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ACLU of Louisiana:

The recent posts about the picture of Jesus in the Louisiana courthouse, with the inscription "To know peace, obey these laws," has again brought up some of the arguments that the ACLU is anti-Christian or anti-religious.

There is much I disagree with the ACLU about, including about the Establishment Clause. (I've criticized the Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana in particular here.) But I should note that the same ACLU of Louisiana sued on behalf of a Christian anti-gay picketer, rightly argued that the First Amendment protected his speech. And of course ACLU chapters in other states have likewise fought for Christians' rights. So one can certainly fault the ACLU's position on church-state, religious freedom, and religious speech issues; but one should do so without incorrectly caricaturing that position.

scote (mail):
Indeed, many of the people the ACLU defends are less than perfect people. But in an era of ever increasing Authoritarianism by Federal and state governments, the ACLU is more important than ever.
7.9.2007 3:09pm
Federal Dog:
"Ever-increasing authoritarianism?" Since when has government not been authoritarian? That's what government is.
7.9.2007 3:28pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
I have a hard time understanding how any American who has ever taken so much as a single civics class in first grade could be against the ACLU. I think ACLU hatred is solely due to the group taking up the causes of unpopular minorities. But for people to attack the group and the principles they try to defend based solely on that factor really does amaze me.
7.9.2007 3:37pm
New World Dan (www):
Absent the religous connection, it seems the piece would otherwise be appropriate to a courtroom. The establishment clause does not require all governement buildings to be bare walled temples to secularism. Maybe would have been appropriate if elsewhere in the building (maybe there are? I don't know) there were other related exmples drawing connections to other religions or simply secular ones.

And I say this as a flaming athiest. Because, let's face it, if it had been a picture of Vishnu, no one would be complaining. It's been my experiance that the ACLU is very sympathetic to religion on a personal level, but they go a bit overboard at times on the establishement clause.
7.9.2007 3:41pm
scote (mail):

"Ever-increasing authoritarianism?" Since when has government not been authoritarian? That's what government is.


No, that's what bad government is.

authoritarian |əˌθôriˈte(ə)rēən; ôˌθär-| adjective favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, esp. that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom : the transition from an authoritarian to a democratic regime. • showing a lack of concern for the wishes or opinions of others; domineering; dictatorial

The ACLU fights the increasing restrictions on our constitutional rights. They support little things like the right to be heard in a court, the right to council, the right to not be tortured, the right not to be arrested and held forever without charges...you know, things that authoritarian governments do and the US used to stand against.
7.9.2007 3:54pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

If any of this nonsense were actually true then why don't you explain why the ACLU has refused to contest the forced muslim indoctrination in California schools?
7.9.2007 4:02pm
Jeremy Pierce (mail) (www):
I'm having a hard time seeing the ACLU as consistent on this sort of thing. They seem willing to defend those who advocate violence against gays, but they won't defend those who simply think being gay is immoral. Kenny Pearce has some links. If anyone can put these things together into a consistent view, I'd be curious to see how that goes.
7.9.2007 4:03pm
Phantom (mail):
Ed--

Can you point to an article that explains the "forced muslim indoctrination in California schools?" That might help us understand your position.

--PtM.
7.9.2007 4:05pm
Hattio (mail):
Jeremy Pierce,
The ACLU is not consistent, because it's not one monolithic organization. It's a bunch of little (state by state, or smaller) organizations loosely organized under a national organization. But just as no one would claim that the American Lung Association had sold out asthma sufferers because a local branch did or didn't fight a particular issue, no one should condemn the ACLU because they took on (or refused to take on) some particular case. Look at the over-all good they do, and if you are disgusted by your local organization, give to the national organization.
7.9.2007 4:23pm
scote (mail):

Absent the religous connection, it seems the piece would otherwise be appropriate to a courtroom.

That is sort of a catch all position that is almost tautologically true:

Absent the religious connection the phrase "There is no god but Allah" is completely secular.

In this case we have a picture of the Christian god holding the holiest text of Christianity with the caption "To know peace, obey these laws." It would seem that the clear and unambiguous message is that you must obey the laws of the bible to know peace. That is an inherently religious message.

If, instead, the picture was one of the constitution or the Penal Code of Louisiana with the caption, "To know peace, obey these laws" you could argue that there was no religious message, but you can't do so as long as the viewer is exhorted to obey the Christian bible as is the case in the Louisiana court.
7.9.2007 4:32pm
JosephSlater (mail):
It is to Eugene's credit that he posts this reminder whenever the extreme and inaccurate slurs against the ACLU come out on this site.
7.9.2007 4:35pm
wm13:
Hattio, come on, the case Jeremy mentions was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Let's not pretend that some little ACLU affiliate just didn't notice it, or that the ACLU doesn't have the resources to take a position on every Supreme Court case.
7.9.2007 4:35pm
Colin (mail):
Phantom,

That accusation was trotted out in the last thread (by Clayton Cramer, I believe, who also claims that the ACLU "is an evil organization, committed to the rape of children"). It turns out to be no big deal, which I think people not already committed to demonizing the ACLU would expect.

Excuse me if I have any details wrong; I hope someone will correct me if I do. As I recall, around September of last year, a public school in California picked up some Somalian Moslem students who had been in a private school. The public school allegedly began a course of education about Islam for all students, and gave the Moslem students time for their daily prayers. I don't recall the other details about the case, but I do remember thinking, when I read the article, that if all the allegations were true there was likely an EC violation.

As I said, the allegedly objectionable conduct began no earlier than September, 2006. I don't think any litigators in the crowd would be shocked to hear that the ACLU isn't in trial yet; their representative was quoted as saying that they're reviewing their options. I'm sure that those options include non-judicial remedies, such as asking the school district to stop any objectionable conduct. In other words, you're right to be suspicious of the factual basis for ed's comment. This complaint turns out to be another instance of reaching as far as possible to dredge up any mud to throw at the ACLU, whether or not it sticks.
7.9.2007 4:38pm
Allen Asch (mail) (www):
Prof Volokh wrote:

ACLU chapters in other states have likewise fought for Christians' rights

Thanks for the link!

