Thursday, March 20, 2014

A prayer covered with a tarp is a statement of atheist belief

A New York Times editorial, with my commentary:
A Brave Stand in Rhode Island
Published: January 31, 2012
Jessica Ahlquist, an 11th grader at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island, has endured verbal abuse because, as an atheist, she objected to the “School Prayer” that has been on the school’s auditorium wall since 1963.
Her friends, classmates, and neighbors endured legal abuse and have been denied their Constitutional right to free exercise of religion. A flawed and irrational federal court order based on transparent bigotry is also a denial of due process of law.

"Verbal abuse"-- free speech on the part of the justifiably angry citizens of Cranston-- is actually a legal right.
It is now covered with a tarp after Judge Ronald Lagueux of Federal District Court in Providence properlyruled last month that displaying it violated the First Amendment’s prohibition against “establishment of religion.”
A tarp covering a prayer is, in this Orwellian farce, the result of "enforcement" of the First Amendment, which is our charter of freedom.
The anger and hatred directed at Ms. Ahlquist — she was called “an evil little thing” on talk radio by a Cranston state representative — helps explain why the judge, responding to her brave lawsuit, did his duty under the Constitution and ordered immediate removal of the prayer, which begins “Our Heavenly Father” and concludes “Amen” and was visible throughout the auditorium.
The Times dissembles. "Our Heavenly Father" and "Amen" were virtually the only religious words on the mural (it also said "a prayer"). The other eighty or so words were exhortations to good citizenship. That fact alone complied with the second prong of the Lemon Test, which requires that an government act (which the mural is, marginally) not have an advancement of religion as its primary purpose.

The primary purpose of the mural was to encourage good citizenship, and the banal few religious words of the "prayer" obviously didn't advance religion in any meaningful way.

The judge's bigoted ruling obviously advances mandatory civic atheism, in a way only a federal court order can.
Dozens of speakers at school committee meetings agreed it is a Christian prayer. As Judge Lagueux wrote, “The guiding principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence has been government neutrality,”
Bullshit. The Establishment clause nowhere states that "neutrality" is required, and no sane interpretation of the clause concludes that. Religious expression of a very un-neutral sort has characterized our civic discourse for two centuries. Our civic arena-- public buildings, national monuments, national cemeteries, military missions, and civic documents-- are saturated with religious expression that is not the least bit neutral.

No where does the Constitution require that American civic life be a Unitarian Church soiree.
and the prayer fails all tests of neutrality set by the Supreme Court.
The prayer is utterly banal. It is as neutral as it could be and still be a prayer.
It was “clearly religious in nature” when installed.
There is no Constitutional prohibition on installing a religious statement in a government building. If there were, no building on the National Mall would be open.

The prayer mural is much less "religious in nature" than Lincoln's Second Inaugural, which is etched in huge letters across the north wall of the Lincoln Memorial.
While the school committee’s 4-to-3 vote last March to keep it was based partly on its importance to the school’s “history and tradition,” “no amount” of either “can cure a constitutional infraction,” the judge wrote. 
It's not a Constitutional infraction. The judge's ruling-- a piece of raw anti-Christian bigotry that is a government act that has the primary purpose of inhibiting religion--  is a Constitutional infraction.

The judge's ruling should be covered with a tarp.
Recent meetings in Cranston about the prayer involved the kind of “excessive entanglement with religion” the court has warned against, with prayer backers reading from the Bible.
We have a right to do that. Basing a judicial ruling on our public expression of our religious belief is raw bigotry.
The meetings showed why what believers consider a harmless request to respect a prayer can feel like coercion to nonbelievers.
No one asked Jessica to "respect" the prayer mural. She was asked to ignore it, if she didn't like it.

There was no compulsion of any sort involved, until Jessica called the police.
As Ms. Ahlquist explained to The Times about her response to the prayer: “It seemed like it was saying, every time I saw it, ‘You don’t belong here.’ ”
Now the prayer mural is talking to Jessica.
The kindness, friendship and other values the prayer champions are universal, but a statement of religious belief has no place in a public high school auditorium.
"You don't belong here"-- a precis of the judge's opinion-- is a finger in the chest of Christians in the school and in the community. The ruling is mere bigotry, guised as a court ruling. It is a bald assertion of mandatory civic atheism, enforced by government power, a plainly unconstitutional violation of the rights of the people of Cranston, Rhode Island.

A tarp over a prayer, or a fresh empty spot on a wall, is a government-enforced "statement of religious belief". 


  1. The prayer mural is much less "religious in nature" than Lincoln's Second Inaugural, which is etched in huge letters across the north wall of the Lincoln Memorial.

    Well yes, and I'm sure they want to sandblast that too. Give them time.

    These insane lawsuits are what lead to hypersensitivity about religion in the public square, which is exactly what the anti-Christian left wants. It's the reason that Bibles were banned for a short time at Walter Reed hospital. They'd still be banned if people hadn't made a fuss about it. It's the reason cadets at the Air Force academy can't write bible verses on their own personal white boards outside of their rooms, why small school children are told they can't thank God or say grace before a meal.

