Constitutional Kryptonite: ‘Bible Man’ Assemblies Banned At Tenn. Public Schools

Apr 23, 2015

By Simon Brown

It seems “Bible Man,” an individual who proselytizes to public school students, recently discovered that the U.S. Constitution is his kryptonite now that some Tennessee schools have halted his overtly religious programs.

“Bible Man,” whose real name is Horace Turner, Jr., leads monthly assemblies in public schools in which he tells biblical stories to elementary children. The original Bible Man, Horace Turner Sr., started this program about 40 years ago.

Turner had been showing up regularly at Grundy County Schools, with displays of Baby Jesus in tow. He also sings religious songs. As a result, a local atheist mom whose child attended Turner’s assemblies felt Bible Man was violating the First Amendment by pushing Christianity on impressionable children.

So the mother asked the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to complain on her behalf. FFRF explained that Bible Man’s assembles were a constitutional problem, so Grundy County decided to put a stop to the program.


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30 comments on “Constitutional Kryptonite: ‘Bible Man’ Assemblies Banned At Tenn. Public Schools

  • Lets face it – some USA states LONG for a theocracy – Mind you here in Britain we still have men in pointy hats in the upper house…..But our prime minister is (was) openly atheist…. can’t imagine that in the US of A



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  • It would be so easy for Americans to ignore their constitution on this matter, as they did around terrorism. The people judging are largely Christian. But they are doing the right thing. Good on ’em.



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  • @OP – It seems “Bible Man,” an individual who proselytizes to public school students, recently discovered that the U.S. Constitution . . . . .

    The original Bible Man, Horace Turner Sr., started this program about 40 years ago.

    The obvious question is, “Why did it take so long for anyone to notice or care?”



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  • Were Stone Age minds different to modern minds?

    Yes,….. and no.

    There hasn’t been enough evolutionary time to have evolved much since stone age days. So we’re still fitted with a brain primed for fight or flight, and to see meaning in everything around us, because that saved us from predators. And lots of other really good hunter gatherer attributes that helped us survive, like the Facebook gene and the Look At Me gene.

    The “Yes” part is we now have knowledge. Lots of it. We know a whole lot more than stone age times. The test for Homo Sapiens is whether they stay stone age, or make use of the freely available knowledge that abounds. When you look at the above image, you can see that most of humanity are still stone age thinkers. But slowly, through an incredibly difficult act of intellectual will, you can rise above your stone age brain, and shed ignorance, and replace it with knowledge. Very few are capable.

    Can you do it Ewan?



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  • Because of peculiar historical developments that cannot be traced in a brief comment, the U.S. remains far more religious than their European counterparts. Fortunately a “New South” is arising (no, not the “Old Confederacy”). Many urban centers like Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas have experienced a growing demographic shift to more secular and Democratic populations. The monolith of Christian fundamentalism is starting to dissolve like crystal salt in a slow prolonged rain.

    The model for Mr. Turner’s enterprise is the beloved “revival meeting” referred to anachronistically as a “tent meeting.” Between 65 and 40 years ago, provincial (and urban) southern societies were oblivious to issues of separation of church and state. Children prayed in school, Bible “studies” were conducted and ordained or lay preachers made regular visits to classrooms. No one noticed or cared. Since then secular voices and movements have taken these agents of the Lord to court and to the woodshed. Not surprisingly, the predominant remnants of the Old Time Religion have cried foul. A Christian way of life is being subverted. The “rights” of those leading and following the theocracy are being abridged.

    What amazes me is why these retrograde people cannot realize their transgressions against constitutional law. Today broader consensus has come to understand that it is illegal to promote religion in the setting of, or with the explicit or tacit support or approval of government institutions.

    Horace Turner could avoid indignity by moving his revival meeting to a local church at no expense and advertising that those who wished to attend could come voluntarily. Why confront authorities and advocates about banning the promotion of religion on public high school premises? It’s against the law, Mr. Turner, real laws, enforced laws, laws with teeth in the 21st century.



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  • The “Yes” part is we now have knowledge. Lots of it.

