being a mom

Prayer Is Fine And Dandy Until You Trap Kids On A School Bus And Force Religion On Them

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6557-000148I’m not a religious person, but I see nothing wrong with teaching kids some good ‘ol Christian values. Or Judaism values. Or Buddhist values. Let’s make all the kids learn some damn unitarian values somewhere, because they probably shouldn’t be learning them on the bus while on their way to school, like George Nathaniel III did while shuttling little kids to and from school in Burnsville, Minnesota. From The Star Tribune:

George Nathaniel, 49, of Richfield, who is also a pastor for a pair of Minneapolis churches, was in his second year as a school bus driver for a company under contract to the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district.

After receiving a complaint from the district about the prayers, the bus company, Durham School Services, gave Nathaniel a warning and assigned him two new bus routes serving Edward D. Neill Elementary School and Metcalf Junior High School in Burnsville, he said.

That didn’t dissuade Nathaniel. “I let them know I am a pastor and I am going to pray,” he said.When Nathaniel continued to lead prayers on his new routes, Durham sent him a separation letter dated Oct. 30, saying: “There have been more complaints of religious material on the bus as well as other complaints regarding performance. In accordance with the previous final written warning you received, your employment is hereby terminated.”

On on hand, yeah, keep your religion away from my kids because that is a private matter and it should be up to parents to decide what religions they want their kids exposed to. BUT, but but, gah, it’s so hard for me to think the dude is a horrible person because he was basically, according to the article, praying for the little kids to make it safely to school and ugh, in Minnesota, where they have a lot of blizzards and driving can be treacherous and also, UGH, driving a mess of kids who are noisy and can be disobedient in traffic and bully each other on the bus, is this really, truly the worst thing kids will be exposed to? I guess it all depends on what sort of praying he was doing. If he was simply asking the kids make a safe journey to school it just wouldn’t bother me that much, as a non-religious person I can happily tell you I become like SUPER RELIGIOUS when I am taking off or landing in an airplane, or was the guy threatening fire and brimstone and shouting about damnation? It doesn’t really sound like that:

“We start out with a song,” he said. “Then each person will pray if they want to pray. If they don’t want to pray, they don’t have to pray. Then I will pray and ask them if they want to join me in prayer. Just give them something constructive and positive to go to school with.”

I wish this guy would leave God out of it and just teach them something we all can agree with, like some do unto others action, and remind them all to be nice to each other and respect their teachers. Wouldn’t that be a happy medium? Then he can just leave the religious stuff to church. For me as a parent if my kids were being exposed to the nice things about different religions, like be kind to each other, and not the aspects of religions I don’t believe in, like who is going to “hell” for what, this whole mess wouldn’t freak me out that bad. I believe in science, but I also believe in the golden rule. I’d love to hear what religious parents and atheist parents feel about this. For me I don’t want my kids being trapped on a bus and being forced to learn about God per se, but I also want them to learn about all religions and decide for themselves what their beliefs are.

There is no way this is as evil as other stories we have heard about bus drivers and little kids. 

(Image: getty images)

78 Comments

  1. keelhaulrose

    November 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I know he had the best of intentions, but religion is not a part of our public schools for a reason. It’s up to me to teach my children about God in my way. He really gave the district no choice. They open themselves up to a lawsuit if they let him keep going.

    • Eve Vawter

      November 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      oh yeah, totally. I just was shocked at my own reaction where I wasn’t as deeply offended by this as I would usually be, ya know?

    • keelhaulrose

      November 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      I think most people are, let’s call it apathetic towards this kind of situation. If we hear a prayer before a sports tournament or graduation we may not participate, but we understand its a big part of some people’s lives, and we’re not going to begrudge them praying. If we’re at a wedding or a funeral of someone who’s faith we don’t share we either sit quietly or respectfully follow the motions. And if our kids were in this situation we would ask the driver politely to cut it out and say it’s making us uncomfortable, perhaps going to administrators if he continues.
      But there’s always people who are offended by this, and will shout their displeasure from the rooftops, and sue over the situation. The school has to cater to this person, even if it’s only one, because they can’t afford to pay them in the event of a lawsuit.

