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Guest Paul

Answers on Kearny HS teacher controversy

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Guest Paul
I support the rights of both students and parents to bring their problems and concerns regarding teachers to the administration.  It seems that was done here, and "corrective action" was taken.  It seems like the corrective action was an instruction to the teacher to cease proselytizing in the classroom.  It seems like the corrective action was sufficient to bring about the desired result.  It also seems that the LeClairs were dissatisfied with the corrective action, and are hell bent on having Mr. P suspended, fired or drawn and quartered.  I cannot support that result for several reasons. 

    First, parents and students are not, and should not be, the arbiters of these types of disputes.  We elect a board of education, which in turns hires administrators, to mete out appropriate guidance and/or disciplinary action.  These board members and administrators must consider not only the rights of the parents and the student, but also the rights of the teacher, the other students in the class, and the public.  They consider what measures are appropriate to resolve the problem.  To the extent the parents disagreed that corrective action alone was a sufficient response to the problem, they should nonetheless respect and be bound by the actions taken by the administration. 

 

      Instead, the LeClairs chose to go to the media, which is my second reason for not supporting their actions.  Paul started this post by asking for intelligent discussion, yet his family chose to go the route of inviting a media circus to town.  The media thrive on exploitation and quick sound bites, not intelligent discussion.  Also, I can't help but feel annoyed at anyone who invites negative commentary on my town. 

        Third, it is abundantly clear that the LeClairs have attempted to villify Mr. P., and in turn the administration, far beyond what the situation calls for.  I can't help but agree with the posts who accuse the LeClairs of being overly sensitive about this situation.  Not every slight needs to rise to a level of constitutional warfare.  Lighten up already.

I have stated repeatedly that our concern is not what discipline is meted out to the teacher. Our position is exactly what you stated.

It amazes me that anyone could think a public school teacher telling students they belong in hell unless they share his religious beliefs isn't a major problem. That is not a mere slight, it is an outrage.

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When I first heard about this whole situation, I could not believe what I was reading. Someone FINALLY got Mr. Paszkiewicz between a rock and a hard place, eh? I had the man for U.S. History 12 in 2000, and I have to say that everything I have read/heard from the LaClairs and people supporting them is absolutely spot-on when compared to my own memories of Paszkiewicz's class, and the memories of a few members of my graduating class I've discussed this with. The man used to speak about religion so much that he was barely teaching us anything at all! I think I learned more about history from my grandmother as a child than I did from him. I absolutely can not believe how many people are coming out to support him, and they are all either lying through their teeth or just ignoring their memories of his preaching. I've read all of these letters in the Observer claiming that Paszkiewicz "never tried to sway anyone to his point of view," and I'm sorry for the vulgar language, but I call bullshit on that statement! I don't think he ever once taught us an entire chapter's worth of material, when he ran out of time for in-class discussion he would make us do outlines of the chapters as homework and assume that we would learn everything from the textbook just fine, most times having tests the very next day without any discussion of the more difficult issues we were learning about. I didn't do very well in his class because I've always had a hard time learning from text books; if I didn't need a teacher to help me see the issues clearly, I would have begged for homeschooling, as he wasn't the only teacher at KHS who couldn't teach a damn thing most of the time. In addition to the trouble in the classroom, Mr. Paszkiewicz once told me personally in the hallway between classes that I was going to go to hell, too. Why? Because at the time I was reading Mein Kampf, and I was on my way to a study period. He even went so far as to speak to my guidance counselor and attempt to get me sent to the school's favorite mental hospital for this offense. How in the hell do we live in a free country when we allow teachers to shove their religious beliefs down our throats? How in the hell do we live in a free country if a teenager can't read a book to try and gain a better understanding of a dark part of our past without being judged 'mentally disturbed' by the same teachers? When I spoke to my guidance counselor about my discomfort in his class due to his religious and personal comments to me, Mrs. C******* basically told me "tough shit". See, they won't let you change your classes or teachers around at KHS unless you have one of the guidance counselors who actually tries to do their job, you know? And Mrs. C******i never gave a damn one way or the other about any of the students under her care. There was NEVER a reason good enough to be switched out of a class in her opinion. Not even religious persecution, which I took extremely to offense, because not only am I not a Baptist, I'm not a Christian of any kind. Just because I don't believe what your church tries to force-feed me, I'm going to a place that may or may not exist, to burn and writhe in agony forever- and never mind that I try to live a good life, right? Mr. LaClair, I wish the best of luck to you and your family in resolving this issue. If more people stood up for our rights, maybe I never would have had to deal with the shame and misery that Paszkiewicz forced on me in my sophomore year of high school. I sure hope that the Board of Education doesn't make the mistake of letting Paszkiewicz keep his job. People don't deserve to be treated this way, ESPECIALLY not teenagers who are just learning who and what they are and want to do with their lives. They have enough difficulties without teachers weighing them down with this kind of garbage.

