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  1. #1
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    Religious Freedom

    Reported in the Washington Times:

    In January, the Santa Rosa County School District settled out of court with the ACLU, agreeing to several things, including a provision to bar all school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events; holding school events at church venues when a secular alternative was available; or promoting their religious beliefs or attempting to convert students in class or during school-sponsored events.

    Nothing too crazy, right? Well, read on:

    Mr. Staver said the district also agreed to forbid senior class President Mary Allen from speaking at the school's May 30 graduation ceremony on the chance that the young woman, a known Christian, might say something religious.

    "A known Christian"?

    And students aren't supposed to say religious things? Anyone else troubled by this?


    The article ends with this:

    Judge Rodgers' order also included Michelle Winkler, a clerical assistant who was attending a school district event in February with other school employees at a local naval base. There, she asked her husband to offer a blessing for a meal, says the ACLU, adding that students were present and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

    [...]

    Her trial, which could result in a fine, is scheduled for Aug. 21.

    Asking for someone to say grace when students are present results in a trial?

    Is saying grace really an attempt to proselytize students? Like, if a teacher were to have lunch in the school cafeteria and decided to pray before he ate, he should face trial? What if he's wearing a yarmulka? Isn't it the same--an outward sign of his religious beliefs?
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  2. #2
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples
    And students aren't supposed to say religious things? Anyone else troubled by this?
    I'm definitely troubled by a clear violation of the student's Freedom of Speech. I'm certainly not a Christian, but attended a high school in a very conservative area - every single speaker at my graduation started or ended with a prayer or Bible quote. Was I offended? No. I just didn't bow my head and listened politely.

    If I had been given the opportunity to speak, I must certainly would have mentioned my Taoist beliefs and how they influenced my learning and future.

    The ACLU and whomever they were representing in the case certainly forgot one freedom while arguing for/defending another. So yes, that troubles me.

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples
    Asking for someone to say grace when students are present results in a trial?
    This one is a little muddier. I can't tell if the students were part of the meal or not from what you quoted. "They were present" doesn't clarify that. Also, I can't tell if Mrs. Winkler was asking her husband to say a blessing over their meal just for each other, or if she was intending him to bless everyone at the table.

    If kids were at the table, and the blessing was being given to the entire table... I'm a little with the ACLU on the issue. I certainly wouldn't want my child to be part of an involuntary religious ritual - however commonplace it may seem to the person doing the ritual.

    If the kids weren't at the table, and the blessing was being given to the entire table... I'm against the ACLU again. As a fellow school employee, if I wasn't comfortable being blessed - I'd just get up and leave until the blessing is done. I do it all the time at my in-law's table - they say their prayer and then I come to the table.

    If the blessing was just for her and her husband - how dare the ACLU once again trample over individuals' rights to observe their own religion in the guise of protecting others. It's absurd.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    Reported in the Washington Times:

    In January, the Santa Rosa County School District settled out of court with the ACLU, agreeing to several things, including a provision to bar all school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events; holding school events at church venues when a secular alternative was available; or promoting their religious beliefs or attempting to convert students in class or during school-sponsored events.

    Nothing too crazy, right? Well, read on:

    Mr. Staver said the district also agreed to forbid senior class President Mary Allen from speaking at the school's May 30 graduation ceremony on the chance that the young woman, a known Christian, might say something religious.

    "A known Christian"?

    And students aren't supposed to say religious things? Anyone else troubled by this?


    The article ends with this:

    Judge Rodgers' order also included Michelle Winkler, a clerical assistant who was attending a school district event in February with other school employees at a local naval base. There, she asked her husband to offer a blessing for a meal, says the ACLU, adding that students were present and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

    [...]

    Her trial, which could result in a fine, is scheduled for Aug. 21.

    Asking for someone to say grace when students are present results in a trial?

    Is saying grace really an attempt to proselytize students? Like, if a teacher were to have lunch in the school cafeteria and decided to pray before he ate, he should face trial? What if he's wearing a yarmulka? Isn't it the same--an outward sign of his religious beliefs?
    As a practising lawyer with 9 years of experience, I can say that you can never rely on newspaper clips for legal issues. I have yet to see a single newspaper article that accurately portrays a legal ruling. I'm not alone in this. In effect, I've found that when it comes to any area of expertise, newspapers notoriously get it wrong.

