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Strife767

From the Mayor's Desk: 03-07-2007

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Understanding and respecting the role of God in government and public education is critical to a country and community as richly diverse as ours. Public officials have an obligation to uphold the promises contained in our nation’s Bill of Rights and to lead their communities in abiding by the constraints they impose. I am writing to offer my thoughts on the public debate arising from statements expressing personal religious views made by a Kearny High School teacher during a school history class. I write not only as Mayor of the Town of Kearny, but also as a lawyer and as a person who believes in God.

I listened to portions of the recordings in this controversy.  Several of the teacher’s classroom statements were his personal and deeply held religious views. To label the statements mere “opinions” is to devalue their meaning and be disrespectful of the speaker. To justify them as answers to a student’s questions is to argue unconvincingly that the form in which the statements were made can excuse their substance. To question the student’s motivation is to engage in an exercise that will not change the plain meaning of the teacher’s statements.

Respecting Religion, the Rule of Law

We must begin from a position of genuine respect for the religious views of any individual. There must be respect and tolerance across the divide separating those believing in God and those who do not believing in God and those who do not. Similarly, there has to be understanding and respect between persons of faith since our society includes many different — and often conflicting — interpretations of God.

The United States Constitution’s First Amendment includes two clauses on religion. One protects private speech endorsing religion, while the other forbids government endorsement of any particular religion. A public school teacher is a government participant hired by a board of education and paid with public funds.  The First Amendment precludes a teacher from endorsing religion in a public school classroom. Simply stated, a public school teacher may not teach what devotional or religious ideas are true or false. As explained by the United States Supreme Court: 

“The Court has been particularly vigilant in monitoring compliance with the [First Amendment’s] Establishment Clause in elementary and secondary schools.  Families entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.  The State exerts great authority and coercive power through mandatory attendance requirements, and because of the students’ emulation of teachers as role models and the children’s susceptibility to peer pressure.” 

This does not mean that devout persons are not welcome in government or public education. It also does not mean that religious perspective can never be expressed in a public forum. But it does mean that a public school teacher should not cross the lines drawn by the Supreme Court. 

We must always remember that we are a nation governed by the rule of law and our Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The United States Supreme Court is the final say on all matters of Constitutional Law, not just the outcomes we happen to like. If a citizen disagrees with the Supreme Court, his only responsible options are either: (1) obey the law; or (2) support an amendment to the Constitution to overturn the Court’s decision through a two-thirds vote of the Congress and then approved by three-fourths of the states; or (3) engage in civil disobedience and accept the legal consequences of disregarding the law.  As for my position, I must state that I do not condone the disregarding of the law of the land.

Bringing Our Community Together

This matter has brought critical and, in many instances, unfair attention to our community and public school system. It has also created ill will among citizens, thus tearing at the very fabric of our community. Hoping this controversy will subside and eventually go away without taking any public action with respect to it is both wishful thinking and a leadership failure by those who run the Kearny public school system. We should repair the damage by implementing the following: 

1. I believe that the Kearny Board of Education must publicly repudiate the teacher’s statements at issue because they were made with the intent of endorsing a religious view in a public school classroom setting.   

2. I also urge the Kearny Board of Education to sponsor a community discussion on “God and Public Education” in the Kearny High School auditorium. Invite legal experts from area law schools to lead the discussion on what the freedoms and constraints of the First Amendment are and what they mean in application. Invite all members of our community to participate in the discussion in a way that is respectful of speakers having differing views. This meeting should explore the ways in which religious and non-religious persons can be accommodated without infringing upon anyone’s freedom or religious values. In short, turn what happened in one Kearny classroom into a learning tool that will be a model for other communities. 

I hope you consider my thoughts and suggestions in the spirit that they are intended — that is, to bring our community together and to promote the best interests of the Kearny public school system.

It's good to see that Mayor Santos understands the situation and quickly sees through the weak attempts to dismiss Paszkiewicz's actions by his apologists. I'm proud to be a Kearny citizen under his leadership.

P.S. Obviously, the link in the quote tag will not remain active for very long, so I copied the entire thing here.

P.P.S. There is also an interesting bit written by Pat Sandle, a former teacher of mine: http://www.theobserver.com/currentissue/khs.shtml

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Guest Guest

So the mayor has joined Canessa. Will the Board of Education do as the Mayor asks. Are the christian supporters of Mr. P going to the next town meeting. Are they going to picket the Mayor's office.