    • Aldonza

      November 7, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      Still super offended. Completely 100% inappropriate. So inappropriate. And when warned, he didn’t stop, which to me is awful too, because it shows he has no problem disregarding rules and regulations which are in place to protect the children.

  2. Mystik Spiral

    November 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    I’m not sure I’d want a person who was warned more than once to be driving my kid around. Dude doesn’t sound too bright. Public education workers: KEEP YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AWAY FROM THE CHILDREN.

    Besides, the article mentioned “other complaints” in addition to the religious BS, so who knows what other stupid things he was doing.

  3. Muggle

    November 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    As someone who became an atheist in 9th grade, I’d have been royally pissed if I had to sing hymns (or worse, those dreadful “modern worship” songs that are infuriatingly repetitive and sound like love songs with “Jesus” copy/pasted in over some guy’s name) and pray every morning on the way to school. Prayer and scripture are allowed in public schools, but only if it is STUDENT-led. Not teacher-led, not principal-led, not “round up the whole school for a special assembly where they get preached at” led, not bus driver-led.

    That shit is very alienating to students who are not Christian and have no interest in becoming Christian. Kids who don’t participate get bullied by other kids and even adults (usually, especially the adults). That’s why public schools are secular, so all kids have a space to feel safe and aren’t getting their families’ rights to freedom of religion (or freedom from religion) stomped on.

    • keelhaulrose

      November 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      The first part of your comment reminded me of Cartman’s Christian rock band on South Park.
      I know what you’re saying. I was Unitarian in school (“atheist with a church” according to some people. This would have made me uncomfortable to the point where I’d try to avoid the bus if I could.

    • Muggle

      November 8, 2013 at 10:26 am

      I don’t even know anything about this community, but if it’s rural there may be no other option for many of those kids. There wouldn’t have been any option for me at all; my parents are totally unsupportive. My high school was a 30 minute drive (in a car, on the bus it was closer to an hour) south; my parents had to drive 30 minutes north to work and often left before my sister and I were on the bus.

      This is why I’m so pissed off over this.

      Edit: Oh my god, Cartman’s Christian rock band was absolutely hysterical. Because it’s totally, 100% true. I couldn’t stand a lot of Christian music even when I was still Christian.

    • Rachel Sea

      November 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      I would have gotten off the bus and walked. My family is Jewish, and my ancestors were diasporaed, and pogromed all over Europe for their failure to become Christian. The last of my family on the continent were all killed on August 9, 1941, just because they were Jewish. I take serious exception to anyone pushing religion on a captive audience.

      I don’t believe in god, but I still practice the rituals, because I am free to do so, because my ancestors weren’t.

    • Michelle Pittman

      November 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

      hey now…Switchfoot is a pretty good band…as well as Anberlin, Thousand Foot Krutch, Relient K and a few others 🙂

    • Muggle

      November 8, 2013 at 11:36 am

      I’m not talking about Christian rock, really, some of those bands are really good (or at least what I’ve heard of them). I’m talking about non-rock songs used in the contemporary worship services at certain types of churches. They’re seriously really, really repetitive. And when you’re a preteen who’s being told to hold off on boys and dating, worship songs that sound like love songs are a total mindfuck.

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  4. alice

    November 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    “They are trying to take away every right the Christian has to express our Christian belief in this supposed to have been Christian nation,’ he told the station WCCO.”

    civil disobedience is cool….until you use a bus load of children in your protest.

    • Mystik Spiral

      November 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      Anyone who believes that the USA is a “Christian nation” needs to take a history class. FFS.

    • kugolik

      November 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      Cute little straw man he built there!

    • pixie

      November 7, 2013 at 8:04 pm

      Um, what about separation of church and state? Isn’t that a big part of what the US was built on?
      I didn’t learn much about American history in school, living in Canada and all, but for some reason I had this crazy idea that separation of church and state was one of the founding principles of the USA. :/
      (Commenting on his statement on the radio station, not disagreeing with what you’re saying 🙂 )

    • ChillMama

      November 7, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      Well, technically he is not ”state”, right? If I read correctly, he is an employee of the bus company, which is then under contract to the school. So he is not technically a school employee, and therefore not a state employee.

