Sullivan County residents Debate Evolution
Know what you disagree withJune 4, 2003
To the editor:
In response to the letter printed May 20, 2003: The theory of evolution is not as threatening as some may think. In my opinion, it's not hard to believe that species change in order to flourish in the environment in which they live.
In fact, the theory of evolution makes sense as the world in which we live has not always been as mild as it is today. During the 4.6 billion years that this planet has been in existence, the earth's atmosphere and composition have gone through dramatic changes. To make a long story short, scientists have found proof that there have been many species that have very similar features, but differ slightly. These slight variations exist because species changed and adapted by means of natural selection, allowing them to continue to exist. Some changes occurred over millions of years allowing many "new species" to branch off from a common ancestor.
According to Darwin, monkeys and humans share a common ancestor. Darwin discovered proof that a mammal once existed before monkeys and humans did and this mammal's skeleton bore a striking resemblance to both monkeys and humans.
Darwin's theory does not state that humans evolved from monkeys, it states that both humans and monkeys evolved from the same ancestor and branched off into two separate directions. That's science for you. My spiritual beliefs lead me to believe differently than Darwin, but I think that one should know exactly what it is that they disagree with before they go and disagree with it.
Letters to The Editor - 10/04/2003
Look at the data
Confused science? Evolution is a great example. The Times-News' editorial Oct. 2 that "...no matter what one's faith, no one can argue that a scientifically unacceptable belief like Creationism should be taught...'' begs the question. How about turning it around? What about teaching a scientifically unacceptable belief like evolution?
Neither evolution nor Creationism can be scientifically tested in the laboratory. None of us have a time machine. So the proper solution is to use forensic science to reconstruct what happened. Scrutinize the data and what do you find?
Less than an inch of dust accumulation on the moon. A steady, rapid decline in the earth's magnetic field with a half-life of 1,400 years. Hydrocarbons still trapped in permeable rock. The spin rate of the earth declining at the rate of almost one second per year. Trees extending through rock strata that supposedly were laid down over millions of years. No meteorites found in or beneath supposedly ancient sedimentary material. This is just a small sampling of items which indicate that the earth and its surroundings are not billions of years old, and evolution requires billions of years.
Good science examines all the data and a lot of the data supports the creationist position. Any and all DNA encodes more data in each string than a CD holds, and it all has to be right for any and every biological program to run. Now imagine that data being programmed and Windows XP running by random chance. Interestingly, the Bible's opening phrase in John 1:1 states, "In the beginning was the Word..."
Blountville paraphrase: "In the beginning was coherent data, information, knowledge and wisdom communicated..." That is what is encoded throughout us, and throughout all of life, or we wouldn't be here. Evolution has no mechanism to provide or encode that data, and without it, life in any form is a non starter.
Perhaps politics will preclude the teaching of good (unbiased) science; nevertheless the data does not support evolution being a superior theory to Creationism.
There are other theories about our beginnings besides the Big Bang. One is called Intelligent Design or I.D. You won't find it in a science textbook because of the bias of some scientists. I.D. is based on scientific evidence and scientific facts and does not use the Bible to support it. Many scientists support this theory, and it is just as valid as the Big Bang theory. There is plenty of information about the I.D. theory if schools are willing to take the time to gather it. They could teach it without any worry of being "religious."
Science and religion
Whenever a situation similar to the one at Colonial Heights Middle School comes around, people come out of the woodwork. As usually happens, Christians are making sure their point of view is the dominant one.
The debate over Creationism versus evolution (science) is one that has raged for many years. This question is not about to go away anytime soon. The reason that many Christians are upset is because they feel that their way of life is being discriminated against.
This point of view always amuses me in many ways. How can the minority discriminate against the majority? It is a simple fact of life that you cannot travel more than a mile in this area without running into a church. It is impossible for a person to grow up in the South and not know the Christian point of view.
