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Cert Denied in Two Church/State Cases

Howard Friedman reports that the Supreme Court has denied cert in two cases involving religion in public schools that have gotten a lot of attention in recent years. He gives the details on the two cases:

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Nampa Classical Academy v. Goesling… In the case, the 9th Circuit upheld Idaho’s decision to bar publicly funded charter schools from using religious texts in the classroom, even for teaching of secular subjects. The 9th Circuit held that the First Amendment’s speech clause does not give charter school teachers, students, or parents a right to have such texts included as part of the school curriculum…

The Supreme Court also denied review in Johnson v. Poway Unified School District. In the case, the 9th Circuit rejected claims by a high school calculus teacher that his California school district violated his free speech rights, as well as the Establishment Clause and Equal Protection clause, when it required him to remove large banners he had posted in his classroom that carried historic and patriotic slogans, all mentioning God or the Creator.

Both are important decisions and the Supreme Court allowed them to stand.

Comments

  1. Larry says

    How do you figure, Ibis? When I was in school we learned about the crusades and the Spanish inquisition and the church’s sanctioning of Galileo from secular history books. How is it necessary to learn history from religious texts?

  2. says

    If there is anything that historical analysis has taught us… it’s that historical religious texts… aren’t.

    They aren’t historical. They are barely religious considering all the differences between (for example) the Bible and the various religions that are based on it.

  3. says

    I was thinking, for example, it’d be hard to teach about the Reformation without reading some Martin Luther and some John Calvin. How could you teach about medieval philosophy without reading some excerpts of Aquinas and Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux? The rise of medieval monasticism without reading the Rule of St. Benedict? If you’re studying the history of early Christianity, it’s kind of necessary to read some excerpts of the gospels, isn’t it? I mean it is, if you’re also trying to teach kids to look at primary sources.

    How about trying to teach a comparative religions course without being able to…you know…actually compare mythologies and scriptures?

    And what constitutes a religious text anyway? There are New Agey types who think that spiritual wisdom, inspired by the divine, can be as easily found in To Kill A Mockingbird as the Mahabharata.

  4. says

    “Both are important decisions and the Supreme Court allowed them to stand.”

    Goddamned activist justices! Next thing you know, they’ll be saying it’s OK to cut a baby in half to settle a custody disp–oh, wait, nevahmind.

    “was thinking, for example, it’d be hard to teach about the Reformation without reading some Martin Luther and some John Calvin. How could you teach about medieval philosophy without reading some excerpts of Aquinas and Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux?”

    You could simply say that some arguments, written by delusional religious fanatics, were held to be THE TRUTH, during a period of pestilence, persecution and church sponsored ignorance.

  5. boctaoe says

    Ibis3< I believe this is about a highschool class. Your reading selections are suited for college. I know you said primary sources but that is rarely done at HS level and aren't necessary to get a flavor of the discussion.

  6. Michael Heath says

    I was really disconcerted at the enormous volume of religion which infused history when studying at college. Primarily because my public school upbringing in a red state town presented a near total religious-free version of history. And even then they got it wrong, e.g., Pilgrims coming to America motivated by the desire for religious freedom as opposed to their actual desire to create mini-theocracies.

    Given the complete lack of content in evolution, geology, cosmology, and sex education that also wasn’t covered, I started to realize how local opinion by religious morons largely defined the limits of my pre-college education. I think one reason I reacted so viscerally to Sarah Palin arriving on the national scene was her being close to my age where her determined and celebrated ignorance and approach to politics carried on the fierce tradition of anti-intellectualism within conservative Christianity at the expense of so many of us. I was able to move beyond the communities where they dominated, but so many millions Americans weren’t, which costs us all.

  7. matty1 says

    You could simply say that some arguments, written by delusional religious fanatics, were held to be THE TRUTH, during a period of pestilence, persecution and church sponsored ignorance.

    If that’s the level of detail you want from history lessons why not go one step further and condense the whole class into “Sometimes bad things happened”?

