Re: Flag burners unite
- From: john.vampatella@xxxxxxxxx
- Date: 1 Jul 2006 09:59:32 -0700
On 1 Jul 2006 07:05:16 -0700, john.vampatella@xxxxxxxxx quacked:
So....back to the question I have yet to see an adequate answer to:
where is the line drawn between "including religious references" and
From dictionary.com: proselytizing: "To induce someone to convert toone's own religious faith." If this girl spoke for an hour about what
Jesus meant to her, but never called on anybody to become a Christian,
it wouldn't be proselytizing. It would simply be giving her opinion on
what meant most to her - even though that figure is religious in
You are wrong to think that a speech about one's religious beliefs is
Proselytizing is a fuzzy term - and you know that. For some people,
the mere mention of Jesus constitutes proselytizing. For others, they
have a much higher level of tolerance before they would consider
themselves to have been proselytized. For a person to give a speech
about the historical figure of Jesus Christ - is that proselytizing?
For a person to talk about his or her faith - without ever mentioning
God or Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha, but just using the word "my faith"
- is that proselytizing? A matter of opinion.
Why do you think she was doing at a graduation
ceremony --- abusing her audience by "merely" telling personal stories
about her life? Is that what a graduation speaker does? No, she wanted
the audience to believe that JC had shaped her life or whatever, and
THAT is proselytizing. But don't get caught up on the word because
that word has no legal significance. Nor does sermon. The issue is
whether it is a religious performance of some kind. She can just be a
"witness" or whatever she wants to call it by telling a religious
story. No matter. If the point is use a government forum to promote
religion to a captive audience, it violated the establishment clause.
Ok, so it violates the establishment clause, and not the restriction on
the free exercise clause? Because you made it seem earlier like the
violation was in the free exercise clause.
Are there lines to draw? Sure. Can you argue about this line? Go
ahead. I don't particularly care about the details of the line. The
point for me is that she was attempting to deliver a religious text to
a captive audience, or so the school officials reasonably thought. So
they stopped her. She was NOT stopped for mentioning JC, as Quiggy
suggested. That would have been fine.
If you haven't read the speech, how can you say that the school
officials were "reasonable"?
So, you make my point --- Quiggy had the case wrong. He said that
mentions of JC was unconstitutional --- you can say what you want
except your belief in God. He apparently was reacting to a case in
which the school officials (who apparently had seen the transcript)
believed the student was crossing the line from expressing her belief
to giving a sermon to a captive audience.
QuiGon's actual quote: "Are you a high school valedictorian that wants
to thank the Lord Jesus Christ in your graduation speech...? Holy
shit, somebody call the ACLU and
get an injunction against her..!! Not only do we want to censor her
but be ready to cut off her microphone if she DARES to say anything
So you are correct in that it would be ok - even according to the ACLU
- to mention God. But again, I think his main point was that here's a
girl who wants to talk about Jesus as the most important thing in her
life - just like other valedictorians would mention their parents, but
Don't say "mention". She can "mention" anything she wants.
I know. That's what I said.
deliver a religious text --- sermon, whatever you want to call it.
Well, you are the one who called it a sermon, not me. Could she
deliver an anti-religious text? Could she talk about how her
*independence* from God and her emancipation from the Christian faith
granted her success? If so, why? If not, why not?
And yes, the First Amendment imposes limits on what people can do when
speaking at a government forum. You have to think that is right. What
else does the amendment mean? The rest is about where to draw the
line. Reasonable people will differ on the line.
I'd probably be more on your side than on the ACLU side with respect
to showing flexibility on the line (I'm reading your mind again ---
sorry for that). For example, I think the creche cases in a public
park are silly --- okay only if gunked up with a santa claus but
otherwise forbidden. I really don't see the manger scene in a public
park at Christmas as establishment. The key for me is no captive
audience. I do get alarmed when the audience is captive, especially a
I did not read the girl's text, so I don't know if it is over the top,
but I gather religion was a significant part of the speech, which
certainly presents a problem.
So again, you don't know if the school was being reasonable, if you
haven't read the text. Ok. It's quite possible that they were being
unreasonable. I say that because my own first-hand experience with a
school has indicated that the instant religion is conceptualized in a
school (at least where I live), administrators get very uncomfortable.
My church wanted to run a youth group after school in our middle school
- again, *after* school. As soon as I got to the part about it being
run through our church, the principal got very defensive. He's an ok
guy, but there's almost a knee-jerk reaction present...we want nothing
to do with religion in this school at all. I had to remind him that,
legally, if they allowed any other after school group (not run by the
school), they had to allow ours as well. He talked with the
superintendent, and in fact, we're right.
As I said in the material above that you did not snip, the fact that a
school official or some person might sue on a matter does not
necessarily mean it is unconstitutional. There are obviously
line-drawing issues, as I explained in some detail in the part you did
snipped. You might feel that the student did not cross the line ---
that she was not giving a sermon to a captive audience. Fine. If you
are right, you probably would win the case in court.
I don't know if she'll sue. I'm sure someone in the Rutherford
Institute will be willing to take up her case pro bono. We'll see what
happens. To my eyes, she has a legitimate beef. But then again, I'm
not trained in the law.