The source of the problem is the Biblical Christians' insistence that the Bible must be literal and absolute truth. Maybe it is time for us to look at the meaning behind the writing and not at the writing itself. The Bible was written by people who did the best they could with the information they had. Science is also doing the best it can with the information available. The choices are simple and to the point. We can either walk forward into scientific progress or we can walk backward into the Dark Ages.
Religion is supposed to point to ethical and moral behavior and not to physical reality. Religion gives us the guidelines for living an ethical life. Science gives us guidelines to understanding the universe around us. Both science and religion have a purpose, and it is not necessary for them to have the same one.
A school is a place for knowledge and not the place for religious training. I don't want the school to teach my children what their religion should be. That is a job for my wife and me. There are many different religions expressed by the citizens of our great country. The great part of the situation is that others are not forced to listen to mine, and I am not forced to listen to theirs. Let's keep it that way.
Copyright 2003, Kingsport Publishing Corporation.
Not in conflict
As I have been pondering the responses to the suspension of the student from Colonial Heights Middle School, the following comes to mind. The Bible and science really are not in conflict. The Bible tells us the who (God) and the why (love) and science tells us the how of creation. All one has to do is ponder the miracle of the process we are beginning to see with the change in seasons.
If one is standing up for one's rights and or beliefs, one doesn't get someone else to carry to carry the burden for them. Our society is a society of rules and laws. You break the rules and you get punished. Society has enough problems as it is without conveying the message to future adults that it is OK to break the rules. Think about it. In closing, my faith while personal, runs very deep.
Copyright October 9, 2003 Kingsport Times-News.
To those who see Alabama's intrepid judge as a persecuted martyr, Roy Moore is not being denied his religious freedom. Here is a basic lesson in American government that many seem to sorely need.
Our First Amendment forbids our government from establishing one religion over another. It doesn't mean religion is banned and it doesn't mean Christians are persecuted. It means every religion gets equal treatment in the eyes of the law. Some fundamentalist Christians make claims about God and the Bible being banned from schools, referring to court decisions forbidding schools from telling children to recite the Lord's Prayer or read the Bible. This is a gross misunderstanding. Children can do whatever they want in their free time, including pray or read the Bible.
The school, however, isn't allowed to force them to. And the government isn't allowed to sit idly by while one of its representatives attempts to establish one religion over all others, which is what Judge Moore was clearly attempting.
The fundamentalist Christian population in America doesn't see getting equal treatment in the eyes of the law with everybody else as fair. It wants schools to teach fundamentalist Christianity as fact, the government to promote it, and every other religion to be thrown out of the window. When this doesn't happen, they claim that they are being persecuted. There are plenty of people in the world, Christians included, who truly are persecuted. American fundamentalists are not among them.
Actually "The Great Lie" (Bill Davis' letter 9/23) is that anything positive at all could come from further intrusions upon our government by institutionalized religion. That some intrusions have already occurred doesn't mean that more would be beneficial. That the framers of the Constitution had personal religious notions does not give sanction to religious icons in our houses of government. Bill Davis would likely find Thomas Jefferson's religious notions, and those of many of our founding fathers, to be far from his own.
If Mr. Davis would delve into the sad history of church-state entanglements and the tribulations they have brought and still bring upon the human race, he surely would want to modify his position in this matter. But, if his determinants of right and wrong for America today are to be the intentions of our forefathers when they devised our governmental system, without the insights gained through time and experience, then Davis should also strive for the revocation of women's voting privileges and the reinstitutionalization of slavery. Even an eighth-grader can understand that women's suffrage and freedom for all were not among the original intents of our religious forbears.
As to Davis' closing remark, "Only Christians, it seems, are not welcome to the right to assemble or speak our minds,'' how could anyone, whose opinions are printed in the newspaper and whose home town has Church Circle as its centerpiece, make such an irrational statement? Sounds like the usual twist and spin served up to provoke righteous indignation and rally support for an unworthy cause (HR 235, supporters of which should get off the government dole and give up tax-exempt status if they don't want governmental restrictions.) In referring to those who disagree with his viewpoint, Davis probably should label them "demagogues'' rather than "demigods,'' unless his purpose is to exalt them.
