Category: Separation of Church and State

The Grand Junction Area Chamber’s long track record of harmful candidate endorsements

Longtime Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke

Local candidates usually tout their endorsements by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, but the Chamber’s long track record of endorsing deeply flawed candidates shows that candidates should run from a Chamber endorsement as fast as they can, or at least politely decline it.

Observation of the Chamber’s endorsements going back a decade reveals that the Chamber does not evaluate candidates based on criteria like experience, background, education, knowledge or qualifications to hold office. Rather, the Chamber only considers a candidate’s political and religious ideology before endorsing them.

This extraordinarily narrow criteria has resulted in a flawed process that has proven detrimental to our community many, many times over.

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters is on a mission from God, says “It just didn’t make sense” that the people who won the last G.J. City Council election actually won

In a new video posted on the website of the “Truth and Liberty Coalition,” Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters alleges that the people who won seats on the Grand Junction City Council in the last election were “falsely elected” and that “people have been put into elected positions that really did not win the election.”

It is unclear exactly when the video was recorded, but estimates are it was within the last three days.

Peters was interviewed by televangelist Andrew Wommack, and appears with Sheronna Bishop, former campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert. Several times in the video Peters indicates that God is on her side and is and directing her efforts to prove Mesa County elections are corrupt. She also says that she was “shocked” that certain people won the last Grand Junction City Council election because “It just didn’t make sense … that these people won.” She added that she was also motivated by an unnamed number of citizens who came to her saying “this is impossible” that the candidates who won in the City Council election had actually won.

Rep. Lauren Boebert wants government to take orders from the church

U.S. House Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, speaking at a conference held September 13 by the Truth and Liberty Coalition, cast Democrats as the  enemy and called on God to remove ungodly leaders in Washington, D.C. and instead “install righteous men and women of God” who understand that government should be taking orders from the church, and not the other way around. 

“It’s time the church speaks up. The church has relinquished too much authority to government. We should not be taking orders from the government; the government needs to be looking at the church and saying, ‘How do we do this effectively?”

Delta County right wingers fight the prospect of teaching medically-accurate sex ed in Delta schools; Gay groups to rally in support this Thursday

Conservatives in Delta are working to oppose the teaching of medically-accurate sex ed in Delta County schools

Delta County conservatives are in a tizzy over the prospect that their school district may implement a medically-accurate, comprehensive sex education curriculum in compliance with a new Colorado law passed in 2019.

Until recently, the Delta County Schools’ only consistent “sex education” curriculum consisted of presentations by a woman named Shelly Donahue, a Christian abstinence-only speaker whose talk relied heavily on shame, guilt and medically-inaccurate information. Donahue likened girls brains to cooked spaghetti and boys brains to toaster waffles. The slides in her show were sprinkled with crosses, and she told kids that having premarital sex put them “further from God.” Donahue’s $2,000 speaking fee was picked up by a Christian missionary group. One Oklahoma school district has banned Donahue from speaking because students said her talks were demeaning to girls and children from broken homes. (For more on Shelly Donahue and the Delta County School District, search on “Shelly Donahue” in the AnneLandmanblog search box on right side of any page.)

Why installing Rose Pugliese as County Attorney is a crazy mistake

Rose Pugliese is the sole finalist being considered for County Attorney.

A top headline in yesterday’s Daily Sentinel announced that former Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese is the sole finalist for the job of Mesa County Attorney, which, as of 2019 was the highest-paid job in the County.

Based on Pugliese’s qualifications, or lack thereof, this is nothing short of crazy, and it smacks loudly of cronyism by Mesa County’s Old Guard Republican Establishment (OGREs).

Pugliese won consideration as sole contender for the job despite having a track record that would probably get the rest of us fired.

Oh, where to begin?

Mesa County Commissioners use taxpayer money to recruit evangelical Christian foster families

Janet Rowland’s religious nonprofit got $57,360 in taxpayer funds in 2017  to recruit Christian foster families and place adopted kids in religious homes. (Photo: KKCO 11 News)

Newly-discovered Mesa County documents (pdf) reveal that in 2017, the Board of County Commissioners handed over $57,000 in taxpayer funds to a Christian organization represented by Janet Rowland for the purpose of recruiting solely evangelical Christian foster families in Mesa County.

Rose Pugliese, John Justman and Scott McInnis — all Republicans — unanimously agreed to enter into a contract (pdf) to pay $57,360 in taxpayer funds to Project 1.27, a Christian ministry that works through churches to recruit religious foster and adoptive families to assure children are “cared for within Christian communities.”

Janet Rowland was Project 1.27’s national director.

The group engages in  “[foster] training with a solid Christian perspective,” and provides training to “Christian parents wishing to foster and adopt.” The group’s website makes no mention of recruiting families belonging to any other religions or of no religion.

