Saturday, October 29, 2011

Jesus' Name Ruled Unconstitutional

Photo credit

"A U.S. circuit court decision that states even “a solitary reference to Jesus Christ” in invocations before the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ meetings could do “violence to the pluralistic and inclusive values that are a defining feature of American public life.”

World Net Daily reported today that the Name of Jesus has been ruled unconstitutional in North Carolina.


I am so tired of this kind on nonsense. Shall I go out and sue everyone who offends me? I could singlehandedly clog up the courts for decades with lawsuits concerning public statements that offend me!

Free speech, even repulsive speech, is one of the hazards of a free society (not up for discussion about whether we are really still free, thanks). The name of Jesus is NOT repulsive speech, no matter what the ACLU or the US Circuit Court think.

Why isn't a solitary reference to Allah, or Buddha, or the Dalai Lama, or Mother Earth, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, something that does violence to our "inclusive" values?

Occupy Wall Street protesters might say it like this:  99% of the complaints about stuff like this come from 1% of the professional malcontents who hire the ACLU to scrub every reference to Jesus from public life.

If someone doesn't feel that they can participate in civic affairs because they are scandalized by a prayer, they have bigger problems than I am able to address in this column. Believe me, my opposition to Roe v. Wade, Obamacare, or "gender education" for kindergarteners doesn't stop me from participating in civic affairs.

Anyway, the Board of County Commissioners in Forsyth County has retained the Alliance Defense Fund to help them overturn this ruling. Brett Harvey of the Alliance Defense Fund explains,

 "The Constitution prohibits the government from deciding which religious words are acceptable and which are not, even if the goal is to make people feel more comfortable."
Read more:Jesus' name ruled 'unconstitutional'
I may not agree with you, but will defend to the death your right to your opinion. As a Christian and an American, I may have a different take on this from people in other countries. So, international readers, step up and speak!  Americans, too - I know my readers and online friends are a diverse lot.  God forbid that we should have to march in lockstep and all subscribe to the same groupthink to be friends.

I know, I know. This one doesn't have anything to do with homeschooling. And it isn't even Wednesday.

So sue me. Better yet, comment! I really want to know what you think.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Lesson in Forgiveness

Photo credit:  ©Warner Bros.
We took communion in church last Sunday, and as I considered how I needed to become more like Jesus, my mind kept popping back to a YouTube video I watched earlier in the week.  I kept batting it away, like a pesky fly, thinking it was some distraction keeping me from considering weightier matters.

See, it was a video about Mel Gibson.  Wow, thinking about Mel Gibson during communion - how messed up is that? In my life before Christ, it would have been no problem for me to contemplate Mel Gibson during communion, or any other time. But after his phenomenal success with Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ, in recent years Mel has made an ass of himself, with his public drunkenness, anti-Semitic tirades, marital problems, and domestic violence issues, just to name a few. Like many others, I have grown tired of his antics, and moved on.

But the thoughts wouldn't go away, so I considered what it was I was supposed to be learning from it, and whether there was a lesson in there somewhere. Because this wasn't a video OF Mel Gibson. It was an extraordinary speech by Robert Downey, Jr., about Mel Gibson.

After a promising career start in the 1980s and early '90s as part of the "Brat Pack," Robert Downey, Jr. had a terrible drug problem that peaked between 1996 and 2001. He was arrested multiple times on drug charges, did some time,  and was in and out of drug treatment programs. He stopped being considered for roles, and was even fired from a few before finding lasting sobriety in 2001.

In recent years, Robert Downey, Jr.'s career has taken off, with two very notable successes in Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man. A couple of weeks ago, he added the American Cinematheque award to his collection, and he deliberately chose Mel Gibson to present the award, so that he could make this speech. Please don't read any further until you watch this. It's only two minutes. It made me cry, and I bet you will, too.

And then I knew why it was appropriate to think about this video during communion. Because there is a really good sermon in there, about forgiveness, friendship, loyalty, faithfulness, and restoration - all of which are very near to the heart of God.

Am I that kind of friend? Robert Downey, Jr. never wavered in his support for Mel all during the controversy, and did not distance himself as others did, because of what Mel had done for him during his darkest times. How many times have I been influenced by the "evil report" of others about someone, or distanced myself from someone who was going through a whirlwind of bad choices and worse behavior?  Is there someone, or perhaps several someones, in my life that I need to embrace and forgive, and restore to fellowship?

Especially after all that Jesus did for me. Isn't that what He would do? What He does?

I continued to think about friendship and forgiveness throughout the day, and while I had little or no opinion of Robert Downey, Jr. before now, he has catapulted over hundreds of others in my esteem because of this act of friendship and forgiveness. And he made me ashamed of my attitude about Mel.  Ashamed of my attitude about some other people.

