Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Zero's "Politifact" Goes After Claims About Rigler Elementary

Let's go back to the beginning. We received a phone call at the program on KPAM 860 from the relative of a Rigler teacher who claimed that, unlike any other children of faith, Muslim kids were allowed to use school facilities to pray as often as they wished (Muslim adherents can pray up to five times per day) and had their gear stored at school in a room to accommodate their needs when they wanted to pray. 

We checked it out and found out from a school official it was true. My producer contacted Matt Shelby, the spokesman for Portland Public Schools, whom I was told was checking into it but said that of course they did make accommodations for children of faith. So it was a half confirmation, if you will. (here's the original post complete with his comments) Shelby has now confirmed that children have used the accommodations before but he claims it's been a long time.  He's attempting to suggest that I "LIED" about the situation at Rigler. That is NOT true. I did not lie. I may have conflated his "checking it out" with the other confirmations but it's not a lie--intentional or otherwise. In fact his subsequent email/comment on the blog (which was held up because, a) it awaited moderation, b) while I checked out his claim) actually CONFIRMS the accommodation at Rigler. 
Here's Matt's email/comment to the blog:
    The reader board in Spanish advertises: days with no school in November, Parent Teacher conferences and Book Fair.
    Rigler School does not have any students that pray as part of their school day. This includes, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Mormons and other groups mentioned in the article.
    Consequently, the school does not have any space or equipment devoted to any type of religious practice at school
    Four years ago, Rigler did have two brothers who asked permission to pray during their lunch during Ramadan. The school did give them a quiet space to use; they missed no instructional time to do so and only prayed once a day.
    Those are the facts.
    Remind me when you or Eric spoke to me about this. I don't recall.
    Matt Shelby
    PPS Communications
When Matt refers to the reader board at Rigler he's referring to a reader board in front of the school which is all in Spanish. I translated the reader board. I was being sarcastic and engaging in what we call satire when I said in the caption: 
I actually know a little Spanish, hence I actually read most of it right. The "prayer rug" reference was satire. I figured I'm not the only person who knows a little Spanish and that most people would know it was a joke. 
Now let's get to the part where Shelby says the school has no students who pray as part of their day,
"This includes, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Mormons and other groups mentioned in the article."
Since children of other faiths don't require separate places to pray during the day and Muslims are the only adherents who pray as many as five times a day, his reference to other religions is immaterial. People of other faiths don't have to go to another room--provided by the school by the way--and pray, therefore this is a moot point.
And here's where we get to it. Shelby confirms that the district has provided a spot at the school to pray.
Four years ago, Rigler did have two brothers who asked permission to pray during their lunch during Ramadan. The school did give them a quiet space to use; they missed no instructional time to do so and only prayed once a day.
The people we spoke to about it confirmed these things but not when. That Shelby's example happened four years ago is interesting but not material. That the school provided the space to pray is the material point. That they prayed only during Ramadan is helpful but not material. The fact that they prayed "once a day" is of no material value.
What is material is this: The school district provided a place for children of one religion to pray during school hours. My understanding is the school actually stored the equipment (prayer rugs etc) to help them do it. Matt doesn't take up this concern.
Personally, I think there should be more prayer in school. I believe that this same accommodation would NOT occur for children of other faiths. Indeed, the ACLU and other groups have seen to that. The dockets of many courts are peppered with cases fighting just such unequal treatment.
Perhaps it is this last point that Shelby is most concerned about. We spoke on the program with an expert in establishment clause cases using the information we were given by the folks who confirmed this.
Ken Klukowski is quoted on the original blog post:
Klukowski says case law regarding Muslim prayer and other considerations hasn't caught up with the real world on this issue but says this situation is, "completely inconsistent with how federal courts have treated other religious groups especially Christian." Not only can you not have Christian prayer in school but you can't even have a moment of silence because it was "intended to help facilitate prayer"-- a violation of the establishment clause according to a Supreme Court decision.
He believes cases like this and others involving special accommodations for Muslim students, for instance separate foot washing sinks in school, need to have a full, frank judicial reconsideration to put all religions on the same footing. He believes if these students were Christian or Orthodox Jew they would not be given a separate room in which to pray during school hours.


