EDUCATION

2014 ANNUAL REPORT ON ANTI-CATHOLICISM

March 10AR2014-Cover
Oviedo, FL – A 5-year-old kindergarten student was told that she was not allowed to pray during lunch at Carillon Elementary School. According to the girl’s account, a lunch teacher approached her as she sat and quietly bowed her head in prayer. The teacher told her that she was not allowed to pray in school. The girl responded that “it’s good to pray” and the teacher said “it’s not good.” A school spokesperson said that the staff would be reminded “if a student wishes to pray at lunch to herself we do not have a policy against that.”

March 20
Cerro Gordo, NC – A second grade student at Cerro Gordo Elementary School submitted an assignment that described Jesus as her hero, but it was rejected by her teacher. In the assignment the 8-year-old girl said “My hero is Jesus because he helps me, makes me better. He also makes good things happen.” A statement from the school denied that the assignment was not accepted, but the girl’s mother insisted that her daughter was told to write about something else.

March 25
Schenectady, NY – A substitute teacher for the Central School District was informed that she was being removed from the list of approved substitutes for having engaged in religious proselytizing. The teacher was accused of disseminating “prayer cards” to the students and discussing religious themes.

The “prayer card” in question was the size of a business card and included the verse Isaiah 43:4, “You are precious in God’s eyes.” The teacher’s supposed religious discussion consisted of mentioning to one student that her husband, a local actor, was performing in a play about St. Paul.

After the teacher’s lawyer intervened she was added back to the list of approved substitutes.

April 8
Fort Lauderdale, FL – A 12-year-old student at Park Lakes Elementary School was forced to call his parents after a teacher caught him reading his Bible during free reading time. The weekly 90 minute period allowed students to read any book of their choosing. The teacher had told the boy that he could not read the Bible during two previous sessions. After intervention from The Liberty Institute, the school responded that the boy could read the Bible, but only before and after school or during lunch.

April 11
Commack, NY – Commack High School hosted an Anti-Violence Initiative Day assembly to teach students about tolerance and respect. The assembly featured several student led presentations that discussed issues of violence and bullying. The assembly concluded with a student performing the song “Same Love.” The song included lyrics that implied that churches promote hate because they do not recognize gay marriage.

The Catholic League wrote to the school’s principal noting that the event was organized to teach tolerance and instead intolerance manifested itself. The principal called the League’s Vice President and took responsibility for the performance. She apologized and handled the entire incident in a professional manner. The school will have greater oversight of students’ performances in the future.

May 1 – 9
Pasadena, CA – Dr. Eric Walsh, director of the Pasadena Public Health Department, was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at Pasadena City College until videos surfaced of Walsh making bigoted comments about gays, Muslims and Catholics. Dr. Walsh withdrew from the graduation, but not before news of his remarks spread.

Dr. Walsh accused Catholics of idolatry for “worshipping” the Virgin Mary. Similarly, statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe, he said, were “a lie of Satan.” He also slammed and distorted the Church’s teachings on evolution. Moreover, he said the devil established Catholicism, and the pope is the “anti-Christ.”

Bill Donohue commented, “Dr. Walsh is not fit to be the head of the Pasadena Public Health Department. It is not worth attempting to rebut the man’s bigotry, so outlandish is it. Anyone whose judgment is that impaired has no legitimate role to play in public life.”

Dr. Walsh ultimately resigned as Public Health Director, but not before contributing to a major PR problem for both the department and the school.

May 5
Greenville, NC – A professor at East Carolina University sent an email asking students to submit a 35 word personal statement to be read at their graduation. The statement was supposed to “thank someone” or discuss their future plans. The professor included the instruction “you can’t thank God.”  He continued, “I’m sorry about this – and I don’t want to have to outline the reasons why.” After some students and media raised objections, the professor, Eli Hvastkovs, responded that graduation was “not a religious ceremony, it’s purely educational.”

The university’s provost later told students to ignore Hvastkovs’ guidelines, saying that “religious references of any type will not be restricted.”

May 12
Cambridge, MA – When an independent student club at Harvard University announced plans to sponsor a “Black Mass” with the Satanic Temple at an on-campus bar, the Harvard University Public Affairs and Communications Office issued a statement that emphasized the independent status of this student group. Admitting that the group planned to host “a controversial student event,” it cited, “a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibition, and a Buddhist presentation on meditation” for comparison.