    Jessica Ahlquist's rights were in no way abridged. She was still free not to believe in God even in the presence of the prayer. She is nothing but a professional crybaby.


    1. I agree. I don't understand why people are making a hero out of this girl.

      --Francisca S.

  2. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMarch 20, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    Egnor, Egnor. This is not news! This is not thoughtful analysis! This is not enlightened commentary.

    Clearly, if this child said she "felt excluded", she felt excluded. Does she not have a Constitutional right to not feel excluded, no matter how much she antagonizes her peers and local neighbors? As the judge notes, kindness is a universal... value. I mean, like, doesn't everybody value kindness? It's valuable! And if what it takes to be kind to little Jessica Ahlquist and her parents who put her up to this is that we hide the School Prayer under a tarp so no one knows what is there (no peekies!), then so be it.

    But the really important point is that this is not news, Doctor. There is news out there, but you aren't reporting it. Naked tourists are visiting Machu Picchu. There's a popular online quiz available to help you figure out which Muppet you would be. A former Bush Administration official was arrested on sexual assault charges (and we know whose fault that was, don't we?). And, of course in these times of international anxiety, everyone wants to know how rich Russians are spending their rubles in the US.

    These are things you could talk about that people care about! They are topics that have been vetted by our topic vetters on the ground who know how to vet topics. Our motto here in the Ministry of Truth is "Truth is what we say it is". We try to live up to that motto every day.

    If you insist on writing about negative topics that disturb the Collective torpor and cause dissension among the Masses, we may need to take a closer look at your tax returns.

    1. When it comes to the offices and facilities of government Jessica absolutely does have a right not to feel excluded. Finally, something Boggs got right!


    2. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMarch 20, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      Well, better tear down the Supreme Court of the United States.

      The Right to Not Be Excluded is being violated! WAHHHHHHHHHH!


    3. Moses, with blank tablets, flanked by Confucius, Solon, and a host of other symbolic lawgivers, was specifically designed by Hermon McNeil to be a symbolic representation of the history and origin of our law. It includes many historical references from multiple traditions and purposefully avoids display of the text of the 10 commandments. Even in 1935, avoiding the appearance of religious endorsement was a primary consideration in the design of government facilities.


    4. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMarch 20, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      Moses, the first Zionist, Father of Zionism! Immigrant Palestinians might not agree with your interpretation, particularly given Moses' central location in the frieze.

      Palestinians are excluded! No Palestinian lawgivers! Where is Yasser Arafat on the building!

    5. Unless the artwork in government buildings include a figure of St. Francis blessing the animals, well, I FEEL EXCLUDED!!! Jessica, let's march arm-in-arm for our right to not feel excluded!!!

    6. Poor David, You’re in the same boat as atheists and the Commissar’s hypothetical aggrieved Palestinians. I guess the only fair thing to do would be to leave off all religious references on government buildings, that way the government will be treating all religions equally.


    7. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMarch 20, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      Popeye, I sold my boat.

      But I have a better solution. Let's tear down all the government buildings. Then you could get a job and not worry about keeping track of your multiple box numbers for EBT cards.

    8. KW, does Jessica alone have the right not to feel excluded? See, I think her feeling of exclusion is rather silly. She feels it anyway. You think my feeling of being excluded in a religion-hating God-free zone is silly, but that's how I feel.

      Do we have equal rights or not? Either everyone has the right not to feel excluded or no one does.

      Here's the answer: NO ONE DOES. We can't live in a free country if the government is going to protect everyone's feelings from being hurt. It necessarily requires restrictions on speech, belief, religious practice, and whatever else that might offend someone.

      Alas, you aren't worried about "everyone's" feelings being hurt, only people you have identified as victims-- homosexuals, racial minorities, atheists.


    9. The jurisprudence of this country interprets the first amendment to mean that the government must remain neutral on religion. It is the best and perhaps only way to ensure our religious freedom.

      A blank wall expresses no opinion on religion. A mural expressing worthy values in a school is great. The same mural referencing those same values but in a context that references to a particular god will over the years invariably influence the beliefs of some of the students. That is not the reason any of us send our kids to public school.

      Our constitution is designed to protect the rights of religious minorities, and ensuring the government is neutral on religious matters is how it is accomplished.


    10. The First Amendment says nothing about religious neutrality. It prohibits a federal Establishment of religion. Because we are a democracy, our government life is our civic life-- we sovereign citizens express ourselves through civic institutions such as schools, etc. To ban religious expression in civic life is the impose Civic Atheism on the American people, which is grossly unconstitutional and which could never be legislated.

    11. "The jurisprudence of this country interprets the first amendment to mean that the government must remain neutral on religion. It is the best and perhaps only way to ensure our religious freedom."

      1. Our government is anything but neutral on religion. It is in fact hostile to religion generally, and mine particularly.