It seems unfair to me to recast a disagreement about the meaning of the Establishment Clause as a fight between the "religious" and the "anti-religious." It's about the GOVERNMENT's role in religion and, of course, reasonable people can disagree on where some lines should be drawn. I think the ACLU was on the wrong side of the Good News Club case, by the way, but I understand the ACLU's argument about the extra susceptibility of grade school children to messages of endorsement. That disagreement, however, doesn't make one side "Christian" and the other side "anti-Christian."

Thanks again for the link :-)
7.9.2007 4:41pm
Owen (mail):
The ACLU is inconsistent, period. They trot out examples of defending neo-Nazis and other radicals supposedly on the right to prove that they are even-handed, but they rarely defend run-of-the-mill cases of ordinary conservatives having their speech squelched.

More egregious are their stated policy positions, which are almost entirely far-left. The ACLU believes that the Constitution guarantees a right to an abortion, but not an individual right to keep and bear arms. They disapprove of campaign finance reform that impinges on free speech, but openly advocate an even more radical solution, that of full public financing. I can't believe anyone actually still believes they aren't left-wing.
7.9.2007 4:58pm
scote (mail):

More egregious are their stated policy positions, which are almost entirely far-left. The ACLU believes that the Constitution guarantees a right to an abortion, but not an individual right to keep and bear arms.

The ACLU is not perfect, especially if you are someone on the right. However, in an adversarial legal system I'd be wont to give up on one of the governments most formidable and outspoken adversaries.

I can't believe anyone actually still believes they aren't left-wing.

And I can't believe that anyone on the right who is afraid of big government and jack-booted gun confiscators would be against the ACLU's fight against unreasonable searches and seizures. (Well, I can believe it but I think such a position is against long-term interest for short-sighted reasons.)
7.9.2007 5:03pm
AntonK (mail):
Only hysterics would claim that the ACLU is anti-religious, they're simply anti-Christian and anti-American.

See: Muslims won't fund footbaths

Muslim leaders in Metro Detroit have decided not to raise private money to pay for two footbaths at a local college campus now that the American Civil Liberties Union has said the plan doesn’t pose constitutional problems.
7.9.2007 5:09pm
Owen (mail):
One more thing -- there is ample evidence that the ACLU of Louisiana is, if not anti-Christian, then at least overly quick to attack religious expression. As Professor Volokh noted above, the former head of the Louisiana ACLU at one point compared the mindset of Christians supporting school prayer and potentially disobeying contrary court orders to that of the 9/11 terrorists. As he himself admitted, this was hyperbole. I honestly can't imagine hearing ACLU officials making similar statements about other groups.

The ACLU of Louisiana also attacked plans for a Katrina memorial in St. Bernhard Parish that would incorporate Christian iconography because public officials participated in designing it and because they presumed, without basis, that it would be on public land. However, the memorial was planned for private land using private financing, and the public officials were volunteers working on their own time. Needless to say, the ACLU embarassed itself by jumping the gun there.

It is true that the ACLU takes on a handful of cases involving discrimination against Christians, but they seem to be all too willing to use intemperate rhetoric and tilt at windmills when it comes to Christianity. That at least provides some basis for the argument that the ACLU has something against conservative Christians (in fact, as a liberal group, they have a problem with ALL conservatives).
7.9.2007 5:10pm
scote (mail):

(in fact, as a liberal group, they have a problem with ALL conservatives)

I'm not sure that is true; however, since the "conservatives" in the Administration are the architects of the new authoritarian powers of the government (you know, secret indefinite arrests, secret warrants, warrantless wholesale data-mining, and other offenses too numerous to enumerate here), I'd say that it is safe to say that the ACLU has a problem with the policies of certain "conservatives"--as well they should.
7.9.2007 5:18pm
Owen (mail):
scote,

And I can't believe that anyone on the right who is afraid of big government and jack-booted gun confiscators would be against the ACLU's fight against unreasonable searches and seizures.

I don't agree with the ACLU entirely on the 4th Amendment either. They spend far too much of their time fighting, for example, for the rights of parolees not to be stopped and searched by police. And then they devote an equal or greater amount of time to fighting in favor of abortion rights and against the death penalty. No thanks; they're beyond imperfect -- they're usually just plain wrong.
7.9.2007 5:24pm
Carolina:
My personal take on this is the ACLU is not anti-Christian, but sometimes seems so, because they are so keen on stripping out historical/civic religious references, and in this country, the great majority of the founders were Christian. Christianity played a large role in this country's history, and this is sometimes reflected in public monuments. If George Washington et al had been Buddhists, the ACLU would now be accused of being anti-Buddhist.

What turns me off is that the ACLU spends so much time and effort litigating truly meaningless issues like what pictures hang in a Louisiana courthouse. I mean, come on. No one is being asked to bow down in front of that picture or salute it. It's just a picture.

Technically, the ACLU may be right here. At least based on current establishment jurisprudence. But why this issue, when there are so many other cases where real people are really having their rights to speech, etc violated? So much effort on a case that will not make a whit of difference in a single person's life.

That's why I have never donated. I could never be sure whether they would use my donation gainfully to defend some student who was unconstitutionally searched at school or waste it litigating the Pledge of Allegiance or something like this nonsense in Louisiana.
7.9.2007 5:25pm
scote (mail):

AntonK (mail):
Only hysterics would claim that the ACLU is anti-religious, they're simply anti-Christian and anti-American.

See: Muslims won't fund footbaths

I personally don't see standing up for the constitution as "anti-American."

Now, as your apparent indignation that the ACLU decided not oppose state funded foot baths at UM-Dearborn. The construction was a response to what the Muslims were doing: washing their feet in sinks before prayer.

From the article you cited:

Kary Moss, director of the Detroit branch of the ACLU, said its review concluded the plan is a "reasonable accommodation" to resolve "safety and cleanliness issues" that arose when Muslims used public sinks for foot cleaning before prayers, which often spilled water on bathroom floors.

