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Atheist student who challenged Ten Commandments school displays faces threats of violence

GAGE Pulliam, of Muldrow in Oklahoma, has infuriated Christians for contacting the Freedom From Religion Foundation to complain about Ten Commandments displays posted in his high school’s classrooms.

Gage Pulliam

Gage Pulliam

Pulliam, according to this report, wanted to keep his identity a secret, but decided to reveal his identity after other students were blamed for alerting the organisation. He said his younger sister had faced verbal harassment over the issue and some students had threatened violence against him.

I want people to know this isn’t me trying to attack religion. This is me trying to create an environment for kids where they can feel equal.

After contacting the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the organisation send a letter to Muldrow High School administrators warning that religious displays in public schools violated the US Constitution.

FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott said:

If the facts are as presented to us, and the Ten Commandments are on display throughout Muldrow Public Schools, the displays must be removed immediately.

The Muldrow First Assembly of God also stepped into the controversy, offering free Ten Commandment T-shirts to any student.

Commenting today in the Huffington Post, Paul Raushenbush – an ordained Christian minister – sided with Pulliam:

Posting The Ten Commandments in a public enterprise such as public schools or courtrooms does establish a religious privilege for Christianity (and maybe Judaism… but not really)  – especially when unaccompanied by similar central texts from other religious and humanist traditions.

But even more compelling to me, as an ordained minister and practicing Christian, is the religious argument for why it is so important not to have the Ten Commandments plaques. It was, after all, a religious argument that made the case for the establishment clause in the first place.

Congress should make no law respecting an establishment of religion because if they do it takes the interpretation of religious texts and guidance on the religious life out of the hands of religious leaders and into the hands of the government. The establishment clause was at least as concerned with the protection of religion as of government.

Every religious person should object to having the Ten Commandments in schools because you are allowing other people  – people over whom you have no control  – the responsibility of interpreting said commandments.

He elaborated:

If you take the Ten Commandments seriously, you certainly don’t want someone who doesn’t share your beliefs explaining to the classroom what they mean. That is a privilege reserved for religious leaders who we chose to follow and it is best done in religious establishments — not by some teacher randomly asked about them in a classroom.

Imagine this scenario: A new student sees the plaque, and, unfamiliar with their origin, asks the teacher where the Ten Commandments come from, who they were meant for, and what the intention was for those who received them. This is a fair question for the hopefully inquisitive, intelligent minds that our schools are meant to cultivate.

Well, what if the teacher is a pinko commie or right wing fundamentalist (pick your boogey man) or maybe is trained to teach math or Spanish and just has no idea?

Everyone knows that if you ask two people what a verse of scripture means you are going to get at least three opinions. So, next thing that that happens is that the student goes to his church and tells the minister that the teacher said this about the Ten Commandments and that minister is wrong about the Ten Commandments because their teacher at school told them x, y, and z.

Then it becomes not enough to have plaques of the Ten Commandments in school, but you also need a person who is ‘ok’ to interpret them  – but that person does not exist  – or will only be chosen by a majority who has power and can inflict their view on the minority. And hence the establishment clause  – specifically created so that there would be no ‘one’ way to be religious, or not religious, in America.

Those who want to teach about the value of the Ten Commandments definitely should! They should just do it in their house of worship where they can truly be most effective in explaining what they believe are their origins and meanings for today’s world.

Christianity isn’t under attack. As Mr Pulliam so eloquently explained, the removal of the Ten Commandments is about equality so that everyone might feel welcome in a public classroom.

Christianity is expected to take its position as part of the circle of faiths and non-faiths that make up the fabric of American society. This is good for Christians, and it is good for everyone else.

 

24 Responses to “Atheist student who challenged Ten Commandments school displays faces threats of violence”

  1. L.Long says:

    “I want people to know this isn’t me trying to attack religion. This is me trying to create an environment for kids where they can feel equal.”
    If I was at that school I would duck and hide. It does not make me feel equal it would have made me shut up and ease thru the school until I could escape to some place less controlled by the xtian sharia. Because pulling down the 10Suggestions does not change the opinions of even one of those xtian bigots that are there, they are now in righteous persecution mode.

  2. Stephen Mynett says:

    Well done to the lad for challenging this, although, as L. Long has already mentioned, I do fear for his safety.

    An interesting response from Paul Raushenbush, surprisingly moderate for that part of the world and he deserves credit. However, the answer to his question: “Imagine this scenario: A new student sees the plaque, and, unfamiliar with their origin, asks the teacher where the Ten Commandments come from, who they were meant for” may surprise him.

