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Fundamentally Aware


Bringing America’s Own Religious Extremism to the Forefront

March 7, 2003

Volume 1, Number 2


“A blockbuster

exposé of the activities of the

Religious Right,”

says JOHN SHELBY SPONG best-selling author of Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism


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“I have just read this brilliant book from start to finish, almost without a break, and I am stunned and horrified by what I have learned,” says RICHARD DAWKINS author of Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder


From the publisher



Welcome back to Fundamentally Aware, my complimentary newsletter for creating greater awareness of the dangers of America ’s own religious extremism. If you’re not yet a subscriber, be sure to sign up. You’ll find details in the lower left column.


Whether you’re a subscriber or not, please feel free to forward my newsletter along to others.


In this issue, read an excerpt from The Fundamentals of Extremism on the status of women in early American history, in recognition of Women’s History Month.


Also discover the dilemmas and tragedies that students of minority religions face and that are likely to increase with the new federal school prayer guidelines.


Finally, I’d like to point out an important omission from my previous newsletter.  A reader reminded me that, although Tom Delay was House Majority Whip at the time he made his morally superior comment about Christianity, Delay is now House Majority Leader. As Trey Greene points out, “for all practical purposes, [he is] third in succession to the Presidency of the United States , in the event of the disability of the President, and of the Vice President and of the Speaker of the House.”


Please feel free to share your comments with me on any of the issues in my newsletter.


Kimberly Blaker






  1. Patriarchal Beginnings


  2. Politically Incorrect


  3. New School Prayer Guidelines Insensitive to

      Minority Faiths.


  4. Pioneers of Women's Equality


Patriarchal Beginnings


The following is excerpted from Chapter 4: Eternal Subservience—Created from Man for Man by Kimberly Blaker in The Fundamentals of Extremism.


The origins of patriarchy are unclear. Some scholars believe it began to develop during the Paleolithic Age, when women were stolen from other bands. Others believe Indo-Europeans transformed what was once a matrifocal society into a patriarchal one.[i] Biologist Richard Dawkins points out that it likely dates back long before the Indo-Europeans and that “a case can be made that it goes way back in evolution.”[ii]


Regardless of when it first came to be practiced, it has been prevalent in different societies throughout history. In America , women were historically “ruled” by their fathers and husbands and often married into a life of servitude. This revolved solely around caring for and educating their children, keeping the home, working in the fields,[iii] and catering to their husband’s every need.


Coverture, a concept based on Anglo-American common law, which was gradually abandoned by the various states throughout the nineteenth century, defined the status of married women.[iv] “Under the common law doctrine of coverture, a wife, like a slave, was civilly dead. A slave had no independent legal existence apart from his master, and husband and wife became ‘one person,’ the person of the husband,” explains Carole Pateman,[v] a leading political theorist.


Only men were able to request divorces. Women could not write wills, sign contracts, or obtain loans. They had very limited property rights. Male authority was well established both within the home and in public. In most parts of the country, women could be raped or beaten by their husbands with no laws to protect them. Women also had little access to education, and although they did often help produce income for the family, they were limited to only certain types of work.[vi]


By the nineteenth century, some women began to demand equality in the home. But contrary to what would be expected, industrialization in the mid part of the century brought more rather than fewer restrictions on women. They came to be seen as guardians of “domestic virtues.” Men became the sole income producers, and the strictures on women’s traditional roles became tighter.[vii] Yet, at the same time, a distinctive female culture began to arise, and female relationships began to intensify. These social networks would ultimately lead to woman’s reform.[viii]


In 1848, the woman’s movement was launched when Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton called a women’s rights convention, held in Seneca Falls , New York . Its purpose was “to discuss the social, civil, and religious rights of women.” Out of the convention came a “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions,” stating “all men and women are created equal.” The goals of the women’s movement were defined.


In 1859, reliable condoms became available, and women gained the ability to limit their family size. This played a crucial role in gaining equality, as women were no longer forced into roles of lifelong childrearing. A Women’s Suffrage Amendment was introduced to the United States Congress in 1878. Still, women’s rights progressed slowly and were fought tooth and nail, not only by men, but also by women.


