anti-God attitude keeps peeking through

     Note: I know that the following isn’t a homeschooling issue, but I thought that a lot of homeschool families might be concerned about it. If it is a subject that you are interested in and haven’t been following the news on this matter, here’s some material about it that I’ve collected and put together.

Capitol Flag Policy Assailed

By Audrey Hudson (Washington Times, October 6, 2007)

     A group of Republican lawmakers is demanding the architect of the U.S. Capitol reverse a policy that bans the use of the word "God" on flag certificates sent to constituents.

     Rep. Michael R. Turner of Ohio said one of his constituents, Paul Larochelle, recently requested to receive a flag that had flown over the Capitol. Mr. Larochelle’s son had hoped to present the flag and the accompanying certificate to his grandfather, an Army veteran.

     The Larochelles wanted the certificate’s inscription to read, in part: "In honor of my grandfather, Marcel Larochelle, and his dedication and love of God, country and family." However, when the flag and the certificate arrived at Mr. Turner’s office from the architect of the U.S. Capitol’s office, which handles the Capitol flag program, the word "God" had been eliminated.

     Mr. Turner said he requested an explanation from the architect’s office, which cited one of its 14 Flag Office Services rules. The rule states, "… religious expressions are not permitted on flag certificates."

     Mr. Turner — along with fellow Republican Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Randy Neugebauer of Texas and Steve Pearce of New Mexico — complained in a letter this week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the architect’s office had "informed several congressional offices that the use of the word ‘God’ violates the rule."

     "This is an abuse of power, plain and simple," Mr. Neugebauer said. "Using the nonpartisan position of maintaining the Capitol to decide what citizens can have written on their flag certificates is unacceptable."

     Stephen T. Ayers has been acting architect of the U.S. Capitol since February, when his predecessor, Alan M. Hantman, retired. Mr. Ayers’ spokeswoman was unavailable for comment yesterday.

     The lawmakers are asking Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, to review the authority under which the architect’s office made the rules and that the policy "which censors our citizens’ right to expressions of their faith" be reversed.

     They also point out that as the custodian of the Capitol, the architect is responsible for a building inscribed with many religious references, including "In God We Trust" in the House and Senate chambers.

     "The architect’s policy is in direct conflict with his charge as well as the scope of his office and brings into question his ability to preserve a building containing many national religious symbols," the lawmakers stated.

     A spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi said a Democratic proposal may help solve the problem.

     The proposal would have the architect certify that the flag was flown, and then a member of Congress could add the constituent’s message separately, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said.

     "It will be resolved in the near future," he said.

     Lawmakers receive more than 100,000 requests from constituents each year for flags that have flown over the Capitol.

Religious Words Banned by Architect of the U. S. Capitol

Donald E. Wildmon (American Family Association; Tue., Oct., 9, 2007)

     According to U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave, our nation’s legislators are now prohibited from using references to God in certificates of authenticity accompanying flags flown over the Capitol and bought by constituents. Such references include: "under God" in the pledge, "God bless you," or "in the year of our Lord, 2007." Never before has this official prohibition been leveled.

    Architect of the Capitol Steven Ayers said he has removed the words because reference to God and the Lord may offend some Americans. He now prohibits them from being placed on official documents such as flag certificates.

    Musgrave was astonished when she flew a flag over the U.S. Capitol building as a tribute to a senior citizen, and the accompanying certificate she received was edited with all religious references removed.

     The congresswoman was more astounded when, upon further investigation, she discovered the certificate was censored by order of The Architect of the Capitol, an unelected very low-level official who manages the flag office.

     Responding to a request for a flag flown over the United States Capitol in honor of a World War II veteran’s 81st birthday, the congresswoman ordered the flag and a certificate to state: "This flag was flown for Mr. John Doe on the occasion of his 81st birthday, the eleventh day of July, in the year of our Lord, 2007. Thank you, Grandpa, for showing me what it is to be a true patriot — to love God, family, and country. We love you!"

     When the flag and certificate came back from the flag office, each reference to the Lord and God were removed. A group of lawmakers confronted architect Stephen Ayers seeking to find where he had the authority to restrict their freedom of speech and religious expression. Ayers refused to give the lawmakers a clear justification of his authority to delete the religious references.

Scout Denied Mention of God in Flag Certificate

By Steve Elliot (Grassfire.org Alliance, 10/10/2007)

     Lawmakers are circulating a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, objecting to the U.S. Capitol’s architect not allowing "God" to be mentioned in certificates of authenticity accompanying flags flown over the Capitol, and bought by constituents.

     Grassfire learned that 138 Congressmen have already added their name to the letter, calling on the Speaker to immediately "review the authority under which the architect is making these rules, as well as reverse the policy that censors our citizens’ right to expressions of their faith."

     According to the Midland Daily News, the policy was disturbingly highlighted when a 17 year-old Eagle Scout was denied his request to have a certificate read, "This flag was flown in honor of Marcel Larochelle, my grandfather, for his dedication and love of God, country and family."

     A spokesman in Rep. Dave Camp’s (R-MI) office told Grassfire that these censorship incidents have been escalating with the Democratic controlled Congress, adding, "The U.S. House of Representatives can pass a resolution recognizing the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, but we can’t send out certificates with the word ‘God’ on them. It’s outrageous."

Pelosi Defends Refusal to Put "God" on Flag Certificates

Sabrina Eaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 09, 2007)

     House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today defended the Architect of the Capitol’s refusal to permit use of the word "God" on official certificates enclosed with flags flown over the U.S. Capitol.

     Dayton-area GOP Rep. Michael Turner and more than 100 of his Republican colleagues sent a letter to Pelosi last week after an Eagle Scout in his district asked that a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol be sent to his grandfather with a certificate inscribed with the message: "In honor of my grandfather Marcel Larochelle, and his dedication and love of God, country, and family."