KOTW Note: The above post was edited for content.

Please contact us! Matthew has put himself on the line. Come forward, please.

(TO KOTW: Please feel free to deliver this privately if you have the capacity to do that.)

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Guest Paul
another thought..

you say in your  claims that  this type of teacher "has been going on for years" and it was well known. Being that this taping occurred within the first few days of school, Matthew had to have some "previous" knowledge about how Mr. P teaches. Most stundets do not know what to expect fromt heir teachers for the first few days. WHY WOULD HE STAY IN THE CLASS. Why didn't he go to his counselor WITH YOU and request a change. It happens all the time. There are other level 1 history teachers. He didn't because that would be no fun for Matt. This was an absolutely planned scheme. It's truly ashame. I shudder to think about how this child will be treated within the next year and half he is in the school. I can't imagine how any teacher would be comfortable with him in a classroom. Unfortunately matt has been charcterized.

I've told you why, time and time again. Sometimes doing what is right is more important than taking the easy way out. As you're beginning to see from others, serious offenses were taking place, which called out for correction. You may not agree or even like the reason, but that was the reason.

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Please contact us! Matthew has put himself on the line. Come forward, please.

I think you should say...Please Please Please come foward, Matthew is so lonely now, he needs support from people from Kearny! Please help him! Thank Thank Thank you for supporting us...this is a free country you have freedom of speech, but I am so glad that you think like us so we won't have to sue you! Matthew really really really needs friends like you.

ps: Just be careful when talking to the LaClair's, they may record the conversation!

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Guest Paul
Given the extreme nature of the offenses and the obvious intent to persist in this behavior, we concluded that there was no point in taking this to Paszkiewicz. He would have stopped in that class, perhaps, and then persisted in the behavior. Or perhaps he would merely have toned it down. Either way, the conduct demanded that it be reported over his head

Obivious intent to persist.... How do you know that, if you or your son DID NOT EVEN try to talk to him.

"You and your son should think of others before going around causing trouble. Not everyone believe the same way do. This is a free country." Listen to yourself. I ask again: What if this was a Muslim teacher telling Christian children they are going to hell. Would you be defending it?

Civilized people talk to each other. If you do not agree take the time a let the person know that you are been offended. Is not the case of defending it, is how you went about it.

Little Mattie is going to find that in life he is going to find many things that he does not agree with, what are you going to do?  Fight his battle for him FOREVER.

Ours is a nation with a long history of religious practice, coupled with separation of church and state. You can't have the one and forget the other without completely changing our founding principles.

Finally, if we were afraid what we believe might be challenged, then why did I open this thread to invite questions?

Maybe because you do not have many clients at this time and have plenty of time in your hands and would like to share with us all you know.

Listen to the recordings or read the transcript, and draw your own conclusions. Ours is that a fifteen-year teaching veteran who knows he cannot do this (he said so in class!) does not proselytize this blatantly over the course of several days unless it is part of an ongoing pattern of behavior. If you do not agree, then so be it, but that was and is our conclusion. I think you will find that objective people will agree. This is not a subtle case.

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Please contact us! Matthew has put himself on the line. Come forward, please.

(TO KOTW: Please feel free to deliver this privately if you have the capacity to do that.)

Was the teacher told to stop the activity or not. If he was told to cease and has done so, why does it seem like you're getting your witness list together?