There are only two solutions to this problem. Prohibition or accommodation. Either one has religious connotations. In this case, the university decided to err on the side public safety.

I, for one, would prefer that people not wash their feet in the bathroom sinks (ick)* and I think I'd favor this accommodation in spite of my fairly strong views on church/state separation since prohibition is problematic.

If you are going to complain about this stance by the ACLU you should state what your solution/position on this issue is: Status quo, prohibition or accommodation?


*Of course, in reality these muslims probably have feet much cleaner than most Christians hands...
7.9.2007 5:32pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

@ Phantom

"Can you point to an article that explains the "forced muslim indoctrination in California schools?" That might help us understand your position. "

Sure.

Thomas Moore Law Center

Or

Snopes

Aaaaannnnnnnnd WikiPedia

WikiPedia

Why is this interesting? Because it doesn't matter if you meant it in jest or if you're doing it for extra credit in a foolish 7th grade class in California. If you pray to Allah and announce Muhammed is his is last prophet then you have technically just converted to Islam.

And considering the kind of circus show that's gone on over Christian prayer I find it curious that this 7th grade class was encouraged to pray to Allah 5 times a day.
7.9.2007 5:41pm
scote (mail):

What turns me off is that the ACLU spends so much time and effort litigating truly meaningless issues like what pictures hang in a Louisiana courthouse. I mean, come on. No one is being asked to bow down in front of that picture or salute it. It's just a picture.

It is not "just a picture." That is like saying the Bible is "just a book." What it is is a picture of the Christian god Jesus holding the Christian holy text with a giant caption "To know peace, obey these laws" It is a very clear exhortation to obey the laws of Christianity. It isn't some sort of de minimus reference to an indeterminate god, it is a sectarian imperitive and a specific command to obey the Christian Bible. It is a message that non-Christians may not receive equal treatment under the law.

The ACLU should put a stop to this. When these displays are small, Christians argue that they are de minimus. When they are old and large, Christians argue that they are historical. There is no point when evangelicals concede it is appropriate to separate their sectarian religious views from government, so it is important to object now so they can't claim that nobody objected so it must be ok.
7.9.2007 5:43pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

@ Phantom

Evidently this isn't an isolated case as there are many more cases across the country where Islamic indoctrination is an ongoing process.

Meanwhile in NYC schools the official Christian symbol for Christmas, i.e. the birth of Jesus Christ, is a Christmas tree. Which is frankly a bit odd.

And note: I'm not a Christian so no nonsense about that ok?
7.9.2007 5:44pm
scote (mail):

Meanwhile in NYC schools the official Christian symbol for Christmas, i.e. the birth of Jesus Christ, is a Christmas tree. Which is frankly a bit odd.

Well, what is the official, universal Christian symbol for Christmas?

Besides, Christmas is a meta holiday, being a pagan holiday the Christian church appropriated to help convert additional adherents and a holiday which is now so consumerist in nature to have a rather reduced religious significance. A pagan Christmas tree really is an appropriate symbol for the holiday and much more so than a Creche. No respectable Biblical Scholar actually thinks Jesus was born at the end of December.
7.9.2007 5:57pm
Carolina:
Scote,

I totally, completely agree that it's the "Christian God" holding the "Christian Holy text." But I repeat - it's just a picture. People don't even have to look at it - much less bow to it, or make the sign of the cross or something. What is the harm? That someone might take offense at a picture of Jesus?

If you can convince me that no one in jail in Louisiana right now was convicted on illegally obtained evidence, that no school child in Louisiana has been censured for unorthodox political beliefs, that the police everywhere in Louisiana are polite and respectful of the rights of their fellow citizens, then let's the debate the decor of the courthouse.

But until that happy day, I really couldn't care less what paintings are on the wall, and I won't give money to an organization that's going to spend it litigating courthouse decor.
7.9.2007 5:57pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

@ scote

"Well, what is the official, universal Christian symbol for Christmas?"

Considering the universal symbol of Christianity is the Cross, then I'd have to say that the symbol should be a ... Cross. Particularly since the NYC schools allows Jews to have the Menora and Muslims to have the Crescent. While a Nativity scene would be much preferred, a Cross at least has something to do with Christianity.

It's rather like Easter becoming less of Christ and more of Peter Rabbit.

"Besides, Christmas is a meta holiday, being a pagan holiday the Christian church appropriated to help convert additional adherents and a holiday which is now so consumerist in nature to have a rather reduced religious significance. A pagan Christmas tree really is an appropriate symbol for the holiday and much more so than a Creche. No respectable Biblical Scholar actually thinks Jesus was born at the end of December."

1. It doesn't matter if Jesus was born in December or not, that is the holiday aside for that celebration. Here's a question for you: Why do we celebrate the 4th of July as Independence Day?

Because we do that's why.

2. Pagan is irrelevant.
7.9.2007 6:04pm
wm13:
In fairness, the ACLU is generally opposed to menorahs and crescents in public schools. I would, however, be interested in hearing if anyone can defend the federal court ruling that permits menorahs and crescents, but bars creches.
7.9.2007 6:11pm
scote (mail):

I totally, completely agree that it's the "Christian God" holding the "Christian Holy text." But I repeat - it's just a picture. People don't even have to look at it - much less bow to it, or make the sign of the cross or something. What is the harm?

The "it's just a picture" argument is a generalized one that rationalizes literally anything. Let's use other examples to see if you really believe you argument:

A picture of Satan. A picture of Hitler. A picture of Stalin. A picture of Bill Clinton (JK, a lot of conservatives seem to equate him with Satan). A picture of Jeffery Dahlmer eating aborted babies. A picture of Allah with the caption "All infidels must die." A picture of Jesus with the caption "Stubborn and rebellious children shall be stoned to death." Deuteronomy 21:18-21

Hey, they are all just pictures, right? You don't have to bow down to them or look at them. What's the harm? These are your arguments. You can't disagree with them unless you admit that the content of the picture does matter.

