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Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Separation of Church and State

Loboinok has come up with a post I think deserves a wider audience. So I am publishing this treatise right here, right now.

The Separation of Church and State

by David Barton

In 1947, in the case Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court declared, “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” The “separation of church and state” phrase which they invoked, and which has today become so familiar, was taken from an exchange of letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became President.

The election of Jefferson-America’s first Anti-Federalist President-elated many Baptists since that denomination, by-and-large, was also strongly Anti-Federalist. This political disposition of the Baptists was understandable, for from the early settlement of Rhode Island in the 1630s to the time of the federal Constitution in the 1780s, the Baptists had often found themselves suffering from the centralization of power.

Consequently, now having a President who not only had championed the rights of Baptists in Virginia but who also had advocated clear limits on the centralization of government powers, the Danbury Baptists wrote Jefferson a letter of praise on October 7, 1801, telling him:

Among the many millions in America and Europe who rejoice in your election to office, we embrace the first opportunity . . . to express our great satisfaction in your appointment to the Chief Magistracy in the United States. . . . [W]e have reason to believe that America’s God has raised you up to fill the Chair of State out of that goodwill which He bears to the millions which you preside over. May God strengthen you for the arduous task which providence and the voice of the people have called you. . . . And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator.1

However, in that same letter of congratulations, the Baptists also expressed to Jefferson their grave concern over the entire concept of the First Amendment, including of its guarantee for “the free exercise of religion”:

Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty: that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. . . . [T]herefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. 2

In short, the inclusion of protection for the “free exercise of religion” in the constitution suggested to the Danbury Baptists that the right of religious expression was government-given (thus alienable) rather than God-given (hence inalienable), and that therefore the government might someday attempt to regulate religious expression. This was a possibility to which they strenuously objected-unless, as they had explained, someone’s religious practice caused him to “work ill to his neighbor.”

Jefferson understood their concern; it was also his own. In fact, he made numerous declarations about the constitutional inability of the federal government to regulate, restrict, or interfere with religious expression. For example:

[N]o power over the freedom of religion . . . [is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution.Kentucky Resolution, 1798 3

In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government. Second Inaugural Address, 1805 4

[O]ur excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. Letter to the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1808 5

I consider the government of the United States as interdicted [prohibited] by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises. Letter to Samuel Millar, 1808 6

Jefferson believed that the government was to be powerless to interfere with religious expressions for a very simple reason: he had long witnessed the unhealthy tendency of government to encroach upon the free exercise of religion. As he explained to Noah Webster:

It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several States that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors . . . and which experience has nevertheless proved they [the government] will be constantly encroaching on if submitted to them; that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious [effective] against wrong and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion. 7

Thomas Jefferson had no intention of allowing the government to limit, restrict, regulate, or interfere with public religious practices. He believed, along with the other Founders, that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination-a fact he made clear in a letter to fellow-signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Rush:

[T]he clause of the Constitution which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly. 8

Jefferson had committed himself as President to pursuing the purpose of the First Amendment: preventing the “establishment of a particular form of Christianity” by the Episcopalians, Congregationalists, or any other denomination.

Since this was Jefferson’s view concerning religious expression, in his short and polite reply to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802, he assured them that they need not fear; that the free exercise of religion would never be interfered with by the federal government. As he explained:

Gentlemen,-The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association give me the highest satisfaction. . . . Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem. 9

Jefferson’s reference to “natural rights” invoked an important legal phrase which was part of the rhetoric of that day and which reaffirmed his belief that religious liberties were inalienable rights. While the phrase “natural rights” communicated much to people then, to most citizens today those words mean little.

By definition, “natural rights” included “that which the Books of the Law and the Gospel do contain.” 10 That is, “natural rights” incorporated what God Himself had guaranteed to man in the Scriptures. Thus, when Jefferson assured the Baptists that by following their “natural rights” they would violate no social duty, he was affirming to them that the free exercise of religion was their inalienable God-given right and therefore was protected from federal regulation or interference.

So clearly did Jefferson understand the Source of America’s inalienable rights that he even doubted whether America could survive if we ever lost that knowledge. He queried:

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? 11

Jefferson believed that God, not government, was the Author and Source of our rights and that the government, therefore, was to be prevented from interference with those rights. Very simply, the “fence” of the Webster letter and the “wall” of the Danbury letter were not to limit religious activities in public; rather they were to limit the power of the government to prohibit or interfere with those expressions.

Earlier courts long understood Jefferson’s intent. In fact, when Jefferson’s letter was invoked by the Supreme Court (only twice prior to the 1947 Everson case-the Reynolds v. United States case in 1878), unlike today’s Courts which publish only his eight-word separation phrase, that earlier Court published Jefferson’s entire letter and then concluded:

Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it [Jefferson’s letter] may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the Amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere [religious] opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order. (emphasis added) 12

That Court then succinctly summarized Jefferson’s intent for “separation of church and state”:

[T]he rightful purposes of civil government are for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order. In th[is] . . . is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the State. 13

With this even the Baptists had agreed; for while wanting to see the government prohibited from interfering with or limiting religious activities, they also had declared it a legitimate function of government “to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.”

That Court, therefore, and others (for example, Commonwealth v. Nesbit and Lindenmuller v. The People ), identified actions into which-if perpetrated in the name of religion-the government did have legitimate reason to intrude. Those activities included human sacrifice, polygamy, bigamy, concubinage, incest, infanticide, parricide, advocation and promotion of immorality, etc.

Such acts, even if perpetrated in the name of religion, would be stopped by the government since, as the Court had explained, they were “subversive of good order” and were “overt acts against peace.” However, the government was never to interfere with traditional religious practices outlined in “the Books of the Law and the Gospel”-whether public prayer, the use of the Scriptures, public acknowledgements of God, etc.

Therefore, if Jefferson’s letter is to be used today, let its context be clearly given-as in previous years. Furthermore, earlier Courts had always viewed Jefferson’s Danbury letter for just what it was: a personal, private letter to a specific group. There is probably no other instance in America’s history where words spoken by a single individual in a private letter-words clearly divorced from their context-have become the sole authorization for a national policy. Finally, Jefferson’s Danbury letter should never be invoked as a stand-alone document. A proper analysis of Jefferson’s views must include his numerous other statements on the First Amendment.

For example, in addition to his other statements previously noted, Jefferson also declared that the “power to prescribe any religious exercise. . . . must rest with the States” (emphasis added). Nevertheless, the federal courts ignore this succinct declaration and choose rather to misuse his separation phrase to strike down scores of State laws which encourage or facilitate public religious expressions. Such rulings against State laws are a direct violation of the words and intent of the very one from whom the courts claim to derive their policy.

One further note should be made about the now infamous “separation” dogma. The Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789, record the months of discussions and debates of the ninety Founding Fathers who framed the First Amendment. Significantly, not only was Thomas Jefferson not one of those ninety who framed the First Amendment, but also, during those debates not one of those ninety Framers ever mentioned the phrase “separation of church and state.” It seems logical that if this had been the intent for the First Amendment-as is so frequently asserted-then at least one of those ninety who framed the Amendment would have mentioned that phrase; none did.

In summary, the “separation” phrase so frequently invoked today was rarely mentioned by any of the Founders; and even Jefferson’s explanation of his phrase is diametrically opposed to the manner in which courts apply it today. “Separation of church and state” currently means almost exactly the opposite of what it originally meant.

Endnotes:

1. Letter of October 7, 1801, from Danbury (CT) Baptist Association to Thomas Jefferson, from the Thomas Jefferson Papers Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.

2. Id.

3. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, John P. Foley, editor (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1900), p. 977; see also Documents of American History, Henry S. Cummager, editor (NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1948), p. 179.

4. Annals of the Congress of the United States (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1852, Eighth Congress, Second Session, p. 78, March 4, 1805; see also James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897 (Published by Authority of Congress, 1899), Vol. I, p. 379, March 4, 1805.

5. Thomas Jefferson, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Ellery Bergh, editor (Washington D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. I, p. 379, March 4, 1805.

6. Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, From the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830), Vol. IV, pp. 103-104, to the Rev. Samuel Millar on January 23, 1808.

7. Jefferson, Writings, Vol. VIII, p. 112-113, to Noah Webster on December 4, 1790.

8. Jefferson, Writings, Vol. III, p. 441, to Benjamin Rush on September 23, 1800.

9. Jefferson, Writings, Vol. XVI, pp. 281-282, to the Danbury Baptist Association on January 1, 1802.

10. Richard Hooker, The Works of Richard Hooker (Oxford: University Press, 1845), Vol. I, p. 207.

11. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1794), Query XVIII, p. 237.

12. Reynolds v. U. S., 98 U. S. 145, 164 (1878).

13. Reynolds at 163.


Yet another piece of evidence that the "separation of church and state" is a humbug!

58 comments:

highboy said...

The reason we see the word "God" throughout our Decleration is because our Framers believed that our natural rights, those that they wanted a government to protect, came from God. If they came from man, than they can be taken away.

WomanHonorThyself said...

Brilliant summation radar!..thank u for the link!..:)

oriolebird38 said...

Good points made, but I propose this:

If the standard is "so long as a religion does not do ill to its neighbor, its practice is allowable;" couldn't one from a different religion claim that the public prayer offered by and for Christians is doing ill to them and their beliefs? I do believe that is the court's position on the matter.

I do a lot of studying of Supreme Court cases and rulings, and I don't agree with many of their stances. But, I don't think prayer has a place in schools or public facilities.

loboinok said...

"couldn't one from a different religion claim that the public prayer offered by and for Christians is doing ill to them and their beliefs?"

"that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions,"

Anyone can make claims but providing proof of harm is another matter.

Until recently, no one (that I know of) had brought an action in a U.S. Court claiming violation of their sensibilities. It is now common.

Take the Mt. Soledad Cross as an example.
It has been there, in one form or another, for over 50 years. One individual who has been driving by it for a number of years suddenly realizes that he is offended. What right was violated?

"But, I don't think prayer has a place in schools or public facilities."

Why?

cranky old fart said...

"But, I don't think prayer has a place in schools or public facilities."

Why?

Because it establishes a state religion. Don't think so?

How about: "Everyone down on their prayer rugs and face Mecca"

Anonymous said...

"Yet another piece of evidence that the "separation of church and state" is a humbug!"

"Anyone can make claims but providing proof of harm is another matter."

"But, I don't think prayer has a place in schools or public facilities."
Why?"

Well, here's yet another piece of evidence that it is a vital and important principle, a response to demands for 'proof of harm' (in principle, anyway), and an explanation:

Why I'm against pre-game prayers
[WorldNetDaily Exclusive Commentary Oct. 14, 2005]

". . . Let me start by saying I am an evangelical Christian and have pretty hard-core beliefs about the rights of individuals, particularly students, to express their faith, to include religious themes in their school work, to perform Christian-themed music and dramas during school talent events, etc. If a school administrator had ever tried to stop one of my kids from carrying a Bible, participating in voluntary prayer, or openly discussing their faith with another student, I would have sued him back in to the Stone Age.

You might be surprised then to learn that I am adamantly opposed to teachers and other school officials leading students in prayer or the conduct of prayer rituals, even by students, at officially sanctioned events. Why would I take a position that is seemingly so at odds with my core beliefs?"


