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May 15 2013

Ark. School Cancels 6th Grade Graduation

The Riverside School District in Lake City, Arkansas has canceled their 6th grade graduation ceremonies after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent them a letter objecting to the fact that such ceremonies have always included Christian prayers. And the supporters of that policy are making some predictably ridiculous arguments:

Parent Kelly Adams was one of many parents who attended the School Board meeting and was upset with the vote. “We serve a God. And we should have the right to serve that God anywhere,” she said, according to a video posted by local ABC Kait8 channel. Adams’ daughter graduated last year from sixth grade and closed the ceremony in prayer. Her son is part of this year’s sixth grade graduating class.

Oh, of course. And if a Muslim wanted to give such a prayer at the ceremony, would you declare that he or she has the “right to serve God anywhere”? Not a chance in hell. You’d be screaming TERRORIST!

On the Alice Stewart Show, 96.5 FM, the local Fox News Radio station, the Rev. Arthur Hunt Jr. of Hunt Memorial Cathedral of Faith argued that, “God is in school forever. Our Constitution allows us to see our purpose in this nation of being under God,” referring to the Pledge of Allegiance, in which students state, “one nation under God.”

“God is everywhere, from home, to school, to community,” Hunt said. “God is in too many bus drivers, He’s in too many teachers, too many janitors, principles, athletes, songs, plays, He’s in too many civic and history books, where the president and governor refer to God.

“Do we want to wait for another bomb or a mass shooting before the assembly and prays again?”

Whiskey tango foxtrot?

27 comments

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  1. 1
    Randomfactor

    There are reportedly more shootings at churches than at schools. That god person seems to be quite the target.

  2. 2
    lynxreign

    God is everywhere, from home, to school, to community,” Hunt said. “God is in too many bus drivers, He’s in too many teachers, too many janitors, principles, athletes, songs, plays, He’s in too many civic and history books, where the president and governor refer to God.

    That’s like that old Mojo Nixon song: Elvis is everywhere. Just substitute Elvis for God and it becomes a new verse! Elvis has the advantage of once having been real.

  3. 3
    carlie

    God is in too many bus drivers, He’s in too many teachers, too many janitors, principles, athletes, songs, plays, He’s in too many civic and history books, where the president and governor refer to God.

    I don’t think he said what he thinks he said.

  4. 4
    dingojack

    Ark. School Cancels 6th Grade Graduation

    Through lack of graduates, I presume? It is Arkansas after all.

    :) Dingo

  5. 5
    Spanish Inquisitor

    He’s right. God is in too many of those things. Time to get him out

  6. 6
    Abdul Alhazred

    That’s like that old Mojo Nixon song …

    Do you believe in a literal personal Elvis, or in Elvis as a metaphor for ultimate concern? ;)

  7. 7
    weaver

    “Do we want to wait for another bomb or a mass shooting before the assembly and prays again?”

    Because if you don’t pray enough, God will make terrible things happen to you – because he’s a loving creator like that.

  8. 8
    regexp

    Anyone think its a little odd that six graders get a graduation ceremony? Is it because no one makes it to 12th grade?

  9. 9
    Mr Ed

    Elvis and Jesus, both seen after their death, both have obsessive fans who wear on you quickly

  10. 10
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    lynxreign:

    That’s like that old Mojo Nixon song: Elvis is everywhere. Just substitute Elvis for God and it becomes a new verse! Elvis has the advantage of once having been real.

    In college, my girlfriend (now wife) and I would find Chick tracts left in various public areas. We’d take them home, scratch out God/Lord/Christ/ whatever, and substitute Elvis.

    Let Elvis into your heart, so he may forgive your sins!

    (This also vaguely reminds me of the Human Radio song, “Me and Elvis.”)

  11. 11
    Doug Little

    Hunt said. “God is in too many bus drivers, He’s in too many teachers, too many janitors, principles, athletes, songs, plays, He’s in too many civic and history books, where the president and governor refer to God.

    Yeah that god, he’s get his fingers into every game and shady deal in town but don’t you dare think about crossing him, he’ll reach out and make you disappear or trash a city on the other side of the planet. He’s unpredictable like that, mad as a hatter he is, so unless you want to disappear or have the deaths of thousands of people on your hands I suggest you shut up and tow the line./gangster_voice.

  12. 12
    Draken

    @nigelTheBold, and John Lennon ==> Satan?