     The boy and his father contacted Turner’s office after noticing the word "God" was left off the certificate included with the flag. Outraged upon learning that the acting Architect of the Capitol, Stephen T. Ayers, won’t allow religious expressions on flag certificates, Turner sent a protest letter to Pelosi.

     "The Architect’s policy prohibiting "God" from appearing on certificates for flags flown over the U.S. Capitol puts at risk our religious freedoms and heritage," said the letter, which also was signed by Ohio Republican Reps. Steve LaTourette of Bainbridge Township, Patrick Tiberi of Genoa, Jim Jordan of Urbana, Steve Chabot of Cincinnati and Jean Schmidt of Miami Township. "The Architect’s policy is in direct conflict with his charge, as well as the scope of his office and brings into question his ability to preserve a building containing many national religious symbols."

     Asked about the issue today at a press luncheon, Pelosi said the architect’s policy was adopted because "people were asking for statements that not only were religious, beyond using the word God, but political as well." She said the official policy is to send a certificate that lists nothing beyond the date the flag flew over the Capitol and the name of its recipient. She said that members of Congress who request flags on behalf of constituents can "add whatever they wish" to the certificates, "whether it is a political statement or a religious statement."

     "It’s not about being anti-religion," Pelosi said, noting that each day in the Capitol starts with a prayer. "It is just about what the architect thought was appropriate for him to proclaim in a certificate."

     Turner said Tuesday that he will continue seeking more signatures for his letter asking Pelosi to overturn the policy, and "if the speaker and the architect continue to implement their censorship program, we will drop legislation to compel the architect to return to granting inscriptions permitting the acknowledgement of God."

     He said members of Congress vet the appropriateness of messages constituents request with the flags, and their discretion should be sufficient.

     "We have the responsibility for these common sense issues that might arise with flag inscriptions and this one is basic," Turner said. "The architect has decided the word ‘God’ is offensive. This rule should not be allowed to stand."

Nation’s Top Democrat Defends Banning God

By Donald Wildmon (American Family Association, Oct. 11, 2007)

     The nation’s number one Democrat, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, is defending the banning of religious references on certificates issued by the Architect of the Capitol.

     An Eagle Scout asked that a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol be sent to his grandfather, along with a certificate bearing the message: "In honor of my grandfather Marcel Larochelle, and his dedication and love of God, country, and family."

     Stephen Ayers, the Architect of the Capitol, banned the use of the word "God" in the certificate issued for the Eagle Scout. Ayers, serving in a low-level, non-elected position, claims he has the authority to ban the word "God" from the certificate. This is the first time ever for the Architect of the Capitol to ban religious references. Ayers said he banned the word "God" because someone might be offended.

     Pelosi defended Ayers’ decision to ban all religious references. Several legislators signed a letter to Pelosi asking that Ayers’ censorship be stopped. "The Architect’s policy is in direct conflict with his charge, as well as the scope of his office and brings into question his ability to preserve a building containing many national religious symbols," the legislators said in the letter.

     Instead of stopping the censorship, Pelosi defended it. "It’s not about being anti-religion," Pelosi said. "It is just about what the Architect thought was appropriate for him to proclaim in a certificate." By saying such, Pelosi approved the banning of religious references by Ayers.

More News about Banning the Word "God"

By Steve Elliot of Grassfire.org Alliance (10/12 /2007)

     Only days ago, Grassfire sounded the alarm after learning that the Capitol Architect refused to allow "God" to be mentioned in certificates of authenticity accompanying flags flown over the Capitol, and bought by constituents.

     In a statement reported by FoxNews.com, the Capitol Architect, Stephen T. Ayers said "The Architect’s role is to certify that flags are appropriately flown over the U.S. Capitol, and any messages on the flag certificates are personal and between a Member of Congress and his or her constituents."

     Read the full report: http://www.firesociety.com/forum/thread/18476/?src=111 .

     This is a tremendous victory for everyone who took action with us to reverse a policy that censored citizen’s rights to freely express their faith.

     Although we don’t have exact phone counts, Grassfire estimates that thousands of team members called Congressional offices over the last few days expressing concern over the policy and desire to see a change.

     [Editor’s note: The http://www.firesociety.com item had the following announcement and had a link to the Fox News article below. WSW.]

     The Architect of the Capitol, responding to a public outcry, ruled Thursday that, from now on, the word "God" may be inscribed on certificates accompanying flags that have flown over the U.S. Capitol.

     Read the Full FoxNews.com story here.

Capitol Architect Lets "God" Fly on U. S. Flag Certificates

Thursday , October 11, 2007 (FOX News’ Major Garrett contributed to this report)

     The Architect of the Capitol, responding to a public outcry, ruled Thursday that, from now on, the word "God" may be inscribed on certificates accompanying flags that have flown over the U.S. Capitol.

     Acting Architect Stephen T Ayers said in a statement that the policy of disallowing political and religious statements on flag certificates has been inconsistently applied and does not fulfill the objectives of the office.

     "It is inappropriate and beyond the scope of this agency’s responsibilities to censor messages from members," Ayers said.

     "The Architect’s role is to certify that flags are appropriately flown over the U.S. Capitol, and any messages on the flag certificates are personal and between a Member of Congress and his or her constituents," Ayers said.

     "The Office of the Architect of the Capitol is a service organization. Flying the flags over the Capitol is an important constituent service for Members of Congress. When one of our services or policies doesn’t effectively serve Members of Congress or the American public, it needs to be changed immediately," he added.

     The issue gained widespread attention this week after 17-year-old Andrew Larochelle of Dayton, Ohio, inquired to his congressman, Rep. Michael Turner, why the personal inscription he requested to go with his flag was censored.

