Democrats & Liberals Archives

Hooray for the ACLU

Under the Taliban in Afghanistan, fundamentalist leaders in the government decided what religious beliefs were acceptable. In America, thankfully, the government doesn’t tell us what god to believe in: Church and State are separate, and Americans are free to worship as (and if) they please.

One would think that after 200 years, people would, generally speaking, be clear on the basic concepts surrounding freedom of religion. Alas, not so. Not so far from my home, in the Dover, PA school system, science teachers are now required to teach "intelligent design". And let's make no mistake here: the study of "intelligent design" is not about science--it's about twisting science to support a certain literal interpretation of scripture.

A short summary of ID, from looking at some arguments from proponents: there are some aspects of evolution we don't understand, and therefore G-d may control evolution. I personally don't mind having high school students hear that much, but it's ludicrous to plan to subject them to the actual arguments between ID proponents and opponents, which quickly degenerate into technical discussions of how the expression levels of groups of related genes are regulated in metazoans, the connections between ontogeny and phylogeny, and such. It's also clean that mainstream biologists are not in any way divided on the correctness of the "theory" of evolution.

Anyway - not surprisingly, the requirement to teach "intelligent design" was not spearheaded by science teachers. The main instigator is a school board member William Buckingham, a self-described born-again Christian and a believer in creationism.

The Pennsylvania branch of the ACLU is now litigating against the Dover school board, and according to my wife (who volunteers and sometimes works there) they've been getting a bunch of letters with varying degrees of hostility. A recent letter in my local paper accused the ACLU of trying to suppress freedom of speech by their lawsuit.

I've sent a shorter version of this blog to my local paper, but that letter-to-the-editor is a classic case of "unclear on the concept": it's not a matter of what gets spoken, but what gets taught to our children. William Buckingham is free to speak as he likes, and I'm sure the ACLU would be all over anyone that said otherwise. But in America, neither he, nor any other religious leader, has the right to use the public schools as a pulpit.

When my family moved to Pittsburgh we immediately chose a synagogue, at which our children now receive religious instruction twice a week. The wonderful thing about that choice is that it was our choice, and ours alone. Americans who sincerely care about religion should be grateful to the ACLU for helping to defend the right of every American to find G-d his or her own way - not through the government.

A few days ago Christmas carollers, I guess as a protest against the godless liberals, came by the ACLU and sang, along with their other tunes, "We can't wish you a Merry Christmas, we can't wish you a Merry Christmas, we can't wish you a Merry Christmas, because the ACLU says no." And the ACLU office workers listened cheerfully, then invited the carollers in for coffee and fudge. (And it was excellent fudge, by the way.) I doubt there will a Christmas-miracle change for heart for anyone, but you never know. After all, Rush Limbaugh has now become an ardent privacy advocate, so anything's possible!

Posted by William Cohen at December 23, 2004 6:04 PM