The weekly report on US and International policy
by Edwina Rogers
Federal Court Rules Against ‘Coercive’ Christian Prayers At Public Meetings
Secular Victory: A federal court rules “coercive” Christian prayers at public meetings in a North Carolina county are unconstitutional.
Last week a federal judge ruled that in North Carolina, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners violated the U.S. Constitution by adopting what the ACLU calls a “coercive prayer practice.”
The federal court ruled that the Rowan County Board of Commissioners violated the Constitution when they coerced public participation in prayers that overwhelmingly advanced beliefs specific to one religion – Christianity.
The ACLU reports that between 2007 and 2013, more than 97 percent of the prayers delivered by commissioners before public meetings were explicitly Christian prayers.
State Report – Anti Science Bill In Alabama
House Bill 592, introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives on April 30, 2015, and referred to the House Committee on Education Policy, would undermine the integrity of science education in the state by encouraging science teachers with idiosyncratic opinions to teach anything they pleased and prevent responsible educational authorities from intervening. Topics identified in the bill as likely to “cause debate and disputation” are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, and human cloning.” The bill was modeled on Tennessee’s “Monkey Law”, enacted in 2012.
HB 592’s lead sponsor is Mack Butler (R-District 30), who, discussing a different bill with Alabama.com (January 21, 2015), commented, “It takes a lot more faith to believe in evolution.” HB 592 is the first antiscience bill in the Alabama legislature since 2009, when HB 300, the last in a long string of. “academic freedom” bills in Alabama, failed to win passage.
Creation In British Faith Schools
“Creationism is still taught in dozens of faith schools [in the United Kingdom] despite government threats to withdraw their funding,” reports the Telegraph (May 2, 2015), describing the results of a recent investigation by the British Humanist Association.
In September 2014, the Department of Education instituted a ban on the state funding of nurseries (for children 2-4) that promote extremist views. Although the main target of the ban were “nurseries linked to radical mosques or run by Islamic hardliners,” the Telegraph (August 7, 2014) noted, “Nurseries that teach creationism as scientific fact will be ineligible for taxpayer funding, under the new rules.”
Before the ban was instituted, the British Humanist Association identified ninety-one schools of concern. Subsequently, in January 2015, the BHA sent freedom of information requests to local authorities to ascertain whether those schools were still receiving state funds. Only fourteen of the ninety-one schools in fact lost their funding. Fifty-one schools still receiving funding were regarded as likely to be teaching creationism.
The BHA’s Pavan Dhaliwal told the Telegraph, “It is hugely disappointing … to discover that creationist schools have continued to receive state funds since the ban on their doing so came into force” and called on the Department of Education to address the situation.
California PTA Weighs In On Climate Change
California State PTA adopted a resolution on climate change and climate change education — entitled “Climate Change is a Children’s Issue” — at its annual convention in Sacramento, California, on May 2, 2015.
Observing that there is broad scientific consensus on climate change and the role of human activity in causing global warming, the resolution calls for the California State PTA to “urge its units, councils and districts to educate parents on the impact of climate change on children’s health and future welfare” and for school districts to “educate students on climate and energy literacy and human sustainability.”
NCSE’s Minda Berbeco spoke in favor of the resolution, saying, “It is the mission of the California PTA to positively impact the lives of all children and families. By passing this resolution, we are telling our children, their teachers, and their schools that we, as their parents and guardians, are here for them, to support them as they learn how to navigate the challenges ahead and protect their future. I can’t imagine a more important positive impact.”
California State PTA involves nearly one million Californians who support the education and well-being of children in the state.
The square miles of Arctic sea ice in March 2015, the smallest recorded since satellite technology was introduced.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration