pageok
pageok
pageok
Looking for Cute Tarot Deck To Use for Calling Randomly on Students:

I'd like to pass a deck around to my Criminal Law students so they can write their names on each card, and so I can then call on them fairly randomly. Since the class is 80 students, I take it a Tarot deck plus one or two other cards will do the trick.

Can anyone recommend any Tarot decks I can order online that are either generally visually appealing, or, better yet, have a legal motif or a crime motif (though not too gory)? They would also need to have some white (or pale) space in which each student's name can be written. Thanks!

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Tarot Deck To Use (Together with an Ordinary Deck) for Calling Randomly on Students:
  2. Looking for Cute Tarot Deck To Use for Calling Randomly on Students:
Former Law Review Editor:
Eugene, if you do this, it is your solemn duty not to call on the students randomly, but in a manner humorously consistent with the card onto which their name has been placed.

Especially the students who get "Death" and "The Hanged Man."
8.10.2007 3:38pm
Joshua Macy:
My favorite cute Tarot deck is the PoMo Tarot, by Brian Williams.
8.10.2007 3:40pm
T.:
Revonna might be a troll's troll, but I think she might have a point there. Sure, she's an oversensitive killjoy, but aren't law schools full of such people?
8.10.2007 3:42pm
Zacharias (mail):
This would be a good opportunity to order custom playing cards that you could design yourself:

http://www.customplayingcards.com/
8.10.2007 3:44pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
You should put an extra card in the deck, and when you pull it, YOU have to answer the question, giving one student a free pass. Alternatively, the student whose card is pulled next after the joker gets a free pass, and you pull another card to call on.
8.10.2007 3:52pm
Zacharias (mail):
Why not just mount a huge Wheel-of-Fortune at the front of the classroom? They'll have fun spinning it and get a good intro into "American justice" at the same time.
8.10.2007 3:58pm
Ben Ibach (mail):

Hey Eugene.

I suspect a variety of folks would find the Tarot cards to be unsavory. I'm not saying you should be banned from using the cards or anything that strong; people need to be a bit thick-skinned. But I would say that it would be in poor taste given the sensibilities of many religious (and perhaps areligious) people.

Why associate people with something they would not want to be associated with?

Pragmatically, you'll have a bigger problem in that if you do use the cards, all the guys would want to be "Death", just like everyone wants to be Mr. Black or Mr. Blue and no one wants to be Mr. Pink.

Peace
8.10.2007 3:58pm
anonVCfan:
Wow. That's really weird and also kind of cool
8.10.2007 4:02pm
WHOI Jacket:
I wish my professors had been this awesome. Plus, 90% of your students don't even know what Tarot Cards are.
8.10.2007 4:21pm
Steve2:
Professor Volokh, there are stores that carry a variety of tarot decks in stock and will often have a binder or notebook that contains examples of cards from each deck in stock (like a photo album or baseball card collection), to let you pick and choose one that way. Obviously, much more time consuming than picking online, but some people do enjoy shopping by hand. Not to mention, some of 'em just have pretty art.

Unfortunately, tarot themes generally don't fall into the "legal or crime" motif so much as the "animals, spirits, witches, dragons, etc." motif or the "gimmicks like Rock &Roll Tarot" or "Silicon Valley Tarot" motif. There's also some decks devoted to specific old artists. Albrecht Durer, Leonardo da Vinci, William Blake, and Hieronymous Bosch come to mind as examples, but I'm not aware of any of them having particular links to the field of law.

So, my advice is if you really want to go with the tarot idea, your best bet's just to Google "tarot decks", take one of the first links to an online tarot deck store, and pick the one with the art you like the best.
8.10.2007 4:27pm
Former Law Review Editor:
And 95% of Americans (including 100% of those offended by the cards) have never played a game of Tarocchio in their lives.
8.10.2007 4:27pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
This made me think of the Steven Wright oneliner:

"I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died."
8.10.2007 4:30pm
Cornellian (mail):
I think Tarot cards would be cool, but in this hypersensitive world of ours, you're probably safer going with plain index cards.

On the other hand, you're the one with tenure, so it's your call.
8.10.2007 4:33pm
MichaelG (www):
I would like to recommend the "Hidden Path Oracle Kit" available from Amazon, among others. Authored by Raven Grimassi the art work is original by Mickie Mueller. I have an early copy and I don't think her artwork is going to be as bothersome as some other decks could be for some people.
MichaelG
8.10.2007 4:37pm
rarango (mail):
Perhaps the folks who designed the Baathist most wanted card deck could help you out.
8.10.2007 4:41pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Ben Ibach: I take your point -- I'm happy to accommodate students' personal preferences to the extent this doesn't interfere with others' preferences (including my own). I'm planning on passing around both the Tarot and an ordinary card deck, so those who prefer ordinary cards can use them (plus, as I said, I'll have more students than Tarot cards in any event).

And great point about Mr. Black.
8.10.2007 4:53pm
Jerry Mimsy (www):
Silicon Valley tarot?

http://www.warehouse23.com/item.html?id=SJG1324

"The 70 cards include both major arcana (cards like Flame War, Spam, The Hacker, and Double Latte) and minor arcana (in four suits: Cubicles, Hosts, Disks, and Networks!)."
8.10.2007 4:56pm
Steve2:
Sadly, the Silicon Valley Tarot doesn't include The Blogger.
8.10.2007 5:02pm
Jayhawker100 (mail):
The Rider-Waite Tarot deck is a classic, and probably the version most widely used today. It also has the virtue of being fairly non-sectarian in nature (the Pope card is called the Hierophant, etc.) and hence has relatively little reason to give offense in relationship to some of the other decks out there.
8.10.2007 5:06pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):
Ben Ibach: I take your point -- I'm happy to accommodate students' personal preferences to the extent this doesn't interfere with others' preferences (including my own). I'm planning on passing around both the Tarot and an ordinary card deck, so those who prefer ordinary cards can use them (plus, as I said, I'll have more students than Tarot cards in any event).

As a senior professor, I must agree with Ben and what Ravonna had written earlier.

If this is a public university, you must provide an easy opt-out for those with religious preferences. I suspect that many of your more religious students are not ignorant of Tarot Cards, as some of your younger commenters seem to believe.

I also wonder what happened to spending time in class teaching the law, and letting the students find their own fun on their own time. The deck of cards Joshua Macy has linked too clearly has no place in a public classroom.

Why not stick with plain index cards and let your students impress you with their hard work and knowledge, not flatter how "cool" you are for presenting sexy or gory namecards for them in a public school with religious students present?

This one should go in the "death of common sense in the academy" files. Is there any oversight of what you newer professors are up to with your students? Perhaps there should be if this is the level of judgment on display.
8.10.2007 5:06pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):
In fact,
I think some students will be offended by others playing with Tarot cards in the classroom REGARDLESS if their is an opt out. It's not hypersensitivity, it's religious choice and it's not a game that belongs in a public classroom.

I hope some of your future students are reading this and will take action on this silliness starting on day one. Religious students should be able to attend their public state schools without compromising their religious principles.

Don't be stubborn on this one -- go with colored index cards if you find white ones, and just teaching black letter law to be so troublesome. Perhaps you could get up a group of friends outside the classroom and Tarot away to your heart's content. These kinds of nonsence don't belong in the public classroom, not matter what your personal preferences are.
8.10.2007 5:12pm
John M. Perkins (mail):
Not legal or criminal, but I have
Baseball tarot / Mark Lerner, ISBN 0761103473

Personally, I use www.random.org
8.10.2007 5:14pm
John M. Perkins (mail):
I use www.random.org ...
to call on students.

No tarot there.
8.10.2007 5:15pm
Future Student (mail):
Is there a Dean we could write to and object to such silliness?

I don't want my professor to be "cool" or "awesome".

I want him to respect everyone in the class and teach me law. Can't he buy the Tarot cards on his own dime, and find his own group of 20-somethings to play with?

I suspect when you put this up, you had no awareness of legitimate religious objections. Don't bring an ouiji board in the public classroom either, in case you don't understand those cultural distinctions either.

For a smart man, sometimes you show yourself thinking at about a 13-year-old's level. Which I suspect is why this is viewed as so "awesome" by your secular students.
8.10.2007 5:17pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
Professor Volokh, I hope you ignore Thomas R. Murphy's advice on this. I think tarot cards with student names would be a fun thing, and if someone is seriously offended, they can use playing cards or even index cards. Give them a surreptitious way of letting you know (e.g. ask them to e-mail you so they don't have to speak up in front of anyone) and I don't see a problem. I would have to say that, in my own view, not doing something you think would make the class a little more fun and that shouldn't offend anyone any more than reading the horoscope aloud, would be the "death of common sense". I sincerely hope we have not reached that age.
8.10.2007 5:18pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Thomas R. Murphy: My students have a perfect constitutional right to be offended by whatever they please. They could be offended by a class problem having to do with the Mohammed cartoons, or by my accurately quoting offensive words in discussion of cases (e.g., the "Fuck the Draft" case or whatever else), or by people's using phrases such as "God knows" or "God forbid," or by discussion of false rape reports (or true rape reports), or by female classmates' wearing clothes that they (the observers) find insufficiently modest. I just don't think their offendedness -- or their hypothetical offendedness -- gives them a claim on me or classmates.

On the other hand, I do want to give students an easy opt-out when it doesn't affect what others are doing, and especially when it is in some measure tied to themselves or their names. The ordinary card deck, which as I said I'll offer as an option, should take care of that.
8.10.2007 5:18pm
scote (mail):

I suspect a variety of folks would find the Tarot cards to be unsavory. I'm not saying you should be banned from using the cards or anything that strong; people need to be a bit thick-skinned. But I would say that it would be in poor taste given the sensibilities of many religious (and perhaps areligious) people.

Tarot cards were originally just **playing cards** for card games. It wasn't until much later that they were turned in to "divination tools." They are no more inherently mystical than the standard 52 card deck that is more commonly used.

Should we avoid tea just because some people use tea leaves for divination.
8.10.2007 5:27pm
Michael Kleber (mail):
I hope the people who object to Tarot cards would likewise object to rolling dice to pick students -- the two have about the same religious significance, and about the same legislative history of being banned.

US Games publishes a pretty deck called the "Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg", with illustrations drawn from Russian folk tales. (It also happens to be free of the occasional breast many decks display, which on second thought is one reason some might object to Tarot but not dice.) Pictures at:

http://www.tarot.com/tarot/decks/index.php?deckID=25

http://www.usgamesinc.com/product.php?productid=595
8.10.2007 5:29pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
If you want to take the gag one step further, you could anounce in class (while waving a deck around) that you've decided to use the Tarot to select students to call on--then pull out a bag of taro chips....
8.10.2007 5:31pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):

Since you asked, I don't think rolling dice or reading tea leaves has any place in the public classroom either.

Why does he have to provide "fun" and "silliness"? Is it for him, or for the more immature students with no social lives outside class?

Call them alphabetically, or shuffle up their names and call them randomly. Spending this much effort on "fun" instead of black-letter law seems silly and more for the young professor's benefit.

Stay away from the Tarot Cards, even with an opt out, if you truly respect the religion of all your students, and want to rank them on merit.

If this were my child in your classroom where others were using Tarot Cards, I would not want my uncomfortableness at his attending that class to affect his grade. May students choose another class if they object to these goings-on in the classroom?

I do suspect it won't be so neutral as to call the name and move on. There will be superstitious silliness noted -- comments, guffaws, etc. Why not choose a better tailored option that isn't so offensive to your religious students?

I don't understand why you are so fixated on the Tarot deck, unless your precisely want to add these fantasy elements into the law classroom.
8.10.2007 5:37pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):
Professor Volokh, I hope you ignore Thomas R. Murphy's advice on this. I think tarot cards with student names would be a fun thing, and if someone is seriously offended, they can use playing cards or even index cards. Give them a surreptitious way of letting you know (e.g. ask them to e-mail you so they don't have to speak up in front of anyone) and I don't see a problem. I would have to say that, in my own view, not doing something you think would make the class a little more fun and that shouldn't offend anyone any more than reading the horoscope aloud, would be the "death of common sense". I sincerely hope we have not reached that age.

Is the professor reading horoscopes aloud today in the classroom? "I sincerely hope we have not reached tht age."

Please consider your religious students and pick a less offensive method. What is fun for some, really is religiously objectionable for others and they should not have to face this dilemma entering the classroom everyday.
8.10.2007 5:41pm
JBL:
You could use baseball cards instead.

I don't know if the card assignments would be more or less controversial than tarot cards.
8.10.2007 5:41pm
A Northwestern Law Student:
Why not just mount a huge Wheel-of-Fortune at the front of the classroom? They'll have fun spinning it and get a good intro into "American justice" at the same time.

Why not mount this wheel instead? Surely the students will have even more fun spinning it.
8.10.2007 5:43pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Thomas R. Murphy: I'll say it again -- that some people are offended by something isn't going to stop me from doing it. Lots of people are offended by lots of things; I'm not going to change my practices to accommodate all their objections. I'm sure some people will be offended by my saying "rule of thumb," "handicapped," "picnic," and "nitty gritty," too; that's between them and their sensibilities. If someone is upset at there even being a Tarot deck in class that the professor is using to select students to call on, that's likewise his lookout.

As to silliness, different people have different senses of humor, and different tolerance for frivolousness in class (or elsewhere). I think some degree of such frivolousness is helpful; I realize others disagree; that's why classes often differ from each other a good deal. Look, I've often ask a trivia question (often related to geography, history, or language) once a week in my classes. I thought it broke up what might otherwise be a too intensely law-focused mood; my sense is that many students liked it and nearly all the rest were indifferent, but I suppose some might have found it to be silly. That's the way things are.

Others: Thanks very much for the pointers to nice-looking decks; I'd love to have more!
8.10.2007 5:48pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):
In teaching law cases, you may have no choice but to offend by reading the casenotes, etc.

But you are not deliberately introducing material into the classroom to offend: it is a legitimate part of the learning experience.

Here, there are so many religiously neutral ways to call on students using other cards than Tarot cards and what traditionally has been associated with them.

Why would you not choose, since this is clearly optional, to provide neutral nametages?

Is it a class where you intend to provoke religious offense in making captive students sit for this optional educational material?

This just seems such a common-sense conflict that could easily be avoided in respecting the secular and religious students. I suspect there will be many who WILL keep quiet and play along, but should they have to compromise their religious principles to attend a public school?

I see a big distinction between introducing these cards and talking about the facts of a case, or an issue. I also thought at the time that you especially enjoyed provocation on the cartoons issue; is that the case here? You're trying to prepare students to abandon their religious "sensititivies" for the practice of law?
8.10.2007 5:50pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
Regarding the concerns of grading and such -- all grading at UCLA Law is anonymous, and thus even if Eugene thought a person was the silliest person ever for objecting to tarot cards, he couldn't affect that person's grade even if he tried. Not that he ever would.

Second, how much time has Eugene spent on this? 20 minutes? If you've ever been in a class taught by Eugene, I doubt you'd worry that he wasn't adequately prepared, or was skimping on substantive preparation in lieu of "silliness".

And lastly, while I don't think professors have read horoscopes in class while I was there, I would wonder at people that this offended if they did. And if the professor called on people based on their astrological signs, I'd also wonder at the people this offended.
8.10.2007 5:51pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):

Will students be penalized in any way for requesting removal from the Tarot Card classroom?


You really seem bound and determined on this issue, and I'm wondering why the Tarot Cards are so important to you?
8.10.2007 5:52pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):
I'm sure some people will be offended by my saying "rule of thumb," "handicapped," "picnic," and "nitty gritty," too; that's between them and their sensibilities. If someone is upset at there even being a Tarot deck in class that the professor is using to select students to call on, that's likewise his lookout.

You really are clueless as to the religious offense some take at Tarot Cards. I suspect there are more students who will be offended than you know.

This should be submitted to the "Crazy Nonsense in the Classroom" files.
8.10.2007 5:54pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):
Regarding the concerns of grading and such -- all grading at UCLA Law is anonymous, and thus even if Eugene thought a person was the silliest person ever for objecting to tarot cards, he couldn't affect that person's grade even if he tried. Not that he ever would.

Arvin, you are missing the point.
If a student has to attend a class, where every day he is confronted with Tarot Cards, which is not kosher to his religion, will his grade be affected?

If you had a professor in a public setting bring in religious prayer cards of the saints and Popes, and every day played the game of calling out a saint for those who choose to participate, would you think this a reasonable use of your classroom time?

If other students objected to sitting in a classroom where professor chose this method solely to satisfy his personal preferences, could you understand their questioning why he didn't find a more respectful way?

Should the religious law professors resort to bullying non-Christian students in this way, combining Fantasy elements with the subject they are teaching?

I say no, because I am more than certain some students would object to the use of prayers cards. Ditto with the Tarot.
8.10.2007 6:03pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Thomas R. Murphy: (1) What I don't see is why someone else's religious offense at Tarot cards -- or anything else -- should require me to accede to their religious demands.

(2) Of course no-one will be penalized for signing one of the playing cards I distribute rather than one of the Tarot cards.
8.10.2007 6:04pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
By the way, I've heard of people's objecting to Halloween and to Harry Potter on religious grounds.

As it happens, I've sometimes dressed up for class on Halloween, generally not as a witch or goblin or the like. Should I not do that on the grounds that someone might see that as going along with "sin or Satan"? Should I avoid hypos based on Harry Potter (I actually prefer other characters, but say that I was a Potter buff, as I imagine some of my students are) because they somehow bring up or endorse witchcraft?
8.10.2007 6:11pm
Zacharias (mail):
Eugene,

One cannot possibly trust in your NOT penalizing a student for picking the wrong card, seeing that you freely censor folks on this blog who merely use combinations of words from Webster's dictionary that you don't like.

Furthermore, you should know that Fundamentalist Christians consider using a regular deck sinful. It is not that long ago that students could be expelled from Wheaton College (IL) for dancing, going to movies and playing with those cards.
8.10.2007 6:13pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):
What I don't see is why someone else's religious offense at Tarot cards -- or anything else -- should require me to accede to their religious demands.

You're not legally required, but it is a question of respect for all of your students, the religious ones included.

Did you read the prayer card hypothetical I offered above? I would no more ask my non-Christian students to sit by while we called out those cards then I would ask yours to accept the use of Tarot.

Will there be an non-punitive option for students who hold strong religious beliefs to confronting these materials on a daily basis to move to a more religiously neutral classroom?

Baseball cards have no religious connotation to them and can be fun for the group.

Why not give a little respect here to those who might mentally "drop out" of your class and receive a poorer grade due to religous conflicts?

Why would you want to start out advantaging some students (with no religious objections) over others? Next year, will you be using the prayer cards of the saints as offset, instead of using religiously neutral cards every year?

Would you object if Christian professors had a little less respect for all of their students too, and start "pushing back" in subtle ways?

Tarot Cards and prayer cards have no place in the public classroom as an optional activity. California craziness!
8.10.2007 6:18pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):
By the way, I've heard of people's objecting to Halloween and to Harry Potter on religious grounds.

As it happens, I've sometimes dressed up for class on Halloween, generally not as a witch or goblin or the like.


Is that an everyday activity linking the students to your game which could potentially affect their grade, or are students perfectly free to just tune out and ignore your costume for that one-time event, even choosing to stay at home that one day if it offends the practice offends their religious sensibilities?


The prayer card hypothetical, daily calling out Christian icons, is much more on point.
8.10.2007 6:24pm
Thomas R. Murphy (mail):
By the way, I've heard of people's objecting to Halloween and to Harry Potter on religious grounds. As it happens, I've sometimes dressed up for class on Halloween, generally not as a witch or goblin or the like.

Is that an everyday activity linking the students to your game which could potentially affect their grade, or are students perfectly free to just tune out and ignore your costume for that one-time event, even choosing to stay at home that one day if it offends the practice offends their religious sensibilities?


The prayer card hypothetical, daily calling out Christian icons, is much more on point.
8.10.2007 6:25pm
Colin (mail):
seeing that you freely censor folks on this blog who merely use combinations of words from Webster's dictionary that you don't like

He's constantly doing things like that. Why, I myself have been censored here (by the United States Department of Volokh, so you know it's real censorship) merely for using the phrase "hyperbole carousel marmoset." And each of those words is in Webster's! Quel outrage!

