Jeffrey Selman - Public Speaker
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Speech to Cobb County Board of Education Sept 11, 2002

Holding up the front page of the AJC which showed the burning towers I began.

"This is what Theocracy wrought."

Even though September 11th has come and gone the specter of New York City, being brought to its knees and my nation sent reeling by religious terrorists, steels me even more to the task I've taken on. I am the plaintiff in the suit brought against The Cobb County Georgia Board of Education for the violation of a deeply rooted American tenet, the separation of church and state.

Because of the lawsuit, some people have presumed me to be an atheist. The fact is, I am a Jewish American. That being clarified I want to say that my religious life has no bearing on this case. I could just as well be Catholic or Buddhist or Moslem or Hindu or of some other proud and pious faith, and still be bringing this case forward.

Why am I doing this? It is because our country is free and it must remain free. If we allow the lines between the state and religion to blur, the door to theocracy and one mindedness begins to open and what you want to believe, or what your neighbor wants to believe, will soon become forbidden. It has happened before, during the Roman subjugation of Catholics, the Spanish Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, on and on it has happened until the most recent events in Talaban run Afghanistan. The only way to stop it from happening again is to be diligent.

Whether some people, for their own political purposes, want to realize it or not, the American Founding Fathers, following the pattern of William Penn, when he, unlike other colonial governors, established Pennsylvania as a colony where freedom of religion was the norm, wrote into the Bill of Rights the wonderfully freeing separation of church and state.

We must be as diligent against religious tyranny as were the founders and always find ways to maintain that doctrine. When school prayer became an issue, our nation was diligent and we found a way to protect the pious as well as the secular sectors of America. The moment of silence is a brilliant solution for protecting everyone's right to believe or not believe in the way that they choose without government sanction. We must now again be diligent and find an answer to this present rehashing of the assault on our liberty.

Under the guise of promoting debate and critical thinking, the Cobb School Board, pushed by a myopic sectarian group, says that conflicting theories, as in the case of Evolution and Intelligent design, should be taught together. The problem with this is that one is a scientifically derived theory and the other borrows from the Hebraic Genesis, a faith-based belief. No secular group would ever challenge evolution this way. Intelligent design is a wonderful example of the strength of faith but it is a distinctly different form of human inquiry than is science. This is just a poorly concealed attempt at introducing someone else's religion into a dominant position in all of our country's public schools.

The ruse is revealed when the wonderful idea is presented, of an elective comparative religion course that would open up all of our children to different beliefs. This would really promote debate and critical thinking, leading in the end to a better understanding of each other and less hatred and less violence. The people pushing the board in the wrong direction, however, say no. They say no especially when you bring Islam, or Buddhism or Hinduism etc. into the fray. It is apparent that they are not interest in promoting thought. They just want to discredit evolution and promote their faith.

"Darwinism," a one hundred and fifty year old scientific attempt at understanding a natural phenomenon, is attacked without looking at the new data and proofs that have established "Evolution," not "Darwinism," as an actual on going process. Modern evidence has been bent, illogically interpreted, and forced to fit into an impossible ten thousand year time frame. Those behind the sectarian assault on evolution don't have any problem with other "theories" like those of atomic or relativity. Only evolution is singled out. Only evolution is picked to stand in contrast to the creation.

I ask you to examine the situation in our county and to realize that evolution and creationism are just props being used by our country's form of religious extremists to eventually over power the heart, soul and mind of America and to make it over in the one only way that they see as righteous. My court case will succeed and block them but it won't stop the assault. The strongest defense we have to protect our pluralism is our staying diligent. When an issue comes up like this, we cannot assume the government will prevent it. We cannot assume that they will not get away with it. Most of America does not vote. Most of America takes our freedom for granted and most of American Democracy is sleepwalking. We must remain awake and counter every attempt to undermine our freedom. There is strength in numbers and we can vote the offenders out of office. Even when we are between elections, there are recalls. And if a recall seems to be an insurmountable obstacle, there are petitions. I am asking you to consider the reality of how fragile our freedom is. We cannot ever take it for granted.

Even though liberty will prevail in our courts this time, we must let the extremes know that they are out numbered and that our nation will not sleepwalk through our democracy while they rob our house of our most precious belonging, American Liberty.


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