      Here is but one example. A first grader in Southern California vrought candy canes to school to share with the class. Each candy cane was affixed with a note explaining the origin of candy canes and their relationship to the Biblical Christmas story. The teacher conferred with the principal, removed the notes, threw them in the trash and told the boy, "Jesus is not allowed in school."

      This was student initiated.

      2. If American jurisprudence is unmoored from the text of the Constitution, it is wrong. You and I both know that nothing in the Constitution prohibits a prayer from being on a wall. That's why you don't cite the Constitution.


    12. Now, will you please answer my question? I'll repeat it. "KW, does Jessica alone have the right not to feel excluded?"

      It's a pretty simple yes or no answer.


    13. kw will never give trish a straight answer to her question.

      but hey kw, american jurisprudence said interning the japanese was okay too. so i guess you'd be okay with that.

      here's an idea. every once in a while you should read the document that the judges are supposed to be basing their decisions upon. i think you'll find that the document bears little resemblance to their decisions.


    14. I'd be much happier if our schools were neutral on matters of religion but they are not. They are perilous places for Christian students.

      --Francisca S.

    15. Trish, as I have already stated above, “When it comes to the offices and facilities of government Jessica absolutely does have a right not to feel excluded.”


  3. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMarch 20, 2014 at 9:16 AM


    U.S. Secretary of State John ["Lurch"] Kerry told a Senate panel Thursday Russia faces "serious consequences" if the Crimean referendum is held.
    --- UPI (3/13)

    Ukraine's government said Wednesday it has begun drawing up plans to pull its troops from Crimea, where Russia is steadily taking formal control as its armed forces seize military installations across the disputed peninsula.
    --- CBS News (3/20)

    Yep. Those are serious consequences.

    1. So Commissar, do your Russian masters pay you to undermine American foreign policy, or do you just do it because you hate America?


    2. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMarch 20, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      I am undermining American foreign policy? What American foreign policy? Yesterday's or the day before? Last week's? Be more specific.

    3. Don't you know, Commissar, that anything but enthusiastic participation in the chief witch doctor's magic dance will cause it to fail to work? If that isn't undermining our foreign poll…whatever it is… then what is?

    4. It’s always easier to defeat a divided enemy, and conservative’s irrational hatred of all things Obama plays right into Putin’s hands.

      Contrast this situation with the fact that virtually no one made a peep when Bush did absolutely nothing about Russia’s invasion of Georgia.


    5. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMarch 20, 2014 at 4:25 PM

      Popeye: "It’s always easier to defeat a divided enemy..."

      Right. You learned that from the Viet Cong, right? And Code Pink. And Cindy Sheehan.

    6. That's right, among others.


  4. May a Canadian help.
    The flaw in this iS that the schools are not the state. They are just paid by the state.
    The very Protestant Yankee and Southern people who created the constitution did not mean that the people could not express faith in God and Christ ANYWHERE the state has provided funds.
    Church/State separation is a great idea and means what it says.
    THE STATE and THE CHURCH must not interfere with each other. A great idea. (Broken by the way by teaching Genesis is wrong anyways) .
    Yet never would the founders, the people, have allowed this great separation to mean enforced control over religious ideas and speech everywhere the state pays a buck.
    Crossing state bridges, in forest parks, and dying in the armed forces.
    Its all unreasonable anti-Christian etc attack since WW11 doing what was never anticipated.
    Such a great idea and heritage in separation of the church FROM the state
    BEING abused by hostile elements against religion and dumb judges not worthy of their salaries.
    Its unkind, injurious, and very intrusive, and uncitizenshiplike to attack this wall thing.
    let the people have what they want.
    OKAY its about law. The ancient founders meant no wall prayers they say.
    I say they never meant that or would allow such a false interpretation of a great idea.
    The state is interfering with religious concepts of the citizens by banning such sentiments in buildings JUST paid and run, in a special way called education, by the state.
    The people have a right to teach their kids great truths.
    This is an attack upon christianity etc and thats the intents.
    You out argued the Brits back in the day and now must out argue the enemy here.
    SCOLLS AIN't THE STATE. TheSTATE ain't everything it pays for. Thats the flaw in all this. The state is a serious institution. Schools are not essence of the state. The founders would laugh at such a twist.
    Seems that way from Canada here.

    1. You have it wrong Robert. People are free to express their religious opinion even where “the state pays the buck”. It’s the state that is not allowed to express a religious opinion.


    2. My point is that the school is not the state. So everyone is free relative to government decisions by vote of the people.
      its a simple reply to a absurd attack on religious expression since WW11.
      If it is the state then indeed religious stuff is not to be included.
      Thats the contract. Its fine. A real separation of the intents and powers of the state affecting or being affected by religious conclusions. This has never happened since the country came to be.
      NOW they do today censor religious conclusions in science class and this is illegal as it does mean the state is saying the religious opinions are false. AHA.GOT'IM
      america needs better lawyers.