In the extraordinarily unlikely event that someone objected in class to other students' voluntary use of these cards, it would be a fine moment to remind the students of the etiquette for future professionals in a pluralistic society. A digression from the class's subject matter, I suppose, but worth it.

Come to think of it, although I still think it's unlikely that an actual student would object, there was a woman in my contracts class who didn't like the professor's use of the word "gypped." (That was Professor Barnett, as it happens.) Perhaps law students need more exposure to the rough and tumble world of free speech.
8.10.2007 6:34pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Thomas R. Murphy: I do think that using real people as parts of jokes is somewhat slighting or disrespectful of those people, whether the people are religious or not. When those people are respected as serious moral figures, whether saints or other moral leaders, I'd probably not make them the butts of jokes. But that has little to do with students' religious beliefs as such (I'd take the same view about nonreligious moral leaders). It's a general norm of respect for moral figures that I subscribe to. It is not a religious or other idelogical preference of some students that I don't see why I, who doesn't share their religion or ideology, should accede to in my own in-class comments.

And, yes, I'm aware that some people advocate a general norm of not saying or doing anything that would offend anyone's religious (or other) standards of offendedness. For reasons I've mentioned before, I don't endorse such a norm.

Finally, I'll mention again that anyone who wants to be on the 4 of Spades instead of the 6 of Cups is free not to be linked to the Tarot. In fact, even if everyone wanted one of the Tarot cards, some students would have to have the normal cards because I have more students than there are Tarot cards.
8.10.2007 6:35pm
M. Gross (mail):
I'm kind of torn on this one. While I enjoy the novelty of Prof. Volokh's approach, I really do think he underestimates how many people associate the Tarot (unfairly) with witchcraft.

Admittedly, one probably doesn't have many of these students in his law classes. They're probably more common in public universities in the south.

I just think it's probably more controversy than it is worth for a simple memory trick.
8.10.2007 6:38pm
Thief (mail) (www):
Another idea: have your students make their own "cards," and be able to choose their own pictures. That way, everyone gets to choose a picture they like. Assemble the whole set into a windows directory as images, print the whole series on Cardstock, and voila!

One possible motif:
Magic: The Gathering Card Generator

Or, for a simpler card:
Motivator/Demotivator Generator
8.10.2007 6:42pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
If a student has to attend a class, where every day he is confronted with Tarot Cards, which is not kosher to his religion, will his grade be affected?

A) Why would it affect his grade any more than if he's confronted every day with a viewpoint he didn't like? My Torts class was taught by a socialist. I argued with him every day, and thought many of his ideas were kooky. I doubt it affected my grade any. My grade was due to how well I did on the final. And hell, that his political views were different from mine is MUCH more likely to affect my grade than if he'd called on me because I was a Serpent in the Chinese Zodiac.

B) If it WOULD affect him, perhaps he should get used to it. We don't always get to pick our clients.
If you had a professor in a public setting bring in religious prayer cards of the saints and Popes, and every day played the game of calling out a saint for those who choose to participate, would you think this a reasonable use of your classroom time?

In my Civ Pro class, on the first day, we filled out an index card with information about who we were, what our home state was, and something interesting about ourselves. For all the rest of the days, the professor used those cards to call on us. If a defendant was from North Carolina, he'd call on a student from NC. If it was a website question, he'd call on a student with a tech background. Etc.

I don't see how that method is any better or worse than saying, Today is Saint _____'s day. So I'll call on _____ today. Arguably it might be better for me, because there's no Saint Arvin.
If other students objected to sitting in a classroom where professor chose this method solely to satisfy his personal preferences, could you understand their questioning why he didn't find a more respectful way?

No. Or rather, I could understand it, but would think it misguided, like the protests to Halloween or Harry Potter as Eugene mentioned.
Should the religious law professors resort to bullying non-Christian students in this way, combining Fantasy elements with the subject they are teaching?

In the harmless manner that Eugene is using? Sure, if they want. Assign each of us a psalm number, or something (though, as noted before, maybe we'd all want to be Psalm 23). As long as it doesn't take up much time (and I can't imagine what Eugene is doing will take more than a minute), and people can opt out, what's the harm? That I'm offended by even SEEING Christian symbolism? As long as my grade is not affected by the professor, and I feel like I can speak to the professor about the law if I have questions, I don't see a problem.
I say no, because I am more than certain some students would object to the use of prayers cards. Ditto with the Tarot.

Sure. But these students won't be forced to use prayer / tarot cards. You're asking for the presence of prayer / tarot cards to be removed because even SEEING them will be offensive to some. That's what I'd say goes too far.
8.10.2007 6:45pm
Left Hander (mail):
I consider myself pretty moderate, but I somewhat agree with Thomas R. Murphy on this one (er, at least some of his posts). There seems to be a distinct difference between the necessary risk of offending some students when teaching substance (e.g. "Fuck the Draft") and the unnecessary rist of offending students through an ancillary procedure. And I agree that the use of tarot cards becomes somewhat more offensive because you intend to repeat their use throughout the semester. And I don't think that allowing students to opt-out solves the problem, because they will still forced to see the offensive material on a repeated basis.

On the other hand, if you wanted to use the cards for a single day in your First Amendment class to raise an interesting hypothetical. . . .
8.10.2007 6:45pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Another way of looking at this: Some people apparently believe that there's something demonic or otherwise spiritually bad about the Tarot cards. I doubt there will be many such law students, but there may be some.

I don't believe in demons or evil spirits or the dark arts. (If I was using the Tarot cards as a religious exercise in class, there might be reason to object to that, but of course I'm not.) I don't believe that dressing as a witch for Halloween is demonic, I don't believe that using Harry Potter hypos is demonic, and I don't believe that using Tarot cards as a randomizing mechanism is demonic. I see no reason why I should be under any obligation to accede to others' beliefs about what is demonic or otherwise spiritually improper.

I'm happy enough to keep their names out of any connection with the Tarot cards, because that's an accommodation that doesn't affect what I may do. But, to use a perhaps inapt phrase here, I'll be damned if I feel obligated to govern my actions by others' view of black magic or spiritual maleficence or for that matter blasphemy.
8.10.2007 6:46pm
Allen G. (mail):
I rather like the Uncarrot Tarot. The Hello Kitty Tarot is awfully cool, too, though.
8.10.2007 6:48pm
BobH (mail):
I am reading this exchange in a kind of fascinated stupor. I suppose that's because I don't understand why "religious" students would object to having a Tarot deck in their classroom. My nephew Aaron, an orthodox Jew, is quite religious -- that is, he is an observant and pious Jew -- but I very much doubt he would care one way or the other about seeing a Tarot deck, putting his name on a Tarot card, or being chosen to speak based on Eugene's choice of a Tarot card with his name on it.

Mr. Murphy, can you explain your position in more detail? First, are you using "religious" as a synonym of "pious?" Or are you (as it appears) referring to adherents of a particular religion? If so, which religion? And if by "religious" you specifically mean "Christian," which branch or sect of Christianity do you mean? Finally, once those preliminaries are taken care of, can you explain why your hypothetical "religious" student -- however you have defined him or her -- would object to, or even be made uncomfortable by, a deck of Tarot cards?

Thank you.
8.10.2007 6:51pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
M. Gross: I appreciate your point; but if some people are put off because they think that I'm engaging in something that's associated with witchcraft -- witchcraft, in the 21st century! -- then that's too bad for them.
8.10.2007 6:51pm
theobromophile (www):
Should you avoid using a deck of cards because some people have moral objections to gambling? Would you not invite your students out for burgers and beer at the end of the semester so as to not offend the vegetarians and the Mormons?

/sarcasm

This exercise will take no more time than having students write their names on index cards. And, for Pete's sake, Prof. Volokh won't be using the classic Celtic cross and reading someone's fortune every morning.

Perhaps I simply do not understand students who are so insecure in their religion that they cannot even be in the presence of Tarot cards without taking offence. I am sufficiently secure in my religion (i.e. atheism) that the sight of people praying does not offend me; nor am I upset when someone points out that I'm named for a saint.

There is a fundamental difference between the presence of tarot cards (and, at that, a much mocking presence) and their use.
8.10.2007 6:55pm
DR:
I have on occasion thought, Eugene, that you should be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts.
8.10.2007 7:05pm
Christine (mail):
Professor:

If I remember correctly from my days at UCLA Law, Crim Law is a 1L class assigned by section. Students don't chose the class, and it would be difficult to opt out without requesting a section change and all the embarassment of explaining why.

I don't understand why you would continue this not to teach a lesson but to have fun. It isn't in the same league as asking a trivia question or wearing a Halloween costume. It's willfully offending your religious students in your first act as their law professor and then continuing to mock their beliefs throughout every class that they are required to attend.

For many fundamentalist Christians participating in this class activity would be sinful regardless of the option of putting their name on a regular deck of cards. As one of the posters noted above, some Christian denominations look down on playing cards because of their derrivation from the tarot cards.

It may seem silly to you but then many people felt that those who objected to opening every public school class day with a Christian prayer was silly. Sensitivity can be taken too far but this isn't one of those instances. Please reconsider.

Christine
8.10.2007 7:07pm
scote (mail):

In teaching law cases, you may have no choice but to offend by reading the casenotes, etc.

But you are not deliberately introducing material into the classroom to offend: it is a legitimate part of the learning experience.

Here, there are so many religiously neutral ways to call on students using other cards than Tarot cards and what traditionally has been associated with them.


Good grief. You really want law class to be boring. Prof. Volokh sounds like the kind of teacher who tries to make the learning experience engaging--the kind of teacher who inspires people.

You, Thomas R. Murphy, wish to confine teaching to a state of bland, inoffensiveness guaranteed to make learning tedious.

It is not the duty of a professor to cave in to every religious or irrational prejudice that a student may theoretically have. Should he cast women out because an Orthodox Jew might be in class? Should he skip the number 13 in citations and paginated tests? Should he refrain from wearing wool and linen together? Should he avoid drinking caffeinated beverages in class lest he offend Mormons? There is no limit to this line of thinking.

Your arguments are often not even rational. You object to random selection by dice and offer that he should "shuffle up their names and call them randomly." This would be different how?

While I would agree that Prof. Volokh should refrain from going out of his way to offend people, I do not agree that ordinary objects and secular practices should be shunned from the classroom because of the possible religious orthodoxy of a theoretical student. It is literally not possible to tailor one's actions to be inoffensive to all religions simultaneously.
8.10.2007 7:11pm
kamatoa:
Mormon here - have been invited out for beer a lot. I usually order something non-alcoholic. Not sure anyone's ever been offended.

I wouldn't be offended by tarot cards, either, though I have to admit it would probably dredge up a spooky feeling (which the Hello Kitty cards would probably be a fine antidote for).

For all the stereotypes, though, Mormons tend to be less prone to see demonic influence in places like Harry Potter or what have you. It's possible that people from more charismatic Christian groups might feel actually threatened by something like a Tarot card - as if there's actually a spiritual influence associated with it. I'm not sure that it's insecurity about one's religion, per se, as much as it is a different world view regarding the reality of physical manifestations of diabolical power and the like.

Professor Volokh's idea, actually, has inspired me to try something similar for my classes. I might go with something like this.
8.10.2007 7:17pm
theobromophile (www):

Should he avoid drinking caffeinated beverages in class lest he offend Mormons?

Heaven forbid he bring in a few boxes of Starbucks and ham-and-cheese omelets to start off a Monday morning class.....
8.10.2007 7:20pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I'm with Murphy here.
Yes Professor, you have the right to be offensive in your own class.
Now that you have been put on notice that using a Tarot deck would make a goodly number of mostly-in-the-modern-world folks uncomfortable in either a "my religion says not to contact spirits" way, or a "there are spirits and messing with this kind of stuff can cause them to interact with this world, which might be a bad thing", or a "my Newage beliefs consider these religious-like objects and he's disrespecting them" way, if you persist in exercising your right to be offensive you will be being intentionally offensive, which is the mark of a jerk.
8.10.2007 7:21pm
visitor from Texas (mail) (www):
Easier would be to go to Steve Jackson Games and get a deck or two of Paranoia cards -- cheaper than Tarot and more entertaining. With expansion sets you can fit any size class.
8.10.2007 7:26pm
JBL:
I would guess that some students will be slightly put off, but not in a huge way or in a way that would make it more difficult for them to pass the class. At least I'd hope so. But since we all love hypotheticals,

What if a student objects because they consider tarot cards to be a sacred instrument of their religion? Most serious diviners treat their decks with great reverence.

Alternatively, how would you feel about using a collection of Orthodox icons? Each student could be a different saint. I'm sure you could find at least 80. That would be fun too.

Suppose you gave each student a choice of being either a tarot card or a saint. Would this increase or decrease the overall controversy?
8.10.2007 7:27pm
St. James (mail):
I appreciate your point; but if some people are put off because they think that I'm engaging in something that's associated with witchcraft -- witchcraft, in the 21st century! -- then that's too bad for them.


I wonder how quickly you'll get invited back to Marquette University with a "to hell with them" attitude.

There are plenty of people here who object, and it seems you could find a less religiously offensive way.

It sounds like you are digging your heels in now, just to be stubborn and deliberately offend those who don't want to hear giggles and comments about "The Death Card" and all these others:

The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgment, and The World.




Why bring this into the law school classroom, even if it's not witchcraft to you?

You sound like you deliberately want to offend non-secular students.

Go with baseball cards, or something less controversial. You'll keep your fun, students will have your respect, and it will be a fair and neutral environment regardless of religious preferences?

And you will definitely have shown a greater respect toward those student and faculty you spoke with at Marquette. Please reconsider, even if you reject the "witchcraft superstition" angle for yourself.
8.10.2007 7:31pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
There is no limit to this line of thinking.

The limit is whether there are real people -- whether there are likely to be real people in that classroom -- for whom this would, as kamatoa said, probably dredge up a spooky feeling.

The "no good purpose" concept in harassment, mentioned earlier this week, is generally poor, but there isn't much purpose in using a Tarot deck as opposed to some other deck or some other randomizer.

I wouldn't be comfortable with it.

I also wouldn't be comfortable with the Professor taking a US flag and tearing it into enough pieces for the class and writing student names on the pieces.

Murphy's analogy of a professor in a public setting bring in religious prayer cards of the saints and Popes is very apt. Those who think they're actually holy would be uncomfortable from the casual use; those who don't like the religions of others disrespected would cringe; those who want to avoid objects that others use in worship forbidden to them would also be offended.

This is not a "it could lead to dancing" joke, this is actual people, and enough that some would be in that class, who would be made uncomfortable for no good reason. (In the course of the thread, the Professor's position seems to have shifted from "this would be a nifty idea" to "I have the right to do this and folks are trying to limit that right, so I will dig in.")
8.10.2007 7:34pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Christine, David Chesler, St. James: Let me ask again -- why exactly is it that I should plan around a few people's (not those of all "non-secular students" by any means) belief in witchcraft, or demons, or the dark arts, or whatever else it is that makes Tarot cards supposedly offensive?

If they want to believe in that, that's fine. But why should the rest of us, in the 21st century, accommodate ourselves to their beliefs, not even when we're talking about them, but whenever we're talking in their presence?

And Christine, sounds like you'd even suggest that I not use playing cards. Isn't this a pretty solid indication of where this thing is headed -- no playing cards, no Halloween costumes, no Harry Potter references, no rules of thumb, no picnics, nothing that anyone somehow for any reason might conclude is somehow offensive to him?
8.10.2007 7:37pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Why? Didn't it just get discussed that it's polite to avoid religious issues if we can?

And isn't this the kind of slippery slope argument you usually reject?
8.10.2007 7:41pm
GMW:
I wonder how quickly you'll get invited back to Marquette University with a "to hell with them" attitude.



As a Marquette Law School graduate (1987), I certainly hope the administration, faculty and students aren't as blinkered and as hyper-sensitive as you make them out to be. If they are, I consider my yearly donations to have been wasted.

More power to you, Professor Volokh. A clever idea.
8.10.2007 7:41pm
St. James (mail):
I do not agree that ordinary objects and secular practices should be shunned from the classroom because of the possible religious orthodoxy of a theoretical student. It is literally not possible to tailor one's actions to be inoffensive to all religions simultaneously.

I think many of you are ignorant of religions, or religions other than your own.

Tarot cards are not considered a "secular practice" to the majority of religious; whether students at that age are strong enough in their religious committments to tell a strong-willed professor that they are uncomfortable with that Tarot Cards daily in their classroom is not a position any young law student should be put in.

It's not oversensitivity, it's a clear lack of respect for other religious traditions in a public school.

Those of you comparing this to a dress-up day on Halloween, or the presence of cola cans and coffee in the classroom are really stretching basic religious tenets. It's not "harmless fun" to everyone, and asking them to ignore these activities every day they step into the classroom shows just a basic lack of respect.

What's next?
An ouiji board to help you decide whose raised hand should be called on first?

Prayer beads to help you keep track of who has participated in the discussion and who has not?

Tarot cards fall into those categories more than somebody else drinking a can of cola, because everyone who wants to learn must listen and be drawn into the discussion. And we know there will be joking and discussion, because so many are already anticipating the "fun" this will introduce to the classroom.
8.10.2007 7:43pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I see nothing wrong with Prof. Volokh's plan. Those who would stop him from doing this for fear of offending some class members have the same mentality, in my view, as those who so steadfastly oppose prayer in school, at football games, etc. I think the Court has gone too far in eliminating prayer from our public activities; just because a few people may be offended is no reason to prevent the large majority from engaging in an activity they find very useful, very helpful.

Perhaps Prof. Murphy is opposing the use of the Tarot Cards to try to teach the lesson that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If school prayer is impermissible for fear of government endorsing a religion, then so too is even the light-hearted use of another "religious" symbol, the Tarot Cards. If so, I wish he'd be more upfront about it. Me, I think that just because the Court ruled the wrong way on one of them is no good reason for adopting the easily-offended tactics of our opponents.

Harry Potter is fiction. Halloween is an opportunity to dress up and have fun, not a tool of Satan to turn 10 year olds into devil worshippers. Tarot cards used to randomly pick students to call on are not talismans of evil, just pieces of paper with funny pictures on them.
8.10.2007 7:46pm
scote (mail):

if you persist in exercising your right to be offensive you will be being intentionally offensive, which is the mark of a jerk.

I'd say getting huffy over a deck of cards is the sign of a jerk--but I'm open to more arguments to the contrary.

I'd like to think that we'd gotten past the age of witchcraft--you know, left it behind in the 1600's and before...

What's next, we have to respect the belief that a student failed a test because another student put a hex on them? Will we need to burn witches at schools of higher education to truly respect religion?

Go with baseball cards, or something less controversial.

Really? I don't believe in organized sports and I find the salaries offensive...

You'll keep your fun, students will have your respect, and it will be a fair and neutral environment regardless of religious preferences?

Mmmm...fair, bland, neutral, grey. Sounds like scintillating education. I'm sure the kids will just soak that up.

I'm surprised that some of you will even concede that Prof. Volokh be allowed to use books since we all know that all books, except for the Bible, are sinful.

It is really sad that we are supposed to "respect" people who are afraid of witchcraft in the 21'st century. This country is sliding backwards in a big way. We shouldn't condone that de-evolution, especially not in higher education.

"I appreciate your point; but if some people are put off because they think that I'm engaging in something that's associated with witchcraft -- witchcraft, in the 21st century! -- then that's too bad for them."

I wonder how quickly you'll get invited back to Marquette University with a "to hell with them" attitude.

You know, I'm guessing that they won't really care if he uses a Tarot deck as a fun way of asking legal questions. They are Jesuits, after all, and they respect learning and learned professors. I suspect they aren't afraid of witches.
8.10.2007 7:47pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Would one of the anti-Tarot card posters kindly explain the reasoning behind their religious opposition to these cards? Is it that they are associated with wiccans? With devil-worship? Is it their common use by fortune-tellers? If the latter, do you believe that the fortune-tellers are actually using some spiritual power to foretell the future through the use of the cards, or do you believe they are con artists?