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When I first heard about this whole situation, I could not believe what I was reading. Someone FINALLY got Mr. Paszkiewicz between a rock and a hard place, eh? I had the man for U.S. History 12 in 2000, and I have to say that everything I have read/heard from the LaClairs and people supporting them is absolutely spot-on when compared to my own memories of Paszkiewicz's class, and the memories of a few members of my graduating class I've discussed this with. The man used to speak about religion so much that he was barely teaching us anything at all! I think I learned more about history from my grandmother as a child than I did from him. I absolutely can not believe how many people are coming out to support him, and they are all either lying through their teeth or just ignoring their memories of his preaching. I've read all of these letters in the Observer claiming that Paszkiewicz "never tried to sway anyone to his point of view," and I'm sorry for the vulgar language, but I call bullshit on that statement! I don't think he ever once taught us an entire chapter's worth of material, when he ran out of time for in-class discussion he would make us do outlines of the chapters as homework and assume that we would learn everything from the textbook just fine, most times having tests the very next day without any discussion of the more difficult issues we were learning about. I didn't do very well in his class because I've always had a hard time learning from text books; if I didn't need a teacher to help me see the issues clearly, I would have begged for homeschooling, as he wasn't the only teacher at KHS who couldn't teach a damn thing most of the time. In addition to the trouble in the classroom, Mr. Paszkiewicz once told me personally in the hallway between classes that I was going to go to hell, too. Why? Because at the time I was reading Mein Kampf, and I was on my way to a study period. He even went so far as to speak to my guidance counselor and attempt to get me sent to the school's favorite mental hospital for this offense. How in the hell do we live in a free country when we allow teachers to shove their religious beliefs down our throats? How in the hell do we live in a free country if a teenager can't read a book to try and gain a better understanding of a dark part of our past without being judged 'mentally disturbed' by the same teachers? When I spoke to my guidance counselor about my discomfort in his class due to his religious and personal comments to me, Mrs. C******* basically told me "tough shit". See, they won't let you change your classes or teachers around at KHS unless you have one of the guidance counselors who actually tries to do their job, you know? And Mrs. C******i never gave a damn one way or the other about any of the students under her care. There was NEVER a reason good enough to be switched out of a class in her opinion. Not even religious persecution, which I took extremely to offense, because not only am I not a Baptist, I'm not a Christian of any kind. Just because I don't believe what your church tries to force-feed me, I'm going to a place that may or may not exist, to burn and writhe in agony forever- and never mind that I try to live a good life, right? Mr. LaClair, I wish the best of luck to you and your family in resolving this issue. If more people stood up for our rights, maybe I never would have had to deal with the shame and misery that Paszkiewicz forced on me in my sophomore year of high school. I sure hope that the Board of Education doesn't make the mistake of letting Paszkiewicz keep his job. People don't deserve to be treated this way, ESPECIALLY not teenagers who are just learning who and what they are and want to do with their lives. They have enough difficulties without teachers weighing them down with this kind of garbage.

KOTW Note: The above post was edited for content.

You sound reasonable.

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I've told you why, time and time again. Sometimes doing what is right is more important than taking the easy way out. As you're beginning to see from others, serious offenses were taking place, which called out for correction. You may not agree or even like the reason, but that was the reason.

The idea that you believe that this was the right course of action for the common good is mind numbing.

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This is a post from

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Education, 29 November 2006

Memo to Kearny, NJ: YOU ARE DUMB.

It's an easy target day, folks. So much so that I'm taking yesterday's target, a guy named Kearns, who in an entirely separate note proved me right almost instantly by admitting defeat in the Great Satanic Wreath Fining hours after my column appeared, and changing it Letter-Man style to Kearny, a town in New Jersey that coddles creationists.

Because no easy target day would be complete without creationists.

OK, one creationist. But he's a teacher! A history teacher, which is better than a science teacher, but much worse than a gym teacher. The teacher? David Paszkiewicz. Who I'm glad lives in Kearny, because getting from Kearns to Paszkiewicz would require a metric assload of extra animated Gene Wilders.

Anyway, we know Paszkiewicz is a creationist because he said so. To his students. During class. Which is pretty bad, but not as bad as what he told his non-Christian students. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"You belong in hell."