Go read the rest and find out. Let's just say he had the experience of standing (somewhat literally) in the other guy's shoes for a moment. He thought he and his family were moving to Hawaii after being assigned to Hickam Air Force Base - but really, he was moving to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind . . . a journey into a wonderous land whose boundries are that of the imagination. Next stop - the Tolerance Zone!
[Cue spooky music: do do do do do do do do . . .]

___________________________
(warning - next bit long - no attention span? skip to the end. Might not make as much sense, though.
___________________________

What we're seeing here (and in this man's story, he's actually seeing, recognizing - that is, re-cognizing, thinking again) something that might be termed in this instance Christian privilege (but could be another religion or sect in other circumstances). It's a term I cooked up (presumably, others have done also,) by analogy to White privilege, which itself was developed, as far as I know, from the idea of male privilege.

What are all these little privilege terms that just reek of lefty social theorizing? These ideas refer to sets of unearned advantages that one gets by virtue of belonging to a particular socially dominant group (race, gender, class, ableness, whatever) that are - very important, nowadays - generally taken for granted, invisible, unrecognized. Most of the time a fish probably doesn't notice water, any more than we notice air - except when it's taken away. Same here - and the reaction may be similarly desperate. And insofar as these describe reality, they have to be seen as overlapping, since reality includes, say, poor white lesbians in wheelchairs, etc.

Examples? Ok. Take class privilege (which is different than the others in some ways, but perhaps decreasingly so). Remember right after Katrina, when, iirc, it came out that some of the people stuck in New Orleans didn't evacuate in time because they didn't have cars? Now, for those of us who have experienced or can imagine a situation where, say, food and rent eats up most of your income - and not as a temporary thing a year out of college or while in grad school! - this is a no-brainer. Of course some low-income folks in an urban area are going to be stuck like this, and any evacuation plan will need to involve lots of buses or whatever.

However, if you remember, there were a lot of folks right then going - Oh! They didn't have cars?! That's why they were stuck?! Ohmigosh!!

Not having to think about whether private transportation is a affordable option - and not really realizing that some people do? Class privilege. (If you have to ask how much it is, you can't afford it.)

Another one - unpaid (or very minimally paid) summer internships for college kids. Great stuff, get experience, connections, resume-fillers . . but this presumes that being able to spend a summer with no money coming in (often because one's parents are paying your way) is a viable option; a fact that a lot of folks who benefit from this practice will never notice. Class privilege.

Male privilege? One glaring example is that under normal circumstances, those of us who are guys - even physically slight, thorougly unimpressive specimens of masculinity like me - don't generally have to worry about getting raped. This isn't something the vast majority of guys would ever think about, at least without exposure to at least ambient feminism, but it shapes our lived experience, much as the fact that women do shapes theirs in a constraining way.

More characteristic, perhaps, is that if we get married and have a kid, we won't be especially criticized for our work choices after the kid's born. Go back to work? Fine. Be a stay at home dad while your wife works? That's trickier - certainly not everyone will be ok with it, at least yet - but I think you'd come out ahead compared to working mothers.

Even more clearcut: we never have to wonder if our ideas, perfomance, etc. are being taken less seriously because of our gender. Certainly things have changed a lot over the last half-century - due almost completely to feminism, lawsuits, immense effort by countless women - but, for example, even factoring in everything you can think of - including interrupted career paths due to childrearing, and disproprortionate employment in lower-paying positions (none of which is random, of course) - women still earn less than equivalent men. It's like every year guys got handed a 'You've Got Balls!' bonus.

But that would be obvious. The thing with these privilege thingies is that they're not. They're implicit, unconscious, unintentional - and mostly unrecognized, which is how they work to perpetuate various -isms in a time when outright 'ism'ism is often uncool - even with people who really try to be anti-ism. Unearned advantages are misrecognized as individual, personal merit. 'I got where I am because I earned it!' And yes, that's certainly partially true - but relative to certain other groups, there were also some boosts involved. It's as if it's a race where some of the contestants start somewhat further back, or have to wear heavy jeans while others don't. The privileged runner still has to run - but they also benefit from having the competition start 5m behind, with stones in their pockets. (Or alternately, that they started 5m ahead, and were handed extra-special running shoes.) Except that they generally don't recognize that these were special advantages (the other guys are just slower, they didn't train as hard)- or if they do, still, that they actually matter. (People are extremely good at making reality fit what's in their heads, after all!)

(This ties in with how, say, racism isn't just Bad People who burn crosses, but an entire system of oppression that usually involves regular people, and can be quite abstract and institutionalized.)

Ever think how much of the built environment is designed for the able-bodied? I certainly didn't, until my grandmother stopped being fall-prone and started being broken-hip prone, and I happened to get to know someone in a wheelchair. (You'll be amazed how many access ramps - where they even exist!) are so poorly designed as to be basically useless.)

Those of us who are, for the time being, able-boded - we can count on being to gain physical access - with unthinking ease, mostly - to all public and private accomodations, services, etc. open to us. We take it for granted. Yes, the situation has improved somewhat for folks who can't - something that's almost entirely the result of ADA lawsuits, and disability rights groups. (This is a really weird one, too , because most of us, if we live long enough, can expect to face this general situation. Buy or rent a house/apt, and, if you're an able-bodied 30 year old, you can expect that the entrance, shower, stairs, numbers on most phones, etc. will be a good fit for you. If you're 70 (or just wait 40 years) not so much; you'll often have to shell out extra for that to happen.)

Or let's turn to white privilege. There's a famous (if not unproblematical) article by Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Backpack.
"I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious.  White privilege is like an invisible weightless backpack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks."

(The "meant" is in scare quotes because she doesn't think it's some evil-mastermind plot or big conscious conspiracy- rather, that's how it works.)

including a long list of "some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life": for example:

" 1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

        2.  If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

        3.  I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
[At the very least, they would have been, a few decades ago, most unlikely to get together and talk about what to do because the McIntoshes are moving in, and end up moving out as a result, or try to drive her away]

        4.  I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

        5.  I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

        6.  When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

        7.  I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
     . . .   
      10. Whether I checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the
appearance of financial reliability.

      11.  I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

      12.  I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.

      13.  I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

      14.  I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

      15.  I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

. . .

      18.  I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.

      19.  If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out  because of my race.

      20.  I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazine featuring people of my race. 

      21.  I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared. 

      22.  I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.

   23.  I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

24.  I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

. . .
      26.  I can choose . . bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
"

That last one - it's so ridiculous, it's so petty, it so was an old tired observation when I was a baby -- but it's still so true. Interesting.

And yes, some of this has changed and is changing - thanks to decades of people fighting - and in some cases dying - for civil rights, and a just society. (And yes, you can see how it starts interacting with class issues: the poorer you are as a white person, or the richer - esp. obviously richer and more 'cultured' you are as a non-white, the less (or more) buffers you have - but that's, in a way, the point - whiteness tends to be, all else equivalent, like an extra, say (grabbing a figure out of the air) $30,000 a year.


What was I talking about? Oh, right, Christian privilege. Well, if you read the WND piece and this whole comment 1) you need to get out more! (and me too!) but also 2) you can probably figure it out for yourself. Try it!

_________________________
Did you skip to the end? Ok, start reading again!
_________________________

What aspect of unrecognized, taken-for-granted privilege, as a member of the country's majority religous tradition, did the writer unthinkingly count on - and by having it challenged in that way, came to recognize as an unfair privilege that required a change in his position?

How can we see an inability to recognize this privilege in comments defending this general sort of practice? How has their privileged upbring and experience - in terms of this specific aspect - shaped their outlook, so that, for example, comments about prayer rugs (or Pledges of Allegiences rewritten to read "under Jupiter /Allah /Satan /the Goddess /Al Gore /a make believe Middle Eastern neolithic sky fairy" often don't carry the convincing oompf! some of us might expect?
____

Imagine you're floating around in the pre-existence aether, and you're told a) you're going to be born or end up as a (non?)religious minority - an atheist, Wiccan, Hindu, whatever (or, really, that you don't know how you're going to end up - all options a re open) and b) you get to set up how society will acts in terms of this aspect of life (church/state separation and all that entails). How would you set it up?

(and who came up with this general ethical principle? I can't remember . . )
__________________


-Dan S., humbug

highboy said...

"Because it establishes a state religion. Don't think so?

How about: "Everyone down on their prayer rugs and face Mecca"

An invalid illustration since no one is talking about FORCING anyone to pray. Liberals, being "tolerant" as they are, should be able to TOLERATE someone praying in public school. Otherwise, you are trampling on the freedom of religious expression. letting a student pray in school is not establishing a state religion.

Dan, that list of white privelages doesn't just apply to whites, it applies to everybody. Black oppression is over and has been over for a long time. Move on. As to how it relates to Christianity: There is no amendment in the Constitution that protects you, me, or anyone else from being offended. If a student praying at a graduation ceremony is offended at hearing Jesus' name, too bad. That student has a Constitutionally protected right of freedom of religious expression, and the Constitution does NOT stiputlate that this right can only be performed in private. Now many may ask "What if someone prays to Allah at at graduation ceremony?" If I'm a Christian, and I become offended, too bad for me. That is their right under the Constitution. Now you may say "Well schools can't let everyone pray as they see fit." Yes they can, because if they can't, they are violating the Constitution. Sound unrealistic? This is why public school is a farce, because your two options are to a.) Allow everyone to pray publicly at school to whomever they like, which some feel if unrealistic, or b.) Not allow anyone to pray publicly in school and thus violate their civil liberties. Unfortunatley, the latter seems to be what liberals advocate the most.

Unless a school is forcing or requiring prayer, it is not establishing a state religion. Unless the government is forcing people to practice Christianity, it is not establishing a state religion. Everyone has a right to pray to who they want, when they want, where they want.

Anonymous said...

"letting a student pray in school is not establishing a state religion."

Sure. Nobody's against students praying in school, and they have wide latitude to do so. See Religioustolerance.org's section on religion in U.S. Public Schools - personally, I think the bit on Popular misconceptions about prayer in public school is rather weirdly hilarious . . .

When it becomes a problem is when the public school appears to be promoting or favoring a specific religion or denomination. Did you look at that WorldNetDaily piece?

Let's look beyond legal problems to the underlying issues - how we can best live together in a society that is both free and diverse. The problem isn't some vague sense of offense, but - beyond specific Constitutional bits - the fact that the specific practices that come up are often unnecessarily (and usually unintentionally) exclusionary, in a context (like graduation or games) where they shouldn't be, sending the message that hey, you guys over there? you don't belong. You're not fully a part of this! That's not what public school's about. It's not a Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or Hindu or whatever club (although it may have legally have religious clubs) - it's for everybody.

It's a balancing act, where we have to balance different individual's rights and freedoms. I and liberals generally consider that everyone's interests are best served when the state and its representatives (which can reasonably cover not just public school officials but also student speakers in some situations) keeps its nose out of the whole religion business. That's what families, churches, etc. are for. It's imperfect, sure, but it seems to be the best solution as a general principle.

