“Atheist Family Who Complained About Holiday Celebrations Awarded $12K After School Barred Daughter” – (CBC News British Columbia)

Here, we have a story that is equal parts eyebrow raising and cringe inducing. Full disclosure . . . I would be lying if I said this didn’t play into my confirmation bias as per my view of many vocal nu-atheist types. However, as stated in the article, its hard to avoid this reaction.

Lets just get this over with. . .


B.C. human rights tribunal awards family $12K for discrimination after school barred child from attending

An atheist family whose child was not allowed to re-enrol in preschool after her parents fought against classroom Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations has been awarded $12,000 by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The case wasn’t about whether the school should be allowed to display Christmas ornaments or dreidels, or if teachers can discuss religion and holy days with their young charges. Instead, it was about the school’s response to the parents’ complaints — a response the tribunal described as discrimination.

The dispute began when Gary Mangel and Mai Yasué, two outspoken atheists, were told their daughter would not be allowed to continue to attend Bowen Island Montessori School (BIMS) unless they signed an agreement confirming their “understanding and acceptance” of all aspects of the school’s cultural program.

Uh. I can feel the social media zombies reactionary idiocy building as I type this.

“Keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas! If you don’t agree with what I say, get the hell out of my country!”

Firstly. . . piss off.

If you are inclined to quote the above, you . . . don’t know things. Consider yourself lucky to have been born in a paradigm (the western world) which allows the soaring to ever greater heights . . . of people that don’t know things.

So far this looks fairly cut and dry. But it gets more . . . nuanced?

I’m unsure if I feel comfortable using that word interchangeably with stupid or idiotic.

“At its core, it is about a letter which held [a child]’s registration hostage to a demand,” tribunal member Barbara Korenkiewicz wrote in her Tuesday decision on the case.

According to the decision, the events that led to that letter included emotional confrontations, “veiled” Islamophobia and even a mock Nazi salute.

That certainly shakes things up. Assuming it follows though. Which it seems to.

Uh. . .

‘No discussion of Santa Claus’

Mangel and Yasué’s three-year-old was attending BIMS in 2014 when they heard about the school’s plans for the month of December, which included decorating elf ornaments and potentially also lighting candles on a menorah.

Mangel, who was on the board of directors for the school, wrote an email to other members saying it wasn’t appropriate for preschoolers to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or any other “religious/political event” — including, he said, Remembrance Day.

“I certainly hope that there will be no discussion of Santa Claus at BIMS. I am absolutely against anyone blatantly lying to my daughter,” Mangel wrote.

This is where things get . . . interesting.

These parents raise an interesting issue of religion and school separation, for starters. If faculty oversee activities involving religious symbol’s without actually preaching (indoctrination), does this cross the line? And as for unreligious fables such as Santa and the tooth fairy, is playing with this symbolism also stepping over the line?

A part of me (my inner nu-atheist) is hesitant to the idea. But I also can’t help but think that the activities are just playing on what children are already bringing to the table. Your teacher doesn’t need to indoctrinate you into religious or nonreligious fables. Popular culture (not to mention parental and environmental influences) generally do that already.

Should educator’s be reinforcing these beliefs though artsy fun activities?

Good question.

However, outside of obvious intent, to call this lying is a stretch even for me.Should one be allowed to opt their child out of such activities?


Should the rest of the students not be allowed to participate on account to one families stance?

That . . . is a tricky one to answer. Without more detail, its hard not to become reactionary.

Over the next few months, the dispute snowballed as the couple exchanged colourful and occasionally testy emails with the school’s board and had tense meetings with staff about the religious and cultural content of the curriculum. They also objected to celebrations of Easter and Valentine’s Day, holidays they believe have become too tied up in materialism and consumerism.

The standoff reached a climax in June 2015, when the school asked Mangel and Yasué to sign off on their acceptance of the curriculum, which emphasizes multiculturalism. When they refused, the little girl wasn’t allowed to return to school in the fall, according to the decision.

That demand amounted to discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry and religion, Korenkiewicz said.

“I find nothing in the evidence that could justify the refusal to register [the child] unless Dr. Yasué and Mr. Mangel essentially agreed that they would be significantly limited in their ability to raise issues about the cultural aspects of the BIMS program,” Korenkiewicz wrote.

She said the school should pay the child $2,000 and the parents $5,000 each as compensation for the discrimination.

I don’t really disagree with the settlement. But I’m not sure I agree with the financial penalties. But lets learn more.

Unacceptable behaviour

That’s despite some conduct by Mangel that strayed “beyond the acceptable,” in Korenkiewicz’s words.