      Not saying I support him though, or that this still isn’t a violation of “freedom of religion”.

    • pixie

      November 7, 2013 at 9:06 pm

      Oh, I understand what you’re saying, and agree that no he’s not state. I was referring to the “Christian Nation” part of his remark.
      Yes, many of Americans are Christians, but that does not make it a Christian Nation. Or am I missing something?

    • ChillMama

      November 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      For sure. I misunderstood, and didn’t realize you were referring to his radio comments. Got it now. 🙂

    • Sondra Best

      November 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      Growing up military has taught me exactly why he is “state.” He works for a bus company that is employed by the state. He is therefore a government contracted employee (similar, in my experience to a DOD contracted civilian) and has to follow all of the rules of a government employee, as would have been outlined for him in his contract. That’s how that works.

    • Kheldarson

      November 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      Technically it’s not a “founding” principle, i.e. it’s not in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. It was, however, a noted guiding principle that has been upheld by the courts.

      As for being a Christian nation, Western law has root in Judeo-Christian ideals but that’s the only major tie. The Founders weren’t all Christian.

    • pixie

      November 7, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was in the Constitution or Bill of Rights (as I said, Canadian here, so I didn’t learn much about American history), but separation of Church and State is one thing I’ve heard a lot of. And I was aware that not all the Founding Fathers were Christians.

    • AlexMMR

      November 7, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      I went to university in Toronto and because I needed an elective, I took an American history class, thought it would be a breeze since I grew up in American classrooms with history classes and all. Let me tell ya, one of the most difficult classes I ever took. Apparently when Canadians go to school, you actually learn stuff and you don’t just repeat the same childish storybook versions of history year after year like we Americans do in our classrooms.

    • 1Hell

      May 26, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      I know this is late, but I know the origins of “separation of church and state.”

      The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

      Fast forward a bit, and you have a group called the Sabbatarians, protesting the delivery of mail on Sundays. We had a lot of odd, temporary political parties. I don’t know if it was something they wanted to stop or prevent. Anyway, Thomas Jefferson, our third president, sent them a missive in which he used the phrase “wall of separation between church and state.” It kind of became ingrained after that.

    • pixie

      May 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      That’s really interesting, thanks for replying, even if my comment was made like 7 months ago!

    • 1Hell

      May 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Yeah sorry. It’s just the most interesting thing I got out of my senior year of undergrad and I’m currently procrastinating.

    • pixie

      May 26, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      lol no worries.
      Usually when I get random replies months after I’ve posted, it’s a bunch of haterade, so it was a nice surprise to get something relevant and interesting for once.

    • Roberta

      November 7, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Exactly. It would have been one thing if he prayed to himself for the safety of the kids. But this is another level.

  5. NicknamesAreDull

    November 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I would be so pissed, and my daughter goes to a Catholic school! The bus isn’t a place to preach, especially so one sided, and without parental consent. It’s not a bus driver’s job, or a preacher’s job to teach my child their religion.

    Last week, my daughter came home with a permission slip because one of the mothers, who is Jewish, wanted to talk to their class about Judaism. I thought it was totally cool, but other parents didn’t, so their kids are doing another assignment in the library. The kids on the bus didn’t really have much of a choice but to deal with it.

    • ted3553

      November 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      I agree that the bus is the wrong place to teach about religion since he’s not a teacher and there’s not really another option for the kids on the bus as far as removing themselves from the situation. He would have been welcome to pray if he wanted to and kept it to himself. If he wanted to preach, it would have been best done in his home or church.

  6. I'm sorry, couldn't resist

    November 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Oh man, what an idiot. Doesn’t he get that anything a bus driver does in inherently lame and a million percent uncool? If I were on that bus he would have driven me straight into the open arms of atheism.

    And if he’s so creepily interested in praying with kids in a small enclosed area, why didn’t he get a job chauffeuring for a Christian school’s extracurricular activities? At least then he could have been preaching to the choir.

  7. Annona

    November 7, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    It’s a slippery slope. Yeah, on the one hand, he says he’s not forcing anyone to do anything. But on the other, depending on the climate of the town and the bus, the kids who refuse to participate are in for some shit from their peers. There are reasons why things like this are kept out of schools. He knew better, he’d been warned, and he pushed it anyway. I wonder if his is one of those churches where they tell you to go out and challenge these evil “war on Christianity” rules to make a point.

