Tag: religion

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

Republican Kook Runs for Mesa County Commissioner Against Justman

Mesa County Commissioner District 1 candidate John Davis ran for President of the United States in 2012

Mesa County Commissioner District 1 candidate John Davis in front of his eponymously-painted motorcoach when he ran for President of the United States in 2012

Another doozy of a Republican candidate is running for local office, this time against Mesa County Commissioner District 1 incumbent John Justman.

It’s John Davis.

The local Republican Party just keeps them coming, don’t they?

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.

Groups Seek to Distribute Atheist and Satanic Literature to Delta Middle School Students

The Satanic Temple's Children's BIG BOOK of Activities

The Satanic Temple’s Children’s BIG BOOK of Activities

A locally-produced brochure about atheism called “It’s Okay to Not Believe in God” (pdf), the Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities and other literature critical of the Bible and Christianity will be distributed to Delta Middle School (DMS) students if the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) gets their way.

Three groups — the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers and the Satanic Temple — have all submitted literature to Delta public schools for approval for distribution in an effort to get Delta County Schools to stop distributing Gideon Bibles to students during class time.

Community Hospital: a Welcome Secular Option for Mesa County

The entry hallway of the new Community Hospital building on G Road near 24 Road

The entry hallway of the new Community Hospital building on G Road near 24 Road

Community Hospital will open its long-awaited new hospital on G Road near 24 Road on March 17.

It’s a gorgeous building, with beautiful main hallways, state-of-the art equipment, large windows on every floor, wonderful views and tons of light. It has 44 private rooms and a new labor and delivery center with extra beds for family members and jacuzzi tubs, all inside each of the exclusive individual birthing suites. The new emergency room is much bigger and better equipped than the old building’s, and the hospital has lots comfy waiting areas throughout for families and friends of patients.

The hospital employees who took the time last Saturday to give the public tours of the new building were enthusiastic about the move to the new facility and obviously very dedicated to their jobs.

A Very Important Option

In addition to its great new building, Community Hospital also offers Mesa County residents another very important value: it’s a secular (non-religious) hospital that can offer full service medical care to everyone.

St. Mary’s Hospital and Medical Center, a Catholic facility, is the biggest hospital between Denver and Salt Lake City, but because what happens at St. Mary’s is guided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (pdf) rather than by the most informed decisions of doctors, Catholic hospitals can deny people access to many important and necessary health care services and procedures.

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.”

Teacher Reports Walking in on Bible Study Session in a GJHS Classroom

GJXCFRONTA teacher reported to Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) that she accidentally stumbled into a Bible study group being held at Grand Junction High School on Tuesday, January 12 during lunchtime in an Advanced Placement (AP) English classroom. The teacher who walked in on the group was looking for a microwave oven to heat up lunch.

According to the teacher who walked in on the prayer group, the English teacher whose room it was in was present at the study session and sat, without interacting, while a younger man was talking. The identity of the younger man who was speaking was unclear, and it is unknown if he was a teacher, an older student, or from off campus. The Bible study session was being held in a room in the northern-most block of classrooms to the east of the main building, in the part of school that holds language arts and some science class rooms.

Teachers Cannot Lead, Organize, or Participate in Prayer with Students

The U.S. Department of Education Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, states that under the law, teachers cannot lead or organize prayers, or participate with students in prayers on school grounds during school time.

District 51 Distributes Flier for Christian Event Targeting Adolescent Girls

June Fellhauer, the local religious woman behind the "Sleeping Beauty" Christian worship event at CMU for adolescent girls. [From a July, 2015 YouTube video titled "Women's Purpose."]

June Fellhauer, the Grand Junction woman behind the “Sleeping Beauty” Christian worship event at CMU aimed at adolescent girls and preserving their “purity.” [From a July, 2015 YouTube video titled “Women’s Purpose.”]

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers was contacted by a Mesa Valley School District 51 parent who is upset over an ad for a Christian religious event targeting young girls that she received through the email system District 51 uses to send electronic fliers home to parents.
The flier promotes a Christian Bible study event for adolescent girls to be held at Colorado Mesa University called “Wake Up Sleeping Beauty: Worship At His Feet.”
The flier contains white text overlaid on a pink silhouette of a girl’s face that says,
“As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Luke 7:38.”

A Talk With a Grand Junction Jehovah’s Witness-Turned-Atheist

Andrew Vodopich

Andrew Vodopich, a life-long Jehovah’s Witness, left the religion to become an atheist

For most of his life Andrew Vodopich of Grand Junction was a devoted Jehovah’s Witness. His parents were raised in the faith, they raised Andrew in the faith, and like a good child he became a devout believer himself. For most of his life, he never questioned what his elders told him about the world, and he hoped as all good Witnesses do, to become one of the chosen few who would make it into the coveted Kingdom of Heaven. Andrew even met and married his wife within the religion, so the religion pretty much formed the basis of Andrew’s entire life.

That was then.

In November of 2015, at age 32, Andrew suddenly left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, gave up religion entirely and became an atheist.