[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Jesus Not Allowed In Public School?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jesus Not Allowed In Public School?

A while back I watched a segment on Fox's Hannity and Colmes on a controversy in a West Virginia high school regarding its display of a portrait of Jesus in a main hallway. A lawsuit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of Harold Sklar, parent of an ex-student of Bridgeport High, after the local school board voted 2-2 to keep the picture. At issue here, of course, is the matter of separation of church and state.

My first reaction upon hearing this was: what's the big deal with a picture of Jesus hanging on a school wall? I support the separation of church and state. I don't think it's government's job to force ANY religion upon its people, nor to promote one church or belief over others. The job of educating religious beliefs is best left to individuals and places of worship.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me reiterate: What's the big deal with a picture of Jesus hanging on a school wall? By displaying a devotional portrait of Jesus, is the school actively promoting Christianity? This can be argued from a technical perspective all day long and I don't think we'd ever reach agreement.

But let's think about this rationally. Let's approach this from a common-sense point of view.

Clarksburg, West Virginia is a town of about 7500 people in an area which can safely be considered an extension of the Bible Belt. I could understand the concern if the picture was displayed in a high school in more diverse areas such as South Florida. But in an area where the vast majority of people are Christian? It didn't escape me that the local school board was split, so even in Clarksburg there appears to be some difference in opinion on this matter. But if you look at the ACLU's main argument here, there's the impression that the portrait is actually hindering students' rights to freely express their religious beliefs.
"The Constitution's ban on government endorsement of religion is good for both government and religion. It keeps religion free and allows government to represent us all," said Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of the ACLU of West Virginia. "In violating that ban, Bridgeport High School is interfering with the right of all students to freely express their religious beliefs." (emphasis mine)
Is that what's really happening at Bridgeport High? Is the portrait a goverment endorsement of religion, or is it just a carry-over of a tradition that has been carried over at the school for over 30 years? Common sense tells me the school is merely continuing a tradition and not pushing Christianity at the expense of other religions. Then, of course, there's the issue of Bridgeport High's own right to freely express a religious belief, something the ACLU is fighting here against their own supposed beliefs and the First Amendment which they so vehemently defend.

I'm pretty sure that the Founding Fathers were sharp, reasonable men who possessed greater-than-average common sense. The Amendments were written to be interpreted wisely, not to be used to promote personal agendas or to be misinterpreted at the expense of someone else's liberties. Perhaps they would side with the ACLU in this case, but a hunch tells me otherwise.

Some argue that the picture, as a devotional piece of art, is in fact "preaching" and "evangelizing", and as such should be removed. I find that highly questionable. The same unreasonable argument can be made when public schools cover subjects pertaining to other religions. My public high school Sociology class spent an entire quarter-year covering all of the world's major religions. Is that a form of "preaching"? I don't think so, and neither is a picture of Jesus on the wall whose purpose, by all accounts, is not to convert anyone.

The ACLU and other groups have already succeeded in removing prayer from public schools (even the watered-down general kind) as well as removing other religious displays from public places. These groups claim to be simply promoting tolerance and respect of other religious views. They are willing to apply this even to cases such as in Bridgeport High where there is no apparent intent to inhibit or ban other religious views.

Tolerance of different beliefs is wonderful. But let's make sure we respect and tolerate ALL beliefs, not just those that are perceived to be oppressed or victimized by that of the majority.

I'll finish with this thought: if perhaps the picture of Jesus at Bridgeport High can subtely serve to promote or enhance a teenager's religious views, is that a BAD thing for our society? Maybe that's what bothers the ACLU so much.

15 Comments:

Anonymous NicFitKid said...

Somehow, I think the Fox News take on this story would be slightly different if the school had posted an image of Buddha, a verse from the Koran, a line from the Talmud, or some other minority religion's iconography on the school's walls. Outside of a historical/educational context, a government funded school has no business displaying a specific religion's iconography; it's crossing the line drawn by the estabishment clause in that pesky First Amendment.

9:24 PM, August 16, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Essays, books and epics have been written on this subject so it seems rather inadequate for me to say anything in response.

But I will venture to say that I don't want Mohammad up on the walls of a public school and I don't want, using NicFitKid's example, Buddha up on the walls of a public school. So in order to be fair to everyone, no religious icons should be displayed.

If I wanted to see Jesus Christ displayed around the school, I'd enroll my child in a Catholic school.

10:12 PM, August 16, 2006  
Anonymous A. Perales said...

I agree with the Rick and Nicfitkid re. the display of a religious figure in school, regardless of how many folks are Christians in that area. It's a public school and it shouldn't be displaying any.
I work at a public high school and have a Christian Club, which is a different situation.

