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A Free Conscience, a Gift from Our Founders

Religious extremists claim that our founders planned a “Christian nation” and that we are no longer living up to our religious ideals. This is not so. I present quotations from early presidents James Madison, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Constitution-committee member Oliver Ellsworth and Baptist Minister John Leland. They were eager to give each individual in the U.S. a free religious conscience. To this end they insisted there be no official religion, no religious test for office, we show empathy toward all religions and that there be a wall of separation between church and state.

No Official Religion

Though our founders considered themselves Christian, most of them were not members of an organized church. They came to the new land to escape religious persecution. This is why they wanted to be sure there was no official religion everybody must practice. It is not happenstance that the word "God" appears nowhere in the Constitution.

President James Madison said:

Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the enjoyment of his religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any sect, nor suffering any sect to invade those of another."

President George Washington said:

"And, here, I am persuaded, you will permit me to observe that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation, respecting religion, from the Magna Charta of our country."

President John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, Article II of which states clearly that we are not a "Christian nation":

"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion, - as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, - and as the said states never have entered into any war or act of hostitility against any Mohomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

No Religious Test for Office

The founders were very careful what they said about religion. The Constitution states that "no religious test shall ever be rquired as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." According to Oliver Ellsworth:

"Test laws are useless and ineffectaual, unjust and tyrannical; therefore the Convention have done wisely in excluding this engine of persecution, and providing that no religious test shall ever be required."

Empathy Toward All Religions

The founders believed in more than tolerance. They favored empathy. They thought that instead of denigrating other religions, we should learn about them and work with other religionists in harmony for the common good. John Leland, a Baptist minister who spoke very differently from many ministers today, said:

"The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever ... Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians."

Wall of Separation

Our founders felt so strongly that government should not interfere with anyone's religion that they talked of a "wall of separation." None other than Thomas Jefferson said with reference to the establishment clause:

"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 power 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 would 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

For more statements about religious liberty from our founders, see "The Separation of Church and State," edited by Forrest Churc (Beacon Press).

Regardless of what religious extremists say today, we have the statements of our founders that tell us they were firmly against the government getting involved with religion in any way. Do the so-called "originalists" Scalia and Thomas believe in the "wall of separation between church and state"? Does our president? Does his Supreme Court nominee Samel Alito?

Our founders wanted to establish a nation where each individual is free to follow his or her own religious conscience. A free conscience - this is our founder's gift to each of us. Should we allow a man who may take this gift away from us on the Supreme Court?

Posted by Paul Siegel at January 2, 2006 1:47 PM
Comments
Comment #109769

Paul:

Excellent post. I am curious to have more information on what you mean by this:

Should we allow a man who may take this gift away from us on the Supreme Court?

Do you have specific references? Do you think Alito is against this separation?

Thanks again for the excellent references. Very telling.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 2, 2006 2:02 PM
Comment #109772

I have had this conversation with some people… and the gymnastics they have tried to use to attribute Christianity to our Founding Father, and thus, to us today, is mind boggling.

I tell my children, if they wish to follow the logic to bring bread crumbs and asprin.

Some go so far as to say that even though these great men said these things, they were still of a Western-European Christian culture and that makes their beliefs Christian.

I point out that, even raised in said culture, their words clearly denouce the culture that influenced them then.

In the late 1700s these men looked back over time at all the things they saw that was wrong and created a new nation based on a response to what they saw.

I do not know, for the life of me, why anyone would be so insecure in their religion that they would have to have the government’s approval of it. It makes no sense…

…Unless they are looking for approval so they could deny someone else their right to their religion.

Excellent quotes!

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 2, 2006 2:39 PM
Comment #109773

Most Americans know that there are separation of church and state rules and respect them. No further explanation necessary. Over the decades and centuries since, the religious right fundamentalists/activists have graffitied many of our everyday activities, such as the pledge of allegiance in school, the words ‘In God We Trust’ on our money and in our courts, swearing by the bible, and I’m sure that there is a whole slew of other items. It’s just as bad as punks painting their graffiti on walls and trains. I believe that it is time to Erase the Graffiti from our everyday lives, and strictly ban any future occurances or attempts.

People need to be made aware that their government has, since its inception, been continuously criminally hijacked by fundamental religious groups… They need to be convinced that the Graffiti needs to be removed, no matter how appealing they may find it.

Posted by: Steve at January 2, 2006 2:42 PM
Comment #109778

I am all for Separation of Church and State. However, remember that the original Constitution was written without a number of Amendments that helped improve it. Presidential candidates choose running mates, as opposed to running by themselves. Slavery was abolished. All former slaves were granted automatic United States citizenship, and they had all the rights and privileges as any other citizen. Senators are chosen by the people, as Representatives are. Women were given the right to vote. The Prohibition was lifted.

The Original Constitution is not perfect, so liberals and/or Democrats should not use its “ideals” as a defense, nor argue about the “ideals” with their opponents. Rather, as the Amendments show us, the argument should be about how the Written Law serves its People best. No matter WHAT the original writers’ ideals, societies change (ebb and flow), and so too must their Laws.

Posted by: matt at January 2, 2006 3:21 PM
Comment #109779

The issues of the radical political christian fundamentalists, and there are many fundamental Christians who are not political radicals, has absolutely nothing to do with the strength of their faith, committment or belief in God or
Christ and his teachings. It is totally about the weakness and/or LACK of committment, belief or faith in God or Christ. They can only believe in God if he is made in their own image and have the state forcefully validate that for them. It is their own crisis of faith and not anyone else’s that has always been the real issue. No where is this more credibly seen than in their necessity of their rejection God’s creations in the face of their factual relity reality through “creationalism” and “ID” as scientific fact and proof that God exists. In truth, when one proclaims God is the creator and then denies his ceations, that is the ULTIMATE DENIAL of God. Futherthermore, if God’s existence could be proved it would necessarily kill himb ecause, If god is limited to an empiricle being, thus he cannot not be omnipotent, and if God isn’t omnipotent HE CANNOT EXIST. Historically, those who demand the political and legal recognition of God the most are, in fact, those who believe in him the least.

Posted by: Richard at January 2, 2006 3:24 PM
Comment #109780

Though our founders considered themselves Christian

Paul,

Here is some of what Jefferson said about Christianity:

I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.
Christianity…(has become) the most perverted system that ever shone on man. …Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus.

Jefferson also refered to the bible as “dunghill”.:

to remove a few of the teachings of Jesus was to “remove the few diamonds from the dunghill.”

Historians classify George Washington as a deist.

The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.

John Adams wrote

This is my religion … joy and exaltation in my own existence … so go ahead and snarl … bite … howl, you Calvinistic divines and all you who say I am no Christian. I say you are not Christian.

But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed.
The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.

Benjamin Franklin wrote:

I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.

Religion I found to be without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serves principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another.

James Madison wrote:

During almost 15 centuries the legal establishment known as Christianity has been on trial, and what have been its fruits, more or less in all places? THESE ARE THE FRUITS: Pride, indolence, ignorance and arrogance in the clergy. Ignorance … arrogance and servility in the laity and in bothe clergy and laity superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

Thomas Paine wrote:

When I see throughout this book, called the Bible, a history of the grossest vices and a collection of the most paltry and contemptible tales and stories, I could not so dishonor my Creator by calling it by His name.

Men and books lie. Only nature does not lie.

The Declaration of Independence refers to the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.

Thomas Jefferson also wrote this concerning the seperation of Church and State:

The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.
A professorship of Theology should have no place in our institution
Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 2, 2006 3:29 PM
Comment #109781

Great post, Paul. One that will no doubt be roundly chastised by those who erroneously believe we are, in fact, becoming more “Godless” as a country.

