Clay County AU Chapter Meeting April 23, 2016

Clay County AU Chapter Meeting

Date:             Saturday, April 23, 2016

Time:            10AM

Location:     Fleming Island Public Library in Fleming Island.

Speaker:     Tarah Trueblood, JD, MDiv, MA.
UNF Interfaith Center

Topic:     The Urgency of Religious Pluralism in Public Higher Education

Tarah serves as the Director of UNF’s Interfaith Center and is responsible for the overall operation of the Center.  She will discuss her role at the Intefaith Center.

According to Tarah’s biography, she believes the two most important days in our lives are “the day we were born and the day we figure out why.” It’s this second time in our lives – when we figure out our place in the world and how we can contribute to the common good – that she is most passionate about helping students figure out.  One of her favorite quotes comes from the interfaith leader, filmmaker, and civil rights advocate Valarie Kaur: “The way we make change is just as important as the change we make.”  Tarah says, “In my work at UNF, I hope to live out this value in the way I go about the making of positive social change.”

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Has Martin Luther King III read the textbooks?

Has Martin Luther King lll read the textbooks?

 

I found it a sad spectacle on MLK weekend that the son of Dr Martin Luther King  should be in Tallahassee speaking in favor of The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. I ask myself this question:  does Martin Luther King lll understand that some of the schools in this program are teaching young children that slavery in America was a good thing since it brought pagan Africans to these shores where they could be baptized in Jesus’ name?

 

The fact is that private and religious schools receiving voucher-monies (public money)  have freedom to teach what they want, to operate as they wish, to measure student achievement as they wish.   Some schools use curriculum from A Beka Book created at Pensacola Christian College.  Others use materials from Bob Jones University in Greenville South Carolina.  Here’s a sample of what is taught:  that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old; that humans and dinosaurs existed together;  that the Trail of Tears was used by God to bring many native Americans to Christ; that gay persons have no more claim to special rights than child molesters or rapists; that the goal of global environmentalists is actually to destroy the prosperity of the world’s richest nations.  

 

I wonder whether Martin Luther King lll has read the textbooks.  For example,  United States History for Christian Schools  (Bob Jones University Press) teaches that the majority of slave owners treated their slaves well  (2nd ed.).  And the students are taught that the KKK was in many communities a movement for positive reform, fighting against declining morality, and often achieving respectability by working with political leaders. (3rd ed.).

 

Keep in mind that you are paying for this sad substitute for education.  The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program takes money that corporations would otherwise pay into the state’s general revenue fund, and diverts it to a scholarship-funding organization that hands out vouchers for private and religious schools. What began as a program capped at $50 million, has been expanded by the Legislature and will grow to $873 million by 2018-19.

 

Since there is no evidence that voucher schools perform any better than public schools, we should turn away from voucher schemes and insist on fulfilling the mandate in the Florida Constitution which calls for “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools” as the “paramount duty” of the Legislature.

 

 

 

 

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AU continues to challenge the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program

Rev. Harry Parrott’s remarks to the NE Florida Legislative Delegation
12/2014
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today about the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.  My name is Rev Harry Parrott, and I come to you as President of the Clay County Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and also as a plaintiff in the on-going  lawsuit which is challenging the Florida Tax Credit Program as being unconstitutional.
 
I’m sure you are aware that in 2006 an earlier voucher program  Florida called the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) was ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.  I am very hopeful that the Florida Tax Credit Program will also be struck down: I believe it contains the same flaws of that previous program, and flies in the face of the stated desire of the citizens of Florida.
 
I’d like to share with you briefly why I am passionate about this matter, and urge you as legislators to turn back from the misguided attempt to create and fund a parallel system of private and religious schools with taxpayer money.  
 
In the Florida Constitution the citizens of this state have strongly stated two desires about education. The first desire is that public education should be a top priority : Article 9, section 1a, states that it is the state’s “paramount duty” to provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools”.
 
Clearly, it is a direct conflict with this Constitutional mandate to do what the Florida legislature has done, i.e.— taking taxpayer money away from the public schools to fund a parallel system of private and religious schools.   It was because of this direct conflict with the Florida Constitution that the previous (OSP) program was struck down.  In that case, you will recall, vouchers were paid for directly from the state treasury.
 
Since that time, the Florida legislature has searched for some way to circumvent that ruling, and developed the Florida Tax Credit Program as their answer.  This program allows corporations to give their tax money to intermediate distribution agencies called “Scholarship Funding Organizations”. The rationale is that private schools will now access voucher money from these agencies  before it ever gets to the state treasury.  The deception here is obvious, but does nothing to change the fact that tax money that would otherwise go to public education is being shifted away for the funding of private and religious schools.
 
This brings me to the second desire clearly stated by Florida citizens, namely, that taxpayer money should not be used to fund religion.  Article 1 of the Florida Constitution has mandated (for over 125 years) that “no revenue of the state…shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution”.  
 
