Thursday, August 17, 2006

WV School Board Fights to Keep Jesus Portrait in Public School

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. -- The Harrison County Board of Education said Tuesday it will fight civil liberties groups' efforts to remove a painting of Jesus Christ at Bridgeport High School.

The board vowed earlier not to spend public money defending itself but had given outside interests a Tuesday deadline to raise at least $150,000 for a defense fund.

That goal was surpassed, board member Mike Queen said after the board met in private.

"This board is moving forward," Queen told a cheering audience of about 50 people, many of whom wore white T-shirts that read, "You can't take our Jesus down."

"I feel proud to be a West Virginian and an American today because of what these people did here," said actor Mayf Nutter, who helped with the fundraising. "They said they would not be pushed off their own porch."

...

Residents at the meeting said the issue has unified the community.

"It was just a matter of time that someone came along and tried to take away our freedom," said Eddy Currey, a 1985 Bridgeport High graduate.

...

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the decision to fight the lawsuit could be expensive for the defense.

"I think they have no chance of convincing a court that a portrait of Jesus in a high school doesn't promote Christianity, and such promotion is prohibited by the First Amendment," Lynn said.

The Christian Freedom Fund, established to pay the school board's legal fees, raised most of the money in less than two weeks. Bridgeport High students raised an additional $6,700.

"The ACLU is saying they have the right to come in and find a few people who disagree with the majority and use them to overtake the majority," said Dennis Swindle, a local minister whose daughter attends the school. "All we're saying is, 'not without a fight."'


I wonder how they'd feel about a big portrait of Vishnu in their school.


Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

35 comments:

FrumellasGoneWild said...

Or the Lubavitcher Rebbe may his memory be for a blessing.

Ezzie said...

Sounds like a weak case for the defense... though I'm curious where the painting was, and what it was for.

But I think this is one of the rare times where the ACLU is doing what it's supposed to.

Jewish Atheist said...

FGW:

I thought about using him as an example, but it wasn't quite parallel, Messianic followers notwithstanding.


Ezzie:

I don't know how closely you follow the ACLU, but I think you'd be surprised how often you agree with them. They often defend religious people whose First Amendment rights are being infringed as well. They're constantly smeared unfairly by conservative pundits, but they don't deserve it.

Random said...

"I wonder how they'd feel about a big portrait of Vishnu in their school."

Dunno. Why not try offering them one and seeing what they say, before jumping in with pre-emptive accusations of hypocrisy? You never know, given that he's the second aspect of a trinitarian deity and furthermore the aspect that has been known to take on human form to preach a redeeming message, they might be quite cool with the idea...

Slightly more seriously, it's a *picture* for crying out loud, not a school mandated ritual! There's no suggestion I've seen that pupils are being required to pray in front of the thing or somesuch after all. Isn't there space for a sense of proportion about such things? And frankly, speaking as an outsider, but it would be nice occasionally to see somebody take the "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" bit of the first amendment as seriously as the "no law respecting an establishment of religion" bit of it.

"They often defend religious people whose First Amendment rights are being infringed as well."

Permit a slight note of scepticism here - most of the high profile cases at least seem to be about about attacking the place of Christianity in the public sphere. It would be interesting to see what the actual balance was.

"They're constantly smeared unfairly by conservative pundits, but they don't deserve it."

However, even if your point above is true I believe it is definitely the case that the ACLU has never defended a gun owner whose 2nd amendment rights have been infringed. I frankly don't see why conservative commentators shouldn't see hypocrisy here.

Sadie Lou said...

JA--
Let me get this straight:
You ask the question, "I wonder how they would feel about a big portrait of Visnu in their school."
But let me ask you this:
How many American presidents claimed that Vishnu was their personal savior?
How many Hindus have a portrait of Jesus in their school? Your comparison is faulty.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

First off, Jesus didn't exist. So the picture is just art.

Sadie Lou, what does it matter what Presidents believe? Lets say 50% of them had mistresses. Does this mean that the school should teach that having mistresses is OK?

How do they know it is Jesus anyways? It could be Jim Caveziel or Jake Plummer. At least they really exist.

JDHURF said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JDHURF said...

Slightly more seriously, it's a *picture* for crying out loud, not a school mandated ritual! There's no suggestion I've seen that pupils are being required to pray in front of the thing or somesuch after all. Isn't there space for a sense of proportion about such things? And frankly, speaking as an outsider, but it would be nice occasionally to see somebody take the "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" bit of the first amendment as seriously as the "no law respecting an establishment of religion" bit of it.

