Monday, October 10, 2011

An Establishment Clause Case against a California High School Teacher

For anti-Christian statements in class. You see, the establishment clause cuts both ways.


Anonymous said...

The problem is that the court, with the Lemon Test decision, created a false equivalency between government actors who use their power to "establish" a preferred place for a favored religion and "hostility" toward religion. Martin Luther said it best, "Reason is the greatest enemy faith has." Fundamentalists of all faiths view reason as an assault on faith, but to give them a veto over rational discourse in the name of "balance" is absurd.

Chad’s lawyers argued that questioning “Creation Science” violated the First Amendment, but American law gives no special place to any religion. One person’s religion is another person’s superstition. To Jews, Muslims, Hindus and dozens of other religions, the New Testament is “Christian Superstition,” just as their views are superstition to Christians. When a government actors refers to a religious belief as “superstition,” he shows respect for all by favoring none. American classrooms have Jews, Hindus, Bahai, Muslims, Buddhists, and others. Chad would demand a special place for his views, but in America, all beliefs should be treated equally by government. I never did anything else.

The one thing that bothers me most about this case is that neither Chad nor his parents nor the so-called Advocates for Faith and Freedom, ever made an effort to talk with me before filing the suit. In my view, they were all more interested in gaining publicity for themselves, and donations for the Advocates, than in protecting Chad’s rights. They cost our schools hundreds of thousands of dollars when the whole thing could have been settled with a phone call that they never made.

Finally, several people have asked why I didn't accept any of the Advocates for Faith and Freedom's proffered settlements. Here are two stanzas from Robert Service Poem (Reagan's favorite poet) that have been with me for 50 years--since my father read it to me when I was a teenager. At the time he was fighting the blacklisters who labeled him a Communist for opposing a reactionary takeover of the Anaheim School Board. He lost, but he taught me to fight:

"Carry On"

And so in the strife of the battle of life
It’s easy to fight when you’re winning;
It’s easy to slave, and starve and be brave,
When the dawn of success is beginning.
But the man who can meet despair and defeat
With a cheer, there’s the man of God’s choosing;
The man who can fight to Heaven’s own height
Is the man who can fight when he’s losing.

Jim Corbett

Anonymous said...

"Martin Luther said it best, "Reason is the greatest enemy faith has." Fundamentalists of all faiths view reason as an assault on faith, but to give them a veto over rational discourse in the name of "balance" is absurd."

This is a quote-mine popularized by Dawkins. When presented just alone it gives wrong image about what Luther was really arguing. Whitford's article describes Luther's thinking well:

"Given Luther’s critique of philosophy and his famous phrase that philosophy is the “devil’s whore.” It would be easy to assume that Luther had only contempt for philosophy and reason. Nothing could be further from the truth. Luther believed, rather, that philosophy and reason had important roles to play in our lives and in the life of the community. However, he also felt that it was important to remember what those roles were and not to confuse the proper use of philosophy with an improper one.

Properly understood and used, philosophy and reason are a great aid to individuals and society. Improperly used, they become a great threat to both. Likewise, revelation and the gospel when used properly are an aid to society, but when misused also have sad and profound implications.

The proper role of philosophy is organizational and as an aid in governance. When Cardinal Cajetan first demanded Luther’s recantation of the Ninety-Five Theses, Luther appealed to scripture and right reason. Reason can be an aid to faith in that it helps to clarify and organize, but it is always second-order discourse. It is, following St. Anselm, fides quarenes intellectum (faith seeking understanding) and never the reverse. Philosophy tells us that God is omnipotent and impassible; revelation tells us that Jesus Christ died for humanity’s sin. The two cannot be reconciled. Reason is the devil’s whore precisely because asks the wrong questions and looks in the wrong direction for answers. Revelation is the only proper place for theology to begin. Reason must always take a back-seat.

Reason does play a primary role in governance and in most human interaction. Reason, Luther argued, is necessary for a good and just society. In fact, unlike most of his contemporaries, Luther did not believe that a ruler had to be Christian, only reasonable. Here, opposite to his discussion of theology, it is revelation that is improper. Trying to govern using the gospel as one’s model would either corrupt the government or corrupt the gospel. The gospel’s fundamental message is forgiveness, government must maintain justice. To confuse the two here is just as troubling as confusing them when discussing theology. If forgiveness becomes the dominant model in government, people being sinful, chaos will increase. If however, the government claims the gospel but acts on the basis of justice, then people will be misled as to the proper nature of the gospel.

Luther was self-consciously trying to carve out proper realms for revelation and philosophy or reason. Each had a proper role that enables humanity to thrive. Chaos only became a problem when the two got confused.One cannot understand Luther’s relationship to philosophy and his discussions of philosophy without understanding that key concept."