I don't buy the "it's just a picture" argument any more than I'd buy the "It's just words on a page" argument. Your argument is that there is nothing you could put in a court that is problematic because everything is just a picture, a sculpture or words and that the content of those words is irrelevant and people are free to ignore the content. That really isn't a reasonable argument and it doesn't hold up under scrutiny.
7.9.2007 6:18pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
The ACLU is inconsistent, period. They trot out examples of defending neo-Nazis and other radicals supposedly on the right to prove that they are even-handed, but they rarely defend run-of-the-mill cases of ordinary conservatives having their speech squelched.


I think this is largely true and looking at the facts of the actual cases on the “ACLU defends Christians” website that Eugene keeps linking to when he posts about the ACLU, most of the cases seem to have nothing to do with religion but are cases where the “Christian” that they’ve “defended” just forgot to get a permit or broke some other law that has nothing to do with religion but the ACLU has tried to make it about religion in their press release in order to give the illusion that they’ve defended the religious liberty of Christians.
7.9.2007 6:24pm
wm13:
but, scote, what about a crescent and star? what about a fish symbol?
7.9.2007 6:24pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

@ scote

"You can't disagree with them unless you admit that the content of the picture does matter."

Incorrect.

The content of a picture can not matter and yet still be in excruciatingly bad taste.

c.f. Modern art.
7.9.2007 6:25pm
Carolina:
Of course my argument applies to all of those hypothetical pictures you describe. I would certainly think it strange if a courthouse had a picture of Jeffrey Dahmer in flagrante. But would I think it's an appropriate use of scarce funds to sue to get the Dahmer picture down? Nope. Not when there are a lot of more pressing matters. I'd rather see Dahmer munching babies on the wall than people convicted with illegally obtained evidence, that's for sure.

I can certainly attest that I would think it a total waste of time to litigate a picture of the Torah, or of a Santeria ritual, or of Reverend Moon, or whatever religion you want to name.

Bottom line, I'm not saying it's not "problematic." I'm saying there are problems and there are PROBLEMS. And I'm saying courthouse paintings, whatever they might be, are small-potatoes stuff.
7.9.2007 6:37pm
scote (mail):

Considering the universal symbol of Christianity is the Cross, then I'd have to say that the symbol should be a ... Cross. Particularly since the NYC schools allows Jews to have the Menora and Muslims to have the Crescent. While a Nativity scene would be much preferred, a Cross at least has something to do with Christianity

Some Christian sects consider Nativity scenes to be idolatrous. The cross is the symbol of the religion, not a specific holiday. You've mentioned the Islamic crescent, but that, again, is not a symbol of a holiday.

Lastly, you are ignoring that Christmas trees have been symbolic of Christmas in England and America since they were popularized by the Prince of Wales. It isn't like the school district pulled a symbol out of their behinds.

2. Pagan is irrelevant.

Au contraire, it does matter. Much of the symbolism and celebration in "Christmas" is not Christian at all. Christmas trees, holy, yule logs and much more are all pagan aspects of this meta-holiday. You are being presumptuous in ascribing the holiday only to Christian symbolism and derivation.

1. It doesn't matter if Jesus was born in December or not, that is the holiday aside for that celebration. Here's a question for you: Why do we celebrate the 4th of July as Independence Day?

Yes, it does matter. The reason for all of the non-Christian elements in "Christmas" is because Christianity pulled a Microsoft on pagans: embrace, extend, extinguish.* It is very arrogant to declare that only Christians matter by claiming the pagan holiday Christmas is based on is irrelevant. Exactly what the Church intended, I'm sure.


*This refers to the MS approach to open standards: Pretend to embrace the standard, then extend the standard in proprietary ways so that non Microsoft applications are not compatible with the new, bastardized MS version, then extinguish the non-MS competitors and the standard by using the MS market share to make the original standard useless since it doesn't work with the MS products that were originally designed to use it.
7.9.2007 6:37pm
scote (mail):

But would I think it's an appropriate use of scarce funds to sue to get the Dahmer picture down? Nope. Not when there are a lot of more pressing matters. I'd rather see Dahmer munching babies on the wall than people convicted with illegally obtained evidence, that's for sure.

Well, I have to at least applaud your constancy if not your position. However, if you are so in favor of funds being wisely spent then the court should take down the photo, since it doesn't matter, rather than waste the money fighting the ACLU. I think you are mistaken as to where the public money is actually wasted in these fights, the ACLU being a private organization.
7.9.2007 6:41pm
von (mail) (www):
I think this is largely true and looking at the facts of the actual cases on the “ACLU defends Christians” website that Eugene keeps linking to when he posts about the ACLU, most of the cases seem to have nothing to do with religion but are cases where the “Christian” that they’ve “defended” just forgot to get a permit or broke some other law that has nothing to do with religion but the ACLU has tried to make it about religion in their press release in order to give the illusion that they’ve defended the religious liberty of Christians.


Thorley, I'm having trouble understanding your argument. Granted, I didn't click through every link on the page cited by Professor Volokh as showing that the ACLO defends Christians; every link that I clicked on, however, involved some defense that was directly tied to religious liberty: Siding with Jerry Falwell to overturn a ban on church incorporations; siding with a student who wanted to include a Bible verse in his/her yearbook entry; etc. I mean, the ACLU isn't out there proselytizing, but whaddaya expect?

There certainly are reasons to criticize the ACLU, just as there are reasons to criticize pretty much any political interest group. And, certainly, different ACLU chapters have behaved inconsistently at times. But your particular criticism doesn't seem to be well-founded.
7.9.2007 6:41pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

@ scote

"Some Christian sects consider Nativity scenes to be idolatrous. The cross is the symbol of the religion, not a specific holiday. You've mentioned the Islamic crescent, but that, again, is not a symbol of a holiday."

Like I said. The Cross is the symbol of Christianity so that would be preferred to a tree.

