate has voted to change the school’s annual baccalaureate from a religious event featuring a blessing by a pastor to a secular event featuring 3-5 minute speeches by students about what they are grateful for.  By the time the Student Senate voted on the issue, it was too late to change the name of the event because the materials promoting it had already been printed, but they say next year the name of the event will be changed as well.

Undecided About Who to Vote for for City Council? Maybe Some Notes from the Candidates Forum March 23 Will Help

The City Council Candidate Forum March 23

For those who couldn’t attend the League of Women Voters City Council Candidate Forum last Thursday, March 23, at City Hall Auditorium, I am sharing my notes here. The notes are not a direct recording of what was said, but rather a synopsis. I wrote as fast as I could!

Names in boldface type indicate the incumbents. Jesse Daniels is challenging Norris for her seat on Council. At age 35, Daniels is the youngest candidate. Duncan McArthur is running unopposed, but you can write in a candidate you’d rather see in his Council seat. Duke Wortmann is a relocation consultant for Mesa Moving and Storage and is challenging incumbent Marty Chazen. Incumbent Rick Taggart is a former executive with Swiss Army Knife, and did not attend the forum, citing a previous engagement. Taggart is running against C. Lincoln Pierce for an At-Large seat on Council. For folks hoping Grand Junction will someday have a recreation/community center, two incumbents, Duncan McArthur and Phyllis Norris, both said clearly they were NOT in favor of building a public community/recreation center.

Massive Anti-Trump March in Grand Junction One Day After Inauguration

If yesterday’s massive Women’s March to protest Donald Trump in Grand Junction proves anything, it’s that western Colorado is clearly not a politically monolithic area for conservatives any more.

Grand Junction saw the largest crowd ever in its local history turn out today to participate in a march downtown in support of liberal values like women’s rights, equality, diversity and respect for all human beings. Grand Junction’s march was held simultaneously as, and in support of the massive Women’s March in Washington, D.C., as well and similar protests in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles other cities all across the world.  The marchers turned out they day after the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, who openly insulted women in many ways during his long campaign for president and in public venues throughout his life and career.

Non-Religious Holiday Message Graces I-70 Business Loop in Grand Junction

Billboard celebrating the 2016 Winter Solstice graces I-70 B, in front of Chick Fil-A and Hobby Lobby. The board will be up until December 26th.

Grand Junction’s growing secular community wishes people well this holiday season with a bright, 12 x 24 foot digital billboard on I-70 Business Loop that says “Merry Winter Solstice.” The digital billboard is by the Rimrock Marketplace, in front of Chick Fil A, a fast food chain with a history of anti-LGBT activism, and Hobby Lobby, a craft store with a reputation of catering to an evangelical clientele. The board runs until December 26th and was purchased by the members of Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, a local nonprofit group whose mission is “to inform and educate the public in Western Colorado about atheism,” and “promote acceptance of atheism as a valid, rational belief system.” WCAF also advocates for separation of church and state, and has served as a sounding board, exposing and confronting illegal religious proselytizing in public schools and local governments on the western slope. WCAF also gives western Colorado’s atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and humanists a way to connect with each other, share information, enjoy social activities, develop new friendships and enjoy freethinking conversation. It is the oldest secular advocacy organization on the western slope, and will celebrate its 10 year anniversary in February, 2017.

Don’t Be Fooled: Saying the Pledge of Allegiance, Now a Religious Oath, is Always Optional

pledge-of-allegiance-1892

The text of the original Pledge of Allegiance, as it existed until 1953. In 1954, Congress added the words “under God” to it, effectively changing it from a purely patriotic statement into a religious statement.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s recent refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem has spurred debate over coerced and often perfunctory recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.

In reaction to the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, people started reciting the Pledge more frequently, on more occasions and in more venues than ever before. Many U.S. public schools starting requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily. Mesa County’s District 51’s student handbook (pdf, at page 35) says students get an “opportunity” and have the “right” to say the pledge, but it never expressly says in a neutral manner that students also have a legal right not to say it. Rather, the manual practically sneers at students who choose not to say the pledge by using language that infers such students are likely to be disruptive and disrespectful in doing so:

“If you feel, based on personal convictions or religious beliefs, that you do not want to recite the Pledge or salute the flag, we ask you to remain respectfully silent, not interfering with the
rights of others to recite the Pledge and salute the flag.”

