February 25 - March 03, 2007

This column will provide links to, plus quotes and summaries of, on-line articles that might be of interest to the Infidel community. Because theinfidels.org is concerned with educational issues, the articles selected will help to inform and enlighten readers as well as entertain them. In order to conform to "fair use practices," only small segments of the articles will be quoted. One caveat: to read the entire linked article, readers may have to subscribe to on-line versions of newspapers or magazines.

I'll begin this column with continuing news of a high school student brave enough to "out" an evangelical teacher who was, basically, proselytizing students, as reported in the NY Times:

NEWARK, Feb. 19 — A Kearny High School junior on Monday drew some legal heavyweights into his battle with school officials over a teacher’s proselytizing in class.

Matthew LaClair says he’s been harassed since taping a teacher.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the People for the American Way Foundation and a partner from a large Manhattan law firm stood beside the student, Matthew LaClair, as he and his family threatened to sue the Kearny Board of Education if their complaints are not resolved. Last fall, Matthew, 16, taped the teacher, David Paszkiewicz, telling students in a history class that if they do not believe that Jesus died for their sins, they “belong in hell.”

Read the complete article here...

And you thought Catholic priests were a problem, as far as sexual abuse is concerned. Hold on! MSNBC has some other news to report:

In the past six months SNAP [Survivors Netowrk of Those Abused by Priests] has received reports of about 40 cases of sexual abuse by Southern Baptist ministers — with some of the incidents dating back many years, Brown said. SNAP leaders hold that abuse is typically underreported because being molested is such a painful experience that victims often wait years before stepping forward.

Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page said the denomination plans to teach its churches how to conduct background checks and to require letters of recommendation for job candidates.

But he said the Southern Baptist Convention, which has 16.3 million members, does not have the legal authority to create an independent board to investigate abuse complaints.

“As much as possible within our structure, we’re going to assist churches,” Page said. “We’re deeply concerned about this. We believe children are the most precious gifts from God.”

Read the rest of the MSNBC article here...

This column by Maureen Dowd, about John McCain, was disheartening. I'd once considered voting for McCain, if he were to run for president, because he harshly criticized people like Dobson and Falwell:

So some guy stands up after John McCain’s luncheon speech here yesterday to a group of business types and asks him a question.

“I’ve seen in the press where in your run for the presidency, you’ve been sucking up to the religious right,” the man said, adding: “I was just wondering how soon do you predict a Republican candidate for president will start sucking up to the old Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party?”

Mr. McCain listened with his eyes downcast, then looked the man in the eye, smiled and replied: “I’m probably going to get in trouble, but what’s wrong with sucking up to everybody?” It was a flash of the old McCain, and the audience laughed.

Certainly, the senator has tried to worm his way into the affections of W. and the religious right: the Discovery Institute, a group that tries to derail Darwinism and promote the teaching of Intelligent Design, helped present the lunch, dismaying liberal bloggers who have tracked Mr. McCain’s devolution on evolution.

Read the rest of the Dowd article here...

News from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that made the pages of several major newspapers, one of which was The Seattle Times:

MADISON, Wis. — Annie Laurie Gaylor speaks with a soft voice, but her message catches attention: Keep God out of government.

Gaylor has helped take the Freedom From Religion Foundation from obscurity into the nation's largest group of atheists and agnostics, with a fast-rising membership and increasing legal clout.

Next week, the group started by Gaylor and her mother in the 1970s to take on the religious right will fight its highest-profile battle when the Supreme Court hears arguments on its lawsuit against President Bush's faith-based initiative.

The court will decide whether taxpayers can sue over federal funding that the foundation believes promotes religion. It could be a major ruling for groups that fight to keep church and state separate.

"What's at stake is the right to challenge the establishment of religion by the government," said Gaylor, 51.

Read the full story here...

From a blog at the Austin American Statesman, by Jeremy Schwartz, about gay civil unions in Mexico:

The new gay civil union law is under attack in Coahuila, even as legislators in neighboring Chihuahua are considering a similar law.

The conservative National Action Party is taking its objection to the Mexican supreme court, arguing that the law approved in Coahuila last month is unconstitutional. At the same time, northern Mexico continues to be the unlikely vanguard of gay rights in the Americas, as legislators from the Revolutionary Democratic Party in Chihuahua introduced a gay union bill this week.

Read the rest of the blog here...

Finally, from the Florida Sun-Sentinel, a report about the intricate and advanced geometry created by Islamic architects, far ahead of Western mathematicians:

//Islamic architects had mastered a sophisticated tile template that allowed them to create a dizzying array of star and polygon decorations more than half a millennium before the concept caught on in the West, according to a new study.

The geometrical know-how of these early Islamic designers, the authors conclude in the journal Science, "led the medieval world" and should force a reappraisal of where important mathematical concepts really originated -- a sentiment echoed by an independent expert who has identified fractal geometry in traditional African culture and who called the new research "absolutely stunning."

Scientists previously believed these medieval Islamic artisans had constructed their complicated motifs with a compass and straightedge. But Harvard University graduate student Peter Lu said that technique is unlikely to explain how designs requiring the piecing together of thousands of tiles with up to ten sides could have been so accurately fit together.//

See the full article here...

Web www.theinfidels.org
The Talk of Lawrence