    Based on the report you cite, I'm in two minds. I could argue against your position but that would involve a degree of speculation about what the legal ruling actually said.

    I will analyse the legal decision in question and return to this thread with a better informed opinion.
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

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  4. #4
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    It is ridiculous to say the least.

    Also, if prayer is such a big issue, then those who don't want to listen to it, can be excused for the time the prayer is made.

    This is definitely not religious freedom and I would like to see what Allo can come up with regarding the legal aspects.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by Aspoestertjie View Post
    It is ridiculous to say the least.

    Also, if prayer is such a big issue, then those who don't want to listen to it, can be excused for the time the prayer is made.

    This is definitely not religious freedom and I would like to see what Allo can come up with regarding the legal aspects.
    I can't find any original sources (not that I've spent the whole weekend looking!). There are also some inconsistencies between various news articles. For example, Washington Times says that the parties settled out of Court in January whereas other sources (eg http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story...storyid=108128) say that in January a temporary injunction was granted and the settlement took place in March.

    I'll agree these inconsistencies aren't particularly pertinent to the issue at hand but they affect my faith in any of the sources.

    The source I am relying on, however, is the Pensacola News Journal and, being local to the events, I suggest it's probably the most accurate. They are members of the community in question and they would have representatives present in Court.

    Here's my understanding of what happened:

    1. In August last year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of two students alleging that school officials at the school regularly violated the US Constitution by promoting personal religious beliefs and leading prayers at school events. It should be common ground here that such actions have been repeatedly held by the courts to be prohibited under the US Constitution (The Establishment Clause prohibits the US and - by extension - the States from promoting any religion or discriminating against any religion).

    2. The lawsuit didn't settle in January. Rather, a preliminary injunction was issued in January, temporarily prohibiting the defendants from engaging in certain conduct.

    3. The matter finally settled in March. The District ADMITTED WRONGDOING and CONSENT ORDERS were signed. Part of those orders, according to Clive's source was that the Disctrict would not allow a particular student to speak publicly at a school-sponsored event. It would seem that clearly this particular student must be a well-voiced Christian and there must have been real concerns that she would introduce some religious aspect to her speech. Her highly devout intentions (we're not just talking a student who happens to be a Christian) are evident in the fact that she maintains that God has a purpose in the entire controversy: Source

    Here's what Mary Allen also said:

    “I’ve prayed more this week than I’ve prayed probably in the past year. … What was meant for evil has turned to good. My voice has not been silenced. People have come out and supported us. They are supporting our free speech and the First Amendment,”

    And

    “We were supposed to fight this battle. And I think people fully intend to keep fighting,”
    (Ibid)

    She says that her voice has not been silenced. This clearly suggests that there is more to the story than Washington Times has told us in terms of the likelihoods that Mary Allen would make some religious comments during the Graduation Ceremony.

    And I still emphasise that the orders signed in March were CONSENT ORDERS. In other words, the District AGREED to exclude Mary Allen from speaking during the ceremony.

    4. On January 28, ONLY NINE DAYS after the preliminary injunction was issued, a luncheon took place at Pace High School. According to Kris Wiernowski of Pensacola News Journal, Principal Lay asked a teacher named Freeman to bless the food on this occasion. The event was a school event, organised under the auspices of the District. By attempting to originate a religious rite during a school event, he breached the terms of the injunction, effectively thumbing his nose at the orders of a judicial officer. There is NO DOUBT that these are good grounds for contempt proceedings.

    5. Contempt charges against Lay and Freeman were issued on July 22 and they were issued by Judge Rogers himself: Source.

    6. On February 20, a school-related employee banquet took place. Among those present was Michelle Winkler, an employee of the school. She was asked to offer "a thought for the day". Instead, she turned to her husband and asked him to offer a prayer. Her husband is not an employee of the District:Source. As is the case with Lay, Winkler clearly attempted to initiate a religious ritual during an official function under the auspices of the Disctrict. In doing so, she has breached the January injunction. There is NO DOUBT that these are good grounds for a contempt charge.

