Church and State: December 2006 Archives

December 23, 2006

British public: religion is dangerous

United Kingdom: Religion is a force for harm, not good, and non-believers make up the majority of the population according to a poll published in today's Guardian.

The poll also reveals that non-believers outnumber believers in Britain by almost two to one. It paints a picture of a sceptical nation with massive doubts about the effect religion has on society: 82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16% disagree. The findings are at odds with attempts by some religious leaders to define the country as one made up of many faith communities.

Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% of those questioned describing themselves as a religious person. A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious - including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian.

The response from the Church of England has been to stick its fingers in its ears and cry Nyaah! Nyaah! Can't hear you!.

But a spokesman for the Church of England denied yesterday that mainstream religion was the source of tension. He also insisted that the impression of secularism in this country is overrated.

He went on to claim that 1 million people (1.6% of the population) attend CofE services each week. As Charles Stross points out, this is far fewer than watch SF and fantasy on TV:

Yeah, right. You speak for an organization that has an audience draw 40% that of a Terry Pratchett mini-series on Sky TV. Doctor Who has a 4:1 lead over the C of E in regular audience terms. Maybe we should give Russell T. Davis four seats in the House of Lords?

Religion does more harm than good - pollThe Guardian, 23rd December 2006.

December 9, 2006

Onion gravy is traditional, but cranberry sauce is nice

United States: Some schools have a system whereby non-profit organisations may give flyers to schoolchildren. A recent court ruling affirmed that, to avoid church and state issues, the system had to be made available to all non-profits, or none at all. The case was brought by an organisation run by preacher Jerry Falwell.

The dispute started last summer when Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski, twins who attend Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church's Vacation Bible School to their peers via backpack mail. Many public schools use special folders placed in student backpacks to distribute notices about schools events and sometimes extra-curricular activities to parents.

School officials originally denied the request from the twins' father, Ray Rakoski, citing a school policy barring distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes.

A Charlottesville weekly newspaper, The Hook, reports that Rakoski sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county, and the policy was soon revised to allow religious groups to use the backpack mail system. Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal group founded by Mathew Staver and now affiliated with Falwell.

So, when a Unitarian Universalist congregation used the system to advertise an event about the pagan origins of Christmas, followed by a Yule celebration, who got all upset about it? Yep, Christians.

Suddenly not everyone was pleased by the open forum. Jeff Riddle, pastor of Jefferson Park Baptist Church in Charlottesville, wrote on his personal blog, If the school allows the Baptist or Methodist church to send home a note to its students about Vacation Bible School, it also has to allow the Unitarian Church to send home a note about its 'Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule'....This kind of note adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools).

Another conservative Christian blogger in the county complained about finding the flier in her child's folder. Apparently unaware of Falwell's role in bringing it about, the blogger who goes by the name Cathy, noted disclaimer language at the bottom of the flier noting that the event is not connected to the school and wrote, They [the school officials] aren't endorsing or sponsoring this? Then it shouldn't have been included in the Friday folders. The Friday folders have never been used for any thing other than school work and school board and/or County sanctioned/sponsored programs.

And the stushie soon came to the notice of the fundies at World Net Daily:

Amazing — government schools ban orthodox Christianity, but allow an openly pagan organization to proselytize six-year-olds! one observer who asked for anonymity told WND...

The banner also displays three symbols: a cross, a Star of David and a pentagram — a star enclosed in a circle — often associated with paganism, witches groups such as Wicca, and even Satanism.

At least the World Nut Daily can tell the difference between a pentacle and a pentagram, unlike most Neopagans these days.

Andrew Ian Dodge also pointed me towards a forum discussion of the issue, where one or two people were a little upset about it.

I'm shocked that people think this would hold up. What about local control? Aren't local standards used to define what is obscene?

I thank God for Christian schools!

Obviously, the obscenity in question must be the gruesome method of execution depicted on the flyer.

Falwell’s Flub: Jerry-Rigged Policy Opens Door For Pagan Proselytizing In Virginia Public SchoolThe Wall of Separation, 5th December 2006;Pagan Christmas ritual pressed on young kidsWorld Net Daily, 8th December 2006.

December 8, 2006

Grauniad miscelleny

The Guardian has published a number of stories of interest recently.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Church and State category from December 2006.

Church and State: November 2006 is the previous archive.

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