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Guest Guest

Bravo, Mayor! Bravo! It takes courage to say what you said. I am proud you are my mayor.

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Guest Guest
It's good to see that Mayor Santos understands the situation and quickly sees through the weak attempts to dismiss Paszkiewicz's actions by his apologists. I'm proud to be a Kearny citizen under his leadership.

P.S. Obviously, the link in the quote tag will not remain active for very long, so I copied the entire thing here.

P.P.S. There is also an interesting bit written by Pat Sandle, a former teacher of mine: http://www.theobserver.com/currentissue/khs.shtml

I was happy to read the Mayor's measured and wise words. I absolutelyagree that the administration and the BOE showed a supreme lack of leadership. Running for cover and trying to establish plausible deniability of the teacher's actions are the main reason this issue has continued to fester. Until the BOE "repudiates" Mr. P's words and subsequent actions, the issue will not be resolved. As much as Pat Sandle wishes only the positive aspects of the Kearny schools to be published, the education of our children will be suspect until Mr. P is appropriately dealt with.

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Guest Guest
It's good to see that Mayor Santos understands the situation and quickly sees through the weak attempts to dismiss Paszkiewicz's actions by his apologists. I'm proud to be a Kearny citizen under his leadership.

P.S. Obviously, the link in the quote tag will not remain active for very long, so I copied the entire thing here.

P.P.S. There is also an interesting bit written by Pat Sandle, a former teacher of mine: http://www.theobserver.com/currentissue/khs.shtml

To bad he beleives in God though, right Strifey.

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Guest Guest

a typical lawyer response. a lot of words with very little meaning.

and the meaning is a typical politician's response. santos waited until after the boe petitions are filed. then he attacks bern mcdonald who is now running for reelection. next he will back someone who is running against her. like maybe joe w. who he just appointed to the rec commision. santos is just another politican who doesnt care about anything except himself

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a typical lawyer response. a lot of words with very little meaning.

and the meaning is a typical politician's response. santos waited until after the boe petitions are filed. then he attacks bern mcdonald who is now running for reelection. next he will back someone who is running against her. like maybe joe w. who he just appointed to the rec commision. santos is just another politican who doesnt care about anything except himself

He took a position. He could easily avoid getting involved by saying that its not up to him to comment on Bd of E policies since they're supposed to be independent.

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Guest Lazarus
To bad he beleives in God though, right Strifey.

Shut the hell up. Christ, what's wrong with you? Censor this if you want, moderator, but at least you'll know how I feel.

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To bad he beleives in God though, right Strifey.

I'm more concerned in seeing adults who don't know which "to/two/too" to use, not to mention don't know which punctuation a question is supposed to end with. A lack of basic education is much more important to me than anyone's personal beliefs.

Perhaps you should crack open an elementary English textbook in the time you decided to spend trying to bash me.

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Shut the hell up. Christ, what's wrong with you? Censor this if you want, moderator, but at least you'll know how I feel.

It may shock some of the guests to hear it, but most of Paul and Matthew's supporters are believers too... many of them Christians.

They're just not theocratic lunatics like Mr. P and his crowd.

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Guest Dingo Dave
To bad he beleives in God though, right Strifey.

Yes, it is unfortunate when any of our community leaders publicly announce their belief that they have an invisible friend who lives up in the sky with all his invisible buddies. What if he had publicly proclaimed a belief in Poseidon and Zeus? How would that go down with the locals?

It's cute in children, but it's a bit of a worry when otherwise sane and rational adults claim to believe the sorts of things that most children have grown out of before they have reached their tenth birthday.

However, at least he appears to be thinking rationally about the Paszkiewicz affair, which is a good thing.

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To bad he beleives in God though, right Strifey.

God you are so stupid. You really reflect well on the town of Kearny.

There is no issue with whether people believe in God or not. You are free to believe in whatever you want to believe. I believe in a God. I don't believe in Jesus. I don't care what people believe as long as they don't try to 1) tell me it's the only truth, and 2) preach it to my kids in public school.

The Mayor made a bold statement and just earned my vote again. Deal with Pascewicz the right way and this issue will die.