Cidney Fisk’s Interview on KVNF Radio

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 12.44.55 PMThis 30 minute interview on KVNF Radio with Cidney Fisk and her parents about their experience with the Delta County School District was broadcast July 19, 2016. Host Ali Lightfoot interviews Cidney, her parents and Delta County School District officials about the religious speakers the school routinely brings in, other incidents of proselytizing occurring within the district, and the retribution Cidney faced from her teachers and counselors after voicing her opinions about that and what Cidney perceived as the district’s misguided financial priorities: Click this link to listen to the interview.

City of Grand Junction Officially Endorses Gay Pride Week

The City of Grand Junction's official proclamation endorsing Gay Pride Week in town

The City of Grand Junction’s official proclamation endorsing Gay Pride Week in town

In a landmark action towards welcoming diversity in our community, at its Wednesday, May 4, 2016 meeting, the Grand Junction City Council will officially declare May 2nd through May 8th, 2016 “Grand Junction Pride Fest Week.”

Delta County School Board Rips Off Kids

A slide from Shelly Donahue's "WAIT" program shown at Delta High School

Crucifixes in a slide from Shelly Donahue’s “WAIT” program at Delta High School

The Delta County School Board is violating state and federal laws in order to keep students from getting medically-accurate sex education information, and it seems to be by design.

Last October, the school district hired controversial abstinence-only-before-marriage pontificator Shelly Donahue as a sex education speaker for students. According to students, this was the only “sex education” the Delta County School District provided them, and the school board and district administration apparently consider this an adequate sex education.

Far from it.

For those who aren’t familiar with Shelly Donahue, she is an evangelistic Christian abstinence-only speaker who rakes in government grant funds by giving “WAIT” (“Why Am I Tempted”) training in public schools. Donahue’s website says

“She is passionately committed to Jesus Christ as the ultimate answer to the teen sexual activity problem in America. As a motivational speaker and a leading sex education expert, she is making a significant impact for the Kingdom of God!”

The leading "T" in Donahue's business logo is a crucifix in flames; the logo and cross appear in every slide, regardless if presentations at public schools

The leading “T” in Donahue’s business logo is a flaming crucifix; the logo and cross appeared in every slide in her presentations at Delta schools

In her talks, Donahue dishes out vast amounts of medically inaccurate information to kids and uses broad, simplistic analogies that convey stereotypical images of what boys’ and girls’ personalities are like. She includes liberal doses of religiously-based, guilt-and-shame to frighten students out of having sex before marriage.

Mesa County Democrats Give the Nod to Retail Recreational Weed

Dave Edwards

Palisade Mayor Pro Tem Dave Edwards accepts the nomination to run for District 3 County Commissioner at Central High School auditorium

The Mesa County Democratic Party became the party of “Yes” today when it came to allowing recreational marijuana commerce in Mesa County.

At their assembly at Central High School auditorium, Democratic Party delegates voted by an overwhelming majority to amend the party’s platform to back ending the ban on recreational marijuana sales and cultivation into the County.

The current Board of Mesa County Commissioners have banned marijuana commerce, sending cash-carrying tourists and area residents seeking legal weed up-valley to DeBeque, Parachute, Silt and Glenwood Springs, to purchase legal pot.

Democrats in favor of the measure cited the economic benefits much of the rest of the state is enjoying from sales taxes on marijuana, the tourism and job creation Mesa County is missing out on, and the lives unnecessarily ruined by the criminalization of marijuana, which is now widely accepted to be a failed strategy. Opponents cited the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, but those in favor countered that the federal government is no longer actively enforcing marijuana laws in Colorado and other states that have legalized it.