"Dan, that list of white privelages doesn't just apply to whites, it applies to everybody. "

Well, some of the things have been changing over the last two-three decades, thanks to constant pressure, and in the face of steadfast opposition - multiculturalism, for example, or nondiscrimanatory policies in housing, banking, etc.. Others are still the same. You know why folks don't see that?

Yep. White privilege.

"Black oppression is over and has been over for a long time. Move on."

Well, thing aren't nearly as bad as they were when my dad was a kid (and I'm not that old), back when legally enforced segregation was ok, for example. We don't have, say, schools segregated by law anymore . . .

-Dan S.

cranky old fart said...

"An invalid illustration since no one is talking about FORCING anyone to pray"

Who said anything about "forcing"?

cranky old fart said...

The point is, of course, that you can pray anywhere, anytime you want.

But do you really want state sponsered religion? Do you really want the government in the business of leadiing your religious practices? And if you do, why?

oriolebird38 said...

when i studied the school prayer cases of the court, the cases in question were not simply a kid praying in a school. Anyone who questions that is out of touch, surely. But these were cases where the school was leading the prayer, and that kids would participate in as a class or group or whatever. So they wouldn't be "forced," in one case, the school said a kid could raise his hand and be excused from the class for that moment. Do you mean to tell me that a kid is going to raise his hand and single himself out and have his classmates view him as a heathen? Not in your life. And if you don't think that would be a problem, you clearly don't remember what it is like to be a kid in school.

"But, I don't think prayer has a place in schools or public facilities."

Why?

Cause it's not a church or temple, obviously. Public schools and courthouses are not there for prayer, they are there for education, or justice, or whatever. We have churches to lead prayers. What is the use in going out of your way to lead prayers in other places, where people are getting offended by it. It is true that there is no "right" to not be offended, but does that mean we should all just go out of our way to offend people? Or course not. If someone wants to pray, I certainly am not going to stop someone from praying in any given location. But that's not the issue here.

loboinok said...

"Cause it's not a church or temple, obviously. Public schools and courthouses are not there for prayer, they are there for education, or justice, or whatever."


So the constitution delegates where we may practice our "freedom of speech" and "freedom exercise of religion"?

You stated; "Good points made", did you not believe Jefferson's statement;
"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted [prohibited] by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises?

highboy has correctly stated here, several times, that the constitution does not grant authority to the government over public education.


cranky old fart,

"Because it establishes a state religion."

Praying in school would no more establish a religion than citing law would make one a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Nice comments, oriolebird38.

"And if you don't think that would be a problem, you clearly don't remember what it is like to be a kid in school."

This is why I posted that self-indulgently long comment on privilege - I'm guessing that for some people, the unthinking assumption, deep down, is that they never would or will be that kid - at least not in terms of religion - that they should always expect their religious beliefs to be given pride of place (or at least not minoritized in this fashion), and that this is, unquestioningly, the way it should be.

Certainly there are other reasons that religion in school is such a flashpoint - and not unreasonably so - but one aspect does seem to be that it's a piece of dominant religion privilege - I can expect to see my religion singled out for public recognition and special status in general public gatherings, that's just how it should be! - that's challenged. (Some folks may additionally or otherwise feel that this really is the best way to honor the Constitutional promise of freedom of religion.)

I can say that as a Jew (although a nonreligious one, but I'd guess this is a general opinion) I certainly don't expect or believe that it is my unquestioned right to have the faith of my ancestors specifically singled out for gov't endorsement in these kinds of settings (in fact, one of the lawsuits, I think, involved a Jewish family suing when a rabbi was brought on to give graduation prayers - the poor school district, you can see they were genuinely trying!) Teach about Passover and Hanukah (and Chinese New Year, and Ramadan, and etc.) alongside Easter and Xmas (as cultural and religious holidays), don't leave us out of history (where appropriate), maybe even throw in a rousing chorus of Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel alongside some Xmas songs', touch on the religion, if you want, as part of a world history or comparative religion class - as an academic subject, and alongside other faith traditions in a nonjudgemental way - it's all good.

Why do some of you guys want more?

highboy said...

"I and liberals generally consider that everyone's interests are best served when the state and its representatives (which can reasonably cover not just public school officials but also student speakers in some situations) keeps its nose out of the whole religion business."

But it doesn't. It puts caps on when and how students are allowed to worship, and use the same crap as an excuse you did. Are you really saying that they should not be able to pray publicly based on what another group may/may not FEEL?

"Well, thing aren't nearly as bad as they were when my dad was a kid (and I'm not that old), back when legally enforced segregation was ok, for example. We don't have, say, schools segregated by law anymore . . ."

Do you have actual evidence that whites enjoy more privelages or are you spinning another mantra?

"The point is, of course, that you can pray anywhere, anytime you want.

But do you really want state sponsered religion? Do you really want the government in the business of leadiing your religious practices? And if you do, why?"

Allowing students to pray at a graduation ceremony or anywhere else is NOT a state sponsored religion. Did the school tell everyone "Hey, Christianity rocks!"!? No. It merely allowed a student to exercise their rights as a U.S. citizen. That is not state sponsored religion, it is not the goverment telling you who to worship.

"Do you mean to tell me that a kid is going to raise his hand and single himself out and have his classmates view him as a heathen? Not in your life."

So therefore we should stop the whole practice? No. If the class didn't force him/her to pray, no law was broken. Are you now saying that there is some amendment protecting people from embarassment in school that I'm missing?

"Cause it's not a church or temple, obviously. Public schools and courthouses are not there for prayer, they are there for education, or justice, or whatever. We have churches to lead prayers."

Please cite the law where it says that prayer is only for churches, and the debate will be over. Then tell me how that is FREE religious expression while you are at it.

"but does that mean we should all just go out of our way to offend people? Or course not."

School prayer is not going out of our way to offend people. Its worshipping our God. The goverment, as I keep saying first of all, has no business trying to educate my child about anything. Education is not in the job description of any level of our goverment. Second, we don't trample someone's religious freedoms for the sake of those who get offended. What you guys are saying, is that you freely admit that our law says you can pray when, where, and how you want, but that the goverment should still legislate the opposite, for the sake of a "minority religion" or an embarassed child who doesn't want to pray to Jesus. The establishment clause protects us from goverment mandated religion. That is it, and that is all. Prayer in school, even school led prayer, is not mandating religion unless a student is forced against his/her will to pray.

cranky old fart said...

"School prayer is not going out of our way to offend people. Its worshipping our God."

It IS "going out of the way". Any one can pray anywhere any time they want.

Why do you insist on the right of government entities leading this worship? What is the point when everyone already has the right and ability to pray, without direction, if and when they want?

Why do you desire or need the imprimatur of the state for your religious practices?

cranky old fart said...

"Please cite the law where it says that prayer is only for churches, and the debate will be over. Then tell me how that is FREE religious expression while you are at it."

Oh please. Tell me where you CAN'T pray is the more telling question.

xiangtao said...

So you're ok with the teacher standing in front of the class and leading them in prayer highboy? Suppose that the teacher in question is a muslim and he wants everyone to face east and pray to Allah? Still ok with that?

highboy said...

"Why do you desire or need the imprimatur of the state for your religious practices?"

Because they have a right to pray in public as well. They don't lose their freedom of religious expression when they swear in.

"Suppose that the teacher in question is a muslim and he wants everyone to face east and pray to Allah? Still ok with that?"

Another boring and predictable rebuttal I see. Yes, I am still okay with that. Am I forced to pray to Allah, just because the teacher wants to? No. I don't have to face east and pray what he/she/they are praying. No teachers are forcing students to pray to Jesus, and as long as no teachers are forcing students to pray to Allah, the Constitution has not been violated. If a teacher wants to lead those who are willing in a class with prayer that is their right. As long as students are not forced to pray, the establishment clause is not broken.

What is your alternative? Ban the teachers from leading the willing in any kind of prayer? That seems to be the case. Welcome to communism.

Anonymous said...

" If a teacher wants to lead those who are willing in a class with prayer that is their right."

Why is this occuring in a classroom? What is the purpose? Is there a more suitable venue?

"Because they have a right to pray in public as well. They don't lose their freedom of religious expression when they swear in. "

We have freedom of speech as an important principle in this country, too (rightly so). When I was teaching, did this mean I could start going off in front of a classroom of middleschoolers about how George Bush is a $%^%ing $%^%$ &^# #^&*@ing %^&^% who's sending their mommies and daddies to die in a stupid pointless war without a) expecting disciplinary action and b) acting in a grossly inappropriate manner?

Highboy, did you look at that WND link? ("Why I'm against pre-game prayers", in comment #6)

Isn't there something in the Bible about ostentatious prayer?

-Dan S.

highboy said...

"Why is this occuring in a classroom?"

Because he/she feels its encouraging.

"Is there a more suitable venue?"

No.

"did this mean I could start going off in front of a classroom of middleschoolers about how George Bush is a $%^%ing $%^%$ &^# #^&*@ing %^&^% who's sending their mommies and daddies to die in a stupid pointless war without a) expecting disciplinary action and b) acting in a grossly inappropriate manner?"

Yes. You forget, you're talking to someone who recognizes that the Constitution does not give responsiblity of eduction to the government. That is why the system should be privatized. Because in all fairness, a teacher DOES have the right to say those things. What is unfair is that the poor man who has no choice but to send his child to public school can do nothing if he doesn't agree with what his child is learning. Privatize the system, making private schools cheaper, and all this debate is rendered moot. Parents can have their children learn what they want and no one is offended, and more importantly, no one lose their freedom of speech or freedom of religious expression, unlike in the public school system.

"Isn't there something in the Bible about ostentatious prayer?"

Sure. But your link is not an example of that. There is nothing wrong with praying over the game.

Juggling Mother said...

Actually, I reckon you Yanks are much too hung up on the whole seperation of church & state issue - over here in the theocratic UK (I'm sure I've mentioned this before) all "public" schools must be "broadly Christian" (ie: C of E) in the values & teaching, they must incorporate an act of daily (christian) worship, religious education is the only subject that absolutely every school in the country must offer, we have Christian Holy Days as our National holidays, it is illegal to insist that employees work on Christian holy days regardless of their religion, the civil/secular marriage ceremony is based on the Christian wording, the head of state & the head of the church are the same person, the senior C of E clergy sit in our second house, we have blasphemy laws that make it illegal to blaspheme against the Christian religion, but not any others........

and on, and on, and on

We are still the most secular Nation in the Western world.

Cool huh?

sorry I've been a bit sporadic recently - busy busy busy doing summer things:-) I'll try to do better:-)

Juggling Mother said...

Sorry, I've just read Highboys comment.

Do you really believe that it should not be governments resposibility to ensure that it's citizens are educated? And that there should be no public schools at all?

wow! I am so very glad I don't live in your world!

highboy said...

"wow! I am so very glad I don't live in your world!"

Why? You want the responsibility of educating your kids left up to the goverment? Try for statistics of how well students to under out educational system. (on a side note, I think it hilarious that liberals feel that the same teachers who can't help a 4th grader read are somenow qualified to teach that fourth grader about sex)

cranky old fart said...

"Why do you desire or need the imprimatur of the state for your religious practices?"

Because they have a right to pray in public as well. They don't lose their freedom of religious expression when they swear in.

Say what?

If you are referring to a teacher praying, of course she can. Leading others in her charge, however, is a whole 'nother, and I would hope obvious, matter

highboy said...

