Blame Shifting

One of the interesting subtexts of the New Atheist movement is that there are many New Atheists who are more “anti-Christian” than merely “anti-religious.”  A good example of Hemant Mehta, the so-called “Friendly Atheist.”  We all know that if a teacher had her class write “Jesus is Lord” as a “calligraphy lesson,” and school board defended the lesson,  Mehta and his allies at the FFRF would be having fits.  Yet he has a very different attitude when it comes to having students write another religous statement of faith.

Mehta writes:

I’ll be the first to admit the teacher should have checked what the phrase said ahead of time.

Y’think so, eh?  Especially when the assignment clearly states – in English – “Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith.”  Is it a good idea for public school teachers to have their students write religious statements of faith in class?  The teacher must have known she was doing this.

What’s more, this is the year 2015 where almost every student has heard of this thing called “Google.”  While the teacher might not care about checking what the phrase meant, funny thing about kids is that they tend to be curious.  And what happens when you google ‘shahada?’  Try it.

It gets worse.  Read the first sentence, Hemant.

The assignment clearly teaches that the Koran invented calligraphy.  Does Hemant think this is true?  Did the teacher think this is true?  Yes, it is a common belief among the Muslims that it was their Quran that brought calligraphy into the world, but is it historically accurate?  Is it something public school students should be taught?

Hemant begins to preach:

But the right way to handle this would be to find out what was going on and request a change in the assignment in the future. That’s it.

Hemant is engaged in blame shifting here.  The blame belongs entirely on the teacher and school – the paid professionals.  They are the ones who created this needless mess.

And you know what? The parent even met with the teacher and superintendent in person! But during a follow-up meeting days later with the superintendent, the mother didn’t show. She did, however, meet with those other Christians to spread the myth about how this was Islamic indoctrination.

Hemant is now in full blown, blame shifting activist mode.  Did people overreact?  Obviously. But the overreaction is understandable in light of the fact that people are incredibly sensitive given the very recent Islamic terrorist attacks coupled to the hypocrisy of when we all know the school would not tolerate having children write Christian statements of faith as part of some calligraphy exercise.

As for the parent not showing up, we don’t have the full story.  Here’s what the Hemant’s link says:

Meanwhile, the school maintains the lesson is consistent with the Standards of Learning in Virginia.

Full Statement From Dr. Eric Bond:

We appreciate parents bringing concerns directly to our attention, and we are always willing to meet with parents about curriculum questions and concerns.

On Friday, December 11, 2015, the principal of Riverheads High School, one of its teachers, and central office staff met with parents to discuss such concerns. Superintendent Dr. Eric Bond agreed to meet one-on-one to further discuss such concerns with a parent on Tuesday, December 15, 2015, at 11 a.m., but the parent declined to attend that meeting. School administration believes any discussion about curriculum should be based on a clear understanding of the facts.

So the school was defending the lesson.  Nothing wrong here, people.  Move along.  If that’s the story the educrats gave the parents at the Dec 11 meeting, the parent in question may have felt he/she was being stone-walled and sought help through increased publicity.  Perhaps that is why the school has had a change of heart:

The county school system reacted.

It removed the shahada from world religion instruction. “A different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future,” it said.

And with this we have the admission of guilt.  Would the same school also remove lessons on evolution if they received a flood of angry emails and FB posts about it?  Of course not.  I bet they finally took  Captain Obvious’s advice to get rid a religious statement of faith in the public school classroom probably because they were extremely vulnerable to expensive lawsuits.


The superintendent attempted to correct her lies, but why would Christians like her settle for facts when the mythology confirmed whatever she wanted to believe?

At this point, Hemant needs to add the disclaimer that he is writing as a Gnu activist.  Lies?  Is there evidence of someone lying?  Yes, people overreact.  Yes, people get mad and speak from a state of outrage.  Yes, such emotion can cloud ones thinking causing them to make stupid claims.  But that does not mean anyone is telling “lies.”  Those who understand critical thinking don’t immediately start accusing others of spreading “lies.”

To make matters worse, there were so many angry emails and phone calls stemming from these lies — egged on by professional Christian liar Todd Starnes — that all classes in the District had to be canceled today:

Augusta County Public Schools, near Staunton in central Virginia, will be closed afterthe district received “voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area” about a high school World Geography class lesson, the district announced Thursday evening.

How’s that for an overreaction?


Yep, and it sounds like the school itself overreacted. 

While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015.

So if the same school district started to receive a flood of angry emails about an evolution lesson in biology class, would they also shut down the entire district?

The teacher did something wrong.  It created controversy and the school tried to circle the wagons.  That created even more controversy, so to obscure its wrong doings, the school now tries to posture as a victim by needlessly closing all the schools in the district when there was no specific threat of harm to students.  This could have all been prevented if the teacher and school immediately apologized and agreed to do what they have since agreed to do – remove the shahada from world religion instruction and use a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy in the future.

Again, we can all criticize the assignment together.

Wow.  Feel the burn from the blistering criticism from the New Atheist activist.

If you want to introduce the beauty of Arabic calligraphy to students, there are better ways to do it than have them copy a statement of faith. It shouldn’t have been given to students. I assume it won’t be given again.

Duh.  So what we have here is the source of the controversy.  Of course, the school itself only made matters worse by insisting “The content of the assignment was consistent with Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Standards of Learning and the requirements for content instruction on world monotheistic religions.”  They forgot to ask if it was consistent with the First Amendment.

… and now breathe out. Because that’s about all the energy anyone should be spending on this story.

No energy would have been spent had only teacher and school administrators followed the advice of Captain Obvious:


Look: There’s no Islamic revolution taking place in Virginia public schools.

Agreed.  There is incompetence coupled to arrogance – the cause of all this trouble.

This entry was posted in Culture, education, New Atheism, Religion, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Blame Shifting

  1. Gary Good says:

    Calligraphy actually predates Islam by at least a couple of centuries. According to the Wikipedia entry on calligraphy, ” It was the monasteries which preserved calligraphic traditions during the fourth and fifth centuries…”

  2. Dhay says:

    The passage appears to have come from this “World Religions: Teacher Created Resources” book, P. 122, viewable via Google Books

    The text immediately following reinforces the book’s very erroneous claim that “calligraphy … was born from the Arabic script of the Koran”, for it goes on to say (P. 123):

    As you know, the art of calligraphy now exists in many languages …

    “… now exists …”, indeed: as if calligraphy had not had a centuries-long history of being practiced in several far-flung and near parts of the world.

    Whoever wrote that resource needs to get out more, or is an uncritical Islamic idealogue echoing bollocks.


    My feelings on the exercise are mixed: I discern it is only notionally about calligraphy — it’s a religious education class, not an art class — and is probably meant instead, though without making it plain that that is the intention, to give the students a small taste of the experience of deep reverence, love and devotion with which a devout Muslim will copy the Shahada — introduced earlier, hence familiar to the pupil as: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

    Yes, pupils should know about these feelings — a course on world religions which focuses solely on externalities and neglects the interior life will mislead; but it will inspire these feelings only in devout Muslims; in a Christian pupil, and especially in their parents, it will likely inspire feelings of revulsion and disgust, rather negating the purpose of the exercise.

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