Sunday, April 30, 2017

UK: How parents are removing their children from religious education classes because they do not want them to learn about Islam

Parents are pulling their children out of school religious education lessons because they do not want them taught about Islam, the Church of England said yesterday.

Some, Church officials said, hope to shield their children from learning about any faith but Christianity, and others have a particular intention to keep children from any knowledge of Islam.

They pointed towards far right political groups and some minority faith sects as activists who are trying to ‘exploit’ the legal right of parents to withdraw their children from school RE.

CofE leaders called for the right of withdrawal to be repealed and for RE to become a compulsory part of school timetables to encourage pupils to learn to live with others from different backgrounds.

The accusation against parents who remove children from RE classes comes against a background of intensifying arguments about the future of religious education teaching.

The subject is not part of the compulsory National Curriculum, and is, alongside sex education, the only subject from which parents can withdraw pupils.

CofE school inspection chief Derek Holloway said: ‘Through RE teacher social media forums and feedback from our RE advisers I am aware that some parents have sought to exploit the right to withdraw children from RE lessons.

‘This is seemingly because they do not want their children exposed to other faiths and world views, in particular Islam. Anecdotally, there have also been some cases in different parts of the country of parents with fundamentalist religious beliefs also taking a similar course.

‘This is not confined to any one particular religion or area of the country.’

Mr Holloway added: ‘To enable all to live well together there is a need for all pupils from all backgrounds to receive a broad and balanced curriculum that includes high quality RE.

‘Sadly, and dangerously the right of withdrawal from RE is now being exploited by a range of interest groups often using a dubious interpretation of human rights legislation. The right of withdrawal from RE now gives comfort to those who are breaking the law and seeking to incite religious hatred.’

School RE lessons are supposed to teach children not just about Christianity but to give them a background on the beliefs and history of all the major faiths.

Parents have a legal right to remove their children from RE under a 1998 education law.

The CofE, which has 4,700 schools including 200 secondary schools, aims to promote ‘deep respect for the integrity of other traditions’ in RE.

Mr Holloway said the subject ‘does have a contribution to make to combatting extremism and to community cohesion, but these are not its core purpose nor its main aims.’

He said the teaching of RE should not be confused with the daily act of worship which schools are required to offer to pupils. In most schools this is a Christian assembly, and parents are entitled to withdraw their children from the act of worship.

There are no figures on how many parents remove their children from RE classes, although CofE officials said the figure is thought to be small. The subject is popular at GCSE, with more than 250,000 children taking the exam at 16.

Critics of religious education said parents should continue to be able to remove their children from classes.

Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said: ‘The fundamental problem is that RE is a confused subject area, still sometimes taught in a biased or partisan way.

‘If the subject was reformed to be genuinely educational and non-partisan study of religious and non-religious worldviews, the right to withdraw may no longer be necessary. But until such time, the right of withdrawal is required to protect parental rights and freedoms.’


U of Missouri Journalism Prof.: Which is More Dangerous -- ISIS or the NRA?

Missouri School of Journalism Professor Emeritus George Kennedy, the former managing editor of the Columbia Missourian, the school's teaching newspaper, suggested in a recent commentary published by the Missourian that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is more dangerous to Americans than the radical jihadist Islamic State (ISIS).

In the April 20 commentary, "The NRA's Influence is a Danger to Us All," Professor Kennedy compared the NRA and ISIS, noting when each group was founded and claiming that while the world may fear ISIS, it is politicians who fear the NRA. He also said the NRA is far closer to attaining its goal than ISIS is to attaining its caliphate.

The NRA's goal, Kennedy claims, is to remove "all restrictions on the possession and use of firearms just about anywhere by just about anyone."  Kennedy neither cites nor quotes any NRA source to back up that assertion.

Kennedy then notes some gun-death and terrorism statistics, claiming "annual averages" show that -- when not counting the 2,996 victims from 9/11 -- the number of Americans killed by Islamic terrorists averages 9 per year, but the number of Americans killed each year by another American with a gun, since 9/11, averages 11,737 a year.

The apparent suggestion is that Americans are more dangerous to other Americans than ISIS, and that this is somehow because of the influence of the NRA.   

As Kennedy asks, "Which organization is more dangerous to Americans -- ISIS or the NRA?"

Conveniently, Kennedy does not present statistics on the number of incidents where Americans use guns defensively to protect themselves or their property, a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

A 2013 report by the gun-control group Violence Policy Center, using data from the FBI, concluded that over a five-year period (2007-2011) "the total number of self-protective behaviors involving a firearm by victims of attempted or completed violent crimes or property crimes totaled only 338,700," which averages to 67,740 defensive gun uses a year.

In other words, Americans use guns to protect themselves and their property about 67,740 times a year -- and that's a conservative estimate from a pro-gun control organization.

On a related note, a CDC study commissioned by the Obama administration in 2013 found that "self-defense" with a firearm "can be an important crime deterrent." In fact, the injury rate is lower for crime victims who defensively use a gun than it is for victims using other, non-gun, self-protective strategies, said the CDC.

Kennedy also does not mention the number of Americans killed by automobiles each year.

In 2015 that number was 38,300 people killed on U.S. roads, and the deaths apparently had nothing to do with the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the NRA.

In concluding his commentary, Journalism Prof. Kennedy softens a bit, admitting "there's plenty of blame to go around" when it comes to the misuse of firearms.  "However, there is no denying that the NRA is Missouri’s and the nation’s most vociferous, most generous to its friends and most vindictive to its enemies advocate of a free-fire zone for guns of all types in all places," says Kennedy.  "And that’s a danger to us all."

I wonder if any of the 49 murder victims of the Islamist attack at the gay nightclub in Orlando wished they had been carrying a gun. Or the 89 murder victims at the Bataclan in Paris.  Or the 5 Americans murdered in Chattanooga. Sadly, they can't tell us now.


ACLU Comes Out In Grudging Support Of Ann Coulter After Speech Cancelled

The liberal American Civil Liberties Union has came out in support of conservative columnist Ann Coulter’s right to speak on a public college campus Wednesday after the event was cancelled.

Coulter, a 12-time New York Times bestselling author, was slated to speak on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley until the school cancelled the event, claiming they couldn’t guarantee the security of Coulter or attendees.

Coulter, who was invited to speak by a student group, said she would go to the campus and speak anyway, but ultimately cancelled after the event’s sponsor dropped out Wednesday morning.

It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon, more than a week after the controversy erupted and after Coulter announced her event was cancelled, that the ACLU spoke up in support of her right to speak.

In a tweet, the ACLU said, “The heckler’s veto of Coulter’s Berkeley speech is a loss for the 1st Amendment. We must protect speech on campus, even when hateful.”

Earlier in the day, the ACLU tweeted a link to a press release from Monday reading, “UC Berkeley cannot limit speech because of its content or because of the viewpoint it espouses. Nor can it help others to do so by canceling, delaying, or moving an event in reaction to threats of disruption or violence, unless doing so is truly necessary to preserve public safety or some other compelling government interest.”

But the same release continues to take a swipe at Coulter as a purveyor of “hate speech.” The statement claims, “Hate is contrary to our core values. The ACLU condemns bigotry and fights for equal rights for all, and we hope that the University and its officials will do the same. But no matter how heinous the speech, the First Amendment protects everyone. To be clear, the constitution does not protect speech that directly incites violence or harasses individual students or community members.”


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