Traitors in Your Midst

There has recently been a bit of a brouhaha in Illinois at which Hemant Mehta, "The Friendly Atheist", is the center.  Mr. Mehta is a math teacher in public school, Illinois’ District 204′s Neuqua Valley High School, to be exact, as well as a popular blogger.  The controversy started because of a conservative Christian organization, the Illinois Family Institute (italics all their own), whose writer Laurie Higgins, Director of the IFI, decided to let people know that they should avoid the "Bean" in Millennium Park in Illinois on Saturday, August 15 at 1:00 pm because the "Great Nationwide Homosexual Kiss-In" was going to be taking place there.  Lots of people responded to this, and Mr. Mehta was one of them.  On his blog he wrote, “The only thing that could make this kiss-in even better is if it took place just outside Higgins’ house.”  I want to say that, while funny, I don’t know that this was the most appropriate kind of response.  Mr. Mehta insists that the remark was sarcastic, and that “Obviously, I didn’t mean on her property (that’d be illegal). And not purposely in front of her children.”  I guess I’m much more bothered by the suggestion that people should show up on Ms. Higgins’ lawn in a sort of protest than I am that her kids might see some benign public display of affection.  My concern would be that a public school teacher could be seen as exhorting his students to break the law.  While Mr. Mehta later explicitly said that’s not what he intended, as the quote above indicates, I will say that such was not at all clear from the context of his initial post.  (As an aside, it’s weird to me that his response was phrased in such a way as to suggest that her children seeing some homosexual couple kissing would be “worse” than the couple illegally trespassing.  I mean, really?  There’s more I could say about that, but I do not want to get away from my actual point here.)

Mr. Mehta’s response to the IFI’s “warning” about the Kiss-In led Ms. Higgins’ to write an email to the entire administrative staff of Mr. Mehta’s school as well as every area school board member.  Part of that email read as follows:  “He, of course, has a First Amendment right to write whatever he pleases on his blog ‘The Friendly Atheist’ during his free time, but it’s unfortunate that a role model for students would write some of the things he writes.”  While the entire content of the letter is not available, Ms. Higgins did not stop with that email.  She wrote this article on the IFI website further condemning Mr. Mehta.  There she has published at least one response she received to her email:

Making District 204 leaders aware of Mr. Mehta’s comment was all I intended to do regarding this issue, that is, until I received an angry email from attorney and school board member, Mark Metzger. His email contained the following not-so-veiled threat of a lawsuit:

"Have you considered the possibility that if your actions caused Mr. Mehta to suffer consequences in his employment, you’d be subjecting yourself and/or your organization to liability? That’s potentially unwise to your organization’s self-sufficiency, surviival (sic) and mission."

In addition, he suggested I was setting "a poor example for families"…

Whatever the total content of the email was, it is clear that at least one school board member recognized that such correspondence could have the result of Mr. Mehta being fired.  And this gets to the heart of the reason I’m addressing this.  In this same article Ms. Higgins writes:

Of course, teachers have a First Amendment right to blog or speak publicly about anything they want. And parents have every right not to have their children in the classroom under the tutelage of someone whose publicly articulated views they find fallacious and deeply troubling. Having a First Amendment right to speak freely does not guarantee public approval or public silence. And the public response may be that parents choose not to have their children in the class of those who espouse views that parents find foolish and destructive.
Parents have a justifiable concern that the personal views of teachers may find their way into the classroom, either through curricular choices or classroom commentary. Those parents who want nothing more than that their children will believe in God may find someone whose mission in life is to persuade young people to reject a belief in God to be a poor role model.

If you read this as a call to action, you are not alone.  Indeed, I cannot imagine who could read this as anything but a call to action for conservative, Christian parents to do something.  But what is that something?  It would appear that she wants these parents to band together to somehow get Mr. Mehta removed from his position as a public school teacher.  What other action could she be suggesting?  Giving her the benefit of the doubt that she is not wishing her readers to do actual violence to Mr. Mehta, I just cannot see what she would want the parents who “have every right not to have their children in the classroom under the tutelage of someone whose publicly articulated views they find fallacious and deeply troubling” to actually do if not that.  In Ms. Higgins’ own article she provided evidence that someone reading similar words would take that call to action to be getting Mr. Mehta fired from his job, so she is clearly aware that that is just how her words will be taken.  Since she continued to use similar words in her article to the public as she did in her letter to the school administration (“He, of course, has a First Amendment right to write whatever he pleases on his blog ‘The Friendly Atheist’ during his free time, but it’s unfortunate that a role model for students would write some of the things he writes.” vs. “Of course, teachers have a First Amendment right to blog or speak publicly about anything they want. … Those parents who want nothing more than that their children will believe in God may find someone whose mission in life is to persuade young people to reject a belief in God to be a poor role model.”), it would be absurd to suggest that she did not understand how her words would be understood.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Mehta responded to this article on his own blog.  In it he writes, “It seems I have a conservative ‘family’ group angry with me because of this website. And they’re trying to attack my character (and my teaching position) as a result.”  The following day Ms. Higgins posted this in the IFI site:

District 204 parents really should spend some time perusing Neuqua Valley math teacher, Hemant Mehta‘s website to determine whether he is the kind of man with whom they want their children to spend a school year. He absolutely has a First Amendment right to promote any feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral ideas he wants via his blog, but, as I mentioned in my earlier article, parents have the right not to have him as a teacher and a role model for their children. I want to be very clear about what I’m suggesting: I am suggesting that parents who have serious concerns about Mr. Mehta’s potential influence on their children’s beliefs politely insist that their children be placed in another teacher’s class.