    As posted before, jewish scholars at the University of Jerusalem are trying to put together the oldest old testament and have found some interesting changes over the years.

    From the article: “In another example, this one from the Book of Deuteronomy, a passage referring to commandments given by God “to you” once read “to us,” a significant change in meaning.”

    Aplogies for repeating a previous post but thought some may find this interesting, full article here: http://news.yahoo.com/jerusalem-scholars-trace-bibles-evolution-092932128.html

  3. barriejohn says:

    Here’s a similar story which rumbles on and on because of the inability of some people to grasp basic logic (I know – they’re religiots!):

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2321747/Cheerleaders-bible-banner-suit-They-CAN-cheer-Christ-Texas-judge-rules.html

    I feel sorry for those kids, because they just don’t realize how brainwashed they are. We had a VERY active evangelical group in my grammar school – which is one of the reasons why I became ensnared by religion – and I have seen the same thing in other schools as well. The Christian Union at my college were even worse, though their smug arrogance, ebullience and cliquishness did put off a lot of people, thank Christ (they were an embarrassment, even to a fanatic like myself!). Peer pressure can be a very dangerous and almost irresistible force when you are young (Lord of the Flies).

  4. Stephen Mynett says:

    Agreed, it is a shame these kids can not have a normal education and upbringing without their minds being perverted.

    We did not have a strong evangelical group at my school, although the religious, pupils and staff, were a pretty nasty lot and full of stupid arguments and ideas.

    In this day and age I could probably take legal action against a teacher who told me that I did not have a name because I had never been christened or baptised. However, I did let the tyres down on his car a couple of times though and got away with it, so we are probably even.

  5. Daz says:

    I like Raushenbush’s response, for the st part, but the attitude in this paragraph is rather telling:

    Everyone knows that if you ask two people what a verse of scripture means you are going to get at least three opinions. So, next thing that that happens is that the student goes to his church and tells the minister that the teacher said this about the Ten Commandments and that minister is wrong about the Ten Commandments because their teacher at school told them x, y, and z.

    Heaven forbid that people might discuss scripture and come to conclusions which differ from a cleric’s! My god, it’s almost like allowing them to think for themselves!

  6. Daz says:

    Erm, I like his response, “for the most part,” I meant.

  7. Trevor Blake says:

    Here is your one-stop tool kit when dealing with the Decalogue…

    http://ovo127.com/2010/08/20/trevor-blake-the-ten-commandmentss/

    1. There are two sets of incompatible Ten Commandments.
    2. Jesus, Moses and other righteous men of the Bible violated several of the Ten Commandments without penalty.
    3. The penalty for violating the Ten Commandments is usually capital punishment.

  8. Daz says:

    Trevor

    Regarding the first of your three points, Jonny Scaramanga dropped this rather good video in my comments, not half an hour ago!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=pkCJ8rb8Grw

  9. T says:

    “That is a privilege reserved for religious leaders who we chose to follow and it is best done in religious establishments — not by some teacher randomly asked about them in a classroom.”

    Only a pretentious, sycophantic bigoted religious fuckwit could come up with a statement like that.

  10. barriejohn says:

    Raushenbush is an idiot. If you follow his ideas to their logical conclusion, then no one would be allowed to discuss religion outside the confines of a church, or even think about “spiritual” matters for himself – a bit like Europe in the Middle Ages!

  11. barriejohn says:

    Trevor Blake: That’s a marvellous summary of the confusion surrounding the Decalogue – and multitudinous other “commandments” almost too numerous to catalogue (though Stephen Fry claims to know precisely how many there are!). Yahweh comes over as a bit of an old woman, really, doesn’t he, and there must, surely, be acomedy sketch there somewhere for someone like David Mitchell or John Cleese: “Oh, no, wait a minute, here’s another one while you’re about it…”

    Regarding Moses and Jesus, most of us realize that, even if they existed, the events ascribed to them are mainly fictitious, but you are right in what you say. Jesus the Zealot, who preached about outer darkness, wailing and gnashing of teeth, would have kept strictly to the letter of the law, but the humanistic Jesus, who supposedly told people that “The sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath”, had completely different ideas. I have some idiot (believer) on YouTube asking me at the present time to provide him with evidence of contradictions in the Bible, to support certain scurrilous and baseless claims that I have made. Can you believe that? As someone who studied the book myself for years, I know that he must be lying if he pretends that he is not aware that they are legion. I also know that if I list individual contradictions he will be able to explain them away one by one, so the exercise would be pointless. I had mentioned John 20 to him, so I may point him in the direction of your Easter Challenge, which had me in stitches:

    http://ovo127.com/2013/03/30/trevor-blake-the-easter-challenge-2013/

    Keep up the good work!