How we know this is actually a great story - after hearing a few of his teacher's Jesusy rants, student Matthew LaClair decided to complain. But, thinking that Paszkiewicz would just deny the charges, he secretly recorded the teacher. Then he complained. Then Paszkiewicz denied the charges, then LaClair pulled two CDs out of his backpack. Thereby proving that creationists are dumber than teenagers.

I think we can all enjoy this story on a purely visceral level, but it gets better, because of course the school has to cover its ass. And as we all know, the crime may be funny, but the cover-up is where the REAL comedy shows up.

First, the punishment. The school claims they have taken "corrective action". And since Paszkiewicz is still teaching his class and getting paid, I can only assume said action consisted of an order to, and I am admittedly paraphrasing here, "stick to the dates of the wars, Bibleman."

And second, they tried, as organizations always do, to minimize the incident. ACTUAL ASS-COVERING TIME!

"'I think he (Paszkiewicz) was trying to have a high-level discussion with his students,' Mooney added. 'Right now he has to be very careful. But I also don't want in the long run for him to throttle down the level of discussion based on this issue.' Mooney said Paszkiewicz made his comments in the context of discussions about the effect religion had on the shaping of America." The Jersey Journal, quoting superintendent Robert Mooney.

This statement seems to imply that there exists, on this planet, a context in which a public school teacher telling his non-Christian students they belong in Hell is appropriate. I can't imagine what such a context would be. Oh, believe me, I tried listening to a 40-minute segment of the classroom audio posted online, but there's only so much barely-comprehensible compressed audio from a pocket recorder I can take in the pursuit of fairness towards anti-evolution history teachers.

And anyway, if Paszkiewicz thought what he was doing was, if you'll excuse the term, kosher, he wouldn't have gotten caught lying about it to his boss. And he wouldn't have compounded the lie with one of the all-time classic dick-move post-busted lines since Marion Barry's "B**ch set me up!" ACTUAL DICK MOVE TIME!

"Maybe you're an atheist. You caught the big Christian fish." - Paszkiewicz, to LaClair after being confronted with the CDs. Nice try, Mr. P, but it takes more than a chrome bumper medallion to make the fishing analogy work. Fishing requires bait, and, contrary to millions of years of evolutionary teaching, you jumped right into the boat.

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Listen to the recordings or read the transcript, and draw your own conclusions. Ours is that a fifteen-year teaching veteran who knows he cannot do this (he said so in class!) does not proselytize this blatantly over the course of several days unless it is part of an ongoing pattern of behavior. If you do not agree, then so be it, but that was and is our conclusion. I think you will find that objective people will agree. This is not a subtle case.

I find very interesting how much you know what goes on in the classroom if you are not even there. Specially when you mention over 15 years. Because you or Matt was not there for the past 15 years. Besides aren't you doing the same thing you are accusing Mr. Paszkiewicz of doing? You are forcing the whole town to accept your believes. If we do not accept you go on and on.

I got to tell you, to start with, you would not know preaching if it hit you in the face. Because you probably do not even go to church. If you know so much about preaching, did he pull out a Bible in the classroom? Did he make the students do repeatitive prayers? Did he make them sing O How I love JESUS? You are not satisfied with nothing that has been done, because the town did not follow the commands of the LaClairs. You insulted the intelligence of the people of this town, and for what I heard you insulted the BOE also. Who do you think you are? GOD????

Why don't you invest your time helping others? There are many people out there that could use your services. Instead you are here wasting your time.

This is your believes. You are free to have them. Why do people have to accept your believes? We are also free to have ours.

Do you know how PATHETIC you sound begging people to come foward. Is that the memories that you want people to have of you?

Stop thinking of yourself and think about what you done to your son. The majority of the student can't stand to be near him. He can thank you for that.

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Then Paszkiewicz denied the charges, then LaClair pulled two CDs out of his backpack. Thereby proving that creationists are dumber than teenagers.