    If it were my kid on the bus, I’d be pissed. Like, visiting him at his church for a serious discussion pissed.

  8. anonymous

    November 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    In my experience, those who routinely ignore the express direction or preference of others in order to “just give them something constructive and positive” are neither. Additionally, abusing the inherent power dynamic of adult v. child to encourage students to pray if they want to is equally problematic. Stick to “wheels on the bus”…

  9. kdsue

    November 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I agree that it was inappropriate but, as Eve points out, not nearly as horrific as most “bus driver fired” stories. I’m more concerned that, if he’s talking to the kids, and leading them in song and prayer, how much attention is he giving to the road? Lots of traffic in Burnsville, Minnesota.

  10. Angela

    November 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Sorry but no. First of all if this bus driver had been Muslim I imagine that the very ones leaping to his defense would be the most vocal in demanding his dismissal. Secondly, were these group prayers open to all styles of worship? Would the Wiccan student be free to offer up prayers to the Goddess alongside the ones praising Jesus? Somehow I doubt it.

  11. anon87

    November 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    If when all the kids were on the bus he said aloud: “Lord, I pray for a safe trip for all of us on this bus” and then stopped, then fine. I think it is inappropriate to involve children who are not yours in prayer and religion. I kind of find religion to be a bit scary sometimes, it is pretty intense, so I can imagine it made children uncomfortable. I personally know a lot of Christians who believe it is their duty to spread the word and convert more people to Christ, and that just doesn’t jive with me.

  12. Kate

    November 7, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I think saying that kids “don’t have to pray” doesn’t really work in this case because no kid would feel comfortable being the only kid not praying.

  13. Lu

    November 7, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    My only question in reading this was, when? I rode public school buses for 10 years and we were on a tight ship. If he wanted to pray for their safe trip or something I say more power to him but shouldn’t he do that….you know…before he drives? It sounds like he stands in front of the bus and leads a mass. If I was on that bus, even if I was religious, I’d be like tick tock. I have places to beeeeeee!

  14. chickadee

    November 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    This was basically a prayer meeting on wheels. And it was mandatory for the poor kids on the bus, which is unfair.

  15. pineapplegrasss

    November 7, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    I’m kinda torn on this one. Whether I would be upset or not, I guess that would depend on how my children felt, what they said about how he was acting, how he did it. There’s a big difference in a short dear god, jesus, allah, whomever: please let me get the children safely to school and all that fire and brimstone crap. And, it was only a 7min bus ride. I don’t claim to be Christian, and actually have a lot of religion ‘issues’ but he is a pastor and maybe that’s how he shows his love. At least he cares enough to pray for the children, however unwanted it is. And, didn’t everyone stand up for that teacher who was cussing at the kids in the classroom? So, saying fuck in a nasty, mean tone is OK, but saying Jesus in a kind, caring tone is not? Not that I know he has a nice tone. Maybe there’s another lesson here to be learned about differences in religion and tolerance towards him for his beliefs. But then again the constitution prevails, and the supreme court said you cant pray in school. Idk, this is a tough one.

    • Lu

      November 7, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      There’s nothing wrong with praying in school. If he wanted to pray on the bus at a stop light or whatever he did, that’s between him and his God. A prayer led by a school employee is the issue here. From what I can tell he conveyed a religious message as an authority figure. Honestly I’m not sure this would even be aloud at a Christian school, it’s simply not his job to lead prayer. His job is to drive the bus. Personally I went to school in a very religious Midwestern suburb and several students prayed in the hallway together every morning. This didn’t bother me at all. However advertising for church groups on the announcements did.

    • Eve Vawter

      November 8, 2013 at 6:00 am

      I think this really is the same way I felt too. I don’t think it’s right in many ways but then a big part of me is all sheesh, it really doesn’t feel like he was coming from a place of anger or hatred either, and I would rather someone be praying for my kids safety than screaming and yelling and swearing at them. I think this is all such an interesting subject because it’s made me think a lot, especially hearing all these different viewpoints

    • pineapplegrasss

      November 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      I know, and even after reading all these other thoughts and knowing that he shouldn’t have, I still feel that he meant no harm. Religion is slipped in everywhere (and not always the positive parts) just the same as nationality is.