     The message — to accompany a flag he had bought from Congress for $9 to be flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of his grandfather Marcel LaRochelle — read: "In honor of my grandfather Marcel Larochelle, and his dedication and love of God, country and family."

     The flag flew on Sept. 11, Marcel Larochelle’s birthday. But when Andrew finally received the flag in the mail on Sept. 30, "God" was taken out of his note.

     Andrew said he was surprised God’s name had been omitted and couldn’t understand why his free speech rights had been infringed. The Eagle Scout said he included God in his dedication because his grandfather is "very devoted to his faith."

     "His faith life is just very vital to him, he is very God-centered and relies on God whenever he needs strength," Andrew told FOX News. "Without God in the certificate, it’s almost like taking a piece of him away."

     After Andrew inquired about the exclusion, Turner requested an explanation from Ayers and was told that the rules, which have been in practice since the 1970s but only codified in writing since 2003, don’t allow religious expressions on flag certificates.

     Turner and other House Republicans complained that the Capitol has many religious expressions and Congress begins each day with a prayer. They also noted that the message wasn’t written by Congress but by one private citizen to another private citizen.

     "This practice, which overturns a longstanding and long-cherished congressional tradition, has rightly drawn outrage from the American people, who have grown weary of endless attempts by politicians and bureaucrats to bar the word God and even the most tacit references to faith from our public institutions," House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday.

     To compromise, Rep. Robert A. Brady, chairman of the House Administration Committee, which oversees the Architect of the Capitol’s office, had suggested allowing a uniform certificate of authenticity and then giving each congressional member the latitude to handle personal inscriptions.

     On Thursday Pelosi, who had defended Ayers’ decision, said she did not try to influence his repeal.

    "I don’t think the architect’s office should be in the role of censoring what members want to say on those documents … and I spoke earlier to the minority leader about this issue and said that it was my understanding that the architect’s office was going to put forth this statement," Pelosi said. "I think they, the architect’s office, came to their own conclusion."

      But that didn’t sit well with many lawmakers, who said the job of operating the flag certificate program lies with the Architect’s office. On Thursday, Ayers said after reviewing the rules, he concluded that they were inconsistently applied and should be changed.

     "I have directed that the policy be changed and that new guidelines be reissued immediately," he said. "I appreciate the Congress bringing this important issue to my attention, and I appreciate their support as we worked to resolve this situation to everyone’s satisfaction," said Ayers.

Warnings about some popular books

Pullman, Philip

. The "His Dark Materials" trilogy.

     A couple of issues of my free e-mail newsletter for Christians who homeschool ( biblicalhomeschooling-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/biblicalhomeschooling ) carried items about these books, both warning against them. Recently Teresa Harris asked, "Has anyone read this book or any of this series? I have read that there is some religious theory through them. I am interested in your thoughts before we pursue these books." I responded, "The author, Philip Pullman, is an English atheist who hates Christianity. When he saw how popular C. S. Lewis’s ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ books that promote a Biblical worldview were among children, he decided that he needed to produce a series of books that would be just as popular among children but promote an atheist worldview. So, yes, I guess that they do have some ‘religious theory’ in them–but it is the religion of atheism." Someone might argue that they are just fiction and that a child raised with the truth should be able to read them without being affected. Even if this is so, my personal opinion is that to purchase the books is to put money in the hands of an atheist which just encourages him to write more of his atheistic philosophy.

     Laurie Cascairo also replied, "World Magazine had a very disturbing article in their Sept. 22 [2007] issue in the Spotlight section. Our daughter had read one of them (a Christian recommended them) and had come to us with some concerns. This was one of the very few books I did not get for her myself. I can see how children not raised in the church will be duped by the atheistic sway of these books. You might look at worldmag.com…." I had not seen the information that Laurie mentioned (for various reasons, I have let my subscription to World Matgazine lapse), but in doing research on their website, I found the article by Janie B. Cheaney on the books that follows these comments and is quoted in the following Spotlight by Susan Olasky from World, to which Laurie refers, that is actually about a movie made from the first of Pullman’s "His Dark Materials" books.

     "A movie based on The Golden Compass, the first book in Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ series, opens on Dec. 7 with exquisite timing. The past year has seen a glut of bestsellers arguing for the nonexistence of God. Now an advertising blitz will try to turn Pullman’s anti-Christian vision into a blockbuster. In 2001 WORLD summarized the novels: ‘His Dark Materials is a direct attack on Christianity, the church, and God Himself. Never has an overtly atheistic theme been so successfully peddled to young people. His Dark Materials (a title borrowed from Milton) purports to recast the story of Paradise Lost, but in this version Satan, with his principle of cosmic rebellion, is the hero. . . . The author’s sledgehammer polemicism and simplistic conclusions reveal he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But the readers most vulnerable are the target audience: adolescents and young adults with no particular worldview.’ Parents who want to be prepared for the publicity barrage might view the trailer at goldencompassmovie.com, check out the books, and be prepared to discuss them with their kids."

     In addition, Bethany Bingham wrote, "I just recently finished the first of these books, The Golden Compass. I had heard some questionable things about them and decided I’d better read the first one before handing it off to Morgan. I’m glad I did. There were several things along the way that I didn’t care for, but tried to excuse in my mind, but by the time I got to the end of the book, I had decided they definitely weren’t anything I wanted her reading. They ‘rewrite’ the early part of Genesis to fit the story line. I understand this is all fiction, but still wasn’t comfortable having her read that type of material. I can excuse a fair number of things in books, but this sounded so blasphemous to me that I just couldn’t pass it by. Just my two cents. I know others who have read them and didn’t seem to mind so much. I will say, though, that I think a friend of mine who is much ‘looser’ than I am still wouldn’t let her son read them."

     Furthermore, Carol McBay sent the following note.