One notes the post here gives an explicit claim as to what is being suggested, and this differs from the earlier interpretation of the call to action that I claimed was reasonable.  Here Ms. Higgins says that she simply thinks that parents should “politely insist that their children be placed in another teacher’s class.”  Of course, one must ask how reasonable such a suggestion is.  If it turns out that a significant number of parents continue to insist that their child be taught by someone else, and if the school is under any obligation to respect that demand, there seems to be little way that they could continue to employ Mr. Mehta.  Further, and this needs to be addressed, is it reasonable to believe that Ms. Higgins wants any child taught by someone who promoting “feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral ideas” in his capacity as a role model?  I would think not.  So, while it might not be the case that Ms. Higgins called for parents to phone the school board demanding Mr. Mehta’s immediate firing, it seems ridiculous to suggest that she wants anything other than that.

Of course, that’s just how Mr. Mehta took the article.  He then wrote, “The Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins is going after me (and my job) again.”  This would appear to be a wholly reasonable thing to say given what Ms. Higgens has actually written.  So, here comes the big issue, Ms. Higgens responded by publishing an open letter to Mr. Mehta on the IFI site.  It begins with the quote from Mr. Mehta above, and then follows with, “I have never in any context suggested that you should be fired or that you should resign. In fact, I don’t believe the school has any legal right to fire you. You should have fact-checked before you posted that inaccurate statement.”

So, for those of you still following along, here’s where the meat of my post comes.  It is patently absurd to insist that you want anything other than the removal of a teacher when you have done everything in your power to make that happen!  Did Ms. Higgins ever explicitly say she wanted him fired?  No.  But the reason for this is clear in her article.  “In fact, I don’t believe the school has any legal right to fire you.”  So, the reason she has not publically called for such a thing is because she does not believe that Mr. Mehta’s actions legally warrant that response by the school.  But, of course, that is what Ms. Higgins desires.  She has made that repeatedly clear, and the fact that she cannot legally get her desire in no way diminishes that.  It is wholly dishonest for her to pretend that anything other than that is what’s going on here.

All that leads me to my big question.  Why is she so deceitful?  How does her lying about what she’s attempting to accomplish promote her values?  And the answer is obvious.  By taking the route she does she hopes to provide an actual reason for Mr. Mehta being removed from his position.  It would not be what he’s written on his blog, because that will not cut it.  But a large movement by area parents who refuse to let their children be taught by Mr. Mehta will have a similar result.  Mr. Mehta will be unable to do his job, will face public ridicule, and, I suspect, the refusal of parents to let their children be taught by someone can be used in some way so as to provide a legal reason to fire Mr. Mehta. 

All that means that what Ms. Higgins has said is bullshit.  Flat out.  She has danced around, deceived, and outright lied about her intentions in order to get what she wants.  I have no doubt that Ms. Higgins holds “truth” to be an important value for families.  And yet, she has no problem abandoning that value when it is convenient for her.  If values can be discarded on a whim, that should suggest that those values are of little importance in the first place.  People like Ms. Higgins should be shunned and her opinions fully disregarded by all sides.  Their organizations should receive no support from anyone, especially not those who actually hold dear the values that Ms. Higgins parodies.  Those who are genuine in their adherence to conservative, Christian values should view Ms. Higgins as the worst kind of enemy, a traitor within their own camp.  And, of course, those who think her values of hatred and misrepresentation of those who differ from her are garbage should see her as nothing less than a genuine threat exemplified by all those who would plunge us into a new Dark Ages.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

About these ads

48 Responses to “Traitors in Your Midst”

  1. Tim Says:

    Internet surfers really should spend some time perusing Apple Eater’s blogger, James Clayton’s website to determine whether he is the kind of man with whom they want their comments to reside. He absolutely has a First Amendment right to promote any feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral ideas he wants via his blog, but, surfers have the right not to have him as a source of debate for their ideas. I want to be very clear about what I’m suggesting: I am suggesting that surfers who have serious concerns about Jim’s potential influence on their beliefs politely surf to another website.

  2. Apple Eaters Provides Clarity Around the Attack on Hemant Mehta : 40 Year Old Atheist Says:

    [...] I found an excellent blog – Apple Eaters where Jim has done an outstanding job clarifying the slime-baggery of the Illinois Family Institute attack on the Friendly Atheist. [...]