So what does that have to do with homeschooling?  Just that children learn more from what they see us do than from what we tell them they should do.

Walk in mercy and forgiveness, and your children will also.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Here We Go Again! 9th Circuit Outlaws Banners Mentioning "God"

The 9th Circuit strikes again!

The same three judge panel that decided that "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional is at it again. This time, they have reversed a lower court ruling that allowed Bradley Johnson to display patriotic banners in his San Diego classroom because they mention "God."

I wrote about this controversy in a post called "Finally, A Judge with Sense in California!", in which I celebrated the lower court ruling that enabled the banners to remain. If you are unfamiliar with this controversy, you may wish to review that post from 2008.

2008. Seriously?

So, three years ago, I wrote that Bradley Johnson had been displaying his banners for 25 years. That means it has been 28 years now, and they still have not had any significant complaints, except maybe from Michael Newdow, or some other professional malcontent who lives to see the mention of God eradicated from the public square.

Bradley Johnson is a respected math teacher in the Poway Unified School District - in California, where else? They actually told him to take down his banner in 2007, all the while leaving intact other banners and posters displayed in other classrooms containing photos of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Prayer Flags, anti-religious song lyrics, and gay and lesbian promotional materials. Whatever your opinion of any of these materials, I guarantee you that they are every bit as offensive to some segments of the population as the mention of "God" in the context of American history.

One phrase, "One Nation Under God" is from the Pledge of Allegiance - the same Pledge that the 9th Circuit judges got their panties in a twist about in 2002. "In God We Trust" is on our money - though in recent years it has been banished to the edges of some coins. "God Shed His Grace on Thee" and "God Bless America" are familiar lyrics from patriotic songs that Americans have been singing for generations.

Here is a photo of the evil banner in question:

Photo Credit: Thomas More Law Center
Here is how it looks in the classroom, where at least half the students have their backs toward it.

The Thomas More Law Center is once again defending Johnson, and in September, announced its intent to petition for an "en banc" review of the decision, which will require the entire voting membership of the 9th Circuit to decide whether the petition should be granted.  If the petition is granted they will have to go before a panel of 11 judges who will be selected from among the voting members.

As I mentioned in my earlier article, this is not specifically about homeschooling, but it certainly continues to underscore the hostility to anything that might be - even erroneously - construed as a religious message. Here are a couple of quotes from the decision, written by appeals court Judge Richard Tallman.
“We consider whether a public school district infringes the First Amendment liberties of one of its teachers when it orders him not to use his public position as a pulpit from which to preach his own views on the role of God in our Nation’s history to the captive students in his mathematics classroom. The answer is clear: it does not.” 
“Though Johnson maintains that his banners express purely patriotic sentiments … it seems as plain to us as it was to school officials that Johnson’s banners concern religion."
“One would need to be remarkably unperceptive to see the statements …. as organized and displayed by Johnson and not understand them to convey a religious message.” 
But it was okay for other teachers to display the Tibetan prayer flags, or lyrics to "Imagine" to captive students in their [insert name of class here] class.

Puhleeze. This is the same court that ruled in 2005 that adopting Muslim names, reciting Muslim prayers, and simulating religious fasting for three weeks was a perfectly acceptable classroom activity, not “overt religious exercises” that would raise concerns under the First Amendment prohibition of “establishment of religion.”

Never mind that these exercises were conducted in the fall of 2001. Am I the only one who gets sick to my stomach when I think about that?

Can you imagine the weeping and gnashing of teeth if students were subjected to some Christian themed role playing for three weeks? 

During Ramadan?

I know not everyone homeschools for religious reasons, but rulings like these confirm that those who do are not merely imagining that their worldview is under attack.  It is part of the same phenomenon that caused school officials in Michigan to think it was okayto hold a terrorism drill that depicted Christian homeschoolers as theterrorists. In 2007, Burlington County, NJ school officials held a mock drill that included gun-toting Christian extremists who were upset because the daughter of one of them was expelled for praying in school. Superintendent Chris Manno told the Burlington County Times:
We need to practice under conditions as real as possible in order to evaluate our procedures and plans so that they're as effective as possible.
This isn't MY reality.

I know, I know. This isn't happening in YOUR public school.  First of all, how do you know? And second, when it is, will you do anything about it? Whether you are a Christian or not, it should matter to you that  someone's freedom is being curtailed because of what they believe. Next time it could be some value or belief YOU cherish.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Does College Matter?

Does college really matter any more?