"Lastly, you are ignoring that Christmas trees have been symbolic of Christmas in England and America since they were popularized by the Prince of Wales. It isn't like the school district pulled a symbol out of their behinds."

Actually that's precisely what they did. The NYC school system uses the Christmas Tree because, according to them, it's the *secular* Christian symbol. Meanwhile the Crescent is the Muslim *secular* symbol and the Menora is the *secular* Jewish symbol. See anything wrong there?

Plus not all Christian sects celebrate Christmas using the Tree because it is a pagan symbol. And even so the problem with the Christmas tree is that it's become a symbol of a commerical holiday rather than as a religious holiday.

"Au contraire, it does matter. Much of the symbolism and celebration in "Christmas" is not Christian at all. Christmas trees, holy, yule logs and much more are all pagan aspects of this meta-holiday. You are being presumptuous in ascribing the holiday only to Christian symbolism and derivation."

Utterly beyond irrelevant.

"Yes, it does matter. The reason for all of the non-Christian elements in "Christmas" is because Christianity pulled a Microsoft on pagans: embrace, extend, extinguish.* It is very arrogant to declare that only Christians matter by claiming the pagan holiday Christmas is based on is irrelevant. Exactly what the Church intended, I'm sure."

Even less relevant.


*This refers to the MS approach to open standards: Pretend to embrace the standard, then extend the standard in proprietary ways so that non Microsoft applications are not compatible with the new, bastardized MS version, then extinguish the non-MS competitors and the standard by using the MS market share to make the original standard useless since it doesn't work with the MS products that were originally designed to use it.
7.9.2007 6:44pm
scote (mail):

Incorrect.

The content of a picture can not matter and yet still be in excruciatingly bad taste.

c.f. Modern art.

Well, I suppose that depends on your definition of "content" and if it is different than "style." The definition of content I had in mind in my argument was a broad one which encompasses all the issues that make any one picture more than "just a picture."

Clearly, some pictures could just be ugly or tasteless even if they didn't have a religious connotation. And that still fits in to my argument with Caroline's "it is just picture" and "people can ignore" it argument. It isn't just a picture. Content does matter and there are plenty of reasons why you should remove the one in question.
7.9.2007 6:46pm
Carolina:
Scote,

I never once mentioned public funds. All I said was I don't donate to the ACLU because they waste a lot of money on cases that are, in my opinion, very petty. Such as courthouse paintings.
7.9.2007 6:48pm
scote (mail):

Actually that's precisely what they did. The NYC school system uses the Christmas Tree because, according to them, it's the *secular* Christian symbol. Meanwhile the Crescent is the Muslim *secular* symbol and the Menora is the *secular* Jewish symbol. See anything wrong there?

I think we are just going to have to disagree. I personally don't think any of these holidays should be celebrated in any meaningful way in public school. I don't know enough about the case in question to take more specific issue with your claims.

Plus not all Christian sects celebrate Christmas using the Tree because it is a pagan symbol. And even so the problem with the Christmas tree is that it's become a symbol of a commerical holiday rather than as a religious holiday.

To be sure, I would think that many Christian sects would find it objectionable. However, a Cross is not a symbol for Christmas, only for Christianity. And even then, different sects have different crosses. It is not a universal symbol. Yet another reason for public schools to stay the hell out of religion.

You still haven't mentioned what holiday the Crescent is supposed to symbolize.
7.9.2007 6:53pm
scote (mail):

Scote,

I never once mentioned public funds. All I said was I don't donate to the ACLU because they waste a lot of money on cases that are, in my opinion, very petty. Such as courthouse paintings.

...I stand corrected. But, I do think this is an important issue because it is one the builds and creates more and more intrusion and it must be fought at some point. Better not to let it fester.
7.9.2007 6:57pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Thorley, I'm having trouble understanding your argument. Granted, I didn't click through every link on the page cited by Professor Volokh as showing that the ACLO defends Christians; every link that I clicked on, however, involved some defense that was directly tied to religious liberty: Siding with Jerry Falwell to overturn a ban on church incorporations; siding with a student who wanted to include a Bible verse in his/her yearbook entry; etc. I mean, the ACLU isn't out there proselytizing, but whaddaya expect?


Von, by “looking at the actual facts of the cases” I meant trying to find out what actually happened in the cases rather than relying on the ACLU’s self-serving press releases (which are what most of the links on the website go to). For example in the Following Threat of ACLU of Virginia Lawsuit, Officials to Agree Not to Ban Baptisms in Public Parks, it turns out that the park already allowed religious services to be held in the park but the group which wished to perform the baptism didn’t have a permit. The ACLU’s “defense” didn’t have a damn thing to do with the actual issue because no one had or was trying to “ban baptisms in the public park."
7.9.2007 7:07pm
wm13:
Those who are interested in learning why menorahs and crescents, but not creches or crosses, are permitted in public schools, can read www.nyed.uscourts.gov/02cv6439mdo.pdf.

I have to say that, in my experience, this case is like the episodes I occasionally have with my wife, in which we are utterly to even see something the same way, and we just have to accept that we are of diferent sexes. In this case, every Jew I know thinks that this result is right and logical, and every Christian I know, even the ones who don't care particularly, thinks that the result makes no sense.
7.9.2007 7:22pm
Fub:
ed (mail) wrote at 7.9.2007 4:41pm:

Aaaaannnnnnnnd WikiPedia

WikiPedia

Why is this interesting? Because it doesn't matter if you meant it in jest or if you're doing it for extra credit in a foolish 7th grade class in California. If you pray to Allah and announce Muhammed is his is last prophet then you have technically just converted to Islam.
The first paragraph on "Conversion to Islam" of the Wikipedia article cited states:
One becomes a Muslim by believing that Allah is the only god (God, the word for whom is Allah in Arabic, is the sole deity in Islam), and that Muhammad is God's last messenger or prophet. A person is considered a Muslim from the moment he or she sincerely makes this witness, called the shahada.
I doubt that playacting as a Muslim in a school classroom exercise, would qualify as "sincerely make[ing] this witness", any more than play acting John Wilkes Booth would make one an actual assassin.