" http://homeschoolbuzz.com/reviews.html?content=The-Golden-Compass–His-Dark-Materials-book-1– .

The above website has a review of this book." This review by Kathy Davis of HomeSchoolBuzz.com was carried in the 11/05 issue of my newsletter.

     Another reply came from Gerry Wright who said, "I just read someone’s post with a review of this book [editor’s note: Amber Spyglass, and I assume that she is talking about the Janie B. Cheaney review to follow which I posted on a homeschool discussion list; WSW], and I am appalled. Our library encourages – or at least, allows – patrons to read and review books for publication in our local paper, and guess what I plan to do?! In fact, our paper would probably publish a letter about the material, if my review doesn’t get published. I would venture that many parents are completely unaware of the content of these books. Manywon’t care, but some will, and though they probably don’t seek out reviews in journals etc., they very possibly do read our local newspaper. Maybe some of you would have the same opportunity with your library."

     In doing some further research, I found a review by Robert McCrum of Pullman’s work from The Observer, an English newspaper and hardly a "right-wing" outlet, from Sun., Jan. 27, 2002. I shall quote just a few salient statements. "The Ruby in the Smoke (1985) established Pullman as a children’s writer to watch. Then came Northern Lights (1995 – later The Golden Compass), the first volume in a projected trilogy which, taking title and inspiration from Milton, Pullman christened ‘His Dark Materials’…. Since the publication of The Amber Spyglass, Pullman has stepped up his assault on CS Lewis, accusing him, with some justification [editor’s note: only in the opinion of the obviously biased reviewer, WSW], of ‘misogyny, racism and a sado-masochistic relish for violence.’ In turn, he has found himself enthusiastically adopted as a myth-maker for ‘the children of a faithless age’." I’ll take Lewis, thank you.

Very dark material: An acclaimed children’s series directly attacks Christianity

by Janie B. Cheaney

     For many young readers, the fanfare greeting the publication of The Amber Spyglass in October rivaled that for Harry Potter IV. Publishers delayed this concluding volume in the fantasy trilogy known as His Dark Materials (Knopf) for 16 months, leading at least one desperate fan to send author Philip Pullman a photograph of a furry squirrel, with ultimatum attached: "Finish your book or the squirrel dies."

     Marketed chiefly to teenagers, the critically acclaimed series makes Harry Potter look like the Chronicles of Narnia. His Dark Materials is a direct attack on Christianity, the church, and God Himself. Never has an overtly atheistic theme been so successfully peddled to young people.

     His Dark Materials (a title borrowed from Milton) purports to recast the story of Paradise Lost, but in this version Satan, with his principle of cosmic rebellion, is the hero.

     The Golden Compass, the first book of the trilogy, introduces Lyra Belaqua, a plucky 11-year-old living in an alternate version of Oxford University. In Lyra’s world, the church holds all political power. A "daemon" who takes animal form accompanies every conscious being. The plot turns on the discovery of "Dust," elementary particles that may unlock the secret of life itself.

     The church opposes this quest for Dust, and soon there is a rising rebellion that propels Lyra into the next book, The Subtle Knife, where she meets Will Parry, a youth from "our" world. After adventures involving witches, angels, and a knife that can cut through to parallel universes, Lyra’s arch-enemy Mrs. Colter captures her, laying upon Will the obligation to rescue her and help uncover the secret of Dust in time to save the universe.

     In the first two volumes, the author raises questions about selfhood, morality, free will, and destiny. Mr. Pullman presents himself as a tough-minded materialist of the 19th-century mold. To his credit, he does challenge some of the assumptions of our fuzzy postmodernist age; in his view, we must deal with reality as it is, actions do have consequences, truth exists and is worth seeking. The church, a bastion of self-righteousness and coercion, is obviously the "heavy."

     But we’re less sure what to make of the rebel leader, Lord Asriel. By the end of The Subtle Knife, it’s clear that Asriel aims to overthrow God, not merely the church. In The Amber Spyglass, we learn that God (or, the "Authority") is not the creator, only the first being organized out of Dust: "And Dust is only a name for what happens when matter begins to understand itself."

     We learn that, after duping countless angels into worshipping him, the Authority has consolidated his power in an elaborate system of myths and laws. But now the "ancient of days" is so senile and useless it would be a mercy to kill him. That is precisely what happens during the chaotic Last Battle, when Mr. Pullman dispatches the Authority with a back-handed slap. Then he unveils Lyra and Will as the founding couple of a new order of free inquiry.

     Though sometimes offensive, the trilogy is no threat to Christians who understand their faith; the author’s sledgehammer polemicism and simplistic conclusions reveal he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But the readers most vulnerable are the target audience: adolescents and young adults with no particular worldview.

     Mr. Pullman’s theme is that "the followers of wisdom have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed." Christianity is dismissed as "a powerful and convincing mistake," but there’s no hint about what Christianity teaches, and Christ Himself is barely mentioned.

     Mr. Pullman has criticized C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series for "the sheer dishonesty of the narrative method," but though Lewis framed his conclusions in black and white, he also presented a basis for distinguishing heroes from villains. Mr. Pullman, equally black and white, has no moral criteria other than his disdain for authority.

     Instead of facing the consequences of his atheism (the history of the 20th century would have furnished adequate material), Mr. Pullman lapses into sentimentality. His universe has a spiritual dimension after all, if only at the sub-atomic level, and Dust can be generated by-guess what?-adolescent sexual awakening. Thus, juvenile readers are first deceived into thinking they have "seen through" something they’ve not even seen (the truths of the Christian faith), then flattered that they have the keys to set the world right (indulging their sexual desires).

     "Tell them true stories," pleads a character in The Amber Spyglass. Young people do indeed need true stories, but they won’t find them in Mr. Pullman’s dark materials.

