Two stories came across my feed reader today, covering two situations where a person’s religiousness has affected others around them. Others who may or may not share the religion. It’s infuriating that these actions are tolerated in some circles simply because they are considered to be religious in nature.

The first one is from the BBC, which describes the case of a Jewish couple who are taking legal action after the management company in charge of their holiday apartment installed motion-triggered lights.

This is, apparently, religious discrimination because their religion dictates that they are not allowed to switch on any lights during the Sabbath (or Shabbat). That anyone can even begin to think this is a valid legal claim seems absurd.

The orthodox Jewish rules surrounding the Sabbath are certainly some of the strangest in major religion. Many Jews find ways of circumventing the rules, enabling them to live reasonably normal lives on the Sabbath. This includes setting electrical equipment on timers and the employment of “Shabbot Goys“, people who perform tasks on the Sabbath. It seems like the rules are being technically adhered to, but not spiritually adhered to.

The issue here is that the other residents of the apartments will end up paying the legal fees to fight these absurd claims (personally, I don’t think they should dignify it with a response. To respond is to lend credibility). One the one hand you’ve got the entirely sensible, responsible approach of having motion triggered lights (not only are they ecologically friendly, but as they are triggered when needed they also represent a safe environment) while on the other hand you’ve got ridiculous religious beliefs that are only tolerated because they are based on religion. If this couple claimed that they were simply scared of these lights (witchcraft!), they would be laughed out of court.

And let’s not forget, it truly is fear that’s driving this, the punishment for breaking these rules is death. So if these people are to be believed, simply walking out of their door and inadvertently turning on a light on the Sabbath means they should be put to death. If that alone doesn’t sum up the ridiculousness of the situation, then I’m afraid nothing will.

The second story comes from opposing views and it titled “Religious Right Pushes Creationism Into Ohio School“. I mention the title specifically because it underplays the severity of the situation. The story, originally sourced from The Columbus Dispatch, talks of the case of a teacher who has filed a lawsuit against the school board claiming that they have violated his constitutional and civil rights by trying to stop him from promoting his religion in the classroom.

A more sensible view to take would be to say that the children’s human, constitutional and civil rights would be violated were he allowed to promote Christianity in the classroom. But we shouldn’t really be expecting anything sensible from the religious right, should we. So in what way was he trying to promote his religiousness?

“The board announced last June that it intended to fire Freshwater for preaching his Christian beliefs about how the world began, discrediting evolution and deviating from the required science curriculum. An investigation initiated by the board found that Freshwater used a high-voltage lab tool to burn crosses into the arms of students and that he told them gays were sinners.

Wait, what? This isn’t about religion, this is about common assault and his views on sexuality. He burned children’s arms with a lab tool. He told them homosexuals were sinners. This isn’t someone we should be allowing the freedom of legal action, he should be locked up with the key thrown away. He branded children with a religious mark, can you imagine the outrage that would occur were this a pentagram he scared them with and not a cross?

There are certainly some oddities in this story. Not least the teacher involved, John Freshwater, who is actually an eighth-grade science teacher. In my mind, anyone who accepts creationism, or intelligence design, or any deity, is inherently unqualified to be a science teacher. How can you talk with any experience of the scientific method when you accept ridiculous claims that simply crumble when exposed to any level of scrutiny. In my mind, the two things are simply incompatible.

It’s easy to be outraged by any aspect of this story. We have a science teacher peddling lies to trusting students, a teacher physically abusing students and then the perpetrator of these acts trying to claim he is a victim. I really don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just end there and throw it open to you.