Truly, I'm not asking to be a wise-ass, I'm very curious to know what the precise religious objection to them is.
8.10.2007 7:50pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Eugene, try these Tarot de Paris set. They look interesting, and not terribly "occult."

Also, did you consider Pokemon cards? I suspect that the current crop of students would be of an age to have played with those as children.
8.10.2007 7:57pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
I think many of you are ignorant of religions, or religions other than your own.

It's not oversensitivity, it's a clear lack of respect for other religious traditions in a public school.

Those of you comparing this to a dress-up day on Halloween, or the presence of cola cans and coffee in the classroom are really stretching basic religious tenets. It's not "harmless fun" to everyone, and asking them to ignore these activities every day they step into the classroom shows just a basic lack of respect.

Every day that I went into the cafeteria at UCLA, they were serving bacon-cheeseburgers. Non-kosher (by definition) bacon-cheeseburgers. Is this disrespectful to orthodox Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas, and (I think) Bahais? If so, should the cafeteria stop serving this sort of food?

After all, this is more than an issue of "harmless fun". For some, it is slaughtering and eating animals felt to be sacred and holy. Is it "respectful" to tell these people to just not eat the bacon-cheeseburgers, or to not look at them?

Or is it because those guys are wrong, and the people who feel "icky" about tarot cards are right?
8.10.2007 7:58pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Answering scote:
Good grief. You really want law class to be boring. Prof. Volokh sounds like the kind of teacher who tries to make the learning experience engaging--the kind of teacher who inspires people.

Showing "Deep Throat" would be interesting (and educational -- having seen it I don't get what's the big deal) but it wouldn't be appropriate. Not merely discussing it, but showing the entire movie.

Law is already interesting. A little levity injected into a lot of hard work can help. This particular suggestion backfires.

It is not the duty of a professor to cave in to every religious or irrational prejudice that a student may theoretically have.

It's the duty of a polite person not to needlessly offend or make uncomfortable.

We readers and commenters tend to be a libertarian and easy-going bunch. The level of response should indicate that this action would touch a nerve in a real way.

And the proper response is a simple "Oh, I didn't realize so many felt so strongly. I'll try something else."

The number 13, ham sandwiches, caffeine, alcohol, dancing, Halloween, dice, playing cards, and tea leaves all have very clear secular meanings. Those who object to them usually understand that to many people these objects have much less significance.

Notwithstanding their origin or derivations that have been made after them, Tarot cards are not in the same category of mostly secular to most people most of the time.
8.10.2007 8:02pm
Zacharias (mail):
This thread lends great support to the idea of privatizing education. Fortunately Socrates and most of the great teachers of antiquity didn't have to put up with public education.

Here we have Volokh and other commentators wondering how folks can believe in ghosts and goblins in the 21st Century and the rest truly worrying about not offending the Holy Spirit. This sounds like Iraq.

I imagine a better world, with government removed from the business of education, where enterprising and inspiring teachers like Volokh could flourish. In such a world, you wouldn't have to pay taxes to support profs who insulted your religion or who put you in danger of going to hell and, in return, great professors could throw all the religionists right out of their classes for no reason whatsoever, if that's what their tuition contract allows.
8.10.2007 8:05pm
Steve2:
So in the end, nobody's been able to find a "Lawyers Tarot" deck with, say, major arcana of The Brief in Opposition and The Petition for Certiorari and suits of Contracts, Torts, Criminal, and Administrative? I see an unfilled novelty product niche...
8.10.2007 8:11pm
scote (mail):

The number 13, ham sandwiches, caffeine, alcohol, dancing, Halloween, dice, playing cards, and tea leaves all have very clear secular meanings. Those who object to them usually understand that to many people these objects have much less significance

I think that you have just pointed out that some people are expected to suck it up, even by you, but you think fear of a Tarot deck is more important than offending a Kosher Jew, a drug-free Mormon or an anti-gambling Evangelical.

I fail to see the clear contour here--not that I couldn't try and rationalize one--but I just don't see a natural or consistent boundary in what supervisions we can ignore vs. the ones we must bow to because of someone else's paranormal beliefs.

Notwithstanding their origin or derivations that have been made after them, Tarot cards are not in the same category of mostly secular to most people most of the time.

To me, that is an argument from ignorance, that people don't know that Tarot cards started out as just another kind of playing cards. You could argue that it is an argument from belief, but just how many irrational beliefs am I required to kowtow too to be "respectful?" I know you say Tarot cards are in a different category from fear of the number 13 but you haven't offered a reasonable test for separating the superstitions we must tip toe around and those we can ignore.

Showing "Deep Throat" would be interesting (and educational -- having seen it I don't get what's the big deal) but it wouldn't be appropriate. Not merely discussing it, but showing the entire movie.

Objections to salacious sexual material are not necessarily religious and thus the objections to Tarot cards have no direct analog in such a comparison.

Law is already interesting. A little levity injected into a lot of hard work can help. This particular suggestion backfires.

Nothing is inherently interesting and just about anything can be made dull.

While you may be able to enjoy all law lectures, you ability is not shared by all. Your implication that law lectures are inherently interesting to all people is patently false. Good professors make the law relevant and engaging, other professors, well, don't.
8.10.2007 8:17pm
bonhomme (mail):
If EV gave the class the chance to cast a secret ballot on this idea I think it would be easy to know the feelings of the students.

If there are objections from your students, maybe each student could pick out a postcard. After a few semesters you could have a great collection.
8.10.2007 8:18pm
scote (mail):

I imagine a better world, with government removed from the business of education, where enterprising and inspiring teachers like Volokh could flourish.

This world already exists. Although Prof. Volokh teaches at a state school, many the best schools are private. However, that doesn't relieve them from the pressures of religious zealotry.

If we were to eliminate state schools today, this instant, the proportion of religious colleges and university would change dramatically towards religious ones. There is no evidence that eliminating state schools would lead to a utopia of secular education.
8.10.2007 8:23pm
Christine (mail):

I think most fundamentalist Christians enrolled in a public university would have a tolerance for playing cards because they know that most people have no understanding where they came from and that the public sees them as a game. I think that there's also the same tolerance for Halloween--a one day event to dress up and act silly. But Tarot cards are regarded as religious symbols much in the same way that Catholic prayer cards or Greek Icons are seen. The symbols on the cards have meaning to people beyond being a silly picture.

Also its not about allowing a religious minority imposing their views on your classroom, but about you establishing a climate of respect for all your students. What would you think of a professor who assigned a short paper to be due on Rosh Hashanah? Certainly a student could turn the paper in early and thus opt out, but what does that choice say about the professor's feelings about his/her students? Do you think a Jewish student would feel comfortable in that Professor's classroom if he refused to change the date even after she pointed out that it was a religious holiday?

Your idea wasn't offensive at first; it was your choice to say I don't care if I offend my students because their belief is silly that really struck me. A substantial part of the American population equates Tarot with fortune telling. Some believe that participation in such activities is sinful, and you're being intentionally insensitive and disrespectful to their legitimate belief.

BTW, you might be wrong in presuming that students would select the tarot card before the playing card. Many cards have negative connotations while some playing cards can be fun such as the joker or queen of hearts. Unless you distribute significantly more cards than are necessary to cover all the students, you might end up with a fundamentalist forced to put his name on a tarot card. Just a thought if you insist on using this in your crim law class.

Finally, if you wanted to do this in an elective class, I would not object as strenuously. A student could surmise on the first day of Con Law II that you're not a good match for her as a teacher and enroll in a different section quite easily.
8.10.2007 8:29pm
Former Law Review Editor:
As long as some people are throwing out alternatives (EV- don't back down, people upset with this need to get a grip), I'd like to reach back to my senior year of high school Latin course, and a very, very popular motivational tool:

Homie Cards.

Our teacher had stumbled upon a stack of "YO! MTV Raps!" trading cards from the early 1990s (this was in 1999), featuring such fine musical talents as Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. Even more popular, though, were the obviously flash-in-the-pan ones. My personal favorite, besides the coveted Vanilla Ice, was a group called "Young Black Teenagers," none of whom were young or appeared African-American.
8.10.2007 8:32pm
07 JD:
IMHO, if your students do not regularly volunteer in response to your lecture you are simply not doing your job. Forced methods of class participation such as note cards, "lighting strikes" and the "rolling bolder" are a detriment to the learning environment. As a recent graduate, I can recall being more concerned about whether I was going to be called on rather than listening and learning from the lecture. The costs to the educational experience far outweigh any benefits. After my first semester, I became one of a few students that had the gumption to decide to no longer worry about the "lighting strikes." When I did not know an answer, I became very comfortable with just telling the professor I did not know (thank goodness for anonymous grading). At least that is what my tarot cards told me to do.
8.10.2007 8:43pm
John Carpenter (mail):
But why should the rest of us, in the 21st century, accommodate ourselves to their beliefs, not even when we're talking about them, but whenever we're talking in their presence?

1) Because you teach in a public university.

2) Because you will have students who truly believe that playing with Tarot Cards in the classroom on a daily basis offends their religious principles.

3) Because students paying tuitition in a public university should not be disrespected deliberately in the name of fun, when there are so many non-offensive alternatives to labeling and calling on the class.

4) Because if your students perceive a choice between following their religious mandates, and receiving a solid education at a public law school, some may tend to drop out.

5) Because if #4 above happens, based on something that could easily be avoided to demonstrate a mutual respect between professor and student, you have failed at least a number of your students.

6) Because your choice of cards favors secular and non-committed who would like to participate in these activities, over those who would wish only to study law.

This is not difficult case law being confronted. This is not the reality of a former time, where disrespect to others was enshrined in the Constitution, but is necessary to struggle with to practice law.

This is an optional daily activity that you are forcing upon anyone who remains in that classroom.

Your further comments here show disrespect to those who hold differing religious beliefs than you, and perhaps a different intensity of these beliefs. Ridiculing your students is not the best way to reach them, which is necessary to teach them.

Someone above suggested that some students will be more in tune to the class because of the introduction of fantasy cards, but this will be offset by those who truly object and there will be at least a handful of them.

Why not avoid the slippery slope, and avoid bringing fantasy games and Tarot Cards into a criminal law class? The casebook material will provide plenty of opportunity for fun, and for struggling with controversial issues.
8.10.2007 8:45pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Oh, I didn't realize so many felt so strongly.


With all due respect, how do you get "so many" from this thread? That the people who would be offended by it are quite vocal, yes, but this thread hardly provides a quantitative measure of how many will be offended... particularly how many students at Eugene's university.
8.10.2007 8:45pm
dr:
i think the tarot cards idea is great, but what about mexican loteria cards -- you know, these things:
http://tinyurl.com/27bd8t

not going to offend anybody, but still really cool and not boring old index cards or baseball cards...
8.10.2007 8:46pm
dr:
i think the tarot cards idea is great, but what about mexican loteria cards -- you know, these things:
http://tinyurl.com/27bd8t

not going to offend anybody, but still really cool and not boring old index cards or baseball cards...
8.10.2007 8:46pm
WWJRD (mail):


W.W.J.R.D.?

(What Would John Roberts Do?????)
8.10.2007 8:46pm
dr:
sorry for the double post...
8.10.2007 8:48pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
John Carpenter, since you seem to have all the answers, could you explain how to avoid the slippery slope of being unable to offend anybody? If there's a Muslim in a class taught by a female professor, may she insist on not wearing a burqa or even gasp wearing a sleeveless blouse or showing her ankles? If she can do such truly offensive things, on what basis do you distinguish the Muslim's deeply, sincerely held religious beliefs about women showing off their bodies and the old school Catholic / fundamentalist Christian students sincere religious belief about the Tarot cards?
8.10.2007 8:51pm
scote (mail):

I think most fundamentalist Christians enrolled in a public university would have a tolerance for playing cards because they know that most people have no understanding where they came from and that the public sees them as a game.

Ironically, Christine, it is the Christians who have no idea where Tarot cards come from. The are card for playing card games in medieval times. It isn't until at least the 18th century that there is any evidence of being used for fortune telling, and even that didn't become entrenched until Aleister Crowley's occult movement that Tarot card became so associated with the occult.

So, Christine, if, as I have reported, the origin of Tarot cards is entirely innocent will you set aside your objections to them? Or is your objection not based in fact but on beliefs that cannot be countered by facts?

If your objection to Tarot cards is about establishing a climate of respect, would you not also wish to engender a climate based respect for facts over demonstrable misinformation? Or should respect mean catering to the irrational beliefs of every student?


BTW, you might be wrong in presuming that students would select the tarot card before the playing card. Many cards have negative connotations while some playing cards can be fun such as the joker or queen of hearts. Unless you distribute significantly more cards than are necessary to cover all the students, you might end up with a fundamentalist forced to put his name on a tarot card. Just a thought if you insist on using this in your crim law clas

Modern "French Deck" playing cards not be objectionable? After all, the royalty represents the idea of the divine right of kings and the caste system. In such a system, the leaders and peasants are born to their places and will never change. Further, royalty represents the idea of a religious government with kings chosen by god. Both of these ideas are anathema to modern democracy and American Constitutional democracy in general. Why should that not be offensive?

Personally, I don't think the cards are offensive, be they Tarot or French decks. Both are decks originally designed for card games with no religious implications and both are still used for that purpose.
8.10.2007 8:56pm
WWJRD (mail):
Every day that I went into the cafeteria at UCLA, they were serving bacon-cheeseburgers. Non-kosher (by definition) bacon-cheeseburgers. Is this disrespectful to orthodox Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas, and (I think) Bahais? If so, should the cafeteria stop serving this sort of food?


Were you able to avoid that cafeteria if you so chose?

Can students easily opt out of the Tarot Card criminal law class with Volokh? That's a question that has been asked several times on this thread, but not answered.

Plus, is there a religious tenet against participating in meals where others are eating meat?

Someone above said there is nothing in the Mormon religion against participating in activities where others consume cola or beer.

That's ignorance about the religion.

Again, students will be forced to listen and "play along" with the Tarot Card silliness, where nobody is forcing the meat or cola, just quietly consuming it.

If these cards were something silently distributed for private classroom consumption (read silently) then there is no need for religious students to participate.

But if this is something the professor will be verbally reading aloud in each class session, it's very hard to ignore and decline "participation". It would be like reading a prayer every day re. religious non-participation, or reading a horoscope every day re. just to be silly because I can.

Plus, I suspect he enjoys creating controversies so long as his own principles are not disrespected.
8.10.2007 8:58pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
For those who consider Eugene "disrespectful" to some potential offended students for insisting on going forward with this idea, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Some ideas are sufficiently ludicrous to deserve disrespect, and sometimes the persons who hold those beliefs need to learn the hard way that they have no right to control other people's behavior just because it might offend them.

Nobody has yet answered my question to explain WHY the cards which are most commonly used today by con artists to prey on the gullible are considered demonic or offensive to the beliefs of certain Christians. If you can't explain the basis for a belief, it's certainly not entitled to much respect.

If evolution comes up as some tangential topic in class, must Prof. Volokh avoid it, or may he be "offensive" by stating his true feelings, declaring that science has pretty conclusively demonstrated that evolution exists, that the world is more than 6,000 years old, that mankind evolved from earlier hominid creatures which ultimately evolved from fish which ultimately evolved from the primordial ooze?

My reaction to the easily offended in this thread is precisely the same as my reaction to the Muslims who were offended by the Danish cartoons... get over it. You have no right to not be offended. The rest of us need not change our behavior to make you feel better. And, as I stated in my earlier comment, that works both ways. If a Catholic teacher wants to use Saints cards as part of his pedagogical technique, that's fine with me, too, and any Jews or Muslims or Mormons or Wiccans or Scientologists who might be offended by that need to suck it up, too.
8.10.2007 9:00pm
theobromophile (www):

Do you think a Jewish student would feel comfortable in that Professor's classroom if he refused to change the date even after she pointed out that it was a religious holiday?

Well, considering that Prof. Volokh plans on using a plain deck of cards as well as a Tarot deck, and allows students to choose, I'm not sure how this is even relevant to the issue.

What people are really objecting to is not the required use of tarot cards (as there is the option of normal playing cards); not the practice of witchcraft (as they will only be shuffled); but their mere presence in the academic classroom. What next? Will a student throw a fit when a Catholic professor decides to wear a crucifix on a necklace?
8.10.2007 9:00pm
John Carpenter (mail):
PatHMV:

OK if a state-school professor starts each class off with a prayer? How about a pagan chant? Anti-semitic verses? Shouldn't we be toughening everybody up, disabusing as many privately held religious notions as we can?

Respect is a two way street.

Here, the professor has shown he cares more about being liked as a fun guy, than he does about being respected.

Something about winning the battle, but losing more than one realizes.
8.10.2007 9:05pm
r78:
I guess I am missing something. Do you have your students write their names on the cards?

If not, why would they even see the cards - except from a distance when you are shuffling through them in front of the class.

If you are passing the cards out and having people write their names, I am positive that in that situation if I were a student, I would write someone else's name on the card so that I wouldn't get called on.
8.10.2007 9:07pm
r78:
OOPS - just read your post more carefully and answered my questions.

You may want to rethink that - passing the cards out thing.
8.10.2007 9:08pm
John Carpenter (mail):
Will a student throw a fit when a Catholic professor decides to wear a crucifix on a necklace?

Will they be using this as a prop every day, labeling students and calling out Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, St. Joseph, St. Jude, evil Judas Iscariot (that's the bad card)?

Do you think non-Christians represented by their specialty non-discrimination groups pitched a fit when there was Christian prayer time every day?

Why couldn't they just sit quietly and tune it out, as an opt out exercise?
8.10.2007 9:09pm
scote (mail):

Someone above said there is nothing in the Mormon religion against participating in activities where others consume cola or beer.

That's ignorance about the religion.

Speaking of ignorance about religion, I have yet to see any one answer PatHMV's querry:

Would one of the anti-Tarot card posters kindly explain the reasoning behind their religious opposition to these cards? Is it that they are associated with wiccans? With devil-worship? Is it their common use by fortune-tellers? If the latter, do you believe that the fortune-tellers are actually using some spiritual power to foretell the future through the use of the cards, or do you believe they are con artists?

There has been much huffing and puffing about Tarot cards being religiously offensive but no one has cited any specific religion's official doctrine on the subject. So far all the objections have been vague insinuations of witchcraft, paganism and demons, with no concssion to just how medieval those notions are. (And, ironically, Tarot cards had no such connotations in medieval times--boy have we slid backwards, we are beyond medieval ;-p )
8.10.2007 9:10pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
dr: Excellent idea; I might well give people the loteria cards option, too -- I've only seen them a few times, but I've always liked them. I did a quick google and amazon search, though, and couldn't find many places that sold them; can you recommend any? Thanks!
8.10.2007 9:12pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
John Carpenter... As I thought I made clear in my earlier posts, I disagree with the Court's current stance on school prayer, thus I would allow a class to start off with a prayer, so long as the student was not compelled to actually join in the prayer and could merely stand silently.

Look, here's my philosophy, summed up in how I believe we should handle Christmas cards. If you're a Christian, send a Christmas card. If you're Jewish or Muslim or atheist who receives a Christmas card, don't be offended, but appreciate that your friend wishes you well in accordance with the tenets of his belief. If you are a Christian and you get a Happy Hanukkah card, don't be offended, but appreciate that your friend wishes you well in accordance with the tenets of his belief.

If a professor in class wants to have a little light-hearted moment in class with some pieces of paper with drawings on them, don't be offended, but accept that he sees no evil in the things and is not offering you evil, just having a bit of fun. In other words, lighten up and don't be so easily offended. Other people have different beliefs than you. Sometimes in life you will have little choice other than to deal with these people. Learn that lesson early.
8.10.2007 9:15pm
Armagh444 (www):
Based on my own memories of my 1L year, which wasn't all that long ago, I don't see how any student is going to have the time or energy to get offended by much of anything.

To get back to the point of your post, which was to ask for deck suggestions . . . I haven't been able to find any that really qualify as "legal" or "crime" oriented, but there are plenty of amusing decks out there, like the Hello Kitty deck mentioned up thread. Some other fun ones include the Manga Deck (the print quality isn't the greatest, but it's fun and there's plenty of white space), the Gummy Bear Tarot Deck, and the Housewives Tarot Deck (which I think is hysterical, though I think some folks will miss the joke).
8.10.2007 9:17pm
Fub:
PatHMV wrote at 8.10.2007 6:46pm:
I see nothing wrong with Prof. Volokh's plan. ...
Nor do I, although I might prefer dice, if only because the more subtle techniques necessary to get uniformly distributed random draws from a population greater than 6 by rolling them might serve to educate any innumerate students.
Harry Potter is fiction.
That's a relief. I was beginning to think it was a new religion that required standing in long lines with a $25+tax tithe to join.
Halloween is an opportunity to dress up and have fun, not a tool of Satan to turn 10 year olds into devil worshippers.
At least in my limited experience, 10 year olds don't need Halloween for that. They already are devils.

Oh wait, you said devil worshippers! I stand corrected.
8.10.2007 9:21pm
On The Way...:

Also, did you consider Pokemon cards? I suspect that the current crop of students would be of an age to have played with those as children.


As a member of the current crop of law students, those cards from Magic: the Gathering would be better, or possibly POGS. Of course the problem with POGS is they are rather small, and round. Pokemon cards will be good in about three years.

I have a not-exactly-on-topic question. How can law school be considered public education, even if it is affiliated with a public university? Every student in law school has had to achieve a basic level of education above and beyond that provided by the truly public (i.e. K-12) school system. Every student has also had to meet numerous other criteria to get accepted into the elitist environment that is law school, it's not like any member of the public can walk in off the street and enroll, so how can it be classified as public education?
8.10.2007 9:36pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
lol, Fub. But aren't greater numbers of innumerate students who are ignorant of the ways of dice a good thing? Makes it easier to separate them from their money!
8.10.2007 9:40pm
scote (mail):

so how can it be classified as public education?

The same way government employee's can be called public employees or public servants. That doesn't mean they'll necessarily help **you** even if you are a member of the public.

Of course, you'd have to ask the Brits why "public schools" there are actually the private ones...
8.10.2007 9:41pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Thanks for the update on pop culture, On The Way. I would have sworn Pokemon was older than the Magic: the Gathering cards (which I knew of, but whose name I couldn't remember). But there's been an endless line of younger cousins, then younger siblings, and I can't keep them all in order...
8.10.2007 9:44pm
WWJRD (mail):


You know what really would be funny and earn EV the spooky guy reputation?

If the student who selects the Death Card is somehow mysteriously killed. (ok,ok it could be a boring car accident) midway though the semester!

Oooh, scary scary!! Betcha throw away the Tarot Cards idea then...
8.10.2007 9:55pm
scote (mail):
I suppose the "Tarot cards are religiously offensive" crowd is also offended by Orin's latest post:

[Orin Kerr, August 10, 2007 at 7:51pm] Trackbacks
My SCOTUS Crystal Ball is Telling Me that the Supreme Court will agree to hear Hepting v. ATT, the NSA state secrets case that will be argued before the Ninth Circuit next week.

He isn't just talking about a crystal ball as an ordinary object. He's actually using it for blasphemous divination. Clearly Prof. Kerr is in cahoots with Satan. 1L students should avert their eyes!

If the student who selects the Death Card is somehow mysteriously killed. (ok,ok it could be a boring car accident) midway though the semester!

Oooh, scary scary!! Betcha throw away the Tarot Cards idea then..

That would be what's called a coincidence. Those are the kinds of things that innumerate and irrational people use to build up superstition and the origins of why people are so afraid of Tarot cards: irrationality. Science helps us separate what seems to be true ("He dropped dead after signing the death card! The deck did him in!") from what is true ("There is no causal connection between signing one's name on a Tarot card deck and future mortality.")

If we give in to irrational beliefs and cater to unfounded superstitions in higher education then we are losing one of the main purposes of a sound education: teaching critical thinking skills.

Law lectures aren't churches. Tarot cards aren't a trapping of any religion that I'm aware of--unless you count the diverse and inconsistent vagaries of "Newage" as a "religion."
8.10.2007 10:15pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
I just polled my sisters (18 and 21) and we (all Mormons) agree that a) we would see a professor who did this as silly and a tad insensitive, b) anyone who was Seriously Offended by said professor's actions would be demonstrating a lack of common sense and c) anyone who was Seriously Offended by Tarot cards would stand an above-average chance of being Seriously Offended by playing cards -- especially face cards -- too. All of the youth activities that we attended through the church had guidelines that banned participants from bringing playing cards, though it's not in LDS doctrine at all, as far as we can tell (there are prohibitions against gambling, though.) We assume it's a "tell the Gentile converts not to eat pork so as not to become stumbling blocks to those Jewish converts who believe they need to follow the Law of Moses in order to follow God" thing -- and general "let's not offend people unnecessarily."

Personally? I'd aim for the Ace of Spades. Or the Jacks, since I love the number 11. I sit in front, so unless you're one of those mean teachers who tries to be "fair" by starting pass-alongs from the back, I'd probably get my first choice. And I bet the first twenty-two year old male who gets handed the deck will take Death.

(and I couldn't find any lawyery Tarot cards, though they kind of creep me out, so I didn't try all that hard. Sorry.)
8.10.2007 10:29pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Would one of the anti-Tarot card posters kindly explain the reasoning behind their religious opposition to these cards?

What about non-religious objections?

JBL explained:
What if a student objects because they consider tarot cards to be a sacred instrument of their religion? Most serious diviners treat their decks with great reverence.

Because of that belief, I consider Tarot decks as sacred instruments of someone else's religion, and that's somewhere I don't go.

Some people believe that souls or spirits or other things that are not physical bodies as we usually understand it can communicate with this world or otherwise have influence on it. And some believe that rituals and objects used in rituals can enhance that communication.

My wife, who went to an Augustinian college, dabbled in many things that might be considered New Age. She used a pendulum [a gem on a chain like a plumb bob] to communicate with what couldn't be seen (it doesn't matter whether she was communicating with her own subconcious or with spirits.) After her death I gave her pendulum to someone who also thought it was more than a pretty bauble. She believed that Ouija boards were another type of thing for such communication, and she avoided them as being too powerful to mess with casually. She also believed that Tarot cards could be used like that. At one point she bought a Tarot deck, but she never opened it. She left it on a high shelf with other special things.
She wasn't a fool. She understood that there were charlatans, she understood cold reads and vague statements. ("I'm getting a message from somebody whose name starts with 'J' -- did anybody in the audience lose a loved one Jack or Jane or Jason?") But she knew that Reiki is real (I've felt it myself -- as Dr. Herbert Benson says, if doctors are doing it then it's no longer alternative medicine, it's just medicine) and she consulted with mediums.
So that's a picture of her religious beliefs.
She was Catholic, I'm Jewish. She had Catholic stuff around the house -- crucifixes, medals, cards, scapulae. I find them objectionable and possibly idolatrous. So I've collected them all as I find them in one box, which eventually I'll give to somebody who will it meaningful.

So neither her Catholic stuff or her New Age stuff is particularly meaningful to me, but I wouldn't want to see anyone treating them, or other examples of such stuff, disrespectfully
8.10.2007 10:30pm
dr:
the only ones i could find were the ones i linked to: http://tinyurl.com/27bd8t . surprising -- i would think they would be more easily available!
8.10.2007 10:32pm
Hoya:
I'm with the folks that found EV's dig-in stance much more disturbing than the original tarot card idea.

A good teacher has a zillion ways to enliven material, and a huge chunk of them will alienate or irritate some of the class. Instead of alienating and irritating, a good teacher regretfully jettisons all the cool stuff that will alienate members of the class, and goes with the other stuff. What the good teacher does not do is just say "I have the right to offend, and they have the right to be offended." Aren't you trying to make sure that you are not at odds with your students, if this is compatible with good pedagogy?
8.10.2007 10:36pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Hoya, how many members of the class does it take to veto the professor's plans because they are offended? Offensensitivity is an awful disease in our society. The idea that the professor must remove EVERYTHING from his teaching except the direct class materials would make this a profoundly boring world. Yet almost everything he might possibly do to bring a little levity and humor to his class will be found offensive by somebody. Providing class members with an "offended" veto would then limit MY right to have an actually interesting class by a professor who is not an automaton.

As yet, nobody has provided any criteria for limiting which offended reactions must be respected and which can be ignored.

Hoya, thus far, Eugene's reaction has been to commenters on his blog, not to his students. So far, we've seen not one UCLA student chime in that they are going to be in his class and will be offended. The offended folks merely assure us that they are sufficiently large in number that there will be several in his class. If they do, then he will have to make that evaluation, but he should do so in a principled fashion, which will not respect some people's offensensitivity while ignoring others'. It can also be good pedagogy to teach people that they must live in a world filled with people who do not respect their beliefs.
8.10.2007 10:57pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
If we give in to irrational beliefs and cater to unfounded superstitions in higher education then we are losing one of the main purposes of a sound education: teaching critical thinking skills.

Are traditional religions "irrational beliefs and ... unfounded superstitions"? Is it a problem that colleges do things to make it easier for students to engage in their traditional religions, instead of, for instance, using the French Revolutionary decimal calendar?

Reading about all these Hello Kitty Tarot decks leads me to a question: Remember Serrano's Piss Christ? Would it have been unoffensive if it had been a Hello Kitty nailed to the cross in the jar of urine?
8.10.2007 11:04pm
WWJRD (mail):
That would be what's called a coincidence.

I still think if the Death Card kid bites it,
no more Tarot Cards in the classroom!

That would be a hoot if he insisted students keep attending his class after that...
8.10.2007 11:04pm
Fub:
PatHMV wrote at 8.10.2007 8:40pm:
But aren't greater numbers of innumerate students who are ignorant of the ways of dice a good thing? Makes it easier to separate them from their money!
Tough question. They are criminal law students after all. They'll need to know how to spot a sucker bet if they practice criminal law.
8.10.2007 11:05pm
scote (mail):

My wife, who went to an Augustinian college, dabbled in many things that might be considered New Age. She used a pendulum [a gem on a chain like a plumb bob] to communicate with what couldn't be seen (it doesn't matter whether she was communicating with her own subconcious or with spirits.) After her death I gave her pendulum to someone who also thought it was more than a pretty bauble.

What can I say to that? It was a touching gesture and you have my best wishes for you and your family.

However, and I do have to say "however," much the same could be said for so many objects imbued with personal value--not necessarily just overtly religious objects. People could have similar thoughts for books, personal treasures or even mundane objects that had special value to someone. We cannot know or cater to the private thoughts of every person's sentiment or religion, no matter how deeply held even though I can respect the sincerity of your belief.

Many people deeply believe in dowsing, but I don't think I generally have to tip toe around the secular use of dowsing rods in a class. Not all people who use ideomoter devices like pendulums, dowsing rods or Ouija boards have any kind of religious intent. Many think they have a "quantum"-based sense, rather than a religious on.

Where does it stop? I know people who divine with playing cards...
8.10.2007 11:06pm
devin chalmers (mail):
Amongst all the reactionary jackassery (don't worry, Eugene, I think law students are about as savvy as you predict), I think it might have passed unnoticed that Allen G posted the correct deck ("The Uncarrot Tarot"). Naysayers, I challenge you to skim through that and imagine the hypersensitive intellectual albino who would find a modicum of offense anywhere in its images. (Perhaps "The Pickle"? "The Hitchhiker of [floppy] Disks"? "The Seven of Silly Hats"? "The Devilled Egg"? Ah, wait--back to Satanism and Pope-kicking-Christian-babyeating with that last one. Well, you can leave it out.)

The downside seems to be that they are neither for sale nor available as printable-quality downloads. Maybe you could email the guy, I bet he'd be amenable.

I am just amazed by the depth of some people's.... well, jeez, I don't even know. A lot of you are really deep in something, though. Educate yourselves. Talk to some people you wouldn't have talked to otherwise. Eat an ice cream cone, they're good (and good for you!). Just, for God's sake, quit the namby-pamby mock offense. You're not actually offended by Tarot cards (I know this because 1. it is the 21st century and 2. you are on the internet), you don't know anyone who is actually offended by Tarot cards, and Eugene isn't even going to be using them for any Tarot things. (See: sign/signified.) It's like getting offended over red white and blue political bumper sticker because those are the colors of the Confederate flag!!

I mean, I thought you were supposed to be conservatives here. Really! (Conservatism in two simple steps: 1. don't be a dick, and 2. for-the-love-of-Pete just deal with it. See above for some textbook violations.)
8.10.2007 11:07pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Hoya: I suppose I have to draw the line somewhere, and people's concerns about witchcraft are over the line. I like to think that in 2007, speakers can just set aside the worry that someone will find a Tarot deck, a Halloween costume, a Harry Potter allusion, talk of crystal balls, problems related to astrology (I have one in my First Amendment textbooks), and so on improper because they think they are too closely related to witchcraft.

As to the argument that I'm somehow endorsing or practicing some religion related to the Tarot, that strikes me as so clearly not implicated by my use of the cards that I doubt any of my students would take such a view.
8.10.2007 11:08pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
As yet, nobody has provided any criteria for limiting which offended reactions must be respected and which can be ignored.

Here's the criterion: You run it up the flagpole, such as mentioning it in your blog. If a bunch of people who are usually sane and reasonable, who often agree with you, and who don't always agree with each other, tell you it's a bad idea, give it another thought or two.
8.10.2007 11:08pm
WWJRD (mail):
I suppose the "Tarot cards are religiously offensive" crowd is also offended by Orin's latest post:

Duh, you don't think he read this thread and posted it on purpose? That was my first thought, he was making jokes about the "controversy"

The funny thing is YOU're the one finding all these miniscule objections (Halloween, crystal ball reference, meat served in the cafeteria, cola/coffee in the classroom, a quiet religious necklace) not the religious folks with a legitimately observed religious principle!

Nobody's coming up with all these off-base examples her but YOU! I bet you'd be the first one to sue if your kid had to stand up and pray a Christian prayer every day, or otherwise participate in an activity against your religious beliefs

Just because some types scream bloody murder at all instances of offense, doesn't mean that you should not take sincere religious objections into consideration and keep the nonsense in the classroom to a minimum, when it comes to purposely ridiculing the religious principles of others.

If you come to UCLA and have the random luck ending up in this Criminal Law section, you are forced to sit through religious ridicule everyday?

Something smells very bad here. RESPECT, man. You're showing your character, and your committment to your students here in spades. Sad.
8.10.2007 11:18pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I don't think that's a very usable criterion, David. I know a lot of people who are very rational about most things, but are absolutely loopy, from my point of view, about one or two others. It's also entirely dependent on the assortment of people who visit the blog. If he ran this up on, say, Slashdot, the general feeling would be very different. If his blog happened to be read by a bunch of Muslims, they would find the woman with the sleeveless blouse unnecessarily offensive. It's not helpful as a criterion.
8.10.2007 11:18pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Um, once again WWJRD (funny name, btw), I have said repeatedly that I think that professors should be allowed to begin the class with a prayer, so long as the students are not forced to recite the prayer with them, and can merely stand silent.

You don't like the hypothetical examples we've come up with? Ok, answer my hypothetical about several Muslims in a class taught by a female professor, who insists on wearing sleeveless blouses? But the fact is, our other examples are also valid. Just because you can't imagine other people being truly, deeply offended by some of those things doesn't mean we can't. In making a rule, the professor must in fact anticipate the next objection, and the one after that, to make sure the rule will be fair in all circumstances.
8.10.2007 11:23pm
One of Many:
Professor Volokh, I believe you could use the tarot cards in class as you intended to, and still use them educationaly by making the students that object to their use rationally convince you (by writting a paper for example) that their use is objectionable.
As to the people opposed to Tarot cards, I wonder what are they afraid of? Do people really believe these cards are more than paper and some art on them?
8.10.2007 11:25pm
WWJRD (mail):
As to the argument that I'm somehow endorsing or practicing some religion related to the Tarot, that strikes me as so clearly not implicated by my use of the cards that I doubt any of my students would take such a view.

I'd buy that, if out of ignorance, you pulled out the Tarot Card deck and passed it around asking students to put their names on what to you is just a secular card game.

But when others speak up about their sincere religious objections -- and you publicly ridicule them and continue to push for a Tarot Deck when so many easy alternatives have been suggested and nobody except the silly are crying about no cola or coffee in class -- then something was be motivating this.

I think it's no so much you want your students to abandon their own personal religious beliefs in favor of your secular ones, but that like in the cartoon controvery, you like having the power to offensively stuff the religious beliefs you see as minor or silly back "in your face."

Why not take up an extracurricular sport to work off some of that power trip, and leave your religious students alone to get a decent education at their state law school, without facing competition with their religious principles every damn day?

Respect really is the way to go to avoid controversy for its own sake. Do you really want a world where professors pull out prayer cards to name their students, just to see who they can offend? Tarot has absolutely nothing to do with learning Criminal Law.

I just hope you send out a letter before the first class, so students are permitted to transfer out with no penalty and no schedule disruption if they really don't want to play this game in class.
8.10.2007 11:27pm
scote (mail):

Here's the criterion: You run it up the flagpole, such as mentioning it in your blog. If a bunch of people who are usually sane and reasonable, who often agree with you, and who don't always agree with each other, tell you it's a bad idea, give it another thought or two.

Somehow, posting a topic in a forum filled with a self-selected group of argumentative people doesn't seem like a good test for reasonableness. The sample may offer some diverse perspectives, but the response is nothing akin to a proper poll. It is more akin to mob rule. Or, perhaps more accurately, veto by the most vocal and easily offended.

I'm frankly rather shocked that a diverse group of educated and articulate people can have so many people who either believe in Tarot cards as blasphemous witchery or believe that they are scared and must not be profaned by secular use. Neither belief is consistent with the facts and historical origins of Tarot cards and the dissenters are rather loath to grapple with the revisionist views of the origins of Tarot cards.
8.10.2007 11:31pm
WWJRD (mail):
As to the people opposed to Tarot cards, I wonder what are they afraid of? Do people really believe these cards are more than paper and some art on them?

Instead of trying to convince people out of their religious principles through ridicule, you should talk to the Church leaders to convince them to change.

It's not a freewill, "I'll follow the parts I like", choice.

It's just basic teaching to keep sacrilegious items items out of your life. If others want to play Tarot on their own time, bully for them! If stores want to sell Tarot cards, fine.

But if a law student objects to having this a part of the daily public classroom experience, they should not be penalized for transferring from Mr. Volokh's class to avoid the jokes, games, and certain comments ridiculing what their religion believes.

I'm really amazed that you continue to defend yourself by denigrating others in this way.
8.10.2007 11:35pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
What about vegans, who are sincerely offended by the use of animals for the benefit of humans? Does this respect require the professor to refrain from wearing leather shoes? What if he has a leather chair?

Dealing with being offended is up to you, the offended party. You have NO RIGHT not to be offended. Period.

Remember, here's the situation. Eugene wants to use a bunch of laminated pieces of paper with different paintings on them to randomly select which student will be called on next. Those who prefer to will be allowed to select a coated piece of paper with different, less offensive symbols on it. The pieces of paper will not be used to predict the future, nor will any "game" be played. The easily offended object to this because some people whose religion they don't agree with claim to use similar coated pieces of paper to predict the future or otherwise to practice some allegedly religious belief. A few other easily offended object because they consider similar coated pieces of paper to be part of their own religion, or the religion of a loved one.
8.10.2007 11:37pm
WWJRD (mail):
So far, we've seen not one UCLA student chime in that they are going to be in his class and will be offended.

I suggest sending out letters ahead of time, so first-year students won't face the prospect of standing up to the professor on the first day of class, and every day thereafter.

Would he ridicule their beliefs directly to their faces?
8.10.2007 11:37pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
WWJRD... which Church leaders are teaching that the mere existence of Tarot cards in the room with you is offensive and insulting to your religion? By use of the phrase "Church leaders," and your deference to them, I understand you to be Catholic. In researching this issues this evening, the only objections to Tarot cards I found were on Catholic websites so conservative that they consider Vatican II to be an abomination.

