Posts Tagged “aclu”

First Cathedral (Baptist), Bloomfield, CTIt took over two years, but the town of Enfield here in Connecticut finally resolved a lawsuit it brought on itself by holding its high school graduation in churches. The Hartford Courant reports on the settlement (WebCite cached article):

In a 6-3 vote, the school board decided Wednesday night to accept a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over the school system’s practice of holding high school graduation ceremonies in a church.

The American Civil Liberties Union and another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed the suit two years ago after the school board decided to hold graduation ceremonies for both Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School at First Cathedral in Bloomfield.

I’d blogged about this conflict, back when it erupted in spring of 2010. At the time litigation over this began, various Christianist legal outfits had promised the town and its Board of Education that they’d pay the legal fees, thus encouraging them to defend the lawsuit despite having no chance of prevailing. But I note, in the end, these promises proved bogus, because none of those groups are paying a dime:

The school board’s insurance provider, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, will cover the cost of the settlement up to $470,000, Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann said. The exact dollar amount of the settlement was not revealed.

I wonder if their Jesus taught these guys not to keep their word?

The Courant article includes the expected childish whining and bellyaching on the part of Christianists, both on the Board and in the town, who don’t like the vote and call the ACLU and AU “bullies.” Well … boo fucking hoo, you crybabies! What you were doing was unconstitutional, and you know it. If you had any integrity in the first place, you’d realize that, and would now show the courage to admit having been wrong. But you won’t, because you have no courage; you’re just juvenile religionists who can’t help but stamp and fume when someone dares thwart you.

Photo credit: Hartford Courant.

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Bundesarchiv Bild 137-040965, China, Tientsin, HJ und BDM VereidigungI’ve already blogged about the hyperreligious populace of Giles County, Virginia who flew into a towering rage over the matter of posting the Ten Commandments in the local high school. But the Decalogue controversy there refuses to die. There have been lawsuits and threats of lawsuits, with the ACLU coming down on both sides of the issue (opposing the school itself posting the Decalogue in public locations, but supporting students who post them in their lockers).

The county’s religionist parents have successfully gotten their kids to take a stand for Christofascism, as reported by WDBJ-TV in Roanoke (WebCite cached article):

About 200 students walked out of Giles High School Monday morning, demanding the return of a Ten Commandments display. …

“This is Giles County and Christ is a big, big, big part of Giles County. For those who don’t like it, go somewhere else,” shouted one student. She was greeted by a round of cheers from the crowd. …

“This is America and we can have our Ten Commandments and if they don’t like it, they can get out,” said one boy.

So you see, folks, this is what kids in Giles County, Virginia are learning: If you’re not Christian, you must leave. What a marvelous lesson to have taught the next generation of Giles County! Everyone in Virginia must be so proud of their new platoon of Christofascist Youth.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Bundesarchiv.

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First Cathedral (Baptist), Bloomfield, CTAfter months of simmering discontent, the Enfield, Connecticut school board has decided to defy an ACLU threat to sue them over their practice of holding high school graduations — in a church in another town. The Hartford Courant reports on the controversy and the anger the ACLU has sparked in this little New England mill town (WebCite cached article):

The board of education voted 6-3 Tuesday night to hold this year’s high school graduations at First Cathedral in Bloomfield and challenge a lawsuit threat by two civil liberties organizations.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State last year threatened to sue the district if it continued to hold ceremonies at First Cathedral.

The board insists this blatant and obvious violation of the separation of church and state board is all for the sake of the children’s sake, of course:

“We’re not picking a fight. We simply want to graduate and do honor to our students,” said Chairman Gregory Stokes. “The decision is based on the fiscal situation of the district and not the ideological situation of the district.”

What Stokes failed to disclose is that Enfield — which has two high schools (Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School) used to have its graduations at on the field at one of them (Fermi), until last-minute vandalism in 2008 forced them to use First Cathedral as a stopgap measure. It’s understandable for this to happen once, under what are essentially emergency conditions. But the board insists they have “no viable secular alternative” … in spite of the fact that they had never had a problem, prior to 2008!