[

Ok, I am challenging you to prove that Mr. Paszkiewicz lied? Don't tell me that Matthew said it because no one will buy it. I don't trust matthew and his actions showed that he cannot be trusted. Like secretly recording classes...How about stop calling Mr. P a liar and look for the facts? How about asking Mr. Somma and Ms. Wood if he really lied before you actually make your comments. Stop listening to Paul LaClair's opinion only. Paul is just trying to defend his son. "Creationists are dumber than teenagers," and you are dumber than the LaClairs for believing them!

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Who are you to talk about respect when you have none? You had no respect for that teacher and the students are having no respect for your son. "A man reaps what he sows." Oh I forgot you don't read the Bible...But think about it! I believe you will think about it at some point, especially if someone tries to destroy your career in the future. I feel bad for your son, he is your little robot. The boy is only 16, let him be 16!

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Please contact us! Matthew has put himself on the line. Come forward, please.

(TO KOTW: Please feel free to deliver this privately if you have the capacity to do that.)

paul, try answering your phone or at least leave it on the hook. register here and you can get private e-mail. did you ever think that people don't post here because they are afraid for their jobs? this is kearny, y'know.

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The idea that you believe that this was the right course of action for the common good is mind numbing.

Many people think that small violations of church-state separation are no big deal: What's the big deal that a teacher leads a prayer in a public school classroom, right? Who is harmed?

The problem with that way of thinking is that the Constitution sets forth the fundamental principles by which we relate to each other, both as groups and as individuals. Breach the principle in a small way at Kearny High, and soon it is breached all over the country (which is exactly what the radical right wants). The majority comes to assert itself as dominant over the majority. That is how democracy is supposed to work on public policy matters like taxes, but it is not how it is supposed to work with fundamental individual rights like religious freedom. The way I see it, and the way the Constitution sets it up, the tiniest religious minority should be as respected and as honored here as the majority religion. That is not what is happening in this instance. I (and others) keep asking the question, and none of Paszkiewicz's defenders will ever touch it: What would this look like if Paszkiewicz had been a Muslim telling Christian kids they're going to hell. It's all about the majority religion being forced on minorities through agencies of government.

Most people these days don't see that because the effects are not immediately obvious. I saw it begin to happen when Reagan led a prayer during his acceptance speech at the RNC in 1980. It chilled me to the bone, because I could see where it was heading, and sure enough, we see more and more encroachments, leading to the David Paszkiewicz's becoming so bold that they think they can get away with telling kids of different religious faiths that they belong in hell, because "it's no big deal." It is an outrage, and it all stems from not taking the principle seriously. Get enough of that, and we'll end up with sectarian divisions --- will it lead us to an Iraq situation? Maybe not, but it could. The point is, why violate the principle at all? Why can't people of every religious persuasion be content with practicing their religions in their own ways and on their own time, and allowing others to do the same?

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The idea that you believe that this was the right course of action for the common good is mind numbing.

Speaking of history: History is loaded with examples of nations that have torn themselves apart over religion. Catholics and Protestants in Britain and Ireland; Hindus, Muslims and their sects in India and Pakistan; the current disaster in Iraq; the list goes on and on and on throughout history.

Can anyone cite even one example of a nation that was torn apart by separating church and state? I don't think so. The principle is that the state will not establish or promote religion, but will leave all free to worship as they please on their time and in their own ways.

Given the clear and unwavering pattern throughout history, why would any sensible people want to do anything except what the Supreme Court has announced in cases like Engel v. Vitale? The only reason I can see is to push one's own views on others by the power of numbers, but that is not consistent with "liberty and justice for all." That is the principle and the issue of justice we are trying to defend.

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Many people think that small violations of church-state separation are no big deal: What's the big deal that a teacher leads a prayer in a public school classroom, right? Who is harmed?

The problem with that way of thinking is that the Constitution sets forth the fundamental principles by which we relate to each other, both as groups and as individuals. Breach the principle in a small way at Kearny High, and soon it is breached all over the country (which is exactly what the radical right wants). The majority comes to assert itself as dominant over the majority. That is how democracy is supposed to work on public policy matters like taxes, but it is not how it is supposed to work with fundamental individual rights like religious freedom. The way I see it, and the way the Constitution sets it up, the tiniest religious minority should be as respected and as honored here as the majority religion. That is not what is happening in this instance. I (and others) keep asking the question, and none of Paszkiewicz's defenders will ever touch it: What would this look like if Paszkiewicz had been a Muslim telling Christian kids they're going to hell. It's all about the majority religion being forced on minorities through agencies of government.