12:07 AM, August 17, 2006  
Anonymous gansibele said...

BTW, Bridgeport High, being a public institution and not an individual person, has no constitutional "right" to express a religious belief.

The fact that is in a predominantly Christian neighborhood is exactly why it shouldn't have religious imaginery on the walls - imagine being the only Jewish kid at that school? It's not aimed to "convert" you, fine, but it definitely tells you you are out of place. Or worse, some other kids may tell you, the Christ killer, do not belong here. And if you don't think some of that ungliness is not at work here, you have never been to West Virginia.

8:15 AM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Srcohiba said...

I don't know the facts per se, but if it was a display of student art, then I don't see what the problem is. If it is the school or its teachers putting up religious symbols for the sole purpose of promoting religion, then it would be problem.

Some of the best art and music written in history by Bach, Mozart, and others had religious imagery. These wankers would probably ban the performance of such works.

I'll never forget that when I was in the second grade in the early 70's, we were asked to color a winter scene. It was December. Me being a Floridian used my imagination as to what a winter scene would look like in some northern rural town. So I drew a church and was prohibited from putting a cross on it. I wasn't even promoting religion, I was simply drawing something that someone probably sees every day.

What is really weird, is that in college, and I went to a Florida Public University, they had courses on religion which I took on the old and new testament and it was taught from a theological and historial perspective; not to have us become believers but to simply educate us about the religion. I don't see why these wankers have any problem with that since it is possible to teach a religion from a scholarly perspective and not a religious one (such as you would get from a preacher at church or a rabbi at temple). The problem we have is that everyone takes everything to extremes and in turn create bad law.

9:13 AM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Mike (Sr. Cohiba),

You expressed my views much better than I could ever have.

I tried to point out the issue of art vs promoting religion in the post. I sincerely don't believe that the school is actively promoting religion by displaying the picture. There has been no evidence presented to suggest that the school forces students to accept Christianity over other religions, nor is the picture used as an instrument to achieve said goal.

Nic,

That pesky First Amendment isn't so black and white...is it?

Gansibele,

I have been to West Virginia. It's a "red" state with conservative values. Nothing wrong with that. I wouldn't go as far as suggesting that there's more intolerance there than say, in Manhattan.

9:54 AM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Srcohiba said...

You could imagine trying to teach a humanities class on the history of art from the renaisance through the 20th century without showing any paintings with religious conotations? Heck, the ACLU would probably try to prevent one from seeing Michelangelo's Creation painting; or statute of David. Or music history without listening to Handel's Messiah?

The ACLU and the religious zealots who do want to force religion on people should both chill out.

10:28 AM, August 17, 2006  
Anonymous gansibele said...

You have never seen one instance where the ACLU has tried to stop a showing of art with religious themes, so that's just wild speculation. And it's not student art. The story clearly says has been hanging outside the principal's office for 27 years and it was left there by a guidance counselor.

If somebody prevented you as a kid from drawing a cross, they were wrong obviously. Ho you go from there to say that the ACLU would fight Handel's Messiah? The ACLU has never prevented somebody from displaying a religious symbol in their homes or in their cars or in their persons. A favorite argument of the anti-ACLU crowd is transposing individual rights to institutions, i.e: judge Moore has a right to display the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. What's discussed here is that a school is displaying a religious picture next to the principaal's office, and that IS an endorsement of a religion or at least appears so. The story also says 50 local people showed up at the board meeting with T-shirts saying "They won't take away our Jesus".

Robert, maybe you have never been through West Virginia armed with an accent, a yarmulke or a different color of skin. Maybe there is no more intolerance, but certainly there's no more tolerance or acceptance or even knowledge of diversity.

2:58 PM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Srcohiba said...

The facts as you described them (i.e., simply hanging in the building, not student art, is unconstitutional and I have no problem with that. Which is what I said earlier.

The Moore case as well was correctly decided.

But trust me, the ACLU is typically taking extreme positions. I should know, I'm a constitutional law/civil rights attorney.

Because of threats of ACLU lawsuits, students have been prevented from performing non-secular holiday music among other things. They've had school prohibit students from expressing their religious beliefs at commencement exercises. Hey if the valedectorian wants to thank Jesus or Buddah for getting where she is, that's great. Why censor that.

And of course, they cost taxpayers a buttload of money. Contrary to popular belief, they do not work pro bono. In their cases which are brought under title 42 section 1983 (the only way to challenge laws/practices based on constitutionality) there is an attorneys' fee provision under section 1988. This for all this litigation, we have to bear the cost.

so yes, they do take absurd positions. (Such as the pledge of allegiance cases; the "In god we trust" cases; etc.) Yet where were they in the boy scout case? The boy scouts had a first amendment right (right to associate) which was violated by the state of new jersey. The boy scouts win at the Supreme Court and are tar and feathered. Shameful!

4:40 PM, August 17, 2006  
Anonymous gansibele said...

You do indeed say at the beginning if it's not student art it should not be allowed - but you qualified it as "promoting" religion which I think it's a loaded word - it suggests active proselytizing as opposed to just hanging there. To me it's a distinction without a difference; if I'm a kid and the picture has been hanging forever outside the principal's office, that's a strong endorsement of religion.

Honestly, I personally don't have a problem with a student thanking Jesus or Allah or Bhudda at commencement -although I do think if it's at a school's official activity and as part of the ceremonies (the valedictorian address), then it does constitute endorsement. I agree with you, I wouldn't censor it. I also would not have defended NAMBLA, or the nazis, or the KKK, but that's the beauty of it; the conviction that constitutional rights are absolute. On the other hand I think the ACLU should also take an active stance on gun rights, to be consistent.

I know they get paid and rightly so, because if not: a)Many bright lawyers simply couldn't dedicate time to take civil rights cases on a contingency basis and b:)municipalities, school boards, the federal government, etc; know that if they lose they face paying plaintiff fees, so their violations are not free. Those municipalities, etc, share the reponsibility in costing taxpayers a buttload of money because of their violations. BTW they are not the only organization that collects attorney's fees by the way, many other do including conservative ones such as the Federalist Society, American center for Law and Justice and the Thomas More Law Center.

5:44 PM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Larry said...

This is such an interesting subject.

First, if you have any understanding of the original concept of the founding fathers of the US Constitution you know that the separation of Church and State is a farce. Please tell me, where in the constitution the state is spattered from religion.

What the founding fathers specified, and wrote, into the constitution, was that the State would not endorse any particular religion. There is nothing in the constitution of the United States that prohibits people from expressing their religious views; there is, however, the right to express your views without being ridiculed by the populace and should the populace (read MSM) ridicule these views THAT is against your rights.

Why do people try to interpret the words of the constitution to be opposite of what they really say? Because the dimokkrats know that their constituents don't bother to read anything other than the propaganda perpetuated by that particular party.

Welcome to the United States of Cuba!!!

'Nuf Said!!!

9:42 PM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Srcohiba said...

larry I suggest you read James Madison's writings as well as Jefferson's as well as American Gopel by Jon Meecham.

Madison who wrote the 1st amendment indicated that there is a seperation of church and state for the sole reason to protect the church from government intrusion as occurred in the Church of England.

The 1st amendment has an establishment clause and a free exercise clause. The 1st amendment applies to the states through the 14th amendment.

I do have a problem with for example: school prayer in public schools (conducted by the school or teachers); but I do not have a problem with a moment of silence to allow anyone to pray as they wish.

My problem is when they take things to an extreme like in San Diego.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110008810

Where some nutty athiests are trying to have a cross, a memorial for fallen soldiers.

Do we then remove all the crosses and Stars of David from Arlington? which is a public cemetery? Frankly the extremists on both sides are tearing everything apart.

Interestingly enough, the Cuban Constitution of 1940 specifically states that there is a seperation of church and state. A very progressive document; unfortunately that republic couldn't be kept by the people.

9:08 AM, August 18, 2006  
Anonymous NicFitKid said...

there is, however, the right to express your views without being ridiculed by the populace and should the populace (read MSM) ridicule these views THAT is against your rights.
--wisdom by larry

Ah, the illusion of persecution, the foundation of the Religious Right's rising political fortunes. I had no idea it was unconstitutional to ridicule people or organizations. We'd better bring back the Alien and Sedition Acts and lock up all those Pastafarians who worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

10:58 PM, August 18, 2006  
Blogger Srcohiba said...

here's a recent decision where the ACLU lost

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/8/18/201137.shtml?s=ic

here the 10 commandments were diplayed along with other historical monuments recognizing war veterans, the Choctaw Tribe and others. The Ten Commandments monument has the Mayflower Compact etched on the other side.

Yet the ACLU only bothered to attack the 10 commandments. A waste of time and the courts, to accomplish what I ask?

12:04 AM, August 19, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

The article srcohiba mentions includes this nugget:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that religious displays on government property are not inherently unconstitutional and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

That "pesky" First Amendment...gotta love it!

My answer to srcohiba's last question: To accomplish the erosion of the values that helped build this great country for the sake of political correctness. How else can one reasonably look at it?

10:19 AM, August 19, 2006  

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