So I'll repeat my earlier question, directly to you. What is the basis for your objection to this use of "Tarot cards"? Why are they "sacrilegious" when used in this manner (as opposed to being used in a serious attempt to communicate with demons or predict the future)? Kindly point me to the authoritative pronouncement from your Church leader on this point.
8.10.2007 11:43pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
By the way, if you're so easily offended that you can't manage to put up with people ridiculing your beliefs directly to your face, you really don't belong in college, much less law school.
8.10.2007 11:45pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
By the way, if you're so easily offended that you can't manage to put up with people ridiculing your beliefs directly to your face, you really don't belong in college, much less law school.
I agree with this. Virtually everyone in law school -- contra to Mr. Murphy's "If this were my child in your classroom" -- is an adult, not a "child." These are not fragile ten-year olds. These are law students. If they are nonetheless as fragile as a ten-year old, then they're not qualified to be lawyers.

That having been said, EV certainly didn't propose to ridicule anybody's beliefs; he simply proposed not to conform his secular practices to their religious beliefs. (Indeed, he offered to accommodate their beliefs by giving them a playing card option.)
8.10.2007 11:58pm
scote (mail):

But when others speak up about their sincere religious objections -- and you publicly ridicule them and continue to push for a Tarot Deck when so many easy alternatives have been suggested and nobody except the silly are crying about no cola or coffee in class -- then something was be motivating this.

I don't know, is it not silly to believe in witchcraft in 2007? If not, should we bring back the Inquisition? I'm serious. If one believes that witchcraft exists and has a religious duty to fight evil, then what exactly is one supposed to do when confronted by witches and witchcraft?

...and you really haven't pointed out how Tarot cards may be distinguished form all other superstition, be it medieval (witches), Victorian (Tarot cards for divination) or modern (crystal healing).

Keep in mind that many religions are literally easily offended. Many, especially some Islamic sects*, take the exhortation against graven images to mean any depiction of people, including dolls and photographs. Even having to read a book with photographs is offensive to some people.

I just hope you send out a letter before the first class, so students are permitted to transfer out with no penalty and no schedule disruption if they really don't want to play this game in class.

The best way to make something innocuous seem like a big deal is to make a big deal out of it, like sending a letter notifying students about the Satan's Tarot cards.

Why not take up an extracurricular sport to work off some of that power trip, and leave your religious students alone to get a decent education at their state law school, without facing competition with their religious principles every damn day?

Oh, please, one would hope that someone's religious principles would have something better to do than obsess over a deck of playing cards. Working to end poverty and suffering would be nice.

There may be two or more sides to any argument but that doesn't mean that any more than one of them is reasonable.

*OT:And, yes, I do mean to single out Islam, here. Although Islam is not a monoculture and Muslims can and do have a diverse array of beliefs, it is a simple and true fact that some followers Islam have a rather public and current history of killing people for Blasphemy.

Salman Rushdie is still under a death sentence by fatwa. This is no fluke announced by some lone radical, this death sentence was issued by y Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran. The offer of cash for Rushdie's death has been reaffirmed by Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

If someone wishes to demonstrate any other religion that currently sentences as many people to death for blasphemy, please tell me so I can update my information. I don't post this to be insulting, but to point out the extremes that "offended" people can go to and why we should not cater to those who claim religious offense. Such deference can lead to ridiculous extremes, where major religions refuse to condemn the fatwa against Rushdie but instead blame him for being insensitive to Islam.
8.11.2007 12:00am
SenatorX (mail):
Interesting discussion. I'm glad Eugene has the courage to stand up to the "offense police".

Why exactly do people think you have to respect their nutty beliefs? Oh I know they are used to it. I am certainly expected not to speak what I really think. When they speak of respect though I wonder why the respect never flows the other way. Believers are arrogant.
8.11.2007 12:12am
Another Virginian:
I'm a Christian. The tenets of my faith are that Jesus was sent by God to be the savior of mankind. Salvation comes by grace through faith, and not works.

I guess I missed the part that says that if one is in the very presence of a Tarot card, one is lost, doomed, or blasphemed.
8.11.2007 12:19am
scote (mail):

It's not a freewill, "I'll follow the parts I like", choice.

It's just basic teaching to keep sacrilegious items items out of your life. If others want to play Tarot on their own time, bully for them! If stores want to sell Tarot cards, fine.

Please provide a list of sacrilegious items and the religious authority designating them so.

Unless you can point to one, then, yes, it is a free will choice since you as an individual are deciding **on your own** what you consider to be sacrilegious.

Keep in mind that one man's sacred item (e.g. a Crucifix) is another's blasphemous idolatry (Puritans considered crucifixes to be graven images.) And that is just an example within Christianity!

There is no way to cater to, and avoid offending, all religions simultaneously. You can't even do it just for all Christian sects, let alone the litany of religious belief. The only reasonable common ground is based in the evidence-based world.
8.11.2007 12:20am
Houston Lawyer:
Although I wouldn't be offended by Tarot cards, I understand that some are. Just be sure to use some with nude women on them or with little black Sambo images. No offense there either.
8.11.2007 12:38am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Eugene wants to use a bunch of laminated pieces of paper with different paintings

Should he use little bits of a US flag if he laminates them? It's pretty superstitious to think a piece of cloth is the same as a country.

The cards here cost only 42 cents. These are considerably more expensive, but the parchment might last longer than paper.

As One of Many said, Do people really believe these cards are more than paper and some art on them?


Somehow, posting a topic in a forum filled with a self-selected group of argumentative people doesn't seem like a good test for reasonableness.

Is it just my perspective that this is a hotter topic than most here?

PatHMV said The rest of us need not change our behavior to make you feel better.

In this particular case, it is a proposed behavior. That might be different.

Have none of us done something that gave unintentional offense? If anyone has, did they keep doing even after they'd learned it was offensive?

The standard of behavior for these comments is a dinner party. That may not be the proper standard for a lecturer, so it may not apply, but I try to be sensitive to whether my actions are offensive when at a dinner party.

By the way, if you're so easily offended that you can't manage to put up with people ridiculing your beliefs directly to your face, you really don't belong in college, much less law school.

Ridiculing someone's religious beliefs to his face is a good way to start a physical fight.
8.11.2007 12:50am
scote (mail):

Should he use little bits of a US flag if he laminates them? It's pretty superstitious to think a piece of cloth is the same as a country.

I agree completely. That's not exactly the "gotcha" you seem to think it is.

Is it just my perspective that this is a hotter topic than most here?

However, this kind of topic is the kind that anyone with an opinion can join. There is no legal esoteric that one must know to comment meaningfully on the topic, and it is a topic with visceral reactions.

Somehow, I doubt EV expect such a storm over suggestions for a nice Tarot deck. I certainly wouldn't have.

Have none of us done something that gave unintentional offense? If anyone has, did they keep doing even after they'd learned it was offensive?

Yes. I just learned a woman I know finds wearing white sneakers with blue jeans offensive. (People really can be offended by almost anything.) I have no plans to change this behavior.

Ridiculing someone's religious beliefs to his face is a good way to start a physical fight.

...or a fatwa. However, EV is not planning on ridiculing anyone's belief.
8.11.2007 1:00am
scote (mail):
Hmm...it's late. I think it is time to turn my posts over to BlogWarBot, the Automated Internet Political Argument.

Let's see what BlogWarBot has to say to this:

Ridiculing someone's religious beliefs to his face is a good way to start a physical fight.

BlogWarBot:
So if I might get us back on track here, what in your opinion is the crucial issue facing us today?

--opinions of BlogWarBot are not necessarily those of Scote.
8.11.2007 1:05am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Resorting to physical violence in response to words is a sure sign of an insecure set of beliefs. Never heard of sticks and stones? Does God approve of that of violence against those who don't support every minute detail of your beliefs? I seem to recall reading something about turning the other cheek.

Yes, I've often modified my behavior after discovering that I had inadvertently offended someone. But not always. Depends on the circumstances and how reasonable I think that person's being offended was. With Tarot cards used in this manner, I think being offended is pretty ridiculous and unreasonable, just as I would consider a Muslim being offended by the sight of bare female arms pretty ridiculous and unreasonable. In both cases, I would decline to change my behavior to accommodate the objection.

And just as a polite dinner party guest tries to avoid offending the other guests, a polite dinner guest also tries to avoid causing a scene by expressing their offendedness. Miss Manners says it is bad manners to point out, at the dinner party, that another guest is displaying bad manners.
8.11.2007 1:08am
James Fulford (mail):
You can buy blank faced decks of Bicycle back cards from magic dealers, and that's probably best for randomness purposes. If you mix tarot cards and regular cards, that will cause problems because they're different sizes and have different backs, as far as a purely random choice is concerned.

If you're resolved to treat your students like adults, and not worry that they'll find some fantastical reason to be offended, then it probably doesn't matter, but the Rider-Waite Tarot(mentioned as inoffensive) does contain some naked figures, which will offend those people 8.11.2007 1:16am
bookmoth (www):
Just an observation - most Tarot decks are of various sizes, not the standard playing card size. That may lead to problems in shuffling.

Another observation: some people use regular playing cards as divination tools.

moth
8.11.2007 1:21am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
There is no way to cater to, and avoid offending, all religions simultaneously.

Strawman alert. It is possible to go days at a time without offending anyone, while going about one's usual activities. Conversely it is possible to predict that a given proposed behavior is likely to offend the people one is going to encounter.

Going to the completely personal, recently Prof. Volokh said he doesn't like being called Gene. Do I have a right to call him Gene? Of course I do. But I wouldn't do it because it would be showing him disrespect. (Given our lack of familiarity and our relative positions, I'd likely call him Professor -- it's not that hard to be respectful.)

I just learned a woman I know finds wearing white sneakers with blue jeans offensive. (People really can be offended by almost anything.) I have no plans to change this behavior.

Can you expand on that please? Offensive like an offensive smell? Offensive like she expects people shouldn't do it?

Why do you choose to insult her?
8.11.2007 1:23am
Syd Henderson (mail):
If this was a Constitutional law class, I would suggest using those cards used to test ESP. What better way to divine original intent?
8.11.2007 1:33am
Jerry F:
Some of the comments by Christians are really hilarious. I am fairly confident that any Christian who claims that tarrot cards in law schools would be offensive has never gone to law school, else they would know that this would fall very, very low on the list of offensive things that law professors say. (Note that I say that as someone who has a high respect for conservative Christians, even of the Pat Robertson variety).

Just as an example, my very first law school class involved a tirade against the case that was supposedly exemplying unjustified use of the judicial power. Which case was this, you ask -- Roe v. Wade? Lawrence v. Texas? No. The case the professor was talking about was Bush v. Gore. That is enough to give any Christian a good sense of what is to come in the classroom for three years.
8.11.2007 1:37am
SenatorX (mail):
"Ridiculing someone's religious beliefs to his face is a good way to start a physical fight."

Thanks David for the great example. This is implied violence is something atheists know well.

Now when was the last time an atheist got violent when questioned about his beliefs?
8.11.2007 1:38am
scote (mail):


I just learned a woman I know finds wearing white sneakers with blue jeans offensive. (People really can be offended by almost anything.) I have no plans to change this behavior.



Can you expand on that please? Offensive like an offensive smell? Offensive like she expects people shouldn't do it?

Why do you choose to insult her?

She is offended by the way white sneakers look with blue jeans. She thinks white shoes should only be worn which white pants or white tennis shorts.

In this case, I don't "choose to insult her," she chooses to be offended by my choice of shoes--and anyone else who wears white tennis shoes with blue jeans. It's an example of something that is not my problem, that is not my fault and that I'm not going to stop doing because someone chooses to be offended.

To me, people getting "offended" by Tarot cards are in much the same category as the white shoes and jeans example. Her belief that white shoes and jeans are offensive is a personal one. People claim that they are offended by Tarot cards and that this belief is necessitated by their religious beliefs yet **nobody** has cited any doctrine that confirms this. And even if they could, I see no reason why someone's deep-felt personal beliefs should be granted more or less deference than another person's just because one person has a group of like-minded fellow irrationalists who comprise a something called a religion. Popularity is not an argument for the truth of a position.

Going to the completely personal, recently Prof. Volokh said he doesn't like being called Gene. Do I have a right to call him Gene? Of course I do. But I wouldn't do it because it would be showing him disrespect. (Given our lack of familiarity and our relative positions, I'd likely call him Professor -- it's not that hard to be respectful.)

Here you are singling out an individual situation as opposed to a group one. A better analog would be if professor Volokh didn't like being called "Professor," and was at a gathering of professors where the speaker addressed the group as "My fellow Professors." Do you really propose that the speaker should defer to EV's personal whim and not call the group "Professors?"

Strawman alert. It is possible to go days at a time without offending anyone, while going about one's usual activities.

Assumes facts not in evidence alert. You don't actually know if it is reasonably possible to not offend anyone for days at a time unless you poll everyone you have even a trivial presence with. However, you do concede that it is impossible not to offend people, you merely posit that the offenses will take place several days apart.

Conversely it is possible to predict that a given proposed behavior is likely to offend the people one is going to encounter.

Indeed, but that doesn't necessarily mean that behavior is wrong. Sometimes telling people facts is offensive to them, but that doesn't always mean we shouldn't.

In the allegory "The Emperor's New Clothes" I'm sure the king and his court were offended by the child's observation that the Emperor was naked. Likewise, some people are offended to hear that science shows the earth to be older that 6,000 years old, that Pi is not exactly three and that the earth does not have four corners (it is neither a square plane nor 4-sided pyramid...), yet these are the facts as science knows them. Should we hide them? Should we travel backwards in time to appease offended Christians? Can we will a geocentric universe back into place? Shall we wallow in ignorance to save a few from offense? For this is what you propose, to give confirmation and deference to the demonstrably false superstition of divination by cards and to revert back to a time when people were persecuted for witchcraft. I for one will not be dragged back to those dark days and to suggest that our schools of higher learning should roll back the very foundations of modern knowledge to the 1600's and beyond is contrary to their very purpose.

Now, let's see what BlogWarBot has to say to you.

Why do you choose to insult her?

BlogWarBot: Come on, I could be looking at Cute Overload.

--opinions of BlogWarBot are not necessarily those of Scote.
8.11.2007 1:59am
mls:

PatHMV writes: In researching this issues this evening, the only objections to Tarot cards I found were on Catholic websites so conservative that they consider Vatican II to be an abomination.

So I'll repeat my earlier question, directly to you. What is the basis for your objection to this use of "Tarot cards"?


I'm glad you did a little research on this, so did I. I found tons of sites, all of which struck me as religiously conservative and damn silly, that objected to tarot cards. So it seems more widespread than Catholic objection.

Here are some pithy quotes, all of which come from Protestant websites:


Many conservative Christians believe that if a person engages in occult experiences, then "points of contact or entanglement with demonic entities" will occur, and "malevolent spiritual entities" (demons) can infiltrate their mind and body. They become demon possessed.

Many Evangelical Christian authors often visualize the opening of occultic "doorways" through which malevolent forces have a "legal right" to infiltrate the person's home and cause serious spiritual problems. These demons can become attached to the person's location and can cause inter-generational infestation over a period of decades or even centuries.

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. Deuteronomy 18: 10-12.

In his book 'The Screwtape Letters', C. S. Lewis has this to say, 'There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased in both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight!'

You can look in the book of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, particularly, and you can see the prohibitions against witchcraft and sorcery. Tarot cards are part of the sorcerer's tools.

The Tarot cards are an integral part of the occult and are linked to numerology, astrology, sorcery, and the mystical, occultic Kabbalah. The cards are large and colorful with artistic images, which makes them appealing.

Salvation Army Soldiers sign a 'Soldier's Covenant' which includes a promise to abstain from 'the occult and all else that could enslave the body or spirit.'Christians recognise that having given allegiance to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, they have taken sides in a war against 'wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers of this dark age'. (Ephesians 6:12) Forms of occult practices encountered in contemporary New Zealand society include the ouija board, seances, channelling and other means of divination of spirits, palm reading, numerology, fortune telling, crystal ball gazing, tarot cards, astrology, black magic (not to be confused with 'sleight of hand' illusionist entertainment), witchcraft, and satanism.

Evidence continues to mount that multitudes are falling into occultism through Satan's many traps. We strongly urge everyone to avoid the pitfalls that lead to occultism and demon possession. These include astrology, horoscopes, fortune-tellers, tarot cards, card laying, Ouija boards and hypnotism. We warn against black magic, white magic, clairvoyance, seances, mediums, palmistry, spiritism, unknown tongues, yoga, Satanism, demonism, amulets, charms, magical healing and every form of occultism. Some may smile at the mention of some of these things, but in every instance they are the devil's traps, and many weep today because they were caught. These are not innocent parlor games, They are unchristian and satanic to the core.


But none of this surprises you, I'm sure. Your request for explanation wasn't sincere -- you don't really care what any of these people believe unless you agree with them. You're asking for an explanation that fits into your worldview.

And it is pretty elitist crap for folks to say none of these people would be or should be in a law school classroom.

I don't believe any of these things, either. But being in the Bible-belt South, I know lots of folks who hold these beliefs quite sincerely. It's a lost cause to ask people to be rational about their religious beliefs. Have you ever found yourself trying to explain to a 6-year-old how it is that Jesus dying paid for her sins?! Not much rational there.

Whether Prof. Volokh decides to back off from using what some consider to be "the devil's tools" in his classroom is his choice, and I can't say I care very much what he chooses. But it's pretty silly to say "I don't know how anyone could be offended!" [I'm not claiming that Prof. Volokh has taken this position; I understand his position to be more along the lines of "why should I care if anyone is offended!"]
8.11.2007 3:34am
Daryl Herbert (www):
I like the national flags idea.

Then you can make fun of people you call on based on their country.

"I see the next student to answer is a capitalist warmonger. So keep that in mind while I discuss the factual background of the Slaughterhouse Cases."

"You're poor, black, half of your people have AIDS, you're hungry, and I'm going to ask you about the Doctrine of Equivalents, Samantha."

"You think you're white but the Western Europeans think you're trailer trash. Now, tell me the holding in Greenville, Nick."

"You're a big country full of small people, and many Americans find your cuisine tasty, if not very filling. Why did Posner question the holding of Shanks, and don't give me any commie propaganda, Phil."
8.11.2007 3:41am
John Herbison (mail):
With very few exceptions, law students have already reached the age of majority. What is the likelihood that a student whose commitment to his/her religious views is so intense (or so shaky) that Tarot cards will give offense will attend a public, secular university (where (s)he faces the prospect of (shudder) being taught by a Jew) rather than Regent University or Liberty University?
8.11.2007 3:44am
mls:
Devin Chalmers writes:

Naysayers, I challenge you to skim through that and imagine the hypersensitive intellectual albino who would find a modicum of offense anywhere in its images. (Perhaps "The Pickle"? "The Hitchhiker of [floppy] Disks"? "The Seven of Silly Hats"? "The Devilled Egg"? Ah, wait--back to Satanism and Pope-kicking-Christian-babyeating with that last one. Well, you can leave it out.)


LOL! OK, I'll bite. I know exactly what those Christians who sincerely believe the tarot deck is an invitation to satan to sit down to tea would say: these farcical decks (Hello Kitty?! Trying to catch our children early!) are the devil's way of sucking you in. You think it's innocuous, even funny, but that's how he gets you. Before you know it, you've turned from Jesus to the occult.

No joke. I actually asked a true-believer friend, and this is what he said. He's very smart. He's a lawyer. The only place he's insane is on matters of religion (aren't we all? except maybe the atheists (I always wished I could be one -- it's so rational!)) But he is sincere.
8.11.2007 3:47am
Mike Hamburg:
My initial response to this thread was, wow, that sounds like a great way to lighten class, and Thomas R Murphy is a stodgy killjoy. This is largely based on the owner of a local bookstore, an excellent storyteller and game master, who ran a role-playing game in which Tarot cards determined the outcome of random events instead of dice. Also, before reading this thread, I'd never heard of anyone being offended by Tarot, despite spending half my social time with gamers and the other half with conservative Christians. Maybe it just never came up; they'd probably be unhappy signing their names on XV: Le Diable.

But having read the thread, I realized a few things. One, it won't be nearly as cool as you think, because you'll just have the cards in a pile up in the front of the class, people won't get to see them, and the novelty will wear off in the first week.

Second, apparently some people are irrationally and strongly offended by Tarot cards, so much that they'd hate you for having them around the class at all. They have no right to be offended, but pissing off a highly vocal minority for a bit of amusement that'll wear off in a week sounds like a bad idea to me.

