Kill them all, children


The last one sounded like a joke but wasn’t, this one sounds like a nightmare and is. You know the Good News Club, the after-school program run by evangelical whack-jobs? They’re teaching children the glories of genocide.

This fall, more than 100,000 American public school children, ranging in age from four to 12, are scheduled to receive instruction in the lessons of Saul and the Amalekites in the comfort of their own public school classrooms. The instruction, which features in the second week of a weekly “Bible study” course, will come from the Good News Club, an after-school program sponsored by a group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The aim of the CEF is to convert young children to a fundamentalist form of the Christian faith and recruit their peers to the club.

There are now over 3,200 clubs in public elementary schools, up more than sevenfold since the 2001 supreme court decision, Good News Club v Milford Central School, effectively required schools to include such clubs in their after-school programing.

Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion in that horrific decision.

In 2001, in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that to exclude the club on the grounds that it is a religious group is to discriminate against its particular religious viewpoint, in violation of 1st Amendment protections on the freedom of speech. The court also went out of its way to say that it could conceive of no basis for concern about a possible violation of the clause of the 1st Amendment that prohibits the establishment of religion. The author of the court’s majority opinion was Clarence Thomas. It is perhaps interesting to note, in that respect, that in a recent speech before a school group, Justice Thomas reminisced fondly about his own school days when he would see “a flag and a crucifix in each classroom.”

And now we get children being inspired by stories of genocide.

The CEF has been teaching the story of the Amalekites at least since 1973. In its earlier curriculum materials, CEF was euphemistic about the bloodshed, saying simply that “the Amalekites were completely defeated.” In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one:

“You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left.”

“That was pretty clear, wasn’t it?” the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids.

Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads:

“The Amalekites had heard about Israel’s true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment.”

The instruction manual goes on to champion obedience in all things. In fact, pretty much every lesson that the Good News Club gives involves reminding children that they must, at all costs, obey. If God tells you to kill nonbelievers, he really wants you to kill them all. No questions asked, no exceptions allowed.

And this is an after-school program – which means it’s done on school property, in the school building – which means children are going to think of it as part of school, and true.

The CEF and the legal advocacy groups that have been responsible for its tremendous success over the past ten years are determined to “Knock down all doors, all the barriers, to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America and take the Gospel to this open mission field now! Not later, now!” in the words of a keynote speaker at the CEF’s national convention in 2010. The CEF wants to operate in the public schools, rather than in churches, because they know that young children associate the public schools with authority and are unable to distinguish between activities that take place in a school and those that are sponsored by the school.

In the majority opinion that opened the door to Good News Clubs, supreme court Justice Clarence Thomas reasoned that the activities of the CEF were not really religious, after all. He said that they could be characterized, for legal purposes, “as the teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint”.

As Justices Souter and Stevens pointed out in their dissents, however, the claim is preposterous: the CEF plainly aims to teach religious doctrines and conduct services of worship. Thomas’s claim is particularly ironic in view of the fact that the CEF makes quite clear its intent to teach that no amount of moral or ethical behavior (pdf) can spare a nonbeliever from an eternity in hell.

It makes me so sick and so furious I can’t even deal with it. You fix it; I’m going to go smell the flowers.

Comments

  1. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    Facts of the Case:

    Under New York law, Milford Central School policy authorizes district residents to use its building after school for certain activities. Stephen and Darleen Fournier were district residents eligible to use the school’s facilities. They sought approval of their proposed use and sponsorship of the Good News Club, a private Christian organization for children. The Fourniers submitted a request to hold the Club’s weekly afterschool meetings at the school. Milford denied the request reasoning that the proposed use, including singing songs, hearing Bible lessons, memorizing scripture, and praying, was the equivalent of religious worship prohibited by the community use policy. The Club filed suit alleging that the denial violated its free speech rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

    Essentially, if the school allows residents equal access to the school after hours, they cannot restrict access based upon religion. It’s a public forum, and you can’t restrict speech in a public forum.

    I certainly don’t agree with the content, but I’m okay with the decision.

  2. julian says

    I certainly don’t agree with the content, but I’m okay with the decision.

    Hopefully you’re also ok with the consequences. I know that Thomas is.

  3. says

    Okay with it? That doesn’t add anything. You mean you think it couldn’t have been decided any other way? You don’t mind that it was decided this way? (But then why not?) You’re indifferent? You think the free speech claims are unanswerable? What?

  4. charleskellogg says

    Maybe the proper response is to form a “In Reality” club, and sponser a chapter at every school with a “Good News” club. Make it cooler, with hands on science experiments, teach reason and comparative mythology. They’ve already opened the door, they can’t discriminate because of viewpoint.

  5. Trebuchet says

    They’ve already opened the door, they can’t discriminate because of viewpoint.