  3. Paul Says:

    Ms. Higgins seems to have forgotten a common truism: “better the devil you know…”

  4. stacy Says:

    i think this thing is blown out of proportion. social issues aside, i think ms. higgins was just mad that he called her out on being a hate monger. i don’t think it was necessarily her intent *initially* to make it a quest to get him fired. i think she just irrationally attacked him, ala, “you think i’m an a-hole? look at this guy…” she turned the attention off of her own character and onto his. then ran it into the ground.

    this: “People like Ms. Higgins should be shunned and her opinions fully disregarded by all sides. Their organizations should receive no support from anyone, especially not those who actually hold dear the values that Ms. Higgins parodies. Those who are genuine in their adherence to conservative, Christian values should view Ms. Higgins as the worst kind of enemy, a traitor within their own camp. And, of course, those who think her values of hatred and misrepresentation of those who differ from her are garbage should see her as nothing less than a genuine threat exemplified by all those who would plunge us into a new Dark Ages,” –is hilarious and extreme. she should be laughed off. even the teacher should laugh her off. i mean, like, “are you f’ing kidding me?” laughed off. the only possible reason for taking any of this seriously, in my opinion, is if the school board did fire him. that would say to me that they could not see what an idiotic argument was made and that they made a decision on one persons beliefs, thus “determining” which is the correct moral value or belief to have. isn’t the whole point of public school to keep everything as “PC” as possible? “kids, some people believe this, some people believe that. i’m a teacher, so i can’t tell you what i believe/the values i think important/the politician i follow– because the PTA will come after me no matter what i say. so believe whatever you want.” aside from higher education, i think the school boards whitewash all of that kind of talk. “better not talk about it and say whether one or the other is right or wrong.”

    so to sum up my position, there is no point to even blog about such a silly issue. it should be laughed at as two people with conflicting views, and the 2nd of those people (metaphorically) saying, “hey! he picked on me! i’m not a jerk, *he’s* a jerk! here, look.”

    and in terms of the school board, i would hope that they would see her complaints and say, “oh yeah, we’ll get right on this,” and put it in the circular bin. because when it comes down to it, the school board may take opinion on what “values” to promote, however, it would be laughable if they gave any weight to ms. higgins situation as it offers no factual information about the foundation of these beliefs. to me, both the teacher and ms. higgins are annoying. he’s annoying because of his need to instigate, and she is annoying because she can’t take criticism. it would have been smarter for her to accept the criticism, state what she believes, back that up with factual data (for which, i’m sure she has none other than the Bible), and have an intellectual discussion, rather than attack his character right back.

    i don’t know. people suck at life.

    thanks,

    one non-philisophical art kid

    • Jim Says:

      Unfortunately, this stuff can’t be laughed off because people do lose their jobs over this very kind of thing. Hence the response Higgins received from someone on the school board. Like it or not, people like this have influence, and they use that influence to destructive ends, such as having parents take their kids out of some teacher’s class. That kind of thing isn’t a joke, and treating it like it is only allows this kind of thing to grow and fester. Higgins is serious. Her organization is serious. The people she’s reaching are serious. Laughing off this kind of stuff just doesn’t seem practical. Better to point out her own rejection of the values she’s promoting as a way to (hopefully) take away some of her influence.
      Personally, I’m just not into waiting until she actually gets someone fired to say something about it.

  5. stacy Says:

    i think it highly unlikely that he would be fired. and if he was, i think he could sue. it’s not like he was using school resources (their webspace) or telling the kids in his class that he could pick them up in his mini van to take them to the bean. it would be unwise of them to fire him because there is little or no reason to support their cause. they would also be making a statement that they do not agree with the beliefs of Mr. Mehta, which I don’t think they would so boldly do. even if he had signed some kind of contract with the school, i doubt they would still have any legal right to remove him.

    (although this is Illinois we are talking about, and Lord knows what a corrupt state we are–hardy har).

    • Jim Says:

      They definitely don’t have a legal right to remove him for what he wrote. But that becomes a very different situation if parents refuse to allow him to teach their students. I’m not sure how that would end, but there is likely some clause in his contract that allows for his removal if he is unable to perform his duties as a teacher. Most contracts do have such provisions. Parents refusing to allow their kids to attend his class would result in his inability to do his job. Also, even if he wasn’t fired, if he was constantly teaching mostly empty classes, there would be external, and likely internal from himself, pressure to quit. My point was that Higgins clearly wants him removed from his position, and while she can’t just get him fired, she’s clearly looking to create pressure which she hopes would have just that result.

  6. The Illinois Family Institute’s Attack on The Friendly Atheist Equates to Cocking a Loaded Gun : 40 Year Old Atheist Says:

    [...] are we objecting to? I’ll let Joe from Apple Eaters explain: If you read this as a call to action, you are not alone. Indeed, I cannot imagine who could read [...]

  7. Jon Says:

    Whether we like it or not, personal beliefs often influence workplace politics in America. The influence of personal beliefs becomes even more complex in certain workplaces, such as schools, where being a ‘role-model’ may be part of the job responsibility.

    I am not sure how things work in Illinois (whether the school would be obligated to pull a student at a parent’s request). I know that personally, I would like the ability to request a different teacher for my child for any reason; however, that doesn’t mean the school is obligated to do so.

    Anyway, Mrs. Higgins, the IFI, and Hermant all seem to be acting well within their personal rights. I don’t see how Mrs. Higgins actions are despicable, anymore than Hermant’s actions were. If the situation plays out where so many parents request their child be given a different teacher than the school would probably have reasonable cause for dismissal. Hermant could bring a lawsuit, and in our litigious society he could win – you never know.