As you correctly point out, the word “God” appears nowhere in the Constitution for a reason: our founding fathers saw the persecution inherent in a theocracy (call it a monarchy if you must; the historical reality doesn’t change), and longed for freedom from that type of persecution. Indeed, one need look no further than the Crusades, the Inquisition or the Taliban to realize that when religion gets into society’s driving seat, tyranny results. For example:

• In 1998, Osama bin Laden declared that his war against America was in defense of Islam, because American policies and actions in the Middle East represent “a clear declaration of war on God, His messenger and Muslims.”

• Slobodan Milosevic, in a 2003 interview, said, “I place my trust in God and not in some illegal political tribunal. God has already told me that this period in history is a part of the inevitable human process. My sacrifice will be recognized in many years. That is my hope and my faith.”

• When addressing the Reichstag in 1938, Adolf Hitler stated, “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”

Granted, these are but three examples of how religious extremism has resulted in some of civilization’s most reprehensible acts. But such extremism continues today, because the seeds of its convictions begin with an individual’s warped interpretation of divine will, which has no regard for the unjust or horrific consequences it has on those who are powerless to change those convictions.

That said, religion is not to blame. Those who interpret religion for their own sociological and political agendas are. And the belief that one is doing the work of God is one of the signs of someone who believes in the infallibitily of his own work, and of his own decisions (Sunni extremism and its strict adherence to Koranic law by killing those who are not perceived to share in the tenets of said law is but one example.)

Closer to home, remember the August 2002 press conference where George W. Bush could not recall a single mistake that he had made as president? To refresh your memory, he stated:

“And I just — I cannot speak strongly enough about how we must collectively get after those who kill in the name of — in the name of some kind of false religion.”

Hmmm. Would that be Islam, Dubya? I guess your religion is better than their religion. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely why God should have no presencein politics — just as our founding fathers envisioned.

Posted by: Mister Magoo at January 2, 2006 3:37 PM
Comment #109782

Matt:

I am all for Separation of Church and State.

The Original Constitution is not perfect, so liberals and/or Democrats should not use its “ideals” as a defense, nor argue about the “ideals” with their opponents. Rather, as the Amendments show us, the argument should be about how the Written Law serves its People best. No matter WHAT the original writers’ ideals, societies change (ebb and flow), and so too must their Laws.

So, what part of separation of church and state would you have change? What amendment are you proposing?

These are not Democratic “ideals”. We just appear to believe in it a little more than Republicans. I think it is one of the tenets of the constitution that should remain unchanged.

It serves ALL the people best that way. JMHO of course.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 2, 2006 3:37 PM
Comment #109783

Nice piece. Thanks for the research.
My favorite bumber sticker” The Christian Right is Niether”.

Posted by: Bill at January 2, 2006 3:40 PM
Comment #109790
Those who interpret religion for their own sociological and political agendas are. And the belief that one is doing the work of God is one of the signs of someone who believes in the infallibitily of his own work, and of his own decisions

Mister Magoo,

In October of this year the BBC ran a miniseries called ‘In Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs’ in which Abu Mazen, Palestinian Prime Minister, and Nabil Shaath, his Foreign Minister state that President Bush said this to them:

“I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’ And I did. And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.’ And by God I’m gonna do it.”
Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 2, 2006 3:52 PM
Comment #109794

Matt,
I agree completely that the laws, as they are written, should be the final arbiter in our society. But where do we end up if the constitution’s ideals are not the basis of any argument pertaining to how the laws should be written? what ideals, then, SHOULD we argue from?

As your recital of amendments point out, the constitution and the laws have changed. It is very telling to me that, almost without exception, they have shown a trend toward liberalism; toward freedoms.

Richard,
I am interested in hearing of some examples of how people deny God’s creations. What are you referring to? And who then are the people who don’t really believe?

The moment the constitution stops being the only referent for our laws, we start to deny that document. I can think of no better test for a candidate to the supreme court than his or her intention to adhere to the constitution.

What a great point about the “originalists”, these supposed strict constructionalists on the supreme court. It seems to me that the strictness only comes into play when more freedoms might logically be assumed to come from the constitution.

They speak of state’ rights and limited government- until some religious/moral principle that they would like to self-righteously shove down our throats is the issue.

Posted by: Steve Miller at January 2, 2006 4:12 PM
Comment #109795
The Original Constitution is not perfect, so liberals and/or Democrats should not use its “ideals” as a defense, nor argue about the “ideals” with their opponents. Rather, as the Amendments show us, the argument should be about how the Written Law serves its People best. No matter WHAT the original writers’ ideals, societies change (ebb and flow), and so too must their Laws.

Matt,

Our founding fathers were actually quite brilliant in their their writing of the Constitution to protect us from the powers of the government but still allow for the “ebb and flow” of the times and society.

If you read our Constitution it is interesting that the sections that deal with the power of the government are very clear and specific. It spells out in great detail the functions, responsibilities, and limits of the federal government, how the representatives of each branch are to be chosen, and even going so far as to say who can and cannot represent us.

However, if you look at the sections of the Constitution that deal with our liberties, rights and freedoms, they are much more vague, and much more brief, therefore much more open to interpretation. I believe this was done intentionally by the founding fathers. Why? Because they knew that time was not static. What they knew was that government needed to be limited in it’s powers, but that other issues regarding personal liberties would and should change with the times.

They also made the Constitution amendable, but they made the process difficult, I believe to help ensure that it was truly the will of the people. Hundreds of amendments to the Constitution are introduced every year, only 17 have been ratified since the Bill of Rights. I believe they intended to make the procedure unnecessary by being very specific about the powers of the government and vague on issues of personal liberties. This would protect our system of government from being easily changed by the courts, leaving it to the other branches to initiate difficult amendments. This would help to ensure that the changes to the way government worked were widely accepted by allowing for public debate.

It would also allow our personal liberties, rights and freedoms to change with the changing times, not through the difficult to impossible task of amendments, but by allowing the court of the time to interpret the meanings based on the times.

Of course we have those that have labeled judges who make decisions they disagree with “activist judges”. Are there some rights granted by the courts that the founding fathers never intended? Yes, but I think that was exactly what they intended.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 2, 2006 4:18 PM
Comment #109797

It’s interesting that there is no freedom of religion clause in the original version of the constitution. The only thing dealing with it is the 1st Admendment. Could this be because the original intent of the writers was to have a state religion? Just throwing it out to see what other think.
The reason for the freedom of religion clause in the 1st Admendment is that a lot of our forefathers came here to excape regligous persecution. They didn’t want that happening here.
Some states were refusing to ratify the Constitution without freedom of religion being guaranteed.

I do not know, for the life of me, why anyone would be so insecure in their religion that they would have to have the government’s approval of it. It makes no sense…

…Unless they are looking for approval so they could deny someone else their right to their religion.


Posted by: Darren7160 at January 2, 2006 02:39 PM

I don’t know why either. I’m a Baptist and don’t need or want the Governments approval. In fact I don’t want the Government involved at all with my beliefs.
Unfourtantly there are folks out there that want to control what everyone else believes. This goes for religious and nonreligious people. And the best way to control them is to have the Government do it.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 2, 2006 4:33 PM
Comment #109798
They speak of state’ rights and limited government- until some religious/moral principle that they would like to self-righteously shove down our throats is the issue.

Steve,

Limited government is the best argument for many supreme court rulings on civil liberties. It makes me laugh when Republicans claim they are for limited government, that government should stay out of our lives.

Yet, it is for the most part, these same people who think it is ok for the government to spy on us without warrants. That they should dictate what we can and cannot do in the bedroom. Even who we can or cannot marry and start a family with.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 2, 2006 4:34 PM
Comment #109800

And don’t forget claiming gays want “special rights” as they try to deny them equal rights!!

