October 2017 Church & State - October 2017

Letters: Gender Identity Is Not A Pretense

  AU admin

Science Backs Civil Rights For Transgender Individuals

I was disappointed by your response to the letter from Tom Kirkman III berating AU for its opposition to North Carolina’s HB2 and similar proposals that would discriminate against transgender individuals (September Church & State). Simply restating your opposition to such discrimination, while necessary, did not address Mr. Kirkman’s central claim that “gender identity is pretense,” and therefore there can be no real discrimination against transgender individuals.

Both the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association are on the record as stating that gender identity is real, and that discrimination against transgender people does real harm. As the American Psychiatric Association put it in a 2012 policy statement, “discrimination and lack of equal civil rights is damaging to the mental health of transgender and gender variant individuals.”

 Mr. Kirkman has every right to his prejudices, but they are prejudices.

— Bruce Mirken | San Francisco, Calif.

Gender Identity Is Not A Pretense

Was Tom Kirkman III pretending to have some knowledge of biological science in his letter that was in the September Church & State? Contrary to his view, gender identity is not pretense, as biologists will confirm. Fetal brain development is occasionally not consistent with fetal reproductive organ development. Would the writer claim that homosexuality is also pretense?

All of us will continue to benefit from deep, significant education. It is our collective ignorance that holds back human progress, and too many people seem proud of their ignorance.

— Jerry W. Moulder | San Antonio, Texas

Time For A Tax Strike?

Now that Church & State has brought back the Letters column, I hope I can use it to appeal to members to consider the best means of resisting the Trump Theocratic Agenda:  A Tax Strike. I call on everyone who can live, however frugally, on their savings to zero out their taxable income this (and every) year. They can do this by donating their entire income (minus the person exemption(s) and other Schedule B deductions) to charity – to organizations like Americans United fighting the good fight. 

It’s simple: You can give to organizations you support or to a fascist regime you don’t.

— Stephen Van Eck | Lawton, Pa.

Teaching About Religion: Let’s Do It Right!

I was very disappointed to read in the September 2017 issue of Church & State that AU had voiced opposition to a Kentucky bill establishing classes about the Bible and had “sent a letter to the state Senate in March urging members to reject HB 128 and outlining potential church-state violation concerns.” (“Ky. Approves Bill Promoting Public School Bible Classes,” AU Bulletin) I was heartened, however, to see that the letter sent by AU’s legislative director, Maggie Garrett, focused on the fact that the bill “lacks provisions that ensure courses will be taught in accordance with constitutional requirements. …”

I am writing to suggest that AU become more proactive in offering guidance and assistance to legislators all over the U.S. who are contemplating such bills. Wouldn’t it be great to offer support for the proper teaching about religious and other ancient texts and then be able to publicize the overtures and materials you have made available? If the public entity turns down or ignores a substantive offer of support for how to do this right, wouldn’t that add even more weight to any arguments you need to make if AU then challenges the entity in a judicial setting? 

This proactive stance is one that I have been taking for many years now. Before retirement, I worked as a representative of the Pennsylvania affiliate of the National Education Association. In my job advising local education leaders and future teachers, I offered a workshop on how to deal with issues of religion in the public schools. With help from the First Amendment Foundation, AU and other organizations, I offered guidelines and examples of how to teach about religion while avoiding potential church-state violations. 

I would point out to them that all of us learned about the Greek and Roman “gods,” and that none of us would consider ourselves educated people without a knowledge of that mythology and the history of Greek and Rome that it illustrates. I would tell them to use the way that the ancient Greek and Roman religions are taught as a guide in thinking about how to teach about the Bible and other ancient religious texts. 

AU could play an important, vital role in helping to educate our citizenry about the validity and importance of all belief choices that are open to U.S. citizens, both religious and non-religious. I encourage AU to consider taking on a more proactive role in this arena.

— Fran Pierce | Chester Springs, Pa.




Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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