    Do we? I would say rather that we now have access to knowledge. Lots of it. But virtually all of that is knowledge gained by someone else.

    What we in modern times tend not to have is knowledge gained through personal experience – something that Stone Age people had in abundance. What’s more, there is a tendency to downplay such knowledge these days as subjective and of limited value.

    I was brought up in a rural area. In my youth, most people I knew had a deep understanding of nature – it’s rhythms, its forms, its interconnectedness – and that understanding had been gained through personal experience. These days, such an understanding is mostly gone. Even in rural areas, many people have little idea of the trees, birds and plants they live amongst. That doesn’t strike me as a particularly positive development.



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  • Why is it neccessary for people to have knowledge of the “trees,birds, and plants they live amongst” for knowledge to be meaningful? What about the other animals? The fish, deer, feline, pigs, and dogs?

    The problem with personal experience is large amounts of it lack perspective. Knowledge and experience without perspective is useless. A good example is when a person receives a ticket for a moving violation from a police officer. Without perspective, just going from personal experience, it can be very easy to assume that the officer is a jerk who just wants to find fault in you so they can take your money. It is only after sharing experiences with others and reading about our legal system and history at that a person can fully appreciate things like our law enforcement.

    I highly recommend experiencing things personally, but if you can learn something without the risk of losing skin off your own back, I say go for it. The height and power of our present society is evidence enough that learning from the experiences of others works. Without such an ability, none of our greatest scientific discoveries would have been possible and none of the comforts we enjoy would exist.

    And who’s to say that we, as citizens today lack personal experience? I, personally, think that I possess quite a bit of it. Who are you to define what valid personal experience is and what isn’t? If all I ever do in my life is go into my office and interact with my coworkers, who’s to say that such a thing is a negative experience? That can easily be my world as rich and illustrious as any forestry driven life could be. Personally, I hate nature, but I love nature. I think I’ve done more than enough in my own life. I been held at gunpoint and talked the man down and into giving me the weapon, I’ve driven 1000’s of miles and seen many many places, worked through all types of weather both pleasurable and dangerous, and enabled a great many people to experience the joys of the internet even in the most remote of places so that they can communicate with their friends and family back home.

    I don’t think that just because I can’t identify every plant in my yard, I lack meaningful knowledge. To assume such a thing is quite pretentious.



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  • The problem with personal experience is large amounts of it lack perspective.

    Do you not feel that the same can be said about access to knowledge? An internet connection isn’t necessarily the road to burgeoning common sense.

    And who’s to say that we, as citizens today lack personal experience?

    Of course we all, in the nature of things, have a lifetime of personal experience. But they tend to be experiences that we have chosen for ourselves and have controlled. And that is a limiting factor.



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  • Without a doubt, found knowledge can also render itself useless if a person refuses to view it in context and along side the wealth of the rest of our knowledge. However, our enhanced access makes that easier. It is quite true, you can’t fix stupid, people who want to be narrow minded and actively seek to prevent themselves from having perspective will always find a way to do so, but I am of the school that the more opportunities and options a person has, the better.

    Is it not in our nature to control our environment in the name of survival, though? An abyss of that which we cannot control will surround us always. It is in our nature to try to make safe places for ourselves. I would say it’s a very human thing to do. Being exposed to stress does push us to do things we might not have, but it’s arguable whether or not those experiences are a good thing or not.



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  • I would say rather that we now have access to knowledge. Lots of it. But virtually all of that is knowledge gained by someone else.

    Knowledge doesn’t care what you think. Knowledge is knowledge. How you choose to use that knowledge is up to you, and is the test. Knowledge you gain from personal experience is the same as knowledge I learn through studies. Knowledge is neutral. What you do with that knowledge is a test of your commonsense and a rational mind. The anecdotal knowledge that farmers learned on the job has now been quantified by science and is available to all. Nothing special.



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  • Knowledge you gain from personal experience is the same as knowledge I learn through studies.

    I’m not sure about that. If someone wants to learn how to play the piano, personal experience and practice is a more effective method than studying how to play the piano. And at the end of the process, the knowledge gained by the different methods is of a different quality.



