Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Plaintiff Intimidation in Church/State Cases

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has a disturbing post about plaintiff intimidation in church-state cases.
Anyone who pays any attention to lawsuits involving the establishment clause can tell you one thing for certain: the plaintiffs will be the targets of intimidation and even death threats for complaining about government endorsement of religion. It's not just common, it's virtually automatic. The young man in Kearney, New Jersey who recorded his history teacher proselytizing instead of teaching has gotten them. The Jewish family in Delaware who were hounded out of their homes has gotten them. And yes, the plaintiffs in Dover got them too.

He posts the text of a death threat received by Tammy Kitzmiller of the Dover case, but that seems like the work of just one crazy person.

Mr. Brayton then links to something much more disturbing. Apparently, the misguided folks at the Stop the ACLU Coalition have an official policy of broadcasting the personal contact information of plaintiffs in Establishment cases:
This case is a good time to introduce our "Expose the ACLU Plaintiff" project and here'is (sic) how it goes. When an individual, group or even church (yes, there are churches that support the ACLU) is using the ACLU (or similar groups like Americans United, People for the (Anti) American Way, Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists) to facilitate removal of a cross, the 10 Commandments or other religious symbols or the ceasing of prayer from a school or government entity, we want the community to know about it. We will start with the Dobrich family which is largely responsible for this case being taken. We are offended that the Dobrich's (sic) want to impose their atheism (sic) at the expense of the vast majority of community members who aren't offended. We will let all of Delaware know who used the ACLU to sue this school district.

He then gives out the Dobriches' home address and phone number.

The Dobriches, you may remember, are the Jewish family in Delaware who were ostracized and threatened after "Mrs. Dobrich asked the Indian River district school board to consider prayers that were more generic and, she said, less exclusionary." Her request followed "a minister’s prayer proclaiming Jesus as the only way to the truth" at the high-school graduation. After moving her son to Wilmington, the Dobriches eventually sued the district.
The parents, who also are seeking damages, claim in the lawsuit that their rights to free speech and to be free from state-sponsored religion have been violated.

"We didn't want a lawsuit, but at this point we feel like we don't have any other choice," said Mona Dobrich, one of the parents, in a statement provided by attorney Thomas J. Allingham. "We are not trying to remove God from the schools or the public square. We simply don't think it is right for the district to impose a particular religious view on impressionable students..."

The lawsuit alleges the district has created "an environment of religious exclusion" and that school-sponsored prayer, often explicitly Christian, is pervasive.

The lawsuit alleges prayers are used at official school board meetings, athletic events, banquets and graduation services; that a Bible club is offered at Selbyville Middle School, and students who participate receive preferential treatment; and that religion has worked its way into some classrooms.

The lawsuit claims a social studies teacher at Selbyville Middle told his class there is "only one true religion" and a science teacher told her class she did not believe in the "big-bang theory" of the creation of the universe. She then encouraged students to attend the Bible club to learn more.

The Dobrich family is Jewish and felt excluded, according to the lawsuit. After they raised the issue publicly, they felt so threatened that they moved out of Sussex County to Wilmington.

The lawsuit claims that at an August school board meeting about the issue, a former school board member suggested Mona Dobrich "might just 'disappear' like Madalyn Murray O'Hair..."

They were warned that the Ku Klux Klan was nearby, the lawsuit says, and the Dobrichs' son, Alex, was taunted by classmates who called him "Jew boy" and accused him of killing Jesus.

Alex later became so fearful he would take off his yarmulke in public because he feared "someone would grab it and rip out some of his hair,"
according to the lawsuit. (Delaware Wave.)


Ezzie said...

I'm rarely with the ACLU (well, on high-profile cases anyway), but to put out people's private info? Sick.

I was actually a bit disturbed recently that people put out the same for Neturei Karta members, until I saw that the NK people actually had it on their own sites. If you publish it like that, I think it's different. (Sorry. Slightly off-topic.)

LT said...

Movements are like pendulums. We're in the midst of a "Third Great Awakening" - certainly, religion is hipper in the U.S. today than it was 10 years ago.

But pendulums have a tendency to swing back. And the further they swing in one direction, the more violent the backswing.

It is only a matter of time before some religious nut goes too far and actually follows through on one of these horrific death threats. That will shock and appall mainstream Americans, and religious leaders will try to denounce this as the work of one crazy nut (just as religious leaders denounced the abortion clinic killings), but Americans will have seen the dangers of fundamentalism (again), and popular sentiment will swing the other way again.

Until a few decades later, spirituality or religion in some new form starts to become hip again.

And the cycle shall repeat, ad infinitum.

Laura said...

Well, DUH! Of course they're being intimidated - they're WRONG!!! They have to be shown the way of the Lord, by force if necessary, in order to save their immortal souls! Stories like this make me sick... and yet Christians still whine about being "persecuted" in this country - gimme a break.

Anonymous said...

I just have one quick question. People who claim to be anti-religious seem to foucus mosy of their animosity on Christainity and Judaism. Islam doesn't seem to be a problem. Peolple who complain about jihad are called racists. Buddisim and hinduism are given free passes as well. Am I mistaken? please enlighten me if I am.