Friday, February 22, 2013

The wrong kind of prayer in school

A group of Arizona legislators have proposed a law that requires Arizona high school students to recite this oath in order to graduate:

I, _______, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.

Bad. Very bad. What were these guys thinking?

One of the reasons I love America and our Constitution is that we don't have to swear loyalty to anything. I will defend the Constitution with my life, and that includes defending the right of my neighbor to not defend it, if he chooses.  I love the Constitution because I'm not required to love it. It's a very beautiful and fragile thing.

An oath to defend the Constitution that is mandatory for graduation is an oxymoron if it includes "I take this obligation freely." Of course you don't take it freely. You take it in order to graduate.

I don't like loyalty oaths for ordinary citizens where there is any legal compulsion involved. I don't like legal compulsion in doctrinal matters period, either positive ('you must say...') or negative ('you must not say...'). Exceptions can and should be made for obscenity, for clearly work-related responsibilities (oaths of office or for professional licensure), etc. I want my lawyers and judges to swear fidelity to the Constitution, because that's what I'm employing them for. If they want to work for me (the public), we insist on some preliminaries.

But I don't want ordinary citizens to be required to swear loyalty to anything.

Freedom of speech means freedom, and being forced by the government to pledge to any doctrine as a condition for government sanction is a gross violation of the Constitution and of basic God-given human rights.

It is wrong to compel speech or silence. Regarding school prayer, community traditions should be respected-- voluntary organized prayer in school, or lack of such, according to the majority vote of each community.

It is not the prayer, or lack of prayer, that is wrong or unconstitutional as such. It is the compulsion that violates rights.

Schools should be free to include or not include voluntary prayer in the school day, and students should be free to pray or not to pray. No prayer in school should be illegal or compulsory.

Government should not be in the business of compelling or forbidding speech. 

23 comments:

  1. Let's hope this craptastic bill goes nowhere. If I lived in Arizona, I'd let my rep know that I'm opposed to it. I see the atheist blog you linked to is most concerned about the last part, "So help me God." I don't think that part should be compelled either, but why do they focus on that? If that part were excluded, would they be okay with it?

    I love how they say that this bill would require atheists to lie in order to graduate from high school. Do they understand how many times a day Christians are required to lie about what we believe just because polite society throws a hissy fit?

    Ben

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    1. Ben, if what you say is true, it’s a shame that Christians feel a need to lie more than non-Christians. I think you’ve missed the mark however, nobody requires them to lie, they just self censor to avoid being perceived as stupid.

      -KW

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    2. We "self"-censor in order not to be fired from our jobs, disciplined by school officials, etc.

      And the reason people perceive us as stupid is because we live in an anti-Christian society, not some kind of super oppressive theocracy in which the domineering Christian majority oppresses poor atheists and homosexuals. If that were the case, there would be no need for "self"-censorship at all, because the domineering Christian majority would be free to say whatever it pleases.

      Ben

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    3. Lefties can't seem to make up their minds on this one. On the one hand, practicing Christians are a fringe group with power that was always disproportionate to their numbers that is now in decline because people can obviously see how stupid they are and are generally sick of their crap. On the other hand, Christians are a supermajority here in Jesusland, and as such, have no right to complain when their rights are violated, because it simply isn't possible that Christians could have a legitimate complaint in a country in which they are the vast majority.

      In the latter example, lefties like to inflate the actual number of Christians in this country, claiming for example that 95% of Americans are Christian, when in fact the number is much lower. And they like to count as Christians people who haven't been to church since their parents baptized them forty years ago and don't know the first thing about Christian doctrine. They count Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean as devout Christians. This is a deliberate ruse. Since it seems counter-intuitive to suggest that a minority of 5% could oppress a majority of 95%, the conclusion we must draw is that the Christians are "whining." Then they can continue with the long train of abuses and simply dismiss anyone who speaks up as one of the "whiners."

      If you want to see real oppression of Christians, look at Britain, another country in which Christians are supposedly a majority.

      Joey

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    4. Joey,

      If you want to see even more severe oppression of Christians, look at the post-Arab Spring nations of Egypt and Libya. I'm so glad Obummer helped usher these regimes to power. It's almost like he wants anti-Christian regimes in power.

      Ben

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    5. This is a deliberate ruse. Since it seems counter-intuitive to suggest that a minority of 5% could oppress a majority of 95%, the conclusion we must draw is that the Christians are "whining."

      Meanwhile, they tell us that the richest one percent oppresses the other ninety-nine percent. So I guess a small minority really can oppress a majority.

      Not that I'm granting that Christians are a majority in this country; at least not the practicing variety.

      Ben

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    6. If you don't believe that a minority can oppress a majority, ask black South Africans.

