Sunday, October 2, 2011

Where is the Common Sense?

The Shreveport Times has a front page story today on a controversy at Airline High School. Read the whole article, but the short version is that on August 31 of this year, members of the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) distributed (with administrative permission) approximately 1,200 Bibles to students who wanted them during the lunch hour. 

That seems to be about all of the facts we have here.  The rest is a lot of he said/she said stuff:  rumors of students being harassed, Bibles being thrown at students who didn't take them, and so on. There is no corroboration of this.

It appears that the person most offended is not even an Airline student; he's a "former student" who got a text message from someone who told him Bibles were being handed out.  He and another student demanded an investigation from the principal. 

The principal says:

"To this day, not one parent or student that has any affiliation with Airline has complained to my office, and everyone has said the FCA students were passing out material just like any other student organization may do."
Okay so what's the problem?  Why is this front page material?  There are folks in the "comments" section following the article reminding everyone of the separation of church and state and how "religion should not be in the schools!"

And so we've come to this.

There's even a Facebook page with 241 (as of this writing) "Likes" entitled Keep Religion Out of Airline. 

Why not just banish the FCA all together?  Why allow FCA to even exist? 

What of the national See You at the Pole day?  Get rid of that, too? Of course, See You at the Pole is not held during school hours and is entirely student generated.  I assume it is that the Bibles were handed out during school hours that has the anti-religion people so riled.

It's only a matter of time, I guess, before the ACLU jumps in.  In fact, that former student has already contacted them.

The kerfuffle at Airline High School is just an extension of what we've been seeing for years with this school or that one abolishing the pledge because it has the word "God" in it; abolishing prayer before graduations or athletic events, having "HolidayTrees" instead of Christmas trees, no nativity scenes in public squares, no more Ten Commandments at the courthouse, and who can forget the "Spring Spheres" last year?  Just last week a story broke about a CA teacher who docks students 25 points every time they say "Bless You" if someone sneezes.

It seems tolerance is good for everything except for Christians.  In attempting to avoid offending anyone, we've offended everyone. 

Where is the common sense?

1 comment:

Doug Indeap said...

It is important to distinguish between the "public square" and "government" and between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

Too little is reported about the episode you mention to sort out whether it involves government action of the sort proscribed by the First Amendment.

A word should be added about your interest in who is being offended. In discussing separation of church and state, we’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive; under our Constitution, each of us has that freedom. Rather, we’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--regardless of whether anyone is offended and regardless of how many like or dislike any particular religion. While this is primarily a constitutional point, it is one that conservatives--small government conservatives--should appreciate from a political standpoint as well. While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to bring suit; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law; the question whether someone has standing to sue is entirely separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution.

By the way, the teacher you mention was simply dealing with kids playing disruptive pranks in his class. Not every “bless you” has a religious or even kind thought behind it. The wild overreaction to this non-story in the media and blogosphere serves only to highlight the tendency of some to perceive “persecution” of Christians at the drop of a hat.