The statement did not say what was “controversial” about these three events. Of greater interest to the Catholic League was the glaring omission: it never mentioned the Satanic Temple’s “Black Mass.” Yet if Shinto, Shaker and Buddhist presentations are so controversial that they demand an explanation, why wasn’t this deliberate assault on Catholic sensibilities mentioned? This was not an oversight.

On the day that the “Black Mass” was scheduled to occur (it ended up being canceled just a few hours before it was scheduled to start) Harvard’s President, Drew Faust, issued a letter condemning the event. She stated that students have freedom of speech, but she also spoke against the obscene content of this speech.

President Faust branded the mocking of the Catholic Mass “abhorrent,” saying it was “deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.”

President Faust attended a Eucharistic Holy Hour and Benediction at St. Paul’s Church on campus that evening, and she joined Catholics to denounce the event. Bill Donohue issued a response after President Faust released her letter. He commended her for her words and deeds, but said she could have done more. He drew a distinction between an arena and a university, maintaining that the latter is a community engaged in the pursuit of truth. Hence, it was not obliged to welcome speech that is wholly designed to insult.

Note: See the activist section of this report for information about the group that sponsored this event.

May 30
Winfield, WV – For the first time in over a decade, football coach Leon McCoy was not invited to speak at the Winfield High School graduation ceremony. McCoy had a history of using religious themes in past speeches, prefacing them with “if I could pray.” The school district said it had received some complaints about previous speeches given by McCoy.

June 5
Bellingham, WA – A teacher at Bellingham High School told a “joke” during an awards ceremony that was laced with profanity. The teacher, Teri Grimes, made a remark that was rank anti-Catholic bigotry. “The plane was going down and the teacher says we have to save the children,” Ms. Grimes said. “The attorney says ‘F*** the children’ and the priest says, ‘OOOOH—Do we have time for that?'”

The teacher apologized, but Bill Donohue sent a letter to the school’s principal, Mr. Jeff Vaughn, explaining that “We live in a day and age when comments such as this, if told about other segments of the population, would merit sanctions; an apology would never do. Catholics expect that the same sanctions that would be levied against a teacher who made bigoted remarks against others be applied.”

June 12
Brawley, CA – A graduating senior at Brawley Union High School was told that he was not allowed to reference God or his Christian faith during his commencement speech. The student, Brooks Hamby, submitted three different drafts of his speech to the school for approval and each time his draft was rejected. After his second draft, the school district sent him a letter advising that his “reference to religious content is inappropriate.” The third draft Hamby received back from the district superintendent, with all religious references crossed out in black.

Hamby, and his parents, were notified that if he made any religious reference during his speech, the sound would be cut off and a disclaimer announcement would be made indicating the school district’s position. Hamby reworked his speech telling his fellow graduates about his adversity dealing with the school district, and the attempts to censor his religious references. He quoted from the Bible and described it as the “biggest best-selling book of all time in history” and concluded the speech with “May the God of the Bible bless each and every one of you every day in the rest of your lives.”

June 18 – August 18
Woodbury, CT – Nonnewaug High School allegedly implemented a firewall blocking some websites it deemed “politically oriented.” Among those that were blocked was the Vatican’s website. Also blocked were the websites of the National Right to Life, National Rifle Association, Christianity.com, and many others. Websites that were not blocked, apparently because they were not “politically oriented,” included Islam-guide.com, Planned Parenthood, and lgbtqnation.com.

According to the complaining student, Andrew Lampart, a senior, he was told by Jody Ian Goeler, the Superintendent of Schools, that it was necessary to block certain websites in order to “prevent hate-speech from leeching into the school.” Lampart took his complaint to the Board of Education, and was told that his concerns merited a probe.

In an email to Goeler, Bill Donohue asked for examples of hate-speech on the Vatican website. Goeler issued a statement indicating that the software used for the firewall was under review.  Goeler stated in part, “The district is trying to determine the reason for the inconsistency and if bias is pervasive enough to justify switching to another content filtering provider” (italics added).