    Currently, in our society we have the right to free speech. Hermant exercised his, and is ecountering at least some sort of drama because of it. Laurie Higgins exercised her right and may face the consequences of being sued. But Laurie’s actions are no more despicable than Hermant’s – at worst, I would say they are probably both a little immature.

    • Jim Says:

      You missed the entire point of my post. It wasn’t that Higgins doesn’t have the legal right to say what she said (though such is debatable, as was suggested by an actual lawyer, which I am not). Higgins actions are despicable because she is a liar. This is compounded by the fact that she claims to represent those who hold a particular set of values in high regard, one of those chief values being truthfulness. In fact, promoting such values is the sole reason for her entire organization’s existence. That is why she is despicable. She is a traitor to her own cause.

      • Jon Says:

        Jim, I am sorry that I missed your point. I really do not see how you can call her a liar. I would very much appreciate if you could clarify. What is she lying about? She doesn’t believe Hermant is an appropriate role model, and has expressed that opinion to the community. What the community does with that information is up to them, and what the school does in response to the community is up to them.

        • Jim Says:

          I bolded this line in my post and punctuated it with an exclamation point so that it wouldn’t be missed: It is patently absurd to insist that you want anything other than the removal of a teacher when you have done everything in your power to make that happen!
          She posted an open letter to Mehta in which she implied that she didn’t want him to lose his job, but all her action was directed to that end. My argument for that is spelled out in detail in my 2000 word post.
          If you claim you did not attempt to do something that you did attempt to do, then you are a liar. That is what Higgins did. Hence, she is a liar.

          • Jon Says:

            Jim, I did see that line. Unfortunately, it appears you are using extremely flawed logic, or you are so enflamed at Higgins that you are not reading through her statements and letters correctly. As I understand it, she didn’t say she didn’t WANT his removal, she said she didn’t SUGGEST that he should be fired or that he should resign. What she did do is express her opinion that he is not an appropriate role model. If you want to disagree with her opinion that he is not an appropriate role model, that is fine…but I have a really hard time seeing how you can call her a liar.

            Higgins claims she did not SUGGEST that Hemant be fire fired. By every reasonable account of the situation I have heard, Higgins did not SUGGEST that Hemant be fired, she simply expressed her opinion that he is not an appropriate role model, and encouraged others to do the same.

            Therefore, Higgins is not a liar.

            Please explain again (with or without bold type, whatever you please), how Higgins is a liar.

            Thanks!

          • Jim Says:

            The bolding was to ensure that no one missed my point as the post was quite lengthy. I am unsure what the purpose is in this line: “with or without bold type, whatever you please…” It sounds like a veiled insult. However, as you missed my point the first time through, it would appear that my concern was warranted.
            For the record, I had never heard of Mehta nor Higgins before this debacle. As such, I had no opinion of either one when this started. Indeed, I was even critical of Mehta and his suggestion that anyone should demonstrate at Higgins’ home. As such, the suggestion that I might be “enflamed at Higgins” is wholly misplaced.
            Nor am I using “extremely flawed logic.” I’ll condense my argument, though you really should be explicit about which details you take issue.
            Mehta wrote, “The Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins is going after me (and my job) again.” Higgins responded, ““I have never in any context suggested that you should be fired or that you should resign.” Playing the dancing game in which you seem to be interested, Mehta never actually claimed that Higgins called for him to be “fired.” He claimed she was going after him and his job. And she was. She had already been informed by a lawyer on the school board that the language she used in a letter to the board could put Mehta’s job in danger. Yet, not only did she post a letter for the public at large to read similar to the one that earned her that warning, she used almost identical language. In that general post she called on other parents to take similar actions to her own, the ones that, by her own admission, she was told could result in Mehta losing his job. Rather than refraining from that action, she escalated it. She increased the activity that she knew threatened Mehta’s job. Mehta complained about that. Her response was to tell Mehta that he was mistaken. Well, he wasn’t. She was “going after” his job, even if she didn’t do so by directly calling for him to be fired. It is dishonest to attempt to side-step the issue by claiming she didn’t call on him to get fired (especially when her reason for not doing such is explicitly because she doesn’t think such would work), and it is an outright lie to say that Mehta “should have fact-checked before [he] posted that inaccurate statement.” The statement was not inaccurate. She was intentionally threatening his job, and that’s what “go after” means.
            Therefore, Higgins is a liar.
            QED

          • Jon Says:

            Jim – sorry that my comment about the bold type came as an insult. I believe I misunderstood your comment about the bold type in your previous comment – that sounded like an insult to me. Again, I apologize – I am not trying to offend you.
            I didn’t miss your point because of a typeface being bold or there being an exclamation point. I missed your point because I believe that the logic you are using to make your point is faulty.
            As with you, I have also never heard of these characters prior to this situation. And, as I may have implied above, I may not be familiar enough with the situation to assess it properly. However, given the accounts that I have read, and your account, I fail to see how she is a liar.
            Thank you for condensing your argument – but I believe I was clear about which details I am taking issues.

            She said she didn’t suggest he should be fired, she made the assertion that he was poor role model. Simply because being a poor role model may be a factor in one keeping or losing one’s teaching job does not mean that Higgins lied about what she said or didn’t say, or about what she did or didn’t do. Engaging in an activity that may cost another his job does mean you are lying when you say “I never suggested that he should be fired.”