    7. Contempt charges against Winkler were issued by the ACLU and not by Judge Rogers.

    I can't see anything wrong at all with the above criminal proceedings. It would appear that we have here a number of Dictrict employees who are just bound on perpetrating breaches of the Constitution of the USA AND of Judicial Orders.



    Free speech

    There are of course those who claim that this is a breach of the right to free speech. Free speech is not an absolute right. For example, you can't go around defaming people and hiding behind free speech. You can't make fraudulent misrepresentations and hide behind free speech. And last but not least, you can't use free speech to try to abrogate the Establishment Clause and Court Orders.

    Here's what a Constitutional Law Professor said about the matter:

    Fletcher N. Baldwin Jr., a constitutional law professor at the University of Florida, said school districts rarely prevail, if ever, in school-prayer suits.

    He said those who defend the practice incorrectly attempt to paint the struggle as one between free-speech rights and religious rights.

    But he said case after case has shown that student-led prayer is acceptable, so long as it isn't at the insistence of faculty and staff members.
    Source

    I share his sentiment.


    Freedom of religion

    NONE of the above legal procedings or court orders in any way deprive students of their right to practise whatever religion they please. If Miss Allen and her friends want to hold prayer meetings, Judge Roger's orders certainly don't stop them from doing so. However, to promote any religion (or lack of religion) during official school business is clearly a breach of the law. What would be our reaction if Miss Allen got up during the Graduation Ceremony and started thanking Allah or Satan? What would be our reaction if she got up and started preaching to the entire assembly that God doesn't exist? Would people be equally concerned for her "freedom of religion" and her "freedom of speech"? There are students who go to that school (and employees of the school) who have a Constitutional right to attend official school business without having someone else's religion thrown at them.

    I wholeheartedly support Judge Rogers and ACLU.

    And Aspo: I totally disagree that students who attend school business and don't want to listen to someone else's religion should "be excused". I don't see why they should have to walk out. If you want to do religion at school, you get together with those who share your beliefs, organise a separate venue (empty classroom?) and do your business there.
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

    "If you could rationalize with Religious people there would be no more Religious people" -Gregory House

  6. #6
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by Allocutus View Post
    And Aspo: I totally disagree that students who attend school business and don't want to listen to someone else's religion should "be excused". I don't see why they should have to walk out. If you want to do religion at school, you get together with those who share your beliefs, organise a separate venue (empty classroom?) and do your business there.
    So what do you do if you are a group of people in a public place who wishes to say grace before they start eating?

    Should they be quiet and not pray, although it is important to them?

    I personally will simply ignore the prayer and move on.

    If someone jumps up and start praying to Allah or Satan, I will simply ignore it and move on.

    If people is following a specific ritual regarding their religion, and I happen not to agree with it, what they do should make absolutely no difference to me.

    They can pray to Satan too, I will simply ignore it because I will not be influenced.

    I believe people are simply overreacting about this.

    If you hold a gun to someone's head and tell them to start praying...that will be a total different story all together.

    I believe people should have the right to express their religion.

    Yes they can have a separate venue too, but sometimes it is not possible like the example I provided.

    I also believe people who doesn't want to listen to it, should have the opportunity and freedom to express their disgust/feelings about it, but to actually stop someone from giving a speech just because she might say something about God, is really ...how can I put this...stupid?
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  7. #7
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by Aspoestertjie View Post
    So what do you do if you are a group of people in a public place who wishes to say grace before they start eating?

    Should they be quiet and not pray, although it is important to them?

    I personally will simply ignore the prayer and move on.

    If someone jumps up and start praying to Allah or Satan, I will simply ignore it and move on.

    If people is following a specific ritual regarding their religion, and I happen not to agree with it, what they do should make absolutely no difference to me.

    They can pray to Satan too, I will simply ignore it because I will not be influenced.

    I believe people are simply overreacting about this.

    If you hold a gun to someone's head and tell them to start praying...that will be a total different story all together.

    I believe people should have the right to express their religion.

    Yes they can have a separate venue too, but sometimes it is not possible like the example I provided.