In 1897, Susan B. Anthony predicted, “there never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.” She was right. Forty-two years after its introduction, the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920. After that milestone, the pace toward women’s equality gained momentum.[ix]



Read more on this, including a brief history of the fundamentalist fight against the feminist movement as well as how sexist attitudes develop and the relationship to fundamentalism in The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America.


Politically Incorrect


Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) told reporters in late 2001 that public schools should sponsor prayer "at this very crisis moment in our history," ignoring the Supreme Court ruling against it. Perry allowed and defended a prayer "in Jesus’ name" lead by a Protestant minister during a middle school assembly in Palestine , Texas , that was held on October 22, 2001 .


Church & State December 2001


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Fundamentally Aware

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New Prayer Guidelines Insensitive to Minority Faiths


The recent allegations by India Tracy, a Pagan teen, are an alarming example of the inherent flaws in the new federal school-prayer guidelines issued early this month. According to the guidelines, students cannot be prohibited from religious expression so long as the student retains control over the content of his or her speech and that the students who speak have been selected in a neutral manner.


It’s bad enough that children of various religious beliefs or nonbelievers will feel excluded when the prayer of any faith is recited. But in addition to numerous other objections, the maliciousness that can result when vocal prayer and religious speech enter school-sponsored events, regardless of who initiates it, is the most compelling argument against it.


Fourteen-year-old India was allegedly subjected to ongoing abuse at her elementary school and, more recently, at Horace Maynard Middle School , in Union County , Tennessee . Her unwillingness to participate in Christian religious activities and the prejudicial views held by students and faculty, who could not accept her because of her beliefs, led to ridicule and worse.


In the Union County schools, overt religious activity that should never have entered or been endorsed by the public schools, was commonplace.  In one instance, India was in the position of having to refuse to play the role of Mary in a Christmas play. She was also required by the school to attend Bible study classes during the day and could not even escape prayer, which she was urged to lead.


The school also participated in an annual Christian fundamentalist Area Wide Crusade, with India being the only child in the school that didn’t attend. 


But this is only a glimpse at the frightening situation the young teen endured.  According to the Tracy family, the girl was subjected to name-calling and rumors that she was a witch, a lesbian, a Satan worshipper, and that she ate babies.  She had been physically and violently attacked a number of times. She also suffered having her head bashed nearly a dozen times.


Contrary to what would be expected, the maltreatment came, not only from misbehaving students, but also from teachers and even the principal.  Despite being an “A” student and well-behaved, India , reportedly, was harassed by her bus driver who repeatedly questioned India ’s church attendance in front of other students.  The young girl, according to her parents, was even sent to the principal’s office a number of times when she didn’t participate in religious activities, where the principal questioned her about her religion.


One would hope this is a rare example of the bigotry that students of minority religions face.  But such intolerance is all too often the case. 


In February 2001, Tempest Smith of Lincoln Park, Michigan, hung herself after being endlessly tormented and taunted by her peers because of her Wiccan beliefs.

And three students in Santa Fe , New Mexico , were accused of threatening to hang a 13-year-old Jewish student, Phil Nevelow, in June 2000. His father said the boy was a victim of continual harassment that included being surrounded by students making the “Hail Hitler" sign, drawing swastikas on book covers, and provoking with anti-Semitic chants.

According to William Harrell, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, even some teachers had participated in harassing the only Jewish student in the school. Not surprisingly, prayer at graduation ceremonies and football games had been a problem in the district.

These situations are exactly what arise when a dominant religion is given a free-for-all in public places, especially public schools.  It’s one thing to subject adults to the misdeeds that arise from other adults when boundaries between church and state are crossed. It’s quite another to put children in this position.


When religion is allowed to enter school-sponsored events, students who don’t practice become branded for their differences.


Life is often a turbulent emotional ride for youth, especially in their early teens.  Socializing and fitting-in are of utmost importance both to their self-esteem and to discovering who they are.  And how they come to perceive of themselves during these years will follow them all of their lives. 


I find it a tragedy that some people are so consumed with uplifting their own religion that they feel it necessary to impose it on others, when they have all the freedom in the world to practice outside of public schools and even to practice and pray silently within. 



