The Worldnutdaily and ‘Hostility to Religion’


The Worldnutdaily has an article about an en banc ruling that I wrote about last year in a case where a Wisconsin high school held a graduation ceremony at a church. The district court and an appeals court panel upheld that as constitutional, but a rare en banc panel of 10 judges overruled both lower courts and declared that it was a violation of the First Amendment.

The Worldnutdaily quotes from a brief filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly the Alliance Defense Fund) in asking the Supreme Court to hear the case and overturn the 7th Circuit. The ADF is trying to frame the issue as one of hostility toward religion, but they leave some important facts out in order to do so.

“Church buildings should not be treated like toxic warehouses simply because they normally house religious activities. That has never been the intent of the First Amendment,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “On the contrary, as the judges who dissented on the 7th Circuit’s opinion said, this opinion clearly exhibits an unconstitutional hostility toward religion. The government isn’t being neutral toward religion when it treats it worse.” …

“If neutrality is no longer relevant and private persuasion violates the Establishment Clause, school districts must extinguish this expression to avoid tainting their secular pursuits. Nothing in the Constitution allows such hostility to religious speech,” the brief argues.

It says the appeals ruling reflects bias and irrational feelings by suggesting the church should have “modified” its speech to be “more inviting to others.”

“Such reasoning smacks more of religious phobia than legitimate Establishment Clause concerns,” ADF argues.

“Not only does the Seventh Circuit’s opinion contravene the Establishment Clause by mandating antagonism toward religion, it also requires school districts to discriminate amongst religious sects. The court suggested the district might be allowed to host a ceremony in a church that lacked ‘the proselytizing elements present in this case.’”

Well yes, the court is probably right. Holding graduation in a church might well be upheld as constitutional in some cases and not in others and the en banc panel was careful to point out that their ruling “should not be construed as a broad statement about the propriety of governmental use of church-owned facilities.” But in this particular case, it is obvious that the church saw it as an opportunity to proselytize the graduating students and their families:

To reach the sanctuary, visitors must pass through the Church lobby, which also has served as a natural congregation point for graduates and their guests after past graduation ceremonies. The lobby contains tables and stations filled with evangelical literature, much of which addresses children and teens, and religious banners, symbols and posters decorate the walls. In the middle of the lobby is a large, circular desk displaying pamphlets such as “{young adults},” “{couples ministry},” “{middle school ministry},” “{high school ministry}” and “{college ministry}.” The District admits that Church members manned information booths that contained religious literature during the 2009 graduation, and a DVD recording of the 2002 ceremony shows people staffing these tables. The District also admits that during the 2002 ceremony, “Church members passed out religious literature in the lobby” although neither the District nor the Does divulge further details about how the distribution took place or at whose behest. According to Doe 1, when he attended his older sibling’s graduation, “[m]embers of the church, instead of school officials, handed out graduation materials during the ceremony.”

And as always, we can propose a very simple test to determine whether the ADF’s argument is valid: Would they be saying the same thing if it was a mosque instead of a church? If a school rented out a local mosque because it had more seating and parking and was air-conditioned (the reasons the school offered in this case for renting the church) and the mosque had members manning information booths and handing out Muslim literature, would the ADF still claim that it was “hostility toward religion” for a court to say they can’t do that? Not a chance in hell. That would be an outrageous attempt to impose Islam on our poor, impressionable students.

Comments

  1. says

    Oops, so my response isn’t quite appropriate. Given Ed’s headline, I assumed that the Talibangelicals were screeching, yet again, about LGBT issues. It is kind of refreshing that they’re back to public schools again.

  2. frankb says

    The ADF even admitted that inappropriate proselytizing was going on in this case, so what is their problem? If the case is reviewed again, can the ADF’s comments be admitted into evidence?

  3. says

    And as always, we can propose a very simple test to determine whether the ADF’s argument is valid: Would they be saying the same thing if it was a mosque instead of a church? If a school rented out a local mosque because it had more seating and parking and was air-conditioned (the reasons the school offered in this case for renting the church) and the mosque had members manning information booths and handing out Muslim literature, would the ADF still claim that it was “hostility toward religion” for a court to say they can’t do that? Not a chance in hell. That would be an outrageous attempt to impose Islam on our poor, impressionable students.

    They would call it “terrorist recruitment”.

  4. says

    Church buildings should not be treated like toxic warehouses simply because they normally house religious activities.

    They should when the activities they house are toxic.

    These people are like gangsters who offer you a bribe, then take it as “hostility” when you refuse to accept it. Don’t want to be “hostile” to a gangster when he’s trying to be nice, do we?

  5. says

    For what it’s worth, a woman I dated years ago had a sister who was a Jehovah’s Witless. Their grandmother died and the sister couldn’t go to the funeral service, FFS, because they’re not allowed to go into the buildings of any of the other dead Jewish-zombie cults. There may be some other denominations that have similar prohibitions, which would effectively mean that kids brainwashed in those churches, instead of being brainwashed in the more familiar Christian flavors, effectively would be banned from their own graduation.

    As an aside, while looking for my copy of the Book of Mormon as part of a plan to read it along with the Koran and KJ Bible this year,* I instead ran across a JW tract, about the size of those mini New Testaments, from the 60s dealing with evolution. I have no idea how it came into my possession, but it likely will prove to be quite the amusing read.

    * Why yes, I am a masochist, why do you ask? I also want the Pearl of Great Price — which I hear is where the super-crazy Mormon shit is found — but don’t want to get on their mailing list by requesting it from the freakin’ Mormons.

  6. dingojack says

    fifthdentist – Woooahhh!!! There’s this new-fangled, groovy and totally rad device now called – The Internet.
    Try it you might just like it!
    ;) Dingo

  7. raven says

    Their grandmother died and the sister couldn’t go to the funeral service, FFS, because they’re not allowed to go into the buildings of any of the other dead Jewish-zombie cults.

    I never heard that one before.

    The JW’s are also strongly discouraged from going to college. Because they might learn something. Like how cuckoo their religion is.

    The defection rate of JW’s, even those born into the cult, is around 50%.

  8. says

    @fifthdentist #6 – Trawl your local used book stores. According to some friends in the business, it is not unusual for True Believers of various traditions to basically give new scriptures to used book stores as a “missionary outreach.” I have a nice matching set of the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrines and Covenants bought cheap at a used book store. Or talk to the shop keeper: they might be willing to part with scriptures for free if you buy some other books.

  9. says

    @dingojack #7 – The advantage to having the books themselves becomes apparent when missionaries come to your door. It is most amusing to pull the books out, point to chapter and verse of something truly bizarre, and ask innocent-seeming questions about it.

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