—Copyright WORLD Magazine; January 27, 2001, Vol. 16, No. 3.

BOOK REVIEWS

     Here are some book reviews taken from the Oct., 2007, issue of my free e-mail homeschooling newsletter, Biblical Homeschooling ( biblicalhomeschooling-subscribe@yahooogroups.com or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/biblicalhomeschooling ).

     Barth, Jeff. "The Missionary Adventures of Bob & Arty" (published by Parable Publishing House, 339 Parkhill Rd., Middlebury, VT 05753). Several years ago I remember reading an article or news item in some homeschooling publication about whether homeschooled children should read "Frank & Joe" (the Hardy Boys) or "Bob & Arty." I really do not see why they cannot read both! Yes, "Bob & Arty" are more specifically geared toward emphasizing faith in God but "the Hardy Boys" are still good role models who stand up for what is right and even are said to attend church. Recently, I purchased three of the five "Bob & Arty" books–In Search of the Lost Missionary (#1, 1997), Mission Alaska! (#2, 1998), and The Storm! (#3, 1999) and did them as read alouds for Jeremy, age 11. He really enjoyed them. There is much to like about these stories. Set in 1965, the books tell how homeschool graduates Bob, 21, and Arty, 20 (were there actually religious homeschoolers back then–at least, out in the public?) use their DC-3 plane (dubbed Old Gabe), given to them by their father who runs an air freight company, to do "missionary" service work. In their first adventure, they go in search of a lost missionary in the South Sea Islands and end up being captured by pearl smugglers. In the second book, they fly up to Alaska to deliver supplies to a missionary among the Eskimos and help bring to justice a vicious group of dog-sled gamblers. Volume 4 finds the family heading to assist some missionary friends in South America where they are forced by a huge storm to land on a deserted beach and marooned for several weeks before finding a beached boat which they can refurbish to sail to their destination. In every situation, they pray for God’s guidance, trust in His power to help them, and talk about the gospel to everyone who will listen. The books could have used some editing for grammar (the usual trouble with the differences between lie/lay, rise/raise, and such like) but this is a minor complaint. Compared to much of the junk that passes for children’s literature today, these books are exciting stories that have generally wholesome reading. Language level: Nothing objectionable. Ages: suitable for anyone. EXCELLENT.

     Castleberry, Stephen and Diane. The History Mystery (published in 2005 by Castleberry Farms Press, P. O. Box 337, Poplar, WI 54864). This is volume 7 of the "Farm Mystery" series featuring thirteen-year-old Jason and eleven-year-old Andy Nelson, who live with their parents, older sister Cathy, two younger brothers Ben and Matthew, and younger sister Leah on a farm in rural Tennessee and have formed "The Great Detective Agency" to investigate mysteries around their home. The Castleberrys say, "Parents can be assured that there are no murders or other objectionable elements in these books. The boys learn lessons in obedience and responsibility, while having lots of fun. There are no worldly situations or language, and no boy-girl relationships." In The History Mystery, the main problem is to find out what their grandfather had seen when fighting the Germans in World War I and written about in letters to his mother, which the boys’ mother (Grandfather’s daughter) was reading out loud after dinner each evening. Other mysteries along the way involve strange tire tracks in their barnyard, how dead animals became impaled on a barb wire fence, and what is the way to tell a raw egg from a hard-boiled one. I really like these books because, first of all, the family’s homeschooling is presented in a positive light, and secondly, this is a family who truly loves one another and thus serves as a good model to children reading about them of what a family ought to be. No, these children in the books are not syrupy sweet little darlings who never make any mistakes, but they have been trained to obey, and when they do something wrong, they learn from it. Even Mom and Dad have to apologize at times. Language level: nothing objectionable. Ages: 9-12 but suitable for anyone. EXCELLENT.

     DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn-Dixie (published in 2000 by Candlewick Press, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140). I was not overly thrilled with DiCamillo’s Newbery Medal winner The Tale of Despereaux. However, her Newbery Honor winner Because of Winn-Dixie comes highly recommended. Set in Florida at an indeterminate but evidently fairly modern time, the book tells the story of ten-year-old India Opal Buloni, who just moved to Naomi, FL, where her father was the new preacher at the Open Arms Baptist Church. As a "new kid" in town, she does not have many friends, and she is especially lonely because her mother had left years before when Opal was but a little girl because of an alcohol problem. However, Opal finds a big, ugly dog at the Winn-Dixie supermarket (for those of you who live up in the north, yes, such stores do exist!) and a number of good things begin to happen to her that first summer as a result. Will she make any friends? If so who will they be? And will she ever find her mother? This is indeed a charming story of optimism in the face of adversity. One caveat that I have is that some meanness is shown by the other children towards Opal, but it all does work out in the end. Also the term "O Lord" is used a couple of times as an interjection. There is one occasion where Opal lies to protect a friend. And when one older friend says, "War is hell," another younger friend giggles and says that it is a "bad word," almost as though the author were making fun of people who object to the use of cursing in children’s literature. Aside from these things, I enjoyed reading the book. Language level: a few common euphemisms. Ages: 9-12. GOOD.