Kimberly Blaker is editor and coauthor of The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America . Visit for details.  Read previously published columns of The Wall™ at http://www.thewall-onchurchandstate/com © 2003, Kimberly Blaker





Pioneers of Women’s Equality


by Kimberly Blaker


Women throughout history have taken risks to bring us independence.  The following are just a few who championed women’s rights.


Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), co-founder of the National Woman Suffrage Association, dedicated much of her life to the women’s movement.  Among other things, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, married women’s property rights, and equal wages for female teachers.  Anthony coined the phrase, “Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.” This became the motto of the National Woman Suffrage Association.  In 1868, Anthony organized the Working Women’s Association in her campaign for better working conditions and fair pay for women.  Anthony published The Revolution from 1868 to 1870.  She also took part in drafting a proposal on which the Nineteenth Amendment was later based, and she coauthored the History of Woman Suffrage, 1881 to 1886.  In 1904, she founded the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in Berlin .  She also organized the International Council of Women.


Betty Friedan (1921-) wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, which began the contemporary women’s movement in Britain and the United States .  Her book was a challenge to long-held attitudes that woman’s place was in the home.   In 1966, she founded the National Organization for Women; in 1971, the National Women’s Political Caucus; and then, in 1973, the First Women’s Bank.  Friedan was also an organizer of the 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality. She later authored It Changed My Life (1976) and The Second Stage (1981), both related to the women’s movement.


Alice Paul (1885-1977), of the radical women’s camp, organized a suffrage parade in Washington D.C. in 1913, on the day of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.  Although violence ensued, it helped the women’s movement to unite.  Four years later, the fearless Paul was jailed during a picketing of the White House along with nearly 100 other suffragists.  They were charged with “obstructing traffic.” Most of the women were with the National Woman’s Party that Paul had recently founded.  Her group also did a hunger strike that year and had to be force-fed.  Paul worked unstoppably toward the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and the Equal Rights Amendment.  In 1938, she founded the World Woman’s Party. 

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), a nurse, founded the National Birth Control League in 1917 that would later become Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sanger’s commitment toward birth control and reproductive freedom for all women was a result of the horrifying images of death and deformity, caused by self-induced abortions, she had witnessed.  In 1916, she opened the first birth-control clinic in the United States , in Brooklyn , and was briefly sent to prison.  


Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association and became its first president.  Outspoken and even better known in her day than Anthony, Stanton went before the New York State legislature in 1855, where she argued for expansion of the Married Woman’s Property Law.  Along with Anthony, Stanton started The Revolution, a newspaper on women’s rights.  She co-authored the History of Women’s Suffrage, 1881-1886.  Then, in 1895, she published The Woman’s Bible critiquing Biblical passages that supported the subordination of women.  Stanton was the author of the Nineteenth Amendment and organized the International Council of Women in Washington D.C.




Despite significant achievements by these and many other American women, a large and growing segment of society continues to work diligently toward undermining women’s equality.  The following links offer examples of those who, still today, seek to keep women down



Article Sources:


The First Women Who Spoke Out by Nancy Smiler Levinson

Webster’s New World Encyclopedia

The New Webster’s International Encyclopedia

American History: A Survey by Alan Brinkley

Sociology: An Introduction by Richard J. Gelles

Sociology by Rodney Stark





[i] Lynn Hunt et al., The Challenge of the West: Peoples and Cultures from the Stone Age to 1640, (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1995), 1:19 .

[ii] Richard Dawkins note to Kimberly Blaker 24 October 2002.

[iii] Alan Brinkley, American History: A Survey, Volume I: To 1877 9th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1995), 291-92.

[iv] “Women in American History by Encyclopedia Britannica,” Britannica Online [online] [cited 8 May 2002 ]; available at

[v] Carole Pateman, 1988 “The Sexual Contract”

[vi] Brinkley, American History, 291-92.

[vii] Brinkley, American History, 291-92.

[viii] Brinkley, American History, 291-92.

[ix] Kimberly Blaker, “In Remembrance of Women’s Freedom,” Rochester Woman, March 2002, 23.

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