Finally, if you do distribute tarot cards, you might want to take out a couple cards before distributing them for signature, because people will be unhappy with their choices. I'd consider removing at least death, the devil, the hanged man, the fool, and maybe the tower (=catastrophe. Obviously, about half the cards have negative connotations, but most of them are not as well-known.)
8.11.2007 4:00am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Would one of the anti-Tarot card posters kindly explain the reasoning behind their religious opposition to these cards? Is it that they are associated with wiccans? With devil-worship? Is it their common use by fortune-tellers? If the latter, do you believe that the fortune-tellers are actually using some spiritual power to foretell the future through the use of the cards, or do you believe they are con artists?

Truly, I'm not asking to be a wise-ass, I'm very curious to know what the precise religious objection to them is.
Heh, Wiccans are Johnnie-come-latelies to this controversy.

Modern Tarot decks are used almost exclusively for divination. Religious objections stem from one or more of the following:

1. Divination is symptomatic of a weak relationship with God. Proper faith requires accepting divine guidance as a subtle movement of God that steers the individual to discover wisdom from its various sources provided in this world - wise people, personal observation, books, etc. People who turn to divination are not satisfied with this arrangement. They prefer a God who delivers instant explicit answers to everything they want to know about, and since God doesn't deliver in such fashion they go elsewhere.

2. In line with the last statement in the first objection, a habit of divination reflects a diminution in the ability to think for oneself.

3. Divination is snake-oil, a source of unreliable information that a lot of people get hooked on. (On those grounds, Tarot should offend intelligence agents and atheists.)

4. Divination, like any other form of spiritual weakness, attracts the attention of demons - whether the diviner intends it or not. Some believe that divination is especially powerful in this regard because it is a conscious attempt to commune directly with the supernatural. (For the record, demonic attention is more likely to resemble C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters than William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist. I probably don't have to make this clarification, but in this day and age it's really hard to tell.)
8.11.2007 4:46am
scote (mail):


These are not innocent parlor games, They are unchristian and satanic to the core.

But none of this surprises you, I'm sure. Your request for explanation wasn't sincere -- you don't really care what any of these people believe unless you agree with them. You're asking for an explanation that fits into your worldview.

Your mind reading act is rather unimpressive. While it may be rather convenient to argue against your opponents imaginary position--as invented by you--it is not a valid method of argumentation nor is a substitute for an actual point.

At no time has PatHMV indicated an insincere interest in the religious tenants which would claim Tarot cards to be sacrilegious. If PatHMV is like me (note the clever use of the conditional "if" since I don't claim to argue by clairvoyance) then he/she is is actually interested in what believers have to say. It gives me a chance to examine their belief, the historical origins, how common the belief is and how sincere. Either people couldn't find any support for Tarot cards being sacrilegious--which would support for my position--or if they do it gives me a chance to examine and argue against the new points, if any, that they bring up. However, you have posted un-cited random quotes which you profess not to believe, so that hardly counts as a sincere believer coughing up their doctrinal basis for believing Tarot cards are sacrilegious.

Now, let's take a look at some of your quotes which I've had to reverse look up in google since you didn't provide citations:

Some may smile at the mention of some of these things, but in every instance they are the devil's traps, and many weep today because they were caught. These are not innocent parlor games, They are unchristian and satanic to the core.

This come from the Tabernacle Baptist Church, home of "Use The Bible God Uses — King James Version" --a fundamentalist Baptist Church

Here are some of the Church's other reasonable positions:

You must not take the Lord's name in vain, this includes saying Gosh, Golly, Gee, Jiminy Crickets or even "Good:
(used by itself or together with other words as in "good-night," etc.)"

"To use euphemisms for God is the same as if His own name were used
http://www.tbaptist.com/aab/christiancursing.htm

Oh, and what about gays?

"Certainly the homosexual should be punished by civil government. The Bible condones laws against murder, kidnaping, adultery and many other sins. Society has a right to protect itself against destructive crimes. These things are not private matters and should not be treated as such. It is not a matter "between consenting adults in private," as we are told."

If one is going to use the tenants of the Tabernacle Batist Church to justify the expulsion of Tarot cards from EV's class to avoid offending believers, then one must also support not offending people based on all of the tenants of the Church. This would, among many other things, necessarily include a ban on all euphemistic cursing of God including saying "good-day and good-afternoon" and of course the expulsion--if not arrest--of all gays in the classroom.

Another of your citations:

"Many conservative Christians believe that if a person engages in occult experiences, then "points of contact or entanglement with demonic entities" will occur, and "malevolent spiritual entities" (demons) can infiltrate their mind and body. They become demon possessed. "

This is from a page on Multiple Personality Disorder (!) at http://www.religioustolerance.org/mpd_did5.htm

I don't think your citations provide a convincing argument for the reasonableness of catering to superstitious fear of, or belief in, Tarot card decks.

But it's pretty silly to say "I don't know how anyone could be offended!"

Oh, I know how people can be offended, I just think it is un-justifed and that we shouldn't cater to the people who are offended by objects of superstition--whether it is the number 13 or a deck of Tarot cards.
8.11.2007 5:03am
scote (mail):

3. Divination is snake-oil, a source of unreliable information that a lot of people get hooked on. (On those grounds, Tarot should offend intelligence agents and atheists.)

Less so than snake-oil that promises and eternal afterlife of pleasure so long as you accept the tenants of the religion irrationally, without, and in spite of, proof. Is there anything more unreliable than reports of heaven? A place that no live person can speak of with actual knowledge? Trusting in heaven is like trusting a homeopathic parachute (Lead 10C).

4. Divination, like any other form of spiritual weakness, attracts the attention of demons - whether the diviner intends it or not. Some believe that divination is especially powerful in this regard because it is a conscious attempt to commune directly with the supernatural. (For the record, demonic attention is more likely to resemble C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters than William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist. I probably don't have to make this clarification, but in this day and age it's really hard to tell.)

It is hard to have faith in an all-powerfull, all-knowing, all-loving god who would allow demons to wreak havoc.

As to the "supernatural"--since it is implied in your descriptions that it does exist--it could only exist by God's grace and thus, by definition, be natural, unless you argue that God creates unnatural things.
8.11.2007 5:15am
mls:
scote writes: "At no time has PatHMV indicated an insincere interest in the religious tenants which would claim Tarot cards to be sacrilegious."

You're right, no reasonable person could draw the conclusion of insincerity from conduct -- repeatedly asking the same question despite the fact that answers had been provided and dismissed by the writer, giving explanations him/herself (wiccans, etc.) but discounting them, asserting that research was done but those expressing views contrary to the writer's were too ridiculous to be credited. Perhaps I should have said merely that the question appeared rhetorical rather than insincere; I discerned nothing in the questioner's behavior that actually sought a response.

The reason I did not supply "sources" for the quotes -- some of which came from more "mainstream" sites such as CBN -- goes back to that same point I tried to make (which, BTW, had nothing to do with "the reasonableness of catering to superstitious fear of, or belief in, Tarot card decks."

The sources don't matter (at least you did me the honor of not claiming I made it all up). The question was WHAT precisely was the objection some Christians had to the tarot deck. I simply provided an explanation, in their own words, and suggested that questioning the reasonableness of religious beliefs is rarely productive. People hold all kinds of unreasonable religious beliefs, and those beliefs are rarely changed by facts. Being told you shouldn't be offended tends to increase, not reduce, the offense. By wanting to check the sources you're taking the position that you get to judge their religious beliefs. Even if you think it's the damn-silliest thing you've ever heard, people do believe it. What should be done in the face of such sincerely-held beliefs is another question altogether.

As I said previously, I care not what Professor Volokh does. I did not suggest he "cater" to people who hold silly superstitions. But one man's silly superstition is another man's deeply held religious belief (I'm Catholic, and still trying to figure how I'll explain transubstantiation to my 6-year-old! There are a lot of Protestants who see it as superstitious rot, but for Catholics it is a central tenet of faith).

I think you misunderstand the depth of fear and loathing of the occult among some Christians (or maybe it is simply that you don't care). These are folks who'll take a test on Friday the 13th without blinking, break mirrors for a lark, and walk under ladders hand-in-hand with a black cat. In their worldview, the devil is real and actively working in this world. He lays traps, he snares souls. Constant vigilance is required to avoid satan's seduction. Belief in the devil is as central to their religion as is belief in God. The occult is the work of the devil.

Of course you and like-minded commenters and Prof. Volokh are free to disregard their feelings. But at least understand what those feelings are before belittling it as superstitious rot by a bunch of Luddites out of touch with the 21st century, too stupid to know any better and too stupid to be in a law school classroom.
8.11.2007 5:37am
scote (mail):

But at least understand what those feelings are before belittling it as superstitious rot by a bunch of Luddites out of touch with the 21st century, too stupid to know any better and too stupid to be in a law school classroom.

It isn't a matter of being too stupid to know better, it is a matter of having a belief that needn't be catered to.

To my knowledge, no one in this thread has accused the Tarot-fearful of being stupid or proposed doing so. That is a made up position--a practice you don't seem to have entirely given up on. Plenty of smart people, probably many of the very smartest, have some religious or superstitious belief. That doesn't make that belief one we should cater to or be deferential of.

Schools can't be tip toeing around the student's multitudinal fears of satanic influence any more than they can cater to their fears of ghosts, aliens or minotaurs.

BTW, fear walking under ladders really isn't a superstition any more than fear of walking under a piano being hoisted by a block and tackle is.

The reason I did not supply "sources" for the quotes -- some of which came from more "mainstream" sites such as CBN -- goes back to that same point I tried to make (which, BTW, had nothing to do with "the reasonableness of catering to superstitious fear of, or belief in, Tarot card decks."

The sources don't matter (at least you did me the honor of not claiming I made it all up).

Of course I didn't think you made the quotes up--that would have been way too much work, and would think you would have capitalized "chrisitian".

As to sources, of course sources matter. To suggest otherwise is unsupportable and is not a belief that will see anyone through law school, or any school, for that matter. While some arguments can stand on their own, the quotes you provided relate to arguments from authority. In such cases, the source is paramount. Christianity exists primarily on the argument from authority--it is what defines Christianity and the tenants of individual sects.

Now, back to sources:

If people claim to be afraid of Tarot card decks based on their religion but can't point to tenants of their own religion that support such a position then that invalidates their claim of religious justification rather than just personal belief. (For some unfathomable reason, "religious belief" is held to be more important and rights-worthy than sincerely held personal belief.)

If the only citations come from whack job sites then the claims of wide spread Tarot card terror are not well supported, nor would the contention that many people believe such.

If claims that Tarot cards are Satan's tools come from a site like the Tabernacle Baptist Church, we can argue from consistency and point out that if you wish to cite the Tabernacle Baptist Church's beliefs on Tarot cards being sacrilegious then you must argue why all the Tenants of that Church must not also be honored by EV to avoid offending people. You have not even attempted to make such justification, nor, do I think, can you.

Source matters in these cases. I think your post hoc justification for excluding citations fails. I posit that providing citations was a) too much work; b) the quality of the source didn't help your case so you omitted citations or, I suppose, c) you really didn't realize that source matters in argument from authority.

OT:

(I'm Catholic, and still trying to figure how I'll explain transubstantiation to my 6-year-old! There are a lot of Protestants who see it as superstitious rot, but for Catholics it is a central tenet of faith).

At least you know the tenants of your own religion. Most Catholics I have talked to about transubstantiation don't realize that it isn't symbolic. It is one of the more difficult tenants and so, it seems, one that is glossed over either by churches or American Catholics who have a hard time believing it and don't realize that not believing it makes them Protestant...
8.11.2007 6:31am
tennesse ernie (mail):
EV, I think you can get the Loteria cards at the Soap Plant/Luz de Jesus gallery on Hollyood Blvd. They don't seem to be on the website, however.
8.11.2007 7:13am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
What scote said.

I ask the question about the religious basis for the objection to the mere presence of Tarot cards for three reasons. One, I am indeed genuinely curious. Two, I want to see whether the person claiming to be deeply offended actually has some reason to object, or whether they are merely parroting something told to them by a priest or preacher. Three, asking for the justification allows one to inquire further, to flesh out the reasons for opposition to the cards and see if they are internally consistent or whether they imply, as scote points out, being offended by other things, like the presence of gay people.

Why aren't those offended by Tarot cards offended by chicken feathers? They are very often used by practitioners of dark arts such as voodoo. Yet nobody has suggested they would be offended by the mere presence of chicken feathers in Prof. Volokh's classroom.

And, nobody has yet provided an explanation for why it would be ok for a female professor to glaringly offend pious Muslims by wearing sleeveless blouses.
8.11.2007 9:21am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
PatHMV, please see mls':


Many conservative Christians believe that if a person engages in occult experiences, then "points of contact or entanglement with demonic entities" will occur, and "malevolent spiritual entities" (demons) can infiltrate their mind and body. They become demon possessed.



That's pretty close to what my wife believed, that spirits and such, good or bad, exist and not merely as metaphors, and that certain items and/or actions can summon or invite or all them in. My grandmother, may her memory be a blessing, who would have shuddered that I was marrying a gentile, similarly would never speak the name of someone deceased without adding "may he rest in peace", and she was serious about this.

Are we there yet then, that some people believe there is more than the physically observable, and that this belief is held closely with their religious beliefs?

You might ask "OK, but what about Tarot as opposed to somethng else?" First of all, it is. Enough people have said so. You can ask "why?" You can ask "what about this thing which is similar but not the same?" (such as the Hello Kitty Tarot.)

A concept I've learned about well on the VC is rational ignorance. In my wife's case, it was something akin to that. Tarot might merely be a tool for examining one's subconscious -- see for example this course in learning the Tarot -- but it was close enough to objects like a Ouija board or a pendulum that she didn't want to mess with it.

Hello Kitty? I don't know. I would be offended if someone were to disrespect a printed Bible (for instance using it as toilet paper, or even using it to balance a wobbly table) regardless of the particular translation, or even if it was only the New Testament or the Koran (neither book is holy to me). But if it were the Boston's Gun Bible? Not merely because of the allusion or the coincidence of names.

From the non-Christian side, I know Jews of the ba'al t'shuvah persuasion, who actually and sincerely avoid items that have been used in forbidden worship practices. Actual example: When a mutual relative was staying at St. Joseph Medical Center, a hospital run by the "Grey Nuns", he refused to call it by its full name. (I don't know what would have happened if it had been the Awesome Dudes Medical Center, but it wasn't.) He wasn't too happy that a family member was living in a home with Holy Cards and such either. He wouldn't be happy with Tarot cards.

scote says:
And even if they could, I see no reason why someone's deep-felt personal beliefs should be granted more or less deference than another person's just because one person has a group of like-minded fellow irrationalists who comprise a something called a religion. Popularity is not an argument for the truth of a position.

For one thing, they're more predictable. If you schedule something for December 25, you don't need anybody to tell you that a lot of people are going to have conflicts with that time.

A friend of mine just told me that she can't abide by the taste of a particular flavor of soda, and explained how she associates it with a traumatic event in her childhood (and she knows it's not rational, but that doesn't stop the taste from conjuring up the memory.) Since it wasn't predictable she wasn't offended that I'd offered it to her, she just turned it down. If I persisted in serving it to her now (on the basis that it's my house and I can serve whatever I want) that would be rude, so I wouldn't. It's easy enough to have another beverage. (The analogy isn't complete -- see other people taste it doesn't give her a bad feeling -- I'm just saying how because it wasn't religious, I couldn't have known ahead of time.)

PatHMV says:
Resorting to physical violence in response to words is a sure sign of an insecure set of beliefs. Never heard of sticks and stones?

It would depend on the words. Ever heard of the fighting words doctrine? Justified or not, it happens. Some words are inherently likely to provoke a violent response.

Maybe it's because of past history, on both sides of the Atlantic, but my insecurity is not in my beliefs, but in the threat presented by those uttering the words (recall the situation was "ridiculing to my face".)

Back to quoting PatHMV:

And, nobody has yet provided an explanation for why it would be ok for a female professor to glaringly offend pious Muslims by wearing sleeveless blouses.

Neither has anybody here suggested than any professor not wear a sleeveless blouse.

Why aren't those offended by Tarot cards offended by chicken feathers? They are very often used by practitioners of dark arts such as voodoo.

Do you really want to know? Chicken feathers are most often used simply as the outside of a chicken. They don't have the same strong association. On the other hand, if the particular feather had just been used as part of a Santeria offering, or to perform bidikat chametz, it might be even less appropriate. (Why does the professor have a chicken feather in the first place?)

John Herbison writes:
With very few exceptions, law students have already reached the age of majority. What is the likelihood that a student whose commitment to his/her religious views is so intense (or so shaky) that Tarot cards will give offense will attend a public, secular university (where (s)he faces the prospect of (shudder) being taught by a Jew) rather than Regent University or Liberty University?

That's great -- in one paragraph we've got Goldilocks there -- anybody who is offended has religious beliefs that aren't "just rght", and plenty of assumptions that just aren't true (antisemitism, only Christians would be offended or made unecessarily uncomfortable by Tarot cards, those that feel that way shouldn't be in the modern world.)

mls said better than I could:
Of course you and like-minded commenters and Prof. Volokh are free to disregard their feelings. But at least understand what those feelings are before belittling it as superstitious rot by a bunch of Luddites out of touch with the 21st century, too stupid to know any better and too stupid to be in a law school classroom.

I'd add again that having had this explained, if you persist in doing so, you are intentionally disregarding some deeply held feelings. Needing a method to call students randomly, or even injecting a little levity, doesn't justify that disregard.
8.11.2007 10:54am
scote (mail):

And even if they could, I see no reason why someone's deep-felt personal beliefs should be granted more or less deference than another person's just because one person has a group of like-minded fellow irrationalists who comprise a something called a religion. Popularity is not an argument for the truth of a position.

For one thing, they're more predictable. If you schedule something for December 25, you don't need anybody to tell you that a lot of people are going to have conflicts with that time.

A friend of mine just told me that she can't abide by the taste of a particular flavor of soda, and explained how she associates it with a traumatic event in her childhood (and she knows it's not rational, but that doesn't stop the taste from conjuring up the memory.) Since it wasn't predictable she wasn't offended that I'd offered it to her, she just turned it down. If I persisted in serving it to her now (on the basis that it's my house and I can serve whatever I want) that would be rude, so I wouldn't. It's easy enough to have another beverage. (The analogy isn't complete -- see other people taste it doesn't give her a bad feeling -- I'm just saying how because it wasn't religious, I couldn't have known ahead of time.

I think this statement is telling. While I agree that people's that it would seem people's personal quirks are less predictable than their religious ones, this is not necessarily so nor would it be, in and of itself, a reason to grant deference to religious views.

In the example of your soda-tramatized friend and my white shoe-with-jeans-offended friend, these feelings were not predictable, and yet their beliefs are rather straight forward: I don't like this. Religion, on the other-hand, is subject to all manner of contortion on the most obscure things. As mls noted, his/her religion has the rather convoluted notion of transubstantiation at its heart. Transubstantiation is a miracle performed weekly by Catholic priests where they **literally** turn wine and wafers in to the **actual** body and blood of Christ--with the important caveat that the wine and wafer still look, feel and taste exactly as they did before but are, in fact changed in substance. This is not the kind of belief the average person is likely to come up on their own nor would I call this tenant an example of something "predictable" except to the extent that the Church is large and ancient. There are many, many smaller Christian sects as well as other religions with their own convoluted tenants that an outsider could not reasonably predict. Could you have reasonably predicted that the Tabernacle Baptist Church considers saying "good-night" to be cursing God? I certainly couldn't have.

Now as to the point of predictability. Should predictability be the standard of deference? I think we can predict that a number Muslims are offended by Salmon Rushdies' The Satanic Verses* and actively support his murder for that offense yet I do think we should be deferential merely because such is predictable. Now, I don't suggest that you would, either, but neither do I think you have thought out the logical extension of the idea of deference by predictability. Such and idea has no test for truth or "reasonableness" of the belief or the deference due it.