Dems: Change McInnis Canyons back to “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area”

Revert McInnis Canyons back to Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area

Scott McInnis got a national conservation area named after himself in violation of a federal House Rule that prohibits Congressmen from naming public works and lands after themselves.

In another notable amendment to their platform, Mesa County Dems also voted to support reverting “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area” back its original name, “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area.” The change would require an act of Congress. Speakers in favor (and all speakers were in favor) noted that the idea to change the area’s name did not originate from Colorado’s representatives or from any Colorado citizens. Also, in order to pass the name change, a handful of House representatives suspended a Congressional House Rule that prohibits sitting members of Congress from naming public works and lands after themselves. Supporters also cited the fact that national conservation areas are always named after the geological features that make them unique, and not after people. Others took exception to former Congressman Scott McInnis’ opposition to land conservation locally, and his 2010 plagiarism scandal as making him unfit to have the area named after him.

The vote to revert the name was unanimous, without a single dissenter among the approximately 150 delegates at the assembly.

Also by another unanimous vote, Mesa County Democrats backed adding a 5-10 cent deposit on bottles and cans locally to encourage recycling, help clean up litter around the county and provide a source of income for homeless people.

Districts 1 & 3 Commissioner Candidates Accept Nominations, Promise Economic Benefits

Fruita City Councilman Mel Mulder

Fruita City Councilman Mel Mulder

Palisade Mayor Pro Tem Dave Edwards formally accepted at nomination to run for District 3 County Commissioner. The District includes eastern Mesa County, Palisade, Orchard Mesa, DeBeque). The seat is currently held by incumbent Rose Pugliese, an attorney who is currently mired in a malpractice lawsuit and facing legal sanctions, and who openly opposes wilderness areas.

Fruita City Councilman Mel Mulder accepted the nomination to run for County Commissioner in District 1 (western Mesa County, Fruita, Mack, Loma and Glade Park) to replace incumbent Commissioner John Justman, who last year took a controversial $2,500 trip to Hawaii on the taxpayers’ dime, and who holds anti-federal government views while also accepting over $200,000 in federal agricultural subsidies for his own farm.

Both candidates vowed to start working on turning around Mesa County’s failing economy as soon as they are elected. Since the County Commission consists of only three members, they pointed out, electing both of them at once would allow them to start initiating quick changes for the better as the two would be a majority on the county commission.

Dems enjoyed the morning, and each other’s company, snacking on union-made doughnuts from Safeway and locally brewed coffee from Traders’ Coffee at 7th and Patterson Road as they organized to move forward stronger than ever before.

Mel Mulder for Mesa County Commissioner, District 1

"It's Okay Little Buddy" - Mel Mulder was a featured subject in this famous local painting by his artist wife, Vera

“It’s Okay Little Buddy” – Mel Mulder and his super-cute little friend are featured in this famous local painting by his wife, artist and art teacher Vera Mulder

Longtime Grand Valley resident and Fruita City  Council member Mel Mulder is running for Mesa County Commissioner in District 1. He is easily of the most qualified candidates for this office that Mesa County has seen in the last 35 years, and certainly the best artistically-rendered candidate. (See picture above.)

More Proselytizing Reported in District 51 Schools

Proselytize definition

Yet another incident of inappropriate proselytizing was reported in a District 51 school late last month. The parties spent the last few weeks working to resolve it. An update was just recently available. Following is a description of what happened.

On December 31, the father of a Lincoln Orchard Mesa (LOM) Elementary student contacted Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF), a western slope group that advocates for separation of church and state, about an inappropriate incident of proselytizing involving his child that occurred at LOM on November 20.  The student is 8 years old and in the 3rd grade.

According to the parent and child, here is what took place:

LOM students were taking their regularly-scheduled lunch break in their school’s lunchroom on Friday, November 20, 2016.  The student at the center of the incident was sitting at a table chatting with friends in the lunchroom, as was usual for kids at lunch. During the conversation, the student shared with her friends that she did not believe in God. A friend who heard the comment immediately went to a nearby lunchroom assistant named Jody Payne and told her that her friend did not believe in God. Ms. Payne went over to the table and told the student, in front of her friends, that “God created everything” that she “needed to, and should believe in God.”