The county’s contract required 20 hours a month be spent on “faith based recruitment.”

Project 1.27’s website only addresses recruitment of Christian families, saying they provide “state-required, biblically-based training for Christian parents wishing to foster and adopt.”

This is misleading since legally, no state can require “biblically-based training” in anything. Project 1.27’s website does not say it is open to recruitment of families from any other religion, or non-religious families.

Election worker at Clifton Christian Church polling place tells voter he should “attend church on Sundays”

This is what we were afraid of when it became known that Mesa County was using churches as polling places.

When a local man went to the polling place in the Clifton Christian Church and mentioned he preferred that the county use non-religious locations as polling places, the poll worker pulled out the snark and told him he should “attend church on Sundays.”

Government is strictly prohibited under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment from promoting specific religious beliefs, like this poll worker did while she was representing County government.

The poll worker violated the voter’s right to be free from religious coercion in a polling place. 

But we knew this would happen.

More about Janet Rowland when she was county commissioner the last time

First part of 2008 Daily Sentinel article showing how then-County Commissioner Janet Rowland used her religion to grandstand, portray herself as a martyr prior to an election and bring threats of lawsuits against the county.

Janet Rowland is running for Mesa County commissioner again, after having been a two-term Commissioner already from 2004-2012. Because of her past in that elected office, we have a historic record showing what she will be like in office if she gets elected again.

For the sake of the county and its taxpayers, it’s probably not something we want to go through again.

In new documentary, “Jane Roe” of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision reveals she was paid to switch sides in the abortion debate


In a new documentary released Friday, May 22, Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe V. Wade, reveals that she was paid by anti-abortion factions to switch her position from supporting to opposing abortion rights for women.

School’s social media post violates separation of church and state, was removed hours later

Graham Mesa Elementary School’s religious Facebook post that prompted complaint

The principal of a public western slope elementary school posted a message on the school’s Facebook page April 11 that overtly endorsed Christianity in violation of the separation of church and state.

Brian Sprenger, the Principle of Graham Mesa Elementary School in Rifle, posted an Easter greeting on the school’s Facebook page yesterday evening with a photo of four children posing jubilantly in the driveway of a home with huge, chalk images of multiple large Christian crosses and the equally huge message “He is Risen.”

State to give free money to CO public schools to teach medically-accurate sex ed

 

Republican Colorado State Senator Don Coram, a rancher from Montrose, sponsored the legislation creating the grant program

Delta County School District 50J, are you listening?

For the first time, the State of Colorado is offering free money (pdf) and plenty of it to school districts to teach medically-accurate, comprehensive, culturally-sensitive and inclusive sexual education.

Last May, Governor Polis signed the Youth Wellness Act, (pdf) HB19-1032, that provides the funds and requirements for eligible curriculum.

Believe it or not, HB19-1032  was sponsored in part by Montrose rancher and Republican State Senator Don Coram.

Western slope nonprofit group encourages people to report violations of separation of church and state

The western slope’s nonprofit watchdog organization Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) encourages people to report violations of separation of church and state in places like public schools and at local government meetings, so they can address the violations.

Past violations reported to WCAF have included a Mesa County Commissioner praying to Jesus Christ at the start of public hearings, a Delta county middle school student being forced to watch a nativity play after asking to opt out, a Delta County middle school teacher hosting weekly Bible study classes in his own classroom immediately before school and handing out free doughnuts to students who attended, Fellowship Church promoting its youth indoctrination center in a Mesa County middle school by showing a video about it during gym period and handing students admission slips to the facility afterward, a Mesa County elementary school student being told by a lunch aide in the cafeteria in front of her friends that she MUST believe in God “because God created everything,” a Delta County high school student having her grades slashed and college grant applications sabotaged for reporting Christian proselytizing going on within the  school system, Colorado Mesa University students having Gideon Bibles foisted on them as they stepped off the dais at their graduation ceremony, a Delta County Middle School teacher telling her class that “non-Christians are bad people” and “the bombers aren’t Christians,” quoting the Bible in class, and much more.

Winter solstice billboard graces entry to town, thanks to Grand Junction’s growing secular community

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) is running it’s annual wintertime billboard celebrating the solstice on the digital billboard facing west on I-70 Business Loop in front of Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A at Rimrock Marketplace. At a recent meeting, WCAF members estimated that approximately 15-20% of western Colorado residents are non-religious and identify as atheists, agnostics, humanists or freethinkers.

Beware electing Janet Rowland as county commissioner again

Former County Commissioner Janet Rowland (January 2005 – January 2013) once compared same-sex marriage to bestiality on a state-wide talk show, drawing condemnation from around the nation.

Janet Rowland is running for Mesa County Commissioner.

Yes, again.

She’s already been a Mesa County Commissioner — from January, 2005 to January, 2013 — but that doesn’t mean her being commissioner again is a good idea. It arguably is not a good idea. From her previous two terms, we have an abundance of experience with her and know what is in store if Janet Rowland gets another chance to be Commissioner. 