Granted, I think your point was that it is easier and more practical to be deferential to generally held religious belief than people's individually held beliefs and that people with unique beliefs must be understanding and not be offended. Well if individuals can be un-offended, so can religious people--especially those who claim to have great moral superiority through their religion. I think what you have demonstrated is that being offended is a choice and one that individuals forego but that the religious demand and, perhaps, revel in.
Neither has anybody here suggested than any professor not wear a sleeveless blouse.

Why not? Nobody has satisfactorily explained a test for the reasonableness of the necessity of accommodation of a theoretical student's religious beliefs. The best people can do is note that the Tarot card's are superfluous to the content of the class, thus should be excised out of deference to people's belief. One could say that about the the Tabernacle Baptist Church's exhortation against cursing God by saying "Good-night." After all, saying good night isn't central to the content of the class. Neither is wearing short sleeves for women. Nor is having the class be mixed gender when it could be easily divided into two sides separated by a partition.

There clearly is a line somewhere but it isn't a clear line. I don't think that like should be drawn to include catering to the superstitions of witchcraft, demons and divination in a university.


**BTW, Rushdie did not invent the term "Satanic Verses," it is actually a concept of Islam to explain some disputed verses and how they relate to the Koran being the perfect word of God--those disputed verses, it was decided, were the work of Satan are omitted, the "actual" verses are still the Perfect word of God.
8.11.2007 4:05pm
Randy R. (mail):
" Some words are inherently likely to provoke a violent response."

In a unversity setting, there is no justification for a violent response.

"Neither has anybody here suggested than any professor not wear a sleeveless blouse."

Then let me be the first. To avoid offending Muslims, all female professors must not wear a sleeveless blouse. We are all in agreement?

" Chicken feathers are most often used simply as the outside of a chicken. They don't have the same strong association. "

Good. So if we use Tarot cards over and over again in classrooms for nothing more than an exercise in randomnesss, then eventually, they will lose the strong association with the occult. Everyone's happy, right?

"I'd add again that having had this explained, if you persist in doing so, you are intentionally disregarding some deeply held feelings."

So now that you know that sleeveless blouses offend Muslins, you will fight just as hard whenever you see someone wearing one, correct?
8.11.2007 5:31pm
James Kabala (mail):
Professor Volokh wrote:

"Another way of looking at this: Some people apparently believe that there's something demonic or otherwise spiritually bad about the Tarot cards. I doubt there will be many such law students, but there may be some.

I don't believe in demons or evil spirits or the dark arts. (If I was using the Tarot cards as a religious exercise in class, there might be reason to object to that, but of course I'm not.) I don't believe that dressing as a witch for Halloween is demonic, I don't believe that using Harry Potter hypos is demonic, and I don't believe that using Tarot cards as a randomizing mechanism is demonic. I see no reason why I should be under any obligation to accede to others' beliefs about what is demonic or otherwise spiritually improper.

I'm happy enough to keep their names out of any connection with the Tarot cards, because that's an accommodation that doesn't affect what I may do. But, to use a perhaps inapt phrase here, I'll be damned if I feel obligated to govern my actions by others' view of black magic or spiritual maleficence or for that matter blasphemy."

Although their origins are relatively innocent, the primary use of tarot cards in the Anglophone world is for fortune-telling purposes, which is a quasi-religious activity. I therefore think that this is a potential Establishment Clause issue, even though fortune-telling is not a religion in which Professor Volokh himself believes. This is different from Harry Potter, which is not meant by J.K. Rowling to be a religion or quasi-religion, unlike fortune-telling which clearly is meant to be one. I would laugh the case out of court if I were a judge, but I think the potential for pointless trouble is there. Mr. Murphy's "What if you distributed holy cards?" question was never really answered as far as I can tell. I don't know why Professor Volokh is so worked up about defending a scheme that wasn't very cute or funny to begin with.
8.11.2007 10:17pm
SenatorX (mail):
Because it's not meant to be cute or funny? It's either a line he is going to defend or a test of the waters.

I hope it's the first because I think there is no end to what is offensive. A citizen's right to be intentionally offensive is a protection for us all. In my case I find religious dogma to be intensely offensive. To bad? Or should I respect it as my non-belief is respected?
8.11.2007 11:06pm
WWJRD (mail):
Society works better when there is mutual respect afforded, particularly for sincerely held religious beliefs.

After reading comments on this thread, including those by the Professor himself, of course there is going to be mockery of the beliefs of those who choose not to participate in this game.

This is an excellent example of what conservative like to point out is the buffonery in the classroom, contributing to a declining atmosphere of respect and striving for intellectual achievement.

Tarot card games have no place in a Criminal Law classroom. Period.

If Professor Volokh were a more liberally inclined professor, I'm sure we'd see him being spoofed on Rush Limbaugh right now for his "I'll be damned but I'm tenured and we're playing with Tarot Cards in the classroom exercise."

Perhaps if he let's us know when the UCLA law classes begin, we can publicize this little charade, and solicit input from students in the class on what exactly is going on in he public university these days.

Putting student's names to Tarot Cards would have made a wonderful story in Tom Wolfe's recent book about how far the university's have fallen these days. I think you see it showing through clearly in Prof. Volokh's response about his preferences being respected.

Oh to turn back the clock 75 years to higher education's Golden Days, when the pursuit of academics and the polishing of character in man was foremost in the universities!

Today, that climate of respect has evaporated, and I suspect anyone reading this thread can infer for himself one of the primary reasons.
8.12.2007 12:05am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Tarot card games


There are no "Tarot card games" under discussion here. The Professor is using the cards to randomly select students in the class to call on. He's not doing an incantation, he has no belief that the cards are endowed with spiritual or magical powers.

The refusal of the anti-Tarot card commenters to acknowledge the Muslim student with the sleeveless female teacher hypothetical shows that they are primarily concerned with their religious freedom, not others. There is no distinction between the two situations, but so far nobody has stepped up to the plate to say that the Muslims must put up with being offended by modern society, while they themselves are deserving of "respect."

WWJRD, the issue is not "putting student's names to Tarot cards", where those students would be offended by Tarot cards. Prof. Volokh already said he would be offering regular playing cards to those who didn't want their name on a Tarot card. You are claiming you would be offended just by being in the room with the CARDS themselves, being used by people who are not themselves offended by them. What if Professor Volokh wears a yarmulke openly to class? Whose religion is most entitled to not be offended? What if he were a Wiccan, and wore some symbol of his religion openly in class?

Can't ANYBODY who is so offended by this "lack of respect for religion" offer a rule by which we can determine which religious beliefs we must respect by changing our conduct and which we may ignore? Can I draw pictures of Mohammed or not? Some Christian sects are also offended by pictures of God or Christ. Others are offended because judges take an oath to uphold man's law, not God's. Must we cleanse our classrooms and offices to avoid offending those folks?
8.12.2007 12:46am
WWJRD (mail):
There are no "Tarot card games" under discussion here. The Professor is using the cards to randomly select students in the class to call on. He's not doing an incantation, he has no belief that the cards are endowed with spiritual or magical powers.


Have you not read the thread Pat? Look at the opening comment. Of course, there will be jokes, comments, and general laughter with the way of calling names. That is the whole point of using deck the Tarot Cards, rather than some more neutral method.

Please stop plucking odd examples out of your hat that no one is complaining about. If you want to stop Halloween, dictate women's clothing, and other bring up other assorted slippery slope "scare" arguments, you are showing your true colors.

Go back to the Christian prayer card example, please. Much more on target, and you can imagine the funny comments and jokes that would also arise there.

Of course, because the saints are "real people" that is why he is sticking with Tarot Cards traditionally associated with the occult, rather than the Christian world.

Mutual religious respect for yarmulke wearers, of course. Break down the respect barriers, wallow in your divisiveness. But why bring this into the public university setting where the topic is CRIMINAL LAW, not history of the occult or a religious toleration class?

Anybody got Limbaugh's number? We really should invite more people to join in on the fun, and hear what's going on in our California classrooms.

Tarot cards in professional school necessary to call on students in class. And we like to mock public school teachers who introduce their pet preferences to their students, regardless of the subject matter.

Anybody got John Stossel's number? He really could run with a story like this. "Give me a break". indeed!
8.12.2007 1:00am
WWJRD (mail):
Prof. Volokh already said he would be offering regular playing cards to those who didn't want their name on a Tarot card.

Read the original post.

He was ignorant of the Tarot Card religious objection from the get go, and decided to offer an opt-out provision of writing student's names on the cards only when commenters here spoke up.

There should be an opt-out provision available to students to transfer of out the Tarot Card playing Criminal Law section, and it should be available well in advance of the class where the cards are distributed and the fun and games begin.

As they say in Jamaica:
"Respect."
8.12.2007 1:08am
WWJRD (mail):
You are claiming you would be offended just by being in the room with the CARDS themselves, being used by people who are not themselves offended by them.

It's also the laughter, mockery, and general religious disrespect that will come with the introduction of Tarot Cards in the classroom. It has no place in the classroom, period.

Do it sound like Prof. Volokh will maintain discipline and respect for everyone in that classroom, or will he encourage the mockery? Read upthread to find your answer.

He botched this one from the get go, and is too stubborn to turn back now. Sadly, any posts about poor classroom teachers going off-topic to spread their own personal beliefs will have little credibility now. Pot, kettle.
8.12.2007 1:13am
bb:
It's all just symbols. Why are people so offended by gestures clearly not meant to offend?
8.12.2007 1:27am
theobromophile (www):

Read the original post.

He was ignorant of the Tarot Card religious objection from the get go, and decided to offer an opt-out provision of writing student's names on the cards only when commenters here spoke up.

Actually, no - it appears as if the regular cards would be offered from the get-go:

Since the class is 80 students, I take it a Tarot deck plus one or two other cards will do the trick.
8.12.2007 2:08am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
What are people offended when the gesture wasn't meant to offend? Because intent is only part of it. That's what "unintentional offense" is all about. Some times the correct response is to educate the unintentional offender. (Yes, other times the correct response is for the offendee to reconsider the offense -- if he can see that the Christmas card was meant to convey good wishes, not to proselytize, he can let it slide, even though a more careful sender might have used a more generic Season's Greetings card.)

And again, where a bunch of folks gratuitously added a "whoa there" (the original question wasn't "any problem?" it was "which deck?") if it's not intentional, then it's at least recklessly indifferent to continue with the plan. (This has never been about whether a professor has a right to be offensive.)

As for the women exercising their right to bare arms, Randy R., how far have you gone in these efforts? Have you done anything more than, forgive the expression, played Devil's advocate here?

A significant difference is that in this culture women generally dress with more skin showing. Yes, it's a numbers thing. If you're offended by bare-armed women, that ship has already sailed. Same would go for Halloween. This particular example is unusual. There is no momentum behind treating Tarot cards casually.

Randy R. responded to

" Some words are inherently likely to provoke a violent response."



In a unversity setting, there is no justification for a violent response.

To anything? Or just to being ridiculed to one's face?
In any case, whether a thing is justified has little to do with whether it's likely.

scote responded a little ways back:
You don't actually know if it is reasonably possible to not offend anyone for days at a time unless you poll everyone you have even a trivial presence with. However, you do concede that it is impossible not to offend people, you merely posit that the offenses will take place several days apart.

I certainly do know it. Of course there are people who are offended by my very existence, nothing I can do about that, but if I learn something I'm doing is offensive, I give that consideration. That I'm going to make a mistake from time to time doesn't mean I should give up all together.

Real life example: I use non-white handkerchiefs, the printed bandana kind, for nose-blowing and whatever other blotting one uses one's pocket handkerchief for. (With a suit I use a white handkerchief, if I can find a clean one, but that's not the point.) If I see a bandana which I find appealing I may buy it. I bought one that had patriotic motifs (a few white stars on a blue background, a few red and white stripes.) Upon seeing me blow my nose in it, someone said "You shouldn't do that. I was taken aback, someone might think you are blowing your nose in the flag" (and someone else present said she wasn't going to say anything, but concurred) -- so I stopped using it.
8.12.2007 2:27am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
If Professor Volokh were a more liberally inclined professor, I'm sure we'd see him being spoofed on Rush Limbaugh right now for his "I'll be damned but I'm tenured and we're playing with Tarot Cards in the classroom exercise.
Like photoshopping his face on this image?
8.12.2007 2:31am
WWJRD (mail):
Actually, no - it appears as if the regular cards would be offered from the get-go:

Since the class is 80 students, I take it a Tarot deck plus one or two other cards will do the trick.



Read it again.
The typical Tarot Card deck contains 78 cards.


So you're saying he was tossing in one or two blank ones for those who objected to putting their names on Tarot Cards to have them called aloud before the class.

Sorry.
I read that as he expected everyone — all 78 — to participate, and would add two extra cards for those "unlucky" kids who missed the first day, just to get him to 80.

The opt-out option of adding enough blank cards for all those who don't want to play this game came later in the thread, after commenters wised him up to what kind of fire he is playing with here.

Why are people so offended by gestures clearly not meant to offend?

Has nothing to do with the professor's intentions (and I do sincerely believe he wrote the original post out of cultural ignorance.) It's the daily practice of this in the classroom, and all the associated mockery and laughter that will come with it. (but see the professor's "I'll be damned" comment above and tell me if you think he still has no intent to offend.)

That's the whole point of playing with Tarot Cards and oiuji boards, right? Mocking the spirits and tempting evil with silly laughter shown in the very first comment here. Good secular fun. Doesn't belong in the classroom. Get yourself a different memory tool that requires less disrespect of others' religious views.
8.12.2007 2:45am
WWJRD (mail):
I wonder if the state our world is due to people having so little respect for basic courtesy to others, a lack of common and cultural sense, and so little respect for RESPECT.

Try it. You might get it back in return sometime. Of course, I recognize it's that a Christian attitude I'm spouting.
8.12.2007 2:55am
SenatorX (mail):
"In a university setting, there is no justification for a violent response.

David Chesler : "To anything? Or just to being ridiculed to one's face?
In any case, whether a thing is justified has little to do with whether it's likely"

Ridiculed? What exactly, O' arrogant defensive one, is so special about you that when approached by certain words deserves a violent response?

Let's be specific. Questioning your beliefs? Saying untrue things? You IMPLICITLY endorse violence when an unspecified line is crossed. You have said more than once it doesn't matter if it is justified "it will happen". It does matter, it's unjustified.

Further it's hypocritical for a Christian to endorse violence.
8.12.2007 2:58am
guest from TX:
The commentary provides a great illustration of why Prof. Volokh's plan would be perfect for a First Amendment class. If only he could get the same outrage expressed in the class - what a learning experience. Because the First Amendment is above all outrageous. And so great.

It just doesn't provide the same learning context for a criminal law class.
8.12.2007 3:23am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
SenatorX - For one thing, I'm not Christian.

The words that would deserve a pre-emptive violent response would be threats.

You have said more than once it doesn't matter if it is justified "it will happen". It does matter, it's unjustified.

Do you live in a world where it matters whether a thing is justified or not for it to happen? I don't. The majority opinion in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire says that certain words "by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace." (That fact is not dependent upon whether such words are by that reason not protected.)

I guarantee that even in a university you would have little problem finding a fight by using only words. If you don't want to use explicit or implied threats, ridiculing someone's religious beliefs to his face is probably a good way to get there. (You might also try insulting his mother, his wife, or his manliness.) You might not get it on the first try, but if you do it angrily and credibly you won't have to try that many times. Alcohol will increase the odds, so will choosing people who tend to be physical or belligerent, or who have less to lose.
8.12.2007 3:41am
David M. Nieporent (www):
If you don't want to use explicit or implied threats, ridiculing someone's religious beliefs to his face is probably a good way to get there.
Just to reiterate: at no point did EV propose "ridiculing" anybody, let alone anybody's religious beliefs. At most, failure to accommodate -- except that the moment someone pointed out to him that some people might want accommodations, he immediately said he would accommodate them.

Now, if EV had proposed using the cards for divination, I could see how some might think it was a religious ceremony. But he never proposed doing it. He proposing using them as randomizing pieces of paper. Anybody who is offended by that deserves ridicule.
8.12.2007 9:02am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Right, it was PatHMV who said (8/10, 10:pm):
By the way, if you're so easily offended that you can't manage to put up with people ridiculing your beliefs directly to your face, you really don't belong in college, much less law school.

But I'd like to know, at what point is it not deserving of ridicule to be offended by something?

At most, failure to accommodate -- except that the moment someone pointed out to him that some people might want accommodations, he immediately said he would accommodate them.

Again, what's the difference between the actual proposal and "I'm going to use Holy Cards but if anybody is superstitious enough to think that a picture of a so-called saint can become blessed and somehow holy may use a different kind of card."?

Even if I weren't in the class I'd be offended if I found out that a professor were tearing up a US flag and using its pieces for something like this, or tearing out pages of a siddur, whether or not there was an opt-out.
8.12.2007 10:28am
WWJRD (mail):


Just to reiterate: at no point did EV propose "ridiculing" anybody

Is this what passes for tolerance, or quietly respecting the sincere religious beliefs of others where you're at -- "black magic"? Thank God for all those special protections by Bnai Brith, eh?.

I'll be damned if I feel obligated to govern my actions by others' view of black magic or spiritual maleficence or for that matter blasphemy.
8.12.2007 11:39am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
All I know is that after this thread I have less respect for some people's religious beliefs than I started with, because of the indignation and tolerance of violence expressed by some of the adherents of those beliefs.

In fact, I have a rather perverse urge to run out and buy some Tarot cards right now, just to tick them off. Wrong, I know, but after the Mohammed cartoons, I ran a couple of the images on my blog just to establish the principle that I won't cave in to offensensitivity and violence.
8.12.2007 11:41am
WWJRD (mail):
He proposing using them as randomizing pieces of paper.

No. Cards with "Death" or a Pope stand in are not just pieces of paper. They're specially chosen for some reason only know to Eugene. I suspect he thinks he's "toughening up" the young Christian attorneys for the real world. Abandon your principles now all ye of faith. Someday I suspect this thread will come back to haunt him.
8.12.2007 11:42am
WWJRD (mail):

In fact, I have a rather perverse urge to run out and buy some Tarot cards right now, just to tick them off.


I think you've nailed Gene's attitude down precisely!

Play with them to your heart's content Pat... but not on classtime daily in state school where taxpayers are footing the bill.

A good professor respects ALL the students in his class, not just the ones who think he's "awesome" or "cool". Poor Gene. Nobody will play cards with him when he's on his own dime.
8.12.2007 11:45am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I guarantee that even in a university you would have little problem finding a fight by using only words. If you don't want to use explicit or implied threats, ridiculing someone's religious beliefs to his face is probably a good way to get there. (You might also try insulting his mother, his wife, or his manliness.) You might not get it on the first try, but if you do it angrily and credibly you won't have to try that many times. Alcohol will increase the odds, so will choosing people who tend to be physical or belligerent, or who have less to lose.


What is your obsession with violence on this issue? Yeah, reasonable people are aware that some people in this world are unable to sufficiently control their temper to stop from fighting over words. Are you one of those people? As a class, are the people so offended by Tarot cards such people? Do you expect many drunk, very earnestly religious people to show up in Prof. Volokh's class?

By stating that violence is to be expected in the face of such remarks is to say that it is tolerable, unless you also at the same time condemn the violence, rather than use it as an implicit threat. You have not done that. After I first questioned your resort to threats of violence, you could have said "of course, I condemn violence, I just know it's likely to happen even though I don't want it to." But you didn't do that. I am left with the conclusion that you understand that your own capability to follow the peaceful tenets of your religion and beliefs is so low that you expect you would resort to violence, or at least threats of violence, in the face of "ridicule of your religious beliefs."
8.12.2007 11:46am
Pale Jewel:
I always enjoy posts like this for their "cultureshock!" value, in the sense that if a tutor in the UK did something like this, I doubt that anyone would think it was anything more than a fun gimmick (and I say this as one of those "religious students" herein mentioned). Then again, university tutors often swear in class here, which has come as a shock to some of my colonial buddies...

Also, something I was pondering - if tarot cards are used for name card purposes, rather than for divination, to what extent are they still tarot cards, rather than pieces of printed art? I know one or two people who use tarot cards, and they recommend ritualistically purifying the cards before usage etc so that they then become religious objects. Before that, they are just pictures.
8.12.2007 11:55am
David M. Nieporent (www):
No. Cards with "Death" or a Pope stand in are not just pieces of paper.
They really are.