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  • learn how to play the piano..

    This is not knowledge. It’s an activity. A skill. To play a piano you have to study the knowledge (theory) and put it into practice (experience).

    the knowledge gained by the different methods is of a different quality.

    Knowledge has no property called “Quality” attached to it. It is a neutral expression. A null. You are wrongly trying to paint knowledge as some mystical commodity. The fact that you persist in trying to paint knowledge as something special, is the same logic as seeing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. When you join the dots on this type of thinking, seeking “Special” when “Normal” will do, you create religions, or you display a religious mindset.

    This type of thinking is no longer needed.



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  • This is not knowledge. It’s an activity. A skill. To play a piano you have to study the knowledge (theory) and put it into practice (experience).

    So do you feel that spending years practising (experiencing) playing the piano doesn’t develop your knowledge of playing the piano in any way?

    My feeling is that such experience would develop a different quality of knowledge than that gained by someone simply studying the theory.



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  • So do you feel that spending years practising (experiencing) playing the piano doesn’t develop your knowledge of playing the piano in any way?

    No. We’ve come to the point in discussions like this where we start going in circles. You are conflating two different terms, and trying to say they are one. The piano analogy. Experience can contain knowledge. But knowledge on its own is not experience. The application of knowledge becomes experience, but not the pure knowledge.

    You hold the view that there are different qualities of knowledge . I hold the view that knowledge is just data and has no property called quality. It is sterile. If you attribute some differential “Qualities” to one bit of knowledge over another, like believing your knowledge of the one true god is special, you delude yourself as knowledge doesn’t bless one over another. It’s just knowledge. So unless you can come up with something new, or some other correspondent tears me apart, I will let knowledge speak for itself.



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  • I am entirely inclined to your view on this Ewan, but I am unhappy with the simple account. Having knowledge and knowing (also) how to use it are separate types of knowledge. Skill in applying knowlege can take many forms and is broadly a meta knowledge for which formal processes of acquisition are less well developed. Discovering how to use the facts at your disposal, i.e. how to become an expert, is the vital capping requirement of an education and mostly learned on the job. Depending on the sector of interest meta-knowledge will lead the knowledgeable down different paths (thank goodness). Ashkenazy is the Beethoven piano sonata meister for me. Those technology innovators who take a step back first and try to frame a bigger problem rather than dive in accepting the brief-giver knows what they are talking about get my vote most often (but not always…I’m pretty sure meta meta knowledge may be a thing). The meta-knowledge wise old often defeat the fact-stuffed young because they have a wealth of formal (sic) knowledge-use experience.

    None of this is spooky. Ashkenazy’s repeated introspections when playing the same piece results in his greatest satisfaction and the balance of his bank account registers that luckily the rewarding-ness of his experiences comport with enough of the general public’s. Meta knowledge of internal feeling of oneself and indirectly of others, meta-knowledge of the most successful approaches to problem solving, take time and experience.



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  • Having knowledge and knowing (also) how to use it are separate types of knowledge.

    I would also suggest that personal involvement in the gaining of that knowledge has a role to play here.

    We live in a knowledge-rich world. I look back with some bemusement to my youth when, if you wanted some information about something, then you went to the library and checked out the books in the reference section. All knowledge seemed to be contained there.

    Now we have access to extraordinary levels of information through a few clicks on a keyboard but I wouldn’t necessarily equate that to having knowledge. Access to data is not the same as having knowledge in the way that detailed printouts on the lifecycle of the oak tree is not the same as standing in front of one and picking up an acorn.



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  • Access to data is not the same as having knowledge in the way that detailed printouts on the lifecycle of the oak tree is not the same as standing in front of one and picking up an acorn.

    Ack! Now there you go spoiling it. Recognising one’s own aesthetic delight in trees is important and will help you in some aspects of managing your life, but it won’t help you in managing trees. It may be your arborial delight may have you choose wrongly in favouring yourself over the myriad insects that would be better encouraged if the thing were allowed to fall and rot rather than be treated and propped up.