    I also believe people who doesn't want to listen to it, should have the opportunity and freedom to express their disgust/feelings about it, but to actually stop someone from giving a speech just because she might say something about God, is really ...how can I put this...stupid?
    You CAN talk religion in public places. The Constitution doesn't prohibit that. However, it does prohibit the States and Congress from promoting a religion or discriminating against a religion. And that means that school employees can't express their religious beliefs during school business. By the way, let's not forget that they're actually AT WORK. I don't go around my office saying prayers outloud. Well, I'm an atheist. But we do have some strong Christians at work. I don't see any of them walking around and praying outloud. And none of them try to convert anyone either. We go to work to perform work.

    I understand what you're saying about overreacting. However, it seems you're not considering the full story here. We don't know the exact facts of what brought the initial lawsuit on. We know that two students have reported that school officials PERSISTENTLY CONDUCTED PRAYER MEETINGS AND EXPRESSED THEIR PERSONAL BELIEFS DURING SCHOOL BUSINESS. The lawsuit didn't just originate from someone randomly saying Grace. The lawsuit itself doesn't look like an overreaction. In fact, the Disctrict ADMITTED FAULT. That clearly means that its lawyers had formed the opinion that their client was guilty of misconduct.

    Are the contempt proceedings an overreaction? I argue that they're not. At this point, Court Orders are in place CLEARLY PROHIBITING these people from engaging in particular types of conduct. These people then BREACH the COURT ORDERS. They're not being charged with breaching the Constitution or with spreading religion. They're being charged with violating Court Orders. This is an offence that strikes at the very administration of justice in our society. If Court Orders can just be plainly ignored, we might as well not have any courts at all.

    Finally, I can't imagine a situation where it's impossible for students to find a private corner to do a prayer meeting. It doesn't have to be a room. They can go to the gymnasium during lunch and sit in the corner and have their prayer. They can go outside and find a spot on the grass. And as far as I understand, there's no prohibition against students praying in any part of the school, even in the view of other students. Of course, that doesn't mean they can disrupt classes.

    Should they (the teachers) be quiet and not pray? Yes. Of course they should. They can say grace in their heads. And as I said before, there's no reason why people should be praying outloud at work.

    I appreciate your own tolerance and the fact that you'd just ignore it and get on with things. However, as I said above, the contempt proceedings are about violating court orders and striking at the very heart of the Justice System. And the original lawsuit stemmed from repeated and persistent violations of the Constitution and NOT from a couple of teachers quietly whispering Grace to each other in the cafeteria during lunchtime.
    Last edited by Allocutus; August 16th, 2009 at 08:39 AM.
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

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  8. #8
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    The First Amendment does not say "You will never be exposed to ideas or beliefs that you disagree with." The school does not have a responsibility to ensure that students are never exposed to religious ideas. The school simply has a responsibility not to promote one religious belief over another--theism over atheism, Christianity over whatever, etc.

    So does wearing a yarmulka count as promoting a religion? Are teachers not allowed to wear yarmulkas--and therefore not allowed to wear burqas?

    Is a teacher with a visible tattoo of a cross committing a crime every time he's at school?
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    IMO, this is an excellent example of the "beginning of the end". The more secular we move (prayer USED to be encouraged in nearly EVERY public school in the nation when the founders created this country), the more that religious folk will find themselves breaking the law for even the most simple of things...praying before a meal.

    Soon, one will be an outlaw for praying at a restaurant. It may one day be illegal to wear crosses or the Star of David. Like smoking and drinking are not allowed to be shown on TV, references to God may one day be illegal too.

    I think it is the way of the secular movement we seem to be going, to in fact, restrict religion so that it is not free, and instead, it is quite limited.

    Never thought I'd see the day that someone has to go to trial for saying a prayer. I don't know what the sentence may be (just a fine for now perhaps?)...but I fully expect the way things are going in this country...that one day, people will serve stiff stints in prison for uttering words to God before a meal.

    If the Founding Fathers were alive today...they simply would not recognize this country.
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  10. #10
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    IMO, this is an excellent example of the "beginning of the end".
    lol. Christians have been claiming the "beginning of the end" for a thousand years.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    It may one day be illegal to wear crosses or the Star of David. Like smoking and drinking are not allowed to be shown on TV, references to God may one day be illegal too...one day, people will serve stiff stints in prison for uttering words to God before a meal.
    These wacky, paranoid scenarios are not possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    If the Founding Fathers were alive today...they simply would not recognize this country.
    No kidding! No slaves, a black guy as President, women voting and on the Supreme Court...I agree they'd sh*t.