Of course, there may be a handful of people who actually use them for religious purposes (*), but none of those people have spoken up here to complain. The ones who have complained are people who don't use them that way, but are hysterical over the thought that someone, somewhere, might.


(*) I doubt anybody who actually uses tarot cards that way uses Hello Kitty cards, or any of the many other humorous variants identified here.

They're specially chosen for some reason only know to Eugene. I suspect he thinks he's "toughening up" the young Christian attorneys for the real world. Abandon your principles now all ye of faith. Someday I suspect this thread will come back to haunt him.
If the "principle" in question is the desire to avoid exposure to anything outside one's narrow religious views, then the people who attend a secular school have already abandoned it. Those people should, as others have noted, stick to Regent or Ave Maria or one of the other schools that cater to those who believe the real world is evil or unclean.
8.12.2007 4:29pm
scote (mail):

In the 18th century, a revolution in thought, known as the Enlightenment, dragged us away from the superstition and brutality of the Middle Ages toward a modern age of science, reason and democracy. It changed everything. If it wasn't for the Enlightenment, you wouldn't be reading this right now. You'd be standing in a smock throwing turnips at a witch. Yes, the Enlightenment was one of the most significant developments since the wheel. Which is why we're trying to bollocks it all up.


From the Gardian UK


That is sort of a theme in this thread.
8.12.2007 4:31pm
James Kabala (mail):
scote:
1. That paragraph you quoted is mostly nonsense.
2. Few things are more anti-Enlightenment than tarot cards and fortune-telling. I guess the eagerness of some to defend tarot demonstrates Chesterton's dictum (paraphrased from memory), "Lack of belief in God generally leads not to belief in nothing, but belief in anything."
8.12.2007 4:52pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
James Kabala, your comment shows the ignorance of most of the anti-Tarot posters in this thread. I agree, and I'm pretty sure scote would agree, that fortune telling with Tarot cards would be pretty anti-Enlightenment. Were Prof. Volokh using the Tarot cards for that purpose, we'd be making fun of him. But he's not using the Tarot cards for that purpose. For his purpose, any random set of cards would work. He is not using the cards in any mystical way, nor is he claiming that they have any special significance or power of any sort whatsoever. Nobody is defending "tarot."

No, it is the supposedly religious posters on this thread who insist that any use of any set of "Tarot" cards, whether for their "intended" purpose or not, is abominable. The objects themselves, even without having been consecrated or cursed, have some sort of potential to lure people to evil, regardless of how used, according to this line of thinking.

One can eat a cracker at home without fear of religious censure, even if that cracker bears some superficial resemblance to a Communion wafer. It is not until the wafer becomes consecrated that it becomes holy. Without the consecration, it's just a bit of bread. You anti-Tarot card folks are endowing the Tarot cards with greater symbolism and power than the unconsecrated bread.
8.12.2007 5:26pm
WWJRD (mail):
Pat:

Then why not stick with baseball cards, or colored index cards?

If there's no significance to you attached to these mere pieces of paper, then why are you clinging to the need for them to be used in the classroom? Your logic doesn't hold water.
8.12.2007 5:55pm
WWJRD (mail):
Those people should, as others have noted, stick to Regent or Ave Maria or one of the other schools that cater to those who believe the real world is evil or unclean.

Or maybe Gene should consider applying to teach at a private university?

Who knew you'd be playing with Tarot Cards in Criminal Law class, eh?
8.12.2007 5:57pm
scote (mail):

2. Few things are more anti-Enlightenment than tarot cards and fortune-telling.

PatHMV has just said what was about to when I read your ridiculous post.

Considering Tarot cards to be either sacrilegious demonic witchcraft or enlightened New Age magical truth telling divination tools would be anit-Enlightenment. EV is has proposed using the cards as what they were originally made for, a set of paper cards for entertainment.

BTW, I'm happy to defend Tarot cards, as playing cards!!! That is what they were created for and was their exclusive use for centuries. They are still used as playing cards even if some people choose to believe the cards have supernatural powers.

As PatHMV has pointed out, playing card are no more anti-Enlightenment than cheese crackers. It is only when you attach an irrational belief to these physical objects and accept that belief as true or worthy of deference that you rescind the Enlightenment. Those who advocate "respect" for people's superstitions around playing cards are doing just that.

I guess the eagerness of some to defend tarot demonstrates Chesterton's dictum (paraphrased from memory), "Lack of belief in God generally leads not to belief in nothing, but belief in anything."

Here you are attempting to suggest, unintentionally I should think, that people have a gullibility quotient to fill, and if they don't fill it with Christianity then it will be filled by other nonsense.

Believing in any religion is the abrogation of rationality in favor of "faith." Once a person surrenders the truth telling qualities of rational thought they open themselves to all manner of nonsense and have given up any logical means to separate what is real from what seems to be real. Religion is a gateway drug for credulity (it is credulity itself) and quite the opposite of your contention.

Seeing as how the scientific position is to not believe without sufficient evidence, and that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, it is clear that the contention you espouse is counterfactual in the extreme.

BTW, the actual quote is:

When a Man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything.

...and it is a quote misattributed to Chesterson, not that this quote would be anymore or less false if he had said it.
8.12.2007 6:01pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Not at all, WWJRD. You're the one insisting that Prof. Volokh must change his plan because of the symbolism you, not he, attaches to those cards. My refusal to accommodate your religious fears of these items is not an insistence on some need to use these particular cards, but on a desire to oppose irrationality generally, a desire to refuse to make needless accommodations to overly-sensitive people. I'm only still insisting on the Tarot cards because I am determined to stick to the original plan, not because I'm that enamored of the Tarot cards.

Similarly, the paper in Denmark which published the Mohamed cartoons did so not out of an active desire to offend Muslims, but because they wanted to make sure they were not succumbing to self-censorship.

To beat the dead horse yet again, you have yet to propose a fair, objective rule which would protect your particular religious sensitivities in this regard but which would not force the rest of us to become automatons walking on egg-shells to protect all offensensitivities everywhere.
8.12.2007 6:02pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
One of the fascinating aspects of this discussion, to me, is that scote and I are so solidly on the same side of this issue, but, I think, from very different perspectives. His last comment indicates he is not terribly supportive of religion in general. I, on the other hand, do have faith and am a strong supporter of religion in general, and Christianity in particular.

I oppose the anti-Tarot card crowd here in part because I think their fear of the cards is irrational within the context of Christianity itself. Like so many corruptions of the Koran in the practice of Islam in modern times, they have elevated some superstition or cultural practice to the realm of religious faith, which itself is rather blasphemous. Few of the people who rant against homosexuality by quoting Leviticus follow any of the other strictures in that Book. They believe their opposition is rooted in religion, but because they are being selective about the strictures they follow, there is some other force at work causing them to determine how to live their life, what practices to observe.

Me, I think Christ summed up what's really important when he said that there are really only two commandments, that you love God with all your heart, and that you love your fellow man as you love God. Nothing in their about Tarot cards.
8.12.2007 6:12pm
scote (mail):

One of the fascinating aspects of this discussion, to me, is that scote and I are so solidly on the same side of this issue, but, I think, from very different perspectives. His last comment indicates he is not terribly supportive of religion in general. I, on the other hand, do have faith and am a strong supporter of religion in general, and Christianity in particular.

It is true. I'm not a big organized religion fan though I think many of the best people are religious, and many of the best aren't.

I truly believe that in a multi-cultral society with many religions with contradictory and incompatible religious tenants that the only safe and reasonable neutral turfs is entirely secular. This in no way affects people's ability to pray as they see fit and teach their children in church and at home, and it protects people from having their children proselytized to.

The minute we make the respect of religions and superstitions public policy we open up an sectarian turf war, especially with people who feel a need to start physical violence over religious speech (a practice actually condoned here in this thread.)

Ultimately I see secularism as win/win for secular and religious people because it allows all religions to coexist. The people who want religion in the public sphere generally do so because they want and expect their religion to dominate to the exclusion of all others.

Me, I think Christ summed up what's really important when he said that there are really only two commandments, that you love God with all your heart, and that you love your fellow man as you love God.

That is a position I can respect.
8.12.2007 6:28pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Then why not stick with baseball cards, or colored index cards?

If there's no significance to you attached to these mere pieces of paper, then why are you clinging to the need for them to be used in the classroom? Your logic doesn't hold water.
Nobody is clinging to the "need" to use them. They fit the criteria EV had, though, whereas your proposals don't.

1. They don't make colored index cards in 80 different colors, so that's out.
2. There are obviously far more than 80 different baseball cards, but they generally don't fit the "need to have some white (or pale) space in which each student's name can be written." criterion.

Why are you so worked up over pieces of paper?
8.12.2007 7:48pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
David M. Nieporent wrote:
Of course, there may be a handful of people who actually use them for religious purposes (*), but none of those people have spoken up here to complain. The ones who have complained are people who don't use them that way, but are hysterical over the thought that someone, somewhere, might.


(*) I doubt anybody who actually uses tarot cards that way uses Hello Kitty cards, or any of the many other humorous variants identified here.


Why does it matter if what people are objecting to is not part of their own religion? Most of the cases keeping religion out of the public space are about people objecting to having religions not their own inflicted on them.

The Holy Cards analogy, which I don't recall being addressed, would have similar issues, except their are likely to be Catholics in the class who would be offended by the misuse as well as Jews who find them somewhat idolatrous.

I don't know when a deck of 78 cards with 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana, divided into 4 suits with 10 number cards and 4 court cards each is or is not a Tarot deck. The same can be said for plenty of things, that there is a line, and it's not always clear which things are inside or outside that line.

I still don't get what's so important about the designs on the cards. What's wrong with cards that are blank except for the students' names?
8.12.2007 9:55pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
PatHMV responded to me:
By stating that violence is to be expected in the face of such remarks is to say that it is tolerable, unless you also at the same time condemn the violence, rather than use it as an implicit threat. You have not done that. After I first questioned your resort to threats of violence

Please show me where I threatened violence. I don't think I did, and I would like an apology.

I don't see condemnation of violence in Murphy's opinion -- is he threatening it?

I don't blanketly condemn violence. It can be quite useful, and it can be well justified. I am not a pacifist.

What is your obsession with violence on this issue?

What's yours?

Yeah, reasonable people are aware that some people in this world are unable to sufficiently control their temper to stop from fighting over words.

Hey you just talked about violence without condemning it. Nyah, nyah, nyah.

Are you one of those people?

That's an interesting question, and I don't know. For the first 15 years of my life I didn't have the ability, and as I developed the strength the incidents were less frequent. For the most part I don't react to provocations. On the other hand I've had enough going on in my life recently that if there were ever a time that I would become violent, this is it.

As a class, are the people so offended by Tarot cards such people?

Generally not. But the situation you described was not limited to Tarot cards, or the Professor's 1Ls, rather it was (8/10, 10:45pm) "By the way, if you're so easily offended that you can't manage to put up with people ridiculing your beliefs directly to your face, you really don't belong in college, much less law school."

Do you expect many drunk, very earnestly religious people to show up in Prof. Volokh's class?

If you're going to keep jumping from general to specific (and changing the specifics) keep in mind that I'm not likely to be in Professor Volokh's 1L Criminal Law class either.

You made a statement describing something that would have been more offensive, and more clearly intentional, than the casual use of Tarot cards. I responded pointing out the degree of offense is such that it would have a good chance of getting a violent reaction.
8.12.2007 10:46pm
mls:

Now, if EV had proposed using the cards for divination, I could see how some might think it was a religious ceremony. But he never proposed doing it. He proposing using them as randomizing pieces of paper.


LOL! One thing you're discounting is the general paranoia of law students. I use playing cards (yes, I know, derived from tarot cards), and even an electric card shuffler when I have a class too big for my hands to shuffle the deck. My students don't really believe it is RANDOM -- it's fate, it's karma, it's God getting back at you, it's Lady Luck turning a cold shoulder.

Consider this poor hypothetical conservative Christian who fears the occult and worries that the devil can steal his soul -- Professor Volokh will look like he's "divining" who to call on! Every day will be a struggle between good and evil, between God and the devil, to see whether he'll be called on!

As I've said (repeatedly, I know), I could care less what Professor Volokh does in his class. But I do want to suggest that there is something a little different about tarot cards in the minds of some Christians. Yes, some Christians disapprove of playing cards. I might characterize their feelings about my use of playing cards in class as "offense." I would also characterize the feelings of a Muslim student who saw my sleeveless arms as "offense" (actually, anyone seeing my bare upper arms flapping as I write on the board is more likely to feel "disgust" rather than "offense!") But those students will not be concerned about the state of their immortal souls because of my offensive actions.

Tarot is different for some -- they honestly if irrationally believe that the devil is actively working to trip them up, to suck them into hell, that the occult is the doorway for the devil and tarot cards are the key. They don't worry that Professor Volokh will go to hell for playing with tarot cards; they fear they will go to hell. That fear of the occult, whether or not we call it by that mewling word "offense," is deeper than finding bare arms and a Bicycle deck offensive. It goes to a centrality of a belief system. It's different, even, from the Tabernacle Bible Church's position on gays and lesbians. They may be "offended" that others are gay, that others don't recognize the sin, but they aren't risking their immortal souls to listen to the professor talk about how Lawrence finally righted the wrong of Bowers v. Hardwick.

I was thinking, in regard to this thread, of a post a while back about the Muslim woman who wanted to testify veiled, and the judge who said she couldn't because he knew many Muslim women who did not insist on the veil and so her religious belief was inaccurate -- she was not, in fact, religiously required to wear a veil. I remember Professor Volokh (correct me if I'm wrong, it's been a while) saying that the judge's reasoning was faulty (though if I'm remembering it right he thought the result was right for another reason), that what mattered was the sincerity of the belief, not how many adherents there were to the belief. That would be like saying that an employer did not have to accommodate an employee who insisted on wearing a yarmulke because not all Jewish men wear them.

And what I see here are commentators who feel it perfectly appropriate to judge the accuracy and reasonableness of the belief, question whether any Christians can be properly called Christians if they believe this way, or as PatHMV does, judge "their fear of the cards [as] irrational within the context of Christianity itself." And from those who profess a religion of some sort, in particularly Christianity, it comes across as "but that's not MY version of religion, so it shouldn't be YOUR version of religion."

I have to say it's certainly not MY version of Christianity, but there are a number of sincere believers in THIS version.

Professor Volokh, do with this information what you will.
8.13.2007 12:52am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
mls,

Notwithstanding my last post, I'm not basing my support of Prof. Volokh's idea based on my judgment that the anti-Tarot card crowd's beliefs are irrational. I'm sure that their belief is quite sincerely held, and I make no claims to be able to determine the one true religion. I think they are irrational, and I think they are acting, though they don't know it, based on cultural factors rather than biblical command, but that's not the basis for my support of Prof. Volokh.

I agree that the case involving the Muslim woman testifying behind the veil was correctly decided but for the wrong reasons. Sincere or not, her objection was not compatible with our secular needs for holding court in an open, transparent manner. It's not the secular world's place to determine whether her belief is "wrong," but it is the secular world's place to determine which religiously-based conduct we will and will not tolerate when it impinges on the needs, goals, and desires of the rest of our very multi-cultural society.

And you're wrong about the distinction you draw between Tarot cards and homosexuals. I remember reading of a university somewhere where a number of "Christian" students stopped attending class rather than attend the class because homosexuals were going to be there, or because the professor was homosexual, or something like that.

The unanswered question remains, what rule do we establish to determine which religious beliefs we must not offend no matter what, and which we can just ignore.
8.13.2007 11:50am
WWJRD (mail):
Here's a good rule of thumb:

If you'd be embarrassed to be known as the law professor where they play with Tarot Cards in class everyday, go with something more neutral.

If not for your students sake, for your own general reputation. Criminal law is not some soft psych class where you should spend even a minute analyzing your classmates' religious beliefs. Ask her for a date, and play fantasy games with the Tarot Cards on your own time.

It's going to turn into a game of mocking others in the classroom. Classy, Genie!

I'm sure that their belief is quite sincerely held, and I make no claims to be able to determine the one true religion. I think they are irrational.
8.13.2007 2:11pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
As people reading this thread might gather, I would not be remotely embarrassed to be known as the professor who calls on students by picking a card, from a set of Tarot cards and playing cards that the students chose to sign. Because, you know, (1) they are indeed just a bunch of pieces of paper with pictures on them, and (2) there are no witches.
8.13.2007 2:56pm
scote (mail):

As people reading this thread might gather, I would not be remotely embarrassed to be known as the professor who calls on students by picking a card, from a set of Tarot cards and playing cards that the students chose to sign. Because, you know, (1) they are indeed just a bunch of pieces of paper with pictures on them, and (2) there are no witches.

Yey Enlightenment!
8.13.2007 3:03pm
James Kabala (mail):
I've lost most of my interest in this thread, but I will not that Professor Volokh never did answer the question about whether he would distribute a set of 80 holy cards, which, after all, are also just "pieces of paper with pictures on them." If he ever has 114 students, he can be really daring and assign each one a Koran sutra.
Scote: Thanks for the correction about Chesterton.
8.13.2007 4:40pm
James Kabala (mail):
It should have been "will note," of course.
8.13.2007 4:41pm
ilya brook:
David Chesler writes:
If you're offended by bare-armed women, that ship has already sailed. Same would go for Halloween. This particular example is unusual. There is no momentum behind treating Tarot cards casually.

Really? You don't think that ship sailed when the first batch of Hello Kitty tarot cards was printed?
8.13.2007 11:33pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I'm not sure, is the purpose of the Hello Kitty Tarot to be a parody of the Rider-Waite style or is the purpose to be a pleasant deck with which to play Tarocchi?
Given the lack of values in the corners of the cards, and the scenes being taken from the Rider-Waite deck, it seems to be in the occult family (probably as a parody; if not for use on the divination side), not the games family.

BTW I ran the question by a strictly observant Orthodox Jew, and he said Tarot would be forbidden as items of idol worship, I guess likely in the sense of the prohibition at Lev. 19:26 and Deut. 18:9-12. I didn't get a chance to explore this further, so see how he felt about games played with 78-card or 52-card decks, or how he felt about Jungian analysis or Rorschach ink blots. This person takes things strictly -- for instance his children dress up for Purim, never for Halloween -- and is not representative of the even Jews in general.

What does it mean, Professor, "There are no witches"? Almost all religions have a supernatural belief. There certainly are people who believe that divination and soothsaying are real and possible, and people who believe that the Devil, or evil influences, can be conjured up. There are people (including but not at all limited to Catholics) who believe that certain objects can be imbued with special properties or powers. One might not believe this, but it does not follow that because the Devil is not real there are no Devil-worshippers, or that G-d did not become incarnate and walk the earth 2000 years ago, so therefore there are no Christians.

There are plenty of things a professor has the right to do that would likely and predictably shock or offend students. (There is a story about a sergeant who keeps a live bunny rabbit at his desk, petting it during his lectures about hand-to-hand combat, and finally bashes it against the desk to make a point. In a combat class this has pedagogical value - lawyer jokes aside, this wouldn't be appropriate in a law class either.) What other sensibilities, religious or otherwise, that don't match your own belief system are you willing to challenge, just to prove that you're not going to let someone else veto you in your own lecture hall?

Are Holy Cards fair game because there are no saints?
8.14.2007 8:51am
scote (mail):

BTW I ran the question by a strictly observant Orthodox Jew,

Why not run it past a strictly observant Ultra Orthodox Jew? See if he thinks mixed gender classes should be allowed.

Running a question past the most orthodox religious tenants is not a valid way of testing the reasonableness of a proposition.

Tarot cards were invented for playing card games. Should tea be banned from EV's class because some people use it for divination?

Has anyone ever, in this thread used a more vacuous comparison than to suggest that a deck of playing cards is somehow comparable to an instructor killing a live bunny rabbit in class? (BTW, IIRC that scene is from a Disney anti-Nazi propaganda cartoon where a caricature of a German Nazi school teacher kills the bunny to convert German children into wicked killers. Nice comparison. No the shoe does not fit.)
8.15.2007 2:06pm