"Leading others in her charge, however, is a whole 'nother, and I would hope obvious, matter"

Wrong. Leaders in goverment can lead whoever they want in prayer. Unless the people involved are forced against their will to pray, the establishment clause is not broken. Its why the ACLU was unable to touch Reagan for declaring 1983 the Year Of The Bible.

Anonymous said...

"over here in the theocratic UK . . . We are still the most secular Nation in the Western world."

And of course, it's been argued that we're talking cause and effect here, and that the U.S.' system of unregulated privatized decentralized free-market religion is one reason for the country's high rate of religiousity compared to most other industrialized nations. . .

"Try for statistics of how well students . . ."
yes? The younger kids appear to be doing better, in terms of long term trends, in both math and reading - an encouraging sign (although one can debate forever about this). There is no information, one shoud note about how students would be doing in an alternative system - better? worse? the same? Who knows?. Cpmparisons between different systems - public, private, parochial, etc., when you control for various socioeconomic factors, seem to indicate that on average they're all pretty much the same.

"I think it hilarious that liberals feel that the same teachers who can't help a 4th grader read are somenow qualified to teach that fourth grader about sex)"

Yet others think that these same hypothetical teachers are somehow qualified to provide these fourth graders religious instruction and guidance. Odd, especially since sex ed for fourth graders is essentially nonexistent - if anything, elementary kids learn about families and such. (This is one of the misunderstandings that fuel the fuss over gay-accepting curricula: besides everything else, sometimes folks think their single-digit-age children are being given graphic details about gay sexual practices, when they're really hearing about how some people have a mommy and a daddy, and some might have a daddy and another daddy.

Anyway. most fourth graders are being helped to read by the nation's hardworking and dedicated teachers. And incidentally, it's interesting how any number of people whose only experience with teaching has been on the other side of the desk, or at best as parents, feel entirely qualified to talk trash about teachers and teaching in general, something that you simply don't find in any other equivalent profession. Part of it is the general disrespect that is often felt towards teaching, under a veneer of respect. Another, I think, is the fact that everyone's been in the k-12 classroom - as kids, when their brain isn't too developed, and adolescents, when they generally have other things on that brain, and mostly aren't very big fans of authority. The profession is perceived through the lens of fuzzy memory, childlike evaluation, and teenage rebellion. You have good teachers? It seems effortless, with most of the work going on behind the scenes - it appears as if anyone can do it. You have bad teachers? Obviously it's all a waste.

Anyway, "the same teachers who can't help a 4th grader read"? There are several issues here. One, for better and worse, is that education standards are moving targets. Nowaday you need a college degree where once a high school diploma would have been fine, and a high school diploma for jobs that once required at most a few years of education. Nowadays, kindergartners are being expected to read simple books!

But the big issue is what I think of as our myth of the education system. We regard education (along with hard work and grit) as a major engine of social mobility, of the American success story. It doesn't matter where you come from, just where you go! We regard ourselves as a great, good, and just nation. Surely we ensure that all children -regardless of race, class, etc. - have, through education, an equal opportunity to succeed!

In reality, that is a bitter joke. Education in America - despite great effort on the part of teachers and even administrators - is full of savage inequalities (see for example, Jonathan Kozol's book of the same name) , mostly as a reflection of wider racial/economic inequality . In large part, our system of education remains very much separate and unequal. We say that poor children - including poor children of color - deserve an equal education (integration has been effectively abandoned as nothing more than a fanciful dream). And then we completely, grossly, blatently fail to put our money where our mouth is.

How do we resolve this contradiction? Unable to face the worm in the apple, we create, I think a myth - really, a set of myths - of American education. We know, abstractly, that there is a vast difference between, say, poor minority urban schools and affluent suburban ones, yet if you listen carefully to how people talk, the real yet relatively minor problems of the latter are folded seamlessly together with that of the former. The schools are failing! people exclaim, making no distinction between the lovely schools that fail to educate the children of the suburban elite quite as well as we would hope, and the schools that deal with conditions approximating Baghdad on a bad day.

Myth #1: There is one system of education in this country.

Reality: There are actually several distinct systems, besides the various private ones (which themselves show major distinctions in quality and even purpose). They are divided by demopgraphics and ~location (lower income rural schools, for example, have their own set of mostly ignored problems). The fewer social and economic advantages your family has, the worse off your schooling will be.

But how could this happen? As I said, we can't admit the actual, glaring inequalities, and often our part in perpetuating them. So we find a scapegoat - the teachers! the unions! (or we convince ourselves that these children are inherently inferior, and nothing could help).

Myth #2: Teachers generally are lazy and kind of slow, often incapable of performing a very simple job - glorified babysitting, anyone could do it! They work a handful of hours a day and even have summers off. Teachers' unions are evil, and cause all the problems.

Reality: Most teachers are hardworking and dedicated, putting in countless extra hours before and after the supposed workday (I think this idea stems from more of that childish perception, Remember how when you were very small you probably assumed that your teacher actually lived at school? Kids grow out of that, but replace it with the idea that the teacher is only working when they see them.) Summers are often spent taking classes, since generally teachers are required to put in quite a lot of continuing education work, often at the graduate level. Teachers' unions are, well, unions, trying to do what's best for their members. Certain individual policies may be less than ideal, but they prevent even more talented teachers leaving in disgust. The profession isn't perfect, true - there are burnouts and deadweights and the minimally competent - something that you never find in any other field, of course! but what the myth frantically ignores is that this is a direct result of our refusal to put our capital - either actual money, or cultural respect - where our mouth is.

Oh, you say, it always comes down to money, money, money - how predictable!
Well, yeah. That's how the world works.

Myth 3: This is just throwing money at the problem, which is just wasting it - pointless.

Reality. This is a desperate and frankly ugly attempt at societal self-justification. It's also powerful, because it does have a grain of truth. Money can be easily squandered when poured into inefficient stystems, sure. But you still need it. Take a faltering fast food company, for example. Competition and other market forces might make it adopt much more efficient and streamlined practices, making very good use of the money coming in. But past a certain point, no matter how efficient it was, there simply wouldn't be sufficient funds to, say, maintain the physical plant, quality control standards, and staff performance at adequate levels. Past a certain fairly easily reached point, improvement requires investment.

Since this myth obscures the underlying causes of the very real problems, it also misleads in a search for solutions. Let the free market work its magic, people cry! The free market is very, very good at many things. It fails, however, at certain specific tasks involving social justice and the common good - usually because of the very traits that make it so useful otherwise. There's a very good reason that government is in charge of, say, the roads, fire fighting, general policing, and common defense.

If you want sweet chocolateness, as long as you have a minimal amount of money, the market ensures that you're set whatever amount you can/want to spend, from 25¢ for a sawdust&canuba wax Little Debbie snack cake, to a 99¢ Tastykake to a $15 gourmet chocolate thing of some kind.

I hope it's clear why this approach, while with real merits doesn't match up with any ideal of education provision in a just society. It actually promises to be worse than the neglected bastard stepchild approach currently in use (For Harry Potter fans - basically, it's like education funding are the Dursleys, affluent, largely white, largely suburban (or urban very localized/private) schools are Dudley, and poorer, mostly minority urban (or rural, or white working class) are Harry at the beginning of the series - except for most of these kids, no kindly half-giant is coming to take them away from the neglectful family. All children are capable of great things, but because we don't care enough to spend a little more money (especially those who unquestionably could afford to, if it wasn't on the wrong kids), so, so, so many - because their parents are the wrong color, live in the wrong neighborhood, don't have the right level of eduation and social capital, are just meatheads, whatever - are going to be stuck in that tiny room under the stairs. Forever.)

But, people say, that's not what we're saying! We'll give people the money and let them choose - let competition work its magic!
There are various problems with this (for starters, you end up condemning kids with the luck to have parents who are less knowledgable, consider this less important, are simply apathethic or less functional to even increasingly worse educational settings - there's also issues involving the geography of poverty, the fact that most people are pretty satisfied with their kid's school, even when they shouldn't be, and the difficulty of judging competing educational 'products' in populations with, on average, a fairly low level of overall and quantitative literacy). The main issue, though is it's still not enough. Like - for the most part - No Child Left Behind - this will, in the best cases, cause rapid but marginal improvements, and then stall, because they've gone as far as they can go with the available resources. And then decay. (And of course, fantasies about ghetto kids with vouchers heading off to elite prep schools are just that, a fantasy. The schools don't want more than a handful of those kids - the considerably gifted and high performing ones, with supremely dedicated families (and will make sure that this is what they get) - and time and time again, the vouchers are woefully indadequate for that kind of tuition. Again, it's competition confined to the lowest tier, the bastard-stepchildren schools.

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"
"Leaders in goverment can lead whoever they want in prayer. Unless the people involved are forced against their will to pray, the establishment clause is not broken"

Sure, in private life, or even public life with the gov't hat off. I have no problem with Congressional prayer meetings, or public school teachers saying grace with their families, or leading church youth groups, or anything like that. But when they're acting in their capacity as government representatives, to do this is often to endorse some set of religious beliefs. In some cases this is pretty minimal, and effectively without consequence. In others - for example, the elementary classroom, where the teacher is (hopefully) a figure of respect and authority, and a parental stand-in, and the children have little child brains, and aren't that skilled at making sophisticated evaluations and measured judgements, and are particularly affected by various kinds of pressure and persuasion - it is much less likely to be so,

Additionally, saying -well, this is why I don't like public schooling- may or may not have merit, but it's irrelevent to the argument. Whatever one wants, this is what we have - now how should it work?

Although - why are you for further balkanization of our country? (And hey, you saw how things end up when they get all balkanized, quite literally!)

Anyway, in many cases various rights, responsibilities, etc. come into conflict, leading to us 'accepting' some reduction of freedom for the greater good. The famous example is free speech and yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre (which is actually a much more complex story, regarding free speech in wartime). In this case, whatever teeny aspect of freedom of religion that involves the ability to randomly play preacher in the classroom with some selected group of kids, rather than actuallly teaching the class, is coming into conflict with the much broader aspect of freedom of religion (which implictly even includes freedom from religion) whereby kids with little brains aren't subjected to 'soft' religious coercion by representatives of the State.

Imagine that sometime in the near future American becomes an Islamic nation. Not a theocracy, the Constitution stays in place (mostly), Jews and Christians aren't subjected to any sort of formal dhimma-ness, but Islam becomes the dominant majority religion. When little Donal goes off to elementary school, day after day he hears his teacher - a figure of authority and respect, a parental stand in, the person who says what's right and wrong, whether in terms of behavior or arithmetic, say ""Everyone down on their prayer rugs and face Mecca," and day after day he sits there, sticking out like a sore Christian thumb, as all or almost all his friends and classmates do so.

Now, in the best case, some combination of upbringing and temperment gives him the flexibility, resilience, and understanding to coast right through this daily drama - 'they're Muslim, and this is what they do, but we're not, and we don't do that.' Note, though, that he's had to define himself and his family as being not part of the dominant tradition, the mainstream of society, the institutions of learning, etc. With luck, this inspires him to work hard to prove himself. Or not.
Either way, welcome to dhimmitude!
Oh sure, there aren't any taxes, or enforced special clothing or travel/housing/marriage restrictions, not even an intentional attempt at humiliation, but in essence, that's what it is (using the term horribly, ahistorically, and uncontextually loosely). You all don't really belong. You're - ever so subtly -second class citizens.