It is not an entirely unwarranted wish to review this situation with a correct sense of proportion because, after all, it is only a picture rather than mandatory morning prayer. However it is clear that the Christians who desire pictures of Jesus to color the schools walls are many of the same Christians who do desire that there be mandatory prayer in school and if they were to have their minor - in comparison to, say, mandatory prayer - unconstitutional desires met they would certainly feel emboldened and then proceed to instate mandatory prayer.
This notwithstanding it is simply unconstitutional for a governmental run institution to show support for a religious figure, not to mention a biased and exclusive support of that religious figure. This is a government of secularism and pluralism, having pictures of Jesus in the schools is simply not right and is sending the wrong message to not only Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and non-believers but it is sending the wrong message to Christian children.
Furthermore, disallowing a biased and exclusive display of religious paraphernalia within the confines of a government controlled institution is, in no way, prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Students are still free to worship Jesus as their lord, they are still free to pray whenever they wish so long as it is not disruptive to the schools functioning, students are still free to wear crucifixion necklaces, they are still free to be Christian in any and every way that they see fit; it is only that the government institution is not, by law, allowed to support and promote these things. This is not the prohibiting of religion by any standards. When it comes to religion the government is *supposed* to recuse itself and that is what is happening.

You ask the question, "I wonder how they would feel about a big portrait of Visnu in their school."
But let me ask you this:
How many American presidents claimed that Vishnu was their personal savior?
How many Hindus have a portrait of Jesus in their school? Your comparison is faulty.


The comparison is not faulty and the fact that the overwhelming majority of US Presidents have been Christians does not, itself, repeal the constitution and the rights thereof. Consensus serves no valid role in this current discussion, as a matter of fact it is precisely such an argument that was meant to be avoided with the constitution. Sometimes in democracy a minority must be protected from the majority and in a country where there is freedom of and from religion everyone is free to pursue any religious tradition that they wish, or none at all, and no government establishment – including schools – shall support and/or promote any religious sect.
Furthermore I find it odd that you make the claim that Hindus most likely do not have a portrait of Jesus *in their schools.* We are not talking about private schools we are talking about *public* schools, schools that are neither Christian nor Hindu and no public school should have a picture of any religious figure, be it Jesus or Vishnu.

rod said...

If they can prove it's an authentic picture of Jesus let them leave it up, otherwise they should have to put a "speculative representation of speculative person" disclamer on the picture. At least the pictures i've seen usualy indicate a Roman soldier paternity. If there was such a person, I always figured Jesus and disciples would look more like this.

asher said...

Of course putting up a portrait of Jesus would promote Christianity. Just as putting up pictures of Rev. Martin Luther King would promote civil disobedience, pictures of Hitler would promote Fascism, and pictures of Hillary Clinton would promote adultery.

skcorefil said...

Who cares about a picture? It isn't even a crucifix, it is a picture.

ACLU must be getting bored, I guess enough people aren't really getting their rights violated.

Murals of mythological figures are allowed on school walls. How is a picture of Jesus worse than that?

Jewish Atheist said...

Random:

Dunno. Why not try offering them one and seeing what they say, before jumping in with pre-emptive accusations of hypocrisy? You never know, given that he's the second aspect of a trinitarian deity and furthermore the aspect that has been known to take on human form to preach a redeeming message, they might be quite cool with the idea...

Come on. You really think they'd be "cool" with a big painting of Vishnu outside the principal's office instead of Jesus?

And frankly, speaking as an outsider, but it would be nice occasionally to see somebody take the "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" bit of the first amendment as seriously as the "no law respecting an establishment of religion" bit of it.

The ACLU has defended students who wanted to sing Christian songs and those forbidden to wear crosses, etc. Look it up. For a lot of fun, look up the whole candy cane story which was used to villify the ACLU. You'll get a kick out of whose side they were actually on.

However, even if your point above is true I believe it is definitely the case that the ACLU has never defended a gun owner whose 2nd amendment rights have been infringed.

The ACLU is a First Amendment advocacy group. I wouldn't expect the NRA to defend someone's right to free expression.

How many Hindus have a portrait of Jesus in their school? Your comparison is faulty.

Sadie:

The point is that the majority religion doesn't see a problem with the blurring of the lines between church and state only because they happen to believe in the majority religion. If Christianity became a minority party, I believe they'd be the first people screaming about portraits of other religion's deities in public buildings.

First off, Jesus didn't exist. So the picture is just art.

Hey, don't give us atheists a bad name. There's no proof he didn't exist. However, I'm pretty certain he didn't have blue eyes and long, blong hair. :-) Or, what rod said.