    You appear to be applying standards of logic and fairness to fundies that they will never have.

  6. Brian M says

    But legally, government neutrality is required, no? If other groups are allowed access to, horrors, proselytize for the glories of chess or gardening or finger painting, can a government entity legally deny a religious group? Must religion be treated utterly differently? I don;t think that’s a supportable legal consensus. (As horrible as this club IS)

    Heck, we had “Religious Education during school hours in a van parked by the school. It didn’t take.

  7. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    Sorry, I should be clearer. I think that the message that the good news club is teaching is abhorrent. I think it’s important to try to counter that message.

    However from a legal point of view, and a government powers point of view, I think the court decision was correct. If the government allows private citizens to use it’s facilities, it cannot discriminate based upon a religious view point. The first amendment is exceedingly clear. This also is what allows atheists to offer a “Better news club” or a “Skeptical thinking club”. We cannot censor speech because we find the view point abhorrent. But we can teach that the view point is abhorrent, and we can offer alternatives.

  8. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    I should also say, that these “Good News Clubs” don’t worry me. I think kids are mostly smarter than we give them credit for, and that the determining factor in most of these situations is the home life anyway.

    I’m having a hard time imaging a kid from a non fundy upbringing becoming fundamental because of this stuff. And if their home life is already filled with this garbage, a weekly class isn’t going to make things any worse.

  9. leftwingfox says

    I’m having a hard time imaging a kid from a non fundy upbringing becoming fundamental because of this stuff. And if their home life is already filled with this garbage, a weekly class isn’t going to make things any worse.

    Neither am I.

    I am absolutely worried that this will encourage children who DO believe in god, growing up in an environment where they are listening to mainstream media coverage that there is a war on Christmas, on Christianity, and that Christians are being persecuted for their faith by the ACLU and government

    They are teaching kids to be not only terrified of secularism but justified in violently opposing secularism.

    This needs MAJOR pushback. The right of free speech MUST come with the obligation to speak out and criticize vile shit like this.

  10. Robert B. says

    Yes, but the “public forum” concept is always just a veiled euphemism for “let the majority do their thing.” Everyone knows that it will be the largest, richest, and/or most fanatic faiths that make the best use of the public forum. The minorities and the moderates will get shouted out. It would be just as first-amendment-y to enforce a secular policy – school programs may not favor or disfavor any religion – and then you wouldn’t be tacitly handing the Christian majority a platform.

  11. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    Actually the public forum concept is what enabled us to get the reading tree in Philadelphia, and it is the concept that is allowing atheist bus ads on public transportation, and allows the Rock beyond belief concert.

    The public forum is not “tyranny of the majority”. I have to say, I am somewhat surprised to read such attacks on the first amendment from atheists and skeptics. The first amendment is pretty much the thing that is allowing us to exist. Attacking it is not serving anyone’s interests.

  12. says

    @Robert (SeraphymC):

    Even supposing that the Free Exercise clause requires that government facilities be allowed to be used for religious purposes — and I contest that interpretation — there is plenty of secular purpose in preventing totalitarian genocide from being taught with approval. To think that the government has no power to do anything about this particular case is conceding the capacity of the people to even govern themselves, honestly. The concern is not that religious ideas are being taught in a public place, but rather that the government is indirectly subsidizing the teaching of violent attitudes and behaviors in contradiction of its own laws on the matter.

    Why is it that whenever the Free Exercise clause and the Establishment clause are in conflict, free exercise always wins? The Constitution was written as a general and fluid framework. Its interpretation should match what is in the best interest of the people it is supposed to govern, and that alone.

  13. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    The free exercise clause absolutely does not say you must allow government facilities to be used for religious purposes. It does mean that if you allow private individuals to use them, you cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. The other option is to not allow private individuals to use them (that’s how it is in my neck of the woods). But the government should absolutely not be making value judgements on what is or isn’t allowed based upon personal beliefs and viewpoints.

    This isn’t a case of establishment clause versus free exercise. Nothing is being established by the government, it’s private individuals.

    I will admit that the overt teaching of illegal acts is the only part of this that I think actually has merit. And I think that if you could show that the primary purpose of these classes was the encouragement of violence against other religions (or lack thereof) then you could have an argument to shut the place down.

    However, I think we will prevail by engaging these ideas and arguing that they are wrong, and that the party that advocates them has effectively announced that they cannot discern right from wrong. Trying to silence them only adds to their persecution fantasies.

  14. Matt Penfold says

    However from a legal point of view, and a government powers point of view, I think the court decision was correct. If the government allows private citizens to use it’s facilities, it cannot discriminate based upon a religious view point.

    So the government has no duty to look at harm that might be done ?

    Your law is as ass.

