HUNDREDS JOIN PROTEST AT TEXAS CAPITOL


We cannot permit fanatics, traitors, and fools to defile the graves of our martyrs. One Nation Indivisible; One History Unchangeable!

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From American Atheists News for May 16, 2010

HUNDREDS JOIN PROTEST AT TEXAS CAPITOL: BOARD
MEMBER RENEWS EFFORT AGAINST TEACHING SEPARATION!

An enthusiastic crowd estimated at nearly 300 people turned out
for a rally this morning in front of the state capitol building in
Austin, Texas to protest proposed changes in how subjects ranging
from history to science will be taught in public schools.

A religious-right faction on the board last month recommended
sweeping changes in the content of textbooks. Proposals called
for downplaying secularism, the Enlightenment and even Founders
like Thomas Jefferson in favor of a renewed emphasis on religion
as a positive force in American history. In place of the “Sage of
Monticello,” one member suggested that students learn more about
religious leaders like John Calvin.

Several speakers addressed today’s event including Dr. Ed Buckner
President of American Atheists. A message of support from author
and Atheist Christopher Hitchens was also read. More details will
follow in the next edition of AANEWS.

While Texas citizens were mobilizing against the new guidelines,
however, on of the most strident members of the Board of Education
announced that he will propose even more radical changes before
the Board meets again this week.

Member Don McLeroy (R. – College Station) told reporters that that
he will attempt to mandate that eighth-graders study the issue of
state-church separation from what the Dallas Morning News described
as “a different perspective.” The paper is reporting that students
would “contrast the Founders’ intent relative to the wording of
the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause
with the popular term ‘Separation of church and state.’ “

That story can be found at:

**

A MESSAGE FROM CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
READ AT TODAY’S “TEXANS FOR TRUTHFUL TEXTBOOKS” RALLY

We know of no spectacle more ridiculous – or more contemptible – than
that of the religious reactionaries who dare to re-write the history
of our republic. Or who try to do so. Is it possible that, in their
vanity and stupidity, they suppose that they can erase the name of
Thomas Jefferson and replace it with the name of some faith-based
mediocrity whose name is already obscure? If so, we cheerfully
resolve to mock them, and to give them the lie in their teeth.

Without Thomas Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence,
there would have been no American revolution that announced universal
principles of liberty. Without his participation by the side of
the unforgettable Marquis de Lafayette, there would have been no
French proclamation of The Rights of Man. Without his brilliant
negotiation of the Louisiana treaty, there would be no United States
of America. Without Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, there would
have been no Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, and no basis
for the most precious clause of our most prized element of our
imperishable Bill of Rights – the First Amendment to the United
States Constitution.

We make no saint of Thomas Jefferson – we leave the mindless
business of canonization and the worship of humans to the fanatics
-but aware as we are of his many crimes and contradictions we say
with confidence that his memory and example will endure long after
the moral pygmies who try to blot out his name have been forgotten.

As Abraham Lincoln died, after a cowardly shot in the back from
a racist traitor, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sighed and said:
“Now he belongs to the ages”. Or did he say “Now he belongs to
the angels”? In a roomful of highly literate and educated officers
and physicians, in an age of photography and stenography, and with
newspaper presses around the corner on Pennsylvania Avenue, there
was no agreement among eye-and-ear witnesses as to what Stanton
had actually said.

Those of us who write and study history are accustomed to its
approximations and ambiguities. This is why we do not take literally
the tenth-hand reports of frightened and illiterate peasants who
claim to have seen miracles or to have had encounters with messiahs
and prophets and redeemers who were, like them, mere humans. And
this is also why we will never submit to dictation from those who
display a fanatical belief in certainty and revelation. They try to
tell us that to do otherwise is to collapse into “relativism”. But it
is they who wish to promote the life and work of Jefferson Davis -
an advocate of slavery, backwardness, treason and disunion – to an
equality with Lincoln, who suffered agonies of doubt, who never
joined a church, who was born on the same day as Charles Darwin
and who introduced his colleagues to the work of Thomas Paine -
and who was the last brave casualty of a war: a war begun by
devout and fanatical Christians, that preserved our Union and in
the end led to the striking of the shackles from every slave. It
was inscribed in the documents of the Confederacy that the private
ownership of human beings had a divine warrant. And so it did -
to the everlasting shame of those who take the Bible as god’s word.