The School Board later issued a statement that it had consulted with Dell SonicWALL, the filtering service, and the board concluded that the problem “was a function of how the parameters were set in the filtering criteria, and we are confident it has been remedied.” In other words, they said it was Dell’s fault.

Dell explained that the school made certain choices that resulted in some sites being blocked. Here is what it said: “A school [Nonnewaug High School] had a policy to block a category of sites rated as Politics/Advocacy Groups at their site using our content filtering product. It’s important to note that our product does not come with that category turned on. The school actively turned it on.”

On July 7 the region’s Board of Education held a meeting where it discussed its Internet policies. The Board voted to contract an outside company to evaluate the systems and procedures used for filtering websites. That company would then issue recommendations and a consistent Internet policy would be developed for all of the schools under the Board’s supervision. Superintendent Goeler left the district at the end of the school year for another job in a different school district.

At the August 18 Board of Education meeting, the consultant presented its recommendations to revise the Internet policy and the Board adopted all of them.

August 20
Dyersburg, TN – A student at Dyer County High School said “bless you” after a classmate sneezed. Her teacher told her that “Godly speaking” was prohibited in class and referred to a list of banned words that included “dumb,” “stupid,” “my bad,” and “hang out.” When the student protested that she had a constitutional right to say “bless you” the teacher reportedly responded “Not in my class you don’t.” The confrontation resulted in the girl being sent to the principal’s office.

September
The California State University system began enforcing a 2011 executive order that prohibits discrimination on the basis of a number of factors, including religion, within student organizations. In order to be recognized as a student group, the organization must allow anyone to join it, and the ban on discrimination extends to leadership positions. As a result, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and other student groups lost official recognition because they required their leaders to be Christian.

The change affected 23 universities across the state and includes all student groups, clubs and teams. By losing official recognition the organizations lost access to funding and campus meeting space, standing when engaging students and faculty, and permission to distribute literature at student fairs and activities.

September 12
Oneida, TN – After receiving complaints from the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation, Oneida High School administrators ended an 80-year-old tradition of praying before football games. In place of the prayer, the public address announcer called for a moment of silence. A group of cheerleaders, however, started reciting the Our Father out loud and others joined in until eventually the entire stadium was reciting the prayer. The cheerleaders and other students hope to make this spontaneous student led prayer a new tradition during the moment of silence.

September 22
Tempe, AZ – Head varsity football coach Tom Brittain was suspended two games by Tempe Preparatory Academy, a charter school, because he prayed with players prior to games. Brittain has taught at the school for 17 years and had been previously told that he was not allowed to participate in student led prayers.

September 23
Temecula, CA – Springs Charter School revised the policy of its school library to remove all sectarian materials, which included secular books with Christian themes or by Christian authors. One book that did not make the cut was “The Hiding Place” about a Dutch Christian who was imprisoned for helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

The books that were determined to be sectarian were purged from the shelves and given away. The school’s superintendant, Kathleen Hermsmeyer, claimed that as a public school they were “barred from purchasing sectarian curriculum materials with state funds.” As a result, they would only keep books that met that standard.

Pacific Justice Institute, a religious advocacy group, filed a complaint against the school on behalf of a parent, citing a 1982 Supreme Court case that found schools could not remove books based on their message or ideas.

September 29
Colorado Springs, CO – A group of Christian students at Pine Creek High School was told that they could no longer meet to pray, sing religious songs, or discuss religious topics during school time. For three years the students had been getting together in an unused choir room during “open time” or “Seminar period.”

Both the school’s principal and assistant principal told the student leader of the group, Chase Windebank, that the students could continue to meet, but could not discuss any religious topics or pray during the Seminar period. Instead the students would have to meet before or after school to engage in those activities. The school cited separation of church and state as the rationale for their decision. The school district backed the principal’s decision. Windebank filed a federal lawsuit in relation to this matter.

October
Minneapolis, MN – Minnesota Catholic schools faced a controversy involving transgender students. Because the Minnesota State High School League was considering a policy that was written in part by LGBT activists—boys and girls may even be allowed to shower together — the Minnesota Catholic Conference got out in front of this matter by opposing any policy that committed Catholic schools to support changes in gender identity.