Copyright 9-30-2003, Kingsport Publishing Corporation.
Letters to The Editor - 09/16/2003
A Ten Commandments monument at a center of a bitter dispute over the constitutional separation of church and state was removed from public view in Alabama's state judicial building.
The words in the Ten Commandments appear first in Exodus, when God lay down the law to Moses at the top of Mt. Sinai. They appear next in Deuteronomy (Chapter 5) 40 years later on the plains of Moab where Moses goes over the law before he is taken up by God.
There's nothing about engraving them in granite or carving them in wood, nothing about putting them in the courthouse, nothing about including them in manmade constitutions or codes. That's because the Ten Commandments aren't a legal agreement among people or between the government and the people. Government's got nothing to do with it.
The Ten Commandments were given to Moses at Sinai, not to Alabama's justice Roy Moore. Honor and keep the Ten Commandments. Don't make them into cast idols at the local courthouse.
Darrel E. Lyons
Re. the Ten Commandments, it's time to stop insulting God and remove them (from public buildings.) While running religious crusades from public office, Sullivan County has lost 450 students. When I asked for equal access to hang a plaque, I got threatened with a lawsuit to shut me up. When I wouldn't, Mr. Street concocted this "plaque procedure" to discriminate against those asking for equal access. The fundamentalists didn't have to follow that procedure, standing as further proof of government sanctioning of religion in violation of the Constitution.
By tradition, Moses received 613 commandments in Hebrew, not 10 in English, clearly understood to symbolize fundamentalist Protestant tyrants that publicly attack fellow Christians and non-Christians alike. Quoting Mr. Street, "To me it seems perfectly clear that a governmental entity cannot post the Ten Commandments ... attempting to influence the public." To refer to the Christian commandments as a "secular historical document" demeans Christianity to a petty political position. The Declaration of Independence only mentions "nature's God." (The universal God of deism, not the biblical God.)
Our freedoms are not based on manmade religious books interpreted by fanatical mobs and cults. Finally, from Jefferson, "our civil rights have no dependence on religious opinions ... the priest has been hostile to liberty; he is always in alliance with the despot ... It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." And Francis David, "God always took care of his truth Himself and He will always do that in the future as well."
Letters to The Editor - 09/15/2003
There is a better way of promoting the Ten Commandments than a 5,000-pound stone located in one city with over 300 churches.
The churches are the ones who should be doing the promotion. It could be done in a simple, inexpensive and legal way that might just reach millions all over the nation.
I suggest the churches make copies of the Ten Commandments and place them in every church in the United States that believes in Christianity. Let the people circulate them where ever they wish - except schools and government buildings. This may also be a useful idea for the Puritans and other civic-minded groups. Copy machines are plentiful and cheap. I believe it is worth a try, how about you?
Kyle E. Jennings
Letters from September 5
Free to worship
This is in response to the "Fighting Back" letter Aug. 20. It appears this individual's definition of religious freedom is having the Ten Commandments, among other Christian artifacts, plastered all over every public building and the return of Bible reading and similar activities to public schools. The author is correct that the founding fathers saw freedom of speech and freedom of religion as very important, and she correctly states that they did encode it in the First Amendment.
However, the First Amendment comes with two clauses that deal with religion, the free exercise clause which has already been mentioned, but it also contains the establishment clause. What this clause says is that the government cannot give a preference for or against any religion. It is as simple as that. Federal courts have not limited, by one iota, the freedom of individuals and groups to practice religion wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as it is done in a private setting or on private property.