  16. Rachel Sea

    November 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Screw that guy. Literally no good has ever come of trying to make people be religious, ESPECIALLY trying to make people Christian. If someone was pressuring my kid into religion, I’d be PISSED.

    • cesp

      November 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      I did not take it as him forcing all of the kids to become Christians, only offer an opportunity for those students who are to pray.

    • Rachel Sea

      November 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      A person in a position of authority trying to get a captive audience of children to pray to Jesus is little different from trying to make them be Christian.

    • cesp

      November 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm

      Is this any different from Celebrating Christmas in schools by having the kids sing “Silent Night”? Or saying “under god” in the pledge? To me its innocuous unless you are a Christian. Everyone should have the right to pray whenever they see fit as long as they are not forcing others to do the same. Just hearing a prayer is unlikely to damage a child. Now if the driver was telling the students that if they didnt pray they were going to hell I would take issue with it.
      l

    • Rachel Sea

      November 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm

      An adult saying to a bunch of children, on a daily basis, that it is prayer time is influencing them, and that’s not innocuous, it’s a violation of their civil rights.

      “Under God” is a whole other story, but yeah, I object to that McCarthyist bullpucky too. Few schools celebrate Christmas, most celebrate the Winter Holidays. Christmas carols have been secularized enough that I’m not especially bothered by them, but if they are taught in school, I expect equal time to go to songs of other faiths, and songs which have nothing to do with religion.

    • cesp

      November 7, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      I think an argument could be made that not allowing prayer on the bus would be a violation of civil rights as well. Again, I dont agree with telling students that they must pray or bullying them if they dont but I have never felt violated by hearing people pray, even as a child.

    • Rachel Sea

      November 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      Not allowing the students to engage in prayer on the bus would be a violation. He was a public employee leading public school kids in prayer, which is a violation of the anti-establishment clause of the Bill of Rights.

      If he wanted to pray before the kids got on the bus, or pray quietly to himself, whatever, but that isn’t what he did.

    • CMJ

      November 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      Sorry, a bus where children cannot get off is essentially forcing them to pray.

    • cesp

      November 7, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      No it isnt, anymore then being in a room where a large group of people is having a conversation is forcing you to join it.

    • CMJ

      November 7, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      You can leave a room.

    • Rachel Sea

      November 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      You also don’t need a room to get to the school which you are mandated by law to attend.

  17. cesp

    November 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I am not religious and I don’t have a problem with it. From the sounds of it the students are not being forced to pray and I don’t understand how simply being around other people who are praying is at all offensive or damaging. If its not your thing then just ignore it. Its like the people who get upset about their kids saying “under god” in the pledge of allegiance. The only issue I could see is if children of other religions were not given the same freedom to pray in their own way. Or, as I believe Eve touched on, the bus driver was preaching materiel that was generally offensive or hate filled. And really, whats the big deal with being exposed to religion. If the parents are raising their children to be free thinkers I figure they could use these opportunities to discuss religion and their families values at home.

    • CMJ

      November 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      Because it’s not the bus driver’s place to expose children to religion if a parent doesn’t want them to…and there were numerous complaints. No one has the right to force a child to pray or even listen to it…especially if the kid can’t actually get off the bus.

      He has every right to pray to himself, when he asks children to join is where he is getting into trouble.

    • brebay

      November 7, 2013 at 11:44 pm

      He’s in a position of authority and the children are in an inherently unequal position. If it were a kid praying on the bus, fine. But when it’s an adult, who’s paid with tax dollars, completely different.

  18. Aimee Beff

    November 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I’m an atheist and I used to teach in a really rural district, one which had for example a required school event on Veteran’s Day with prayers and the whole “God Bless America” deal and I have to say even when you’re told “oh, you don’t HAVE to pray” it is a super awkward position to be in, especially when your peers/friends are watching and “hey, you didn’t bow your head or close your eyes during prayers, don’t you love JESUS??” I couldn’t really recuse myself from the situation either because schools don’t need a reason to fire you before you have tenure; and kids don’t need a reason to pick on the weird non-prayin’ sort sitting next to them.