Who cares about a picture? It isn't even a crucifix, it is a picture.

It's a picture that a majority of Americans think is GOD! It's absurd to say it's "just a picture."

Remember, we're not talking about a pantheon which includes Jesus, Vishnu, Buddha, Jupiter, etc. We're talking about a big painting of JESUS on the wall.

Frankly, I'm surprised so many of you Christians disagree with the ACLU on this one.

Sadie Lou said...

Bacon man--
First off, Jesus didn't exist. So the picture is just art.

That's a fact? Interesting leap of faith.

Sadie Lou, what does it matter what Presidents believe? Lets say 50% of them had mistresses. Does this mean that the school should teach that having mistresses is OK?

Wait a second *laughing* There are traits that people have that other people admire: Honesty, courage, faith, conviction...these are the kind of traits that people look for in their leaders. If 50% of all the presidents had a mistress, I doubt that schools would teach that it is "okay" by putting emphasis on the president's negative traits.

How do they know it is Jesus anyways? It could be Jim Caveziel or Jake Plummer. At least they really exist.

It's an artist's interpretation of Jesus. You have heard of this kind of thing before, yes?

jdhurf--
Furthermore I find it odd that you make the claim that Hindus most likely do not have a portrait of Jesus *in their schools.* We are not talking about private schools we are talking about *public* schools, schools that are neither Christian nor Hindu and no public school should have a picture of any religious figure, be it Jesus or Vishnu.

You assume I was speaking of American schools, in which case, I wasn't. I was speaking of schools in other countries where the majority is Hindu.
Just like here, where the majority of people are Christian, in one form or another. I'm making a point that it's not such a stretch that you would find a picture of Christ in a school. It would be odd to find a picture of Vishnu in an American school.

skcorefil said...

JA,

It sounds like it isn't the picture that you find inappropriate

But what makes it offensive is that it means something important to some people. I didn't take you as someone to be offended by other people's beliefs.

Being an artistic representation of who many people see as God doesn't make it any less of just a picture.

JDHURF said...

You assume I was speaking of American schools, in which case, I wasn't. I was speaking of schools in other countries where the majority is Hindu.
Just like here, where the majority of people are Christian, in one form or another. I'm making a point that it's not such a stretch that you would find a picture of Christ in a school. It would be odd to find a picture of Vishnu in an American school.


This renders your point even more invalid. We are speaking of schools within the United States of America that follow the policy and law of the United States. It is clearly not a rational foundation for an argument to spuriously compare various practices found in other countries as sole evidence that our country following suit is permissible. Furthermore there is no reason to believe that Hindus - retaining a majority in a specific country, such as India – behave in the same manner as evangelical Christians here in the US, largely, they do not.
Lastly it simply does not matter that a majority of Americans are Christian and that as such it isn’t a stretch to imagine that a good portion of them would like to see pictures of their “lord” in public schools. In this case a Christian majority is absolutely irrelevant. What is relevant and what really matters is that government institutions, such as schools, cannot support and promote any religion, let alone a single one, by law. It simply does not matter who or what the majority of citizens are or what the laws and practices are in other countries. What does matter is that our government and the institutions which it runs are secular and pluralistic and the laws and practices that govern the United States are relevant; the actions of other countries, clearly, are not.

Being an artistic representation of who many people see as God doesn't make it any less of just a picture.

Nobody is arguing that it isn’t a picture, clearly it is. What is being argued is that public schools, by law, cannot support and promote such religious pictures. Public schools are not churches or private organizations, they are government run institutions and as such must obey the laws set forth in the constitution stating that such government institutions cannot support and promote any religion.

Jewish Atheist said...

skcorefil,

Believe whatever you want. Just don't plaster them all over public (i.e. government-owned) areas, which gives the impression that the government is endorsing a particular religion. Having a big Jesus painting (and no other) in front of the principal's office gives a clear impression that it's a Christian school. That, besides being unconstitutional, is just rude for all the non-Christian students who are made to feel like second-class citizens. This isn't Saudi Arabia or Vatican City -- we aren't supposed to have an official religion.

Jack's Shack said...

It doesn't belong, plain and simple. Take it down and stick it somewhere more appropriate than there.

Random said...

"Come on. You really think they'd be "cool" with a big painting of Vishnu outside the principal's office instead of Jesus?"

