Monday, August 31, 2009

Comparative Religion Classes are not News

I got a Google Alert this morning about an article on John Freshwater in "Get". As one would expect from a site with that name, the writer, E. E. Evans, seemed dubious about the charges against Freshwater, but what was also clear was that Mr. Evans and most of the commenters haven't found as much information on the case as I have and they don't understand why Freshwater was fired.

The article points out that Freshwater was charged with "teaching religion" in school, however schools are allowed to "teach about religion" as long as they don't advocate for a specific religion. The writer then points outs out that the press is more likely to cover a creationism vs. science story that a story about "teaching about religion".

First of all, Freshwater wasn't fired for just teaching religion in school, He was fired for teaching religion rather than the science curriculum he was being paid to teach. Had he been teaching ballet instead of science, nobody would have questioned his firing and nobody would have written an article, but religion gets a special status.

Secondly, articles are being written covering teaching about religion. I've read articles about teaching the bible as history in Texas and comparative religious studies being added to high school curricula. Religious studies that don't advocate a specific religion shouldn't be news. These courses have been available in colleges (and some high schools) for ages and although I can imagine Freshwater's friends being outraged about their kids being exposed to "false" religions, there's no rational reason for it to be any more controversial than studying comparative cultures in geography class.

Just like all of the hullabaloo about Mount Vernon Junior High, some Xians think that anything that relates to their religion should be the center of everybody's attention. In a rational world, Mount Vernon residents would have all looked at the Freshwater case and said, "If the evidence indicates that he injured one or more students and that he wasn't teaching the prescribed curriculum, he should be fired."
Instead they say, "This is about MY RELIGION! Not just that, this is about diminishing the general public's exposure to MY RELIGION!" Maybe some comparative religion studies would get a few of these folks to understand that THEIR RELIGIONS are supposed to have equal rights, but I'm not holding my breath.

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