  15. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    @Matt Penfold

    Sure, lets go back to the government deciding which religion is ok to teach. And then be sure not to whine when they don’t let atheists anywhere near schools, or let them run ads on buses, and let them have concerts, or any of the other things we get from the first amendment.

    Oh I’m sorry, were you so naive as to think the government was going to say your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) are ok?

  16. Albert Bakker says

    This looks to me something that is the duty of other christians to protest against. These fine exalted, exemplified and heartwarmingly compassionate coreligionists of theirs are teaching genocide to children for God’s sake.

    Gays in concentration camps, atheists methodically murdered, I guess it’s not yet time to come up with dreaded historical comparisons. Until they actually begin working on this solution it is a matter of free speech. And the religious freedom to teach children genocide is a thing that makes Jesus smile; that there is something wrong with them, imprinting in their little brains that they are worthy of being thrown into the fiery pits of hell and suffer unimaginably for all eternity if they do not with appropriate enthusiasm desire such a mass slaughter of all other people who are not exactly like them, is I guess something that should be shielded from evil government interference, other than facilitation and funding.

    Perhaps christians who are not entirely convinced that this is the best thing since sliced bread, should add this example to the list and ponder whether the theme about outsourcing morality is all that great an idea either.

  17. footface says

    Please, all of you—especially those of you who believe the Good News clubs and other doings of the CEF and their allies are harmless—read Katherine Stewart’s The Good News Club. You’ll be glad (and horrified) that you did.

  18. footface says

    The Good News clubs exist to teach non-fundy kids—and to get kids to proselytize to other (and your) kids. They are now in more than 3,500 public schools in America. By virtue of their use of public schools and young (and not-so-young) children’s inability to separate the clubs from the schools and official school business, Good News clubs bank on de facto “establishment.”

  19. Matt Penfold says

    Sure, lets go back to the government deciding which religion is ok to teach. And then be sure not to whine when they don’t let atheists anywhere near schools, or let them run ads on buses, and let them have concerts, or any of the other things we get from the first amendment.

    I note your lack of concern for the welfare of children.

    Now how about you explain to us why the rights of bigots is more important than the rights of children not to be harmed.

  20. Matt Penfold says

    I would also ask Robert (SeraphymC) why he thinks Americans are uniquely incompetent when it comes to deciding what organisation are suitable to use school facilities. Other countries manage some form of discretion pretty well, so it can be done. So he can only think Americans are somehow different and not up to the task.

  21. Chris Lawson says

    @SeraphimC,

    I agree that the law in the US, as interpreted by the incredibly conservative current Supreme Court, is as you describe it. However, I think you are wrong to think it is as simple as saying if the school allows public groups to use its facilities, it should not be able to make any discrimination against those who would choose to use those facilities. Would it be OK for the KKK to use those facilities? Disgusting as it is, the KKK is not an illegal organisation and it has strong Protestantism at its core. Let’s take a less inflammatory example. Should schools allow anti-vaccination groups to hold rallies on their premises?

    I think that these schools are government facilities, and therefore it is entirely appropriate for them to refuse the business of groups that are not pursuing a secular purpose. I don’t understand why facilities that were paid for and built by government funds need to apply government standards in school hours, but are actively prohibited from applying those standards out of school hours.

    This isn’t a matter of the government getting to choose which religion to support — I think all religious proselytising should be off-limits, including atheist clubs. That is, any activity that would fail to meet the educational and constitutional requirements during school hours, should continue to fail to meet the school’s educational and constitutional requirements out of school hours. Surely these groups can find non-government halls to hire…if they weren’t deliberately trying to undermine the constitutional barriers that keep them out of schools.

  22. mikespeir says

    They’re trying to normalize this perversity. Get it into the kids’ heads early enough and it’ll always have that “ring of truth” to them.

  23. Godless Heathen says

    @Matt Penfold,

    That’s because so many Americans will cry about their free speech rights being trampled if they aren’t allowed to teach their religion to every children ever.

    Of course, they’ll also cry about that if another religion tries to do that, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Also, too many fundies or evangelicals or people who cater to those groups are in power at both state and federal levels.

  24. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    Actually, I’m glad you brought up the KKK. Lots of people were upset when the courts decided that the KKK were allowed to march in a public parade (It was a public forum, you can’t discriminate based upon viewpoint).

    What happened? People were outraged enough to present their dissenting viewpoints, and people marched in the parade to show their opposition to the KKK.

    This is how it should work, when someone has an idea you think is abhorrent, you counter it with your idea. You don’t try to shut it down with government force. That’s for those who have essentially conceded that their ideas are inferior.