No idea, I haven't asked them - and unlike you, I tend to view that as a barrier to my knowledge of their likely reactions:-/ Oh, and I've now read the article you linked to and the and the situation is even worse than it first appears. first of all the picture has hung there for 37 years(!) without attracting controversy, and secondly it was a present to the school from a departing member of staff. How accepting and displaying a present constitutes a violation of the constitution in the eyes of anyone other than single issue fanatics baffles me.

"The ACLU is a First Amendment advocacy group. I wouldn't expect the NRA to defend someone's right to free expression."

No, it's not. If you read their website (a frankly depressing endeavour for me - even when they're trying to defend themselves from accusations they're on an anti-Christian campaign they can't resist being snarky about Christians, but that's another story) you will see that they are an organisation dedicated to preserving the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th amendments. They even have quite a lengthy essay on there explaining why they don't take 2nd amendment cases, and your argument ("we're a 1st amendment group not a 2nd amendment one - if that's what you want go to the NRA") doesn't appear anywhere.

"Frankly, I'm surprised so many of you Christians disagree with the ACLU on this one. "

Frankly, I'm surprised you don't get it - what is angering Christians here is the strong suspicion that if it had have been Vishnu or Amaterasu or Richard Dawkins (got to get in an atheist icon:-)) or whatever the ACLU etc. wouldn't have touched the case or would even have been on the other side - then it would have become an issue of "defending minority rights" or "respecting diversity".

"That, besides being unconstitutional, is just rude for all the non-Christian students who are made to feel like second-class citizens."

But it's perfectly alright to make Christian students feel like second class citizens by singling them out for this sort of attack? When did the ACLU last sue a school to remove a non-Christian religious item from the premises?

"This isn't Saudi Arabia or Vatican City -- we aren't supposed to have an official religion."

Oh, nice touch. Saudi Arabia isn't Christian and Vatican City isn't protestant (unlike, I strongly suspect, West Virginia) Why not use England or Sweden (who are both) as examples instead - or would that fail to give the appropriate air of sinister theocratic tyranny?

JDHURF said...

Oh, and I've now read the article you linked to and the and the situation is even worse than it first appears. first of all the picture has hung there for 37 years(!) without attracting controversy, and secondly it was a present to the school from a departing member of staff. How accepting and displaying a present constitutes a violation of the constitution in the eyes of anyone other than single issue fanatics baffles me.

The fact that this school has engaged in unconstitutional behavior for three decades hardly repudiates the misbehavior, as far as I am concerned it amplifies it. Furthermore the fact that a member of staff gave the picture to the school as a present also does not repudiate the constitution. Religious paraphernalia is religious paraphernalia and as such does not belong on the walls of any public American school regardless of how it got there. It’s really not that difficult a concept.

Frankly, I'm surprised you don't get it - what is angering Christians here is the strong suspicion that if it had have been Vishnu or Amaterasu or Richard Dawkins (got to get in an atheist icon:-)) or whatever the ACLU etc. wouldn't have touched the case or would even have been on the other side - then it would have become an issue of "defending minority rights" or "respecting diversity".

Would you care to evidence this claim?

Here is some evidence to the contrary:

http://www.aclu.org/religion/discrim/25518prs20060419.html

http://www.aclu.org/religion/frb/23445prs20060112.html

http://www.aclu.org/religion/schools/20174prs20050920.html

http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=16471

Want more?

But it's perfectly alright to make Christian students feel like second class citizens by singling them out for this sort of attack? When did the ACLU last sue a school to remove a non-Christian religious item from the premises?

Christian students are not being singled out, get a grip, the schools administration is. To wage the argument that upholding the constitution and the first amendment is “an attack on Christians” is simply hysterical. As for “when did the ACLU last sue a school to remove a non-Christian religious item from the premises?” When was the last time a public school displayed a non-Christian religious item on the premises?

Juggling Mother said...

I guess there are number of issues here, and a number of questions I need answered before making any real comment.

The first question is, how many pupils in the school classify themselves as Christian? I would guess you're looking at nearly 100% there, which kind of makes the whole issue moot.

The next is, what kind of size, position and prominance is it given? "outside the principles office" doesn't really tell us much. For example, a little minature on his the assistants desk would be ok, a 6 foot portrait staring down on all pupils probably wouldn't be.

Which brings onto an interesting issue - is it that the picture of Jesus is displayed in a school, or where it is displayed that is the problem? because surely you can show some religious iconography in a public school? How will children learn about different religions? Unless you don't teach ANY religion of any kind in public schools, I don't know much about the US curriculum, but that really is a recipe for intolerance & bigotry.

Juggling Mother said...

