Thursday, October 30, 2008

More of those Dangerous Valentines

In my previous post I described an 8-year-old girl who passed out valentines in her Wisconsin public school with a Christian message, only to be forced by the school to take them back from the recipients. Here is a similar case.

This time a school prevented students from passing out valentines with the words "The greatest gift of love" on one side and a reference to John 3:16 on the other. I can not find details from local papers on this event - perhaps it didn't make the papers. But here is a description of the action taken by the Alliance Defense Fund

"[The ADF attorney] faxed the school district attorney 67 pages of material, including the complaint and brief from the Nyman case. In addition, she checked the school district’s religion policy – and found that they were in violation of their own guidelines by denying the students their right to distribute the Valentines! With this legal information staring him right in the face, the school district attorney quickly relented and will allow the students to pass out their Valentines."

To me the whole case is silly in a way. It never should have even come up. Prohibitting such actions by students is not a violation of any court decision that I am aware of. It is most certainly not a violation of the Constitution. I can't say whether these things happen at least sometimes because of some kind of "attitude-driven" bias from a teacher or administrator, but I am very sure that they happen most often because of common misconceptions about the First Amendment, and because of some of the cases relating to prohibition on religious activity in the last 60 years. There are very active organizations (American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, for example) who have promoted some of this misunderstanding. Their description of their side of the cases is not consistent with the actual meaning of the U.S. Constitution's religion clauses as stated in the First Amendment. Organizations fighting against religious expression in the public sphere often promote an understanding based more on "separation of church and state" (a metaphor not found in the Constitution) than on the wording of the amendment or the other writings/actions of the Founding Fathers.

"Knowledge is power," so get a copy of the Constitution and read it. Such copies are available for free from various organizations. (Contact your state Representative as one possible option), and naturally the entire Constitution and all its amendments can be easily found on the Internet. Or the Heritage Foundation will send you one.

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