And maybe it doesn't work out so well. Maybe that message is cut a little deeper. Maybe Donal starts coming home upset (whether he shares (or even can put into words) this or not), whether classmates have started teasing him or whether he's just sensitive to his sticking-out status (and kids can be very concerned with fitting in, even quite young). Perhaps he starts joining in - perhaps even as the first step down the road that leads to eventual conversion. Perhaps not.
Either way, welcome to dhimmitude.

But, maybe you say, you'd remove him from this environment. Ok. Maybe the system's basically the same, which means you have to scrape together the money to send him to some sort of private school (as well as paying taxes towards public school funding). In other words, it's a sort of self-imposed higher level of taxation.
Welcome to dhimmitude!

Or maybe things have been rearranged along tother lines. Perhaps you can take a certain level of government funding and send him to a special school, kind of like a refuge for Christians. Did you catch what just happened? You're opting out. You're self-ghettoizing. There can be advantages to this, in terms - sometimes - of the maintainance of tradition and suchlike, but make no mistake, you're also giving something up. Remember, in this hypothethical world, Islam is the dominant religion. Donal's future bosses, clients, partners, whatever, more likely than not (unless he stays in a residential or occupational ghetto) have a good chance of being Muslim. Donal is losing connections, friendships, shared experiences, nuances of interaction, even just a sense of belonging, of groupness. To some degree - perhaps quite small, perhaps larger - Donal is being put at a systematic (even if quite unintentional) disadvantage in terms of his future prospects.

Welcome to dhimmitude!


-Dan S.

highboy said...

"Nowaday you need a college degree"

No you don't. One can drop out and still get a GED, and become more successful than most college grads. Actually, (I'll have to dig some numbers) students at Penn State who take the ASVAB repeatedly fail, and they only need to score a 31 or more, where as guys like me had to score 50 or more.

"The fewer social and economic advantages your family has, the worse off your schooling will be."

Prove it. You're making some claims about "inequality" in the public education that need demonstrating.

"But, people say, that's not what we're saying! We'll give people the money and let them choose - let competition work its magic!
There are various problems with this (for starters, you end up condemning kids with the luck to have parents who are less knowledgable, consider this less important, are simply apathethic or less functional to even increasingly worse educational settings - there's also issues involving the geography of poverty, the fact that most people are pretty satisfied with their kid's school, even when they shouldn't be, and the difficulty of judging competing educational 'products' in populations with, on average, a fairly low level of overall and quantitative literacy)."

And what about the poorer family that DOES take this seriously? What are they suppose to do if they don't agree with their son/daughter's education?

"But when they're acting in their capacity as government representatives, to do this is often to endorse some set of religious beliefs."

And this is perfectly legal. Again, unless someone is forced to practice a certain religion, it is not a state established religion.

" In this case, whatever teeny aspect of freedom of religion that involves the ability to randomly play preacher in the classroom with some selected group of kids, rather than actuallly teaching the class, is coming into conflict with the much broader aspect of freedom of religion (which implictly even includes freedom from religion) whereby kids with little brains aren't subjected to 'soft' religious coercion by representatives of the State."

A good misrepresentation of the issue. No one is playing "preacher" by saying a quick prayer with their class. Also, the Constitution nowhere says "freedom FROM religion", nor does it imply it all. You'll also have to show me how this "religious coercion" has had such a catastrophic effect on the little ones in the past, like when they were doing it regularly when this country was founded. (get the hint?)But I like the sensationalism you use there: "religious coercion." I love spin.

"When little Donal goes off to elementary school, day after day he hears his teacher - a figure of authority and respect, a parental stand in, the person who says what's right and wrong, whether in terms of behavior or arithmetic, say ""Everyone down on their prayer rugs and face Mecca," and day after day he sits there, sticking out like a sore Christian thumb, as all or almost all his friends and classmates do so."

Which, as a Christian, he'll probably stick out like a sore thumb anyways. If I'm doing my job, my son will be just fine going to a public school full of Islamists. Or course, in a privatized system this wouldn't be an issue, since I could send my son to whatever school I wanted and other parents could do the same. They'd actually have choices. Private schools would also be a heck of a lot cheaper, and parents who DO send their kids to a private school won't still be getting raped by the government to pay school taxes, as is the way now.

I'm not sure if you are aware or not, but your little rant in your last two posts sounds dangerously close to Marx. Everyone is equal, almost to the point of not even being an individual, and no matter what the social/economic status, they all reap the same benefits. This is not capitalism. Now you may say that children all deserve the same shot, no matter what their parents income. I agree. Kids whose parents can't afford a private school as of now, (whose academic standards are much higher by the way) should have a better education than the one they recieve in public school now. What is more alarming in your rant is your comparing a prayer with a class to "religious coercion." That is ridiculous and again, Marxist. To avoid anyone feeling left out, or not equal, you will smother ALL religous expression in the classroom, especially with the teacher.

cranky old fart said...

"To avoid anyone feeling left out, or not equal, you will smother ALL religous expression in the classroom, especially with the teacher"

WTF is it with the fundie obsession to have teachers lead some sort of "religious expression" in the classroom anyway?

Why do you just HAVE to be shoving this nonsense in kid's faces during the school day?

Anonymous said...

Dan : "Nowaday you need a college degree"

Tim: "No you don't. One can drop out and still get a GED, and become more successful than most college grads."

Sure, that can happen, but the more common case is that it doesn't. Study after study after study has shown that college graduates make millions more over their lifetimes than non grads. It's very tough in my industry to get a job without a college degree, to say nothing about a lack of a high school degree.

I also get the distinct sense that Dan speaks from experience on the whole 'being an outsider' topic. Reading his posts made me think back about how I felt during my elementary school days, and how I didn't fit in because I was Jewish. Tim, have you ever been in a minority group that doesn't believe what everyone else does? Have you ever been beat up because of who you were?

Do you think leading children in prayer will make this better or worse?

P.S. You didn't need that comparison to Marx at the end, public education isn't communism --and we don't live in a purely capitalistic society, nor should that be the goal.

-scohen

loboinok said...

"WTF is it with the fundie obsession to have teachers lead some sort of "religious expression" in the classroom anyway?"

"Why do you just HAVE to be shoving this nonsense in kid's faces during the school day?"


WTF is it with the Godless obsession to have teachers lead some sort of "homosexual indoctrination" in the classroom anyway?

Why do you just HAVE to be shoving this nonsense in kid's faces during the school day?

"Political Correctness" is another social disease destroying our society!

highboy said...

"WTF is it with the fundie obsession to have teachers lead some sort of "religious expression" in the classroom anyway?"

WTF is it with socialist libs that get so worked up about a teacher saying "In Jesus' name"?

"Why do you just HAVE to be shoving this nonsense in kid's faces during the school day?"

Why not? Public schools shove all kinds of nonsense in kid's faces? Why do you just HAVE to remove a teacher/student's civil liberties of expressing their religion, which includes in a classroom?

"Tim, have you ever been in a minority group that doesn't believe what everyone else does?"

The school I went to was about 90% black.

"Have you ever been beat up because of who you were?"

Yes, and I've beaten others up for who they were. I've been on both ends, and they both suck.

"Do you think leading children in prayer will make this better or worse?"

Neither. If any, it would make it better. Show me some statistics that show more students got beat up, stabbed, shot, or hospitalized, (like they have in my school in Pittsburgh) when teachers DID pray before class. The question isn't "would prayer make it better or worse", its "how did removing prayer from school help?"

"You didn't need that comparison to Marx at the end, public education isn't communism "

Read the communist manifesto. And Dan's explanation sounds very similiar to what you'll read.

"and we don't live in a purely capitalistic society, nor should that be the goal."

We're suppose to, and why shouldn't it be the goal?

Anonymous said...

"WTF is it with socialist libs that get so worked up about a teacher saying "In Jesus' name"

Not being a socialist, I wouldn't know, but my main problem with it is that I don't believe in Jesus, and I think that prayer in school wastes valuable learning time. It is not the job of our schools to indoctrinate children into a specific (any) religion. Would you like educators to come into your church and correct all of the factual errors in Christianity? No, you would not, and to paraphrase "The Simpsons" school isn't the place for prayer, much like church isn't the place for facts.

"The school I went to was about 90% black. "

And most blacks are christians. You are a white, christian male, which is the majority in this country, and despite your statement (which was totally predictable, btw --you never concede points) you do not know what it's like to have an authority figure like a teacher question your religion. I do, and let me tell you it's not fun, and it's not productive --that's why it's better not to bring prayer back into our school.

"Read the communist manifesto. And Dan's explanation sounds very similiar to what you'll read."

I have, and Dan's explanation about not trying to knowingly marginalize a bunch of people (non-christians) sounds nothing like it. Communism is a lot more than the mere removal of religious exercise from schools, and it's a shame you don't see that.

Me: "and we don't live in a purely capitalistic society, nor should that be the goal."

Tim: "We're suppose(d) to, and why shouldn't it be the goal?"

Because Laissez Faire capitalism sucks. Do you remember learning about the Gilded Age? Child Labor? 120 hour work weeks? That's pure capitalism, and it's horrible, but reasonable people recognize that any 'pure' economic system stinks. Free markets solve a lot of problems, but they don't solve every problem. Where is it written that we're supposed to have a specific type of economic system? The hybrid system seems to be suiting us quite well.

-scohen

highboy said...

"It is not the job of our schools to indoctrinate children into a specific (any) religion."

Prayer doesn't indoctrinate anybody. Tolerate it.

"school isn't the place for prayer, much like church isn't the place for facts."

Wrong on both counts. The church is the place for whatever we Christians want it to be, and prayer can be done anywhere, anytime, according to our Constitution.

"which was totally predictable, btw --you never concede points"

I suggest you take a look at some archives from this site AND mine. I concede points quite frequently and have on numerous occasions admitted to being wrong and even offered apologies. You need to know what you're talking about before you mouth off about someone.

"you do not know what it's like to have an authority figure like a teacher question your religion. I do, and let me tell you it's not fun, and it's not productive --that's why it's better not to bring prayer back into our school."

Its better not to allow teachers/students their Constitutional rights because a teacher may question your religion? Wow. You'd rather put your faith in a closet instead of defend it.

"I have, and Dan's explanation about not trying to knowingly marginalize a bunch of people (non-christians) sounds nothing like it."

Than you obviously HAVEN'T read it, because it is the exact case made in the book for a communist society: an undivided country where there is no class system.

Anonymous said...

Tim,
Students are free to pray whenever they want to, no one is stopping them. The line is drawn when a teacher feels the need to lead the whole class in prayer. That's a right they don't have.

"Its better not to allow teachers/students their Constitutional rights"

Students are denied their constitutional rights all the time in schools. They are routinely denied the right to assemble, and freedom of speech. I'm not sure why you think teachers have the right to lead the class in prayer, as that's routinely been struck down by courts. They have the right to pray by themselves, but no one is saying they don't.

"Wow. You'd rather put your faith in a closet instead of defend it."