            I think the issue here is whether it is appropriate to criticize his performance as a teacher based on his personal worldview – not the issue of whether Higgins lied.

            I also wonder whether you would be concerned about the “lying” aspect of it if the idealogical beliefs of the two parties were reversed.

            To me, it appears that you are singling out Higgins and falsely accusing her of lying because you believe that it was not appropriate for her to petition against his qualifications as a role model, and you share Mehta’s ideological beliefs.

            I hope I am incorrect in my evaluation and the only aspect of it that you are concerned about really is the “lying.”

          • Jim Says:

            First, no, I am not singling Higgins out because of some ideological difference. In fact, again, I did criticize Mehta. It just turns out that he didn’t lie here, and Higgins did.
            She did much more than merely suggest he was a poor role model. She contacted the administration of his school and the entire school board. She wrote a letter to his employers complaining about his behavior. It seems unreasonable to suggest that she was merely sending a message to Mehta’s employer with no further goal in mind. That would be incredibly naive. There is a reason people complain to someone’s employer about their behavior, and that is to affect their employment. Also, she urged parents to pull their children from his class because she claimed he was promoting “feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral ideas” to his students. The idea that she wanted anything other than Mehta’s removal seems to me, as I said, patently absurd. If you disagree, I can only think that you have some vested interest in aligning yourself with Higgins. After all, if I sent an email to all of your bosses claiming you were destructive, offensive, and immoral, I feel certain you would think that I was attempting to derail your career. And, of course, you’d be right. The same goes for Higgins.
            Further, yet again, after Mehta’s employers told Higgins that such activity could result in Mehta losing his job, she continued her attacks using the very same language she was just informed by a lawyer could result in Mehta’s firing. Clearly, that was her intent. Otherwise, she would not have used language identical to that which she knew threatened his job.
            By claiming she had no such thing in mind, she is lying.

    • Jim Says:

      BTW, your site is giving a 403 error.

  8. Jon Says:

    Jim – very glad to hear you are only concerned with the “lying” aspect of it…since she didn’t lie, that means you don’t really have a problem with the situation.

    I have no vested interest in Higgins…like I said, I don’t know the lady. In fact, since your only problem with her is her supposed lying, its possible I would take more of an issue with her than you.

    However, you are still confused to believe that she lied.

    “She contacted the administration of his school and the entire school board.” >>> to suggest he was a poor role model.

    “She wrote a letter to his employers complaining about his behavior.” >>> to suggest he was a poor role model.

    “It seems unreasonable to suggest that she was merely sending a message to Mehta’s employer with no further goal in mind.” >>> Why?

    “That would be incredibly naive. There is a reason people complain to someone’s employer about their behavior, and that is to affect their employment. ” >>> What would be incredibly naive is to think that only reason to contact someone’s employer about their behavior is in order to terminate their position. Your supposition that this is the only reason makes me question if you might perhaps have a vindictive nature. I have contacted numerous employers about an employees actions or attitudes, and the vast majority of the time I am not seeking their termination.

    “Also, she urged parents to pull their children from his class because she claimed he was promoting “feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral ideas” to his students.”>>>Again, she definitely suggested he was a poor role model.

    You are making assumptions about Higgins motives and intentions that you do not know are true. From the information that we currently have – she did not lie. If you have another problem with Higgins, I would certainly be interested in hearing it, because I might agree with you on that one. If your only problem is her perceived lack of honesty – move on to a real issue.

    • Jim Says:

      I’m on the real issue.
      Jon, you seem to think that contacting the entire range of administrators at someone’s place of employment who works with children, telling those administrators that the person in question is dangerous and immoral, and attempting to do away with the whole reason for that person’s job’s existence, removing the children from the classroom, isn’t intended to threaten that person’s employment. You further believe that continuing to use identical language that a lawyer has told you threatens someone’s employment isn’t intended to threaten that person’s employment. I think those are wholly unjustified beliefs. They are so unjustified that it is difficult for me to believe that any rational person would hold them. But you do. Fine. We’ll just have to recognize that we disagree on this one.

      • Jon Says:

        Jim – With regards to lying, it doesn’t matter if doing that stuff threatens his employment.

        It also doesn’t help me understand your perspective when you say that my beliefs are irrational. It shows your inability to comprehend the situation. From my perspective, I don’t see how a rational person such as you can believe that she is lying.

        Its fine that we disagree on this one — I personally doubt that anything significant (such as the teacher’s job actually being lost) is going to occur.

        Hopefully, your next post will include a much higher level of accuracy and we will both be able to agree on it.

        • Jim Says:

          “With regards to lying, it doesn’t matter if doing that stuff threatens his employment.”
          Yes, it does. She claimed she wasn’t threatening his employment. If she did, then she’s lying. That’s my whole point.

          There’s nothing inaccurate about my post. You’ve provided no argument against anything I’ve said. You’ve merely said “Nuh-uh!” repeatedly. And, yes, it is irrational to think that someone who sends letters to the school board telling them that a teacher is immoral isn’t attempting to cause a problem with that teacher’s employment. Again, if the same were done to you, it would be absurd for the person who did it to claim their aim was out to “get you (and your job).” That’s what Mehta wrote, and that’s what Higgins said was inaccurate. She was out to get him (and his job), and her saying otherwise was a lie.
          No post I write will be any different. If you’re unhappy with what I write, I suggest you don’t read my blog.