  13. 13
    omcdurham

    I’m a bit put off by the comments that insinuate that people from Arkansas are stupid inbred hillfolk. My wife and a good friend of ours are both Arkansans. Both have PhDs in chemistry. And while Arkansas is part of the ‘bible belt’, a few years ago, the State government allowed atheists to erect a secular display celebrating the Winter Solstice, right next to a gargantuan nativity display. On the grounds of the Statehouse!

    The school board is wrong for forcing gawd on everyone. I’m saddened by the fact that it is assumed that all Arkansans are Christians.

    Just don’t stereotype Arkansans as a bunch of hayseeds!

  14. 14
    davefitz

    I find graduation for 6th grade odd, but it’s so nice of them to punish the kids because they can’t serve Sky Cake at the ceremony.

  15. 15
    scienceavenger

    That’s like that old Mojo Nixon song: Elvis is everywhere.

    I’d rather compare it to “Don Henley Must Die”.

    But Reverend, if God is everywhere, then why the fuss about praising him all the time? It’s like a bunch of people who want to praise and breath air being forbidden to do so. They are going to do it anyway, you can’t stop it, so WTF?

    I’m a bit put off by the comments that insinuate that people from Arkansas are stupid inbred hillfolk.

    Yeah well, I’ve been to Arkansas, and guess what I met a lot there…

    Generalities are just that, general. No one thinks 100% of Arkansians are inbred hillfolk, just like no one thinks 100% of Texans (my state) are trigger-happy ignorant rednecks. But all it takes is one look at … well, any data on education levels in these states to see we generally deserve the negative stereotypes we get assigned.

  16. 16
    grumpyoldfart

    I’ll bet that deep down they couldn’t care less about the prayer. It’s just an excuse to climb up on the cross and say, “Look at me suffer for my religion while the rest of you do nothing. I am holier than thou.”

  17. 17
    breaplum

    OT, but I am stealing “whiskey tango foxtrot”.

    On topic, I grew up in rural East Texas and while it is now possible to be out of the closet as gay or liberal (although liberals still get their property vandalized – I’m not kidding, my mum went through 4 Obama yard signs and at least two bumper stickers), I can’t see the day when I can go back and visit as an out-of-the-confessional atheist. I genuinely suspect they’d be more comfortable with my pagan leanings.

    And yes, there are atheist pagans, we’re earth-loving hippies (sometimes called “dirt-worshipping” with an irreverence that delights me) who don’t believe in deities. Sometimes we refer to the earth as “Gaia” not to anthropomorphize or deify the planet, but to name it as a dynamic, symbiotic organism and structure. Our values are very much in line with most of paganism; I can’t say ‘all’ because I’m no expert on the many different colors of paganism. And for me, well, I really groove to drum circles and fire rituals. It’s cathartic to get your Iron Age on.

  18. 18
    escuerd

    breaplum @17:

    On topic, I grew up in rural East Texas and while it is now possible to be out of the closet as gay or liberal (although liberals still get their property vandalized – I’m not kidding, my mum went through 4 Obama yard signs and at least two bumper stickers), I can’t see the day when I can go back and visit as an out-of-the-confessional atheist.

    As a fellow (former) rural East Texan, I empathize with you greatly here.
    [Warning: longish personal ramble ahead]

    I came out to another student as an atheist when I was in the eighth grade, after getting tired of hearing him going on one of his typically idiotic creationist screeds. I argued with him and explained (albeit in gentler words) why his beliefs were wrong and ultimately goaded him into asking me whether I believed in God or not. I told him the truth just to see the satisfying look of shock and horror come across his face.

    Predictably, it was a huge scandal that someone would say such a thing. Normally I kept to myself, and people didn’t bother me much, but by the end of the day, it seemed everyone in the school wanted to ask me if it what they heard about me was true, and didn’t I know I was going to burn in Hell forever? I lost track of how many times I had to explain that I was not worshiping Satan. To these people there was no distinction between an atheist and a theistic Satanist. They were one and the same, some fool or ingrate who had decided to reject God’s love.

    At first I regretted saying anything, and was terrified that my parents would find out. They did, eventually, of course. My mother was properly distraught. She seemed to go into denial about the subject, and we’ve never talked about it explicitly since. As it turned out, my father was sort of a closet deist. Even so, he took me aside and asked me to keep my disbelief on the down-low for fear (not unreasonable) he might lose his job.