  8. says

    I’m pretty sure, remembering back to my high school classes that we read out of primary sources as illustrations of what we were being taught from secondary sources–in fact, I distinctly recall reading the Code of Hammurabi (don’t recall if there was comparison to OT laws, but I think so), the Apology of Socrates, the Sermon on the Mount, at least portions of the 95 Theses, the Rule of St. Benedict, and the Communist Manifesto. As it happens we didn’t have a comparative religion class, but we could have–we had an anthropology/sociology course in which we covered some religious rituals (we had group projects and I was in the group that presented Passover & the Seder; for another unit, a student did a presentation on Scientology and its cult-like aspects). And that was a regular public high school, not a charter school that could potentially have a stress on teaching humanities and liberal arts.

  9. naturalcynic says

    And even then they got it wrong, e.g., Pilgrims coming to America motivated by the desire for religious freedom as opposed to their actual desire to create mini-theocracies.
    FIFY. Both views are kinda correct.

  10. Chiroptera says

    Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto, #11: I’m pretty sure, remembering back to my high school classes that we read out of primary sources as illustrations of what we were being taught from secondary sources….

    Huh. What state was your high school in, if I may ask? I went to a high school that I thought was pretty good by US standards, and the history courses there were mostly general survey courses.

    Not only did we only use the secular textbooks — the only quotation we read from the Bible or the Code of Hammurabi were quoted in the textbooks themselves — there wasn’t any time in the curricula to get deep enough into any given topic to make it worth going into any of the primary texts.

    Sounds like your school might have had some pretty thorough courses. I would think, though, that your school might have been unusual. Maybe it shouldn’t be unusual, but I wouldn’t have imagined a US high school class of any sort using primary texts — other than the Bible in a science class, I mean.

  11. Chiroptera says

    Speaking of Nampa Classical Academy v. Goesling, I went back through the provided links and got a bit more detail here. You can also download a copy of the decision.

    I’ve only glanced at it, but the US Consitutional principles seem to be as follows:

    As a government entity created by and existing only by the permission of the state, the school does not have the any “rights” to sue the state government.

    Now the teachers and the students do have such a right.

    However, as the school is a unit of the state and the teachers are acting as agents of the state (my wording — I hope that my paraphrasing doesn’t lead to inaccuracies), their speach in this context is the state’s speech, and the state has the power to direct what its speach really is. So the regulations forbidding the use of the religious texts in the class room is within the power of the state.

    -

    Now, as Ibis points out, the regulation itself may be misguided, but of course that isn’t within the scope of the Federal court’s jurisdiction to decide whether the policy itself is a good one. And whether it is misguided I don’t know; I’d have to try to find the reasoning the Idaho Public Charter School Commission used to make this regulation.

  12. says

    Let me add my educator’s voice to Ibis3′s, except that I use what could be considered religious texts in my English classes for entirely secular reasons. (By the way, I think some people are interpreting “religious texts” as “religious textbooks,” which is most likely not what the court means. A “text” is simply a textual work; the secular literature textbooks I teach out of, published by Glencoe, include religious works as well as a variety of secular texts.)

    I think the tricky part will be in determining what constitutes a “religious text.” If it comes from the holy text of a specific religion (like passages from the Bible, Qur’an, Bhagavad Gita, etc.), then I probably wouldn’t have an issue (although OT, NT, and Quranic passages are included in my world lit textbook’s southwest Asia unit). If a religious text is any text with an explicitly religious purpose, then I couldn’t teach the excerpt from Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which I use partially to illustrate tenets of Puritanical thought (useful for understanding the politics of colonial America as well as for understanding the context of the Salem witch trials for The Crucible) and partially to identify metaphorical usage. If the definition is still larger, I might be prevented from using Ann Bradstreet’s poem “On the Burning of My House” (since it discusses Bradstreet’s casual attitude about the destruction of the house because of God’s Providence, etc.).

    Yes, there could be a problem with a teacher using religious texts to promote or denigrate a certain religion, but that seriously handicaps secular teachers like me who have an actual secular use for religious texts. So I can’t say that I like that ruling too much, honestly.

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