The new policy would require all schools, including Catholic schools, to make accommodations for transgendered student-athletes. The accommodations included allowing students of opposite genders to compete against each other, use the same locker rooms, and possibly share hotel rooms during road trips.

November 4
Fort Myers, FL – A senior at Fort Myers High School caught the first touchdown pass of his career and then knelt and pointed a finger towards heaven to thank God and remember a teammate who had died. An official assessed the student a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The team’s coach later acknowledged that the official was not at fault because the league’s rules prohibit certain actions and kneeling in prayer was a violation.

November 11
Fredericksburg, VA After the principal of Courtland High School twice denied an application from senior Madison Sutherland to organize a pro-life club at the school, Sutherland contacted the Thomas More Society. Sutherland had completed the required application, included a proposed constitution for the club and secured the backing of a faculty member to serve as advisor. She then submitted the application to the school’s principal, Larry Marks.

Marks responded that Sutherland failed to submit club bylaws, and that the club did not “bear a clear relationship to the regular school curriculum.” The Thomas More Society pointed out to Marks that the school had an equestrian club and a lacrosse club, among others, that were not related to the curriculum. At this point Marks again failed to approve the club, saying only that Sutherland needed to “fix things.”

November 11
Montgomery, MD – After a Muslim group petitioned to have their holidays included on the calendar of the Montgomery County Public School District, the county’s Board of Education voted to remove all religious references from the calendar. Holidays for Christmas, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Easter were removed. While the schools remained closed on those days, it was for administrative reasons due to high absentee rates. Even the Muslim group protested this decision as it was not a solution to their request.

December 5
Milwaukee, WI – During an “anti-harassment” training presentation at Marquette University, employees were told that merely voicing objections to gay marriage may be considered discriminatory; they were urged to report such offenses.

December 15
Phoenix, AZ – A lecturer at Arizona State University mocked Jesus and creationism while teaching a biology course. The teacher, Christofer Bang, showed a slide featuring two illustrations. One showed Charles Darwin and the words “genetics,” “adaption,” and “natural selection” along with ape-like creatures evolving into a man.  The second illustration showed a caricature of Jesus creating a man with a lightning bolt and the words “zap” and “magic.”

March 10
Oviedo, FL – A 5-year-old kindergarten student was told that she was not allowed to pray during lunch at Carillon Elementary School. According to the girl’s account, a lunch teacher approached her as she sat and quietly bowed her head in prayer. The teacher told her that she was not allowed to pray in school. The girl responded that “it’s good to pray” and the teacher said “it’s not good.” A school spokesperson said that the staff would be reminded “if a student wishes to pray at lunch to herself we do not have a policy against that.”

March 20
Cerro Gordo, NC – A second grade student at Cerro Gordo Elementary School submitted an assignment that described Jesus as her hero, but it was rejected by her teacher. In the assignment the 8-year-old girl said “My hero is Jesus because he helps me, makes me better. He also makes good things happen.” A statement from the school denied that the assignment was not accepted, but the girl’s mother insisted that her daughter was told to write about something else.

March 25
Schenectady, NY – A substitute teacher for the Central School District was informed that she was being removed from the list of approved substitutes for having engaged in religious proselytizing. The teacher was accused of disseminating “prayer cards” to the students and discussing religious themes.

The “prayer card” in question was the size of a business card and included the verse Isaiah 43:4, “You are precious in God’s eyes.” The teacher’s supposed religious discussion consisted of mentioning to one student that her husband, a local actor, was performing in a play about St. Paul.

After the teacher’s lawyer intervened she was added back to the list of approved substitutes.

April 8
Fort Lauderdale, FL – A 12-year-old student at Park Lakes Elementary School was forced to call his parents after a teacher caught him reading his Bible during free reading time. The weekly 90 minute period allowed students to read any book of their choosing. The teacher had told the boy that he could not read the Bible during two previous sessions. After intervention from The Liberty Institute, the school responded that the boy could read the Bible, but only before and after school or during lunch.

April 11
Commack, NY – Commack High School hosted an Anti-Violence Initiative Day assembly to teach students about tolerance and respect. The assembly featured several student led presentations that discussed issues of violence and bullying. The assembly concluded with a student performing the song “Same Love.” The song included lyrics that implied that churches promote hate because they do not recognize gay marriage.