Oh yes, and I would like to add: poor Richard Dawkins, I'm sure we would be absolutely horrified to know that Christians consider him to be the atheists Jesus:-)

Why do Christians not understand that atheists do not need to "replace" religion with similar atheist ideals, it's not a hole in our lives that needs to be filled.

Jewish Atheist said...

Random:

How accepting and displaying a present constitutes a violation of the constitution in the eyes of anyone other than single issue fanatics baffles me.

Surely if it were a giant cross that were given as a present (right?), you wouldn't make this argument. Hence, the fact that it's a present is irrelevant.

They even have quite a lengthy essay on there explaining why they don't take 2nd amendment cases, and your argument ("we're a 1st amendment group not a 2nd amendment one - if that's what you want go to the NRA") doesn't appear anywhere.

Well, I was 100% wrong there. Excellent point. You do tend to keep me on my toes. :-)

Frankly, I'm surprised you don't get it - what is angering Christians here is the strong suspicion that if it had have been Vishnu or Amaterasu or Richard Dawkins (got to get in an atheist icon:-)) or whatever the ACLU etc. wouldn't have touched the case or would even have been on the other side - then it would have become an issue of "defending minority rights" or "respecting diversity".

I strongly oppose institutional atheism (or Hinduism or whatever) and, as previously stated, the ACLU has in fact defended Christians when their rights have been infringed.

But it's perfectly alright to make Christian students feel like second class citizens by singling them out for this sort of attack?

If other schools had big Vishnu pictures and they weren't being attacked you'd have a point.

Oh, nice touch. Saudi Arabia isn't Christian and Vatican City isn't protestant (unlike, I strongly suspect, West Virginia) Why not use England or Sweden (who are both) as examples instead - or would that fail to give the appropriate air of sinister theocratic tyranny?

Fair point. My rhetoric was over the top.


Juggling Mother:

The first question is, how many pupils in the school classify themselves as Christian? I would guess you're looking at nearly 100% there, which kind of makes the whole issue moot.

Really? I would think that if there are only 3 Jewish kids or whatever, it makes it all the worse for them.

Which brings onto an interesting issue - is it that the picture of Jesus is displayed in a school, or where it is displayed that is the problem?

Obviously, I'm not talking about cutting da Vinci photos out of art books. It's not so much where but *how* it's displayed that's the problem. It's displayed as a de facto endorsement of Christianity.

Oh yes, and I would like to add: poor Richard Dawkins, I'm sure we would be absolutely horrified to know that Christians consider him to be the atheists Jesus:-)

Yeah, right. He probably thinks he *is* Jesus. :-)

Random said...

"The fact that this school has engaged in unconstitutional behavior for three decades hardly repudiates the misbehavior, as far as I am concerned it amplifies it. Furthermore the fact that a member of staff gave the picture to the school as a present also does not repudiate the constitution. Religious paraphernalia is religious paraphernalia and as such does not belong on the walls of any public American school regardless of how it got there. It’s really not that difficult a concept. "

The point is that a religious image surely does not constitute establishment of religion if the purpose of displaying it is not religious - otherwise (state supported) museums and art galleries would be violating the constitution every time they put up a renaissance depiction of the nativity or the crucifixion, or indeed displayed some classical statuary of the Greek gods. I have not seen any evidence that the work in question was either donated to the school for religious purposes or is being used by it in such a context (I freely admit if it was being used for such purposes then you would have a point, but I have difficulty seeing West Virginians as devout iconophiles) so I don't see why it can't be displayed. So if this is upheld, will the ACLU be going after museums next?

"the ACLU etc. wouldn't have touched the case or would even have been on the other side - then it would have become an issue of "defending minority rights" or "respecting diversity".

Would you care to evidence this claim? "

Eklund v. Byron Union School District. A case concerning establishment of Islam. The ACLU doesn't seem to be actively supporting the other side here, but it certainly seems to come under the heading of "wouldn't have touched the case" - they're conspicuous by their absence on this one, in a way it's inconceivable to image they would be if a school was pushing Christianity this hard. It's now reached the Supreme Court, BTW.

"Here is some evidence to the contrary:
...
Want more?"

Yes please, as none of those cases address my point - they show the ACLU supporting Christians, which is nice, but they do not show the ACLU attacking the expression of other religions the way they attack that of Christianity. However to save you some time I'll give you one, though that is odd in that the ACLU is apparently siding with Hindus and Muslims against Jews and Christians don't enter into the debate at all. I still haven't found a case where they have sided with Christians against another faith group.

"To wage the argument that upholding the constitution and the first amendment is “an attack on Christians” is simply hysterical."