Posted by: Steve Miller at January 2, 2006 4:36 PM
Comment #109801

BTW, what’s the latest on the funny IP addresses that have been trying to access the computers of some who post here?

Posted by: Steve Miller at January 2, 2006 4:38 PM
Comment #109802

Bill:

My favorite bumber sticker” The Christian Right is Niether”. Posted by Bill at January 2, 2006 03:40 PM

I’m having a distressing visual image of you with a sticker glued to your ‘bumb!! Your future use of spell check will help diminish the potential for such images, for which I thank you. (Side comment: I don’t mind stickers on the ‘bumbs’ of Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Garner and the like) :)

To all:

I am for separation of church and state and agree that we should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’.

However, I’m troubled by instances where nothing of the sort is happening, yet the use of Christianity or its symbols is prohibited. In my community, an elementary school child drew a picture for a lesson on ecology showing the earth, recycling bins and a picture of Jesus looking down on the earth. The teacher and the school prevented the student from having their picture on the wall with those of other students.

There are situations where valedictorians are barred from thanking God for aiding them. There are examples of people wanting to prevent nativity scenes, even if shown alongside other religious symbols such as menorah’s etc.

There are some out there who think that simply expressing words about a religion is the same as supporting that religion. Referring to, condoning and supporting religion are three vastly different things.

In what way is a valedictory speech even close to making a law establishing a religion? In what way should the separation of church and state be called into question? I understand that if the school principal gave the speech, it could appear that he/she was supporting a certain religion. But how does a student using the freedom of speech to express his/her opinion violate anything?

Help me understand this, please. Thanks

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 2, 2006 4:42 PM
Comment #109803

Richard

The issues of the radical political christian fundamentalists, and there are many fundamental Christians who are not political radicals, has absolutely nothing to do with the strength of their faith, committment or belief in God or
Christ and his teachings. It is totally about the weakness and/or LACK of committment, belief or faith in God or Christ. They can only believe in God if he is made in their own image and have the state forcefully validate that for them.

I couldn’t agree with you more. But you just got the ‘religious right’ mad at you.
I don’t call these people true Christians. They use it to advance their own agenda. Not the cause of Christ.
You’ve also manage to piss off the evolutionist.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 2, 2006 4:42 PM
Comment #109804

Womanmarine:

Here is one link - http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/110405K.shtml

“Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said that Thursday in a private meeting Judge Alito expressed empathy for ‘the impression that the court’s decisions were incoherent in this area of the law in a way that really gives the impression of hostility to religious speech and religious expression.’”

Posted by: Paul Siegel at January 2, 2006 4:44 PM
Comment #109805

Some groups are determined to bring religion into government programs. This site is pro:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/fbci/

This site is mostly anti:

http://www.failureisimpossible.com/agenda/faithbased.htm

Do a search on “faith-based” and you will get more info than you will ever need on this subject.

Posted by: ray at January 2, 2006 4:46 PM
Comment #109807
BTW, what’s the latest on the funny IP addresses that have been trying to access the computers of some who post here?

steve,

I am up to 34136 access attempts. That is 410 more attempts since this morning at 4:18. It doesn’t look like the record of 3015 access attempts made yesterday will be broken today.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 2, 2006 4:51 PM
Comment #109809

Here’s another good Thomas Jefferson quote:

Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear
Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 2, 2006 4:56 PM
Comment #109810

After reading about those attempted incursions last night, I opened up my Norton firewall and found I have been targeted between 9 and 20 times per month. Not a single one of these IP addresses is one of those from any government agency…..hmmm. 30,0000+ you say? I’m fascinated to see what comes of THIS…..

Posted by: Steve Miller at January 2, 2006 4:57 PM
Comment #109812

WHOA! Yaal are talking about funny IP addresses.
What are these things? And how can I tell if they’re trying to access my computer?

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 2, 2006 5:00 PM
Comment #109818

Joebagodonuts:

I can’t answer you specifically, just put forth some ideas.

I firmly believe that religious expression has no place in our public schools. At the elementary level, that poor child’s picture should have been shown, IMHO. I wish I knew more, I bet there is more to the story. The school may have already had problems in this area within the community. This is one that I would have to think much more about.

As far as thanking God in a Valedictorian address, this should also be acceptable. Again, there may be more to the story, as above. It puts me in mind of the groups who want to insist on prayers at school functions. Perhaps it is considered prayer?

I suspect with all the religious conflict going on right now, that these schools are being overly cautious. Just a thought. These things probably wouldn’t have even been an issue except in these times.

I am a firm believer that there should not be religious symbols of any kind displayed in or around government buildings or on government property. After all, they are supposed to be for all the people.

In my humble opinion, the more the religious groups push for their “freedom of expression” in places like schools, courts and the like, the more backlash results, and the more these issues become contentious. Let’s keep religion where it is appropriate, and government separate.

How can you go too far in separating church and state?

I hope your new year is happy and prosperous!!

Posted by: womanmarine at January 2, 2006 5:25 PM
Comment #109819

Paul:

Thanks! Some food for thought. As I posted above, how can you go to far in separation of church and state? I dunno.

Ray: thanks for those links. Much reading to do now.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 2, 2006 5:31 PM
Comment #109824

Excellent and well-titled article, Paul. What a wonderful collection of quotes! Great additional quotes from many of the commenters here. The founders understood that they were far from perfect, but were bold in constructing a Constitution which provided a solid foundation while allowing for cautious and informed improvement, such as the abolition of slavery and suffrage for women.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at January 2, 2006 5:57 PM
Comment #109826

Ron,
At least two people who post on this blog have seen evidence of IP addresses belonging to the department of defense that attempted to gain access to their computers. Another blogger said that all internet systems are controlled by the U.S. government. That may be so, however, none of the very few Ip addresses that have tried to access my computer were of government origin.

I access the internet through MSN. They offer a free Norton firewall program. This allows you to trace the IP addresses of any attempted access tries.

Posted by: Steve Miller at January 2, 2006 6:13 PM
Comment #109828

If any student wants to thank God in a speech, I would have absolutely no problem at all with it. If a school official wanted to talk about God or religion in his introduction to a graduation, that might go over the line and give the appearance of the publicly funded school having some connection to religion

In my opinion it is better to let people worship (or not ) as they please AT HOME OR IN CHURCH. Trying to cater to many or all religions at school or the town hall just reinforces the idea that the government has a connection to religion.

Posted by: Steve Miller at January 2, 2006 6:21 PM
Comment #109831

Joebagodonuts,

I, as well, don’t know the reasoning behind prohibiting those things. The only thing I can say is that when you think about the cases taken before the Supreme Court (the ones I know of anyway) it is always a case of someone who wants religion removed from the schools, ie school prayer, intellegent design, the pledge, etc. Are there any cases brought to the Supreme Court where students were arguing for their right to free expression? The girl that had her picture removed by the school is a good example. Unless there is something more to the story, it seems like that would be a case for the courts.

There is a big difference between an authority figure teaching religious beliefs or schools forcing religion into the classrooms, and a student exercising their right to free expression. It seems to me that the line between the two would be clear.

In your example of the valedictorian who is barred from thanking God, Personally, I think you should be able to thank anyone or entity you want in such a speech. I wonder what would happen,though, if the valedictorian were of a different faith and thanked Buddha or Allah, would there be outrage? And would that outrage come from proponants of seperation of church and state or from Christian groups? Does anyone know if this has happened?