  12. Stephen Mynett says:

    Barriejohn, your post on Raushenbush and not allowing anyone to discuss or think for themselves. I believe that is the way the JHs work, the watchtower juju men say how the bible should be interpreted and the local elders enforce this.

    Probably why they are such a difficult lot to debate with, they are not allowed to consider the concept of debate for themselves, let alone the ungodly unwashed like us.

  13. tony e says:

    Trevor Blake,

    I particularly love to remind christians, at xmas, of the seventh commandment about not committing adultery, as apparently this memo had not reached god when he decided to impregnate Mary.

  14. Matt+Westwood says:

    @tony e:
    No, no, no. Adultery is screwing someone who’s married to someone else. Mary wasn’t married at the time so it was merely fornication.

  15. remigius says:

    @Matt+Westwood(?)

    No,no,no. According to ancient Canaanite lore Yahweh (god of the Jews and Christians who was his own father/son) had a missus called Asherah, so it were adultery after all.

  16. Stephen Mynett says:

    If the father was also his own son is there not some sort of incest involved as well.

  17. Trevor Blake says:

    Daz, BarrieJohn and Tony E: Thank you for your kind words.

    BarrieJohn: Please allow me to recommend this particular collection of contradictions. It’s not contradictions in the Bible as a whole, or between books, or within a single book. It’s not contradictions across or within a chapter of a single book. It’s not even contradictions within a single verse in a single chapter of a single book. Here are contradictions within a single sentence!

    http://ovo127.com/2010/08/20/trevor-blake-biblical-innumeracy/

    All this in a book that is supposedly infallible and eternal…

    http://ovo127.com/2010/08/20/trevor-blake-infallible-and-eternal/

  18. Matt+Westwood says:

    No, no, no. Ultimately we’re all descended from the same original ur-organism, so when you think about it we’re all part of the same family, which means that all sex anywhere is incest.

  19. barriejohn says:

    Trevor Blake: Unfortunately (and I speak as an ex-evangelical myself), despite all their claims for the “miraculous” preservation of “God’s Holy Word”, and of the virtual inspiration of the King James translators, as soon as you point out these obvious contradictions to the fundamentalists the answer comes that an “error” has occurred somewhere down the line! My own view is that we should forget about textual inacccuracies and concentrate on glaring errors which cannot possibly be ecxplained away. For instance:

    The Exodus: Millions of people expelled from Egypt and wandering about Sinai for forty years, yet not a scrap of evidence either in ancient records or in the soil. It didn’t happen!

    Solomon: The greatest, wisest, and most wealthy monarch who ever lived, with potentates from the four corners of the earth beating a path to his door, yet not even mentioned outside the Bible. And despite Jewish and Christian archaeologists criminally destroying two thousand years of Palestinian historical remains in their quest, they still haven’t found any real evidence for him. If he existed, then he was just a local warlord, and, like David, is on a par with King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table.

    Nazareth: Not built on a hill, not a city, and not mentioned for over three hundred years after Jesus supposedly lived there. Whoever wrote about it in the Bible obviously knew nothing about the place. Remains of a house “that Jesus might even have visited” were unearthed recently and they went ballistic. Why? We know that there was a scattered settlement of up to five hundred people in the valley in Biblical times, but their burial site has been found, so there is no possibility of any larger town existing in the locality. All made up at a later date by people who were not there at the time.

    There are no answers to these errors, nor will there be. They are too fundamental to be lightly dismissed, and show up the Bible as a collection of myths and legends, albeit attempting to convey some moral teaching, and in places based upon historical events.

  20. Marky Mark says:

    If they continue to violate the separation of church and state I say let the state start to enforce their holy babble laws to all practicing Christians…Like death for adulterers and people who work in their yard on Sunday. Persecution for all who wear mixed fabrics and eat shellfish…ect, ect.

    And when another catholic priest rapes another child, bust the whole congregation for financing a pedophile cult and list them all as sex offenders.
    …that will give them something to think about.

  21. Equality Jack says:

    @barriejohn – “There are no answers to these errors, nor will there be.”
    .
    But, but, but….you gave answers to those errors yourself right there! There, there, have a sit and a cup and we’ll whip up some noshies while your head stops spinning.
    You dashed that out too quick, I imagine. Good answers, too, btw.

  22. Equality Jack says:

    No, wait, it was my head that was spinning. Sorry.

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