Except that that is not the argument - I have already freely conceded that it would be perfectly legitimate to prevent the school from conducting actual acts of worship on the premises. The argument here is that banning *any* display of Christian art, even when it's being displayed simply as art or (as appears to be this case) a momento of a former member of staff is both unconstitutional and, in it's specificity, an attack on Christians.

"When was the last time a public school displayed a non-Christian religious item on the premises?"

No idea, but I have difficulty imagining that no school in the US has ever, for example, erected a menorah on the premises. Local authorities certainly have on other forms of state land.

Random said...

"Surely if it were a giant cross that were given as a present (right?), you wouldn't make this argument. Hence, the fact that it's a present is irrelevant."

I may well object to it on grounds of good taste (as I did with the Statue of Liberty knock-off you posted on a while back), but not automatically on other grounds. I'd like to see how it was used first - but I could certainly see how a giant cross in the car park (for example) could become the focus of acts of worship in a way that a poster outside the principal's office couldn't easily. So yes, that one would be on thinner ice.

"Well, I was 100% wrong there. Excellent point. You do tend to keep me on my toes. :-)
...
Fair point. My rhetoric was over the top."

You see, this is why I keep coming back:-) You're prepared to listen to people who disagree with you and adjust your position if you accept they make a valid point. A rarer quality than it should be, sadly.

"Obviously, I'm not talking about cutting da Vinci photos out of art books. It's not so much where but *how* it's displayed that's the problem."

I think we actually agree on this principle, just not how it applies to the present case.

"Oh yes, and I would like to add: poor Richard Dawkins, I'm sure we would be absolutely horrified to know that Christians consider him to be the atheists Jesus:-)

Yeah, right. He probably thinks he *is* Jesus. :-)"

That reminds me of something I read on another blog (written by an atheist, though not an atheist blog per se, if that makes sense). Namely that there are two kinds of atheist, those like Jean Paul Sartre who go "There is no God! What on earth are we supposed to do now?" And those who go "There is no God? Great! That means there's a vacancy!"

I'm pretty confident you're the first sort, but I do sometimes get the impression Dawkins is the second. Seems you've picked up on that too:-)

On and Mrs A, my invocation of Dawkins was as a reductio ad absurdum, not as a serious suggestion. My first thought was originally Karl "opium of the people" Marx, but I thought that would be unnecessarily divisive in this debate.

Jewish Atheist said...

You see, this is why I keep coming back:-) You're prepared to listen to people who disagree with you and adjust your position if you accept they make a valid point. A rarer quality than it should be, sadly.

Agreed. And I like how you use actual facts to back up your points. :-)

Namely that there are two kinds of atheist, those like Jean Paul Sartre who go "There is no God! What on earth are we supposed to do now?" And those who go "There is no God? Great! That means there's a vacancy!"

LOL.

I'm pretty confident you're the first sort, but I do sometimes get the impression Dawkins is the second. Seems you've picked up on that too:-)

Yeah, he's got an ego. But, on the other hand, he is a bestselling author and a big-time scientist. And he's *our* (the atheists') egotist. :-) Lord knows there are enough on the other side who thinks God Himself talks directly to (and through!) them.

CyberKitten said...

random said: That reminds me of something I read on another blog (written by an atheist, though not an atheist blog per se, if that makes sense). Namely that there are two kinds of atheist, those like Jean Paul Sartre who go "There is no God! What on earth are we supposed to do now?" And those who go "There is no God? Great! That means there's a vacancy!"

There are, of course, many many different kinds of atheist that have come to that standpoint from many different directions - though undoubtedly some will fall into the two camps you mentioned. Others assume (for good reasons) that there is no God and go onto lead normal active lives without invisible means of support... Strange old world isn't it?

Sadie Lou said...

Random said...
Why not use England or Sweden (who are both) as examples instead - or would that fail to give the appropriate air of sinister theocratic tyranny?

Exactly.
Jdhurf said...
We are speaking of schools within the United States of America that follow the policy and law of the United States. It is clearly not a rational foundation for an argument to spuriously compare various practices found in other countries as sole evidence that our country following suit is permissible. Furthermore there is no reason to believe that Hindus - retaining a majority in a specific country, such as India – behave in the same manner as evangelical Christians here in the US, largely, they do not.

and JA asked in his OP...
I wonder how they'd feel about a big portrait of Vishnu in their school.

So I guess I was out of line making examples of anybody but evil religious Americans.

JDHURF said...

So I guess I was out of line making examples of anybody but evil religious Americans.

