Indianapolis schools ban only selected religions, as well as atheist and LGBT sites, from students' Internet.


Indianapolis public schools, in a clear breach of church-state separation, are banning students from viewing the websites of only certain religions, as well as atheist and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) sites.

According to a Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) press release, Indianapolis public schools are illegally discriminating against certain religious views, banning students from seeing sites containing what they term as "mysticism", which apparently includes atheism. Here are some key quotes from a pdf copy provided by FFRF of the offending (and offensive) guidel... "Blocked" categories include:

"Sites that promote and provide information on religions such as Wicca, Witchcraft or Satanism. Occult Practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or other forms of mysticism, [...] the use of spells, incantations, curses, and magic powers. This category includes sites which discuss or deal with paranormal or unexplained events."

Notably absent is reference to Abrahamic religions (Judeo-Christian, Muslim), of course. Not content with just banning information on non-mainstream religious views, Indianapolis public schools have also deemed LGBT sites as off-limits as well.

The people setting up these guidelines don't realize just how ironic they are, however. The policy also details what types of sites are to be blocked, and their site arguably fails their own test. Under Violence/Hate/Racism (p. 3 of the pdf provided by FFRF), it says that included in sites that should be blocked are

"sites that advocate, depict hostility or aggression toward, or denigrate an individual or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, nationality, ethnic origin, or other involuntary characteristics."

Wouldn't a site advocating (and implementing) the banning only resources related to certain religions be "hostility or aggression" or "denigrating" towards those religions?!? Never fear, though. Perhaps they realized this contradiction, since the section on exceptions to the blocked sites includes ones "that are sponsored by schools, educational facilities". So they are allowed to denigrate other religious viewpoints through their policy as much as they want.

The ban of LGBT sites also says that sites can't "cater to one's one's sexual orientation or gender identity including, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender sites". Since it's not limited to those for, it would logicially including heterosexuality as well. Any sites promoting heterosexual marriage would have to be banned according to the word here. So this document would end up banning a whole lot more than they bargained for.

In fact, I just realized that the site actually does address the Abrahamic religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, and Islam. Looking again at the requirements for sites that are blocked, it says:

"This category includes sites which discuss or deal with paranormal or unexplained events."

Wouldn't Moses' parting of the Red Sea in the Torah be considered an "unexplain event"? Jesus' resurrection in the Bible? God turning the skin of Native Americans dark in the Book of Mormon? An angel appearing to Muhammad in the Koran? These all sound pretty unexplained to me. Maybe they have unwittingly banned students from viewing any religious content.

In spite of these possible loopholes and logical extensions of their hate-filled bans, I am still against the closing of students' minds on religion, atheism, and sexual orientation and identity. Schools should not promote a religion or sexual orientation, but they also shouldn't single out sites as worthy of being banned just because they mention viewpoints or orientations that aren't in the mainstream.

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Comment by skepticmom on July 15, 2010 at 8:23am
I don't know why it never ceases to amaze me that educators can be so ill informed and bigoted.
Comment by Nathaniel Theising on July 14, 2010 at 2:49pm
Good news. The local CFI fought this last year and when we last checked, this ban had been lifted and was no longer in effect. Once school starts again, we will have a member who is a teacher check and see if the ban has been reinstated.
Comment by Nathaniel Theising on July 14, 2010 at 1:38pm
Geez! We need to call Eric (the student who recently successfully sued his local high school for adding prayer to the graduation ceremony). But seriously, I will bring this to the attention of our local CFI movers and shakers and see if anyone with kids in these schools is willing to sue.
Comment by IAmTheBlog on February 21, 2010 at 10:17am
Thanks Frank for your comments. I'm not sure what you or others think, but I'm beginning to think more and more that many, if not most, school officials who enact policies such as these know what they're doing is illegal, but they choose to do so anyway.

They may not know the Lemon Test specifically (which they ought to), but they know this isn't legal. They also know that most parents would support the policy, especially since to many it probably seems open-minded by not specifically being pro-Christian (as if to say, see, we're not being discriminatory, because even Muslims are okay!).

I haven't heard any news about any progress or news on this issue in Indianapolis, but I'll see if I can find any and post back if I do.
Comment by Frank J. Ranelli on February 19, 2010 at 12:37am
Clearly, the Indianapolis school board, in addition to its seething xenophobia, prejudice, bigotry, and glaring duplicity, fails miserable by not adhering to the Establishment Clause—and the litany of stare decisis cases adjudicated by the U.S. Supreme Court, which includes the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman, otherwise known as, “The Lemon Test.”

The “three prong” Lemon Test states,

1. The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;

2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;

3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.

If any of these “prongs” are violates, then the action by the government—in this case, the Indianapolis school board’s draconian rules governing students web browsing, is therefore unconstitutional.

Any first year law student could successfully argue this case; however, sadly, from the Scopes trial to the Dover trial, it seems hard-line faith practitioners and nefarious apologists for Abrahamic based religions keep finding their way onto school boards.

In a word…sue!
Comment by Turtle Poser on November 15, 2009 at 12:34am
Thanks for posting this. This is so ridiculous.
Comment by Louis Davout on November 14, 2009 at 9:42pm
Thanks for posting! I'm going to post a link to this in the Indiana group.



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