Tim, I don't have any faith, which is why I don't 'defend' it. Are you suggesting that a second grader is somehow capable of defending their faith (or lack of it) from an adult teacher? That just doesn't jibe with reality. You need to learn that not everyone believes as you do, and you should respect that. I fail to see why praying to yourself is not as effective as having the whole class lead in prayer --unless your goal is to ostracize non-christians. There is a time and place for everything, and a public school is not the place for group prayer. If I want my children to pray, I'll send them to synagogue. If I want them to learn, I'll send them to school.

"Than you obviously HAVEN'T read it, because it is the exact case made in the book for a communist society: an undivided country where there is no class system."

Tim, I'm not going to argue with you over reading the communist manifesto as it's pointless --despite reading it, you seem to equate communism solely with lack of a class system. Calling Dan's comments communist ignores what communism is and trivializes its wrongheadedness. Dan's comments were certainly egalitarian (nothing wrong with that in my book), but he didn't advocate communism --just that education should be universal and free. I fail to see how that's a bad thing and I think it's actually quite American. The fact that every American, regardless of class, race, creed, color or religion can obtain a decent education is one of the reasons that this country is so successful. Removing this system will allow millions of americans to slide further into ignorance and threaten our republic, but don't take my word for it.

"I have indeed two great measures at heart, without which no republic can maintain itself in strength: 1. That of general education, to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom. 2. To divide every county into hundreds, of such size that all the children of each will be within reach of a central school in it."

--Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1810. ME 12:393

By your logic, Jefferson was a communist.

-scohen

highboy said...

"I'm not sure why you think teachers have the right to lead the class in prayer, as that's routinely been struck down by courts."

Well for common sense for one, since the Framers of the Constitutional clause you think this violates saw NOTHING wrong with it...

"They have the right to pray by themselves, but no one is saying they don't."

Show me in the Constitution where we ONLY have the right to pray by ourselves. All I see is the freedom to exercise religion.

" I fail to see why praying to yourself is not as effective as having the whole class lead in prayer --unless your goal is to ostracize non-christians."

Or to encourage those that are. Its not "ostracizing" non-Christians. And once again, there is nothing that protects students, teachers, or anyone else from being offended. You are saying that teachers can have their Constitutionally protected right denied them IN CASE someone gets offended or feels left out.

"and a public school is not the place for group prayer."

Wrong. Prayer can be done anytime, anywhere, and there is no clause that says otherwise.

As for communism, all I said was that Dan't comments regarding public education are identical to some posed in the Communist Manifesto. If the shoe fits...

"just that education should be universal and free."

It isn't "free", and I should have the choice whether or not I want to pay for it.

Btw, I'm still waiting for Constitutional support for government funded education.

Anonymous said...

scohen, thanks for the vigorous defense against this bewildering claim.

Highboy, I really don't get where you're coming from with this. After all, you yourself say that " Now you may say that children all deserve the same shot, no matter what their parents income. I agree."

"Everyone is equal"
Well, I read some document saying so, and I think you did do - perhaps you got stuck at the "created" bit and didn't go on to see how it was the men were supposed to be created?

"almost to the point of not even being an individual"
I'm not sure how you get this from what I'm saying. Perhaps my comment "All children are capable of great things"?

"and no matter what the social/economic status, they all reap the same benefits."
Again, I'm not sure how you get this from what I'm saying.

(And do you think that any concern with social justice = communism?)

I certainly think that we do need certain standards to maintain human decency and dignity, to attempt to have some sort of just society. I also think that a rightfully cherished American ideal (if, like much else in our history, more a series of increasingly closer approximations than anything like a done deal) is that of social mobility - that, say, with enough hard work and ability (and given the social institutions to make it possible), the children of poor Eastern European immigrants, coal miners or sharecroppers could become teachers, doctors, lawyers, sucessful businesspeople, etc.

Some research seems to show that this mobility is decreasing, that the socioeconomic machinery which has whirred away reassuringly* in the background for much of the last century, moving people from Bronx tenements to suburban splitlevels, butchers' kids into the professional class, and so on, has begun to seize up. Nonsense like the crusade against the estate tax - aka the Paris Hilton diamond doggie collar allowance tax - is not helping matters.

Really, this all is almost the opposite of what you describe as communism - rather, attempting to ensure that, without falling below a certain point (required by any commitment to human dignity and decency), individual's positions rely as much as possible on their own ability and hard work.


* if very imperfectly.

See for example, the Economist special report, "Meritocracy in America: Ever higher society, ever harder to ascend":

"Most Americans see nothing wrong with inequality of income so long as it comes with plenty of social mobility: it is simply the price paid for a dynamic economy. But the new rise in inequality does not seem to have come with a commensurate rise in mobility. There may even have been a fall. . . .

[lots of stats]

"This is not the first time that America has looked as if it was about to succumb to what might be termed the British temptation. America witnessed a similar widening of the income gap in the Gilded Age. It also witnessed the formation of a British-style ruling class. The robber barons of the late 19th century sent their children to private boarding schools and made sure that they married the daughters of the old elite, preferably from across the Atlantic. Politics fell into the hands of the members of a limited circle—so much so that the Senate was known as the millionaires' club.


Yet the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a concerted attempt to prevent America from degenerating into a class-based society. Progressive politicians improved state education. Philanthropists—many of them the robber barons reborn in new guise—tried to provide ladders to help the lads-o'-parts (Andrew Carnegie poured millions into free libraries). Such reforms were motivated partly out of a desire to do good works and partly out of a real fear of the implications of class-based society. Teddy Roosevelt advocated an inheritance tax because he thought that huge inherited fortunes would ruin the character of the republic. James Conant, the president of Harvard in 1933-53, advocated radical educational reform—particularly the transformation of his own university into a meritocracy—in order to prevent America from producing an aristocracy.

. . . The evils that Roosevelt and Conant worried about are clearly beginning to reappear. But so far there are few signs of a reform movement. Why not?

. . . The second reason is that America's engines of upward mobility are no longer working as effectively as they once were. The most obvious example lies in the education system. Upward mobility is increasingly determined by education. The income of people with just a high-school diploma was flat in 1975-99, whereas that of people with a bachelor's degree rose substantially, and that of people with advanced degrees rocketed.

The education system is increasingly stratified by social class, and poor children have a double disadvantage. They attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries (school finances are largely determined by local property taxes). . . .

. . . America's great universities are increasingly reinforcing rather than reducing these educational inequalities. Poorer students are at a huge disadvantage, both when they try to get in and, if they are successful, in their ability to make the most of what is on offer. This disadvantage is most marked in the elite colleges that hold the keys to the best jobs. Three-quarters of the students at the country's top 146 colleges come from the richest socio-economic fourth, compared with just 3% who come from the poorest fourth (the median family income at Harvard, for example, is $150,000). This means that, at an elite university, you are 25 times as likely to run into a rich student as a poor one."


The Economist, that bastion of Marxism . . .

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"[education[]isn't "free",
funded as a shared common good, so that it could be accessible to all. Did you know firefighting used to be privatized and competitive? Can you see the drawbacks in this system?

" and I should have the choice whether or not I want to pay for it. "

Should you have the choice whether or not to pay for the roads? The police? Firefighters? The military?

"Or to encourage those that are [Christians]."
Exactly!. Exactly, exactly, exactly! And the government doesn't get to encourage or discourage any religion. It has to be religiously neutral.

Now do you see?

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

" You'd rather put your faith in a closet instead of defend it. "

Interesting choice of words, echoing Matthew 6:5-6 (KJV):
"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. "

Additionally, phrasings like "Its better not to allow teachers/students their Constitutional rights . . .?" misrepresent actual reality. For example, as the First Amendment Center points out in its page on school prayer:
But what of the right of students to pray at school? Many people are under the mistaken impression that the prohibition against government-imposed prayers applies to students as well. Just like other forms of student expression, student religious speech is protected. As the Court explains inTinker v. Des Moines, “students do not shed their constitutional rights when they enter the school house gate.” These “constitutional rights” include a student’s right to pray alone or in groups, as long as they are not disruptive to the school environment. To prevent students from engaging in such non-disruptive activities would violate both their free exercise of religion and free-speech rights.

Although Supreme Court rulings clarify many school-prayer issues, some areas of contention still exist. The establishment clause prohibits school officials from promoting or leading students in prayer. The free-exercise and free-speech clauses protect a student’s right to engage in religious speech, including prayer. So what should happen when a student engages in religious speech during a school-sponsored activity? In the case of Santa Fe v. Doe,the Supreme Court explained that when a school retains control over the location, schedule, and content of the student’s message, that message carries the imprimatur of the school.

. . . The First Amendment not only applies to prayer or other verbal religious expression, but also to other forms of religious messages during the school day. Educators may not require students to respond to assignments or classwork in religious ways. But students may include religious perspectives or ideas in their coursework, as long as such material meets the requirements of the assignment. The U.S. Department of Education released guidelines in 2000 with the following advice:

“Students may express their beliefs about religion in the form of homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free of discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school.”

Other forms of student religious expression should be treated as any other type of student speech on campus. If a student’s private expression does not create a substantial disruption to the educational environment or infringe on the rights of others, the school should protect the student’s right to express himself or herself.

These guidelines were given additional support on Feb. 7, 2003, when the Department of Education issued a somewhat revised version — and warned that school districts failing to abide by them faced losing federal money."


You might also visit their pages on teacher's religious liberties:
"School districts limit teachers’ religious expression in order to avoid violating the establishment clause, which requires separation between church and state. When teachers speak to their classes, they represent the school and the school board. Teachers, as agents of the government, may not inculcate students in religious matters. Otherwise, they run afoul of the establishment clause.

However, this does not mean that teachers can never speak about religion, for religion is an important part of history, culture and current events. A social studies class would likely need to include a discussion of religion. For instance, no complete study of the Crusades could occur without some discussion of Christianity and Islam. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out in Roberts v. Madigan (1990) that there is a “difference between teaching about religion, which is acceptable, and teaching religion, which is not.”"


or student religious practices:
"In 1995, President Bill Clinton sent material containing guidelines on student religious expression to every school district in the United States. The letter accompanying these guidelines declared:

“Nothing in the First Amendment converts our public schools into religion-free zones, or requires all religious expression to be left behind at the schoolhouse door. While the government may not use schools to coerce the consciences of our students, or to convey official endorsement of religion, the public schools also may not discriminate against private religious expression during the school day.

“Religion is too important in our history and our heritage for us to keep it out of our schools ... . [I]t shouldn’t be demanded, but as long as it is not sponsored by school officials and doesn’t interfere with other children’s rights, it mustn’t be denied.”


See also religioustolerance.org's intro essay on Religion in U.S. Public Schools.


"Prayer doesn't indoctrinate anybody. Tolerate it. "
The issue is not that prayer in and of itself has some special indoctrinative power - it's that in these specific and limited circumstances, it is constituting a gov't endorsement of religion - and, one should note, from a powerful authority figure (esp. for younger kids), someone who otherwise tells them what is right and wrong whether in terms of behavior or spelling.

"Private schools would also be a heck of a lot cheaper"

Well, yes, I'm sure lower-cost private schools would increase in number. Of course, you get what you pay for.