So let’s take a look at the past and see what it tells us.

Morally and ethically challenged

Certainly Janet has done some good things through her career, like trying to address child abuse and finding homes for foster kids. While those endeavors are laudable, we also need to take into account all the things she’s done that have set a poor example for kids, and our entire community and that have harmed the County.

Plagiarism

Shortly after losing statewide election for lieutenant governor as Bob Beauprez’s running mate in 2006, and while she was previously Mesa County Commissioner, Janet was a guest columnist for the Grand Junction Free Press, at the time a competing newspaper to the Daily Sentinel. She wrote several articles for the Free Press until one day a sharp reader noticed Janet had lifted most of one of her columns word for word from a government-published pamphlet, and brought this information to the attention of the Free Press’s editor.

 

Feb. 3, 2007 column in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel about Janet Rowland plagiarizing a guest column she wrote for the G.J. Free Press.

The Daily Sentinel reported on Rowland’s plagiarism on February 3, 2007:

A Mesa County official has plagiarized a government substance abuse booklet in her two most recent columns in the Grand Junction Free Press, that newspaper’s editor confirmed Friday.

The majority of Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland’s Feb. 1 column in the Free Press, titled “The importance of a strong parent-child bond,” was lifted verbatim from a 2006 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism publication titled, “Making a Difference: Talk to Your Teen About Alcohol.”

A reading of Rowland’s unattributed column and the text of the booklet revealed the two are virtually identical. The only differences were found in the column’s first sentence and its lead into several bullet points.

The editor said if Rowland had been a staff writer, she probably would have been fired.

 

Janet’s first reaction to the plagiarism charge was to claim she couldn’t even remember writing the columns. (Denial.) When that failed to tamp down the controversy, she next said the information she used in her columns had been intended for “mass duplication anyhow,” adding that if people wanted to make what she did out as something evil, that was THEIR prerogative. (Sour grapes.) Next, she blamed the plagiarism on others, saying she had included the necessary attributions in her column, but Free Press staff had edited them out. (Lying and blaming.) Free Press management quickly produced the emails that contained the articles exactly as they had received them from Janet for publication, showing that they contained no references or attributions.

Oklahoma is just the beginning of what life will be like under Republican rule

Oklahoma Republicans just passed a mind-blowingly strict law that makes abortion illegal in virtually every circumstance, effectively terminating the right of women in the state to control their own bodies and reproductive fate.

Oklahoma wasn’t alone in this, either. Other Republican-dominated states are also enacting extremely strict laws that effectively make abortion illegal, with some banning the procedure as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Republicans base these laws on their belief that a fetus is a fully legal person entitled to all the rights and privileges that all legal American citizens enjoy.

But if actually put into effect, what do these beliefs really portend for life in America?

Colorado bill would prohibit teaching religious doctrine in public school sex ed curriculum

Colorado State Senator Don Coram

Delta County School District, are you listening?

Colorado State Senator Don Coram, a Republican who represents Montrose and Ouray counties, is a sponsor of HB19-1032, “Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education,” a bill to prohibit sex ed instruction in K-12 public schools from “explicitly or implicitly teaching or endorsing religious ideology or sectarian tenets or doctrines, using shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools, employing gender norms or gender stereotypes, or excluding the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals.”

The bill would appropriate least $1 million annually for a grant program to carry out the new law, and it would give highest priority for the grant funds to rural public schools.

Why is this bill needed? Because of the Delta County School District.

Local students win essay contest awards of $500 and $250

An awards ceremony will be held tomorrow, Sunday, March 31 at 1:15 p.m. in the Monument Room of the downtown Mesa County Public Library to announce the winners of Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers‘ 2018 Student Essay Contest.

The contest, announced last September, was open to all middle and high school students in Mesa County. The topic for submissions was the importance of separation of church and state to our country, and our democracy.

A student from Grand Junction High School won the high school award of $500 and a student from Redlands Middle School won the middle school award of $250.

Grand Junction wants to increase its sales tax, but it should stop wasting existing funds and tap obvious sources of new revenue first

As a liberal progressive voter, I believe it is our patriotic duty to pay taxes for public amenities that make our quality of life great, like public safety.

This coming April, though, Grand Junction City Council will ask voters to increase the City’s combined sales tax rate from the current 8.02% to a whopping 9.16%, a rate even higher than the City of Boulder.

City Council has very good arguments for needing more money: we need more fire stations, emergency response times are too long, and we have roads and bridges in need maintenance and repair.

Of course City residents want the safety and security of these amenities, but the City hasn’t done anywhere near all it could to make the best use of revenues it already has, and to create new revenue streams to fund City necessities before it goes to City residents with a request that they pay such a big increase in city sales tax.