    @Matt Penfold

    I don’t think Americans are uniquely incompetent, the one thing as an American I’m very proud of is the first amendment. I think Europe has made a serious mistake in allowing certain kinds of expression (Holocaust denial, insulting religions) to illegal, or not allowed.

    But feel free to go cry in your beer because you can’t get the government to enforce your ideas. You’ll have plenty of good company with the creationists, bigots, and homophobes.

  25. Matt Penfold says

    I don’t think Americans are uniquely incompetent, the one thing as an American I’m very proud of is the first amendment. I think Europe has made a serious mistake in allowing certain kinds of expression (Holocaust denial, insulting religions) to illegal, or not allowed.

    I think you mean some countries in Europe, rather than Europe. However I do not accept your protestations that you do not regard Americans as uniquely incompetent since it is quite clear from you have said previously you do.

    But feel free to go cry in your beer because you can’t get the government to enforce your ideas. You’ll have plenty of good company with the creationists, bigots, and homophobes.

    Happily here in the UK schools are not required to allow everyone to use their facilities if they consider the group wanting to use the faculties has policies inimical to the aims of the school. It seems work quite well.

    With regards my being in good company with the creationists, bigots, and homophobes, you seem a little confused.

  26. says

    @ 13:

    However, I think we will prevail by engaging these ideas and arguing that they are wrong, and that the party that advocates them has effectively announced that they cannot discern right from wrong.

    Why do you think that? And when do you think we will do that? We’re certainly not doing it now.

    It drives me nuts the way absolutists about free speech simply assume things like that, in the teeth of all the evidence.

  27. AndrewD says

    The Convention on the prevention and punishment for the crime of Genocide (UN General Assembly Resolution 260) passed on 12 Jan. 1951 and ratified by the US on 25 Nov 1988 makes Genocide a crime. The question then arises does the 1st amendment allow the promotion of criminal acts? If it doesn’t then the decision was wrong, if it does then the US has a serious constitutional problem.
    The only other question is was the Good News Club preaching Genocide? I would argue that it does.

  28. AndrewD says

    Sorry, the last line should read

    The only other question is was the Good News Club preaching Genocide? I would argue that it does.The only other question is was the Good News Club preaching Genocide? I would argue that it eas.

  29. Lyanna says

    We may not prevail with “more speech.” Unfortunately, if you’re in a Bible Belt school where Good News types are the majority, you just can’t combat them by forming a Gay-Straight Alliance club and waging a “speech battle.” The GSA will have, like, two and a half members, who will be exceptionally brave and wildly outnumbered. The freaky pro-genocide people will be able to swarm and intimidate them.

    That said, my first-glance opinion is that this might be the legally right decision. And maybe not politically harmful to our cause (“our cause” being secular government).

    Legally, it’s pretty dicey to ban student groups based on their religious purpose.

    The best way to get past that 1st Amendment issue is to argue that allowing them to meet on campus goes beyond “free exercise” and “free speech” into establishment of religion, which is unconstitutional. And that’s very hard to do when all they’re doing is meeting after school. They’re not meeting during school hours. There is no captive audience.

    Another potential way to get past the First Amendment hurdle would be if the club had a racially discriminatory purpose. There is a (legally tenuous and hyper-creative) argument to be made here that teaching that genocide is okay amounts to racial discrimination. It’s tenuous partly because the Amalekites aren’t a currently-existing nationality or ethnic group. Nobody actually made that argument in this case, probably because it’s far-fetched.

    But I have yet to read the whole opinion, particularly the dissents. Justices Souter and Stevens have a much better grasp of First Amendment principles than Justice Thomas does, and they dissented here, so my opinion on that is pretty tentative.

    Politically speaking, though, it seems to me like banning this would just create an even greater sense of persecution among right-wing Christians. It makes an excellent talking point for them: “our kids can’t even make Christian clubs!” Obviously we can’t give in on all issues that the right-wing Christians can turn into talking points, because then we’d be conceding the whole field. But this particular ground might be concede-able, since it’s so easily spun as a “free speech” issue, and since the harmful effects of this club are inchoate.

  30. Robert says

    Ophelia,

    So you think if we can’t convince society at large we should resort to petioning the government to enforce our views?

    If the government can decide certain views and ideas can’t be expressed, what will keep the government from deciding atheism isn’t allowed?

  31. Robert B. says

    I’m not attacking the first amendment, I’m attacking an inimical misuse thereof. I’d really like you to explain how a public forum could possibly fail to privilege the majority. It simply won’t be possible for every viewpoint to be represented, at least not in an example like after-school programs where each message requires a significant investment. Given that, the more powerful communicators – those with the most money, manpower, and cultural acceptance – will be much more likely to have their say.

