Dr. Hector Avalos Responds to Claim that Sandy Hook Massacre Was Result of Banning Prayer, 10 Commandments in Schools

Dr. Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University.

Dr. Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University.

My colleague, Dr. Hector Avalos of Iowa State University, has written a letter to the Editor of the Des Moines Register that swiftly exposes the fallacy of claiming that “a lack of prayer in schools, along with a refusal to display the Ten Commandments in schools” allowed the Sandy Hook Massacre to occur.

Dr. Avalos writes a well-reasoned argument that is succinct and rooted in facts. He writes:

Second, there is no statistical correlation between the exercise of prayer, or respect for the Ten Commandments, and some immunity to mass shootings. Perhaps Austin forgot that 10 Amish girls were shot in 2006 at an Amish school in Lancaster County, Pa. Amish schools allow prayer, and respect the Ten Commandments.

Give it a read.

Response to Dr. James Dobson, who blames Sandy Hook school massacre on gays, abortion

Dr. James Dobson (right) with Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

Dr. James Dobson (right) with Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

For all of you who once respected him, we’ve unfortunately come to witness Dr. James Dobson devolve over the past several years into nothing more than a right wing fundamentalist.

Dobson recently said the following on his morning program, Family Talk, regarding the Sandy Hook massacre:

“I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition.  Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us.  I think that’s what’s going on.” (audio here)

Dear Mr. Dobson,

Please stop. Just stop. Please stop telling us what you think God thinks (which, not coincidentally, happens to be precisely what the Evangelical GOP talking points tell you to think). In fact, please contact Pat Robertson and come to some agreement to retire together, because you’ve both absolutely lost your minds!

There are plenty of quality, good-hearted, kind, loving, and yes, faithful teachers in our public schools, and they give their entire lives to and for their kids (as we’ve recently seen at Sandy Hook Elementary). Why insult them by failing to acknowledge their efforts? Why judge them just because the government won’t let you force non-Christian elementary school kids to pray to Jesus (otherwise known as that maddening drum you refer to as “School Prayer” that you incessantly beat)?

Are you so blind to the thousands of good and loving teachers in our public schools – many of whom are devout Christians! – that you’d say “we’ve” (and therefore, “they’ve“) “turned their backs on God” just because the guy you voted for lost the Presidency?

Will you REALLY blame gays and abortion for the Newtown shootings? Is your God so small, so weak, and so readily obliging that he is somehow forced to abide by US domestic policy? Is your God so childishly petulant that he throws a fit in the form of a schoolhouse slaughter when he’s not honored enough? Not praised enough?

Enough! Retire already. But whatever you do, please stop talking nonsense.

Or, here’s a thought: focus on your own damn family, and stop criticizing mine, you theologically impotent, thoughtless hack.


Robert R. Cargill

Focus on your OWN damn family.

Conservative Christian Priorities

My Conservative Christian Priorities (by Robert R. Cargill, 2012)Conservative Christians have spent more time defending their right to assault weapons this week than I ever recall having seen them defend the hungry, the poor, the sick (except to oppose their proposed healthcare), or the imprisoned. (Cf. Matt. 25:31-45)

Priorities are very telling.

There are poor in the world: “Meh.”
We should create healthcare for them: “No way, socialist!”
You probably shouldn’t have semi-automatic assault weapons anymore: “Christian soldiers, to arms!”

It HAS to change. It’s ABOUT to change.

The guns Adam Lanza used to kill Sandy Hook Elementary School children were NOT “stolen”

Stolen guns.

Stolen guns.

For the record:

The weapons Adam Lanza used to slaughter children at Sandy Hook Elementary weren’t exactly “stolen from the owner”. I know those defending the ability to purchase and possess assault weaponry want these to be “stolen” guns, and keep referring to them as “stolen” guns, but that’s not really the case.

The guns were household items. According to reports, Adam Lanza had access to them while living at home. His mother reportedly took him to the range to shoot the weapons. The mother bragged about owning the weapons and made very clear the reason why she had them, had many of them, and had quick access to them.

These were not weapons, for instance, that were stolen from a gun shop and then used to commit a crime; they were household items to which the killer had regular access.

If while living at home, a kid takes his dad’s shovel from the shed (the one that he uses to do his usual yard work and chores) and instead uses it to kill the neighbor’s cat, it’s not a “stolen” shovel. It’s still a crime, but the shovel isn’t reported as “stolen”. The kid had regular access to it.

Photo from the Hillcrest Baptist Church

NOT “stolen” gun. Photo from the Hillcrest Baptist Church “Father-son Gun Shoot”. (NOTE: The weapons aren’t shotguns..)

Or if, let us say (completely hypothetically of course) that a church (likely Baptist – see link at right) held an annual father-son breakfast and gun shoot, and the kids were taught and encouraged (as some form of evangelism, Bible study, of parental bonding in the name of Jesus) to shoot weapons by their parents, and then if the kids, while living at home and while having access to the same guns they are accustomed to shooting, used these guns to commit a crime, you’d have a hard time arguing that the guns were “stolen”. (Of course, the parents might claim that the teenager “stole” the gun to avoid legal liability, but the guns would be better classified as “proud household items”, not items “stolen” from somewhere or someone else.)

[For more on the dangers of giving kids access to unnecessary assault weapons, read this very sad case.]


NOT “stolen” gun. (The proud parent is even taking a picture of his son shooting an Uzi.)

A better example is the terrible scenario of when a kid living at home takes mom’s car (which he has driven before with his mom, and alone with his mother’s permission), and hits someone with the car and kills them. The police don’t consider the car a “stolen” vehicle, especially if the kid is listed on the mom’s insurance, and especially if mom had given the car to her child in the past, and even taken him to the range to drive the car for practice. Again, the mom might claim that the car was “stolen” to avoid legal liability, but I’m pretty certain that the victim’s family would have success arguing that the child had regular access and permission to drive the family’s car.

Gun advocates want to frame the weapons used by Adam Lanza as “stolen” so they can argue that banning assault weapons won’t stop “thieves” from “stealing” legal assault weapons (say, those owned by law enforcement officials), and then using these “stolen” weapons to commit crimes. They want to classify the Adam Lanza’s weapons as “stolen” so they can make a rhetorical defense of assault weapons and argue that new legislation against assault weapons won’t stop “thieves” from “stealing” them.

The only problem is that the weapons that Adam Lanza used weren’t “stolen”. They were household goods, proudly passed down from generation to generation (as gun advocates are wont to say). They belonged to his family, just like the car. It may have been registered in mom’s name, but it was the family car. And they were the family’s weapons. She may have kept the guns locked (again, like the car, and like the shed), but they were still the family’s guns.

NOT "stolen" gun

NOT “stolen” gun

The fact that some would resort to the rhetorical reclassification of weapons used to commit a crime in order to defend the ownership of assault weapons is a not only a transparently fallacious argument, but it betrays the weakness of the advocates of assault-weapons’ position.

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