Delta County School District Superintendent Brushes off Legal, Policy Violations in Bible Handout

Delta County School District Superintendent Caryn Gibson (Photo Credit: Western Colorado Community Foundation)

Delta County School District Superintendent Caryn Gibson (Photo Credit: Western Colorado Community Foundation)

After being informed that a Gideon Bible hand-out in Delta Middle School library during class time on December 18, 2015 violated U.S. laws guaranteeing separation of church and state,  violated the School District’s policy governing the distribution of non-curricular literature in multiple ways and caused students who did not take bibles to be bullied and harassed, Delta County School District Superintendent Caryn Gibson responded by saying:

“Hello

Thank you for your concern and email.  Delta County School District honors the separation of Church and State.  The Gideon Bibles were left on a table and optional for 6th grade students to take.  No staff members distributed the non-curricular materials at anytime.  Attached is the Delta County School District policy on non-curricular material.  

Caryn Gibson

Superintendent

Delta County Public Schools 50J

(p) 970-874-4438

cgibson@deltaschools.com

DMSDistribution-Posting-of-Noncurricular-Materials

That was it.

No acknowledgement that the school district’s own policy was violated, no acknowledgement that constitutional law was violated.

Zip.

Clear Violations of School Policy, No Acknowledgement by District

It is unconstitutional for public school districts to allow bibles to be distributed in classrooms during the school day. American courts have uniformly held that distributing bibles to students at public schools during instructional time is prohibited, and school officials like teachers and administrators cannot facilitate the bible handouts. At Delta Middle School, social studies teacher Michael Long took his class to the library during their regular class period, told the students there were bibles on a table by the library door, and they could take one if they wanted. The event gave the appearance that the school endorses Christianity above other religions.

Under the law, Gideons can only distribute religious literature off campus, on municipally-owned public sidewalks well off school grounds.

In addition, the DMS bible giveaway violated the District’s own literature distribution policy in not one, but in four different ways

1. District policy states (pdf) that any “printed non-curricular material” cannot be distributed in “any classroom of any building when being occupied by a regularly-scheduled class.” The reporting student’s class was held in the school library on 12/18 so the class could do research. The library was the students’ classroom that day, during regularly-scheduled class time. Moreover, this wasn’t the only class held in the library that day, or the only class in which bibles were foisted upon the students.

2. District policy states “Distribution [of non-curricular materials, like bibles] may be made 1/2 hour before school and/or during regularly scheduled lunch periods…..Any other times during the school day are considered to be disruptive of normal school activities.” [Italicized emphasis added.] This student’s social studies class was held in the library at 9:40 a.m., as was previously pointed out to the superintendent, during normal school hours. More than one teacher brought their class to the library during school hours that same day.

3. Delta School District policy also states “Students may not be used as the agents for distribution of such materials without the written consent of the student’s parents.” Mr. Long’s social studies students became agents for the Gideons’ distribution when they started pressuring other students to take a bible. No written consent was solicited from the parents of these students regarding solicitation of bibles.

4. District Policy states “No student may in any way be compelled or coerced to accept any materials being distributed by any person distributing such materials or any school official.” Both Mr. Long and some of his social studies students pressured the reporting student to take a bible. Another element of the policy states teachers can not endorse the literature.  Mr. Long endorsed the bible distribution when he told students “There’s bibles and they are free if you want one.” 

How can the Delta School District ignore these violations of their own policy, and even more importantly, why are they failing to acknowledge and remedy them?

Update – 3/23/16 – The Delta County School District only finally acknowledged that the Gideon Bible giveaway in the Delta Middle School library violated of their own policy (pdf) after the school district’s attorney was contacted by a staff attorney from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) based in Madison, Wisconsin. When FFRF asked that the Gideons be banned from further literature distribution in accordance with school policy (which permits revoking literature distribution privileges for policy violators), the school district attorney, Aaron Clay, refused, blaming the violations of policy on school personnel rather than on the Gideons.