The government cannot tell you that you cannot pray in your house and they cannot prevent students from praying in school if they do it appropriately such as in between classes in private groups, or before and after school. See You at the Pole is a prime example of a situation where students and teachers alike can pray on school grounds. However, just because you can't compel all the students who go to school to pray and read the Bible doesn't mean your own personal religious freedoms are being violated.
Suppose every courthouse, school, fire station, and city hall had, for example, statues of Mohammed and the Koran everywhere, or they all had Wiccan artifacts plastered all over their walls. Would you as a Christian really feel that you had true religious freedom if the government was supporting a religion like that?
That is exactly how minority religious groups would feel if we did decorate all public buildings with Christian artifacts. It wouldn't be religious freedom for all, it would be religious superiority for Christians, and only Christians, with all other religions pushed aside. That is not how the United States is supposed to be.
If someone wanted to take down the American flag at the courthouse, how many people would turn out to defend it? Thank God for Mark Vance. It's about time someone took a stand for the Ten Commandments. Leave it alone. Those who believe that the Ten Commandments should stay at the courthouse, start standing up for what you believe in. It has already gotten to where you can't pray in schools or have the Bible there. I can remember praying in school and saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
When God returns to take us home, will you be ready to go? Or will he tell you what you did, that you were into having the Ten Commandments taken down? This country was founded on the Bible and prayer. It's time we put it back where it belongs.
Re. "Teacher Claims Race Discrimination in $6 Million Lawsuit," this story touched me. I moved to this area in May 1992. I heard from so many people that I would love this area and would never want to leave because of the beauty and the people here, and that everyone goes to church and this is God's country.
Well some of this book is true until you start reading the story inside.
The area is very beautiful and some of the people are very nice, but I just can't understand these people who go to church and preach the Bible and then they talk behind your back, or hold grudges, or discriminate. I think if they are going to go to church and read the Bible they need to live by the Bible. That's why I don't even bother going to a church around here - too many hypocrites.
Copyright 2003 Kingsport Times-News.
Letters to The Editor - 10/02/2003- Times-News
Child showed love
The parents of the middle school student who was suspended for placing a religious pamphlet on the teacher's desk should be congratulated for raising a child that would be so concerned and have so much love for her teacher that she would want to share her belief with her. In a time when parents are so worried about what their children are doing wrong, it is so rewarding to hear of a child doing what God said to do, which is to go all over the world teaching and baptizing in his name.
We need to offer our students and children choices. If they are going to be exposed to the Big Bang Theory, then they need to have exposure to God's Creation as well. I thank God that this young girl has a Christian-based church and home and especially parents that taught her the Bible as it should be taught. This teacher should realize that this was not harassment, but this little girl loved her so much that she wanted to share God's love with her. There are people who are never loved this much.
Though Congress cannot create any laws that would in effect create a theocracy in this country, is it really a crime for a teacher to respond to a student-initiated discussion on the authenticity of Jesus Christ? If Christianity is bunk, teachers and students shouldn't hesitate to discuss, debate, and reveal its errors; if Jesus really did walk this earth, however, and was who He said He was; and if people from all over the world gave their lives because they experienced a real relationship with Him; and framers of our Constitution expressed their owing their very existence to Him, aren't we doing the children of our society a disservice by barring a discussion of Him from our schools?
Perhaps it's time to let the Theory of Evolution and other worn out, misleading teachings move over and let truth take over. If we allow that to occur, I believe we will then see things change for the better in our schools nationwide. Hats off to the student serving her time in suspension. She understands now more than many others that truth is greater than any school system, mightier than any judge, more powerful than anything in the universe. I commend the teacher in question for teaching the Big Bang Theory as just that, a theory.
We have rights too
I am shocked and saddened by the story of the middle school student suspended for harassment. It is perfectly acceptable that we subject our children to the Big Bang Theory; however, we are not allowed to discuss our views as Christians. All I ever hear in cases like this are people's rights. What about our right to discussion of our faith and trust in God? Our country was founded on his word and teachings. Sadly, you wouldn't know this now.