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 2, 2006 6:27 PM
Comment #109835

I cann’t give yaall the names of the cases, but the Supreme Court has ruled that student lead prayer at school functions is ok. As long as the students do it on their own. The court has also ruled that students hold prayer meetings before school as long as they’re doing it on their own. Our high school allows students to hold prayer meetings in the gym before school as long as a faculty member is willing to chaparone it. The faculty member however cannot participate in it.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 2, 2006 6:48 PM
Comment #109858

Ron Brown,

I think the case you are referring to is SANTA FE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT v. JANE DOE, decided on June 19, 2000. The Court ruled that such student-led prayers were unconstitutional. Here’s the decision, http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/firstamendment/santafe.html

If anyone knows of a more recent case that limits or overturns this finding, let us know.

Posted by: Robert Benjamin at January 2, 2006 9:02 PM
Comment #109865

Is anyone here familiar with Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia? There is a section that I think is particularly relevant to this discussion called The different religions received into that state?

It even seems very relevant to modern times.

But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
Is this the kind of protection we receive in return for the rights we give up? Besides, the spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecuter, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united.
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments.
Our sister states of Pennsylvania and New York, however, have long subsisted without any establishment at all. The experiment was new and doubtful when they made it. It has answered beyond conception. They flourish infinitely. Religion is well supported; of various kinds indeed, but all good enough; all sufficient to preserve peace and order: or if a sect arises whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play, and reasons and laughs it out of doors, without suffering the state to be troubled with it. They do not hang more male-factors than we do. They are not more disturbed with religious dissentions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparallelled, and can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance, because there is no other circumstance in which they differ from every nation on earth. They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them.

Sorry to keep quoting TJ, but the more of his writings I read the more I admire him. He was obviously a very wise man.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 2, 2006 11:07 PM
Comment #109866

I also have been being attacked, but not by intruders.

I have recieved the 32sober virus as an attachment 144 times since last August, but only on the e-mail address that I have used to reference here. Norton has caught it every time, thank goodness.

Don’t ever open e-mail attachments from folks you don’t know.

Posted by: Rocky at January 2, 2006 11:20 PM
Comment #109871

joebagodonuts,

You wrote:

In what way is a valedictory speech even close to making a law establishing a religion? In what way should the separation of church and state be called into question? I understand that if the school principal gave the speech, it could appear that he/she was supporting a certain religion. But how does a student using the freedom of speech to express his/her opinion violate anything?

OK… so… let’s say that there are excesses on both sides of this issue… how harmful is it if we stray a little bit to the left and over protect people from the establishment of religion. Valedictorians who want to thank God can go down on their knees and thank him all day long in a deep personal experiential relationship with God. Is their gratitude more sincere if they do it public? Is God so weak and dependent on our praise that he needs public adoration - private adoration isn’t enough? I would suggest the possibility that the valedictorian has a hidden manipulative evangelical agenda and wants to “witness” to us and ram his self righteous sanctimonious religion down our throats and he wants do it on a tax payer funded stage and some of us are just sick to death of those sanctimonious self righteous evangelical Christians who try to do that and who think that they have the moral high ground when they don’t. If we were really interested in their spiritually bankrupt crap we would come to their church. There are many wonderful Christians quietly living their faith but there are far too many like Pat Robertson and Falwell. No one is telling the valedictorian that he cannot exercise free speech and or evangelize and or thank God publicly but it doesn’t have to try to ram that crap down my throat from a stage that I paid for - not that I would care all that much that he did. I would just think was rude. How would the passionate Christians in the audience if I got up on the same stage and thanked God that I wasn’t stupid enough to believe in such an idiotic, simplistic, stupid, irrational, self-contradictory dogma as Christianity. Forget the fact that it would be illegal for me to do that - it would be rude to all of the Christians who passionately believe in their faith and doubly insulting since they also paid for the stage. In direct answer to your question how is the student violating anything? The student is not violating - it is the principal - if the principal allows it then he is providing defacto sanction and support. It is his school. He is the professional. If he allows religion to be rammed down people’s throat in his school, then it is the official government policy of the school to allow religion to rammed down people’s throats… and… if that is the case then he better give me the right to sing the praises of Satan from the same stage.

Posted by: Ray G. at January 3, 2006 12:23 AM
Comment #109872

As far as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, my understanding is that there were discussion of including them within the body of the Constitution. However some argued that the graning of these rights should be done by the states.

When the states view the Constitution, they went back to the Constitutional Congress and insisted that these rights were codified so they would be applicable across the states.

I do agree that the Constitution is a “living, breathing” document that attains new meanings as we progress as a society. The Amendment process (and its difficulty) makes that clear.

And yes, I have to agree. This seems to be a Democratic issue of upholding the Constitution but really should it be? Should not the Republicans also be just as strict with the letter and the intent? This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

To those that question the limitations on the speech invocations and benedictions… the problems arise here with the “appearance” of the school supporting these words since they are supporting the event. One case you might be able to find is LEE v. WEISMAN.

What is also looked into is adult versus minor. Invocations and such withing legislatures (which I do not agree with) are okay because the people participating and have to be there are adults capapble of determining for themselves what they wish to do and will not feel coerced.

In a high school setting this may not be the case. There can be feelings of coercion, especially in some communities and some areas.

I was beat by a principle of my 6th grade public school because I refused to read the morning Bible passage.

I was polite but firm. I explained my concerns with being directed to read a religous book in a public school.

This was Birmingham Alabama in the early 70’s. The Principal told me she didn’t care what those “Damn Yankees” up north said… this was her school and she would do what she wanted.

As I have posted this story before I apologize to those I bore with it again… but, if you choose to laugh or you believe I got what I deserved please consider.

The act of reading the Bible was not supposed to be done. The teacher and school was specifically violating the separation clause. When a student refused his was physically assaulted.

What would prevent that from happening again? No one would have believed that it would happen in the early 70’s but it did.

We can get into philosophical questions of whether I should be punished because discipline was more important than my position. Even in 6th grade I was aware of the Nuremberg Defense not being a defense in the violation of the law.

This was reinforced in me when I joined the military and was instructed in the meaning of the oath to follow all legal orders.

As a personal note, I am not very impressed with outward displays of piety and devotion. I listed to a wonderful person speaking about this on a Christian radio program. See, I am Christian, but he was of the belief that our prayers and thanks are for our relationship with God, not for the showing of others how religous or spiritual we are.

Prayer in school is not illegal! A person may pray anytime they choose. They may hold prayer circles around the flag pole before class starts… just be careful of whether or not there is an appearance of school sponsorship.

However, with the issue of discipline and creating a proper environment, common sense limitations are placed on all student activities.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 3, 2006 12:38 AM
Comment #109873

Ray G:

I would suggest the possibility that the valedictorian has a hidden manipulative evangelical agenda and wants to “witness” to us and ram his self righteous sanctimonious religion down our throats and he wants do it on a tax payer funded stage and some of us are just sick to death of those sanctimonious self righteous evangelical Christians who try to do that and who think that they have the moral high ground when they don’t. If we were really interested in their spiritually bankrupt crap we would come to their church.

Boy, what vehemence! Surely you can disagree without resorting to inflammatory statements? You will find lots of folks want to keep it separate, but find no need to express it in this way.

Just a thought.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 3, 2006 1:03 AM
Comment #109877

Ray:

You obviously misunderstand the concept of freedom of speech. The concept is not that people are free to speak about those things that RAY G finds acceptable. It is that people are free to speak their minds, whether in public or in private.

If you said your rude comments about God, I’d disagree vehemently with your statements and your thought process, but I’d fight to the death for your right to say them. If you said them the way you wrote them, most people would dismiss your words anyway.