No. I didn’t even claim that you were out of line but, rather, that your argument was fallacious. No one here is claiming that these specific Christians are “evil,” I’m sure they are fine people, and your transient attempt to make it appear as though Christians are being attacked on a personal basis and denigrated is erroneous. This is not about evil, it is not about Christians in general and it is not about demagogy, it is about the laws of the United States of America.

JDHURF said...

The point is that a religious image surely does not constitute establishment of religion if the purpose of displaying it is not religious….So if this is upheld, will the ACLU be going after museums next?

There is a stark contrast between an institution of learning where a single religious figure is being displayed in a bias manner excluding all other religious figures as opposed to an institution of art where all forms of religious art are on display.


Yes please, as none of those cases address my point - they show the ACLU supporting Christians, which is nice, but they do not show the ACLU attacking the expression of other religions the way they attack that of Christianity. However to save you some time I'll give you one, though that is odd in that the ACLU is apparently siding with Hindus and Muslims against Jews and Christians don't enter into the debate at all. I still haven't found a case where they have sided with Christians against another faith group.

What you seem to not be able to wrap your head around is the fact that we live in a majority Christian society and as such there simply is not much likelihood, if any at all, of a minority religion creeping into the halls of a public schools in the manner that Christianity does so frequently. To have the impression that the overwhelming majority of Christians are under the same “threat” as minority groups such as Hindus and Muslisms is to not be thinking clearly.
The ACLU has no problem defending Christians rights as they are found in the first amendment and to make any claim to the contrary would be to dismiss reality. It is contradictory to claim that the ACLU doesn’t like Christians when it comes to displaying religiosity but likes them at all other times, when there are a plethora of cases where the ACLU defends Christians and Christianity.

Except that that is not the argument - I have already freely conceded that it would be perfectly legitimate to prevent the school from conducting actual acts of worship on the premises. The argument here is that banning *any* display of Christian art, even when it's being displayed simply as art or (as appears to be this case) a momento of a former member of staff is both unconstitutional and, in it's specificity, an attack on Christians.

My previous comment stands. This is a hysterical argument waged by a Christian that clearly has no problem with Christian “art” strewn along the halls of public, government schools, ignoring the fact that this is a clear violation of the constitution, ignoring the fact that it is – at the very least – odd for all other students of different faiths, ignoring that this is a clear bias in favor of Christianity and most surprisingly ignoring the fact that this is an overwhelmingly Christian nation that doesn’t really have a problem with religions such as Hinduism and Islam creeping into governmental institutions but that it does with Christianity.

No idea, but I have difficulty imagining that no school in the US has ever, for example, erected a menorah on the premises. Local authorities certainly have on other forms of state land.

That is the problem with your entire argument, it is all based on what you “imagine.” You imagine that placing a picture of Jesus in a school, excluding all other religious figures is constitutionally sound, you “imagine” that not allowing this is equivalent to attacking Christianity, you “imagine” that a bias religious picture clearly in favor of one religion over the others displayed at a public school is equivalent to the displaying of a plethora of religious pictures at an art museum, you “imagine” that it is even plausible that a public school were to display a menorah excluding all other religious items. The majority of your argument is based on what you imagine and as such is absolutely fallacious.

Sadie Lou said...

Jdhurf said...
This is a hysterical argument waged by a Christian that clearly has no problem with Christian “art” strewn along the halls of public, government schools...

It's an artist's rendering of Christ. It's not preaching to the students in any way, shape or form--it's simply there. Don't you think that making a fuss about a painting puts more emphasis on the meaning of the painting than the painting just gracing the walls of a hallway?

JDHURF said...

It's an artist's rendering of Christ. It's not preaching to the students in any way, shape or form--it's simply there.

That’s the problem, it doesn’t belong there.

Don't you think that making a fuss about a painting puts more emphasis on the meaning of the painting than the painting just gracing the walls of a hallway?

Sadie you seem like a rational person, can you explain to me why in the world Christians are so insistent about having pictures of Jesus in a public school where some students are not Christian? I just don’t get it. They have their homes, they have churches, they have the majority of the population, why in the world do they need to plaster their religious figure in government run schools; especially when it is against the law?
Personally, I’m a humanist and an atheist, but I just don’t really care if there are pictures of Jesus in schools; it doesn’t effect me, it isn’t threatening to me but the fact is that there are people that do care, that are offended, that there are young children that may feel excluded and they have the right to have the picture removed because it is unconstitutional is what matters.
Anyway, your argument that asking for the removal of the picture causes the picture to retain more meaning than it would otherwise is simply irrelevant, however true it may be. At the end of the day it is unconstitutional for it to be there and there are clearly individuals that believed that it merely being there was enough emphasis before there was any “fuss” over it. Furthermore would you be saying the same thing about a pornographic picture? Would it only retain meaning when people began “fussing” over it? I don’t think so.