          • Jon Says:

            This goes back to our earlier posts. I don’t really want to get into a circular argument.

            “Yes, it does. She claimed she wasn’t threatening his employment. If she did, then she’s lying.” >>>> she claims she didn’t suggest he should be fired. Where did she claim she wasn’t threatening his employment?

            Jim – There is something inaccurate about your post. I know you disagree. I have provided plenty of arguments against what you’ve said. You say that I simply say “Nuh-uh!”, but if you think that, you must also think the evidence you’ve provided is the same as saying “Nuh-uh”.

            Its your blog, and you can write what you want, just as Higgins and Mehta can say what they want.

            Similarly, as long as you grant me permission, I can disagree and point out your errors, which I will continue to do.

            I severely doubt that all your future posts contain inaccuracies….but time will tell.

  9. katy Says:

    that lady is a total n00b. by her own logic, i can try to boycott my kid’s christian teachers since i disagree with their beliefs, and encourage other teachers to do the same. even if their religious beliefs are in no way being brought up in the course material.

    • katy Says:

      *other parents to do the same

    • Jon Says:

      Katy – Higgins expressed her belief that Hemant is a bad role model. You could attempt to do that with a Christian teacher, but your argument is not likely to be very strong given that Christian teachers are more likely to be viewed as good role models.

      • Jim Says:

        What? She can’t have a good argument that a Christian teacher is a bad role model merely because the teacher in question would be Christian? Are you suggesting that merely being Christian makes you good? Because I would point out that prison populations are full of Christians. Christians lie, cheat, steal, and rape every day. If that’s not what you’re suggesting, then you should be more clear. Exactly what does the mere fact of being a Christian have to do with one’s suitability as a role model?

        • Jon Says:

          Jim, I wouldn’t deny that their are many Christians that do bad things…in fact, all of us (both Christian and non-Christian) do bad things. Hence the saying, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

          What I am suggesting is that I believe (at this point in time)in general the public would perceive a Christian as a more positive role model than someone who engages in the activities that Hemant engages in.

          Obviously, I am not naive enough to think that is the case on this blog, but in the general population I am confident that is accurate.

          • Jim Says:

            So, specifically, what are the activities in which Mehta is engaged that the public would perceive as making him a poor role model? Blogging? Further, should the general public hold that view? Is such a view appropriate? Lastly, what would the purpose in bringing up such activities, whatever they are, be? Why would someone do that?

      • katy Says:

        that’s kind of offensive. i don’t think christians are automatically better role models than non-christians. in fact, christians have a lot of beliefs that are pretty intolerant in this world (their refusal see see gay relationships as the same as their own) and in the “next” world (people that don’t have the same belief about jesus will burn in a lake of fire after death).

        i’m not saying that a non-christian is necessarily a more moral person than a christian either. the whole point is that anyone’s character should be judged on an individual basis. which is why your post made no sense in the first place.

        my hypothetical complaint against a christian teacher would obviously have to be backed by examples of how i thought he/she was unfit to teach, and that would determine the strength of my argument…. not how public perception reacts to all christians as a whole, which is a pretty meaningless standard to apply.

        • Jon Says:

          Katy – it doesn’t bother me one bit to hear that you find it offensive. In one sense, it is actually encouraging to hear that. You and I agree that Christians aren’t automatically better role models. And that isn’t what I said if you go back and read it. But, in response to what you said, I have no problem with intolerance. There are plenty of things in this world that we should not be tolerant of (Hitler, abuse, murder, etc…) Homosexuality is wrong, it shouldn’t be tolerated. Gay relationships are not the same as heterosexual relationships. And people that don’t accept Jesus as their savior will go to Hell when they die. If that offends you, maybe it will cause you to wake up and realize that you aren’t going about life the right way.

          Public perception only matters to this situation because that seems to be the basis on what would cause a person to get fired. At the moment, public perception may or may not be in favor of a Christian teacher. In the future, public perception is much more likely to be against a Christian teacher.

          • Jim Says:

            Jon, you ignored my earlier comment, but, since you’re back, perhaps you would answer me now. I asked:

            So, specifically, what are the activities in which Mehta is engaged that the public would perceive as making him a poor role model? Blogging? Further, should the general public hold that view? Is such a view appropriate? Lastly, what would the purpose in bringing up such activities, whatever they are, be? Why would someone do that?

            In regards to your response to Katy, why is homosexuality wrong? How are those relationships different in kind from heterosexual relationships?
            How is it that offending someone would “cause [them] to wake up and realize that [they] aren’t going about life the right way”? If someone told you that you were an immoral fool with no justification for your beliefs who lied when it suited your interests, would that make you reconsider how you were living?

          • Jon Says:

            Higgins has clearly outlined what activities mehta is engaged in that make him a poor role model. I defer to her. In my opinion, Mehta is a poor role model (for more reasons than Higgins mentions – one of those reasons is the oversimplified approach he takes to the issues he presents on his blog). Should the general public consider him a poor role model? In this case, it is hard for me to say yes or no in regards to what the general public should do. If the general public did view him as a poor role model, I wouldn’t believe that view was unsubstantiated.