For instance, when Mangel learned the school planned to include clay elf decorations in its December festivities, he wrote an email to the board objecting, and suggested some “atheist Christmas ornaments” that would better represent the views of his family.

That included one that simply says “Skeptic,” and another that depicted the World Trade Center in New York with the caption “Atheists don’t fly airplanes into buildings.”

The latter, according to Korenkiewicz, was nothing more than “a veiled form of Islamophobia.”

And in comes the nuance.

I like the idea of so called atheist holiday ornaments, though I would not name them such. Had these parents had some tact and class, they could have suggested something ambiguous. For example, asking the child to create an ornament based around what the holidays mean to THEM.But clearly, the Sam Harris-esk nu-atheistic rhetoric was too strong to overcome.

Skeptic is not a bad ornament decorator. I personally disagree with such a usage since most that use terms like that as labels (skeptic, nuanced, rational, logical) almost certainly prove in practice that they don’t REALLY know what those terms mean. Skepticism, much like rationalism, logic, and nuance, is demonstrated.


As for the “Atheists don’t fly airplanes into buildings” suggestion, however . . . REALLY?!

I’m not sure that I would go as far as to calling it veiled islamophobia. But it really is stupid.

I understand where this is coming from. I was prone to making such a statement just a few years ago. However, I now more comprehend that the world is a big and complicated place, impacted by far more factors than religion alone. Aside from the fact that I could likely cough up examples of atheist terrorism, that is not explicitly the point. Humans are great at harnessing all manor of ideology for vengeful means. If its not religion, than its its politics, race . . . anything.

Religion may be argued to be the biggest source of internal strife to our species. But the solution to our warlike tendencies is far more complex than wiping out a single source of ideology which happens to thrive in this stasis.

Frankly, I don’t think were going to get there. Though if ANYONE has any hope, its the creators of artificial intelligence. You can’t correct for the biases of the human condition without developing an understanding of them in the first place.

Its easy to get humans to showcase even unrealized bias, but having them ADMIT this to themselves (let alone someone else) is a whole other story. Otherwise known as, the seeming majority of skeptic YouTube content of the last few years. Its all about creative excuses for this behavior (as opposed to simply CONSIDERING that there may be an issue at hand).

Humans are terrible in situations which nessesitate unbiased thinking. Which is why AI has become an area of interesting to me. Aside from the fear mongering driven by jackasses like Elon Musk, the next most common fear is biases with AI which influences our lives. Not an unreasonable fear, given the many examples of racist, sexist and otherwise biased AI algorithms that have made the news prior (and following) today. But while this LOOKS bad, it can be corrected for.

Unlike judges, juries, and otherwise humans in general. People operating (often unknowingly) on account to who knows how many biases. The TV show Bull illustrates this more brilliantly than anything else I have ever come across (aside from good ole human interaction).


Well, there goes THAT show. Damnit . . .

Humans are brilliantly creative when it comes to sowing division. Myopic targeting of religion is just an admission of ignorance of, EVERYTHING ELSE.

But don’t fret. Even so called intellectuals get this wrong.

The tribunal also heard about an uncomfortable conversation Mangel had with the husband of a BIMS administrator. They were discussing the use of religious symbols at the school when the husband pointed out that children in public schools still sing the national anthem even though it includes the word “God.”

“Mangel responded, ‘I’ll sue them too’ and then began doing the Nazi salute and marching around while he sung a different version of O Canada,” Korenkiewicz wrote.

Good grief.

Mangel told the tribunal he understood he was being politically incorrect but the display was meant to be a “preposterous analogy.”

School board president Maria Turnbull described the $12,000 award to the family as a “meaningful sum,” and said BIMS officials will need to examine how they can pay it.

She told CBC News: “What the decision provides is a level of certainty that is valued by the school, and we look forward to getting 100 per cent back to our focus on the young people.”

I love the last word on the part of the school board president. Not vindictive, not condemning. Just . . . practical. Glad that this is over so we can reengage in our real focus . . . their students education.

Brilliant passive aggressive slap if I ever saw one. Bravo.

To cap this all off, I don’t know the whole story. I don’t know what the board is leaving out. I don’t know what the family is leaving out. But judging by how it looks, the family MAY have had a case. But they made complete asses out of both themselves and the movement they represent. Should they have been forced out?

Probably not.

However, it doesn’t seem like they were interested in coming to a compromise, which is important in such a situation. Something that does not surprise me, because its completely aligned with typical nu-atheistic behaviors and attitudes. They don’t want too work with fellow nonbelievers or Nones (as has become a common label in the mainstream) to forward progress. They just want to work with atheists. If you can’t admit to what you are, you can’t join our club.

Keep following that brand building trajectory, my self professed atheist allies.

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