Category: Religion

Cidney Fisk’s First Year at University: An Update

Cidney Fisk, speaking at California Freethought Day last fall

Cidney Fisk, the former 4.0 GPA Delta High School student who risked everything in 2016 to publicly expose the pervasive Christian proselytizing and other injustices going on in Delta County’s public schools, has completed her first year at University of Denver and will soon start her second year.

Cidney paid dearly for speaking out about her public school district. She lost grants for college tuition from local funders after the Daily Sentinel published a front page article about the proselytizing which bore her photo and contained extensive quotes about what she had experienced at school. Cidney’s teachers and counselors suddenly turned their backs on her and refused to write letters of support for her applications for scholarships, effectively tanking her chances of getting those scholarships. After speaking out, Cidney struggled to cobble together enough money to attend university. Cidney is from a low income family and completely dependent on grants, loans and scholarships to fund her tuition.

Mesa County Democrats Cheered at 4th of July Parade in Grand Junction


It’s a new thing for people on Grand Junction’s Main Street to cheer the Mesa County Democrats as they pass by in the Independence Day Parade. Years ago, the Democrats’ parade entry consisted four or five people and a donkey, and the crowd was stone-faced when we walked by.

But times are changing in Mesa County.

People are starting to see that the Democratic Party (pdf) isn’t just the party that goes to bat for working people on issues like a living wage, sick pay, parental leave and a diversified economy in Mesa County. It isn’t just the party that believes everyone should be able to get the health care they need. It isn’t just the party that recognizes the value of science and technology to humanity’s future. People now seeing that the Democratic Party is the party grown-up candidates who understand and respect America’s system of government and who show respect towards all people regardless of race, religion or non-religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity.

Yes, Mesa County. That recognition is worth cheering about.

No Prayers Permitted at D-51 Graduation Ceremonies, and Schools Cannot Participate in Religious Baccalaureates. Period.

 

There is no doubt left on the matter of prayer at School District 51 graduation ceremonies:  School-sponsored prayers are not permitted at District 51 graduation ceremonies.

Some parents this year objected to prayers being included in Palisade High Schools’ graduation ceremony, and rightly so.

It violated federal law, and school district policy.

Delta County “Sex Ed” Teacher Shelly Donahue Banned from Oklahoma School District

Donahue with her bag of spaghetti, which she uses to illustrate what girls’ brains are like

A school district in Tulsa County, Oklahoma has banned sexual abstinence speaker Shelly Donahue from returning after students complained that her comments during a “sex ed” presentation were demeaning to girls and insulting to children of broken families.

The news of her being banned pertains to Colorado’s western slope because Delta County School District regularly hires Shelly Donahue to give the very same talk to Delta high school seniors.

Focus on the Bright Spots in the Election

sunrise-sunset-sun-calculatorHalf the country woke up this morning despondent, demoralized and in utter dread of what a Trump presidency will mean to this country. We’ve never had a president before who confessed on video to sexually assaulting women and who is endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. We’re about to find out what that’s like, but everyone — including conservatives — might end up being surprised by what Trump will actually do while he’s in office, since he earned a 76 to a 91% lie rate for everything he said while on the campaign trail. The New York Times even dubbed him “Lord of the Lies.” If it was the right wing’s goal to throw a molotov cocktail into the government of the country they supposedly love so much, then they succeeded.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church Delves Into Politics in Grand Junction: Is it Legal?

 

The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at H and 26 1/2 Roads in Grand Junction is irritating some people in nearby Paradise Hills with their political signs

The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at H and 26 1/2 Roads in Grand Junction is irritating some residents of Paradise Hills with their political signs. Is it illegal?

Paradise Hills residents have been contacting Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers expressing their irritation and asking if it is legal for the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, which dominates their neighborhood, to display political signs opposing Proposition 106, the “Colorado End of Life Options Act,” on their lawns along the streets on two sides of their property.

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.”

WCAF Awards Delta Student $4,325 Scholarship

Cidney Fisk gets her scholarship from WCAF. She is flanked by two family friends, WCAF Vice President Michael Avila and WCAF President Aleksandr Kolpakov

Cidney Fisk is flanked by family friends Robert Manley and Kim Pursell, WCAF Vice President Michael Avila and WCAF President Aleksandr Kolpakov, as she receives her scholarship August 15

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) today awarded Cidney Fisk, the former Delta High School student who drew the public’s attention to the rampant Christian proselytizing in Delta County Schools, a $4,325 scholarship towards her college education.

