Matt LaClair Wins Award for Challenging Teacher Who Preached in Class

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Matt LaClair Wins Award for Challenging Teacher Who Preached in Class

Student,17,Named ‘Atheist Hero of the Year’ by NYCA

Matt LaClair Wins Award for Challenging Teacher Who Preached in Class



He was only 16 when secretly he taped his teacher telling students in a history class that if they did not believe Jesus died for their sins, they “belong in hell,” but Matthew LaClair, a Kearny, N.J. high school junior at the time, knew that what the teacher was doing was wrong—and that no one would believe him if he didn’t have evidence.

The teacher also said that evolution was not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark and that only Christians had a place in heaven. When Matt, backed by his family, complained to school authorities that the teacher, David Paszkiewicz, was violating separation of church and state laws by promoting religion in a public school, Mr. Paszkiewicz, of course, denied it. Out came the eight tapes of the teacher proselytizing in class and Mr. Paszkiewicz had to do some fast backtracking.

But being in the right isn’t always easy. After Matt turned the tapes over to school officials, he became the target of harassment, of a death threat and of retaliation by school officials who treated him—not the teacher—as the problem!

But Matt, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Atheist organizations and by a partner from a large Manhattan law firm, was encouraged by atheists worldwide: emails, letters and phone calls poured into the little suburban town of Kearny from all over the world. The New York Times did an article about Matt. In the end, the teacher was reprimanded and Matt was grudgingly allowed to bring speakers into the school to inform the students about Separation of Church and State laws in the U.S.

On January 31, Matt will tell New York City Atheists about his fight for justice in the Kearney school system and give us a few hints about another expose’ he hopes to undertake soon.

Also End-of-Year Town Hall Meeting

The January 31 meeting is also the annual Town Hall meeting of NYCA, New York’s foremost Atheist group. The concept of town hall meetings follows NYCA’s guiding principle of openness and respect for individual opinions. The zeitgeist of our group has been, from our very beginning, to encourage members to come up with ideas, pitch in, do what they do best, do what inspires them and what they believe can advance the cause of atheism.

We invite members, possible members and other interested parties to come and give their opinions, suggestions, advice and counsel.


WHAT:  My Fight to Get Religion Out of Public School Classes by Matthew LaClair

                Plus Speak-Out to Advance Atheism: A Town Hall Meeting of Ideas

WHERE: SLC Conference Center

                  352 Seventh Ave. (Bet. 29th & 30th St.) 16th Floor

                  New York City

WHEN:    Thursday, January 31 at 6:30 p.m.

COST:      We would appreciate a $5 contribution toward cost of the

                   Conference Center.


New York City Atheists Inc .(NYCA )is a nonprofit educational and action association dedicated to advancing the right to be nonreligious. It is open to all freethinkers, skeptics and doubters as well as those who are questioning and searching.  NYCA is an affiliate of American Atheists, Atheist Alliance International and the Center for Atheism.

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  My university recently


My university recently invited a speaker to come and give a talk to the Education majors about his experience as a high school teacher. He is apparently considered one of the top ten teachers in the state, and he's from the immediate area, so I guess he was an obvious choice.

His "talk" had a lot of good points, but it annoyed me that he wouldn't stop talking about God and Jesus throughtout his spiel. God spoke to his heart and told him to do such and such; if it wasn't for his faith in God, he wouldn't be in front of us today; he's thankful to God and Jesus for the life he's been blessed with, etc.

In a way, I could kinda excuse it, because he was talking about his own experience as a high school teacher, and it was to university students, not high school students.

But in another way, it did seem incredibly inappropriate and I almost wanted to say something to someone about it. But as I sat there and looked around at all the faces smiling at the words "If it wasn't for my faith in God, I wouldn't be here today", it was one of those moments where I felt alone as an atheist.

And I thought.. fuck him for being able to stand up there and do that to me

I wonder if maybe there aren't teachers out there who are going on and on about God and Jesus in their classrooms but feel like it's okay as long as they add a "but that's just what I think" onto the end of it. It wouldn't surprise me.

From that one experience I had, I don't really give a shit if they are talking about it as truth or opinion. The fact is that the student doesn't have a choice in whether or not they get to sit and listen to your bullshit. Every time I heard that guest speaker in that lecture hall mention Jesus, it's almost like I felt tricked, like they snared me in a trap. The bait: I thought I was stopping in to hear about the joy of teaching. Surprise: If I want to hear what I came for, I also have to be willing to let someone pelt me with religious woo-woo. I mean, it's not like I could leave. The attendance policy in college is too strict. (Yes, watching his speech was considered class for the day).

Whether or not they are presenting it as fact or opinion, no educator should be excused for even bringing it up (unless the material of the class requires it, but last time I checked, no high schools were teaching world religions yet). If it can make a kid feel like a sucker like I sort of felt that day, then it shouldn't be happening. If it can make them feel isolated like I sort of felt, it shouldn't be happening.

But mostly all I wanted to say was, man, fuck that guy.

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.

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Americans in general are

Americans in general are for the most part woefully uneducated about the secular history of our country. And for the past 50 years a successfull attack of propaganda selling the revisionist "Jesus owned government" has erroded Jefferson's  wall.

These people treat "secular" as a dirty word and falsely play victim in order to demonize people who challenge goverment favoritism of Christianity over all other religions.

Nowhere in the Consitution is the word Jesus or Christianity mentiond. The First Amendment forbids goverment favortism of any religion. The Constitution also demands "No religious test", and the oath of office in the Constitution does NOT demand any swearing to any deity of any label, that is voluntary, not manditory.

And the Barbary Treaty(Treaty of Tripoly) articall 11 backs this up, "As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion". Signed by both houses of Congress and without dissent and signed into LAW by President John Adams, June 10th 1797. 

The founders were for freedom of religion, but railled against religious politicing. To them, your position on a deity was up to you. They made it so, in the Constitution, that you had freedom of religion and they would not come after you for your postion, but they ALSO said they wouldnt aid you either. Religion was a matter of individual concious, not a matter of goverment position or favortism.  

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
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He was interviewed a while

He was interviewed a while back on Freethought Radio.