There may be many good reasons to oppose such schoolroom assignments, but students unwittingly converting to Islam isn't one of them.
7.9.2007 7:30pm
scote (mail):

www.nyed.uscourts.gov/02cv6439mdo.pdf

Interesting. This would seem to be the case that get's Ed's goat.

The school was sued over its Holiday standards, which were as follows:

display of cultural and holiday symbols:
1. The display of secular holiday symbol decorations
is permitted. Such symbols include, but are not
limited to, Christmas trees, Menorahs, and the Star
and Crescent.
2. Holiday displays shall not appear to promote or
celebrate any single religion or holiday.
Therefore, any symbol or decoration which may be
used must be displayed simultaneously with other
symbols or decorations reflecting different beliefs
or customs.
3. All holiday displays should be temporary in nature.
4. The primary purpose of all displays shall be to
promote the goal of fostering understanding and
respect for the rights of all individuals regarding
their beliefs, values and customs.


However, the Catholic league demanded a Creche and the Plaintiffs allege that their Catholic kids were directed to practice Judaism by coloring menorahs (which as we all know results in instant conversion to Judaism.) However, the judge found that that wasn't what actually happened and that the Plaintiffs' rights were not violated.

It is definitely convoluted. The idea of "secular holidays" is somewhat contradictory and yet not actually false. Much of what is celebrated on Christmas is secular and a number of Christian sects denounce the over celebration of the Holiday. I have a hard time picturing Jesus doing commercials exhorting people to buy eachother plasma tv's for his birthday rather than tending to the poor.
7.9.2007 7:47pm
jhp (mail):
The ACLU actively works to remove Christian symbols from the public sphere. This alone makes it anti-Christian. Anti as in 'against the insterrests of'. A pro-Christian organization would not do so unless the sysmbols in question created a negative impression of Christianity. It realy is as simple as that.

By the standards used to defend the ACLU in this regard, a drug dealer is pro-community because they distribute turkies on Thanksgiving.
7.9.2007 7:47pm
scote (mail):

The ACLU actively works to remove Christian symbols from the public sphere. This alone makes it anti-Christian. Anti as in 'against the insterrests of'. A pro-Christian organization would not do so unless the sysmbols in question created a negative impression of Christianity. It realy is as simple as that.

By your standards the Rev. Barry Lynn "anit-Christian."

Well, first things first. The ACLU doesn't try and get Christian symbols removed from the "public sphere," it tries to remove religious endorsement from government. The two are not synonymous.

Keeping government from endorsing religion is key to keeping government from telling you what religion to practice. That is pro-freedom, pro-religion, and ultimately, pro-Christian.

You want the government telling you "there is no god but Allah?" If not, you should support the separation of church and state. Today, government may be pro-Christian but tomorrow loud speakers at your city hall might be calling you to prayer 5 times a day.

If you fight to argue that there should be no separation of religion from government there is nothing stopping government from endorsing and promulgating a religion that isn't yours. Sure, it might not be as blatant as putting minarets on the city clock tower, but it might take the form of endorsing a christian sect that isn't yours and giving favoritism to members of that church. Christianity isn't a single interest. It is a mistake to think that what benefits one "Christian" will necessarily benefit you. Heck, Christian sects can't even agree on the 10 Commandments...let alone on the death penalty, divorce, transubstantiation, and what not...
7.9.2007 8:14pm
LXJenkins:
jhp said:

The ACLU actively works to remove Christian symbols from the public sphere. This alone makes it anti-Christian. Anti as in 'against the insterrests [sic] of'.


By prohibiting the inter-mingling of Christianity and government in many circumstances, the United States Constitution appears to be anti-Christian as well. After all, a pro-Christian constitution/government would permit state endorsement of Christianity. Evidently, all of those heretical framers are now in hell.
7.9.2007 8:20pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I find it very funny that posters on a legal blog in an adversarial legal system would complain that an organization is:

1--not always on the winning side

2--not always consistent.

It's a free country, though it wouldn't be if there were not organizations like the ACLU and -- to pick one from the other side of the politico/religious spectrum -- the Becket Fund to defend the concept of equality before the law.
7.9.2007 8:25pm
Colin (mail):
Evidently, all of those heretical framers are now in hell.

They're just happy to be out of Philly.
7.9.2007 8:42pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
"Evidently, all of those heretical framers are now in hell."

I've done much research on the personal religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers. No doubt many (perhaps a statistical majority) of them were genuine orthodox Christians. But the key Founding Fathers -- the names that come to mind when you mention "Founding Fathers" -- Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin -- were indeed, by the standards of orthodox Christianity, religious heretics.

There is no doubt this is the case with Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin. Washington and Madison are a little tougher because they were so reticent to discuss their personal creed. But the best available evidence I've been able to uncover on them strongly points in the direction of their believing in the same heretical creed (which is neither strict deism nor orthodox Christianity, but somewhere in between) in which Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin believed. The system is heretical because it is theologically unitarian and denies many of the tenets of orthodox Christianity.

According to the traditional Christian notion of Hell, the best evidence indicates each of those five are there.
7.9.2007 8:44pm
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Ed said:Considering the universal symbol of Christianity is the Cross, then I'd have to say that the symbol should be a ... Cross. Particularly since the NYC schools allows Jews to have the Menora and Muslims to have the Crescent. While a Nativity scene would be much preferred, a Cross at least has something to do with Christianity


You may have a point with the Cresent (although I suspect that this has a bit to do with there being no easily recognizable symbol for Ramadan) but you are totally off with your comparison of Menorahs to Crosses rather than Christmas trees.

For starters, the "official" symbol Judaism is the Star of David, not the Menorah. Much like Christmas trees and Christianity, the Menorah is only really associated with Judaism through Hanukkah.