Most people these days don't see that because the effects are not immediately obvious. I saw it begin to happen when Reagan led a prayer during his acceptance speech at the RNC in 1980. It chilled me to the bone, because I could see where it was heading, and sure enough, we see more and more encroachments, leading to the David Paszkiewicz's becoming so bold that they think they can get away with telling kids of different religious faiths that they belong in hell, because "it's no big deal." It is an outrage, and it all stems from not taking the principle seriously. Get enough of that, and we'll end up with sectarian divisions --- will it lead us to an Iraq situation? Maybe not, but it could. The point is, why violate the principle at all? Why can't people of every religious persuasion be content with practicing their religions in their own ways and on their own time, and allowing others to do the same?

No prayer was led in that classroom-- don't cloud the facts.

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paul, try answering your phone or at least leave it on the hook. register here and you can get private e-mail. did you ever think that people don't post here because they are afraid for their jobs? this is kearny, y'know.

Good point. I'm new here, but I will register. Thank you.

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Speaking of history: History is loaded with examples of nations that have torn themselves apart over religion. Catholics and Protestants in Britain and Ireland; Hindus, Muslims and their sects in India and Pakistan; the current disaster in Iraq; the list goes on and on and on throughout history.

Can anyone cite even one example of a nation that was torn apart by separating church and state? I don't think so. The principle is that the state will not establish or promote religion, but will leave all free to worship as they please on their time and in their own ways.

Given the clear and unwavering pattern throughout history, why would any sensible people want to do anything except what the Supreme Court has announced in cases like Engel v. Vitale? The only reason I can see is to push one's own views on others by the power of numbers, but that is not consistent with "liberty and justice for all." That is the principle and the issue of justice we are trying to defend.

How revealing it is that Paszkiewicz's apologists won't touch this one.

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Guest Chilled to the bone

Luckily, President Clinton later took office and got back to the real work of maintaining the legality of killing partially-born babies while getting blow-jobs in the peoples' office. Whew! That Reagan prayer had me scared too.

Most people these days don't see that because the effects are not immediately obvious. I saw it begin to happen when Reagan led a prayer during his acceptance speech at the RNC in 1980. It chilled me to the bone, because I could see where it was heading, and sure enough, we see more and more encroachments, leading to the David Paszkiewicz's becoming so bold that they think they can get away with telling kids of different religious faiths that they belong in hell, because "it's no big deal." It is an outrage, and it all stems from not taking the principle seriously. Get enough of that, and we'll end up with sectarian divisions --- will it lead us to an Iraq situation? Maybe not, but it could. The point is, why violate the principle at all? Why can't people of every religious persuasion be content with practicing their religions in their own ways and on their own time, and allowing others to do the same?

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Many people think that small violations of church-state separation are no big deal: What's the big deal that a teacher leads a prayer in a public school classroom, right? Who is harmed?

The problem with that way of thinking is that the Constitution sets forth the fundamental principles by which we relate to each other, both as groups and as individuals. Breach the principle in a small way at Kearny High, and soon it is breached all over the country (which is exactly what the radical right wants). The majority comes to assert itself as dominant over the majority. That is how democracy is supposed to work on public policy matters like taxes, but it is not how it is supposed to work with fundamental individual rights like religious freedom. The way I see it, and the way the Constitution sets it up, the tiniest religious minority should be as respected and as honored here as the majority religion. That is not what is happening in this instance. I (and others) keep asking the question, and none of Paszkiewicz's defenders will ever touch it: What would this look like if Paszkiewicz had been a Muslim telling Christian kids they're going to hell. It's all about the majority religion being forced on minorities through agencies of government.