  1. If a Christian kid or a Jewish kid wanted to do the same thing at that same school, he or she would be suspended for such a time until he learned the error of his ways.

    At this rate it won't be long until the U.S.A. will be the U.M.S.A. (United Muslim States of America).

    Don't laugh or try to pass this off as just another conservative old man spouting crap. It could very likely happen. The Muslims here, as well as all the illegal criminal aliens, are getting anything and everything they want, while honest American citizens and legal aliens are getting short shrift and losing all our Constitutional freedoms, thanks in no small part to the bleeding-hearts in our present government.

  2. Victoria,

    Let's go back to your original post on this topic. “Muslim students at Portland's Rigler Elementary School are given their own school provided prayer room, prayer rugs, helpfully stored in the prayer room by the school, and let out of class five times a day to pray to Allah. Did I mention this is during school hours? School officials AND the PPS spokesman confirmed before I went on the air with this earlier this month.”

    First, you claimed that students left class to pray FIVE times a day. That is false. Four years ago, two students prayed at school ONCE during the day at lunch. They did not miss any class time.

    Second, you claimed that the school furnished the students prayer rugs and provided them their own prayer room. Again, not true. The students brought their own rugs and used a school office to pray. That’s hardly a designated prayer room.

    Third, you claim that you confirmed these ”facts” with me. Again, that did not happen. I made a general statement about accommodating student prayer requests, not that Rigler let students out five times a day to pray with rugs provided by the school.

    One last thing, I’m assuming the high school referenced later in your post is Wilson. Makes sense, they do serve a sizeable population of Muslim students. They too accommodate students. A group gathers each day to pray at lunch. However, you failed to mention that a Young Life group and Jewish student union have also been given space to meet at lunch.

    It’s absolutely true that Portland Public Schools accommodates student requests to pray during the school day. This is true for students of all faiths.

    Matt Shelby
    PPS Communications

  3. Matt,
    Well thought out and well written response. I'm sure it will be removed or belittled as soon as Queen Victoria catches wind of it. Looking forward to seeing Sharia Law instituted in the US! Sarcasm intended here) Just for the record; I think it's a fine thing to take your complaints to the government whenever you have them. However, attempting to turn your political adversaries into the Devils is completely unacceptable.

  4. Victoria Taft never let's the facts get in the way of a good rant. A total BS'ER.

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  6. Something I find interesting is that Victoria gets good and self-righteous when a public official refuses to recognize her importance and call her back, but it is perfectly fine for her to do the very same thing to someone trying to confirm the honesty of some of her statements! I thought I saw a comment around here mentioning how credibility was so important in her business.....I'm seeing that credibility going down a swirling hole right now!

  7. How sad it is that Taft went on her rant prior to getting all the facts from reliable sources instead of relying on one source simply because it fit into her goals of spreading fear and hatred at every opportunity. It not only continues to reveal her bias and disdain for the Muslim community, but reflects poorly on Pamplin media group.
    The article in today's Oregonian points out all the facts with evidence supporting those facts, something KPAM should learn from and demand from all of its talk show people. Further, Taft should admit that she lied, with purpose, instead of attempting to skirt the truth with her blog babble.
    Spend some time on actual research, Taft, and you won't sound so decisive, or possibly that is your goal.

  8. Victoria,

    What are we to make of you? Why should your words be meaningful to us when you repeatedly seek to press your narrow and intolerant view of the world by appealing to the base prejudices, emotions and fears of the public, and place more emphasis on demogogy (and personal face-saving when your prevarications and distortions are revealed) than you do on the truth?

    Victoria, if you need to fabricate and lie to make your point, then you have no point to make.