Part of what makes top notch elite private schools so great, though, is that they have extremely high tuitions, which are then spent in educating multiply-privileged children with a host of advantages.

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"Btw, I'm still waiting for Constitutional support for government funded education"

And I'm waiting for you to provide some information indicating where publicly funded schools are unconstitutional. The constitution isn't the final word on law, it just limits the laws that the government can pass. Drugs are illegal in this country, yet I don't see anything in the constitution that prevents me from growing certain types of plants.

"Wrong. Prayer can be done anytime, anywhere, and there is no clause that says otherwise."

No tim, it is you who is wrong. Teachers can not lead a class in prayer, Engle vs. Vitale established this in 1962.

Also read Dan's links, he tears your idea to shreds.

-scohen

highboy said...

"Should you have the choice whether or not to pay for the roads? The police? Firefighters? The military?"

An irrelevant comparison, since those particular jobs fall under the responsibility of the goverment, since the Constitution makes very clear the goverment's role in the protection of its citizens. No where do we see education as the responsibility of the goverment.

"And the government doesn't get to encourage or discourage any religion. It has to be religiously neutral."

No. Here's a reason why: Thomas Jefferson. Notice how Thomas Jefferson, one of the many Framers of the establishment clause, and an aggressive enforcer of it, uses GOVERNMENT funds to convert Indians to Christianity. (and the article is even written by a guy who makes the same claims for secular government you do!)There are many other examples, all of which you heard before, but choose to ignore. The goverment has always endorsed religion, and the authors of the establishment clause didn't feel this was a violation.

Next, citing old court cases doesn't win your argument, it actually would start a new one, which I won't get into here. Suffice to say you won't get the same ruling in every court.

"And I'm waiting for you to provide some information indicating where publicly funded schools are unconstitutional."

How about the fact that the Constitution DOES outline ALL of the responsibilities, limits, and powers of each branch of government, and hey, education isn't in there. It does however, list the goverment's responsibility to protect its citizens, which is why keeping drugs illegal fits into that category.

So I'm still waiting for my idea to be "torn to shreds." I also like your idea that teacher led prayer is an indoctrination, because of the authority figure these teachers present to younger children, and teach them right from wrong. You are saying that its wrong for teachers to teach right and wrong according to the teachings of Jesus, but its okay to teach right and wrong based on...

highboy said...

"And the government doesn't get to encourage or discourage any religion. It has to be religiously neutral."

So I guess public school's teaching the Declaration of Independance is out?

Anonymous said...

"An irrelevant comparison, since those particular jobs fall under the responsibility of the goverment, since the Constitution makes very clear the goverment's role in the protection of its citizens."

Roads? Of course, you can make a case for that (as was the case with the interstate highway system) - but then one could argue that ensuring a certain level of education was also part of the government's role in the protecting of citizens.
(In fact, the government's role in internal improvements was a major issue in the early 19th century)

I'm guessing that you're referring to Article 1, Section 8, which includes " . . .to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare " which could be construed as including the provision of education.

". No where do we see education as the responsibility of the goverment. "

In numerous state constitutions, actually. It's been the basis for a number of lawsuits against various states . . .

"No. Here's a reason why: Thomas Jefferson."
also owned slaves. Does that mean slavery is ok?

" uses GOVERNMENT funds to convert Indians to Christianity . . . and the article is even written by a guy who makes the same claims for secular government you do,"

Indeed: from that link:

"In other words, for a thousand dollar annuity and another thousand dollars for a three hundred dollar church building and a temporary agreement of one hundred dollars a year for seven years for them to pay their Catholic missionaries, the United States absorbed their land. This was a contract with the Kaskasia Indians, not with the Catholic Church; that is, the terms of the agreement (including money to pay the missionaries and construct a building) are a part of what the Indians wanted in payment for their land.

In specific response to the real issue put forth regarding the significance of this essay, treaty law which applied to Indians who were members of independent nations (American Indians did not become citizens until 1924) is not to be confused with law which did or does relate to American citizens. Agreements or contracts made by the President and Senate with foreign or American Indian nations have always stood on their own. Further, the United States cannot impose its laws, including the Bill of Rights, into the rest of the world--only within its own borders; thus, in 1990 (Smith v. Oregon) the Supreme Court of the United States correctly ruled that neither American Indian citizens nor their religious practices are above the laws of American society. Indian nations still exist in a special treaty relationship with the United States, but individual American Indians are now responsible as citizens. Therefore, use of the above examples of United States agreements which included money that would be used for religious purposes, as stipulated in treaties or contracts with Indian nations, is not relevant to the significance of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment; and, in contrast to the few above mentioned irrelevant treaty situations which were contracts designed to compensate Native American Indians for services rendered and for their land, many examples can be cited in which legislation appropriating funds of or utilizing the government of the United States for the use and support of religion unrelated to treaties with Indian nations have been ruled unconstitutional. A relevant example to the contrary would be a grant of land or appropriation of funds to religious institutions specifically for the purpose of government promotion and an establishment of religion unrelated to Indian nations and treaty law.


"The goverment has always endorsed religion, and the authors of the establishment clause didn't feel this was a violation. "

[same link] . . . And, it was President James Madison . . . who set the Congress straight in February 1811 when he vetoed two bills it had passed--one relating to land donated by the United States to a Baptist society for a church building and the other relating to governmental authority being vested in an Episcopal Church "to provide for the support of the poor and the education of poor children of the same." Both, said Madison, violated the Establishment Clause."

"Next, citing old court cases doesn't win your argument, it actually would start a new one,"
Um - you do know what precedent means?

" Suffice to say you won't get the same ruling in every court."

Well, so far, we pretty much have (although the same ruling in every court actually doesn't matter, it's what the highest court involved says). If you look at the links from the first amendment center site, you;ll see they've pretty consistently upheld students' freedom of religious expression, teacher's freedom of individual religious expression (ie, wearing a crucifix), and have also consistently found that the First Amendment " prohibits school officials from promoting or leading students in prayer."

"How about the fact that the Constitution DOES outline ALL of the responsibilities, limits, and powers of each branch of government, and hey, education isn't in there"
It also fails to mention the Internet. There is really no indication that the gov't cannot become involved in education. Certainly Geo. Washington wanted to establish a national university in Washington, although this never came to pass.

"You are saying that its wrong for teachers to teach right and wrong according to the teachings of Jesus, but its okay to teach right and wrong based on..."

No Hitting.

You really don't recognize that there is morality separate from religion, do you?

Yes, it would be wrong for public school teachers to teach right from wrong explicitly based on the religious teachings of Jesus (although general Western morality has been greatly influenced by these teachings), just as it would be wrong to so based on the teachings of Muhammed, or the Wiccan Rede, or the Angel Moroni, or whatever (However, there's no problem discussing these teachings in historical context, etc.).

Interestingly:
"The ethic of reciprocity or the Golden Rule, is a fundamental moral principle found in virtually all major religions and cultures, which simply means "treat others as you want them to treat you." It's universality suggests an innate human altruism, and is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights. Principal philosophers and religious figures have stated it in different ways:

"Love your neighbor as yourself" - Moses (ca. 1525-1405 BCE) in the Torah, Leviticus

"What you do not want others to do to you, do not do to others." -Confucius (ca. 551–479 BCE)

"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man." - Hillel (ca. 50 BCE-10 CE)

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." - Jesus (ca. 5 BCE—33 CE) in the Gospels,Luke 6:31;Luke 10:27 (affirming of Moses);Matthew 7:12;""

"So I guess public school's teaching the Declaration of Independance is out?"

Sigh. I work my fingers to the bone, and do you even read any of it? : )

"However, this does not mean that teachers can never speak about religion, for religion is an important part of history, culture and current events. A social studies class would likely need to include a discussion of religion. . . . The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out in Roberts v. Madigan (1990) that there is a “difference between teaching about religion, which is acceptable, and teaching religion, which is not.”

See also the First Amendment Center's Teaching about religion page.

-Dan S.

highboy said...

Dan, you glossed over the main point of my bringing up the Declaration. It is the foundation for which this goverment stands, and we see "God" written throughout. Reason being is that if these natural rights of which our founding fathers speak of come from man, then they can be taken away. Our fathers wanted to stress that these rights were God-given inherited rights. It is a clear endorsement of religion.

As for your dodge of the Thomas Jefferson issue: Yes, he did own slaves. That has nothing to do with the fact the he himself helped frame the establishment clause yet saw nothing wrong with endorsing religion, and apparently neither did any of the other founding fathers who gave clear endorsements of religion, even those who were adamantly for a separation of church and state. You cannot deny this.

Anonymous said...

"It does however, list the goverment's responsibility to protect its citizens, which is why keeping drugs illegal fits into that category."

Yet we allow alcohol and cigarettes. That's not at all hypocritical. You seem to be advocating the 'nanny state' idea so popular in some authoritarian circles, and that's a shame.

I also searched the constitution for the word 'protect', and the only thing I found that was at all germane was this:

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

I can't see how you can possibly twist this into making certain plants illegal. Now, I'm not saying that laws against drugs are unconstitutional, just trying to make a point that we can pass laws that have nothing to do with the rights granted in the constitution.

And Tim, when the supreme court rules something unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional until they reverse that ruling. As of right now, teacher lead prayer is unconstitutional.

I'll let Dan pick apart your argument about the declaration of independence, but you must realize that the declaration had nothing to do with the government outlined in the constitution.

-scohen

Anonymous said...

". It is the foundation for which this goverment stands"

Not exactly. It' a declaration of independence from Britain. The general aim is to justify the newly-born nation's bid for independence ("a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation."), grounded in an extended denunciation of the Crown's actions (""But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.")

As a foundation, the only part truly (and very truly, indeed) relevent is the famous beginning of the Preamble, stating that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights including the Big Three, and that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed - liberal political philosophy, a great deal of which Jefferson got from Ol' Johnny Locke.

Without downplaying the Declaration's importance, it might be more accurate to say that it is the Constitution - the law of the land, containing our basic principles of governance, ratified by the people's representatives - is more the foundation on which the government stands;

" and we see "God" written throughout. "

Actually, we don't: as this site on the history of the separation of church and state (worth reading if only for the display of old paper money (without religious mottoes) - man, we used to have awesome-looking money, what the heck happened?!) points out, there are only four: ""Nature's God," "Creator," "Supreme Judge," and "Divine Providence"" - choices of phrasings, incidentally, esp. the first, that suggest Deism.

"Reason being is that if these natural rights of which our founding fathers speak of come from man, then they can be taken away. "
There are other possibilities: such rights might be simply inherent in the human condition, for example, - if I understand correctly, this was Hobbes' take on it. Pretty amazing for a stuffed tiger . . .

"Our fathers"
by which you mean Jefferson.
" wanted to stress that these rights were God-given inherited rights."
Would seem so, and declare the whole course of action as okayed by God, " therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions . . ."

" It is a clear endorsement of religion. "
This becomes a very . . .odd issue.. First off it predates the Constitution by about a decade (and was written three years before the Virgina Statutes) drafted in large part by a single man as a statement on behalf of the revolutionary government, employing the phrases and thinking of the time.