We are allowing a minority of people to dictate to the majority what their views and beliefs are. I am proud to be a born again Christian and if that means that there is to be some sort of punishment for standing firm in my beliefs, then I guess I'm just like the little girl in the article and guilty of only one thing, belief in God.
It is outrageous that the Sullivan County Department of Education would endorse the suspension of the Colonial Heights Middle School student who expressed her beliefs concerning the creation of the Earth. Have we really become so politically correct that every philosophy is endorsed by the state except for Christianity? We have let a small, but vocal, minority of extremists (i.e. the ACLU, etc.) dictate what our schools can and cannot teach.
The Theory of Evolution (with emphasis placed on the word "theory'') is taught to our children as a proven fact, while the "silly" notion that man was created by God is discredited as being old-fashioned. Our children are not taught that the vast majority of scientific evidence supports the biblical account of creation, not evolution and the Big Bang Theory. Indeed, children who question these theories are chided for expressing their beliefs. I can only hope and pray that the school's administration and the board of education will reconsider the suspension and right this wrong.
The student at Colonial Heights Middle School should not have started a rumor that the teacher was an atheist because she couldn't teach the theory of creation from a Christian view. However, placing a pamphlet on the teacher's desk does not constitute harassment. The courts have ruled that school libraries have to allow books that people find objectionable due to freedom of speech and the right to express themselves. If this teacher was harassed by a pamphlet, are not the students made to read these books also harassed?
The Constitution states that the government cannot restrict the practice of religion. All the teacher had to do was drop it in the trash. Saying teachers have the same rights as students is ridiculous. Teachers are at school by their choice, students are required by law to be there and sit through anything the teachers want to teach no matter how harassing it is to the students' beliefs. To teach an unproven theory as "information'' without teaching the other side so the student can make a logical conclusion is not teaching. It's called brainwashing.
It is natural for a person to ask, "Where did I come from?'' When a child wants to know the answer, is it fair to teach them one side of the issue?
In essence that is what they are being taught in our school classrooms. Now, if Christianity, Islam or any other religion cannot be taught as a means of "where did I come from?'' but only as history, then why is evolution taught as an origin?
Should not all theories be taught or discussed? Let's be fair here. Does it not take as much, if not more faith to believe we essentially came from a rock (as evolution would have you believe) as it does to say we were created by a loving God living in a fallen world? Why do we think that just because something has the word science attached to it that it's somehow superior?
When you break it down neither creation nor evolution can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. It's all a matter of faith. However, our tax dollars are funding the evolution faith. Sounds quite hypocritical. Both teacher and student were at fault here, and to say it was harassment is taking the new school policy just a bit to far.
I think man needs to check up and stop trying to make himself a god.
Copyright 2003, Kingsport Publishing Corporation.
Letters to The Editor - 10/02/2003- Times-News Online
In regard to the ongoing controversy of a Bible tract being placed on a teacher's desk, I think it's funny that when I attended Colonial Heights Junior High in the early 1970s, we had a weekly Bible class that we were practically forced to attend. I knew of only two people out of 100 that were allowed to skip the Bible class. Now, it's the students who are forcing their religious beliefs on the teachers.
If the student's mother wants to encourage her daughter to witness to others, then she should also teach her daughter about the consequences of witnessing - persecution, ridicule and in this case, suspension from school. In the end, the student got someone else to unknowingly perform the witnessing for her, which implies she knew this was incorrect behavior for the classroom. Although the student "meant no harm,'' she violated school authority and coerced another student to join her. Let the suspension stand.
Follow school policy
I am aware that a bit of an uproar has been caused by this mess of "religious harassment.'' In no way do I think that what this young girl did tormented or bewildered this teacher. But over the past decade, we seem to have concocted new and more "logical'' ways to define certain things. Nowadays, you look at me in an awkward manner and you're going down. And why is this? Why are we so afraid? Why must we always feel so violated?