    The (public) school’s teachers and officials were mostly pretty shameless about endorsing Christianity, albeit with a couple of notable exceptions. One of my younger sisters (who is also an atheist) was told to deliver a prayer at her graduation, because that’s what someone with that particular class rank was supposed to do. I don’t recall whether she ended up complying or getting someone else to do it, but there was no question at all about having the prayer.

    Incidentally, I’m also gay, but it took me a much longer time for me to come to grips with that fact. By the time I had, I already had plans to get out of the state for college. As a result, I only ever came out as gay to relatives and close friends and can’t say exactly what it’s like to be out and gay in Lamar County.

    I don’t envy the gay people who remain there. Even though I hear the situation has improved, it can still get pretty nasty. Last year, a former schoolmate of mine was beaten pretty badly, ostensibly because he is gay. It was weird seeing his name pop up in blogs and news. It reminded me how lucky I am to have gotten out.

    From what I know of the culture in this region (and what we’ve all seen from comparatively “liberal” suburban Rhode Island), I can only imagine the amount of Christian love that the people of Lake City would shower upon the parent who wrote the letter if only they knew who they were.

    Ugh, and the Christian Post’s framing is disgusting. “District Cancels Graduation Rather Than Allow Prayer” really ought to be “District Cancels Graduation Rather Than Omit Prayer”.

  19. 19
    breaplum

    Or perhaps “District Cancels Graduation Because Wah Wah Wah If We Can’t Play by Our Rules We’re Taking Our Ball and Going Home!”

  20. 20
    raven

    Re East Texas.

    A few years ago a public school teacher was fired for “suspected atheism” in Lakewood city or some such.

    Not for atheism mind you. Suspected atheism.

    Which is meaningless. Anyone up to the Pope can be a “suspected atheist.”

  21. 21
    raven

    On the Alice Stewart Show, 96.5 FM, the local Fox News Radio station, the Rev. Arthur Hunt Jr. of Hunt Memorial Cathedral of Faith argued that, “God is in school forever. Our Constitution allows us to see our purpose in this nation of being under God,” referring to the Pledge of Allegiance, in which students state, “one nation under God.”

    If that is true, why can’t they all just shut up about god.

    Xians claim god is all powerful and everywhere and then act like it is long dead and can do nothing.

  22. 22
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    For scansion, i’d suggest “Deity’s everywhere, man, deities everywhere (only ours!)”

  23. 23
    dan4

    @8: “Anyone thinks its a little odd that six graders get a graduation ceremony?”

    No, not if the school in question goes from K-6th grade (i.e. it’s a graduation from elementary school).

  24. 24
    martinc

    escuerd @ 18, thanks for a really interesting story. Amazing how different it is in middle America compared to here in Australia, where religion is a complete irrelevance to most people. Although we have only 24% atheism, we only have 9% of the population attending church more that once a year. Religion to most people is just something you tick on the census, and has less effect on your life than which football team you support.

    Incidentally any wingnut reading your story is inevitably going to say: “See? Atheism turns you gay.”

  25. 25
    dingojack

    omcdurham (#13) – So you happen to know two Arkansas natives with PhD’s therefore…. what exactly? Anecdote is not evidence.
    Here is some evidence:
    Arkansas natives over 25 years old with at least:
    A high school diploma: 82.4% (Ranking by state 44th) [USA average: 85.3% (33/50)]
    An undergraduate degree (Bachelors degree or better): 18.9% (” ” ” 48th) [USA average: 27.9% (19/50)]
    An advanced degree (Masters degree or better): 6.1% (” ” ” 50th): [USA average: 10.3% (17/20)]

    (And the USA certainly isn’t even the highest achieving country in the OECD).

    So I’d say Arkansas being the near-bottom state, in a country stuck at the bottom of the highest quartile, (and slipping backward fast, relative to other countries), allows certain inferences to be made, don’t you?

    Dingo

  26. 26
    dingojack

    Oops, the ranking of the USA average for > 25 y.o. with an advanced degree should be (17/50). Of course.
    Dingo

  27. 27
    anneorsi

    I’m the representative of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers who was on that radio broadcast with Alice Stewart and Rev. Hunt. The both said things that were absolutely ridiculous. Feel free to read all about it on (shameless plug) my own blog: http://aramink.com/2013/05/16/its-not-ok-to-pray-in-public-schools/?fb_source=pubv1

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