It is notorious that the news of the Emancipation Proclamation
was kept from the people of Texas and not celebrated until
“Juneteenth”. There may be those in Texas now who believe they can
insulate their state – a state that had its own courageous revolution
– from the news of evolution and from the writing in 1786 of a
Constitution that refuses to mention religion except when demarcating
and limiting its role in the public square. But we promise them today
that they will join their fore-runners in the flat-earth community,
and in the mad clerical clique of those who believed that the sun
revolved around the earth. Yes, they will be in schoolbooks -as a
joke on the epic scale of William Jennings Bryan. We shall be fair,
and take care to ensure that their tale is told.

As President, Thomas Jefferson received a letter from a
concerned group of Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut. These people
were the objects of persecution and the victims of discrimination,
and they beseeched Jefferson to uphold their liberties. Of whom were
they afraid? It should be remembered, and taught in our schools,
that these poor Baptists were afraid of the Congregationalists of
Connecticut, who subjected their fellow-Christians to insult and
insecurity. Thus it was the secular and unbelieving Jefferson who
insisted that, by means of a “wall of separation” between religion
and government, all faiths and communities could take shelter under
the great roof of the godless Constitution. From that day to this,
the only guarantee of religious pluralism has been the secular law.

We inherited these principles and these freedoms and we here
highly resolve that we shall pass them on, as we will pass
on an undivided Republic purged of racism and slavery, to our
descendants. The popgun discharges of a few pathetic sectarians
and crackpot revisionists are negligible, and will be drowned
by the mounting chorus that demands: “Mr Jefferson! BUILD UP
THAT WALL”.

— Christopher Hitchens

**

REMARKS BY ED BUCKNER, PRESIDENT , AMERICAN ATHEISTS
PRESENTED AT TODAY’S RALLY

Please join me in thanking American Atheist VP and Military
Director Kathleen Johnson for her leadership in bringing this
rally to life. We’re proud of Sgt. Johnson and proud that American
Atheists organized this rally. [applause] Kathleen also lives in
Texas, works at Ft. Hood, and wore the uniform of our country
for over 20 years-and she founded the Military Association of
Atheists and Freethinkers. We’re also proud and honored to have
with us today the editor of American Atheist, David Smalley from the
Dallas-Ft. Worth area-who you’ll hear from shortly-and I’m especially
pleased to introduce the newest national leader of American Atheists,
Director of State Operations (for all of 16 days now)-Ken Loukinen.
Chris Allen, one of our national board members who was also educated
and lives in Texas is here, as is of course our Texas state director,
Joe Zamecki. Others…

I’m Ed Buckner, the President of American Atheists, and I was
educated in Texas-junior high in Webster, TX, high school in League
City, TX, college in Houston-and my Daddy, a conservative and,
unlike me, a Christian, was a school board member for the Clear
Creek Independent School District. He died in 1996, but if he
were alive now I know he’d be appalled at the Texas State Board of
Education. Many things are wrong with the curriculum changes they’re
considering, and I’m going to address one major problem, but the
overall problem is simple-they want to indoctrinate the students
of Texas, not educate them. They’re afraid of letting scientists
and historians decide what science and history to teach. They want
their anti-scientific, religious, and political prejudices taught,
not real science and history. To which we say, Indoctrination,
NO! Education, YES! – Indoctrination, NO! Education, YES!