Clearly, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program is in direct contradiction to this mandate: it takes monies that would otherwise go to public schools and gives that money to religious schools to use as they please.  Consider this statistic:  in the recent 2013-14 school year, there were 1,414 private schools participating in the Tax Credit voucher program, and 71% were religious schools.  And here is the data regarding students themselves:  82% of all students receiving vouchers attended religious schools. These religious schools are free to use these taxpayer funds for any purpose —-teaching whatever religious views they wish, evangelizing and proselytizing, holding worship services and even mandatory classes that teach specific religious beliefs.  And these schools are free to discriminate in admitting students and hiring staff.  Clearly, all this stands directly contrary to the Florida Constitution.
 
I very much regret the necessity of this lawsuit; but the Florida legislature seems determined to evade the Florida Constitution and support a parallel system of private/religious education funded by the taxpayers.  This voucher system now involves over 60,000 students, currently costs taxpayers $286.25 million, and will increase to $357.8 million for 2014-15. Costs will grow in the future.  It is no longer a small program for low-income students, but an ever-expanding system intentionally gathering a growing constituency.  It is badly misguided, and I trust that the Courts will rule it unconstitutional.
 
But even before the court rules, may I urge you as legislators to seriously consider the following requests:  1) Please support legislation to repeal the Tax Credit Scholarship Program;  2)  At minimum, please require that vouchers not be used in religious schools;  3)  Please impose the same accountability required of public schools (FCAT, certified teachers, etc) so that there can be a meaningful assessment as to how the students are doing at these unregulated schools. 
Thank you.
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Clay County AU Chapter Meeting January 30, 2016

Clay County AU Chapter Meeting – Saturday, January 30, 2016

Time:     10 am

Place:     Fleming Island Public Library

Subject: ” Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence” 

Featured Speaker:  Dr. David Schwam-Baird, Associate Professor at UNF Professor will review the main points and lead a discussion of the views offered in Rabbi Jonathan Sacks recent book:  “Not in God’s Name:  Confronting Religious Violence.” 

More information from Rabbi Sack’s website:

Despite predictions of continuing secularization, the twenty-first century has witnessed a surge of religious extremism and violence in the name of God.

In this powerful and timely book, Jonathan Sacks explores the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, focusing on the historic tensions between the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Drawing on arguments from evolutionary psychology, game theory, history, philosophy, ethics and theology, Sacks shows how a tendency to violence can subvert even the most compassionate of religions. Through a close reading of key biblical texts at the heart of the Abrahamic faiths, Sacks then challenges those who claim that religion is intrinsically a cause of violence, and argues that theology must become part of the solution if it is not to remain at the heart of the problem.

This book is a rebuke to all those who kill in the name of the God of life, wage war in the name of the God of peace, hate in the name of the God of love, and practise cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.

For the sake of humanity and the free world, the time has come for people of all faiths and none to stand together and declare: Not in God’s Name.

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Clay County Chapter of Americans United Holiday Reception

Members and friends of Clay County Chapter of Americans United are cordially invited to a special December reception.

Date:     Sunday, December 13

Time:    4:00PM to 5:30PM

Place:    3536 Caroline Blvd, Penney Farms, FL

In place of our usual formal meeting at the library, we will host an informal reception (with refreshments!) at the home of Bill and Sue Waterston.  Our guests include Robyn and Merrill Shapiro of Palm Coast, Florida.  Rabbi Shapiro is currently President of the Board of Trustees of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, DC.  He will speak informally on church-state matters and the work of Americans United.

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REMINDER: AU Meeting October 10, 2015

Clay County AU Chapter Meeting – Saturday, October 10, 2015 

Time:     10 am

Place:     Fleming Island Public Library

Subject:  “Fundamentalist Religion Goes Mainstream”

Featured Speaker:  Julie Ingersoll, Professor of Religious Studies at UNF.
Dr. Ingersoll writes and teaches about religion in American culture with a focus on religion and politics and the religious right.

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Clay County AU Chapter Meeting – October 10, 2015

Clay County AU Chapter Meeting – Saturday, October 10, 2015 

Time:     10 am

Place:     Fleming Island Public Library

Subject:  “Fundamentalist Religion Goes Mainstream”

Featured Speaker:  Julie Ingersoll, Professor of Religious Studies at UNF.
Dr. Ingersoll writes and teaches about religion in American culture with a focus on religion and politics and the religious right.

Originally from Maine,  Dr. Ingersoll earned a Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of California Santa Barbara, as well as a degrees in history from George Washington University and political science from Rutgers College.  She started studying religion as an undergraduate because she was interested in politics and they seemed so intertwined.   She has found this to be overwhelmingly true.

Her work has been cited in the New Yorker, the Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, American Prospect, Ms Magazine, Salon.com, Beliefnet, and The Nation.  Her most recent book is Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2015).

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