Friday, June 01, 2007

Goose and Gander, Cuts Both Ways, Etcetera

I just love it when this happens.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State have a blog that frequently has interesting stuff on it. I intended to cut and paste parts of this, but the whole thing is just too good, so here it is:
We commented last December on a Pagan group in Albemarle County, Va., that took advantage of a Religious Right-sponsored move to open a public school’s “backpack mail” system to religious promotions.

The backlash was swift and harsh when parents received flyers announcing a Pagan holiday celebration at the local Unitarian Universalist congregation. One mother was livid that the school would send home in her child’s backpack anything it did not endorse. A “pagan ritual” is “an educational experience my children don’t need,” she fumed.

“Backpack mail” systems are common in public schools. Albemarle uses it to advertise extra-curricular activities such as children’s theater, summer camps and recreational sports events.

The Albemarle School District previously had a sensible policy barring “distribution of literature that this for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes,” but it was revised at the behest of the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel to allow religious content.

Liberty Counsel relied on a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier in 2006 that public school districts do not have “unbridled discretion to deny access to the oft-used forum” because that would not “ensure the requisite viewpoint neutrality.” Backpack Blowback: Religious Right Activists Want Preferential Treatment From Public School Forum They Created

Yes, we have the same situation in Montgomery County. Once per quarter, PFOX sends their information home with MCPS high school students, hoping to lure some gay teens into calling them. Nobody likes it, but they have the right. Apparently there's not much you can do about it, either let everybody do it, or don't let anybody.
So, the Religious Right got want they wanted from the federal courts (the same federal courts they accuse of “kicking God out of the public schools”) and now they’re hopping mad... again.

World Net Daily reports that the Albemarle School District is under attack by a Religious Right group for sending students home with flyers for Camp Quest, an overnight summer camp for young atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.

This time, however, the problem has been exacerbated by a handful of teachers who have refused to send the flyers home. The group assailing Albemarle School District, Rick Scarborough’s Vision America, says “it’s outrageous to force teachers to distribute these flyers.” He’s urging members to contact the district to protest its “establishment of disbelief.”

An anonymous spokesman for the rebelling teachers told World Net Daily some teachers refused to hand out the Camp Quest flyer because they were “disgusted” and were concerned parents would think the school was endorsing the camp. Even though there is a disclaimer distancing the school from all extra-curricular information sent home, “it’s still coming from me and my classroom,” he said.

Mr. Anonymous is partly right. Anything that comes home from a public school, no matter how strong the disclaimer is, may be perceived as having the school’s stamp of approval. But that’s water under the bridge. Religious Right activists, through the 4th Circuit ruling that they sought, have forced public schools to allow their religious messages in the “backpack mail” system.

Now that they have opened the forum, they can’t close it to perspectives they don’t like. Although these religious conservatives demand people listen to them, they appear unwilling to listen to others.

If public schools allow private groups to use “backpack mail,” they must prohibit teachers from deciding which messages are and are not worthy. It is absolutely unacceptable for public school teachers to decide that one religious belief is “offensive” and “outrageous” but others are not and then promote that perspective in their official capacity.

This is the big problem with "freedom," isn't it? If you want it, you have to share it.

It's going to be a hard lesson for some people to learn, I'm afraid.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What does faith have to do with being surgeon general? According to Soulforce, a whole lot.

Last week, President Bush nominated Dr. James W. Holsinger to be surgeon general. Now Soulforce, a national gay activist group, says Holsinger needs to check his religion at the hospital doors, the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader reported.

Holsinger, 68, is a University of Kentucky professor and sits on the United Methodist Judicial Council. That highest "court" rules on disputes involving church doctrine and policies in the nation's second-largest Protestant denomination.

In his role on the nine-member council, Holsinger has opposed a decision to allow a lesbian to be an associate pastor, and he supported a pastor who would not permit an openly gay man to join the church.

Soulforce claims that makes him unfit to be "America's doctor."

"Dr. James Holsinger has demonstrated in the past that he harbors religious-based prejudice towards homosexuals," Jamie McDaniel, coordinator of Soulforce Lexington, told the Herald-Leader.

Bob Moffit, director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, said there should never be a religious test for public office.

"Any religiously based moral determination would make anyone unfit," he said. "If you start that, you basically are establishing a religious test for public office. Basically, you are overthrowing over two centuries of religious toleration.

"That is utterly unacceptable."