    Especially given the context of bigotry in the society: can you imagine the incredible howling uproar if there was an after-school program teaching fundamentalist Islam, or activist atheism of the PZ Myers sort, or Satanism? The instructors would be in physical danger. The students might be in physical danger. These are not legal boundaries, but they are nonetheless profound. Whatever the law would like to be the case, this forum is in fact not open, not free. Muslims, atheists, Satanists, etc. will be punished for using it, while Christians will not.

    The reason religion gets special attention in the law, over and above other kinds of thought and speech, is that religion rests in a unique and intense social context. People just will not be rational about it – as a group, on the whole, we never have been. Never in history. When that institutionalized irrationality touches the government, horrible crap sprays everywhere. That is why the Constitution gives the government an active duty to keep their damn hands out of religion, at all times and in all places. There is no fair way to let religion into the government, not in any social context the US has ever had. To pretend that the government can somehow legislate away this irrationality, that there exists a glove of law thick enough to safely grasp the wet turd of religion, is willfully blind. There has never been any evidence that this can be done. The proper interpretation of the First Amendment, therefore, is to forbid any branch of the government from making, aiding, or endorsing any religious (or anti-religious) message in any way.

  32. Albert Bakker says

    I do not get free speech arguments.

    These are children.

    Children.

    Not little adults.

    Children.

    Children being indoctrinated. Indoctrination isn’t free speech. Indoctrinating children is not free speech. It is abuse. Child abuse. Poisoning the minds of children. Making them believe that killing people isn’t good enough. Participating in mass killings is not yet sufficient. Contributing to genocide is the most wonderful thing you can accomplish, making you a true hero.

    This insanity is hammered into their heads, they aren’t being convinced for God’s sake these are children. How the hell has this anything so remote that it’s still to be found within the confines of this Universe to do with free speech? This is just complete, utter, criminal madness.

  33. fastlane says

    The court decision was the correct (Constitutional) conclusion. The way to combat this is with things like the SCA and SSA. It’s a public forum (after hours), use it.

  34. says

    I detest the message, but agree with the decision. If it were not after hours, when the facility is open to all who wish to use it, then it would be clear government sanction and a violation of the separation clause. As it stands, children are being indoctrinated in churches and by their parents every day. I don’t like it, but in this nation, they’re free to spread their vile poison.

  35. Robert B. says

    Albert: Well, given the way young kids’ brains work, basically anything you tell them is indoctrination. If we forbade indoctrinating children, we wouldn’t be able to teach them anything until about age fourteen. Which is not to say that there’s no right or wrong way to teach kids, of course. I agree that this is horrible evil crap to teach vulnerable minds, I agree that this shouldn’t be allowed, but we can’t just instruct schools to not indoctrinate children because that’s essentially their job. And we can’t just tell them “don’t teach horrible evil crap” because what if a superintendent, what if a judge, thinks atheism is horrible evil crap? As individuals we can trust our own judgement – for example, you and I both know that this program is child abuse and thus wrong – but an institution needs some enforceable objective rule to guide it.

    My solution, as I said above, would be “public schools may not touch religion.” I would also accept “public school programs may not encourage students to commit crimes.” (Except, if anyone other than a Christian religion advocated genocide in an after-school program, I bet that latter policy would instantly materialize if it didn’t already exist. In this case I doubt very much that will happen.) There’s lots of ways to do it, but a knee-jerk “AH NO FORBID NOT ALLOWED” reaction is going to set a very abuse-prone precedent, even if you’re reacting to a case like this which really deserves to be instantly forbidden on ethical grounds.

  36. Albert Bakker says

    Robert, I hear what you are saying about the semantics of indoctrination, but do think that is a bit too theoretical and beside the point.

    I guess I really have trouble understanding how a prohibition on teaching children that the extermination of atheists and other subhuman scum is the most wonderful thing to possibly live up to, needs to be all the legalistically or governmentally problematic. As you state with any other group it wouldn’t. (And shouldn’t.) However I do also see the slippery slope point you are making about abusable lawmaking, which is not entirely beyond imagination or precedent. Sometimes I just lose patience.

  37. Chris says

    The first time I found the flyers advertising this club I went to the school district offices and yelled at the superintendent.. then we moved. Still here at the new school- but we avoid it and it doesn’t seem to be as ingrained into the school culture- we have a rancheria and about 30% of our students are native american and not christians which has helped my little atheists.. one of the reasons we left the last school was due to religious bullying that wasn’t going to get any better- the school personnel didn’t seem to think it was bullying at all.. :/

  38. Robert B. says

    Albert, I totally understand. I’m really big on the first amendment, so I come at the issue from that perspective. (As in, using public schools to teach kids religion is against the first amendment and shouldn’t be allowed.) But, yeah, teaching little kids to slaughter the infidels, to leave none alive? That’s a nightmare. That’s like something out of Orwell, and the only “patience” called for is the patience to remember our other objectives, because the “Good News Club” deserves none. The fact that something so obviously horrible was even contemplated, let alone permitted and carried out, is a crystal-clear demonstration of why the government shouldn’t go anywhere near religion. No other group would be allowed to deliver that message to little kids on public school grounds. The bias is obvious and damning.