On one side you have people who believe that a college degree is the new high school diploma, and that you can just barely get a job if you don't have one. On the other side are people who cannot afford the price tag to send their kid (who doesn't really want to go) to college, and who wonder if their kid will ever be suited for the kind of job that will command a high enough salary to be worth graduating with thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

I confess that I fall into the second camp. I put myself through school back in the Dark Ages and spent just over $3,000 for just over three years being indoctrinated into the same anti-American, overthrow-the-greedy-corporations, make-my-rich-neighbor-pay-my-bills, God-is-dead claptrap that is still being preached in American universities 40 years later. I became a member of the local Young Socialists chapter and raged against the machine for just over three years on an accelerated foreign language program under the tutelage of a militant homosexual activist, all the while being disabused of any archaic notions of morality, religion or capitalism.  My "college education" was mostly politicized, the academic portion was mediocre and forgettable, and the main thing it accomplished was to make me hard and angry, and derail my quest for God for another 13 years.

This experience soured me on college for my own kids, and my husband and I have been at loggerheads about it for years. Since I went to the trouble to homeschool them for 12 years, I really hated the idea of them meeting some charismatic Pied Piper during their freshman year that would lead them down a path that they might not be able to resist.

My daughter did go to college. So far, my son has not. My husband is a nervous wreck about this, and yet I am strangely indifferent. Here's why:

A number of bloggers have weighed in on the death of Steve Jobs this week, but this is probably an angle most people did not write about, except for the folks at  Steve Jobs was a college dropout!

 In the article "30 Wildly Successful College Drop Outs", Sunny Chanel of  the Strollerderby blog, provides great encouragement to parents like me who have sons or daughters who just don't have a clue what they want to do with their lives.

She profiles 30 wildly successful college dropouts, from the well known - like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Ted Turner and Steve Jobs - to the less known, like Barry Diller whose websites include CitySearch, Ticketmaster, and Lending Tree.

You will be amazed who didn't go to college! So here's a question for you. Everyone who reads this is going to have an opinion one way or the other. I would love to hear why -- or why not -- you think a college degree is important.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Label Even Monsanto Considers a 'Skull and Crossbones'

Reprinted with Permission from Please see resource box below.

By: Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association

"If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." - Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

Monsanto and Food Inc.'s stranglehold over the nation's food and farming system is about to be challenged in a food fight that will largely determine the future of American agriculture.

A growing corps of organic food and health activists in California—supported by consumers and farmers across the nation—are boldly standing up to Monsanto and its minions, taking the first steps to expose the widespread contamination of non-organic grocery store foods with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and moving to implement mandatory GMO labeling through a grassroots-powered Citizens Ballot Initiative process.

This week, lawyers representing a broad and unprecedented health, environmental, and consumer coalition, including the Organic Consumers Association, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, Center for Food Safety,, Nature's Path, Natural,, Food Democracy Now, and the Institute for Responsible Technology, filed papers with the California Attorney General's office to place a Citizens Initiative on the Ballot in November, 2012 that would require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients.

If California voters pass this ballot initiative in 2012, it will likely be the beginning of the end for Monsanto and genetically engineered food in the U.S. According to Zuri Starr, a Southern California field organizer for the Organic Consumers Association:

"The California Ballot Initiative is perhaps our last chance to stop the Biotech Express, to overthrow Biotechnology's dictatorial regime and build a safe and sustainable food and farming system based upon the ethical principles of consumer choice and BioDemocracy."

Moving the Battleground

After 20 years of biotech bullying and force-feeding unlabeled and hazardous genetically modified (GM) foods to animals and humans—aided and abetted by the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations— a critical mass of food and health activists have decided it's time to move beyond small skirmishes and losing battles and go on the offensive.

It's time to move the food fight over labeling GM food from the unfavorable terrain of Washington D.C. and Capitol Hill, where Monsanto and Food Inc. exercise control, to California, the heartland of organic food and farming and anti-GMO sentiment, where 80-85 percent of the body politic, according to recent polls, support mandatory labeling.

The trillion-dollar biotech, supermarket, and food industry are acutely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of genetically engineered food.

Consumers understand you don't want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by out-of-control chemical and biotech companies like Monsanto, Dow, or DuPont--the same people who brought us toxic pesticides and industrial chemicals, Agent Orange, carcinogenic food additives, and PCBs. Biotech, food, and grocery corporations are alarmed by the fact that every poll over the last 20 years has shown that 85-95 percent of American consumers want mandatory labels on genetically modified foods.

Europe Shows Labels Drive GMOs off the Market

Why are there basically no genetically engineered foods or crops anywhere in Europe, while 75 percent of U.S. supermarket foods—including many so-called "natural" foods—are GE tainted?

The answer is simple. In Europe genetically modified foods and ingredients have to be labeled. In the U.S. they do not. Up until now, in North America, Monsanto and the Biotechnocrats have enjoyed free reign to secretly lace non-organic foods with gene-spliced viruses, bacteria, antibiotic-resistant marker genes, and foreign DNA—mutant "Frankenfoods" shown to severely damage the health of animals, plants, and other living organisms in numerous scientific studies.