I just don’t get it. It is unconstitutional for government run public schools to display religious “art,” figures and paraphernalia and there is really no legitimate reason for it to be there even if it weren’t against the law. Why do Christians fight so much to have their majority religion on display in every nook and cranny of the country? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Sadie Lou said...

You make some really good points and I don't think you'd be surprised if I said that I pretty much agree with you. On a personal level, I see the issue like this:
I don't think it was right to have the picture put up in the first place because of the separation of church and state and for all the reasons you and JA have mentioned.
However--to me--school is a place where are children are often preyed upon.
--Students bully each other and sometimes kill each other.
--Sexual predators hang out at schools to lure children.
--The teachers that we are supposed to trust, enter into inappropriate relationships with their students (our sons and daughters).
--There is overwhelming pressure on our children by other children to make unhealthy or illegal life choices

I believe in God. My children, at this point, believe in God. Having a presence of God in school, in whatever form, is always comforting--to me. My children know they can always pray to Him in their minds and do not have to speak out loud or disrupt class or make a huge deal out of it, ya know? But I think some Christians get defensive because with so many people out there to cause our children harm--it's difficult to watch God become a cause to fight against.
I wish some of the energy that people invest into making sure God doesn't exist in school, would put their efforts into making school a safer place to be. I think there are worse dangers in the world than children being "exposed" to paintings of Jesus.
If you want to get mad about something or take up a cause that protects children's rights, let's push for stricter laws against teachers that have sex with a student.
Let's punish children that sexually molest or physically harm other children.
Let's shift some focus on the issues that actually HURT or kids now and in the future.
sheesh.

Sadie Lou said...

I've been inspired to write a post.

Random said...

Been away for the weekend, back now. Anyway...

Jdhurf:

"So if this is upheld, will the ACLU be going after museums next?

There is a stark contrast between an institution of learning where a single religious figure is being displayed in a bias manner excluding all other religious figures"

I'm fascinated to know what definition you use for "institution of learning" that manages to exclude museums. Oh, and given that you have demanded I provide examples of every point I've made so far in this discussion (which have been provided, and ignored, but no matter) can I ask for your evidence that other religious works have actively been excluded? I'm sure you must have some given how critical you are of other people just posting their assumptions:-/

"What you seem to not be able to wrap your head around is the fact that we live in a majority Christian society and as such there simply is not much likelihood, if any at all, of a minority religion creeping into the halls of a public schools in the manner that Christianity does so frequently."

I'm sorry, but did you actually bother to read the post you are replying to? I provided you with an example! The Californian school that is promoting Islam in a far more blatant way than the WV school is doing with Christianity. Some more here by the way, somewhat more subjective in tone this time.

"This is a hysterical argument waged by a Christian that clearly has no problem with Christian “art” strewn along the halls of public, government schools, ignoring the fact that this is a clear violation of the constitution,"

Since when has art (or even "art") been a violation of the constitution? And you still haven't addressed my point - assuming this picture is not being used as a basis for religious activity (which I agree would be unconstitutional and to be honest I find extremely unlikely - veneration of Icons is part of the Orthodox tradition not the Protestant one, and I rather doubt that WV is a hotbed of Orthodoxy), then how is the case any different from an art gallery displaying the likes of this, this, or this?

"That is the problem with your entire argument, it is all based on what you “imagine.”"

No, it is not. Every point I have made so far has been backed up by examples which, as in the case of the California school, you have consistently chosen to ignore. Still, I suppose I ought to be grateful - if you recall, my original point was "Frankly, I'm surprised you don't get it - what is angering Christians here is the strong suspicion that if it had have been Vishnu or Amaterasu or Richard Dawkins (got to get in an atheist icon:-)) or whatever the ACLU etc. wouldn't have touched the case or would even have been on the other side - then it would have become an issue of "defending minority rights" or "respecting diversity"."

By ignoring an opportunity to criticise an attempt to establish a non-Christian religion under the terms of the first amendment and to criticise the lassitude of the ACLU in not taking my case in order to concentrate on continuing to attack Christians, you have effectively proved my point for me, at least as far as you are concerned. As I said, I suppose thanks are in order.

skcorefil said...

Now that the picture has been stolen, it makes this lawsuit even less important.

Instead of being about 'just a picture', it is about just the idea of a picture.