  39. says

    I’m having a hard time imaging a kid from a non fundy upbringing becoming fundamental because of this stuff.

    Really, Robert? Do you not wonder where all the current “fundies” came from then, if not from vaguely liberal, far less Bible-believing literalist mainline Christianities from the 70’s when groups like this began the push to radicalize and convert millions?

    I think you may be correct in that the law allows for htis sort of garbage, but it is not true that it works both ways in favor of secular groups – every week we read about another secular student club being barred from a public school for one cooked up reason or another.

    There is a real danger that the majority can use its power and clout to force their view on the minority unti the power is so nearly total that complete annihilation of opposing viewpoints is achieved. That is where the freedom from religion part should have come in – if the court had not also been swayed by the power of a tyrannical majority.

  40. says

    Robert, what I said doesn’t depend on thinking the gummint should stop everything. I made a narrow point about starry-eyed generalizations that “we will prevail” as if that were somehow written into the fabric of the universe.

    (There seem to be far too many Roberts in this conversation. It’s confusing.)

  41. Robert B. says

    Hahaha, you can all call me Johnny if you like. I answer to it just as well, and with two other Roberts in the thread it really is getting confusing.

  42. footface says

    can you imagine the incredible howling uproar if there was an after-school program teaching fundamentalist Islam, or activist atheism of the PZ Myers sort, or Satanism? The instructors would be in physical danger. The students might be in physical danger. (…) Muslims, atheists, Satanists, etc. will be punished for using it, while Christians will not.

    We don’t have to imagine it. It’s all there in Katherine Stewart’s book.

  43. footface says

    To everyone saying Good News Club vs. Milford Central School was correctly decided:

    Did you object to every pre-Milford decision holding that government institutions should remain neutral—and bar religious groups—in such cases?

  44. fastlane says

    footface@46. I’m not sure I understand your question. Based on almost every CSS (church state separation) case in the SCOTUS history, there are two approaches:
    1) Consistently refuse to allow the facilities to be used by any group.
    2) Consistently allow the school facilities to be used, with some limitations like limited space or not creating too much mess (which has been abused by multiple church groups in the past, getting their use revoked), but open to all groups with the same restrictions in place.

    The key is that the government (schools in this case) must be consistent. The best counter to free speech is more free speech.

  45. footface says

    But Milford changed the way all these issues are viewed. Post-Milford, these were no longer “establishment” matters because the religious speech was reinterpreted as merely speech containing a certain “viewpoint.” Pre-Milford, cases weren’t decided in that way.

  46. Robert B. says

    @ fastlane:

    The best counter to free speech is more free speech.

    The government is not the only body that can impede free speech. If atheists and other groups despised by Christians are in fact not able to use this supposed “open forum” then it doesn’t matter what the Supreme Court would like to be the case. No free speech is actually occurring, only privileged speech on one side and fearful silence on the other. See my argument @ 33.

    Johnny

  47. monad says

    Right in this post:

    In the majority opinion that opened the door to Good News Clubs, supreme court Justice Clarence Thomas reasoned that the activities of the CEF were not really religious, after all. He said that they could be characterized, for legal purposes, “as the teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint”.

    This doesn’t sound like it opens the door to whatever religious groups, but simply allows the CEF by looking the other way and pretending it is something else. Am I missing something important here? How are people agreeing with this?

  48. says

    Albert Bakker:

    Gays in concentration camps, atheists methodically murdered, I guess it’s not yet time to come up with dreaded historical comparisons.

    Some people might get offended, y’know.

    Ophelia:

    It drives me nuts the way absolutists about free speech simply assume things like that, in the teeth of all the evidence.

    Co-signed. The assumption of a level playing field for all players is also irksome.

  49. says

    The best way to get past that 1st Amendment issue is to argue that allowing them to meet on campus goes beyond “free exercise” and “free speech” into establishment of religion, which is unconstitutional. And that’s very hard to do when all they’re doing is meeting after school. They’re not meeting during school hours. There is no captive audience.

    Lyanna, that’s getting close to the heart of the problem. The entire space has been conceded to favor the free exercise clause over the establishment clause. Anything short of an actual declaration of an official state religion does not meet the bar for an establishment clause violation any more. Tax exemption for churches does not count. Opening up public schools to religious teaching does not count. Posting the ten commandments at a courthouse does not count. Preferential government hiring that favors Christians over all other religious and non-religious groups does not count. The National Day of Prayer does not count. “In God We Trust” and “Under God” does not count. Special favors and speaking opportunities for chaplains in the military does not count. Failing to prosecute offenders of serious violent crimes merely because they belong to a certain powerful religion does not count.