Beyond that, as far as the three holidays we are talking about, Christmas, Hanukkah and Ramadan, Hanukkah is by far the most secular. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the son of God. Ramadan marks Allah's revelation the first verses of the Qu'ran to Muhammad. Hanukkah on the other hand celebrates a military victory over the Greeks who had taken over the Jerusalem (with a bit of celebrating in the temple and a minor miracle thrown in). Hanukkah is much closer to the 4th of July or Bastille Day than it is to Ramadan or Christmas.
7.9.2007 8:44pm
scote (mail):

Ramadan marks Allah's revelation the first verses of the Qu'ran to Muhammad.

One shudders at the attempt to come up with a "secular" symbol for this inherently religious celebration. Perhaps a School House Rock version of I'm Just a Bill, with a cute little talking Koran scroll tied up with a red ribbon. Of course, suggesting that there could be anything secular about Ramadan seems to be the kind of thing that leads to death fatwahs--which would be ironic given the school is attempting to be inclusive.
7.9.2007 9:20pm
whit:
the ACLU is best understood as an advocacy group. their job, so to speak, is to take a side. i had a lawyer associated with the ACLU once admit to me in candor, that even the people in the ACLU bringing a particular case may not even agree with the ACLU's stance, but that it's their JOB so to speak to advocate for a side. it's similar to a union. a union's job, it's raison d'etre is to advocate for labor. even when they may know that their grievance/advocacy is unreasonable or excessive, they are simply "playing their part".

my big problem with the ACLU is that they have at least tacitly fallen in line with the speech police when it comes to so called "hate speech codes" etc. FIRE has been much better at fighting these (mostly imo) unconstitutional restrictions.

the ACLU plays a role. i wish they were a bit more evenhanded in their application of their fight for liberty. they have been pretty weak in regards to the 2nd amendment. why? because it would upset their base.

the NRA, like the ACLU, has a role and is in a similar advocate for a side, position.

many of the same people who support the ACLU as a great civil liberties org. would NEVER consider that the NRA is a great civil liberties organization as well
7.9.2007 9:42pm
Fub:
Crackmonkeyjr wrote at 7.9.2007 7:44pm:
For starters, the "official" symbol Judaism is the Star of David, not the Menorah. Much like Christmas trees and Christianity, the Menorah is only really associated with Judaism through Hanukkah.

...Hanukkah on the other hand celebrates a military victory over the Greeks who had taken over the Jerusalem (with a bit of celebrating in the temple and a minor miracle thrown in). Hanukkah is much closer to the 4th of July or Bastille Day than it is to Ramadan or Christmas.
Some latter day triviata -- the miracle that attended victory over the Selucid dynasty made its way somewhat into Christian gospel hymnody, in the title and first verse of the hymn "Give Me Oil in My Lamp". But the second verse is distinctly Christian trope.
7.9.2007 10:06pm
Hattio (mail):
Fub,
There is also a new testament story with essentially the same miracle. If I remember correctly, it had something to do with waiting for the groom to arrive at the wedding rather than an attack, but this evangelical-raised kid backslid a loooong time ago, so take that with a grain of salt.
7.9.2007 10:16pm
scote (mail):

For starters, the "official" symbol Judaism is the Star of David, not the Menorah.

Some consider the Star of David a cultural symbol of Judaism rather than a strictly religious one and a few Jewish sects reject its use as a religious symbol. In fact, its use is a relatively recent one in the timeline of Judaism. It apparently didn't become widely adopted until after the French Revolution.
7.9.2007 10:21pm
Fub:
Hattio wrote at 7.9.2007 9:16pm:
There is also a new testament story with essentially the same miracle. If I remember correctly, it had something to do with waiting for the groom to arrive at the wedding rather than an attack, but this evangelical-raised kid backslid a loooong time ago, so take that with a grain of salt.
Come to think of it, that's right, and it's most likely what the hymn was about. All this backsliding done wore down the seat of my Biblical understanding.
7.9.2007 11:22pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Let's get one thing straight. The ACLU is a political organization with a political agenda that is not consistent, no different than any other. Their goal is not to protect our rights, their goal is to protect the favored political policies of those who financially support their organization and/or fit into the ACLU's agenda. And, like any organization with excellent political acumen, which the ACLU has in abundance, they are smart enough to take on cases so that people like the fine Professor here has something to point to in answer to criticism.

For the record, I am not a fan of the ACLU but I respect them.
7.10.2007 1:38am
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ Crackmonkeyjr

"... For starters, the "official" symbol Judaism is the Star of David, not the Menorah. Much like Christmas trees and Christianity, the Menorah is only really associated with Judaism through Hanukkah. ..."

1. You need to read the links provided

2. I didn't say the Menora was the symbol of Judaism.

3. The NYC public school system uses the Menora as the *secular* symbol for Jews during Hanukkah.

4. Am I the only one to find the confluence of "secular" symbols and religious holidays to be rather dramatically silly?

5. Christmas trees are entirely recent, not universally used and largely degraded into a commerical non-entity.

6. The reason given for the Crescent? I believe the argument is because it's used on **flags**.

What that says about the Swiss flag, British Jack, the Swedish flag and the host of other flags bearing crosses I have no idea.
7.10.2007 11:16am
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ scote

"You want the government telling you "there is no god but Allah?" If not, you should support the separation of church and state. Today, government may be pro-Christian but tomorrow loud speakers at your city hall might be calling you to prayer 5 times a day. "

Well if you're a 7th grader in Byron, CA, then that's precisely what's happening.

IMHO I'm wondering if these kids do a mock Communion during their Christian studies.
7.10.2007 11:20am
Colin (mail):
Their goal is not to protect our rights, their goal is to protect the favored political policies of those who financially support their organization and/or fit into the ACLU's agenda.