     Fox, Paula. Slave Dancer (published in 1973 by Bradbury Press Inc., New York City, NY; republished in 1975 by Dell Publishing, a divisionof Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY 10036). Set in 1840, this Newbery Medal winner is about thirteen-year-old Jessie Bollier who lived in New Orleans, LA. Because he could play the flute, he was kidnapped and taken aboard a slave ship bound for Africa so that he could play for the slaves to exercise on the way home. While unloading their cargo off Cuba, the slavers were spotted and chased by American patrol boats. The ship was wrecked in a storm off Mississippi, and only Jessie and one slave boy survived. This book deals with a very shameful aspect of American history that deserves to be told. The story is written in a very interesting style and realistically portrays life aboard a slave ship–for both the crew and the slaves. There are references to drinking alcohol, using tobacco, and other activities common to sailors of the time. The terms "Lord" and "God" are occasionally used as interjections, and the "d" word is found several times, including once by Jessie himself, which is a big disappoinment to me. While I do not necessarily suggest that we try to sugarcoat history, some writers tend to go overboard in trying to be "realistic." The ALA Booklist says that "bestial aspects of human nature" are "exposed but never exploited in Fox’s graphic, documentary prose." I guess it depends on one’s definition of "exploited." There are scenes where slaves are killed by callously being thrown overboard or shot. There are also rather explicit references to how people on ship take care of "the needs of nature." If you can stomach all this, you might find the book interesting, but it is not for smaller children. Language level: some cursing and profanity. Ages: intended for 12 and up but I would not recommend it to anyone under 16. FAIR.

     Garis, Howard R. Favorite Uncle Wiggily Animal Bedtime Stories (taken from Uncle Wiggily and Sammie and Susie Littletail published in 1910 by A. L. Burt Company, New York City, NY; republished in 1998 by Dover Publications Inc., 31 E. 2nd St., Mineola, NY 11501). When I was in first and second grade, we had an occasional substitute teacher who, whenever she came, brought a story book about the adventures of a rabbit named Uncle Wiggily which she would read to us. I really liked those stories, but through the years had never seen such a book again. Recently, the Homeschool Book Club listed Favorite Uncle Wiggily Animal Bedtime Stories in its newest catalogue because it is used with Heart of Dakota’s "Little Hearts for His Glory" primary curriculum. So I included it (just for my own personal, nostalgic, benefit) when I ordered curriculum this past summer. Unfortunately, when I called in my order, I was told that it was no longer available. Since it was published by Dover, I went to their website and found the same information (although they still listed a similar book Uncle Wiggily Bedtime Stories, accompanied by a cassette tape). Barnes and Noble’s website said the same thing but also carried several other Uncle Wiggily titles (e.g., Uncle Wiggily’s Adventures, Uncle Wiggily’s Travels, Uncle Wiggly’s Storybook, and Uncle Wiggily in the Woods). Garis was a reporter for the Newark, NJ, Evening News who, along with his wife and two children, ghost-wrote books such as the Tom Swift, Bobbsey Twins, and Baseball Joe series for Edward Stratemeyer. However, Garis’s publisher at the newspaper knew this and asked Howard to begin writing serialized bedtime stories for children of his own to be carried daily in the newspaper for moms and dads to read their youngsters off to sleep each night. Eventually, these stories were syndicated all over the country and continued for some fifty years. Apparently, some of the stories were published individually, because I have previously reviewed a small booklet Uncle Wiggily and the Sleds (dated 1939) which was given to me. These stories are very enjoyable for youngsters and usually have some kind of good moral or lesson involved. Language level: nothing objectionable. Ages: 5-10. EXCELLENT.

     Grace, Catherine O’Neill. The White House: An Illustrated History (published in 2003 by the White House Historical Association, Washington, DC; republished in 2004 by Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). This is a very attractive large sized paperback book of Scholastic Nonfiction about an extremely important Washington landmark and symbol of American government. As the author says, "The White House is also a symbol of our democratic elections. It reminds people that after elections our government changes hands peacefully." Chapter 1 details the history of the building and maintaining of the White House. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss activities in the White House, both work and celebrations. Chapter 4 is a tour of the White House room by room. And Chapter 5 talks about living in the White House. The Epilogue contains a listing of the Presidents who have lived there with anecdotes of each one’s relationship to it. Sprinkled throughout the book are special pages of "Faces and Voices" which detail various behind-the-scenes workers in the White House. And there are multitudes of pictures–historic black and whites, and sumptuous modern color photographs, including very endearing ones such as Teddy Roosevelt’s son Quentin on his pony Algonquin, Dwight Eisenhower barbecuing hamburgers on the terrace, and Ronald Reagan helping his grandchildren build a snowman in the Rose Garden (for her photos, Gerald Ford’s daughter Susan could have been a bit more modestly dressed!). This would make a very interesting addition to any study of American history. Language level: nothing objectionable. Ages: suitable for anyone; reading level probably 10-16. EXCELLENT.

     Hanes, Mari Dunagan. Pocahontas: True Princess (published in 1995 by Multnomah Books, a part of Questar Publishers Inc., P. O. Box 1720, Sisters, OR 97759). The Library of Congress Cataloguing Data lists this book as "Powhatan women–Biography" and "Powhatan Indians–History," but the author says, "In this fictionalized book I have tried to be true to history; the fictional parts of the story were added to tell true things about how an Algonquin princess might have lived and acted in the early 1600’s." So, it is a fictionalized biography. Many books have been written about Pocahontas, but of the ones that I have read, I like this the best because it tells not only "a young girl’s breathtaking story" but also "her amazing journey to faith in God." Unlike the Disney films, which really fictionalize things, this book attempts to reveal Pocahontas as history truly portrays her, praised as a hero and hailed as a princess. It begins with Pocahontas as a girl trying to stow away on her brothers’ canoe as they go to investigate the arrival of ships in the Chesapeake Bay (she is discovered and taken home), through her contact with John Smith, and ending with her voyage to England as the wife of planter John Rolfe. It glorifies neither the Indians nor the English (both had their bad eggs and their failings) but centers on Pocahontas as one who loved both and tried to maintain peace. The author wrote a sequel, Two Mighty Rivers: The Son of Pocahontas, which follows the life of Thomas Rolfe or Pepsicanough , the son of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, from his youth in Scotland and England through his return to Virginia to his reunion with his Algonquin relatives where he joins forces with a young girl named Jane Poythress to fulfill his mother’s dream of peace between her Algonquin tribe and the people of Jamestown. We were given a copy of Pocahontas. Unfortunately, both books are out of print, but several used copies of each were listed as available from $1.99. Language level: nothing objectionable. Ages: 8-12. EXCELLENT.

