This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a strange controversy in Sedalia, Missouri about some t-shirts worn by the high-school band.

T-shirts promoting the Smith-Cotton High School band’s fall program have been recalled because of concerns about the shirt’s evolution theme.

Assistant superintendent Brad Pollitt said parents complained to him after the band marched in the Missouri State Fair parade. Though the shirts don’t violate the school’s dress code, Pollitt noted that the district is required by law to remain neutral on religion.

“If the shirts had said ‘Brass Resurrections’ and had a picture of Jesus on the cross, we would have done the same thing,” Pollitt said.

Designed with the help of band director Jordan Summers and assistant director Brian Kloppenburg, the light gray shirts feature an image of a monkey progressing through various stages of evolution until eventually becoming a human. Each figure holds a brass instrument that also evolves, illustrating the theme “Brass Evolutions.”

“I was disappointed with the image on the shirt,” said Sherry Melby, a band parent who teaches in the district. “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

If an evolution-themed t-shirt is considered by school officials as “taking sides” on a religious issue, I shudder to think how the school teaches biology.

Jonathan Turley added, “Pollitt insisted that he had to take the action because the school was required to stay neutral on religious issues. However, evolution is not a barred religious doctrine or theory. Extremists want to make evolution into a religious question, but it is not. If the parents started to object to pictures of Freud from an anti-psychiatry view of Scientology, would Pollitt order their removal? How about if Evangelical Christians object (as they did in Texas) to pictures showing the Moon as illuminated by reflective light, would he take down the posters? How about pictures showing the Earth aging more than 6000 years, another fact disputed recently by religious politicians and parents (here).”

Also from the God Machine this week:

* In May, June and July, there was rarely a Sunday when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) “didn’t board a taxpayer-funded helicopter to attend church services in far-flung parts of the state.” It cost taxpayers $45,000 for Jindal to take 14 helicopter trips to church services throughout the state.

* Scandal-plagued TV preacher Pat Robertson underwent 10 hours of surgery this week “to repair an irregular heartbeat.” He returned home on Thursday to recuperate and will be fitted with a heart monitor. The 79-year-old televangelist is expected to make a “full recovery.”

* And this week, President Obama hosted a White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Before conservatives freak out, let’s not forget that George W. Bush did the same thing every year of his presidency.