Rev. Mendle Adams Speaks to FIG TONIGHT. Edwin Tomorrow. Atheist Student Expelled

Y’all come and hear Rev. Adams, y’hear.

Free Inquiry Group (FIG) Talk at Vernon Manor, 400 Oak Street, Cincinnati, Ohio.

FIG is an affiliate of American Atheists.

Election 2006: What does it Mean For Us?

Results in recent elections have been attributed to voter blocs such as “soccer moms”, “Nascar Dads”, and “values voters”. The election in 2006 is labeled as a referendum on the war in Iraq. The results of this election will play a significant role in how the presidential election in 2008 is framed.

Reverend Mendle Adams will join FIG on Tuesday, November 28 to discuss the results of elections and analyze its impact on the major social issues of today, including how religion and government will operate in the new Congress.

Born in a fundamentalist Christian home, Reverend Adams was raised attending fundamentalist Bible School and College. However, as a reverend, Mendle has championed causes of social justice, working for Equal Rights Ratification, Witness of Peace, The Nuclear Freeze, and Gay Rights. As ecumenical campus chaplain at Oklahoma State University, Reverend Adams was the only clergy member to join the ACLU lawsuit against the board of regents to allow the students to show the The Last Temptation of Christ. The movie was deemed “blasphemous” by the Board of Regents, but the ACLU suit was victorious in court, the movie was shown, and the Chairman of the Board of Regents was forced to step down. Reverend Adams also served in the Indiana House of Representatives, where he established his credentials as a ‘thoughtful and liberal Democrat’.

Mendle Adams has been the senior pastor at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ since 1997. Mendle met FIG members, Edwin and Helen Kagin, while he was a pastor in Union, Kentucky during the campaign to defeat the location of the Answers in Genesis “Creationist Museum” next to the Big Bone State Park in Boone County. With Mendle‘s range of experiences and expertise, he is sure to provide a lively presentation that will lead to deep discussion on the next trends in Washington.



Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists will be the guest on the Gene Cook Show this Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006. You can call in with your questions and comments, and the program can be downloaded from the internet.

WHO: Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists.
WHAT: Will appear live on the radio call-in talk show “The Narrow Mind” in California, hosted by Gene Cook, for an open discussion on Atheism and Christianity

WHEN: Wednesday, November 29, 2006, 12:00 – 1:00 pm (Eastern Time). 9:00 – 10:00 am (PDT).

Click the title for the link. The call-in number is 1-800-466-1873. The phone lines are open and an MP3 of the program should be available (free) very soon after the program ends.


Suspension of Disbelief

Art Student Expelled—For Atheism?

Bob Averill’s classmates at the Art Institute of Portland had finished up their work in a character development class on November 8, and were chatting to pass the time until class was over. The discussion moved toward spirituality. Averill, a Game Art Design student and a devoted atheist—he even runs a blog called Portland Atheist—sidled over and joined the conversation.

It was the last time he’d be in an Art Institute class—within two weeks, he was expelled, less than a year before he’d hoped to graduate.

In the classroom that day, Averill says one young woman was talking about her belief in energy layers and astral beings.

“I jokingly asked her if she believed in leprechauns. It turns out, she does. They live on another energy layer,” Averill wrote in notes to himself later that day. “In the interest of bringing my own view to the discussion, I began to ask her how she knew these things. Again I know all too well that people can be sensitive about their spiritual beliefs, so I was pretty much walking on glass as I did so.”

Averill says he wasn’t trying to disprove the other student’s religious beliefs, but “to convince her not to insist that they were scientifically proven.”

The student, apparently offended, complained to the teacher. Averill was called into a meeting that evening, he says, with the Art Institute’s dean of education, associate dean, and the dean of student affairs.

According to Averill, he was told the meeting was “because of my altercation with [the other student].” Averill says he pointed out that he’d “only offered a different viewpoint in a discussion that [my classmate] had started.”

“They didn’t respond well,” Averill told the Mercury. “Their mantra was ‘no discussing religion in school,’ which is fine except that I did not initiate the conversation, she had.” Averill was suspended for four days, until a judicial hearing with the dean of student affairs.

Immediately after the meeting with the deans, Averill found a classmate who had witnessed the initial conversation, and dragged him to the dean’s office. “I thought I could clear this up, this is just a misunderstanding.” (The witness did not respond to an inquiry from the Mercury.)

But the associate dean, Averill says, “told me she didn’t want to hear from me again that day. So she reported it to the dean as rude and belligerent behavior.”

At the judicial hearing, on November 17, Dean of Student Affairs Ron Engeldinger was more focused on the “rude and belligerent behavior” report from the associate dean, Averill says, than on the initial conversation about religion.

Then Engeldinger, he says, brought up the fact that Averill had had some trouble with three instructors in October. “The thing is, I had already had a meeting with the associate dean about [that]. We resolved the issue and I apologized to the professors involved.” Averill was surprised that Engeldinger brought it up again.

“I expressed that I felt discriminated against as an atheist, and he informed me that mine was not a protected class of people,” Averill says.

Averill has since contacted the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Freedom from Religion Foundation, based in the Midwest. He says the Freedom from Religion Foundation told him to seek legal counsel, and he expects the ACLU will respond to his inquiry within 60 days.

According to an emailed letter from Engeldinger, Averill had violated the student conduct policy. The decision to dismiss Averill was “not the result of a single action on your part, but a series of actions. I believe that, in several instances, your actions have been aggressive, demeaning, and threatening and that this demonstrates a pattern of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior,” Engeldinger wrote.

The student who complained on November 8 wished to remain anonymous, but her account backs up Engeldinger’s letter. Her complaint was not the only reason he was sent into the Dean’s office. The teacher even told me that my complaint was the ‘last straw’ as SEVERAL other complaints were stated before mine.”

However, she says she “did not wish for him to be expelled or get in trouble and I had no idea that it was going to happen until after the fact.”

On Monday morning, November 20, Averill met with the school’s president, Dr. Steven Goldman, to appeal his dismissal. “He upheld the dean’s decision to throw me out,” Averill says. “He offered to re-admit me if I underwent—get this—psychiatric evaluation.”

Goldman declined to discuss specifics without Averill’s permission.

“I can say that we have never suspended or terminated or disciplined or otherwise troubled any student at any time about religious issues. It’s never even come up as an issue,” says Goldman, who also teaches a comparative religion class at the school. Given the Art Institute’s liberal arts curriculum, there is no policy against discussing religion or philosophy, “or any other subject as far as I know. We have an academic community in which people are free to explore ideas.”

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