They are, quite simply, lying.

What makes this very odd is that Enfield is in Connecticut, not the Bible belt, and is not home to a large number of fundamentalists. It’s much more Catholic than anything else, and Catholics in the US aren’t known for wanting to force their religion on people. So I’m not sure why, all of a sudden, Enfield’s board of education is so fiercely trying to proselytize its graduating high school seniors.

For those of you who think the separation of church and state — as declared in Article VI and the First Amendment of the US Constitution — applies only to the US Congress and not to the states or any other level of government such as a municipal school system, guess again: The 14th Amendment created a principle known as incorporation, which passes some restrictions on Congressional power down to other levels. So they cannot legitimately do this. All the whining about the ACLU being “bullies” is irrelevant compared to that. Completely irrelevant.

At any rate, the town of Enfield CT appears to have been taken over by Bible-thumping proselytizers who want to make sure they have one last shot at indoctrinating kids as they leave high school. Nice.

Photo credit: Tia Ann Chapman / Hartford Courant (12/12/2009)

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Student pledging to the flag, 1899.I’m not sure what it is, exactly, about the Pledge of Allegiance that turns people’s brains into mush and sends grown adults into raging fits of childishness. But it does. An example of this phenomenon is that of a Maryland child who dared not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom. The Washington Post reports on this stupid and juvenile event (WebCite cached article):

The mother of a 13-year-old Montgomery County middle school student is demanding an apology from a teacher who had school police escort the youngster from a classroom for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Yes, folks … as unbelievable as it sounds, a child failing to say the Pledge was sufficiently horrific to invoke police intervention! The WaPo goes on:

The incident began on a Wednesday in late January, when the girl did not stand for the pledge. Her teacher yelled at her, demanded that she stand and then sent her to the office for her defiance, Quereshi said. The school system confirmed the sequence of events.

The next morning, the girl again refused to stand for the pledge. This time, the teacher called two school police officers to the classroom to escort the girl to the office. …

The unidentified student was mocked by other children in her class and has been too traumatized to return to Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown, according to Ajmel Quereshi, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland who is representing the family.

A school spokesman said Tuesday that the teacher’s actions were a clear violation of the school’s regulations, which are based on state law. The teacher, who also has not been identified by either side, will have to apologize to the student, spokesman Dana Tofig said.

An apology is not forthcoming, however, because the school will not allow one to be offered except on its own terms:

Quereshi said that as of Tuesday afternoon, no one from the school had contacted the girl or her family to resolve the issue. The teen’s mother tried to schedule a meeting with school officials but was told they would not meet with her if she wanted to bring a lawyer, Quereshi said.

While many Americans believe that reciting the Pledge is mandatory in schools, the truth is, that it is not. The WaPo article explains this:

The [United States] Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that students cannot be forced to salute the flag. Maryland law explicitly allows any student or teacher to be excused from participating in the pledge, according to the ACLU.

This is reflected in the school district’s own policy:

The Montgomery school system’s student handbook contains a section about “Patriotic Exercises” that reads: “You cannot be required to say a pledge, sing an anthem, or take part in patriotic exercises. No one will be permitted to intentionally embarrass you if you choose not to participate.”

So no, this child did not have to say the Pledge, nor even stand while others said it, nor anything of the sort. She could not be chastised for it, and other students cannot ridicule her for it, either. Nonetheless, at least one teacher, and perhaps some administrators, and school police officers believed otherwise. The Supreme Court case in question, by the way, is West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943). No American — not even school children! — can ever be compelled to profess loyalty or salute a flag or anything else of that sort. It’s not permissible.