  11. #11
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by Booger View Post
    lol. Christians have been claiming the "beginning of the end" for a thousand years.
    I think you're equivocating here; are you claiming that Christians have been claiming "the beginning of the end" of religious freedom for a thousand years? Or are you making an irrelevant comparison to eschatological claims?

    These wacky, paranoid scenarios are not possible.
    A teacher will be brought to trial for asking her husband to say grace at a school event.

    Is it against the law for a teacher to say grace at a school event? Is it against the law for a teacher to ask if someone else wants to say grace at a school event?

    No kidding! No slaves, a black guy as President, women voting and on the Supreme Court...I agree they'd sh*t.
    Some of them were actually against slavery (Hamilton comes to mind).

    ---------- Post added at 04:03 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:00 PM ----------

    I find it wildly ironic that instructing students on how to give Muslim prayers in class is not "promoting a religion", but saying grace at a school function is.
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  12. #12
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    The First Amendment does not say "You will never be exposed to ideas or beliefs that you disagree with." The school does not have a responsibility to ensure that students are never exposed to religious ideas. The school simply has a responsibility not to promote one religious belief over another--theism over atheism, Christianity over whatever, etc.

    So does wearing a yarmulka count as promoting a religion? Are teachers not allowed to wear yarmulkas--and therefore not allowed to wear burqas?

    Is a teacher with a visible tattoo of a cross committing a crime every time he's at school?
    Clive, allow me to reiterate the fact that the lawsuit wasn't about some teacher wearing a cross. It was about regular breaches of the Constitution; the teachers were promoting personal religious beliefs and leading prayers at school events.

    ---------- Post added at 11:02 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:11 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    IMO, this is an excellent example of the "beginning of the end". The more secular we move (prayer USED to be encouraged in nearly EVERY public school in the nation when the founders created this country), the more that religious folk will find themselves breaking the law for even the most simple of things...praying before a meal.
    I know what you're saying but as I said above, this lawsuit was not about any of these "simple things". These people were reguarly flaunting the Constitution by actively promoting their religion at school. If religious folk keep defying the Constitution then (unless the latter is amended) they will continue to get sued.

    You're making it look like these Christian teachers got accidently and innocently caught up in a constitutional controversy (your words were "find themselves") for simply trying to say a prayer before a meal. That's of course not the case at all. They went much further than that and, when ordered by a Court to refrain from these practices, they went on to defy the court's orders.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apok
    Never thought I'd see the day that someone has to go to trial for saying a prayer. I don't know what the sentence may be (just a fine for now perhaps?)...but I fully expect the way things are going in this country...that one day, people will serve stiff stints in prison for uttering words to God before a meal.
    (emphasis is mine)

    Apok, they didn't just "say a prayer". They initialised a prayer during official school business and in contravention of court orders.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apok
    If the Founding Fathers were alive today...they simply would not recognize this country.
    Perhaps. A lot must have changed since they were around.

    They might not recognise it but they might actually like what they see.



    I quote Jefferson:

    "No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination." --Thomas Jefferson: Elementary School Act, 1817. ME 17:425



    John Adams:

    The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning. And ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality, is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your eyes and hand, and fly into your face and eyes.



    More Jefferson (from his letter to Adams):

    The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter
    Hardly the words of a man who thinks that adults in positions of authority should promote prayer to said Jesus to children at places of education, one might say.



    Madison (Ibid):

    Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise

    Would he be happy with encouraging children to practice something that debilitates the mind in places of education?



    Benjamin Franklin (Ibid):

    As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion...has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity

    Admittedly, Franklin goes on to say that he's never really studied the thing (and also that he doens't really want to). However, would the above be the words of a man who thinks that children should be enouraged to pray to said Jesus of Nazareth in the course of their education?
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

    "If you could rationalize with Religious people there would be no more Religious people" -Gregory House

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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by Booger View Post
    lol. Christians have been claiming the "beginning of the end" for a thousand years.
    The US is only a couple hundred years old silly.