New Recreational Marijuana Shop Adds 20 Jobs in Parachute

Staff of The Green Joint

Staff of The Green Joint

The town of Parachute, Colorado, in Garfield County, is celebrating the opening of its first recreational pot shop today. Parachute has a population of about 1,000 people, and the new shop, called The Green Joint, has already created 20 new jobs in the town. Parachute is about a 45 minute drive east of Grand Junction on I-70. The Green Joint already has seven other stores in the greater Roaring Fork Valley, including in jGlenwood Springs and Rifle.

In June 2015, the Trustees of the Town of Parachute voted 4-2 to end their ban on recreational marijuana sales in the town, opening the town to the financial benefits of the state’s booming new legal marijuana economy.

It’s no wonder Parachute is celebrating the store’s opening, too. After suffering losses of tax revenue and jobs as a result of the latest downturn in the oil and gas industries, a new 3.5 percent tax on the Green Joint’s sales will go to support support the town’s schools, law enforcement, firefighting and other city services.

Mesa County and Grand Junction remain unable to take advantage of the booming new marijuana economy, since both jurisdictions have banned retail recreational marijuana within their borders, with the exception of incorporated towns within Mesa County, which can make their own rules regarding whether or not to allow marijuana sales.

Main source: New Recreational Marijuana Shop, KREX TV, December 17, 2015,

The Problems with Mixing Religion and Government in Mesa County & Grand Junction

“Sad, that their choice was taken away…. No one had to take a Bible if they didn’t want one. All through life you have to make life decisions. This would have been a good life training to stand up as an individual and say ‘no thank you.’ ”

The above was a comment left on a previous blog about the Gideon Bible giveaway that was to take place at the Colorado Mesa University’s nursing program pinning ceremony December 11. This commenter, and others who wrote in a similar vein, show there is a fundamental misunderstanding about U.S. government locally, and about the nature of the U.S. government and the benefits of keeping church and state separate.

churchstateMany people mistakenly claim the U.S.was “founded as a Christian nation,” and point to our country’s founding documents as proof.

They need to look more closely.

The U.S. Constitution contains no mention of “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ” or any other deity. The founders intentionally designed it as a completely secular document. The Declaration of Independence does mention a generic “Creator,” but the Declaration is not U.S. law. It was a letter addressed to the King of England. Many people confuse the two documents. The difference between them is huge. The only document that has the force of law behind it is the Constitution. It’s the only one that really matters.

The Bill of Rights is similarly secular, with no mention of a god or gods, lords or deities. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, contained in the Bill of Rights, provides for a separation between religion and government. This provision truly sets the United States apart from other countries.

Mesa County Missing Out On State’s Pot Bonanza

Mesa County's economy languishes while the rest of the state thrives (Photo credit: KKCO 11 News)

Mesa County’s economy languishes while the rest of the state booms (Photo credit: KKCO 11 News)

Recent news reports tell of the Mesa County Commissioners’ current struggle to deal with a $3 million budget deficit due to decreasing tax revenue. At the same time, Grand Junction City Councilors, citing a lack of tax revenue, turn down a chance to host the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a potentially huge economic boon and an event that could draw favorable domestic and international media coverage for the city.

The economy remains bad and getting worse on other fronts in Mesa County, too. Last June, Mesa County saw its biggest jump in unemployment in 12 months, rising 6.6 percent in June alone. The lost jobs are attributed to low gas prices and continuing cutbacks in the oil and gas field, which has a long history locally of being an unreliable, employer locally.

At the same time that Mesa County’s economy is circling the drain, unemployment rates in the rest of the state are tumbling and, according to the Denver Post, have reached new lows not seen since the dot-com boom in the 1990s. Front range rents are high, vacancies are low and by all accounts other parts of the state are buzzing with new and growing economic activity.

So why is Mesa County languishing amid the state’s overall economic bonanza?

Things are bad here in large part because the Mesa County Commissioners and Grand Junction City Council are barring citizens in our area the ability to participate in the booming new marijuana economy.