Fisk, an A+ student and captain of Delta High School’s Speech and Debate Team, contacted WCAF for help last spring with the in-school proselytizing in the Delta County public school district. Cidney knew the proselytizing was illegal and told WCAF that the school had hired Shelly Donahue, a Christian missionary, to give abstinence-only-before-marriage “sex ed” talks to high school students. Donahue’s talks were based on religious ideology, all of the slides in her talks contained religious crosses, and the talks did not contain any of the information the state requires be included in a sex ed curriculum, like information on contraceptives, STDs or HIV. Cidney also highlighted other problems with separation of church and state occurring in the Delta County School District, like youth pastors roaming campus and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting during class time.

The Daily Sentinel featured Cidney on the front page of the paper in an April 1, 2016 expose’ about the Delta County School District. Cidney endured threats and harassment as a result, and not just from her fellow students. Her high school counselor said she would “hate to see” Cidney’s chances to get scholarships harmed if Cidney kept criticizing the school, and her student government teacher gave her Fs on her projects immediately after the Sentinel article appeared. When Cidney asked her teacher why she had gotten the Fs, he told her her grades would go back up when she stopped criticizing the school. The Fs threatened her ability to get grants and scholarships to attend college. WCAF set up a scholarship fund to help Cidney, and the donations toward her scholarship poured in from all across the United States and four foreign countries, after a local blog about her predicament went viral.

Cidney will attend Denver University in September. This scholarship made it unnecessary for her to take out any loans for her first year at the school.

FFRF Warns Delta County School District to End Shelly Donahue’s “Sex Ed” Talks

Donahue with her bag of spaghetti, which she uses to illustrate what girls' brains are like

Donahue with her bag of spaghetti, which she uses to illustrate what girls’ brains are like

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has sent a letter (pdf) to the Delta County School District’s attorney warning that Shelly Donahue’s “sex ed” talks in schools there violate laws that prohibit religious proselytizing in public schools and require specific information be included in public schools’ comprehensive sex education courses.

Andrew Seidel, staff attorney with FFRF in Madison, Wisconsin, wrote to Aaron Clay, legal counsel for the Delta County School District 50J in the two-page letter that:

“Shelly Donahue’s biography on her website prominently includes her personal ‘salvation’ story and how she came to accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit into her life. While discussing her relationship with her ex-husband, Ms Donahue writes that ‘I believe that because Dave and I didn’t begin our relationship with a foundation of Biblical purity, we never connected heart-to-heart.’ That belief, and her subsequent desire to ‘fill that hole in [her] heart,’ led Ms. Donahue to develop her abstinence-only program. She also claims that a preacher and divine intervention healed her brain tumors. Finally, she proclaims, ‘I am passionately committed to Jesus Christ as the ultimate answer to ALL things, including teen sex.’ Her sex education program relies on her religiosity, not science, medical training, or specialized knowledge of the subject. Her website includes several videos of her TALL Truth presentations, which feature emphatic references to her religious views, but no discussion of STIs or contraceptives, which are essential, and state-mandated, elements of sex education.”

Seidel points out how easy it is to discern Donahue’s religious agenda from her website, and says that it is “well settled that schools may not advance or promote religion.” He cites several nationally significant legal cases in which rulings have reinforced this legal point.

Seidel wrote that,

“…In this case, it would have taken only a cursory glance at Ms. Donahue’s website to verify her religious agenda. Merely skimming her ‘About’ page reveals her inappropriateness as a speaker on sex education. It is difficult for us to understand how this event could have been approved. Your community undoubtedly possesses many secular experts who have experience, training, certification and/or degrees and would be delighted, usually at no cost to the district, to discuss the topic of sex education before your student body, and whose presence would not raise constitutional red flags.”

WCAF to Award $4,325 to Student Who Exposed Christian Proselytizing in Delta Public Schools

Cidney Fisk of Delta, Colorado

Cidney Fisk of Delta, Colorado

On Monday, August 15, 2016 Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) will award a $4,325 college scholarship to Cidney Fisk, the newly-graduated Delta High School student who exposed the pervasive Christian proselytizing in Delta County’s public schools. WCAF will hand over the check to Cidney at noon in front of Delta High School in Delta, Colorado.

Cidney is an award-winning, A+ student who excelled in speech and debate, but was punished for her opinions about the school.

The scholarship is WCAF’s largest to date. The group gave a $1,000 gift to the Mesa County Public Library Foundation in July of 2013 to help with construction of the new downtown Central Library, and in spring, 2016 donated $100 to Delta Middle School to help with minor repairs in the girls’ and boys’ restrooms in the school’s cafeteria.