Most people these days don't see that because the effects are not immediately obvious. I saw it begin to happen when Reagan led a prayer during his acceptance speech at the RNC in 1980. It chilled me to the bone, because I could see where it was heading, and sure enough, we see more and more encroachments, leading to the David Paszkiewicz's becoming so bold that they think they can get away with telling kids of different religious faiths that they belong in hell, because "it's no big deal." It is an outrage, and it all stems from not taking the principle seriously. Get enough of that, and we'll end up with sectarian divisions --- will it lead us to an Iraq situation? Maybe not, but it could. The point is, why violate the principle at all? Why can't people of every religious persuasion be content with practicing their religions in their own ways and on their own time, and allowing others to do the same?

A prayer was not led in the classsroom.

The teacher was discussing his own beliefs, which I guess with the mutation of the church-state seperation in the constitution, you'll probably get him on.

I don't think anyone has proved that the teacher lied when confronted.

The teacher was told to stop these activities and has.

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Many people think that small violations of church-state separation are no big deal: What's the big deal that a teacher leads a prayer in a public school classroom, right? Who is harmed?

The problem with that way of thinking is that the Constitution sets forth the fundamental principles by which we relate to each other, both as groups and as individuals. Breach the principle in a small way at Kearny High, and soon it is breached all over the country (which is exactly what the radical right wants). The majority comes to assert itself as dominant over the majority. That is how democracy is supposed to work on public policy matters like taxes, but it is not how it is supposed to work with fundamental individual rights like religious freedom. The way I see it, and the way the Constitution sets it up, the tiniest religious minority should be as respected and as honored here as the majority religion. That is not what is happening in this instance. I (and others) keep asking the question, and none of Paszkiewicz's defenders will ever touch it: What would this look like if Paszkiewicz had been a Muslim telling Christian kids they're going to hell. It's all about the majority religion being forced on minorities through agencies of government.

Most people these days don't see that because the effects are not immediately obvious. I saw it begin to happen when Reagan led a prayer during his acceptance speech at the RNC in 1980. It chilled me to the bone, because I could see where it was heading, and sure enough, we see more and more encroachments, leading to the David Paszkiewicz's becoming so bold that they think they can get away with telling kids of different religious faiths that they belong in hell, because "it's no big deal." It is an outrage, and it all stems from not taking the principle seriously. Get enough of that, and we'll end up with sectarian divisions --- will it lead us to an Iraq situation? Maybe not, but it could. The point is, why violate the principle at all? Why can't people of every religious persuasion be content with practicing their religions in their own ways and on their own time, and allowing others to do the same?

As far as your example of the muslim teacher goes. It would probably play out in a very similar way. Matthew would have encouraged the teacher to discuss his beliefs. Probably more so because I'm sure he hates Muslims more than Christians. You and probably slightly more supporters would look to drag the teacher through the justice system.

The country was doing just fine and was not tearing itself apart over religion before this type of situation became an issue in the fifties and sixties. That is when the justice system decided to mutate the church-state seperation provided in constitution.

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The history of religion is perfectly appropriate in a history class. Advocating a religion is not.

Well Paul, that's were you run into trouble. The question; was this teacher advocating a religion? Even using some of the "interpretations" of the Constitution you have an uphill battle.

Here is what the Constitution says about religion; Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Basically, the government can't establish an official or state religion and people are free to practice the religion of their choice.

It really says nothing about advocating religion, even if the teacher did this.

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I am Paul LaClair, father of Matthew LaClair. I am opening this topic to invite all concerned, in whatever way they may be concerned, to ask questions and engage in a respectful and thoughtful discussion of this incident. I may post threads myself to initiate topics.

I am doing this because if people are going to discuss this, it should be discussed in a thoughtful and respectful way. There is no call for the vicious attacks that have been publicly posted against a young man whose actions were not motivated by self-interest, but by a passionate commitment to our Constitution, separation of church and state, the integrity and value of science, the quality of education and the rule of law. With all due respect to those who have presumed to know Matthew's motives --- who have not been the least bit respectful in some cases --- I am certain that I know him better than you do.

All appropriate and respectful questions will be answered. All personal attacks will be ignored.

If this was a Muslim teacher telling Christian kids they belong in hell, how many of his apologists would still be supporting him? None of them seems to want to answer that question, but it is a very important one, with implications in a great many directions.

Would anyone care to discuss those? Will any of the apologists answer the question honestly? I doubt it. And what does that say?

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