The Catholic League wrote to the school’s principal noting that the event was organized to teach tolerance and instead intolerance manifested itself. The principal called the League’s Vice President and took responsibility for the performance. She apologized and handled the entire incident in a professional manner. The school will have greater oversight of students’ performances in the future.

May 1 – 9
Pasadena, CA – Dr. Eric Walsh, director of the Pasadena Public Health Department, was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at Pasadena City College until videos surfaced of Walsh making bigoted comments about gays, Muslims and Catholics. Dr. Walsh withdrew from the graduation, but not before news of his remarks spread.

Dr. Walsh accused Catholics of idolatry for “worshipping” the Virgin Mary. Similarly, statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe, he said, were “a lie of Satan.” He also slammed and distorted the Church’s teachings on evolution. Moreover, he said the devil established Catholicism, and the pope is the “anti-Christ.”

Bill Donohue commented, “Dr. Walsh is not fit to be the head of the Pasadena Public Health Department. It is not worth attempting to rebut the man’s bigotry, so outlandish is it. Anyone whose judgment is that impaired has no legitimate role to play in public life.”

Dr. Walsh ultimately resigned as Public Health Director, but not before contributing to a major PR problem for both the department and the school.

May 5
Greenville, NC – A professor at East Carolina University sent an email asking students to submit a 35 word personal statement to be read at their graduation. The statement was supposed to “thank someone” or discuss their future plans. The professor included the instruction “you can’t thank God.”  He continued, “I’m sorry about this – and I don’t want to have to outline the reasons why.” After some students and media raised objections, the professor, Eli Hvastkovs, responded that graduation was “not a religious ceremony, it’s purely educational.”

The university’s provost later told students to ignore Hvastkovs’ guidelines, saying that “religious references of any type will not be restricted.”

May 12
Cambridge, MA – When an independent student club at Harvard University announced plans to sponsor a “Black Mass” with the Satanic Temple at an on-campus bar, the Harvard University Public Affairs and Communications Office issued a statement that emphasized the independent status of this student group. Admitting that the group planned to host “a controversial student event,” it cited, “a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibition, and a Buddhist presentation on meditation” for comparison.

The statement did not say what was “controversial” about these three events. Of greater interest to the Catholic League was the glaring omission: it never mentioned the Satanic Temple’s “Black Mass.” Yet if Shinto, Shaker and Buddhist presentations are so controversial that they demand an explanation, why wasn’t this deliberate assault on Catholic sensibilities mentioned? This was not an oversight.

On the day that the “Black Mass” was scheduled to occur (it ended up being canceled just a few hours before it was scheduled to start) Harvard’s President, Drew Faust, issued a letter condemning the event. She stated that students have freedom of speech, but she also spoke against the obscene content of this speech.

President Faust branded the mocking of the Catholic Mass “abhorrent,” saying it was “deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.”

President Faust attended a Eucharistic Holy Hour and Benediction at St. Paul’s Church on campus that evening, and she joined Catholics to denounce the event. Bill Donohue issued a response after President Faust released her letter. He commended her for her words and deeds, but said she could have done more. He drew a distinction between an arena and a university, maintaining that the latter is a community engaged in the pursuit of truth. Hence, it was not obliged to welcome speech that is wholly designed to insult.

Note: See the activist section of this report for information about the group that sponsored this event.

May 30
Winfield, WV – For the first time in over a decade, football coach Leon McCoy was not invited to speak at the Winfield High School graduation ceremony. McCoy had a history of using religious themes in past speeches, prefacing them with “if I could pray.” The school district said it had received some complaints about previous speeches given by McCoy.

June 5
Bellingham, WA – A teacher at Bellingham High School told a “joke” during an awards ceremony that was laced with profanity. The teacher, Teri Grimes, made a remark that was rank anti-Catholic bigotry. “The plane was going down and the teacher says we have to save the children,” Ms. Grimes said. “The attorney says ‘F*** the children’ and the priest says, ‘OOOOH—Do we have time for that?'”