Monsanto and their allies understand the threat that truth-in-labeling poses for GMOs.

As soon as genetically modified foods start to be labeled in the U.S., millions of consumers will start to read these labels and react. They'll complain to grocery store managers and companies, they'll talk to their family and friends. They'll start switching to foods that are organic or at least GMO-free. Once enough consumers start complaining about GM foods and food ingredients; stores will eventually stop selling them; and farmers will stop planting them.

Genetically engineered foods have absolutely no benefit for consumers or the environment, only hazards.

This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from ever getting a public discussion, much less coming to a vote in Congress. And this is why activists are launching the California Ballot Initiative. By moving the battle from the federal level to the state level, by employing one of the last remaining tools of direct grassroots democracy in the USA, the ballot initiative, concerned consumers can bypass Washington and regain their fundamental right to know what they are eating.

Passing mandatory GMO labeling in just one large state, California, where there is tremendous opposition to GM foods as well as a multi-billion dollar organic food industry, will ultimately have the same impact as a national labeling law.

If California food and health activists succeed in putting a GMO labeling initiative on the ballot in 2012 and the voters pass it, the biotech and food industry will face an intractable dilemma. Will they dare put labels on their branded food products in just one state, California, admitting these products contain or may contain genetically engineered ingredients, while withholding this ingredient label information in the other states? Will they allow their organic and non-GMO competitors to drive down their GMO-tainted brand market share? The answer to both of these questions is likely no. What most of them will do is start to shift to organic and non-GMO ingredients, so as to avoid what the Monsanto executive 16 years ago aptly described as the "skull and crossbones" label.

California Label Laws Have National Impact: Proposition 65

A clear indication of the impact of warning labels on consumer products was established in California in 1986 when voters passed, over the strenuous opposition of industry, a ballot initiative called Proposition 65, which required consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels. Rather than label their products sold in California as likely carcinogenic, most companies reformulated their product ingredients so as to avoid warning labels altogether, and they did this on a national scale, not just in California.

This same scenario will likely unfold again in California in 2012. Can you imagine Kellogg's selling its Corn Flakes breakfast cereal in California with a label that admits it contains or may contain genetically engineered corn? How about Kraft Boca Burgers admitting that their soybean ingredients are genetically modified?

How about the entire non-organic food industry (including many so-called "natural" brands) admitting that 75 percent of their products are GE-tainted? Once food manufacturers and supermarkets are forced to come clean and label genetically engineered products, they will likely remove all GM ingredients, to avoid the "skull and crossbones" effect, just like the food industry in the EU has done. In the wake of this development American farmers will convert millions of acres of GM crops to non-GMO or organic varieties.

Finally consumers will be able to tell the difference between organic food (labeled as "organic" and thereby GMO-free); natural food (which will not have a GMO label), and bogus "natural" food (which will be required to display the label "contains or may contain GMOs").

What Now? OCA Needs Volunteers and Money

Since we don't have a couple of million dollars to spare like Monsanto does, we're going to have to rely on an army of volunteers to gather signatures. These volunteers can be trained and coordinated by our small but highly dedicated and experienced paid campaign staff and consultants, but for the most part we must drive this campaign forward with volunteer labor.

Please, Join Us and Take Action NOW!

Among other tasks over the next month, our staff and volunteer coordinators will be organizing several hundred short training sessions in local communities across California. These short and relatively simple training sessions--a couple of hours or less--will train our volunteers on what to do, where to go, and how to be effective in gathering signatures of registered voters to put the GE labeling measure on the ballot.

These training meetings, a number of which have already been successfully organized, will also enable volunteers to meet and get to know other volunteers in their local area.

We need to recruit, train and deploy a grassroots network of 2000+ California volunteers (each gathering 250 or more petition signatures over the 105 day period) and district coordinators in order to gather the 500,000-700,000 signatures of California registered voters over the 15-week period that extends between the first week of November 2011 and mid-March 2012.

These volunteers must be recruited, trained by our campaign staff in a meeting in their local area, and deployed in teams of 2 to 4 people in front of natural food stores and high volume pedestrian locations across California starting early in November.

In order to hit the ground running in early November we need your help now. We not only need petition gathering volunteers, we need money. OCA and our allied lobbying organization, the Organic Consumers Fund, estimate that we need to raise at least $80,000 over the next month in order to effectively pay our staff, consultants, and other campaign expenses.

If you live in California and are willing to attend a training session and then start collecting petition signatures (you will be part of a team of 2-4 people) in early November, sign up here.
Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort.
The future of our food supply literally depends upon the success of this campaign. Join us!