    There is no practical way to violate the establishment clause any more. It has lost all effectiveness.

    As to the last part, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s inside or outside school hours. The government owns the building, and it ought not to be providing it to people who can show no secular purpose for their activities. Most especially to those who are advocating for policies which violate the government’s own laws in an egregious manner.

    Oh, and children are always a captive audience. What are they going to do, run away? How do they even know to do that, and how are they going to get home?

    Another potential way to get past the First Amendment hurdle would be if the club had a racially discriminatory purpose. There is a (legally tenuous and hyper-creative) argument to be made here that teaching that genocide is okay amounts to racial discrimination. It’s tenuous partly because the Amalekites aren’t a currently-existing nationality or ethnic group. Nobody actually made that argument in this case, probably because it’s far-fetched.

    Genocide is effectively always racially discriminatory, though it can hit other axes as well. Taking it to the more obvious level, though, genocide is a crime. Always. What other crimes are we going to allow to be advocated in the public schools? Is there literally anything which is going to top genocide?

    This aspect has literally nothing to do with religion. The government doesn’t have to allow advocacy of a crime. It is a secular purpose to restrict speech which advocates violence. Nothing is going to change that, ever. That we have allowed free speech to be contorted into such absolute nonsense that encouraging violence is now supposed to be protected behavior is truly revealing of just how unreasonable we have become as a society.

  50. michaelpowers says

    Historically, religion has enabled those in power to pretty much arbitrarily target a segment of society, and vilify them. Once they are considered the “godless enemy”, they can be methodically tortured and/or slaughtered by the faithful without hesitation, regret, or anything resembling compassion. This formula has worked for thousands of years. Every attempt to stop it has eventually failed. America has been the most successful so far because our constitution provides for the separation of church and state. Those provisions were under attack before the ink was even dry. My fear is that they’ll succeed, and all those horrors we’ve read about in history books will be visited upon us.

    If we let that happen, it will be no more than we deserve for our lack of vigilance and integrity.

  51. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    Ophelia,

    (I agree, too many Roberts, and then I forgot to put the SeraphymC tag on some of my posts…)

    I don’t mean to get all starry eyed, I do think things have shown a progressive trend, it’s always been a slow bloody battle. But we’ve outlawed slavery, let women vote, ended segregation, we are making progress with atheism, feminism, and secularism.

    All of these have taken too long, and have faced far too much entrenched opposition, but they have happened, and are happening.

    In my (possibly ignorant) opinion, no social cause has ever succeeded by suppressing the opponents ability to express their view point. I also think that in this case our opponents views are so startlingly laughably wrong, that actually having them in the open does our side a favor.

    This is how I came to atheism, it was first a rejection of the obviously immoral beliefs of christianity.

  52. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    Kagerato,

    Encouraging violence is outside of the first amendment, if it’s an actual call to commit violence. But when you are going up against one of the constitutional freedoms the burden of proof is on the accuser, and the standard is set very high.

    I also think that it’s overstating the case to say that these clubs are calling for genocide now. There is a difference between advocating genocide and whitewashing historical genocide (when looking for incitements to violence, there are serious moral problems).

    Challenging these clubs on the grounds that they are actually calling for violence has zero chance for success. And I honestly believe that even trying would be more damaging to our cause. The best way to counter this is with more free speech.

  53. says

    I also think that it’s overstating the case to say that these clubs are calling for genocide now.

    Robert (SeraphymC), you sound like someone who has never seriously had his rights threatened or abrogated. IOW, highly privileged. Do not fucking dare presume to lecture those of us who aren’t on how we “should” behave, and, for the love of fuck, stop making excuses for these douchebags under the guise of being “fair” to them. This is a war for people’s lives. Those who are targeted aren’t obliged to play by Marquess of Queensberry rules.

    Also, here’s some reading material for you.

  54. Anthony says

    Aren’t there rules against “hate speech”? If they are specifically calling for the physical attack of or even murder of “non-believers,” I would think this would fall into that category. Or maybe I’m just thinking of every other industrialized/modernized nation…

  55. Robert B. says

    I also think that it’s overstating the case to say that these clubs are calling for genocide now.

    Uh huh. Of course not. It just points out how good it was that this other religion-motivated genocide happened, and how it was exactly what God wanted. They’re not specifically telling the kids to do anything – just letting them know how nice it is when all the unbelievers get killed. No kind of actual violence is going to follow from that, no way. It’s not like kids are ever a real danger to each other or anything.

    (Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?)