You may have heard of that revolutionary American writer who was
also this nation’s third president, who wrote Notes on Virginia, who
won fame as an inventor, an architect, an agricultural expert, and a
writer of thousands of letters, who was Governor of Virginia (which
included then the area now called Kentucky), who also served us as
Ambassador to France and as Secretary of State, who as president
doubled the size of the USA with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803,
under whose administration America won its first military victory
against Islamic terrorists-pirates in the Mediterranean- and whose
face is on every American nickel and on every two-dollar bill. This
man-Thomas Jefferson, of course-is being downplayed by the Texas
State Board of Education because they don’t like his religious views
or his role in the separation of church and state. Jefferson was
not a god or anything like a perfect man. He hated slavery but he
owned slaves. He was, like most men of his time, a racist and was
probably as much of a sexist as Phyllis Schlafly. Jefferson was
called an “atheist” by his enemies, and he was indeed no orthodox
Christian-he wrote that he did not accept that Jesus was divine,
did not believe in the resurrection or atonement, etc.-but he did
believe in an afterlife and in a designer god. Jefferson died 33
years before Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published, so
in Jefferson’s lifetime there was no reasonable, well-supported
theory of human evolution. But the truth is what matters and no
one-including the Texas State Board of Education -should try to
rewrite history. Jefferson was a genius and he was easily America’s
most original and revolutionary thinker and writer. The Texas State
Board of Education doesn’t want to emphasize the real Jefferson;
they want indoctrination. To which we say, Indoctrination,
NO! Jefferson, YES! – Indoctrination, NO! Jefferson, YES!

Now, if Thomas Jefferson did not focus primarily on being President
or enlarging the nation geographically or winning wars, what did
he care about, and how do we know? We know because he wrote out,
very specifically, what achievements should be put on his grave
marker-and he listed three-and only three-things. First, he was the
“author of the Declaration of American Independence,” the thing he is
most famous for writing, the document known worldwide for changing
the world’s understanding of freedom. People all over the world
“hold these truths to be self-evident” because Thomas Jefferson wrote
about them so eloquently, so stirringly. The Texas State Board of
Education wants less independence and more indoctrination. To which
we say, Indoctrination, NO! Independence, YES! – Indoctrination, NO!
Independence, YES!

Jefferson listed second on his marker something else that he was
proud of having written, something not nearly as well known but
maybe even more important: “The Statute of Virginia for Religious
Freedom.” That Virginia law declares among other things, “that our
civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more
than our opinions in physics or geometry.” That law, written by
Jefferson but passed mostly with James Madison’s leadership while
Jefferson was in France, became widely famous in the late 1700s
and is usually regarded as the key basis for the First Amendment
to the US Constitution-the foundation of separation of church and
state that is so despised and misunderstood by the Texas State
Board of Education. They want indoctrination. To which we say,
Indoctrination, NO! Religious Freedom, YES! – Indoctrination,
NO! Religious Freedom, YES!

And the third thing Jefferson asked to be remembered for was as
“Father of the University of Virginia.” That university was the first
secular one in America, a university that Jefferson founded and that
he proudly declared would not have a theology department. He wrote to
a colleague that he expected strong opposition to the university from
“the priests of the different religious sects, to whose spells on the
human mind its improvement is ominous.” Like the Texas State Board
of Education, those opponents wanted indoctrination. To which we
say now, as Jefferson did then, Indoctrination, NO! Education, YES!
-Indoctrination, NO! Education, YES!

So, in summary, Jefferson wanted and worked for what we want, what we
demand today: Independence-individual rights and political liberty;
Religious Freedom-including the freedom to not be religious;
and Education, real education. Finally, I’d like to call your
attention to some words of Jefferson that are prominently displayed
at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. These are words
from Jefferson, in a letter he wrote when he was about to become
president, a letter to his friend Dr. Benjamin Rush, about what
Jefferson called “the irritable tribe of priests” whose schemes
of establishment, of government support for their religious ideas,
he despised. They feared, he wrote, that he would oppose them. And,
said Jefferson, they believed rightly. He wrote these words, words
which could just as well have been written for today’s Texas State
Board of Education: “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal
hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” To
which we, even those of us with no belief in any altars or any
gods, say Indoctrination, NO! Education, YES! – Indoctrination,
NO! Education, YES! Thank you.

— Ed Buckner

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