    These wacky, paranoid scenarios are not possible.
    Why not? That's what our Founding Fathers would have said if they were told that eventually, prayer would be outlawed in school. You do realize that they were huge advocates of Bible teaching in the public school system...right?

    No kidding! No slaves, a black guy as President, women voting and on the Supreme Court...I agree they'd sh*t.
    Considering that they were in favor of expanding rights (but at the time, the culture wasn't quite right for those specifics), I think they could accept that in the period of time that did elapse, that such specific rights would exist. But to have prayer banned? Even criminalized? The degree of secularization we have now? No, they would not recognize it.
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by ALLO
    They might not recognise it but they might actually like what they see.
    Why is it that a quick google search can turn up pro or anti God statments from almost any member of the founding fathers?


    Quote Originally Posted by JOHN ADAMS
    “We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!”
    [April 18, 1775, on the eve of the Revolutionary War after a British major ordered John Adams, John Hancock, and those with them to disperse in “the name of George the Sovereign King of England." ]

    • “[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
    [letter written to Abigail on the day the Declaration was approved by Congress]

    Quote Originally Posted by BEN FRANKLIN
    “My dear friend, do not imagine that I am vain enough to ascribe our success [Revolution] to any superiority…If it had not been for the justice of our cause, and the consequent interposition of Providence, in which we had faith, we must have been ruined. If I had ever before been an atheist, I should now have been convinced of the being and government of a Deity!”
    —In a letter to William Strahan, August 19, 1784
    Those do not sound like the words of someone who would want no mention of God at all by those in public position. Nor would they object to a "simple" prayer.
    To serve man.

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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    A teacher will be brought to trial for asking her husband to say grace at a school event.
    Religion should NOT be involved with government institutions, period. You want to involve your religious rituals in a school's routine? That's fine, make your own, and fund it with your own money. Keep publicly funded schools religion neutral, period. Indoctrinate kids off your own wallet. And yes, it should cover something as harmless as saying grace.

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    Is it against the law for a teacher to say grace at a school event? Is it against the law for a teacher to ask if someone else wants to say grace at a school event?
    Yes, and yes, both should be. The first one involves the subjecting of an audience to a religious ritual, the second one involves the favouring of a particular religion. BOTH should be kept at arms length from public schools.

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    I find it wildly ironic that instructing students on how to give Muslim prayers in class is not "promoting a religion", but saying grace at a school function is.
    That is promoting a religion as well, and if claimed otherwise, shows hypocrisy and could possibly even smell of political correctness (which to me is even worse).

    The separation of church and state should apply to ALL government funded institutions, not least of all to the education system. I wouldn't want my kid to have to sit through grace, for the same reason I wouldn't want my kid to sit through a freaking raindance. And even though I am in the UK, it's the same principle.
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by MindTrap028 View Post
    Why is it that a quick google search can turn up pro or anti God statments from almost any member of the founding fathers?
    MT, the first one wasn't an acknowledgment that educators should promote religion in schools. In fact, the very wording of the Constitution says they shouldn't. And my quote of Adams' statement was directly relevant to education. He's saying that free inquiry is stumped out by religion.

    What you're quoting is a statement of defiance against the Monarch of England. I would myself make a very similar statement, particularly if it was during a revolution where most of those fighting were Christians. What you're citing is effectively a BATTLECRY.

    As for you quoting Franklin, there's nothing in it that would either suggest that he was a Christian OR that he would support prayer and religious events in schools! He's writing a letter to William Strahan (his English friend) and in that letter emphasising the JUSTICE OF THE CAUSE. Again, I never claimed that Franklin was an atheist. In fact, it is widely believed that he was a Deist; and he himself has held himself out to be one.

    But the prayer in schools in those days (that Apok is referring to) wasn't free prayer to any God one wish to, was it? It was prayer to the Christian God. And Franklin's views on the Christian God are clearly stated in the quote I have provided in my previous post; it cites a statement made by Franklin in 1790; that's 6 years AFTER your quote.

    Those do not sound like the words of someone who would want no mention of God at all by those in public position. Nor would they object to a "simple" prayer.
    I entirely disagree. I can't see how they would support Christian prayer being forced on kids at school. It seems entirely inconsistent with their personal beliefs about Christianity and also with their strong beliefs in free inquiry and the separation of state and church. Neither the "battlecry" you cite nor Franklin's euphoric letter about "A Deity and Just Cause" would suggest otherwise.