Again, fine. She may or may not, depending on the text. I've read, I
believe, all of the SCt cases on establishment, but I've not read all
the lower court decisions, although I've read some of them. There is
some variation --- some judges seeing establishment quickly, others
only reluctantly. And most cases, of course, never get to the SCt. The
line is not a bright one, so there is a lot of ground for fair debate.
As I said, it is clear that a "mention" is fine,
What about two mentions? Three? Five? Ten? As you say, the line is
very fuzzy. And what seems like a reasonable distinction to some may
seem like a very unreasonable one to others.
and it is clear that
a sermon is not (again with captive audience, etc.). A "personal
statement about God in my life" is somewhere in the middle. If it is
brief enough and part of some general theme --- such as 10 steps to my
success in school, with #1 or #5 or whatever being about God --- that
is almost certainly fine. But if it is only about God, it is very
likely to lose.
Which is what QuiGon did. He exaggerated, but not by a lot. The girl
didn't have *that* many references to God in her speech. More than a
few, but it didn't appear to be a half-hour exposition on the book of
Romans or anything like that.
No, he totally exaggerated, from a legal perspective. Not criticizing
Quiggy. I enjoy discussions with him because, like you, he at least
listens seriously to the other side. Not as fair-minded as you, but
few of us are.
When I say he totally exaggerated, I mean that he suggested the case
was about "mentioning" JC. In my view, "mentioning" is clearly on the
safe side of the establishment line. Putting the best possible light
on it, the actual case is one where the line is not so clear and
reasonable people can debate the issue. That is why I joined the
discussion --- to make that distinction.
What the courts are trying to do is to protect free speech and to
protect freedom of religion. There can be conflicts, and, when that
happens, one side wins and the other loses. The extremes on either
side have always lost and almost certainly will continue to lose.
I've long argued in this and in the Red Sox forum that there's always a
balancing of rights going on. My rights vs. your rights...individual
rights vs. community rights, etc.
Yes, and you are right. You seem to get annoyed at the court because
someone can talk about their family and teacher and others important
in their life but can't talk about God, who, in their view, is the
most important person in their life. I appreciate the point. But
talking about one's family has not sparked bloody wars, so we don't
have a Bill of rights regulating such stuff. Religion is different ---
that is and has been a major social issue, and the Framers tried to
get government to keep out of it.
The 1st amendment (the religious part) was, I believe, founded upon the
Church of England. There was an official state religion whereby the
head of the Anglican Church was also the King (or Queen) of England.
They wanted nothing to do with that kind of system. But I'm pretty
sure you can trace a great many instances where God is a deep part of
the public discourse at the highest levels of government in the early
part of our country's history. Thus, it's pretty safe to say that the
establishment clause in the 1st amendment was never intended to keep
even extensive and (dare I say) liberal uses of "God" or "Creator" or
"Jesus" out of state-sponsored forums.
Of course, anyone CAN talk about God in a non-government forum --- at
church, for example <g>. Yes, I know, there is something "wrong" with
banishing God to the churches when the point of religious people is
that God should be central in their life, not just part of a social
scene on Sunday (or Friday or Saturday, depending on the religion).
So, as you say, there are tradeoffs. And one can debate the details of
those tradeoffs 'til the cows come home.
The problem, of course, is that other people don't want government
forums used to promote religion, and they have the Constitution behind
them to get their way. Some just hate religion and want to use the
Constitution as a weapon to take a swipe at religion. Others have a
great fear of particular religions --- that the country is moving
toward being a Christian country, etc. So they get very upset at the
symbols of that religion given government recognition (the silly
creche cases). And there are lots of other views.
Some, like me, are accommodationists. I strongly oppose teaching
religion in public schools or "forced" prayer in public schools.
I agree, unless teaching religion is done fairly ecumenically.
I think history shows that stuff is pretty dangerous to the social
fabric. But I'm fine with the government "tolerating" the display of
religious symbols as long as all religions get equal access and the
use is not over the top. (As a kid, my objection was to "Protestant"
prayers in my public school instead of "Catholic" prayers.)
I get annoyed at some people on both sides pushing for recognition all
the way to the edge --- the religious right, for example, wanting to
display the 10 Commandments in schools as "historical" documents, not
religious documents. Silly.
Silly to you, but not so silly to some. I'm sure you see why.
Same on the Left with the creche cases. If
I were the mayor of a town, I'd not put a creche in the park at
Christmas so as not to offend --- let the churches do that stuff. But
I'd also not sue or support a suit to get rid of a creche. That is, I
don't think reasonable people should be offended by the creche in the
park, but I also know that some people are offended, so I'd
accommodate them b/c I don't think the issue is actually important to
We are a diverse country with views on religion that run the full
spectrum --- from hating it to full-time obsession with it. And we
need to get along. So, I do not think it is very nice, to say the
least, for people to push the envelope on this issue ---- that is to
push for as much religion in government as possible under the
Establishment Clause or as little as possible. Certainly history
teaches us that intolerance on this issue can destroy the social
I don't disagree.
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