But as long as ignorant people like "Guest" above are around, it will always come back.

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Guest Guest
Shut the hell up. Christ, what's wrong with you? Censor this if you want, moderator, but at least you'll know how I feel.

Gee whiz, Lazarus. I mean this with all my heart, there are now decaffinated brands on the market that are every bit as good as the original.

The purpose of the forum is open debate. Your responses are of equal entitlement to others who post opinions you do not share. In your response you utterly failed to add anything intelligent to dispute or refute the previous post. I'd like to think it's just your emotions getting the best of you. So how 'bout a little less from your heart and a little more from your head?

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Guest Guest
It's good to see that Mayor Santos understands the situation and quickly sees through the weak attempts to dismiss Paszkiewicz's actions by his apologists. I'm proud to be a Kearny citizen under his leadership.

P.S. Obviously, the link in the quote tag will not remain active for very long, so I copied the entire thing here.

P.P.S. There is also an interesting bit written by Pat Sandle, a former teacher of mine: http://www.theobserver.com/currentissue/khs.shtml

Where's your lovely commentary about how our mayor is delusional because he believes in God? Do you share such thoughts with him in the town hall, or is the fact that it's just another butt (albeit a religious butt) that needs to be kissed to keep your job in town that keeps you behaving?

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It's good to see that Mayor Santos understands the situation and quickly sees through the weak attempts to dismiss Paszkiewicz's actions by his apologists. I'm proud to be a Kearny citizen under his leadership.

P.S. Obviously, the link in the quote tag will not remain active for very long, so I copied the entire thing here.

P.P.S. There is also an interesting bit written by Pat Sandle, a former teacher of mine: http://www.theobserver.com/currentissue/khs.shtml

Can anyone tell me if the BOE's recent policy statement on religious speech in the classroom, referred to in the Observer and timed roughly with the policy on classroom recording, has been linked online anywhere, in whole (best) or in part (better than nothing)?

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Guest Paul
It may shock some of the guests to hear it, but most of Paul and Matthew's supporters are believers too... many of them Christians.

They're just not theocratic lunatics like Mr. P and his crowd.

Every person who is capable of belief is a believer. Everyone believes in something. Belief is essential. Without it, there is no grounding, or orientation in life. Please don't limit belief to a particular theology.

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The purpose of the forum is open debate.

Which is exactly what this, the post he replied to, isn't.

Your responses are of equal entitlement to others who post opinions you do not share.  In your response you utterly failed to add anything intelligent to dispute or refute the previous post.

What the hell? What WAS there to 'dispute' or 'refute,' I would ask? The whole post he responded to contained no argument; it was nothing but a sophomoric insult. I don't blame someone for getting annoyed at someone who acts so immaturely.

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Where's your lovely commentary about how our mayor is delusional because he believes in God?

I only make fun of militant/dominionist/etc. theists, 'cause they deserve to be called on their absurdities. Mayor Santos has never acted in any way that made me believe he was that type of theist in the least.

I only 'push back' in that respect. In fact, I'm sure Santos has no idea I'm even atheist.

Do you share such thoughts with him in the town hall, or is the fact that it's just another butt (albeit a religious butt) that needs to be kissed to keep your job in town that keeps you behaving?

I don't S**K (edit: oh, come on, that's not even a swear) up to anyone. Ever. I'm surprised you wouldn't have gathered that by now. :rolleyes:

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Can anyone tell me if the BOE's recent policy statement on religious speech in the classroom, referred to in the Observer and timed roughly with the policy on classroom recording, has been linked online anywhere, in whole (best) or in part (better than nothing)?

Not that I know of--but now you made me curious about its details too. *chuckles*

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Guest Guest
I'm more concerned in seeing adults who don't know which "to/two/too" to use, not to mention don't know which punctuation a question is supposed to end with. A lack of basic education is much more important to me than anyone's personal beliefs.

Perhaps you should crack open an elementary English textbook in the time you decided to spend trying to bash me.

Ad Hominem - no reaction to this point, huh.

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Guest Guest
I'm more concerned in seeing adults who don't know which "to/two/too" to use, not to mention don't know which punctuation a question is supposed to end with.

I like your sentiments Strife but don't correct someone's grammar with a sentence that ends in a preposition. Bad form.

This is the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put.

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