I suppose you think you can crawl inside someone’s head (a valedictorian, perhaps) and determine their state of mind? That ability would put you alone in the world. I notice you didn’t try to take exception to the other example I provided about the elementary school child….do you think he was trying to “ram his self righteous sanctimonious religion down our throats”? Does that really sound like what a 10 year old child would have in mind?

There was a white supremacy rally near my town about 5 years ago. The locals ran the white supremacists out of town physically, and the local newspaper cheered them on. While I found the supremacists claims abhorrent, I found it equally abhorrent that they were denied their freedom of speech. Let them make fools of themselves, but once we stop allowing people to speak freely, we’ve lost our way.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 3, 2006 1:26 AM
Comment #109878

Paul, really wonderful article with great quotes. You guys in the blue column have been knocking me out lately with the excellent writing! Keep up the good work.
I wish I had been able to get online today to immediately respond to this, but the awful weather here in Northern Calif. took my server offline while you all were replying. Therefore, I’ll just give a few accolades where I feel they’re definitely due: Steve, Snowman, Magoo, and Womanmarine — thanks for your posts. Darren — yours is an interesting yet horrible tale. Good on you for being so intelligent and aware at such a young age — but you didn’t mention what happened afterward. As another one of those “Damn Yankee’s”, I found myself hoping that one or more members of your family stormed into that school and raised bloody hell on your behalf! :^)

Posted by: Adrienne at January 3, 2006 1:31 AM
Comment #109881

Ray G,

Spirituality for some, including me, is one of the most personal aspect of their lives. IMO, the public schools and the courts have done a poor job of balancing freedom of religion and freedom of speech. It may just be that they don’t want to try. It is just easier to outlaw all expression of spirituality.

You say that students shouldn’t be allowed to thank God because the stage is paid for by taxpayers, therefore such an expression may be offensive to some. But what else is contained in a speech outside religion that some taxpayers may be offended by? During my graduation ceramony the Valedictorian’s speech was about safe-sex. While the speech got a rise out of everyone, (no pun intended) some complained it was inappropriate. Most were fine with it. Should this speech have been censored because some taxpayers were offended?

There has got to be a common sense line drawn that allows for freedom of expression, even religious expression within bounds.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 3, 2006 1:52 AM
Comment #109884
There was a white supremacy rally near my town about 5 years ago. The locals ran the white supremacists out of town physically, and the local newspaper cheered them on.

joebagodonuts,

This is another example of a difficult balancing act. In October, a Neo Nazi group held a rally in Toledo and riots broke out. Some people lost their homes and businesses. The City of Toledo is now looking at banning all rallies in Toledo neighborhoods. While public safety is important, like the NSA, I think there are better solutions to ensure safety that don’t infringe on liberties.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 3, 2006 2:09 AM
Comment #109890

Paul Siegel,

Excellent job. Sorry I’m a bit distracted now but something I don’t see anyone else mentioning is Bush replacing government regulated social programs thru “Faith-Based Initiatives”. I’m “searched out” right now but I do remember a few times reading how much tax money has been distributed to various religious groups in an effort to replace social service programs. I believe there’s also been a blow-out regarding Head-Start hiring regulations.

In my opinion the “Faith Based Initiative” thing was one of the first times Bush “crossed the line”. Well, he got away with it and continues to get away with it. Of course this bolstered the support of the Dominionists which added to his “base”. (this is the win support however you can approach)

Most importantly in my opinion is that once a leader has crossed the line without consequence they’ll continue to cross that line and any other line until they are no longer a leader of the people but rather a “ruler” over the people. Just my “biased” and “paranoid” opinion.

Re: the DoD attempts on my computer. I’ve continued to contact friends and learn what I can about this. The general concensus now is that these are true attempts to scan my computer by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

At the beginning of each occurence my Firewall Log says : NetDefense has detected that the Remote Host “7.129.129.61” was attempting to scan active TCP & UDP ports on your computer. Port scanning is a gateway process used by Hackers to dertermine essential information about your computer before attempting more severe attacks. All traffic from this Hacker will be blocked.

This is usually followed by 2 or 3 attempts within the next 10 or 15 minutes which are all blocked. I’ve had no Hacking attempts by any of the known government IP’s in over 24 hours now.

Another thing that’s led some much more IT savvy friends to think this is the “real deal” is that the Backtrace on most Hacker attempts list a series of “hops” as the Hacker bounces from router to router. These backtraces show two IP’s. Mine and the DoD’s.

The big question is “why me”? I’ve had much speculation from friends and friends of friends regarding that. Of course there is the simple “random” theory. That’s possible.

Another I hadn’t thought of is that they could be scanning every router connected to the server I’m connected to. In my case SBC out of Wichita.

Another that seems viable is that the government has been criticized for using “tracking cookies” at some of its sites. Well, as I’d mentioned, I’m on Social Security Disability and I’ll bet I’d visited the Medicare site 15 to 20 times in the past several weeks trying to sort through the various drug plans. I also pop in at the Official White House Site occasionally to read press releases, etc. So I ran my free Yahoo Spyware tool and clicked “remove all” to dump all tracking cookies. I also ran all of my system ultiity programs to be sure I’m running a clean machine. I can’t say this changed anything. The DoD hits had already “lulled”.

Now, the worst that’s come of this: One dear old friend freaked out enough over this he’ll no longer take my calls or respond to my emails. This was his last reply:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Sir,
I do not know who you are - so - I do not know why you are eMailing me.

I guess I can understand. I was really freaked out when I first saw that “whois” report. I’m now more curious than worried.

A lot of this just comes down to trust. Do I trust the current administration to do the right thing? Well, were they honest about the imminent threat in Iraq? Have they shown the proper level of concern about the Valerie Plame outing? Have they done the right thing since Katrina and Rita to protect their fellow Americans?

Maybe we could start a “have they” game about Bush & Co. to the tune of Jeff Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck if”.

If JayJay Snowman hadn’t also found similar attacks on his computer I would say, “ah, no big deal” but especially after reading the thread he linked us to I think we all have to ask, “are we being watched”?

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at January 3, 2006 4:47 AM
Comment #109899

JayJay:

I’d agree there needs to be a balancing act between safety and freedom of speech, as you suggest. In the example I provided, my disgust was that there was no inherent safety issue—the locals simply did not like what the marchers were saying. Nor did I, but I was okay with their right to say it.

Once we begin determining what is acceptable speech, we put all the power in the hands of those who get to decide. And that will lead to people being silenced.

Ray has an obvious deepseated dislike of Christianity being spoken of in public. He sounds as if he would prefer it to be prevented. But what then if someone else has a dislike of some other topic?

JayJay, I agree with the need for safety, and that needs to be considered. When Cindy Sheehan was in Texas, local officials moved her to safer (and possibly more remote) areas, but did not silence her in any way that I saw. A local offered her a spot on his property, which was his right, and she took him up on it. While I disagreed with her comments, I fully respected her right to make them, and I think public safety in that instance prevailed. There was one guy who shot his gun and said he was hunting—-authorities took care of it, as they should have.

Thanks for the reasonable thoughts.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 3, 2006 8:24 AM
Comment #109903

Darren:

Your story was horrendous in that it actually happened. I’d hope that teacher was reprimanded. If not, she should have been, for her actions were reprehensible. You showed great courage at that age to stand up for your rights. Good for you!

Schools should not sponsor religous activities, in the sense of showing that they have a certain faith. But neither should they prevent the religious activities from being supported. A school principle may not have any interest whatsoever in an extracurricular group meeting to discuss computer technology, or chess, or poetry….or religion. But these should all be allowed to happen, since they obviously interest some people.

That is what inclusion and tolerance is. Not necessarily supporting something, but still allowing it. And IMHO, this does not cross any ‘church v. state’ boundaries.

