Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Time to take a deep breath and practice real religious tolerance

It’s time for us all to take a big breath and tolerate the expression of our religious faith in the public square.

The recent news regarding the objection, by some state senators, to a Minnesota Senate opening prayer containing multiple references to Jesus is a good example of how tolerance can be used to be intolerant. And how we have completely lost sight of the original intent of the founding fathers to encourage expressions of faith - all faiths - in the public square.

We are living in denial of the accurate historical record. Clearly, the founding fathers “were firm in their conviction that American liberties were a gift from God not man. They were equally convinced that our continued political liberty would be tied to our continued religious liberty.”

That the founding fathers had no problem with religious expression in government can be found all over our nations capitol.

One example is the United States Supreme Court. It’s covered with religious symbolism. In fact, Moses, the great Hebrew leader and the one who God gave the Ten Commandments figures prominently as do the Ten Commandments.

So do Solon, Confucius, and Mohamed.

The Capitol Rotunda resounds with religious expression. A quick glance at the life size paintings covering the walls depicts a prayer meeting, baptism and two bible studies. Another captures the 59 signers of the Declaration of Independence; 29 of which had seminary degrees.

The founders understood that religion was very important and should be practiced in the public square. They just didn’t want the government preferring one religion to another or establishing one government religion

The Minnesota Senate "invites leaders from numerous faith traditions to pray and notifies them that the Senate members come from a diverse background."

This seems the best way to practice religious tolerance. Let's keep it that way.

Friday, March 11, 2011

That's why Minnesota needs a Marriage Protection Amendment

Giving her perspective on the dismissal of Marry Me Minnesota's lawsuit challenging Minnesota's DOMA law, attorney Chris Tymchuck reports a comment by Judge Mary DuFresne in her decision that not so subtley affirms advocates' strategy for legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota...

The Judge wrote that until Baker v. Nelson is overruled or Minnesota’s “mini-Doma” law is repealed, “Same-sex marriage will not exist in this state.”
Tymchuck's perspective is reinforced by Minnesota Independent's Andy Birkey, reporting on the response of Doug Benson, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit...

The couples plan to appeal shortly, Benson said. He added that the decision amounted to a pass by the lower court which thinks the Minnesota Supreme Court will have to decide the case. The highest court had weighed in almost four decades ago in Baker v. Nelson, which ruled that the state could ban gay marriage. The plaintiffs are hoping that enough laws and attitudes have changed that the court would overturn that precedent. (Emphasis added.)

Dismissal of the Marry Me Minnesota lawsuit does not eliminate the threat to marriage. It only buys a little more time to protect the definition of marriage in Minnesota's state constitution.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Schools should avoid "program dejour" bullying curricula

Minnesota Bullying Summit warns schools to avoid "program du jour" curricula

One thing is very clear, national research shows that focusing on a "whole school environment" is considered "best practice" to prevent bullying. The Minnesota Bullying Summit also stressed parent education and involvement as an important part of prevention efforts.
Click here to view the Olweus bullying prevention program featured at the Summit.

Conversely, the conference encouraged schools to avoid "simple, short term solutions" and "program du jour approaches."

MFC believes that "Welcoming Schools" developed by the nations largest homosexual lobbying group, the Human Rights Campaign Fund is a perfect example of the kind of "program du jour approach" that the conference said to avoid as it crosses the line from addressing bullying words and behavior to targeting the values and beliefs of students and undermining the authority of parents.

In 2008, MFC examined "Welcoming Schools" when it was introduced in a handful of Minneapolis elementary schools under the guise of anti-bullying. MFC found it had very little to do with stopping bullying and more to do with changing children's behavior to affirm same-sex marriage and homosexual behavior. "Welcoming Schools" immediately ignited enormous controversy, and vicious attacks on a diverse group of parents who peacefully objected to its content and methods.

Lessons included reading controversial books like "The King and King", and "Both of My Moms' Names are Judy", to elementary school children. It included a video, "It's Elementary" that showed an eight-year-old receiving praise from her teacher for saying people who believed what the Bible says about homosexuality are "stupid." This video and others were so clearly geared towards homosexual advocacy that significant portions of the curricula were pulled by the Minneapolis school district because the parental outcry was so great.

Concerned parents told the Minneapolis School Board that "Welcoming Schools" encouraged children to "question the moral authority of their parents and created conflict between child and teacher, child and parent, and parent and teacher." We are concerned that efforts to introduce "program du jour approaches" will do the same while not addressing the concern of bullying.

Instead of forcing one-sided "homophobia" curricula on students and parents, MFC recommends examining more fair and objective alternatives that focus on the "whole educational environment," welcomes parental involvement and is inclusive of all children who are at high risk of being bullied such as children with allergies, disabilities and obesity, etc...

(This post contains excerpts from MFC's editorial in the Star Tribune.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Minnesota Summit on Bullying Empasizes "whole environment" not just the characteristics of the victim

Today, MFC attended the first Minnesota Summit on Bullying. The Summit was a sell-out with over 400 teachers and school officials attending.

MFC was encouraged that the summit emphasized the importance of focusing on the whole school environment, including bystanders, staff and parents. The summit did not emphasize programs that focused strictly on the characteristics of the victim – like “Welcoming Schools” developed by the Human Rights Campaign.

In fact, the Summit showcased the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. The Olweus program has over 35 years of research and acknowledges, “that bullying isn’t limited to the student who bullies and the student being bullied.” Olweus uses the Bullying Circle where “students are able to identify their role in an incident and determine what they can do to stop it from escalating.”

Last year, MFC called on parents and students to join with their school officials and stand up to the bullies in their schools.

MFC was particularly interested in the “Best Practices in Bullying Prevention” presented by Marlene Snyder, Ph.D. Clemson University. Snyder research emphasized the Top 10 Strategies for effective bullying prevention.

  • Focus on the whole school environment
  • Assess bullying at your school
  • Garner staff/parent support
  • Form a group at school to coordinate bullying prevention/intervention activities
  • Provide training for ALL staff members
  • Establish and enforce school rules and policies regarding bullying
  • Increase adult supervision in “hot spots” for bullying
  • Intervene consistently and appropriately in bullying incidents
  • Focus some classroom time on bullying preventions and intervention
  • Continue efforts over time

The event was sponsored by the Hazelden Foundation, Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association, MN Assoc. of Secondary School Principals, MN Dept of Education, MN Dept. of Health, MN School Social Workers Assoc. and the National Assoc. of Elementary School Principals.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Predatory Gambling - MN legislatures' next move?

60 Minutes story reveals the predatory nature of state endorsed gambling.

The gambling industry is designing machines that are addicting innocent people - and taking their paychecks.

Is this good fiscal policy for Minnesota?

CBS’s 60 Minutes shows us the dangers of adding more casinos in "Slot Machines: The Big Gamble."

CLICK HERE to see video story.