The teacher apologized, but Bill Donohue sent a letter to the school’s principal, Mr. Jeff Vaughn, explaining that “We live in a day and age when comments such as this, if told about other segments of the population, would merit sanctions; an apology would never do. Catholics expect that the same sanctions that would be levied against a teacher who made bigoted remarks against others be applied.”

June 12
Brawley, CA – A graduating senior at Brawley Union High School was told that he was not allowed to reference God or his Christian faith during his commencement speech. The student, Brooks Hamby, submitted three different drafts of his speech to the school for approval and each time his draft was rejected. After his second draft, the school district sent him a letter advising that his “reference to religious content is inappropriate.” The third draft Hamby received back from the district superintendent, with all religious references crossed out in black.

Hamby, and his parents, were notified that if he made any religious reference during his speech, the sound would be cut off and a disclaimer announcement would be made indicating the school district’s position. Hamby reworked his speech telling his fellow graduates about his adversity dealing with the school district, and the attempts to censor his religious references. He quoted from the Bible and described it as the “biggest best-selling book of all time in history” and concluded the speech with “May the God of the Bible bless each and every one of you every day in the rest of your lives.”

June 18 – August 18
Woodbury, CT – Nonnewaug High School allegedly implemented a firewall blocking some websites it deemed “politically oriented.” Among those that were blocked was the Vatican’s website. Also blocked were the websites of the National Right to Life, National Rifle Association, Christianity.com, and many others. Websites that were not blocked, apparently because they were not “politically oriented,” included Islam-guide.com, Planned Parenthood, and lgbtqnation.com.

According to the complaining student, Andrew Lampart, a senior, he was told by Jody Ian Goeler, the Superintendent of Schools, that it was necessary to block certain websites in order to “prevent hate-speech from leeching into the school.” Lampart took his complaint to the Board of Education, and was told that his concerns merited a probe.

In an email to Goeler, Bill Donohue asked for examples of hate-speech on the Vatican website. Goeler issued a statement indicating that the software used for the firewall was under review.  Goeler stated in part, “The district is trying to determine the reason for the inconsistency and if bias is pervasive enough to justify switching to another content filtering provider” (italics added).

The School Board later issued a statement that it had consulted with Dell SonicWALL, the filtering service, and the board concluded that the problem “was a function of how the parameters were set in the filtering criteria, and we are confident it has been remedied.” In other words, they said it was Dell’s fault.

Dell explained that the school made certain choices that resulted in some sites being blocked. Here is what it said: “A school [Nonnewaug High School] had a policy to block a category of sites rated as Politics/Advocacy Groups at their site using our content filtering product. It’s important to note that our product does not come with that category turned on. The school actively turned it on.”

On July 7 the region’s Board of Education held a meeting where it discussed its Internet policies. The Board voted to contract an outside company to evaluate the systems and procedures used for filtering websites. That company would then issue recommendations and a consistent Internet policy would be developed for all of the schools under the Board’s supervision. Superintendent Goeler left the district at the end of the school year for another job in a different school district.

At the August 18 Board of Education meeting, the consultant presented its recommendations to revise the Internet policy and the Board adopted all of them.

August 20
Dyersburg, TN – A student at Dyer County High School said “bless you” after a classmate sneezed. Her teacher told her that “Godly speaking” was prohibited in class and referred to a list of banned words that included “dumb,” “stupid,” “my bad,” and “hang out.” When the student protested that she had a constitutional right to say “bless you” the teacher reportedly responded “Not in my class you don’t.” The confrontation resulted in the girl being sent to the principal’s office.

September
The California State University system began enforcing a 2011 executive order that prohibits discrimination on the basis of a number of factors, including religion, within student organizations. In order to be recognized as a student group, the organization must allow anyone to join it, and the ban on discrimination extends to leadership positions. As a result, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and other student groups lost official recognition because they required their leaders to be Christian.

The change affected 23 universities across the state and includes all student groups, clubs and teams. By losing official recognition the organizations lost access to funding and campus meeting space, standing when engaging students and faculty, and permission to distribute literature at student fairs and activities.

September 12
Oneida, TN – After receiving complaints from the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation, Oneida High School administrators ended an 80-year-old tradition of praying before football games. In place of the prayer, the public address announcer called for a moment of silence. A group of cheerleaders, however, started reciting the Our Father out loud and others joined in until eventually the entire stadium was reciting the prayer. The cheerleaders and other students hope to make this spontaneous student led prayer a new tradition during the moment of silence.