Regarding your comments on public expression of religion, I’d suggest the Bible says to not pray outwardly for the goal of being seen as a religious person. But it does say that one should “not hide their light”. I don’t pray publicly or privately to show others that I am a Christian; rather, I pray publicly or privately BECAUSE I am a Christian.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 3, 2006 9:37 AM
Comment #109909

Paul-

They were eager to give each individual in the U.S. a free religious conscience.

If this was their intention, why didn’t they stand up for the individuals in Massetuchetts? Or North Carolina? Or Maryland? My criticism here is that you are looking at our 1780’s Constitution through post Black, post 14th Amendment glasses. The majority of the rights granted to individuals came from the States and not the Federal Government prior to the Civil War. Federalism was a major influence on the Constitution, and and I think you are discounting that here.

As for Jefferson, here is a book by Daniel Dreisbach that analyzes his wall of separation within a historical perspective (and by a historian).

And history is important here. As I have posted on several other threads history is unkind to the argument that the founders wanted a secular government. At any given point in history we have always had more religion in the public square than we have today. There has been a steady erosion of religion in government, not a steady rise. Many, including yourself I’m sure, would argue that this trend is good for our country, and in many respects I wholeheartedly agree. But, in the name of founding fathers, the envelope gets pushed too far sometimes . Then, when people of religion engage in the political debate many on the left cry foul and say that they are “imposing their beliefs.”

As your quote mining shows the debate of religion in politics is not very new. A representative government naturally reflects the values of its constituents, and in our country that has been predominately Christian since the beginning. It is no coincidence then that Christianity has been a major influence on our laws and our way of life. Let’s not deny that influence when we debate by trying to paint some sort of secular history that does not exist. If secularism is what the founder wanted then they certainly failed.

Posted by: George in SC at January 3, 2006 10:49 AM
Comment #109910

Robert
That’s not the case I was refering to. The one I was talking about allows students to voluntarily get together to pray. It says nothing about student led prayer over the PA system. I can see where his type of student lead prayer would be concidered unconstitutional.
I’ve sugested at times a miniute or two of silence at the beginning of school everyday. No one would lead in prayer. If students choose to pray, they can. If not they don’t have too. I’ve been told, mostly by athiest, that it’s imposing religion on everyone. I don’t see how it would as no one would be forced to pray. And no one would be praying out loud. The students could read a book or stare out the window if they choose too.
As I stated earlier I’m a Baptist. I believe in praying. I wish more folks would. But I don’t believe in forcing others to pray. And I don’t believe in forcing others to listen to me praying.
Prayer is a choise that is up to each person to make for themselves. Just like if they choose what religion to follow or non at all.
I personally didn’t want my children and don’t want my grandchildren to be lead in prayer by a teacher or any other faculty member. The person may be of any kind of religion and might not pray to the same God they pray to. I believe it’s up to the parents to teach their children these things.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 3, 2006 11:47 AM
Comment #109917

joebagodonuts,

You are absolutely right. I could not agree more. I do not hide the light. I try to be the best example of a Christian, educator, father, veteran, Democrat and everything else.

Anyone who needs to tell people how humble he is probably isn’t humble. One neat thing about acting as a Christian while being quite about it is that if I do fall short, which I do all the time, it does not reflect poorly on my religion. If someone asks me where I get my strength or how I can related so well with my ex-wife then I tell them. Funny, most people do not want to pray for an ex…. even if it means that they are the ones that find peace.

I did not tell my parents until many years later… but it was something I wanted to deal with. There was enough going on at the time. I did not go back and read the Bible passage. They did continue to do so.

Her intent of instilling her beliefs and her sense of disciplin did not have the intended effect. I am, now more than ever, careful of where the line is.

What promise do we have that this won’t happen again? To some other child? To your child? We have laws now, but we had laws then.

I did get swatted a lot in my 6 years of schooling in B’ham. That one time was the only one I resent. All the others I deserved (whether you agree with corporal punishment of not). I did something wrong, the swats cut down on paper work, detentions and calls to my parents. (Grin)

To Others,

As far as Faith Based Initiatives… I thought I posted this comment before, maybe in a different topic, sorry, on cold meds….

I agree and still don’t really know how this got through. Last week I tried to do a search for court challenges to the Faith Based Initiatives and didn’t find anything.

No Child Left Behind (great name but a questonable law) is strong in the Faith Based department. They want to provide churches federal money to mentor and tutor after school.

What if a person or a religion condems gays to hell? Will these people work with gay students (there will be some)? Teachers will because they made a committment to teach ALL children.

What will a person of a religon/church do if their beliefs are in conflict with the material being studied? Do they surrender their beliefs to help the child be successful in school? If they do, are they not doing what teachers do every day and are sometimes besmirched for doing?

One of the assumptions of NCLB is that lack of professional training and scientificaly proven teaching methods are not being used. What qualifications will these tutors have, other than membership within a church?

Would Davide Korsech or Jim Jones have been able to get federal money to work after school with children? Will Clearwater Florida have the Church of Scientology providing these services?

When President Bush decided to reimburse churches for their charity it no longer bacame charity for any church that took the money… it became a short term loan. This, to me, is sad because it undermines the intent of helping a fellow human-being.

Would you want to give a gift of love to somebody and then have them insist that they pay you for it? It would no longer be a gift, nor would it represent what I wanted it to mean.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 3, 2006 12:32 PM
Comment #109920

Darren
If you find any court challenges to Faith Based Initiatives please let us know. I haven’t heard of any.
I see nothing wrong with them as such. If a church want to have schools or other programs to help others that’s ok with me.
But I do share your concern about them getting Federal money. They should fund these things themselves. Federal funding of these is a step toward a national religion as far as I’m concerned.

BTW, You’ve mentioned a few time that your a veteran. I’ve been remiss in not thanking you for your service to our country. Sorry.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 3, 2006 12:50 PM
Comment #109928

Darren

I listed to a wonderful person speaking about this on a Christian radio program. See, I am Christian, but he was of the belief that our prayers and thanks are for our relationship with God, not for the showing of others how religous or spiritual we are.

He’s right. Christ warrened about making a public show of praying.

joebagodonuts

That is what inclusion and tolerance is. Not necessarily supporting something, but still allowing it. And IMHO, this does not cross any ‘church v. state’ boundaries.

Your absoultly right. If it’s not being promoted by the school it doesn’t cross any lines.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 3, 2006 2:03 PM
Comment #109936

should god be part of the opinions page of a school newspaper?

Last winter in a school newspaper a student argued that homosexuals should not be alowed to get maried because of her extreme leviticus based beliefs. She also believed that homosexuals brought about the fall of the Roman empire. (if someone would like to explain this one to me, please do!)

This winter she wrote an article on the war on christmas alluding to athiests and calling them “miserable, selfcentered, close-minded, intolerant,and…belligerant.”

Both times there was an article with an oposing arguement. However, those articles didn’t resort to such extreme name calling and phobias. As a result those articles were often ignored for it.

I have no problem with valedictorians wishing to thank god for their hard work or a child drawing Jesus in a classroom. I have no problem with people praying before a test they didnt study for.

But should God be a part of the school newspaper?

