Holiday Cheer Unhypothetical -Reply
gedicksf at LAWGATE.BYU.EDU
Mon Dec 16 16:21:10 PST 1996
I think both Mark and Rick are correct, which may illustrate the
impossibility of establishment clause theory. It seems to me that
performing a song that contains expressions of faith fails the "teaching
about" religion test. Christians tend not to recognize the seriousness of
this when they sing Jewish songs because Christianity has
absorbed/appropriated much of the Old Testament tradition. I don't think
I'd be real excited about my children singing songs expressing faith or
belief in Allah, expecially if virtually the entire school were Muslim. Even
assuming (contra the Court) that this sort of problem could be solved by
exemptions, any child whose parents took him or her out of the program
would be branded as strange.
On the other hand, I find "Winter celebrations" like that described by Jeff
offensive. (By the way, Jeff, I'm pleased to be mistaken for Michael
McConnell, though I'm not sure Michael would be as pleased to be
mistaken for me.) This is the religion-as-virus attitude--i.e., religion is this
disease that infects public life and must be removed for public life to be
healthy. The overwhelming message here--all the worse because it is
implicit and thus not normally discussed--is that religion is unworthy or
dangerous or especially damaging, and thus our children must be kept
from encountering it in public schools.
Christmas programs seem to me to be excellent illustrations of the
impossibility of forming a priori a principle that both protects religious
minorities from being overwhelmed by majoritarian culture and allows
religious people to express their beliefs in public life. Incoherent
bumbling--what the Court has done almost since it got into the
establishment clause business--may the best that one can do.
Happy Holidays (or whatever).
Brigham Young University
gedicksf at lawgate.byu.edu
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