    I doubt this program could actually lead to a literal genocide. If nothing else, the audience (little kids, aged from four to twelve) doesn’t actually have the resources or the organization to pull off a crime on that scale. But this is undoubtedly an actual call to commit violence, even if it’s worded so as to obscure that. Certainly we should expect violence to result – and if you don’t think little kids are capable of brutal violence with serious long-term consequences, you have indeed been misled by privilege. If you like, though, you can consider what will happen when the kids who have internalized these lessons turn fifteen, or eighteen, or have kids of their own, or run for office.

    And more to the point, if anything other than a Christian religion was running this program, any competent judge or educator would instantly recognize all that and shut them down. Which is staggering bias, and the reason why this country makes it unconstitutional to mix religion into the government.

  56. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    Thanks for the incredibly condescending tone Ms. Daisy. I’ve read the letter from a Birmingham Jail. Maybe you could point out where it calls for ignoring other peoples rights in the struggle to get yours recognized?

    I’m not lecturing you on how to behave (unlike you), I’m just pointing out the hyperbole thats been present in some of the comments. This isn’t a war for peoples lives. No one’s life hangs in the balance of the existence of this after school club.

    I’m mostly on your side here. The only difference is that I don’t think there’s a legal issue with the after school club, I don’t believe there’s an effective legal action that can be taken, and I think that the legal priniciple behind this schools existence is far more helpful to us atheists, and should be protected.

    I think we should excercise that principle now to make sure there’s an alternative message available to those kids.

    But you can go on making angry assumptions about the life I’ve lived, and pretend that it gives you some kind of superior moral high ground.

    I hope it makes you feel better.

  57. says

    Robert SeraphymC):

    Thanks for the incredibly condescending tone Ms. Daisy.

    Back atcha, Mr. “We’re sooo progressive, we let teh wimminz vote and everything!”

    Maybe you could point out where it calls for ignoring other peoples rights in the struggle to get yours recognized?

    Whose “rights” are we ignoring, pray tell?

    This isn’t a war for peoples lives. No one’s life hangs in the balance of the existence of this after school club.

    Let me guess, you’re not in any of the groups they’re calling to be wiped out. Except maybe atheists, and — as an atheist — I think the idea that we’re anywhere near as oppressed as, say, GLBT people is laughable.

    I’m mostly on your side here.

    Another self-styled “ally.”

    But you can go on making angry assumptions about the life I’ve lived, and pretend that it gives you some kind of superior moral high ground.

    I hope it makes you feel better.

    Your petulant whining at me for not respecting your superior moral authority and intellect is amusing.

  58. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    Daisy,

    You are just determined to twist my words around aren’t you? Where have I have compared GLBT discrimination to atheist discrimination? Are there any other talking points you want to bring out of left field and just assume my position on? If you have to start your sentences with “let me guess” when talking about my life and experiences, here’s a tip: Don’t guess.

    You know what, this has obviously gotten too emotional for some people (mostly myself, because this shit is fucked), so I’ll bow out (victory for you, congrats).

    I’ll just leave with this:

    The fact is, the highest court of this land, for better or worse (I think better, you think worse), has decided that these clubs are allowed. Which means we have no legal means to challenge their existence. The only way we have left to combat them is to offer our own message that these kinds of beliefs are immoral.

    So can anyone suggest a good secular non-profit group that I could donate some funds to, so that something good has come of this?

  59. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    I mean: secular non-profit group that provides educational functions for kids.

    If not, maybe I’ll just donate to the local Discovery Science Center.

  60. says

    The fact is, the highest court of this land, for better or worse (I think better, you think worse), has decided that these clubs are allowed. Which means we have no legal means to challenge their existence.

    Why do you concede the issue in advance? Nine appointed judges do not rule the United States of America. The idea that whatever the Supreme Court says, goes, is nonsense and has been from the beginning. Several of the founders who had perhaps a little input on the making of the Constitution wrote about this.

    This is a matter that stands as-is because too few people are willing and able to challenge it. Supreme Court made a terrible ruling? Well, guess what? Congress makes the laws. The Executive branch enforces them. Who is going to win this fight if it comes down to it?

    The idea that we should show obedience to the government’s poor decisions is one of the key roots of authoritarianism. We shouldn’t be sitting on our asses while the Supreme Court decides that money is speech (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission), overrides the ability of states to govern themselves (Gonzales v. Raich), limits the peoples’ rights based on nonsensical technicalities (Berghuis v. Thompkins), allows the government to prefer religious schools (Agostini v. Felton), states the Second Amendment is about self-defense instead of collective defense against the government (District of Columbia v. Heller), gradually chips away a woman’s right to control her own body (Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart), and shuts down election recounts (Bush v. Gore).

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