    ---------- Post added at 12:03 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:59 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    But to have prayer banned? Even criminalized? The degree of secularization we have now? No, they would not recognize it.
    Apok, this simply isn't true. Neither is prayer banned nor is it criminalised. School OFFICIALS are not allowed to support religious activities in the course of their employment. That's because they act in their capacity as representatives OF THE STATE. And you can be sure that teachers who want to pray are free to go off in their spare time (eg lunch break) into some secluded area and have a little prayer. I've never seen a case that would disallow that. EVER.

    And it's certainly NOT CRIMINALISED. That's just a misstatement of the facts. DISOBYEING COURT ORDERS is criminalised. And THANK GOD for that
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

    "If you could rationalize with Religious people there would be no more Religious people" -Gregory House

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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by pikatore View Post
    Religion should NOT be involved with government institutions, period. You want to involve your religious rituals in a school's routine? That's fine, make your own, and fund it with your own money. Keep publicly funded schools religion neutral, period. Indoctrinate kids off your own wallet. And yes, it should cover something as harmless as saying grace.
    Saying grace is indoctrination?

    Is wearing a yarmulka indoctrination?

    Yes, and yes, both should be. The first one involves the subjecting of an audience to a religious ritual, the second one involves the favouring of a particular religion. BOTH should be kept at arms length from public schools.
    Is this only when lead by teachers? Or are students disallowed from saying grace as well?

    That is promoting a religion as well, and if claimed otherwise, shows hypocrisy and could possibly even smell of political correctness (which to me is even worse).

    The separation of church and state should apply to ALL government funded institutions, not least of all to the education system. I wouldn't want my kid to have to sit through grace, for the same reason I wouldn't want my kid to sit through a freaking raindance. And even though I am in the UK, it's the same principle.
    Yes, but do you want your kids to be barred from saying anything religious while they are on school property? Does that really make sense? Is that really freedom of religion?
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Preventing a known christian from speaking because she might say something religious? Pure B.S. imo.

    Now I do not have a problem with prayer in school and all, IF students was not mandated to attend or participate. Also, IF students in other religions could pray to their god(s). If it was mandatory that students attend and participate in prayer, then it should also be mandated that Christian students attend and participate in other religions prayers.

    About promoting religion in schools? Only if it was Christianity right? No other religion should be promoted? A teacher who happens to be Wiccan should not be allowed to promote the Pagan religion should she/he?

    If you are going to allow the promotion of one religion then you should allow the promotion of ALL religions.

    After all, religious freedom does not only include Christianity...
    Show me the government that does not infringe upon anyone's rights, and I will no longer call myself an anarchist.~Jacob Halbrooks
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    The thread title is mispleading, imho.

    Either we have freedom of speech or we do not.

    Religious freedom should be included within the remit of freedom of speech. To categorise "religious freedom" as some kind of strange animal that requires special laws is to challenge the whole concept of freedom of speech.
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    Re: Religious Freedom

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    Reported in the Washington Times:

    In January, the Santa Rosa County School District settled out of court with the ACLU, agreeing to several things, including a provision to bar all school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events; holding school events at church venues when a secular alternative was available; or promoting their religious beliefs or attempting to convert students in class or during school-sponsored events.

    Nothing too crazy, right? Well, read on:

    Mr. Staver said the district also agreed to forbid senior class President Mary Allen from speaking at the school's May 30 graduation ceremony on the chance that the young woman, a known Christian, might say something religious.

    "A known Christian"?
    As Allo pointed out, the news article was misrepresenting what was being said.


    Quote Originally Posted by Clive
    And students aren't supposed to say religious things? Anyone else troubled by this?


    The article ends with this:

    Judge Rodgers' order also included Michelle Winkler, a clerical assistant who was attending a school district event in February with other school employees at a local naval base. There, she asked her husband to offer a blessing for a meal, says the ACLU, adding that students were present and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

    [...]

    Her trial, which could result in a fine, is scheduled for Aug. 21.

    Asking for someone to say grace when students are present results in a trial?