Cidney graduated from Delta High School last May and was outspoken about the school bringing in Christian-based speaker Shelly Donahue, who gave an abstinence-only-before-marriage talk to students. This talk was nominally secular, but contained crucifixes in all the slides and Donahue told the students that having premarital sex “puts

A slide from Shelly Donahue's "WAIT" program shown at Delta High School in October, 2015, containing Christian crosses (crucifixes)

A slide from Shelly Donahue’s “WAIT” program shown at Delta High School in October, 2015, containing Christian crosses (crucifixes)

them further from God.” This talk the only “sex ed” most DHS students ever received from the school district, but it contained none of the state-required information about contraceptives, sexually-transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS or other information the state says public schools must give students if districts choose to teach sex education.

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.

More Government Endorsement of Religion in G.J.?

CamperPraying

Photo from the Grand Junction, CO Daily Sentinel

On Monday, July 11, 2016, the Grand Junction, CO Daily Sentinel published a photo of G.J. Police Chief John Camper praying in his uniform, at a religious event in a public park.

The event was organized by Heather Benjamin, formerly a Public Information Officer at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. It took place after the shootings of multiple police officers in Dallas, Texas just days before. It was meant to honor the victims of that mass shooting and find ways “to better connect community with law enforcement.” But it inadvertently sent a message that the GJPD prefers to be better connected with religiously-observant members of the community, rather than non-religious members.

No matter how serious or well-meaning such an event may be, Chief Camper actively praying on work time, in his uniform, on taxpayer-funded public property amounted to a government endorsement of religion, and violated the separation of church and state.

Don’t Miss the Great Debate: “Is God More Likely to Exist Than Not?”

IsGodLikelyFlier

 

Are deeply-held, popular convictions about the existence of God logical, or is there room for debate?

There’s plenty of room for debate, and that is exactly what’s going to happen on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, when Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) hosts a live, public debate about whether God is more likely to exist than not.

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the Mesa County Central Library, 443 N. 6th Street, in Grand Junction, and is free and open to the public.

Michael Conklin, who teaches Business Law at Colorado Mesa University, who will argue that God likely exists.

Arguing that God is not likely to exist is WCAF Vice President Mike Avila.

No tickets or reservations are required, and everyone is welcome. Come witness the Great Debate about the existence or non-existence of God, right here in Grand Junction!

 

What it’s Like to be a Student with a Brain in the Delta County School District

Cidney Fisk, first row on the right, in red tennies, with a group of Delta High students last April, who were recognized by the Delta County Independent for displaying "exceptional leadership, service, academic excellence, and are outstanding citizens in their school and community."

Cidney Fisk, front row on the left in red sleeved shirt and red tennies, shown with other Delta High students last April who  the Delta County Independent recognized for displaying “exceptional leadership, service, academic excellence, and [for being] outstanding citizens in their school and community.”

No one disputes that Cidney Fisk, 18, of Delta, Colorado, is among the most accomplished graduates ever turned out by the Delta County School District. But some of Cidney’s personal characteristics, including her atheism, apparently rubbed Delta High School (DHS) officials the wrong way, and she has paid dearly for it.

Delta County School District Has Lots to Answer For

DDServicesThe Delta County School District is in serious need of help.

The recent exposure of the extent of Christian proselytizing in the Delta County school system has not just raised eyebrows locally, state-wide, nationally and internationally. It has encouraged Delta area residents to come forward with their own personal stories of proselytizing and discrimination in Delta public schools and their workplaces, and how it has affected their lives.

More Info Surfaces on Delta County School District’s Promotion of Religious Ideology

Shelly Donahue, an abstinence-only teacher from Elevate Youth, a religious ministry based in Plano, Texas, who was hired to give trainings to Delta County School District Students last October

Shelly Donahue, an abstinence-only teacher from Elevate Youth, a religious ministry based in Plano, Texas, who was hired to give trainings to Delta County School District Students last October. The sole funder of the program was a religious ministry.

News about the pending distribution of atheist and Satanic literature in Delta County schools April 1 is encouraging more students, parents and even teachers to come forward with information about what they say is a persistent pattern of state/church violations, religiously-based discrimination and even outright bigotry, harassment and demeaning of atheist and non-believing students occurring within the Delta County School system.

Parents from Delta County contacted Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) Tuesday morning (3/22/16) to alert the group to what they feel is pervasive Christian proselytizing occurring in Delta County Schools. They say they and their child have suffered to a great extent from the school district’s persistent embrace of religious promotion.