Of course, lots of people (mostly religionists) get all up in arms about the Pledge, because — since 1954 — it has contained two words they prize above anything else: “Under God.” Thus, for them, the Pledge is intertwined with their religious beliefs, and this means that anyone’s refusal to say it, is a serious and real threat to them. (Because to a religionist, a threat to their beliefs is inseparable from, and thus equivalent to, a threat to their person.) There was a famous case of atheist Michael Newdow suing in federal court to get these two words removed from it … which was unsuccessful because he was found not to have standing to sue for this. The rage that was spewed in his direction over this suit was palpable.

My own problem with the Pledge, however, is not in those two words “Under God.” My problem with it is that it is a “pledge of allegiance” and is therefore inherently un-American.

You read that right: It is decidedly un-American to “pledge allegiance” to a flag, or to anything else.

Allow me to explain: The concept of “allegiance” is basically a medieval and feudal one; the word itself comes from “liege,” which was the duty of an underling to his overlord (or “liege-lord,” i.e. the “lord” to whom the underling owes his “liege”). Oaths of allegiance were sworn by those underlings to their lords, and were solemn promises of payment and service, and the saying of such an oath was the foundation of whatever rights the person had. The entire concept of “allegiance,” therefore, is at the heart of a feudal system.

The United States, however, is not a feudal state. Americans are not serfs who owe service to any lord. We are, instead, citizens of a representative republic. Moreover, our status as citizens is not predicated upon saying an oath of allegiance, but on the Constitution and the rule of law. No citizen of a constitutional representative republic owes “allegiance” to anyone or anything … ever. Not to the country, not to the president, not to the flag, not to anyone.

Thus, forcing school children, or anyone else, to say the Pledge of Allegiance is a throwback to the European Middle Ages and the feudal order of that time. It is not appropriate for any citizen of the United States — young, old, or in-between — to be forced to pledge his/her allegiance to anything, in order to have his/her rights as a citizen. (Yes, some oaths are required by various offices that one may take; the President, for example, must take a Constitutionally-mandated oath. But oaths of office are a different matter.) The sooner we jettison the Pledge of Allegiance to the dustbin of history … on the grounds of it being an inappropriate medieval anachronism, not based on whether or not it’s religious … the better off the US will be. We are not serfs, and should never be forced to act like serfs. Ever.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist blog.

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The Religious Right is all fired up over two school officials from Pace High School in Santa Rosa county, Florida, who may go to jail because they led students in prayer, thus defying a consent decree they’d agreed to abide by (as CNN reports):

Two Florida school administrators face contempt charges and possible prison time for saying a prayer at a school luncheon.

Frank Lay, principal of Pace High School, and Athletic Director Robert Freeman are accused of violating a consent decree banning employees of Santa Rosa County schools from endorsing religion.

They face a non-jury trial September 17 before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers. The statute under which they are charged carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in prison, subject to sentencing guidelines.

The consent decree had been the negotiated conclusion to an earlier case the school was involved in:

The ACLU filed suit last year against the district on behalf of two Pace students who alleged that “school officials regularly promoted religion and led prayers at school events,” according to an ACLU statement.

Both parties approved the consent decree put in place January 9, under which district and school officials are “permanently prohibited from promoting, advancing, endorsing, participating in or causing prayers during or in conjunction with school events,” the ACLU said.

Sounds like a simple agreement … but as it turns out, they could not manage to abide by it:

On January 28, “Lay asked Freeman to offer a prayer of blessing during a school-day luncheon for the dedication of a new fieldhouse at Pace High School,” according to court documents. “Freeman complied with the request and offered the prayer at the event. It appears this was a school-sponsored event attended by students, faculty and community members.”

Their claim that this event included “consenting adults” and thus did not fall under the consent decree, which dealt with how the school handled its students, not adults. However, it turns out that students were present at the event, and they admitted it:

In a February 4 letter to district Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick in which Lay acknowledged the incident, he said that although past football booster club members “and other adults associated with the school system” were at the luncheon, culinary class students were in charge of food preparation and serving.