Posted by: newspaper at January 3, 2006 2:52 PM
Comment #109947

womenmarine,

I may have been overly vehement in my last post… I do find it extremely offensive when people try to push thier religion on me…

joebagodonuts,

I did not mean to imply that I know the motives of any particular valedictorian - it was intended as artistic liberty - in that - if valedictorians are allowed to thank God in thier speech - then some - perhaps most - will have the hidden manipulative intentions that I find so offensive - probably because my own tendency to manipulate. But who cares. That was not a main point of my post. The first main point of my post was that it is far less damaging to over-protect people from the establishment of religion than to under-protect them. The second main point was that seemingly harmless and innocent things like a valedictorian thanking God may not be so innocent (and in order to drive that point home I took the artistic liberty of vehemence, which I later recanted by saying that I really would not actually care all that much - just find it rude). The third main point of my post was that the right to free speech does not include the right to use official tax payer funded platforms. A sub-point was that Christians should be careful what they pray for, in that: winning the right for a sweet innocent valedictorian to praise God from a tax payer funded stage opens pandora’s box to a mean nasty evil son of gun like me using the same empowerment to prostelitize to thier innocent impressionable children to join Satan… i.e. don’t fight for rights that you do not want someone else to abuse. The fourth main point of my post was to reframe your question. It is not about what is wrong with the valedictorian. It is not his fault. It is principals responsibility to moderate and control what is said from the stage in his school.

I did not respond to your other example about the child’s picture other than to say perhaps we do go overboard sometimes and that the harm in doing so is small compared to the harm of failing to protect people from the establishment of religion.

JayJay,

Your criticism of my post was the best. Where do we draw the line between freedom of speech and freedom of religion? Someone prostelitizing for birth control from a taxpayer funded stage might well be offensive to many of the Christians who also paid for that stage. So yes, that speech probably should have been censored as well for the same reasons. It could be seen as anti-religeous and it is vital for the government to be rigorously, ruthlessly, absolutely, and completely neutral on the subject of religion. It is the principals school. It is his feet that should be held to the fire and the Christians in his community should strike the match and I will support them - sign a petition maybe… I believe in free speech. The hypothetical valedictorian can evangelize me. He can knock on my door… send me a letter… talk to me one on one in the school parking lot. He is probably wasting his time on such a mean nasty evil old dog but good luck and God Bless him. But free speech does not include the right to use a tax payer funded platform.

The main intended point of my earlier post is this. I don’t know if joebagodonuts is a Christian or not. But Christians often raise the types of points that he raised in his earlier post like (and I take some artistic liberty as well): What could be the harm in just bending the Constitution a little bit by allowing sweet frilly little girls with pictures and innocent valedictorians to exercise thier free speech and just praise God from a tax payer funded stage? What could be harm in that? It is so innocent, harmless and innocuous. Many of these people are probably strict Constitutional Constructionist. What could be the harm in bending and subverting the Constitution? @!#$%#$% Really??!!? Many of these people are also slippery slope people. This is the ultimate slippery slope… well maybe not quite the ultimate… but it is definately slippery. The separation between church and state should be absolute. That is my point.

Posted by: Ray G. at January 3, 2006 3:49 PM
Comment #109948

Thanks for the kind words… I loved serving and I loved the people that I served with (other than some of my officers, but hey… that is the nature of the beast,huh?). I really have never met any that were as selfless, dependable, honest and motivated.

Newspaper,
School editorials, free speech, political speech (which is protected in schools) versus non-political speech are some of the most difficult areas of this whole separation of church and state.

TO ALL,
Now please, no snide comments on this, okay? Regardless of your feelings for the man, the President or him in general… President Clinton in 1995 requested a guideline for people to use because religion is school is such a difficult line to walk.

It was created using the latest law and opinions, the ACLU (give me a break… they aren’t always bad) and the religous community.

WOW, it is still available at:
http://www.ed.gov/Speeches/08-1995/religion.html

This is not to promote President Clinton or start a tit-for-tat war. I am just illustrating that this is a long standing issue and there are Democrats that do wish to work for a solution based on protecting our rights and the legitimate needs of the school to maintain the safety and educational environment of school.

Here is a link to their current guidance:
http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/index.html

I hate posting links in answer to people’s specific questions, but this is a very broad topic with many variables…

If a person is very concerned then I would suggest at least checking out the current link to separate the “urban legends” from the real facts.

Some administrators may go overboard against religion. That is, in my opinion, as bad as the other way. Sadly, too many people in life in responsibility go to extremes so they do not have to make the tough calls they are paid for.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 3, 2006 4:09 PM
Comment #109961

—-
The public prayers that right wingers want in school and at school functions serve a dual purpose. One is to pretend that they have a community of “like-minded” people. The other is to single out for punishment those who are not “like-minded”, and stifle any impulses towards non-conformity that a young person might have. School prayers and Klan rallies are both intended as intimidation.
—-

Posted by: ray ohrealy at January 3, 2006 5:07 PM
Comment #109982

ray ohrealy
Are you sure your other handle isn’t Aldous.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 3, 2006 7:18 PM
Comment #110079

Ray:

It is the principals school.
It is principals responsibility to moderate and control what is said from the stage in his school.
free speech does not include the right to use a tax payer funded platform.

These statements highlight the wrongness of your argument. The school cannot be the principal’s school AND the tax payer’s school at the same time. And the principal is NOT responsible for the content of other people’s speech. The principal IS responsible for not supporting a specific religion, but this does not mean the right to censor any and all religious conversation.

You’ve misunderstood the notion of separation of church and state, and you’ve left out the main part of it. The Constitution says there shall be no law creating a religion. It does NOT say that discussion of religion or comments about religion (or a valedictorian saying how religion affected them personally) equates to creating a law.

By your standard, there could be no mention of religion in any public context. Sidewalks are paid for by the government—-a person on a sidewalk would therefore be using a tax payer funded platform. When one looks inside your argument, it is obvious how wrong and ignorant it is.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 4, 2006 8:21 AM
Comment #110105

Schools may be tax payer supported and say Public in their name, but they are not considered an appropriate public forum for political or religous dissent… therefore, limitations on what can be done by adults on school grounds are restricted. The sidewalk outside the school is not restricted.

Some of the things, but not all that are considered by the courts are:
1) The state compels the students to be there, so they do not have a choice to simply leave if there is religous activities going on.
2) Maintaining a safe environment that is conducive to learning is the responsibility of the administrators and faculty.
3) Over the past 230 years the courts have expanded the separation of church and state to include activities or actions that might infer suport of a religion.

If anyone is really interested, please read LEE v. WEISMAN (Supreme Court of the United States, 1992). Please read the majority and dissenting opinions and you will see that all of these issues and many more are considered.

Someone may know a later court ruling that superceedes this ruling and if they do I would love to read it.

After reading the opinions I think everyone will have a better understanding of the balancing act between each person’s rights and the schools.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 4, 2006 10:11 AM
Comment #110146

joebagodonuts,

You wrote:

These statements highlight the wrongness of your argument. The school cannot be the principal’s school AND the tax payer’s school at the same time. And the principal is NOT responsible for the content of other people’s speech. The principal IS responsible for not supporting a specific religion, but this does not mean the right to censor any and all religious conversation.

When I say that it is the Principals school I think that it is obvious that it is his professional responsibility to be in control and maintain the separation of church and state. The school belongs to the tax payers, the principal is charged with the responsibility to run it. I am not going to waste the electronic ink here to expand on what that means since it would be redundant. For details just see Darren 7160’s last post just above this one - particularly note his item number 3. Students have freedom of speech and religion but not from a publically funded stage.

Posted by: Ray G. at January 4, 2006 1:44 PM
Comment #110235

I’ve noticed that every time the subject of religion and government comes up it centers around Christianity. Meanwhile no one is screaming about other religions being in schools or other public places. Our school cann’t have a Bible in the library because it violates the seperation of church and state, But it has a Koran and the Book of Mormon in it. It also can have books on Buddaism, Wica, Paganism, and other religions.
Why aint the Left, the biggest so called defenders of seperation of church and state, screaming about this?