Your argument is that the ACLU lacks honest convictions, and only works in favor of its benefactors, except when it doesn't, which it only does in order to forestall criticism? What proof of that is there, or can there be? It runs up against my personal experience, in which the ACLU attorneys I've known were not only honestly committed to civil liberties, regardless of whether the liberty challenged benefited their financial backers, but were eager to fight for disreputable agencies as a test of their own commitment. My anecdotal experience isn't evidence, of course, but I think you'll need more than an unprovable allegation to persuade anyone with personal experience with ACLU attorneys that the organization is primarily self-interested.
7.10.2007 11:20am
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ fub

"... I doubt that playacting as a Muslim in a school classroom exercise, would qualify as "sincerely make[ing] this witness", any more than play acting John Wilkes Booth would make one an actual assassin. ..."

I think your words would mean a whole lot more if in fact that's how it actually works in the real world and not in a rather dry academic setting.

In the real world Christians and other infidels are forced into conversion at the point of a gun and the way that they are forced to do it is by kneeling to Mecca and making that prayer. And once that prayer is made that person is considered by many muslims to BE a muslim henceforth with any reversion or apostasy punishable by death.

This is how the Middle East was converted. This is how Christians living in the Middle East are forced into conversions today.

So it's really not quite as simple as you'd like it to be.

C.f. terrorists, jihadists, Islamists, Islamic fundamentalists.

Journalists' Forced Conversion Not Contrary to Islam

Frankly I think the parents of the kids involved should be made aware that if these kids are in fact conducting this prayer that their kids could be vulnerable to a Islamic nutjob who thinks that they're apostates because they don't continue to act like a muslim.
7.10.2007 11:34am
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ scote

"... You still haven't mentioned what holiday the Crescent is supposed to symbolize. ..."

???

You seriously don't know?
7.10.2007 11:37am
scote (mail):

"... You still haven't mentioned what holiday the Crescent is supposed to symbolize. ..."

???

You seriously don't know?

I couldn't think of it at the time and the Crescent certainly doesn't evoke the holiday in question. I still have a hard time associating Ramadan with Christmas and Hanukah since it isn't in December, so no, I it didn't spring to mind....
7.10.2007 2:26pm
scote (mail):

5. Christmas trees are entirely recent, not universally used and largely degraded into a commerical non-entity


Yeah, The Victorian Era is recent. Well, perhaps in the 2000 year history of Christianity you could argue that.

@ scote

"You want the government telling you "there is no god but Allah?" If not, you should support the separation of church and state. Today, government may be pro-Christian but tomorrow loud speakers at your city hall might be calling you to prayer 5 times a day. "

Well if you're a 7th grader in Byron, CA, then that's precisely what's happening.

IMHO I'm wondering if these kids do a mock Communion during their Christian studies.

I'd say the situation you think happened would be wrong, too. But you only condemn the one and not the Christian endorsement by government. I condemn both, which ultimately benefits all religions and no religions by keeping government out of our churches and our faith.

BTW, the ACLU has nothing to do with the cultural studies program you find so objectionable.
7.10.2007 2:34pm
Chimaxx (mail):
The parents lost the case in California. No, the ACLU didn't participate. But I also don't see any evidence:
1. that there was any intention to indoctrinate. Even the plaintiffs lawyers don't seem to have made that claim. At worst, it was, as indicated in the Snopes article Ed linked, an attempt at participatory learning that, because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, was inappropriate.
2. that either the parents or the Thomas More Law Center ever even asked the ACLU to participate (or would have welcomed their participation).
7.10.2007 5:56pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Colin,

My experience with the ACLU is the same as yours. I believe thier members are honestly committed to civil liberties. But, they are committed to the civil liberties they prefer. (See e.g. the ACLU's stance on the 2nd Amendment). And, I'll tell you another thing, except for the law students and first-years that work for them, I have never seen a poor ACLU attorney. The ACLU knows how to maximize fees, regardless of who pays them, as good as, if not better, any civil defense firm I have seen.
7.10.2007 6:01pm
Colin (mail):
I believe thier members are honestly committed to civil liberties. But, they are committed to the civil liberties they prefer.

Fair enough.

And, I'll tell you another thing, except for the law students and first-years that work for them, I have never seen a poor ACLU attorney. The ACLU knows how to maximize fees, regardless of who pays them, as good as, if not better, any civil defense firm I have seen.

I suppose that's true, but all the ACLU attorneys I've known have been practitioners in firms, so not poor at all. Any idea what the practical balance is between paid staffers and volunteer practitioners?
7.11.2007 2:32pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

@ scote

"I couldn't think of it at the time and the Crescent certainly doesn't evoke the holiday in question. I still have a hard time associating Ramadan with Christmas and Hanukah since it isn't in December, so no, I it didn't spring to mind...."

My apologies for not mentioning it then. To my knowledge Ramadan, followed by Eid, is one of the most important "holidays" in Islam. I write "holidays" because it lasts a full lunar month.
7.11.2007 5:24pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

@ scote

"Yeah, The Victorian Era is recent. Well, perhaps in the 2000 year history of Christianity you could argue that. "

Yes the Victorian Era is recent.

"I'd say the situation you think happened would be wrong, too. But you only condemn the one and not the Christian endorsement by government. I condemn both, which ultimately benefits all religions and no religions by keeping government out of our churches and our faith."

What I condemn is that Christianity is being treated more harshly than other religions.

Personally I'm an Animist. I've read the Bible, and attended Sunday School at a Southern Baptist ministry, along with many other religious texts including the Koran. The simple fact is that the world we see today couldn't have come into existence without Christianity.

"BTW, the ACLU has nothing to do with the cultural studies program you find so objectionable."

What I find objectionable is that the ACLU is very quick to litigate when Christianity is involved, but rarely when it's not.

How do you think the ACLU would react if 7th graders were given to mock Communions and dragging crosses through the school halls?
7.11.2007 5:30pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

"2. that either the parents or the Thomas More Law Center ever even asked the ACLU to participate (or would have welcomed their participation)."

When has the ACLU restricted it's participation to when it's been asked?
7.11.2007 5:31pm
Colin (mail):
When has the ACLU restricted it's participation to when it's been asked?

ed, the word is "standing." If no one with standing asks the ACLU to participate, all it can do is file amicus briefs. That's not a common or productive thing to do in district court cases.
7.11.2007 6:49pm