      Joey

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    7. KW doesn't have the good sense to self-censor to avoid the appearance of being stupid. Good for you, KW.

      The Torch

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    8. The great thing about KW is that, every time anti-Christian bigotry becomes the topic, he shows up to demonstrate just how right we are. He's like on Johnny on the Spot. Without fail, he's there to provide the anti-Christian bigot perspective at any given moment.

      Little John

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    9. I'll stop "whining" about my constitutional rights when liberals stop raping them.

      The Torch

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    10. There’s a reason it’s common wisdom to avoid religion in polite conversation. Religion evokes strong emotions and leads to conflict. People self sensor because they soon realize that unless they’re preaching to the quire, wearing their religion on their sleeves annoys others and is a constant source of potential conflict. I think it was Jesus that said, and I’m paraphrasing, “don’t be pious assholes”.

      -KW

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    11. Religion evokes strong emotions and leads to conflict.

      True, but I know you have no problem with being inflammatory. You like the conflict. The reason you don't want to hear about religion in polite conversation is because you hate religious people and think you have some kind of right to inhabit a God-free zone, which you don't. You want to ghettoize religious topics into some kind of contaminated area that you can avoid. "Religion belongs in church" and all of that nonsense.

      People self sensor [sic] because they soon realize that unless they’re preaching to the quire [sic], wearing their religion on their sleeves annoys others and is a constant source of potential conflict.

      Again, you don't care about conflict. You don't care about annoying people. You relish it. Still, I don't know what you mean by wearing religion on my sleeve. I think you mean that I don't hide it well enough to satisfy the sensibilities of bigots, which is something I won't do. Let me ask you, do atheists wear atheism on their sleeve every time they discuss the topic? I think you atheists should shut up about it. It's really annoying, okay?

      I think it was Jesus that said, and I’m paraphrasing, “don’t be pious assholes”.

      Yeah, you're really, really paraphrasing there. I can't be sure which quotation you're actually referring to. But he also told us to go out and spread the Word, and to not be afraid. I think he meant to not be afraid of people like you.

      Ben

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    12. I was hoping that you would address or concede the point that I made above. Is there a domineering Christian majority? If so, why can't it say what it pleases?

      Ben

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    13. Liberals have no problem with Christians as long as they pretend that they aren't in public. Denying God is a condition of social acceptance.

      Little John

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    14. @Little John: Not only do you have to pretend you're not Christian in public but in the voting booth as well. Also, even though they pretend that they have no problem with your religion as long as it's sequestered in your church and never escapes, well...they'd better not find out that you're preaching any of that hateful stuff on Sunday morning. By hateful stuff, I mean standard Christian doctrine, as supported by the scriptures, and nearly universally understood until about twenty-five years ago.

      Joey

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    15. True, I enjoy arguing this stuff, but if you are a co-worker and our relationship never progressed beyond being colleges we wouldn’t be arguing about religious matters because of anything I say. At work, or in social situations where I can’t be confident that I’m preaching to the quire, I self sensor on these topics as much as anybody else, probably more.

      -KW

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    16. Well, KW, you finally succeeded in sending me scrambling for my dictionary. What IS this 'quire' we are preaching to? Have I been wrong all these years in thinking we were preaching to the 'choir'?

      So what do I find. A 'quire' is four sheets of paper folded once. Strange thing to preach to, but then, aren't we religious people strange?

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  2. This is a really dumb bill. No, it's worse than dumb. It's a violation of students' rights.

    JQ

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  3. Must be Democrats trying to undermine teh Freedom.

    Hoo

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    1. No, it's not Democrats in this case. But Republicans who undermine freedom need to be opposed all the same. It's almost as if you're upset that we aren't engaging in enough hypocritical party hackery here. No, it's not right when Democrats do it, and it's not right when Republicans do it.

      Ben

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    2. What is that annoying thing where liberals write "teh" rather than "the"? I don't get it. What is that all about? Is that supposed to be funny or something?

      Joey

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    3. >>But Republicans who undermine freedom need to be opposed all the same.<<

      True, true.

      >>It's almost as if you're upset that we aren't engaging in enough hypocritical party hackery here.<<

      It's important to have principles that don't shapeshift depending on which party is power. Leave the hackarama to political amateurs.

      JQ

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  4. While I can see this oath carrying meaning to Americans, I sincerely hope this obligation is not extended to exchange and foreign students.
    Why should they have to swear an oath to another's country or constitution?
    I went to school in the USA for two years in my teens.
    Never made this oath a single time. It was said frequently after announcements, but I was never expected to make an oath. I simply left the room when it was said and stood in silent respect for the anthem.

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