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 4, 2006 5:09 PM
Comment #110258

Hi Ron,
Fancy meeting you here and my being on the “opposing” side. (Grin)

Really, I do not know if the Bible is banned in the school libraries… I have not had the opportunity to check. Nor do I know about the other religions and their texts.

Within the law, there are accomodations and unfortunately they change with each time a court hears a new case it seems. Also, some rulings are only for within their legal jurisdiction so what is allowable in one court may not be so in another. So, I can cite a law and its ruling but it might not be the most current.

I can tell you what my books author says, whether you agree with him or not is up to you.

He says that often times people are wishing to make a political statement or challenge. They shop the lower courts for a sympathetic judge who will rule in their favoe regardless of what they higher courts have ruled… then when the higher court does overule the lower courts they can show it as an example of judical activism.

Also, the book I am using really is designed to stimilate debate and thinking of teaching professionals and how they can do their best within the law. So, it really isn’t written in a “Yes-NO” format.

As is often the case, someone wishing to make a point may overly emphasis a point or embellish a bit… so I always try to take care.

The Bible is a legitimate reference source in some classes. In literature, as has been noted in other topics, the Bible heavily influences a lot of Western literature. Here the Bible is appropriate to use to interpret the reference.

Holidays of other cultures are studied, usually as part of Global Studies. I do not believe that they are encourgaged to pray or believe. Christian holidays can be studied the same way but it often has to do with the teacher’s decision rather than a school policy.

There are two issues with what I just said…

#1. School officals who do not want to make the tough calls they are paid to make. They play it safe and ban everything if they can. They don’t want any discussion at all. They want school uniforms so they don’t have to determine the appropriatness of the message on a t-shirt.

#2. Teachers are overwhelmed already with what they have to teach. High stakes testing. No Child Left Behind and many other things. There might be 20 students in his class and he has 5 classes. Each child has their own particular “home” or “life” issues and we are trying to teach them a bit about the world. The teacher might decide that it is best just to avoid the whole issue entirely.

There are administrators and faculty that go overboard. That I definitely do know. I just finished a college class where the professor was a really uptight liberal that taught some poor little black children back in the 70’s.

She has made her academic career out of this. Got her Phd on the racism and sexism of the American White Male.

I was taking her class and I was the only middle-aged white male in the class. There are very very few men in the teaching profession and I am starting to understand why… many do not get through the licensure program. By definition I was a racist, sexist and oppressor in her eyes.

That is despite the fact that as a child I marched in the Civil Rights marches, my adopted sister who passed away was black, my girlfriend I almost married was a deisel engine mechanic and I am trying to convince my dauther that being a doctor is better than being a nurse, and I have never hired nor fired anyone in my life!

The thing I ask people to do is to understand all the issues schools and teachers are called upon to do. I thought I would get my license and stand in front of a class and lecture… give a few tests and be done with it.

Very sadly that isn’t the case.

Courts rule based on weighing a lot of issues and a lot of competing rights. Their minority rulings as well as their dissenting opinions are very well though out. It really is not done arbitrarily.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 4, 2006 7:13 PM
Comment #110407

Darren
I’m not much good at remember the names of Supreme Court cases or the dates of them. However I remember hearing back about 12-15 years ago that the court ruled that Bibles couldn’t be in school Libraries. This could’ve been reversed by now though. I cann’t say for sure.
The school board here took the other religious material off the library shelves also. They figured, and correctly, that if having the Bible in the library was a voitlation of seperation of church and state, so was the material on other religions.
Sense then we’ve had some people of a nonchristian religion move into the county. They are upset that material about their religion isn’t in the school library. The school board was going to put it back in. But the voters told them that if they weren’t going to put the material of ALL the religions in the library not to put ANY in. And rightly so.
I personally don’t have a problem with school libraries having religious material in them. but if they’re going to have it on one religion, then they shoud have ALL religions material there. I don’t feel that by having religious material from all religions availible for comparison is promoting any one religion. Or even promoting religion as long as the students aren’t being forced to read it.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 5, 2006 1:23 PM
Comment #110595

Hi Ron,
Where I see the problem is with people, such as those on the school board, or the school administration not taking the time to read the lateset laws and then having the guts to make a stand.

I am sure that the trade journals for school administrators and library science for the librarians are doing thier best to keep their readers informed.

From all the readings of court cases I have done, they all talk about the appearance of supporting one religion over another. Therefore, having access to the Bible, Koran and Torah or any other that might be needed would easily be protected.

What if they don’t have one of some new student coming if? It isn’t a requirement that there be one for each particular possible student… If the book is requested, order it like they would for any book the child might request.

Some people, for a political purpose, will cut off their nose to spite their face. They may misread a courts opinion accidently or intentionally and then act in an extreme manner (such as removing all religous books from the library) to then make a moral (political) stand.

I am not saying that this is the case, but it could be something along these lines.

One of the things that upset me the most if someone insulting my intelligence… then next is someone trying to manipulate me.

Even when a person is on my side of an argument and they make outrageous statments with just enough truth to be plausable I want to check.

There are lies of omission and comission. Sometimes people don’t always tell the whole truth or give all the facts.

The internet is so wonderful because now we can go to the actual government website and see the latest guidelines for schools to use. We can also check the latest rulings for specific issues. We are no longer dependant on someone with their own agenda to be the source of our information.

As you are aware by some of the statements here on this blog… people exaggerate and some believe and some research and call them on it.

In social science I would not have a big problem with the Bible. I would love to do a comparative religions or history class.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 6, 2006 7:56 AM
Comment #110621

I agree that most the time a school board will over react to a court ruling. And you could be right that most the time they either missread it or read into it their own bias.
I’ve tried to log unto the Supreme Court website but haven’t had any luck. The address I’m using is www.ussupremecourt.gov all I get is that the page cann’t be displayed.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 6, 2006 10:41 AM
Comment #110625

Please try:
www.supremecourtus.gov

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 6, 2006 10:55 AM
Comment #110635

That works. Thanks

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 6, 2006 11:32 AM
Comment #110638

That works. Thanks

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 6, 2006 11:36 AM
Comment #110645

That works. Thanks

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 6, 2006 11:47 AM
Comment #110646

My computer’s been drinking left over egg nog again

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 6, 2006 11:49 AM
Comment #110667

Thanks Ron… if you find anything of particular interest please let me know…

I am not such a partisan person that I will not want to know the fact from the fiction…

Trying to keep up with educational law is really a full time job and very few teachers and even administrators have the time since they want to devote it to other things.

I really do believe that the majority (from my experience, limited as it is) of educators do not have a particular “agenda” other than teaching children to become responsible adults in America (the controversy that can come about just from that is enough to fill 25 hours a day if you include the extremists that are racist, xenophobes, homophobes and anarchists). (Grin)

Of all the teaching licensure students I have been in class with over the past 3 years, I can only think of a few that have any political thoughts at all.

Most are just young women wanting to become teachers as a fullfilment of a childhood dream. Their heros were teachers and this is what they wanted to be when they grew up… nothing deeper than that.

Posted by: Darren at January 6, 2006 12:39 PM
Comment #222194

I live in a country where there is no wall of seperation between the state & the official religion while all other religions are equal. Fundamentally this meant to me, that it was possible to deny me my freedom of speech & thereby all my individual rights since 1994. I have since survived with the collective rights of others but I believe that in order for me to fulfill my self realisation goals, I must be able to explain the connection between the 1st ammendment to the US constitution and the inherrent posibilities to fundamentally overide the other freedoms guaranteed by drawing a parrallel to my situation locally & the dangers of not having adequate seperation of powers as corrected by the few ammendments to the US constitution. Please advise.

Posted by: Ravin at June 3, 2007 11:51 PM
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