Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Indiana schools ban atheist websites

Oh Indiana, you're up to crazy religious shenanigans again. Let's have the Freedom From Religion Foundation explain what's going on:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, responding to complaints from concerned Indianapolis taxpayers, has sent a letter of strong objection to the Indianapolis Public School system for its policy of censorship of web content that promotes or provides information about "atheistic views."
Hmmm, I wonder what it exactly says?

Sites that promote and provide information on religions such as Wicca, Witchcraft or Satanism. Occult practices, atheistic views, vodoo rituals or any form of mysticism are represented here. Includes sites that endorse or offer methods, means of instruction, or other resources to affect or influence real events through the use of spells, incantations, curses and magic powers. This category includes sites which discuss or deal with paranormal or unexplained events.

Uhhhhh.... Let's have FFRF finish before I get distracted by The Stupid.

This policy ... is unlawful because it violates the Free Speech Clause as unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, FFRF charges. This policy does not prohibit or even mention religious views such as Christianity. A website like FFRF.org, which educates on freethought and nontheism, would, however, be blocked under this policy. This promotes religion over nonreligion, which is forbidden under the Establishment Clause.

In her letter, Foundation Staff Attorney Rebecca Kratz pointed out that, in addition to the illegality of the policy, it discriminates against the 15% of the population that is nonreligious, the fastest growing segment of the American population (American Religious Identification Survey 2008).

"This policy not only violates the rights of students in the Indianapolis School District, but limits their capacity to expand their knowledge and acceptance of all individuals and beliefs," Kratz noted.

How the hell could they have thought this was a good idea or even legal? You can't look up views on certain religions or atheism, but Christianity is a-okay? Discrimination, much? The only thing I find much stupider than that is lumping atheism with supernatural/paranormal events when atheism rejects those things. I take it back: thinking that spells, incantations, curses, and magic powers can actually work is pretty fucking stupid.

But wait, that's not all.

The policy also blocks LGBT sites "that provide information regarding, support, promote, or cater to one's sexual orientation or gender identity including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender sites" (see second page of policy).

Yep, let's ban students from helpful information when they need it the most! Maybe if they can't find out that it's okay to be gay, they'll start being straight again.

Though shame on Indianapolis students for not being able to just crack through the censorship. That's the first thing you learn to do in high school! How else are you going to feed your Neopets, watch Homestar Runner, and play crappy flash games? Wait, what? That's what I did 7 years ago? None of that is cool? Damnit.

(Thanks to the seventy billion different people who let me know about this one. Apparently atheism + Indiana = OMG GO EMAIL JEEENNNN!!)
(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)


  1. "methods, means of instruction, or other resources to affect or influence real events through the use of spells, incantations, curses and magic powers."

    They mean "prayer", right?

  2. So. Much. Angry. I'll be writing emails to IPS tomorrow...


  3. Do they positively know that Christian related websites are not blocked? Or are they assuming they are not blocked? I ask because at my High School in TN they blocked any website that had absolutely anything to do with religion despite the official wording of their policy which stated that only content that promoted illegal activity or weapons, extremists sites (such as terrorist websites) and the like would be blocked.

    If, in reality, they are blocking all religious and atheist websites then there would not be a problem. But if Christian websites truly are not blocked while other religious sites are, then something is wrong.

  4. It's been this way in Kentucky schools ever since I was in middle school - at least 7 years. The program is called websense.

  5. Huh... I'd wondered why I could no longer get to Hemant's blog while at work. I never thought too much of it because the filter is so wonky that some sites will be available on some days and not on others... plus I try to limit my blog reading while at work anyhow. I guess "Friendly Atheist" hits IPS' filters too easily.

    Man... now I feel like going and kicking up a fuss, but I don't want to suggest that I waste my preps online. :-P

  6. I'm ashamed of my state on this one, it's really makes Indiana look bad.

  7. Thank you, Anony 8:02. I laughed until beer squirted out of my nose.

  8. I think it's time to play the 1st Amendment Card. It is a violation of the Constitution to bad such sites on a public property. They can not legally do that in a public school.

  9. Ian,

    You can always use a VPN to bypass the firewall at work if your admin allows such a program to run.

  10. This policy is wrong on so many grounds. I, too, am ashamed of Indiana and of Indianapolis.

    (On a side note, I only recently found this blog and I really like it! Thanks!)

    Signed: A Nontheist Hoosier

  11. "This promotes religion over nonreligion, which is forbidden under the Establishment Clause."

    Hell. It promotes religion over religion.

    Don't get me wrong, the Wiccans are as nuts as the Christians, but that's only an argument for banning all religious sites.

  12. How in the eff does this lump atheism in with the occult, first of all, and how the eff does christianity not fit in with all the rest of the mysticism? Do they know -what- Satanism teaches? WHY would this even be blocked at all, any of it? The occult and the paranormal were main writing points in my highschool days, and shouldn't kids who are learning be able to learn about everything they can? There's a difference between blocking graphic images online and blocking real information, and they've crossed the line. Ugh, this censorship bs has been going on for waaay too long in schools.

  13. Good thing I know how to get past the stupid censorship. grr. *goes to make a list of LGBT sites to visit in school tomorrow*

  14. Kids these days, back when I was in middle / high school they had all kinds of firewall rules. We just set ourselves up on a Proxy IP address and browsed happily. If that didn't work you just change the DNS / Gateway to something useful.

    Anyway I blather, shame on Indiana

  15. To The Anonymous who says "How in the eff does this lump atheism in with the occult, first of all,"

    Two words. First word, two syllables. Second syllable. I point to my neck. After a second, you say, "neck!" I nod.

    Second word, also two syllables. First syllable. I extends my arm trying to describe something long. You say, "log."

    You shouted, "Redneck logic!"
    I shouted, "Yes!"

  16. How do you know this is accurate reporting by FFRF?