A date has not been announced for confirmation hearings for Holsinger's appointment."

June 02, 2007 12:02 AM  
Blogger grantdale said...

Or, there is a middle path. One we endorse, but then we also don't have a 1st Amend. to kow-tow before. /snigger

We also are mindful that schools are there to serve a purpose. No, really! And part of that whole educative experience is learning to interact like pleasant adults -- even in a social setting.

So...some rules in place about what is and is not suitable.

1) how does this help serve our overall educative purpose and our responsibility to each and every student? It doesn't = goodbye.

2) non-commercial. Hire a billboard if you're selling something. Cheapskates. (genuine ancillary costs for clubs etc excluded).

3) it must be something the kids can actually be involved in. As much as I as an adult might be interested in the 40-gallon-per-month wine club, just don't.

4) you must be willing to accept any of our kids, as they are. Don't broadcast a sporting club, and rudely blow them off with "sorry, no fatties" or something when they appear at 6:30 pm on that Tuesday night.

5) nothing rude, crude, vulgar, abusive, false, inflamatory or discriminatory. (No people, that job is apparently reserved for CRC via the PTA mailing list).

6) be clear about what exactly is being offered. Don't tell me it's a "hiking group" and then let me find out you've actually been intending to hire the kids out as porters in Nepal. (However, if it's closer than a 30 mile radius; we can negotiate).

7) flyers for religious groups, as such: a sub-set. Rule #1 applies. Cheapskates.

8) we will ask: who you are connected to, and what messages you are attempting to sneak in behind our backs. See above. Ronald McDonald, this applies to you too.

9) teachers aren't your free admin assistants. Cheapskates. X numbers of flyers per period, first in first served. Any backlog cleared at the end of each school year. Or something.

10) if you want to enjoy the company of our kids, you better have some standards in place. In writing. And enforce them. After all my talking to them about not getting into cars with strangers ... I might have been referring to "people like you".

Miss anything? :)

June 02, 2007 3:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Miss anything? :"

Yes. No brochures advocating a gay agenda.

June 02, 2007 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grantdale, the one problem is ... that pesky first amendment. In granting rights, it also makes it impossible to enforce any standards. Maybe you Ozzies don't have to worry about that, but some Americans exploit the constitutional guarantee of freedom as a ticket to do anything they want, whether it's decent, reasonable, moral, or not.

June 02, 2007 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Maybe you Ozzies don't have to worry about that, but some Americans exploit the constitutional guarantee of freedom as a ticket to do anything they want, whether it's decent, reasonable, moral, or not."

Even worse than that are those distort the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to exclude religion from the public square. Personally, I could care less if pagans are allowed to advertise meetings as long as Bible study groups are allowed the same access. Pretty sure I know who would came out on top. Look at history.

June 02, 2007 9:53 AM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Anonymous said "What does faith have to do with being surgeon general?|".

Holsinger is a proponent of the discredited and destructive "reparitive therapy". If he can't be counted on to encourage responsible care for all citizens he most certainly shouldn't be surgeon general. All major mental and physical health agencies warn against the use of this politically motivated "therapy" as potentially harmful with little or no prospect for success. The purpose behind the promotion of "exgays" is solely a political one, to demean and ensure LGBTs are kept as second class citizens. The misguided soles who undertake this "therapy" are mere pawns of the religious right who couldn't care less what actually becomes of such clients or how much they are hurt.

The hypocrisy of the teachers refusing to distribute the Camp Quest material would be funny if it weren't so malicious. If by the same token some teachers refused to distribute PFOX fliers because they promote oppression of gays the teachers now refusing to distribute the Camp Quest material would be screaming bloody murder.

June 02, 2007 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now it has come to this:

"California has begun allowing overnight visits for gay and lesbian partners of prison inmates to conform to the state's domestic partnership law.

California is one of just six states that allow overnight family visits, which take place in trailers or other housing on prison grounds. But attorneys, gay rights advocates and corrections officials said they know of no other state that permits conjugal visits by same-sex partners.

"Historically, these types of requests were denied," said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "Homosexuality is a touchy subject in prison. We don't want people to come to harm in prisons, but we need to comply with the law.""

June 02, 2007 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon. It's good to know the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation intends to "comply with the law."

Wouldn't it be great if the current administration intended for the CIA to "comply with the law" with its prisoners too?

June 03, 2007 9:53 AM  

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