Was religious harassment ever a common or even regarded problem in your school system? More than likely, it was not. It seems like just recently someone has discovered that a few of us are capable of developing our own view and beliefs. Apparently, they aren't too happy about this, i.e., keep religion and state separate, keep school and religion separate, keep everything and religion separate.
I totally agree with this, although it seems to have done more harm than good. We can't hand out our pamphlets in school, we're being discriminated against. This must be the work of Satan. No my friends, it is not Satan that is destroying your right of free speech, it is the people that can't accept or even tolerate your opinions that are extinguishing any hope you have of practicing whatever you are practicing, freely. Hypothetically, I am of a pagan religion. I bring a pamphlet to school in relation to a function my church is holding, place it on my teacher's desk. Hypothetically, that's not going to happen. I understand that I would receive punishment for this. There are no if, ands or buts.
And why is this? Christianity is more tolerable then a few select religions because Christianity is practiced more publicly and perhaps it's because you won't need incense to produce your miracle.
No, this student should have not received such a severe penalty. But Christians should understand that maybe, they were not being directly scrutinized in this situation, and that until we can all be OK with one another's beliefs, they should follow school policy as well.
Why study evolution?
According to Mike Cline, the students at Colonial Heights Middle School are told that evolution is just a theory and "is not encouraged as a belief.'' If this is the case why exactly are we discussing evolution in our classrooms? To those of us who believe in the divinity of God, the theory of evolution is pretty farfetched. If both sides are not discussed as theory, then I think we need to just leave what we cannot prove alone.
Re. "Parent Says Suspended Student Meant No Harm,'' it would seem that the double standard that exists over so many question like this one led to this and other similar situations. Theories over science such as the Big Bang, morals such as alternate lifestyles and sex education, and any number of other topics, can be presented in class. Parents may or may not know what is being discussed or taught, even with disclaimers.
Then discussions about religion cannot be held, even with disclaimers. The teachers could be allowed to say what they believe personally, even if required to give a disclaimer. A liberal agenda has permeated every fabric of our society and very successfully has stymied and silenced any opposition to the takeover. The conservative voice is punished and even if teachers wished to voice their personal faith, they too are forbidden by law or regulations.
Gary W. Jennings
Re. "Middle School Student Suspended for Harassing Teacher about Religion," these things should not be offensive.
The problem is that adults of Christian children need to better explain that along with the pamphlets, prayer and patience are needed. Jesus never kept at people; they must be given time. I commend the student, but one cannot hound people.
Besides, the teacher may already believe. Christ does not want any who call themselves Christian to reach people this way. We are told to go into the world, which means the workplace and school, but witness and live the life that you are trying to win them to.
This letter is in response to the student suspended at Colonial Heights Middle School for wanting to voice his or her opinion on their Christian beliefs. I applaud her for standing up for what she believes in and wanting to debate it against the Big Bang theory. I commend her for standing up for her rights and freedom of speech to debate and discuss what she believes is the correct beginning of creation.
It is apparent why our country is slowly deteriorating into self-consumed, closed-minded people, without any morals or any values. We seem to be concerned with protecting everyone except the ones who still believe in the foundation on which our country was founded. If only more adults would take the stand that she took. God is smiling upon her and appreciates her efforts even when the world does not.
Perhaps part of the reason for the issue between the CHMS student and her teacher stems from two fallacies that are commonly believed around here. First, that because we worship Christ, then everything we believe must be Christian. This kind of thinking puts Major Hoople's forecasts in the realm of theology.
The second is that evolution and creationism are the only two choices. As pointed out in Thursday's editorial column, the doctrine known as creationism is itself a creation of the late 19th century. That's barely more than 100 years ago. What did Christians believe before then? If we don't know, then maybe our churches are doing a poor job of teaching. Phillip Martin Kingsport
Copyright 2003, Kingsport Publishing Corporation.
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