So he knew he was in violation of the consent decree.

Of course, the Religious Right is furious about this, and — as is usual for them — misrepresenting the situation. They say the two are being sent to jail for praying on the orders of the ACLU.

But that is not true.

First, they haven’t been jailed yet, and they may not be. Second, the ACLU hasn’t asked for them to be jailed, as CNN goes on to explain:

The ACLU did not request the criminal contempt charges against Lay and Freeman, he said; the judge initiated them after seeing a reference to the incident in a motion. …

“We certainly never suggested that anyone go to jail,” [Glen] Katon [of the Florida ACLU] said.

Third, they aren’t in jeopardy of jail merely because they prayed; they’re in jeopardy because they knowingly violated a court-approved consent decree, and thus are in contempt of court.

It really is just that simple. I’m not sure how or why they believe there’s a religious exception to having to obey negotiated consent decrees … but apparently these folks think there is one.

If they were ethical people, though, they’d have taken responsibility for their wrongdoing, wouldn’t be purposely misrepresenting the situation, and accept the punishment that goes along with it.

But we all know that religionists don’t possess the integrity to do that.

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The religionazis who are currently in charge of the state of Oklahoma, took a hit recently in their effort to use Ten Commandment monuments on government sites to proselytize their religion (as reported by the AP, via Google News):

Backers of a new law authorizing a privately funded Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of Oklahoma’s Capitol didn’t get good news this week.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a similar display at the Haskell County Courthouse in Stigler was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, prompting both sides to wonder if legal wrangling over the state law is next.

Both of these laws were rationalized in the wake of cases such as Glassroth v. Moore, which collectively made it clear that government-funded religious monuments were unconstitutional. They figure that having someone else pay for the monument somehow made it acceptable to put it on government grounds and convey the inevitable impression that that’s the government religion.

Nice try, but no dice, folks … or so the 10th Circuit basically said.

I’ve remarked previously on Oklahoma’s hyperreligiosity (see e.g. this blog entry, and this one); it sure looks as though it’s becoming the next Kansas, a state that the Religious Right is trying to rework into a bastion of evangelical Christian religionism, and perhaps a beachhead in the dominionism movement. Fortunately, their maneuverings are transparent and predictable, making it easy to counter them.

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Religionists have found an additional avenue for driving religion into public schools. And that is to get the kids to promote religion themselves. They can then declare that the promotion of religion was voluntary on the kids’ part and is not adult proselytizing. Here’s an example of this tactic in practice:

This past school year, a second-grader decided to sing Awesome God. But during rehearsal, the teacher in charge, on hearing the title and lyrics, told the child that principal Joyce Brennan would have to approve that song. Brennan contacted the attorney for the school district.

Brennan then explained in a letter to the child’s mother that the song was “inappropriate for a school-run event with a captive audience of, in many cases, quite young children because of its religious content.” …

In the Frenchtown Elementary School’s case, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is supporting the child plaintiff. Attorney Jennifer Klear, who took the case on behalf of the ACLU, filed a brief to the court. In it, she made the essential — and to me, obvious — point that it was the child who chose the song, not the school.

Here’s the problem with this scenario as it’s being painted — that a second grader, of all people (what, 7 or 8 years old?) spontaneously decided that an appropriate song for a school assembly was a hymn, of all things? Really? Do you honestly expect me to believe that? That when it’s time to sing a song in front of a class, a hymn, of all things, leaps to the mind of a 7 or 8 year old?

Sorry but I’m not buying it.

What is much more likely is that said child was coached by some adult — parents, maybe, a pastor, or a religionist teacher — to do it. This way the adult(s) in question can claim not to be proselytizing, protest that it was the child’s wish, and of course it must be honored.

Yeah right. I wasn’t born yesterday; I’m not naïve enough to be conned by that story.

What surprises me is that the ACLU is stupid enough to buy into this. No one there can possibly be that gullible.

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