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Religion News Service
Ken Thorbourne

KEARNY, N.J. – The high school student who blew the whistle on a history teacher who was proselytizing in the classroom is slated to receive an award that puts him in distinguished company.
The New York Society for Ethical Culture plans to give 17-year-old Matthew LaClair its “Ethical Humanist Award,” the organization’s highest honor, in November.
Past recipients include Sen. John McCain of Arizona, for his work on campaign finance reform; Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, for switching party affiliation from Republican to independent; and David Kaczynski, who turned in his brother Ted, the notorious Unabomber, to authorities.
“This (award) is given to people who show courage and go against the grain, sometimes to the detriment to their own well-being,” said Jerry Chamlin, chair of nonprofit’s awards committee. “They’ve preferred an extraordinary act of moral courage.”
aClair, now a senior, said he is “really excited” to receive the honor. “But it (standing up for one’s beliefs) should be something that’s more common among people and among students,” he added. “Over time, if people actually start to do these things, it will become second nature.”
As a junior, LaClair surreptitiously taped his history teacher David Paszkiewicz and publicly exposed some Paskiewicz’s claims, including that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark, and that anyone who didn’t believe Jesus Christ suffered and died for the–as depicted in Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ” — “belonged in hell.”
As a result of LaClair going public, he was threatened and shunned by some of his fellow students. Last year, LaClair and his parents agreed to not to sue the school district in return for establishing training for students and teachers in the separation between church and state.
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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