Tag: Separation of Church and State

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.

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.”

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.

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers’ 2019 Student Essay Contest is ON, and the prizes are terrific.

Kids: want to make some easy money?

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF), is announcing its 2019 Student Essay Contest. The winning high school student gets $500 and the winning middle school student gets $250, and all this just for writing a short but insightful essay.

This year WCAF invites students from Delta County middle and high schools to participate, as well as all middle and high school students from Mesa County. Students in DeBeque, Plateau Valley and Gateway are all eligible to enter, as long as they are in middle or high school range.

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.

Liberals, be very proud of who you are

Mesa County vehicle that displays enmity towards liberal and progressive residents

Right wingers often disparage political liberals in western Colorado with nasty names like “libtard” and “snowflake.” Some even claim without foundation that liberalism is a “mental disorder.”

But being politically liberal is a profoundly positive thing. 

Why?

Because liberals have made most of the progress in American society.

Celebrate the National Day of Reason Thursday, May 3, 2018

The first Thursday in May of every year is the National Day of Reason, a celebration that coincides with the National Day of Prayer, which encourages Americans to pray to God for peace and prosperity for the nation. A big problem with the National Day of Prayer, though, is that it excludes almost a quarter of the U.S. population that doesn’t belong to any religion or doesn’t believe in God. That’s a whole lot of people to leave out of a national celebration.

City Council chooses to keep mostly Christian prayers at public meetings

“We say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” — City council members bow their heads during Christian prayers at a public meeting at City Hall, September 2, 2015

At their workshop Monday evening, Grand Junction City Council decided mixing religion with government was a good thing to do, and they would continue to do it.

City Manager Greg Caton told council members the City’s invocation policy dates back to 2008, saying they all inherited the practice. Council had an opportunity Monday at their workshop to discontinue prayers at City Council meetings and avoid further controversy over the City’s persistent endorsement of religion, modify the current policy or substitute a moment of silence instead.

But history shows the City of Grand Junction always has a hard time coming into the 21st Century.

Grand Junction City Council has an opportunity to end divisive religious invocations at public meetings. Let’s hope they do.

The Devil is among the many diverse religious players who are likely to get more chances to say invocations at City Council meetings, unless the invocation is eliminated entirely or the invocation policy is changed changed to a moment of silence instead of prayers.

Grand Junction City Council plans to re-assess the issue of hosting religious invocations at public meetings at their Monday, March 5 workshop.

Grand Junction made history in 2017 as the first city in Colorado host a Satanic invocation at a City Council meeting. News of the event spread across the country, and the story even made it onto Russia Today’s news website, RT.
How could something like this happen?
Under pressure from the City’s secular community to abide by the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, in 2008 the City of Grand Junction adopted an invocation policy that opened up the invocation to anyone, instead of reserving the opportunity to say it only to representatives of a few selected religious groups. Over the last ten years, the new policy has resulted in the City making history  with invocations given by atheists, Satanists and anarchists.
But the most prominent non-Christian invocation — a Satanic invocation last August, and all the hoopla that surrounded it — TV news cameras, prayer circles at City Hall and Bible-toting people in the audience — seems to have made Council interested in revising their invocation policy.

The dangers of June Fellhauer’s 2018 talk by Caroline Leaf, promoted by District 51

WakeUp Ministries’ promotion of Caroline Leaf’s talk

Local self-styled Christian missionary June Fellhauer is back in 2018 and this time, her unregistered nonprofit Wake Up Ministries sponsored a talk at Two Rivers Convention Center on January 12 by  Dr. Caroline Leaf, another Christian missionary.

Caroline Leaf labels herself a “cognitive neuroscientist.” Her teachings are aimed at helping people “see the link between science and God as a tangible way of controlling their thoughts and emotions.”  Dr. Leaf’s talked are based on her own idea that “the mind controls the brain.” She teaches that thoughts are the sole controller of our physical and mental health, that “toxic thinking is the root cause disease” and that thoughts can change our DNA.

The problem is, most of Leaf’s teachings are debunked by science.

What Roy Moore and Grand Junction City Council have in common

Roy Moore

Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican senatorial candidate accused of sexual predation, brings thoughts right back here to Grand Junction, because Moore and Grand Junction have two big things in common.

They are 1) the Ten Commandments, and 2) an eagerness to defy U.S. law.

Moore was twice thrown out of his job as Chief Justice for the state of Alabama for defying U.S. law. After the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark ruling legalizing gay marriage, Moore ordered the state’s probate court judges not to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. A commission charged him with violating federal judicial orders and kicked him off the court in 2016. That was the second time Moore was ejected for violating the law.

Read the fine print: Republican “tax reform” bill injects religious dogma into the tax code

You don’t typically think of a tax reform bill as a vehicle to push a religious agenda onto the rest of the country, but Trump’s “tax reform” bill does exactly that.

Buried deep inside the Republicans’ proposed “tax reform” bill is a provision conferring rights on “unborn children,” which the bill defines as “a child in utero…a member of the species Homo Sapiens, at any stage of development.” The provision appears on page 93 of the 429-page bill, in a section amending the rules on “529 plans,” which are tax-free investment accounts that allow families to save for a child’s college education. People have long been able to set up 529 plans for children that don’t yet exist, but changing the wording of the law intentionally enshrines recognition of the unborn into federal law, something anti-abortion activists and supporters of fetal “personhood” have long sought to do.

Trump’s tax reform bill is full of tricks

Cidney Fisk Sues the Delta County School District

Cidney Fisk, speaking at California Freethought Day last fall

Cidney Fisk filed a lawsuit (pdf) Monday, September 25, 2017, against the Delta County Joint School District 50J for sabotaging her grades and college scholarship opportunities because of opinions she expressed publicly while in their school system, and due to her atheistic beliefs. She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for economic and emotional distress.

Cidney appeared on the front page of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on April 1, 2016, criticizing the Delta County School District (DCSD) for persistent Christian proselytizing on school grounds during school hours. After she was quoted in the paper, her counselors threatened to tank her college scholarships and her teachers gave her failing grades. Cidney was an A+ student throughout her time in high school, was on the debate team, served in student government as treasurer, wrote for the school paper and had amassed over 400 hours of community service by the time she was a senior.

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.