     National Geographic Society: "Kids Want to Know" books (published by the National Geographic Society, 1145 Seventeenth St. NW, Washington, DC 20036; republished by Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). I do not know how many of these 32-page, full color books by various authors there are in this series, but we borrowed ten from our local homeschool group library for Jeremy to read while he studies animals: How Animals Talk, Saving Our Animal Friends, Animal Families, Our Amazing Animal Friends, Along a Rocky Shore, Helping Our Animal Friends, Animals in Winter, Creatures of the Woods, Animals in Summer, and How Animals Care for Their Babies. The books are easy to read but contain a lot of interesting information along with many eye-catching photographs. In some National Geographic materials, one has to look out for the promotion of evolution, but while I did not read completely through all of these books, glancing at them casually and perusing a couple in more detail, I did not see any glaring instances of evolution mentioned. There is some environmentalism, but my experience with the National Geographic Society is that they are more "environmental friendly" rather than "environmental extreme." Language level: nothing objectionable. Ages: 8-12. GOOD.

     Rey, H. A. Find the Constellations (published in 1954, revised edition published in 1977, by Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Ave. South, New York City, NY 10003). For many of us, the first thing that we think about when we hear the name H. A. Rey is Curious George. There are no cute drawings of monkeys here, but the same artistic ability is used to draw stars, constellations, and planets. The focus is on the constellations and stars that can be seen at different times during the year in the northern hemisphere, along with stories from Greek mythology behind a couple of them. There is also a section about the planets of our solar system. This would make a wonderful introduction to astronomy for elementary aged students, or perhaps a supplement to a homeschool science curriculum. Language level: nothing objectionable. Ages: 8-12. EXCELLENT.

follow up on yesterday’s blog

Who Gets To Shape Your Kids’ Values?

by Joseph Farrah

[The day after the story in yesterday’s blog appeared, on Sept. 28, 2007, Joseph Farrah, who is editor in chief of WorldNetDaily.com, had the following comments to make about John Edward’s response.]

     I just read a stunning quote.

     It was so shocking I had to read it over several times to be sure I wasn’t seeing things.

     It’s a quote from Democratic Party presidential candidate John Edwards uttered at the most recent debate televised on MSNBC.

     In response to a question of whether he would be comfortable having a fairy tale read to his second-grader that ends with two men kissing and living happily ever after, Edwards had this to say: "… I don’t want to make that decision on behalf of my children. I want my children to be able to make that decision on behalf of themselves, and I want them to be exposed to all the information, even in (chuckling), what did you say, second grade? Well, second grade might be a little tough, but even in second grade, to be exposed to all those possibilities. Because I don’t want to impose my view – nobody made me God – I don’t get to decide on behalf of my family and my children. … I don’t get to impose on them what it is that I believe is right."

     In all my 53 years on this planet, I have never read a more idiotic, mindless, pandering, scary quote than this – certainly not from a serious candidate for president of the United States.

     Let’s pull it apart.

     "I don’t want to make that decision on behalf of my children. I want my children to be able to make that decision on behalf of themselves, and I want them to be exposed to all the information. …"

     Here’s a guy running for president of the United States. He wants to make all kinds of decisions that will impact your life, the lives of your children, your neighbors, people around the world. But he doesn’t want to make decisions about the moral education of his own children?

     Do you believe this?

     Would nothing offend him?

     If his child’s teacher read stories about bestiality to the class, would that bother him? Or would he reserve moral judgment? Would he let his own child decide what was right in his own eyes?

     I think it should be obvious from this quote that John Edwards is not only disqualified from being president of the United States, he should be disqualified from serving on a local school board.

     The man is nuts! He’s certifiable. He wants the children to decide. Has he never read Lord of the Flies?

     You know he doesn’t mean it when he says he wants second-graders exposed to "all the information." But he says it anyway, because he doesn’t want to offend a constituency he feels he needs to win the nomination. He would rather his children be morally molested in the classroom than take a stand against politically correct state indoctrination of his own children.

     This man makes me sick.

     He’s not only disqualified from serving on the school board, his children should be taken away from him. He’s disqualified from responsible parenthood.

     But that’s not the end of it. Let’s continue our analysis of this psychobabble from the trial lawyer.

     "Because I don’t want to impose my view – nobody made me God – I don’t get to decide on behalf of my family and my children. … I don’t get to impose on them what it is that I believe is right."

     If parents don’t get to shape the values of their children, who does?

     Evidently, John Edwards believes it is the role of the state.

     It’s kind of funny that he says, "Nobody made me God," because God actually charges parents with the responsibility of rearing their children. In other words, God wants parents to play God with their kids. He didn’t leave it to professionals. He didn’t leave it to schools. He didn’t leave it to kings. He didn’t even leave it to the priests. He left child-rearing to parents – and only to parents.

     I’ve been listening to Edwards make moral pronouncements about what he will do as president. He’ll impose on us national health care. He’ll impose on us same-sex marriage. He’ll impose on us draconian energy measures to fight "global warming."

     He has no problem "playing God" with our economy, with our most basic freedoms, with our Constitution, with our way of life.

     But please don’t ask him to make decisions about appropriate reading material for his 7-year-old. [Editor’s note: AMEN and AMEN!!! WSW.]