    Much experience is purely personal.



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  • 22
    Lorenzo says:

    Do we? […]

    This only means that access to knowledge is still not efficient and capillary enough.

    As for that praise of yours of first hand experience: it’s not harmless and can easily backfire, because it can too easily be distorted in “first hand experience is superior to taught knowledge”, which is the precursor to idiotic statements such as “the world doesn’t feel hotter to me therefore I don’t believe global warming” or “if I smoke a cigarette in a wood I can’t smell it after a while therefore I don’t believe us humans can overfill the atmosphere with obnoxious gasses”.
    So… be careful of what you dismiss as “not particularly positive”.



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  • On the other hand.

    You are standing in a small clearing in a forest. An ancient oak lies on the ground. You got a A+ on your paper on the Calvin Cycle. You are an expert on photosynthesis. Then an ant crawls up your leg. You notice the springiness of the ground, the small carpet of flowers, the saprophytic fungi and the way the neighbouring oaks are reaching into the space of their dead comrade. And birdsong, particularly rich and varied just here. Now you understand in the richest of ways the meaning of sweetness and light.



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  • Indeed.

    Experience building on nothing can result in just about anything like Skinners superstitious chickens. Cultures give us a substrate upon which to organise our experiences. Honest cultures do best.



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  • I suspect my use of the word “Knowledge” differs in definition from that used by Ewan.

    Ewan. Now we have access to extraordinary levels of information through a few clicks on a keyboard but I wouldn’t necessarily equate that to having knowledge. Access to data is not the same as having knowledge …

    In this context, Ewan uses the term “Knowledge” in a way that means wisdom gained from the underlying data. Same word. Different meanings from Ewan and I.

    My posts refer to sterile, data, information and in my posts, I used the term “Knowledge” to mean the same thing. It has no values statement. No human defined greatness. When that sterile data is used, it becomes applied knowledge, and now can have value judgements made against the uses made of the knowledge, but not the basic data. You can use terms like “Commonsense”, “Wasteful”, “Clever”, “Boring” or even “Mystical” to describe the uses made of the knowledge, but not the raw data.

    Phil refers to humans who make brilliant and inspired use of knowledge. The value judgement again is the use the humans made of the raw knowledge. So I see knowledge / data / information as having no special properties. It’s just stuff.



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  • I suspect my use of the word “Knowledge” differs in definition from that used by Ewan.

    I think you’re right. I would distinguish between data and knowledge. It seems to me that the latter needs a brain to do the knowing, so it is inevitably personalised, whereas the former doesn’t.

    If life on Earth died out tomorrow, data would survive but knowledge wouldn’t.



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  • Apropos nothing

    For me-

    Data (“what are given” eg by a process) are a set of values or other properties, say 22, 3, 37….

    A piece of information is a parameterised datum, 37 Pink Elephants

    Knowledge is contextualised information. 37 Pink Elephants in Dumbo’s drunken nightmare.

    Wisdom is the effective use of knowledge (Don’t drink, learn to love pink elephants.)

    Being Wise is possessing knowledge about the effective use of knowledge.



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  • So… be careful of what you dismiss as “not particularly positive”.

    I appreciate what you are saying, but knowledge divorced from personal experience can lead to a preference for efficiency over humanity when developing social processes. Both are important.



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  • A large number of Americans adhere to the deluded notion that the United Staes were founded as a Christian nation. Not only do these folks avoid read the Bible, they also fail to peruse the writings of the so-called “founding fathers”. Perhaps the Treaty of Tripoli should mandatory in American elementary school history…



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  • The model for Mr. Turner’s enterprise is the beloved “revival meeting” referred to anachronistically as a “tent meeting.” Between 65 and 40 years ago, provincial (and urban) southern societies were oblivious to issues of separation of church and state.

    Marjoe rides again…. and again. AND AGAIN.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V252j868jTk

    A fundamentalist preacher from the tent meetings rolls over and reveals the inner workings of these scams. Turner.? Just another Marjoe.



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