Monday, August 28, 2006

The ACLU goes too far

I am really annoyed by the ACLU on this one -- this is stepping over the line:

This ceremony was held on Sunday, when the school was not in session.
No student or member of the faculty was required to attend
No religious object was left at the building

While the ACLU states that its mission is to monitor the separation of church and state, it seems to me that what it really wants is to prohibit religion entirely...

... or at least it wants to prohibit Christianity. I very much doubt that we would have seen a protest from the ACLU if there had been dancing and chants by a Native American tribe instead. How about if an African-American Muslim community had held a similar ceremony?
Our Bill of Rights does not prohibit religion -- it prohibits the government from mandating religion.
Don't let the ACLU prevail in this one!!

Blessing of school draws protest
Ceremony violated separation of church and state, ACLU says
Monday, August 28, 2006
Matt Zapotosky

Pat Miller, right, and Carol Fry, center, of Karl Road Christian Church, lead about 180 people from four different North Side churches in a verse of Kumbaya outside Woodward Park Middle School. The group gathered yesterday to read a prayer and bless the school before the start of the school year.
About 180 members of four local churches surrounded a public middle school yesterday to bless the building and those who use it, despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union about the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.
Led by a minister from Epworth United Methodist Church, members of Epworth, Karl Road Christian Church, Karl Road Baptist Church and Ascension Lutheran Church joined hands and circled halfway around Woodward Park Middle School at 5151 Karl Rd. In unison, they asked the "great divine one, creator of us all" to bless each "student … teacher, staff and administrator" entering the building.
"Rain or shine, ACLU or not, nobody can stop those who have spirit-filled hearts," said Patricia Miller, who led the ceremony.
The nearby churches have an ongoing relationship with Woodward Park, providing supplies and other support. Miller said the ceremony at first was planned for inside the building and had the approval of the school’s principal, Jill Spanheimer.
Last week, Spanheimer said she didn’t remember that conversation and that the ceremony would have to be outside. Yesterday, she watched the ceremony from her yard, which borders the school grounds. She would not comment afterward.
The ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to Spanheimer and Superintendent Gene Harris last week, saying that permitting the event would violate the constitutional requirement that public schools remain neutral on religious matters. District officials responded with a letter stating the event was constitutional according to a U.S. Supreme Court case from New York state. In Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the court ruled that any group is permitted to rent and use public-school facilities.
"Anyone can walk onto the school grounds during the weekend," said Columbus Public Schools spokesman Greg Viebranz.
Gary Daniels, litigation coordinator for the ACLU of Ohio, said this event differed from the renting of school buildings, even those rented for a religious use.
"There’s not that appearance of endorsement by the school," he said. "There are worse scenarios that can be presented as far as being problematic from a church-state perspective, but this by no means is something that in my mind would pass constitutional muster."
Several participants said yesterday they did not think the ceremony, which lasted less than a half-hour, violated the separation of church and state, and some said they didn’t think church and state should be separated anyway.
Residents near the school who were interviewed by The Dispatch said they were not upset. In fact, they thought the event was a positive way to kick off the school year and benefited the neighborhood.
Copyright © 2006, The Columbus Dispatch


Anonymous said...

Actually, the Dispatch also stepped over the line. I learned from a person closely involved in the matter that the reporter first called the ACLU about this approximately two weeks prior to when the ceremony was to occur to "get their opinion" about it. Sorry, I don't buy it. He didn't just call to get their opinion, he called the ACLU that far in advance to give them time to act just the way they did and to stoke the fires, just so his story would have some substace. If he truly wanted to get their opinion, he could have called them the Friday before the Sunday ceremony, but that wouldn't have given the ACLU enough time to do what they needed to do to spice up the story.

Paul said...

The Dispatch has existed too long without meaningful competition, just like public school districts in Ohio. The freedom of the press granted in the First Amendment doesn't mean anything unless the press is willing to shine a light in the darkness, and help the public see the cockroaches before they scurry out of sight. The Dispatch seems to want to keep the lights off.

Anonymous said...

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Here is a pretty interesting history of this admendment to the constitution and some discussion of how a "wall of separation" was established.

I believe that the fact that people are so worked up about this issue is evidence that government and religion should not mix. Over the years, Christians, Muslims, Indians and atheists have all felt offended and persecuted by the court's rulings in this area.

And that is very comforting to me.

Paul said...

I think it is the inconsistency which bothers me most. Muslims kids are allowed to leave class to pray in a room set assign in the school building for that purpose. Members of an American Indian tribe are invited to a public institution to lead prayers to the spirits inhabiting a building about to be torn down.

But Christians are banned from holding a service of blessing for a school, on a weekend when the building is otherwise empty.

I don't understand?

Anonymous said...

Nobody said democracy was even handed.

For many years, only Christmas plays were held in my school. Nothing for jews, muslims, atheists, agnostics, etc.

If you take it to court, you might get the indians to stop praying on public land and you might get the muslims to go off campus to pray.

My point was that every religion and even non religious people seem to be pissed about these decisions or lack thereof. I don't think christians are particularly singled out. They are just being ratcheted back after many years of having it their way.

As George Washington supported in the Treaty of Tripoli "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion".


for more details.

Paul said...

I don't quite understand your comment about even-handedness, but it seems to me that for the citizens of a democratic nation to feel it is worth participating, things have to be generally perceived to be fair. I suspect this has a lot to do with low voter participation in urban black neighborhoods.

And that's my only point. I don't want to stop the Native Americans from praying on public land, or deny Muslim kids the opportunity to observe important rituals of their faith. I just want the same latitude granted to Christians.

I am not of the opinion that it is a good thing to try to cure injustices of past generations by repeating those same injustices in reverse against the current generation. Otherwise, we would grab a few million white folks and send them to work as slaves in businesses owned by black slave descendents.

And we would give Manhattan back to the Mohawks and make all those New Yorkers move to the middle of Oklahoma.

I'm in the process of reading a book called "Island at the Center of the World" by Russell Shorto. He argues that the American notion of liberty is based more on the tolerant nature of the Dutch rather than the narrow-minded manner of the English. I think he's onto something.

Every culture has a spectrum of behavior upon which they define what is exhalted, and what is intolerable. The trouble is these spectra are not the same from culture to culture. When cultures with significantly different spectra come into contact with each other, all hell breaks loose.

America is a living experiment in trying to see how many and how different spectra we cqn get to co-exist under a common system of laws. The hope is that someday we'll figure it out. Meanwhile, we just have to keep it from blowing up.