    • cesp

      November 7, 2013 at 7:36 pm

      I look at it like breastfeeding. You may not do it but a women shouldn’t be told not to do it publicly just because it makes some people uncomfortable. However it’s one thing to bf publicly and another to tell people they are wrong they don’t. The simple act of breastfeeding is not inherently offensive.

    • CMJ

      November 7, 2013 at 7:45 pm

      But what if someone asked you to join in on the breastfeeding? Like he did with the prayer?

    • cesp

      November 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      Simply asking me to join? “No thank you”. As long as they didnt then attack me for not breast feeding I think we would all be just fine.

    • CMJ

      November 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      Except these kids can’t leave the bus. They literally cannot escape it…even if they aren’t joining in they are forced to sit there and listen to it. I’m sorry, but no one has the right to force my kid to listen to that if they don’t explicitly have my permission.

    • cesp

      November 7, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      Does that only apply to religion or all material you dont like. What about people who dont agree with evolution, is teaching it to their children a violation of their rights? And what is it about prayer that is so inherently offensive?

    • CMJ

      November 7, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Seriously? Have you heard of separation of church and state? It’s about prayer at a public school led by a bus driver. Furthermore, a bus driver is not a teacher. They shouldn’t be leading anything other than my children to school safely. If they want to pray to themselves, I have absolutely no problem.

      Prayer is not offensive…and no one is saying it is. What I am saying is that a bus driver has no right to lead a prayer group on a public school bus.

    • cesp

      November 7, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      Ok, ill give you that the kids cant just up and leave and therefor have no choice but to listen. I can also understand that as an employee of the school he should just shut up and drive. I guess I just dont see why people take it so personally. Even though it wasnt his place It seems like he meant well.

    • CMJ

      November 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      I actually agree with that..I think he means well…and if no one complained they would probably let him keep going. But, because of of separation of church and state and him asking children to join him and people complaining; I understand why he was fired and I can’t say I disagree with it.

    • Tsitika

      November 8, 2013 at 12:51 am

      Evolution is a scientific theory backed by over a hundred years of collected data, which is required to understand anything about biology. It is not, or should not be, a question of belief, just as the atomic theory is not a question of belief. Science should be taught in a classroom.

      Religion should not, because it IS a question of belief. Religion has a long history of division and persecution based on beliefs, and so people are naturally very sensitive to it. Children have the right not to be on a bus forced to listen to everyone pray, and parents have the right to be upset about it.

    • brebay

      November 7, 2013 at 11:43 pm

      No, tax dollars aren’t supporting your breastfeeding, it’s not the same thing. Uncomfortable is different from illegal.

  19. MysteryDevil

    November 7, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    I would be majorly pissed off if this was my sons bus driver. My 9yo son is in grade 3 in a government funded public school here in Australia. I’m an atheist and every year I dread the RE note that comes home. Every week they have someone come in to teach the kids about the bible. I don’t mind that other kids are being taught that nonsense, but what pisses me off is for that hour, my son has to read a book or do other busy work because his teacher is supervising the RE class. Why does my child get ignored because of a fictional book?? If you want your child to believe in this crap, teach them in your own time!!
    What’s worse is that the other kids in his class have been telling my son he’s going to hell for not believing, and the RE teacher condones this!! At least my son is incredibly gifted and doesn’t take it to heart. He has done his own research into religion and has told me he’d rather be an atheist, Hindu or Buddhist than a Christian/Catholic hahaha

    • Rachel Sea

      November 7, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      That’s awful. I went to a French elementary school, and all my classmates went to catechism class every Wednesday, but it was the last class of the day, so I was just dismissed early. I didn’t even realize until years after that it was basically a Catholic school.

    • jec

      November 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Try sitting through RE classes as a child when the person taking it is your father! Excruciating LOL. I’m in Australia too and I’m surprised your son’s school offers weekly RE lessons. My children have been to three public primary schools in two different states, and RE has never been offered.