            The purpose of bringing up any of it is the same reason one might bring up anything – for discussion – in public or in private – to perhaps come to a consensus on the level of appropriateness.

            With regards to homosexuality, I think its pretty clear why its wrong. And, its pretty clear how those relationships differ from heterosexual relationships. Do you really not know the answer to those questions?

            People can react to being offended in lots of ways. One way is to be a baby and just whine about how someone offended them. Another way is to be a little bit more mature and realize that possibly, the sole goal of the offender was not to be malicious. Therefore, the words or actions of the offender may have merit, and the offendee may need to consider that merit.

            In some senses, people reconsider their lives/morals everyday. Everyday you need to make choices, and people make right choices or wrong choices. So, someone offending you should make you reconsider your lifestyle. You may return to your original conclusion and lifestlye, but that’s your problem not the problem of the person who warned you to reconsider.

          • Jim Says:

            “Higgins has clearly outlined what activities mehta is engaged in that make him a poor role model.”
            I honestly have no idea what activities of Mehta’s that Higgins finds ““feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral.” Oh, and for the record, it would certainly appear that Higgins is concerned about offensiveness as she talks about it quite often as a pejorative.

            “With regards to homosexuality, I think its pretty clear why its wrong. And, its pretty clear how those relationships differ from heterosexual relationships. Do you really not know the answer to those questions?”
            No, it’s not at all clear why it’s wrong or how it is different in kind from heterosexual relationships. School me.

            In regards to offensiveness, I’m glad you feel that way. Jon, I think you are an immoral fool with no justification for your beliefs who lies when it suits your interests. Your lies are well documented here as you have continually asserted that you do not think Higgins’ hope was to in some way remove Mehta from his position as a teacher. You have said she didn’t want to affect his job, and only an idiot or a madman could hold that view in light of the evidence. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you are neither too stupid to understand why someone sends letters to a person’s boss(es) nor wholly irrational. That makes you a liar. I sincerely hope that you take this in the spirit it is intended, as a warning meant to put you back on the path to being a moral person, and change your ways. You might want to check out my earlier post on the moral obligations of beliefs so as to recognize your mistake in believing things for which you have no good reason so that you might correct that as well. You can find it here: http://theappleeaters.wordpress.com/2009/04/28/about-the-moral-obligations-of-beliefs/. I hope you can find the strength to change and be good.

          • Jon Says:

            Jim….you are a clearly a sad sad individual with little to no grasph of what is right and wrong. And you apparently don’t understand what lying is…because I haven’t lied at all. When you make assumptions that people “must” feel a certain way and are therefore lying because they say otherwise, you make a fool out of yourself.

            Unfortunately for you, I’m not offended by any of what you write, because I know who it is coming from.

            As for your earlier post, it is ridiculous for someone like you to talk about morals when you don’t really understand morality.

          • Jim Says:

            No, Jon, I do understand what morality is. I study it professionally. Unfortunately, it is clear that you do not.
            Be good, Jon. Work on it.

          • Jon Says:

            Well, Jim – I’m sorry to hear you are so bad at your professional study. Apparently you need to keep studying. If I can be of more assistance, let me know.

            Just because you don’t understand morality, don’t assume I don’t.

            If you are so moral, you should know that.

          • Liza Says:

            Jon, I’m curious. What exactly is the moral charge that you’re making against Jim? Are you charging that his conclusions about morality are wrong, or are you suggesting that he is ignorant about moral Truth as it is conveyed to us in the Bible? From what you said below about homosexuality, I take it that you believe that moral behavior is that which is in accord with Biblical Scripture. If that is the case, then it is likely that you also believe that there is a moral imperative to evangelize, that is, to bring the Word of God to non-believers. Perhaps you are attempting to bring the Word of God to Jim because he is a non-believer. If this is the case, then I would like to humbly suggest to you that you are wasting your time because Jim knows more about the Bible than you do. In fact, on multiple occasions he has been asked to lead Bible studies for believers because he understands the subject matter so well and can rehearse the major theological arguments so easily. Were he not an atheist, Jim might well have gone into the seminary. So, it’s not ignorance that keeps Jim from believing what you believe. He reached his conclusions as a result of sincere, philosophical deliberation, not because he hasn’t read the Bible, gone to church, or prayed for faith.
            Now, if you understand this, and you don’t believe that you are educating Jim by proselytizing, then I can only assume that you want to engage in a philosophical debate about whether we have good reason to believe that Biblical moral prescriptions are true. If that is the case, then you will need to make a case that we have a good philosophical reason to believe that these rules (e.g. “Homosexuality is wrong”) are true, which is separate from faith in the Bible. Otherwise, what you’re saying amounts to circular reasoning (e.g. The Bible is True because the Bible is the Word of God, and we know the Bible is the Word of God because it says so in the Bible, and the Bible is True.) Finding a non-Biblical justification for certain Biblical moral prescriptions is a hefty task for a non-philosopher, but it’s probably less of a fool’s errand than trying to make a theological case for the existence of God and the Divinity of the Bible to Jim, who, as I mentioned before, has spent most of his life thinking about this issue.
            Good Luck.

          • katy Says:

            “Unfortunately for you, I’m not offended by any of what you write, because I know who it is coming from.”