"Yes, he did own slaves. That has nothing to do with the fact the he himself helped frame the establishment clause yet saw nothing wrong with endorsing religion,"

(Well, the helped frame the establishment clause bit is a little off - he wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was drawn on for the Establishment Clause, The Bill of Rights was originally drafted by James Madison; you can see a demonstration of his views on the Establishmen t Clause in my previous comment.)

But, anyway of course it does. He himself declared that all men were endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, including liberty! Should we then take this as he did, as somehow not applying to certain men and women with dark skin?

"yet saw nothing wrong with endorsing religion,"
Well, obviously he did, as is evident from all his writings on this subject. What you can say is that he saw nothing wrong with including justificatory references to 'Nature and Nature's God' in a revolutionary document, at least at the time he was writing it, and did not challenge the terms of a prior treaty with an independent nation.

"and apparently neither did any of the other founding fathers who gave clear endorsements of religion"
Such as? See the Madison quote above. Are you still going on about oaths?

Indeed, the 1787 Constitution - the law of the land, the basis of our government - makes only one reference to religion, and that is to ban religious tests as a qualification for office.

But it should not even be expected that the Founders had quite the same ideas about church/state relationships as we might. They lived at the beginning of a great experiment, in a world that was vastly different. We differ about a lot of things, slavery, women voting, etc.

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"And Tim, when the supreme court rules something unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional until they reverse that ruling. As of right now, teacher lead prayer is unconstitutional. "

And indeed, that ruling is about to have its 44th anniversary (June 25th)! Here's religioustolerance.org's page on Engel v. Vitale for more info . . .

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm sure nobody tried to read that WorldNetDaily link I posted all the way up, because no one bothered to mention it was broken!

Ok, everyone - esp. Highboy - go read
"http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=46828">Why I'm against pre-game prayers
, where a evangelical Christian with "pretty hard-core beliefs about the rights of individuals" explains what led him to become "adamantly opposed to teachers and other school officials leading students in prayer or the conduct of prayer rituals, even by students, at officially sanctioned events."

Please?

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

I think that link is cursed. One more try:

Why I'm against pre-game prayers

-Dan S.

loboinok said...

Dan S.,

Sorry that I didn't inform you of the bad link. I was going to when responding to your post but was diverted long enough to have forgotten about it.


Well, here's yet another piece of evidence that it is a vital and important principle, a response to demands for 'proof of harm' (in principle, anyway), and an explanation:

Proof of harm? To whom?

I think it sad that a state that was attacked by the Japanese would embrace the same culture and their religion, but it is their right to do under the constitution.(as presently interpreted)

The only harm I could see was the harm the writer caused to himself for not being ready to make a defense>for the hope that is in him and considering it better to suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.

We are all human though.

The problem is not with a pagan religion infiltrating our schools. It was Americans in an American state and country and culture, allowing a pagan religion to infiltrate the same.

We are not a Buddhist country and do not allow that religion and culture in our political or judicial arena. It should not be allowed in our educational arena.

Anonymous said...

Oh my. That was the most bigoted thing I've seen all week.

Congratulations.

and to think, when I read the article, I thought "wow, that guy finally understood what it's like to be a minority".

-scohen

loboinok said...

Oh my. That was the most bigoted thing I've seen all week.

Then that would mean what? You don't know what a bigot is or you haven't read much this week?

I am partial to my faith and politics and I am tolerant to a point, not a fault.

There are (increasingly) many things I don't tolerate.


and to think, when I read the article, I thought "wow, that guy finally understood what it's like to be a minority".

The two of us apparently read it differently. You might have possibly done the same with my statements.

Anonymous said...

A bigot is "a person extremely intolerant of others and irrespective of reasoning", which is exactly the attitude displayed in your post. Your implication that saying a Buddhist prayer is inappropriate while saying a Christian prayer would somehow be appropriate in this situation is bigotry. Furthermore, the natural consequences of that belief (that christian principles should supercede all others) also clearly violates the first amendment.

You also made this statement:

"We are not a Buddhist country and do not allow that religion and culture in our political or judicial arena. It should not be allowed in our educational arena."

Which is not only bigoted, but it is incorrect. There are no religious tests for any office, and I fail to see why Christianity should have any more preference in school prayer than does any other religion (not that I'm for any type of pre-game prayer).

You are not 'tolerant' of another religion, but you are providing a great example of why prayer should not be included in school.

"The two of us apparently read it differently. You might have possibly done the same with my statements."

Well of course we read it differently --i'm a religious minority and you're not-- but I think the meaning that you were supposed to take from the piece is that even a adult who is secure in his beliefs has trouble standing up to the majority, so how do you expect a child in school to do the same?

-scohen

loboinok said...

Your implication that saying a Buddhist prayer is inappropriate while saying a Christian prayer would somehow be appropriate in this situation is bigotry.

Not as far as I'm concerned.
Buddhism is not a part of our national identity or culture.
I am tolerant of other religions and beliefs without surrendering my faith and beliefs.

If I were to move to a country that were predominantly Buddhist, I would not expect that they would change their religion, culture and institutions to accommodate me or thousands like me.

Your implication that saying religious science is inappropriate while saying secular science would somehow be appropriate in this situation is bigotry.

Make any sense?


Furthermore, the natural consequences of that belief (that christian principles should supercede all others) also clearly violates the first amendment.

If I were to ascribe to revised history to fit my worldview, I would feel the same.(and did)

Which is not only bigoted, but it is incorrect. There are no religious tests for any office

What "office" are you refering to?

I fail to see why Christianity should have any more preference in school prayer than does any other religion

Yes, you do!

Well of course we read it differently --i'm a religious minority and you're not

I don't see what difference that makes, but would it make you feel better to know that I am a Zionist Christian?

Two of my favorite Jewish teachers are Zola Levitt (who just recently passed) and Arnold Fruchtenbaum.

even a adult who is secure in his beliefs has trouble standing up to the majority, so how do you expect a child in school to do the same?


Since this problem is the direct result of the secularization of our schools and unconstitutionally removing what was constitutionally recognized and protected-- the answer should be obvious.

Anonymous said...

"Your implication that saying a Buddhist prayer is inappropriate while saying a Christian prayer would somehow be appropriate in this situation is bigotry."

"Not as far as I'm concerned."

Well, it is. Also this statement:

I think it sad that a state that was attacked by the Japanese would embrace the same culture and their religion, but it is their right to do under the constitution.(as presently interpreted)


was also bigoted --and ignorant of Hawaii's history. If you don't see that, I don't know what to tell you. Look up the definition of bigotry some time, and do a little research on Hawaii while you're at it.

"Your implication that saying religious science is inappropriate while saying secular science would somehow be appropriate in this situation is bigotry

Make any sense?"

No, of course that doesn't make sense, what the hell is religious science? Science without the reliance on fact and evidence?

Me:"Well of course we read it differently --i'm a religious minority and you're not"

You:I don't see what difference that makes, but would it make you feel better to know that I am a Zionist Christian?

It means that I can relate to the feeling of being second-class that the author mentions, while to you it's an abstract concept. It doesn't help that you're a zionist christian, because that doesn't make you a minority. It does mean that you
belong to a group that seeks to manipulate Jews for their own purposes, which is bad, but not germane to this discussion.

"Since this problem is the direct result of the secularization of our schools and unconstitutionally removing what was constitutionally recognized and protected-- the answer should be obvious."

Sorry, teacher-led school prayer has been unconstitutional for around 45 years, so I'm not buying that argument. It's a nice belief that you have there (that teacher-led school prayer is constitutional) but it's not backed up by facts. Personally, I'm glad that our schools are secularized, I don't see a single positive thing that could come out of having teachers lead students in prayer. All I see is the exclusion of minorities and a waste of five minutes of learning time.

-scohen

loboinok said...

"was also bigoted --and ignorant of Hawaii's history.

Even though Hawaii was not a state when I started school, I was taught some things about it later in Jr. and High school.
But before going into it, maybe you would specify just why you think me ignorant of it's history.

It means that I can relate to the feeling of being second-class that the author mentions, while to you it's an abstract concept.

You really don't know enough about me to make such a definitive statement.

You don't know that I was not born into Christianity and "indoctrinated" from birth. That I have lived only half my life as a Christian.

That I was a liberal for 35 years, nine as a Christian.

I have lived in poor "black" neighborhoods and "hispanic" neighborhoods. Spent most of my teen years in a "Bohemian" community(Czechtown).

Look up the definition of bigotry some time

big·ot
One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
as in; "It does mean that you
belong to a group that seeks to manipulate Jews for their own purposes, which is bad
,

Just how do we manipulate Jews and for what purposes?

This confuses me. Liberals think the Jews control our government for their own nefarious schemes even though a majority of Jews are liberals, and some Jews think Christians are manipulating Jews for their own purposes, yet, many liberals think Jews and Christians are evil.

(and I'm an intolerant, bigoted Christian)
hummm.

"Sorry, teacher-led school prayer has been unconstitutional for around 45 years, so I'm not buying that argument"

If it has been unconstitutional for around 45 years, what was it prior to that?

If you want facts, our history is replete with them, if you think it will do you any good.

Anonymous said...

"You really don't know enough about me to make such a definitive statement."

I know enough by your reaction to the story. If you were a religious minority, the reaction would have been one of understanding and compassion, yet you had no such reaction. That you lived in a black (hey, so did I) or hispanic area does not give you insight on what it's like to be black or hispanic --just what it's like to live around minorities. If only you could walk a mile in their shoes --if only you could walk a mile in mine.

"This confuses me. Liberals think the Jews control our government for their own nefarious schemes even though a majority of Jews are liberals, and some Jews think Christians are manipulating Jews for their own purposes, yet, many liberals think Jews and Christians are evil."

This is so full of misconceptions and wrongheadedness, I don't know where to start. First off, Liberals don't think jews control the government --anti-semites do. Anti-semites also tend not to be liberal.

Zionist Christians want all the jews to move back to Israel so one more prophecy can be completed and Jesus can return. Thus, you want jews to move to israel for reasons not in the best interests of the jews, and for reasons that are fairly easy to call selfish.

I don't know where you get your information on 'Liberals' from, but it might help if you met and talked to one. What you state above sounds like one of the standard strawmen that conservatives use to demonize liberals.


"If it has been unconstitutional for around 45 years, what was it prior to that?"

It was in the same class as segregation, slavery, non-universal suffrage and so many other things --they were all 'constitutional' too at one point or another. The fact is that unless the supreme court rules the other way, teacher led prayer is unconstitutional right now, and that's what matters in this discussion.

-scohen

loboinok said...

It was in the same class as segregation, slavery, non-universal suffrage and so many other things --they were all 'constitutional' too at one point or another.

Segregation, slavery and suffrage were all addressed and corrected by constitutional amendments.

All were affected by Supreme Court decisions, for and against.

The "free exercise" clause of the first amendment has never been repealed or altered by a constitutional amendment.

It has however, been altered by Supreme Court decisions.

Furthermore, the "freedom of speech", "freedom of religion", "press", "assembly" and "petition", have all been subjected to "tests" by SCOTUS.

None of those "tests" have radically changed the exercise of any rights in the public arena except for "free exercise of religion."

Which bring us back to the subject of this post; the Jefferson letter that the Supreme Court used differently than it had in the past to come to a different conclusion and decision than it had previously.

It bypassed the people and article 5 of the constitution.