  20. pixie

    November 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    I’m an atheist who went to a Catholic high school out of my own free choice (Catholic schools up here usually give a better education than the public ones, at least in my district). Because this school was publicly funded and way under capacity, they had to accept me, regardless of my faith or lack thereof, as long as I agreed to take religion classes. It wasn’t a huge deal to me, I enjoy learning about new things (grew up in a non-denominational/atheist household) and the religion classes were super easy. We even had a world religion class in grade 11, so it wasn’t all Christian/Catholic teachings, either. I really have no problem with people practicing their faith in my general vicinity; I sat through five years of masses at high school (though I was in band/choir for four of those years and got to do significantly less sift down-standi up than everyone else), went to a couple religious weddings at churches, a couple Catholic funerals. I was lucky to have pretty much everyone accept that I’m not Catholic, and I had no problem with receiving a blessing instead of the eucharist; they accepted my atheist and as a sign of mutual respect, I accepted a small blessing, no biggie.
    What does bother me though, is forcing your religion on someone – such as a group of children on a school bus. Sure it’s not the worst story about a bus driver getting fired, but as an adult, he should have known better than to actively encourage the children to join in his praying (even if it was in the form of a question). Having a bus driver say “God Bless” to the children as they exited at the school would have been one thing: showing the kids he cares about them/their well being, even if it has religious ties. Praying on the bus and asking the children to recite their own prayers or to join with him en route to school is not cool.

  21. brebay

    November 7, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    No, the kids don’t have an informed choice to participate. Kids are taught to respect teachers and bus drivers and that they’re teaching you things that are true. That’s an unequal position, and, besides being illegal, is coercion at best. You do not get to preach or pray when you have a captive audience in a public school or school bus. That’s why you can pray around the flag pole at recess, but NOT in a classroom where students are required to be (as a teacher) or on a bus, where children really have no option but to sit there and listen. This is completely not okay. Dude needs to pay attention to the road.

  22. DatNanny

    November 8, 2013 at 8:39 am

    I’m not deeply offended. I’m not sure I’m even slightly offended. I don’t think it’s appropriate, but I really can’t hate on the guy for doing it.

    I firmly believe everyone has the right to practice and spread their religion. There’s nothing wrong with it. They are trying to help people in what they believe is the best way possible. I may not agree with what they’re spreading, but I know it comes from a place of goodness. I abhor the ALL RELIGION IS EVIL standpoint which seems so common these days.

    This guy was trying to do what he felt was right for these kids. In a different setting, I wouldn’t blink an eye. In the Girl Scouts, we sang songs about God and said grace before meals. Though I wasn’t raised with Christian religion, I had no problem doing this; I was raised to be respectful and understanding of all religions. I think exposing children to other religions, cultures, and customs can always be beneficial.

    But this was a public school bus, and in the end, that is not an appropriate venue. I’d be fine with my kids being on a bus as part of a private organization and singing songs and praying. I also don’t deem it inappropriate for a school sports team to lead a prayer before games; I have always looked at it as being accommodating to those of religion who might otherwise feel uncomfortable praying openly, and a chance to instill good universal values (usually they center around trying your hardest, playing fair and having good sportsmanship, as well as for both teams to stay free of injury.)

    I can’t hate on this guy at all. It doesn’t piss me off. It makes me sad that he couldn’t find an alternative that still upheld his values. He was trying to do what he felt was best for these kids, even if I don’t agree. At least he cared about his charges, unlike most of the dead-eyed, mean-spirited bus drivers I encountered as a kid.

  23. Frannnn

    December 25, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Preaching and leading a prayer is not teaching children *ABOUT* religion, it is forcing (because they can’t very well leave) kids to *PARTICIPATE IN* your religion.

    If he wanted to lead a discussion comparing the immaculate conception myth to the story of Buddha’s birth, and discuss the symbolic similarities and why they are significant to each culture given their framing in world history while still keeping his eyes on the road, then that’s totally fine. If he wanted to talk about Saturnalia and the ancient traditions surrounding solstices and how they’ve evolved, have at it. Everyone should learn _about_ religion, it cover history, art, culture, and philosophy.

    But he is exercising and practicing his religion from a position of power in a space that kids have no choice but to be in. It’s not appropriate and I’m glad he was fired.

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