Last weekend, I was interviewed on Freethought Radio, a program hosted by the Freedom from Religion Foundation co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker. We talked about the Muhlenberg County Schools' literature distribution policy, going all the way back to last fall when the FFRF convinced the board of education to end its practice of allowing members of the Gideons International to distribute bibles to fifth-graders during instructional time. I recalled the details of my discovery that the board had, at its May 14 meeting, unanimously voted "to approve plans for collaboration and efforts to support the Gideon's [sic] organization," and my failed attempts to convince the board to prohibit all outside groups from distributing literature to students. I explained my decision to request, along with the Western Kentucky University Secular Student Alliance, a presence at afterschool events (as long as the Gideons were permitted access), and described our experience "tabling" at Muhlenberg High School (which I also wrote about in my last post).
The Freethought Radio podcast is now available here. I'm sorry about the hiss in the background, and I'm going to ask the FFRF tech folks if something can be done about it.
In other news, at the Muhlenberg County Board of Education's November 12 meeting, Western Kentucky University SSA president and Muhlenberg North High School graduate Walter Petit asked the board to end its practice of opening meetings with prayer, and to close afterschool events to all outside groups. While a portion of Petit's remarks made the evening news and the local papers, some interesting and important details of the meeting were omitted.
First, the meeting was opened with a prayer, led by board member Jerry Winters, that may have been the most sectarian and divisive prayer in board history. The idea seemed to be to throw in the word "Christian" as often as possible, and to imply that anyone opposed to prayer at meetings could not possibly care about the children of Muhlenberg County as much as Winters.
Second, while SSA's Walter Petit was still at the podium after addressing the board, Winters stated, "If I had things my way, we wouldn't even be teaching that we come from monkeys and lizards!" So there you have it: at a board meeting during which the importance of getting students "college ready" was frequently mentioned, a member of the board of education expressed his desire to remove the teaching of evolution from the science curriculum.
Without missing a beat, Petit responded that Winters' statement revealed "such scientific ignorance" that he had no business serving on a board of education. I think that the Kentucky Science Teachers Association--whose Position Statement on Evolution readers may want to check out for themselves--would agree.