    Is saying grace really an attempt to proselytize students? Like, if a teacher were to have lunch in the school cafeteria and decided to pray before he ate, he should face trial? What if he's wearing a yarmulka? Isn't it the same--an outward sign of his religious beliefs?
    No, none of this bothers me. In AP government, we discussed at length the role of teacher's and their relationship to the Constitution. So as a preface, this is all information I've gleaned from a high school course, which means that some of it could be not quite correct; regardless, it makes rational sense.


    Firstly, we need to understand the relationship between the Constitution and public schools. Public schools are, obviously, paid for by the State government. Via the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court came up with the idea of Selective Incorporation. To quote Wiki (this is solid writing on Wiki's part):

    Incorporation (of the Bill of Rights) is the American legal doctrine by which portions of the Bill of Rights are applied to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [...]. Prior to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and the development of the incorporation doctrine, in 1833 the Supreme Court held in Barron v. Baltimore that the Bill of Rights applied only to the Federal, but not any State, government. Even years after the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment the Supreme Court in United States v. Cruikshank, still held that the First and Second Amendment did not apply to state governments. However, beginning in the 1890s, a series of United States Supreme Court decisions interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment to "incorporate" most portions of the Bill of Rights, making these portions, for the first time, enforceable against the state governments.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_incorporation

    This is how we got Miranda (Miranda v. Arizona) warnings/Miranda rights, the whole "You have a right to an attorney, if you cannot afford one, one may be appointed for you..." because Amendments V and VI of the Constitution ensure them for Federal trails, and once incorporation was used, the States now had to obey this procedure, like the Federal government.


    The same thing applies to public schools (set up by the State, and thus are a representation of the State) and religion. You have to think of this in terms of "Representing the Government." As my AP teacher said, "Yes, as a teacher I do have fewer rights than you, the student, do when at the school. I elected this when I decided to work for the school; I am a representation of the school."

    And it's important, when understanding this from a legal view, to think in this perspective. A teacher is a representation of the government, so if the government is bound to not display a favoritism towards a religion, then the teacher cannot display a favoritism towards religion. Now, what this precisely means is some times difficult to interpret. For example, if the teacher was making a big hoopla over her prayer, trying to encourage students to pray with her, or anything of the like, she would be promoting her religion. This is in violation to the First Amendment, which the State (and thus, her) must abide by. Outside of school functions or on school grounds, however, teachers have their religious prerogatives restored.

    Now, onto the student president or praying at football games. This is Unconstitutional for precisely the same reason; the student, getting up and saying a speech, is a representation of the State (or the student leading prayer is, too). They give up their rights, pro tempore, to freedom of religious expression when they are giving the speech, in the same manner teachers do when they are on school grounds or at school functions; same reasoning holds for football coaches before games. (Note, football players, on their own, are perfectly allowed to get together in private before a game and pray)



    On a side note, I find this quite bizarre. At my high school, teachers never (or very rarely) ate with students. The issue of praying before eating was never an issue. I knew plenty of students who did it (which they are perfectly entitled to, they do not, nor ever will if simply attending school, be representations of the school) and I'd heard that teachers prayed before eating, but it wasn't done in front of students. I'm curious as to the details of this case, because they are quite important in interpreting whether or not this teacher was violating the Constitution.


    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    IMO, this is an excellent example of the "beginning of the end". The more secular we move (prayer USED to be encouraged in nearly EVERY public school in the nation when the founders created this country), the more that religious folk will find themselves breaking the law for even the most simple of things...praying before a meal.

    Soon, one will be an outlaw for praying at a restaurant. It may one day be illegal to wear crosses or the Star of David. Like smoking and drinking are not allowed to be shown on TV, references to God may one day be illegal too.
    Don't be absurd. Smoking and drinking are allowed to be shown on TV. Nudity is even allowed to be shown on public TV, it just has to fall within the correct time slot (late night). So that's erroneous. (Granted, I find the FCC to be, itself, obscene)

    Regardless, you're ignoring the entire context surrounding the utterance of the prayer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apok
    If the Founding Fathers were alive today...they simply would not recognize this country.
    Thankfully Allo summoned some of the nearly innumerable quotes from the Framers and Founders on their opinions of mixing religion and government.

 

 
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