Clay County schools lose a good man

The Florida Times-Union reports that the Clay County school district has lost an unusually talented superintendent.

Ben Wortham closed his office door behind him last week ending a 43-year journey that has taken him from the classroom to superintendent of Clay County schools…

Three weeks after he became superintendent in 2008, the state cut the district’s funding by 5 percent. That was a $16 million loss in the middle of the school year. It was the first in a continuing series of similar state funding cuts to school districts statewide…

He said the district’s weathered the financial storm “with just a minimum of disruption to our district in the way of classroom and personnel.”

Clay is designated “an academically high performing” district by the Florida Department of Education. It’s one of 17 such districts statewide.

It also ranks 12th by student achievement statewide. It has an overall grade of “A” from the state. Clay’s graduation rate is 94 percent, while its dropout rate is 1.2 percent annually.

He was defeated by a fellow Republican who made a campaign issue out of “See You At The Pole” prayer rallies.

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Religious right to meddle

The Conservative Hideout is all up in arms about what they call a “war on Christians.”

Notice that there seems to be a war on Christianity under way? Well, the folks at Hobby lobby have noticed, as they went to court to escape the the ObamaCare regulations that require them to provide coverage for the abortion pill. Unfortunately, it seems that at least one federal judge seems t think that Religious Freedom really doesn’t exist.

By “Religious Freedom” (capitalized), the writer of course means Christians having the power to control women’s lives with or without their consent. The idea that women might also be entitled to religious freedom (in the sense of actual, you know, liberty) does not seem to occur.

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FFRF files suit against IRS

The Washington Post reports that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing the IRS for selectively failing to enforce laws against political advocacy by non-profit organizations.

The lawsuit argues that the IRS is not enforcing the federal tax code, which prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from electioneering. Not enforcing it is a violation of equal protection rights because the same preferential treatment is not provided to other tax-exempt organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the lawsuit contends.

Interestingly, a number of Christian activists have been pushing for churches to deliberately violate the law in hopes of provoking just such a confrontation in court. This isn’t a bunch of unbelievers launching a mere nuisance lawsuit, this is the other side responding to taunts of “bring it on” from certain believers who want all such restrictions removed. Well, removed from believers anyway. I’m sure they see these restrictions as perfectly reasonable when applied to, say, the FRFF.

Vatican vows to fight equality

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Vatican is determined to fight to limit marriage exclusively to heterosexuals, calling the privileged status of heterosexuals “an achievement of civilization.”

“It is clear that in Western countries there is a widespread tendency to modify the classic vision of marriage between a man and woman, or rather to try to give it up, erasing its specific and privileged legal recognition compared to other forms of union,” Father Federico Lombardi, said in a tough editorial on Vatican Radio.

Hmm, special privileges for people like us, with vigorous enforcement of laws excluding people who are not like us. Where have I heard that before?

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Good news from Kansas

Hutchnews.com reports more good election results:

Democrat Carolyn Campbell of Topeka won a second, four-year term on the State Board of Education in Tuesday’s election in the 4th District of northeast Kansas. She defeated Republican Jack Wu of Topeka.

Jack Wu moved from California to Kansas to attend the Westboro Baptist Church, and was running for the school board on an “I hate evolution” platform. Apparently Westboro’s famous “God hates America” stand doesn’t play too well in Kansas these days.

What to do in your second term

Congratulations on your re-election, Mr. President. I’m glad you got a second term, because there are still a few items that need to be finished up from your first one. And now that you don’t have to worry about being re-elected, I hope you’ll have the time, the freedom, and the will to fix some of our worst problems:

  • Transparency. We cannot afford to elect a government that can be blackmailed by anonymous power brokers with big bank accounts. We the People need to know who is writing the actual text of our laws, and who is profiting from them.
  • The Constitution. I know you’re busy, but can we have our Constitutional rights back, please? Particularly the First and Fourth Amendments? Bin Ladin is dead, yet as long as our nation remains so terrorized that we won’t take our families on board airplanes without government agents fondling our kids, the terrorists are winning. I’d like to live in a FREE country again.
  • Wall Street. It shouldn’t be legal to cheat people out of house and home. Nuff said?
  • The deficit, aka tomorrow’s taxes. Yes, that needs to come down, but can we start with wasteful “defense” spending? It’s one thing to speak softly and carry a big stick, but that stick gets kind of hard to carry when it reaches sequoia proportions.

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Blood drives

The last time I gave blood, there was a sign outside that says, “Giving blood saves lives.” As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I’d like to ask a question. If giving blood saves lives, why don’t we have people roaming the streets, grabbing healthy-looking individuals, and taking their blood by force? I think most people know the answer: it’s because each of us has a sovereign right to bodily autonomy that no one else has the right to violate, even if it might mean saving someone else’s life.

This to set the stage for a question posed in a couple comments by NotAnAtheist on yesterday’s post, concerning my remark about how the unformed child does not become a person until later on.

When does this “becoming a person” happen? … The child that is 1 hr from being born, anatomically, genetically, and in all other senses I know of, is the same child right after birth (If someone knows of some big difference, let me know).

If there is that similarity, how can it be that the child after birth is a “person”, and the child before is not? Or is it just that the idea of “personhood” has no objective referent and is simply up to the whim of the court?

I’m glad you asked.

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When is it ok to legalize murder?

One of the differences between the Obama/Biden campaign and the Romney/Ryan campaign came out during the VP debates. Biden said he was a faithful Catholic and believed his church’s teaching on abortion (in the true spirit of faith as “believing what you know ain’t so”), but he wasn’t willing to impose his religious beliefs on others (and rightly so). Ryan, on the other hand, was adamant that abortion was murder and should be immediately outlawed, except in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. And that’s a very interesting set of exceptions.

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Is Christianity killing the GOP?

One reason why the separation of church and state is a good idea is that uniting religion and politics tends to do more harm to both than either could self-inflict on its own. Indeed, many of the early settlers in America were people who came here to escape from the Christian nations of Europe, which is why the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights contains a prohibition against government establishment of religion. But the same phenomenon applies on a smaller scale as well, and the current woes of the Republican party may be a case in point.

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