September 22
Tempe, AZ – Head varsity football coach Tom Brittain was suspended two games by Tempe Preparatory Academy, a charter school, because he prayed with players prior to games. Brittain has taught at the school for 17 years and had been previously told that he was not allowed to participate in student led prayers.

September 23
Temecula, CA – Springs Charter School revised the policy of its school library to remove all sectarian materials, which included secular books with Christian themes or by Christian authors. One book that did not make the cut was “The Hiding Place” about a Dutch Christian who was imprisoned for helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

The books that were determined to be sectarian were purged from the shelves and given away. The school’s superintendant, Kathleen Hermsmeyer, claimed that as a public school they were “barred from purchasing sectarian curriculum materials with state funds.” As a result, they would only keep books that met that standard.

Pacific Justice Institute, a religious advocacy group, filed a complaint against the school on behalf of a parent, citing a 1982 Supreme Court case that found schools could not remove books based on their message or ideas.

September 29
Colorado Springs, CO – A group of Christian students at Pine Creek High School was told that they could no longer meet to pray, sing religious songs, or discuss religious topics during school time. For three years the students had been getting together in an unused choir room during “open time” or “Seminar period.”

Both the school’s principal and assistant principal told the student leader of the group, Chase Windebank, that the students could continue to meet, but could not discuss any religious topics or pray during the Seminar period. Instead the students would have to meet before or after school to engage in those activities. The school cited separation of church and state as the rationale for their decision. The school district backed the principal’s decision. Windebank filed a federal lawsuit in relation to this matter.

October

Minneapolis, MN – Minnesota Catholic schools faced a controversy involving transgender students. Because the Minnesota State High School League was considering a policy that was written in part by LGBT activists—boys and girls may even be allowed to shower together — the Minnesota Catholic Conference got out in front of this matter by opposing any policy that committed Catholic schools to support changes in gender identity.

The new policy would require all schools, including Catholic schools, to make accommodations for transgendered student-athletes. The accommodations included allowing students of opposite genders to compete against each other, use the same locker rooms, and possibly share hotel rooms during road trips.

November 4
Fort Myers, FL – A senior at Fort Myers High School caught the first touchdown pass of his career and then knelt and pointed a finger towards heaven to thank God and remember a teammate who had died. An official assessed the student a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The team’s coach later acknowledged that the official was not at fault because the league’s rules prohibit certain actions and kneeling in prayer was a violation.

November 11
Fredericksburg, VA After the principal of Courtland High School twice denied an application from senior Madison Sutherland to organize a pro-life club at the school, Sutherland contacted the Thomas More Society. Sutherland had completed the required application, included a proposed constitution for the club and secured the backing of a faculty member to serve as advisor. She then submitted the application to the school’s principal, Larry Marks.

Marks responded that Sutherland failed to submit club bylaws, and that the club did not “bear a clear relationship to the regular school curriculum.” The Thomas More Society pointed out to Marks that the school had an equestrian club and a lacrosse club, among others, that were not related to the curriculum. At this point Marks again failed to approve the club, saying only that Sutherland needed to “fix things.”

November 11
Montgomery, MD – After a Muslim group petitioned to have their holidays included on the calendar of the Montgomery County Public School District, the county’s Board of Education voted to remove all religious references from the calendar. Holidays for Christmas, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Easter were removed. While the schools remained closed on those days, it was for administrative reasons due to high absentee rates. Even the Muslim group protested this decision as it was not a solution to their request.

December 5
Milwaukee, WI – During an “anti-harassment” training presentation at Marquette University, employees were told that merely voicing objections to gay marriage may be considered discriminatory; they were urged to report such offenses.

December 15
Phoenix, AZ – A lecturer at Arizona State University mocked Jesus and creationism while teaching a biology course. The teacher, Christofer Bang, showed a slide featuring two illustrations. One showed Charles Darwin and the words “genetics,” “adaption,” and “natural selection” along with ape-like creatures evolving into a man.  The second illustration showed a caricature of Jesus creating a man with a lightning bolt and the words “zap” and “magic.”


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Written by Bill