            LOL……. i’m pretty sure someone just implied your critical thinking skills come from satan.

            pure comedy

          • katy Says:

            why would it be encouraging for you to hear that someone is offended by things you say? do you prefer to alienate others than for them to understand your views? wow. you’re like those rappers who enjoy having “haters”.

            and to be clear, nothing about your nonsensical beliefs offends me (which, by the way, you merely asserted at the end of your first paragraph without justification or reasoning to follow). what i was calling offensive was the idea that christians should be perceived by the public as more moral than non-christians. how self-righteous of those doing the perceiving, especially when many of their christian beliefs have been the cause of discrimination against minorities in this country.

            also, how moral are you when your concept of right and wrong is based on “god says so”? there is no evidence for any particular god, so anyone could make up what god says (stone women who have premarital sex to death) and then refuse to recant because they have faith that god said so. people of different religions and spiritual beliefs can’t even debate each other to find out who’s right because none of them go off of actual evidence!

            i bet christians wouldn’t be too pleased if agnostics and atheists became a majority in my state (california) and voted 51-49% to refuse to sign marriage licenses to christians. or even worse, to take away their right to vote on the grounds that christians are too illogical to participate in the election process!!

          • katy Says:

            “With regards to homosexuality, I think its pretty clear why its wrong. And, its pretty clear how those relationships differ from heterosexual relationships. Do you really not know the answer to those questions?”

            hahaha!! you couldn’t even answer the question! a couple sentences summarizing your stance would have at least made you look like you had something going on in your head. instead you completely avoid the question and act like we should obviously agree with you, even when our previous posts show that we clearly don’t have the same assumptions, which is the whole reason we’re debating. for future reference don’t ever do that. it makes you look like you have no argument.

            so, what’s wrong with homosexuality? i’m waiting!!!!

  10. Laurie Says:

    This is an old article, and you may not answer, but I am curious as to what you see as the difference between wanting someone to be fired because they didn’t subscribe to your belief system- in this case Christianity on the part of Ms. Higgins, and wanting someone not to be hired- Francis Collins as the director of his scientific organization? If the question of competency is taken out- Francis Collins was clearly well qualified on the basis of his job qualities- then aren’t you in the same position as Ms. Higgins- everyone would like their own world view affirmed?

    • Jim Says:

      The first thing I want to say is that the point of this wasn’t post wasn’t written to say that Higgins shouldn’t want Mehta fired. It’s that she lied about her intent, and that has all sorts of implications as pointed out in the post. That was the point.
      That said, there seems to be a clear difference here, and it’s easy to explain. Mehta’s job is a math teacher. In the bounds of that role, presuming he does not step outside of those, there is no opportunity for his beliefs about the existence of gods, or whatever else might bother someone like Higgins, to come up. That’s not at all the case with Collins in his role. His job is to dole out money to groups or individuals for the purpose of scientific research, and in that role he has quite a bit of discretion. If he sees religious beliefs as having some possible role in science, and it appears that at least in some cases he does, then he has the opportunity to give money to those that most scientists and philosophers of science would say are not doing science proper. At the same time, this would prevent money from going to those who are, in fact, doing science. Further, as a representative of the government, the issue of his having a full time job evangelizing for some particular set of religious views (I’m thinking now of BioLogos) could be seen as problematic, though I personally don’t have much of an issue with that.
      The point here is that there is a clear distinction between the positions held by Mehta and Collins, and that distinction makes all the difference in the world in terms of whether or not one is justified in expressing concern with the person in question taking on that position.

  11. Laurie Says:

    Well given that Mr. Collins is a proven scientist is his own right, it seems a little disingeneous to claim that his ability to make great scientific studies will be hampered by his religious beliefs- they haven’t so far, and many a more “skeptical” scientist has not accomplished in the scientific realm what he has. It seems that you are making the claim that science and religion have nothing to add to one another, since you think religion is unverifiable and perhaps that the evidence falls on the contrary side of religion. Nevertheless intelligent people have come to contrary conclusions- and still managed to be successful scientists- plenty of examples abound from the middle ages on. I just feel that this website is not wholly honest about its own biases and values, which lean towards a rational skepticism grounded in a faith in the scientific process- again theres nothing wrong with that, but its still a perspective which must have some “faith” in its own values.

    • Jim Says:

      It’s not about Collins’ being a Christian. If you think that’s my issue, you haven’t read anything I’ve written closely at all. I’ve stated my issues with Collins in more than one post, none of them being this one.
      You are wholly wrong about my having faith in anything. I have no such thing. I’ve explained that repeatedly on this blog as well. Faith is an unjustified belief. That’s the whole point. Suggesting that one can only accept the the model provided by scientific study on the basis of faith is just absurd. Your computer is right there working every time. That’s evidence. No faith is necessary in any way.
      These kinds of comments, and worse, the emails, are what made me tired of writing this blog. It’s exhausting.

  12. Laurie Says:

    or that perhaps Mr. Colins would fund people who werent accomplish scientists- but simply shared his religious beliefs

  13. Laurie Says:

    accomplished*

  14. Laurie Says:

    Sorry you feel that way. I feel like usually people are happy to have responses, even if they disagree. Not sure what a discussion can be about if you feel so slighted.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: