Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Virginia Christian Teachers Want Constitutional Protection Limited To Them

I caught this story on Richard Dawkins' website but Ed Brayton does his usual best at cutting through to the heart of the matter:

I love stories like this, when the religious right is up in arms over non-Christians exercising the same rights they went to court to demand for themselves...

In 2001, a Christian group tried to use a school's system to inform parents of one of their events and they were refused. They filed suit and the 4th Circuit ruled in their favor, saying that if a school is going to allow some community groups to use that system, they cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination in choosing which groups to allow in. This was not unexpected; it fits with a long line of rulings on limited public fora that say, in essence, "allow one, allow all."

But one could easily predict what would happen if a non-Christian group demanded the same access as Christian groups; all that talk of how unfair such viewpoint discrimination is would go right out the window. But we don't have to predict this, we can see it in action in this Worldnutdaily article about a school in Virginia where teachers are throwing a fit over flyers from a freethought group advertising their summer camp, and even refusing to hand them out as instructed...

Several thoughts come to mind regarding this issue. First, of course, it is a blatant case of sheer hypocrisy and something we've come to expect from the Christian Right: constitutional rights and public policy should be all about protecting their views, not those that anyone else might hold, particularly if they run counter to Christian perspectives. Further, if the "we'll protect constitutional rights so long as they are Christian" viewpoint isn't starting down the road toward theocracy, then I don't know what is.

Second, this is exactly the way you fight Christian viewpoints in public...not by petitioning or suing to limit their freedom of expression because you don't like it, but by forcing them to play by the same rules they expect everyone else to follow. Use your own First Amendment right to challenge their belief system in public and make them show their hand by doing what some of these Virginia teachers are doing: attempting to limit every one's free speech but their own. If you don't like the message on the t-shirt, wear your own with a counter message. Getting tired of the local high school promoting its Christian clubs all the time? Start a Darwin Club...(In fact, for those locally who are reading this: I offer to serve as an advisor to any Lassen High School student who wants to start one! I also think starting a "Freethinkers Camp" like this group in Virginia might not be such a bad idea - Eagle Lake would be a great place for such an event!).

Ultimately, however, teachers and school administrators should not be saddled with advertisement, period. Christian, non-Christian, non-profit...it doesn't matter. Our school systems should not be used as free advertisement for anything....if you can't call, walk the neighborhood, mail, put up posters or whatever on your own, you probably shouldn't be in the business of hosting an event.

4 comments:

Mikayla Starstuff said...

Too true, too true. Expose the hypocracy!

Anonymous said...

Several years ago, two extremely conservative Christians were elected to our city commission. They were adamant that each commission meeting open with a prayer, to be given by a clergyman of their choice. Local attorneys pointed out that our Midwestern university town had a substantial number of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Unitarians, and other non-conservative Christians, and that legally these faith communities should also be given the opportunity to offer pre-meeting prayers. These commissioners soon dropped the idea of opening meetings with a prayer.

Anonymous said...

true about that.. our city council did much the same thing, forcing a prayer before a council meeting, only in our case, a unitarian did pertition to do a pagan prayer before the coucil meeting, and after several attempts that were stymied at the last minute, he evenetually succeeded in performing his small ritual on the steps of city hall (dallas). there was such a stink over it afterwards, that the city council quickly dropped the practice for all religions (of course in my opinion, that religion should nto be allowed 500 ft from a school, park, day care, grocery store or city function building nnyway)

smaugg said...

Heh. Our local school doesn't have much of any openly Xtian influence, because of the number of Hindus and Buddhists (small, but enough to require our school to deal with ESL issues other than Spanish). Multiculturalism thus proves to be a good thing.