Wednesday, October 29, 2008

8-Year-Old Girl = "Congress", Social Action = "Law"

Pet peeve time...

An article on JS Online, the website of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, describes a case where an 8-year-old girl is prevented from passing out her hand-made valentines on Valentine's Day. Her crime was creating cards with phrases like "Jesus loves you" or "Freely rely on God" (F.R.O.G.) on them. When the school discovered her infraction they made her take back the cards she had already passed out. If you are a parent you can imagine the effect this had on the girl. She had a history of such disruptive behavior, having previously passed out tracts to her fellow students.

In the paper's article, this sentence is found: "We think that violates the separation of church and state and would be unconstitutional and impermissible for us to do."

And there you find my pet peeve. The justification the school used is "separation of church and state." At least as far as the article goes, there is no mention of the actual words of the First Amendment. I'm pretty sure the school's attorney would not have used them either. If they had used the words of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the whole thing would have sounded really silly. But a vague phrase like "separation of church and state" can be freely used to justify almost anything.

How would you stop a student from passing out religious valentine cards or religious tracts by invoking, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."? It sounds really silly to me at least (not to mention the fact that the same amendment guarantees the right to free speech).

To help rectify this an outside organization had to step in (the Liberty Counsel) assisted by a lawyer working with the Alliance Defense Fund. They got an apology from the school. But I'm sure the little girl got the message intended anyway.

The school published an apology in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel newspaper, as follows:

"This past Valentine’s Day, Morgan Nyman sought to distribute valentines that contained religious themes during a Valentines Day exchange in her second grade classroom at the Cushing Elementary School. The school did not allow Morgan to distribute the valentines in class due to the religious nature of the valentines, but instead, redirected her to distribute them before or after school. To the extent the school’s actions may have infringed upon Morgan’s First Amendment rights to free speech, the School District of Kettle Moraine apologizes."

Does that strike anyone else as a little half hearted?

Read the whole article on the JS Online site and a summary on the ADF site.


1 comment:

Sheila said...

WOW with our younger generation being in so much trouble it is with no doubt that the actions of this school will produce rebellion, disrespect and ruin of a good future for our country. NEVER forget that '"if we forget we are one nation under GOD then we will be one nation gone under", Ronald Reagan