And what we can expect from some of our presidential candidates

      Yes, the 2008 presidential campaign is already underway. The very morning of the day (928/07) on which I wrote this item, I received a call from Fred Thompson’s campaign asking for support! Well the day before that, Thu., Sept. 27, 2007, Fox News reported, under the headling, "Democratic Candidates Say They’re OK With Second-Grade Teacher Reading Gay Prince Fairy Tale," that regarding a fairy tale about two princes falling in love sparked a backlash — and a lawsuit — against a teacher and a school last year when it was read to a second-grade class in Massachusetts, the three frontrunners in the Democratic presidential race suggested Wednesday night at their debate in New Hampshire that they’d support reading the controversial book to children as part of a school curriculum. John Edwards, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton were asked by Moderator Tim Russert whether they’d be comfortable having the story — called King & King — read to their children in school. Edwards gave the first and most definitive answer — a resounding and instant "yes, absolutely" — although he added that it "might be a little tough" for second-graders. Obama agreed with Edwards and revealed that his wife has already spoken to his 6- and 9-year-old daughters about same-sex marriage. Clinton said she believes it’s up to parents to decide how to handle such topics, but added that it’s important to teach kids about the "many differences that are in the world." Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, and while most of the Democratic candidates have said they oppose it, they don’t back the legislation to ban it and they apparently think it’s OK to teach elementary-school students about "gay" marriage. Edwards said, "I want my children to understand everything about the difficulties that gay and lesbian couples are faced with every day, the discrimination that they’re faced with every single day of their lives. I suspect my two younger children, Emma Claire, who’s 9, and Jack, who’s 7, will reach the same conclusion that my daughter Cate, who’s 25, has reached — which is, she doesn’t understand why her dad is not in favor of same-sex marriage." The 2004 vice presidential candidate and former North Carolina senator said he doesn’t want to influence his kids’ opinions about the issue. "I don’t want to make that decision on behalf of my children. I want my children to be able to make that decision on behalf of themselves, and I want them to be exposed to all the information, even in — did you say second grade? Second grade might be a little tough, but even in second grade to be exposed to all those possibilities, because I don’t want to impose my view. Nobody made me God." Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is vying for the Republican nomination for president, weighed in afterward with a statement accusing the Democratic candidates of being "out of touch" with America. Some Lexington, MA, parents were livid that a Joseph Estabrook Elementary School teacher read King & King to their second-grade children in class. The tale is about a prince whose mother pressures him to find a princess but who ends up falling in love with and marrying the brother of one of the prospective brides instead. Last year, a judge dismissed a federal lawsuit brought by two sets of parents of students in the class who objected to the introduction of homosexual themes to their 7-year-olds without alerting them first, on the grounds that it was a violation of the state’s sex-education parental notification clause. School officials stood by their decision to teach about different kinds of marriage and said that Massachusetts law requires them to do so. Well, here is another really good reason to homeschool!

What Christians can expect from some of our elected leaders:

      It is not my desire to become overly political in these blogs or my free e-mail homeschooling newsletter (biblicalhomeschooling-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/biblicalhomeschooling ), but after all, the government set up by our founding fathers is based upon a certain kind of "political" system, and in the current political climate I have found that, while there are exceptions, generally the Democrat party opposes the traditional Judaeo-Christian worldview that guided our founding fathers and the Republican party endorses and supports it. I also recognize that many homeschoolers do not consider themselves "Christians" or subscribe to a Judaeo-Christian worldview, but, after all, my newsletter is entitled BIBLICAL Homeschooling! On Sept. 28, 2007, WorldNetDaily.com reported, under the headline "Pelosi won’t condemn ‘gay’ slur of Last Supper," that a homosexual group named Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, describing itself as "21st century nuns for the queer," that mocks Christianity, planned a "Last Supper" in preparation for the San Francisco Folsom Street Fair. Scheduled for Sunday, the annual sadomasochistic "leather event" features public displays of nudity and sexual acts. The Last Supper poster promoting the Folsom Street Fair replaces the bread and wine with sex toys and depicts Jesus Christ and his disciples as "half-naked homosexual sadomasochists." It says, "There is no better way to prepare your mortal flesh for the kinkiest weekend on Earth than to nourish your bones and boost your spirit with a divine feast: The Last Supper With The Sisters, at Eureka Restaurant … " When asked to respond to this "gay"-festival’s promo mocking the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, the chief spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a dismissive, almost flippant quip. "As a Catholic, the speaker is confident that Christianity has not been harmed," said Drew Hammill, the San Francisco Democrat’s press secretary. Concern Women for America noted that Pelosi, a major supporter of homosexual activism, will receive an award Oct. 6 from the "gay rights" group Human Rights Campaign. CWA has asked California’s elected officials – including Pelosi, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer – to "publicly condemn this unprovoked attack against Christ and His followers." Matt Barber, CWA’s policy director for cultural issues, said his organization has "photographic evidence the San Francisco government suspends indecency and child abuse laws for a day allowing fair goers to parade the streets of San Francisco, fully nude, engaging in illegal public sex while taxpayer funded police stand-by and do nothing." Barber pointed out that children have attend the event, exposing them to "this activity which is illegal child abuse." Now, if they had pictured Mohammed, or Martin Luther King in this way….

Homeschooling father and gospel preacher Oscar Miles reported:

      According to the Santa Rose Press Democrat, Rebekah Rice was reprimanded in 2003, when she was 15, for an alleged anti-gay slur. Rice is a Mormon, and when fellow students at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, California., taunted her repeatedly with such jeers as, "Do you have 10 moms?" she finally broke, responding, "That’s so gay!" Her parents sued to have the reprimand removed from her record, because the school did nothing to prevent the religious invectives hurled against their daughter. The judge said that being picked on and teased is part of being a teenager, so the reprimand stays. We agree that Rice needs to learn not to retaliate, and that use of "gay" is not appropriate. But the judge needs to learn that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, because, as Randy Cassingham notes, "The message to children: religious discrimination is fine, but using the preferred word of a protected group in a negative way is an intolerable hate crime" (This is True, 5-21-2007).