Re: [asa] Re: 7th Circuit Decision

From: PvM <>
Date: Sat Jun 30 2007 - 00:44:30 EDT

As I have explained earlier, the ruling basically considers atheism or
non-religion on the same footing as religion for purpose of the 1st
amendment. So when dealing with the establishment clause, the court
will have to look at the impact to determine if there is a first
amendment violation.
In case of the prisoner, he was treated differently from other
religious groups without a valid secular purpose. In other words, then
can be valid secular purposes for restricting based on religious
This comes in play when discussing the 'banning' of books from school
libraries. Schools have quite some leeway in rejecting books from
their library or even remove books from their library. For instance,
there may be a valid secular purpose of removing pseudo scientific
books. So without understanding the details surrounding the case David
vaguely refers to, (Rosemount?) it is hard to determine if the actions
of the school board are indeed valid.
For instance, when it comes to science, schools may very well reject
pseudo science, especially when based on religious foundations, when
teaching for instance about the age of the earth or the evolution of
life on earth.
In this case, not only is evolutionary science a valid secular
purpose, it is also not a preferentially religious position, although
it may conflict with some extreme religious viewpoints.
Most science is by virtue of it being science 'a-religious' or
agnostic, and while this may be seen as some as preferential to
atheists, it fails as a compelling argument because science has
nothing to say about religious beliefs and in fact many religious
people have no problem accepting the science of evolution.
In other words, even though the government has to be 'neutral' it can,
when it comes to for instance science education, insist that science
is being taught and that religious interpretations are to be avoided.
This means that creationist tracts and other books about the
'controversy' can be safely removed from the curriculum or banned from
the curriculum.
This may appear to give preference to atheists but as I have shown,
this is an erroneous argument based on at least two principles 1)
evolutionary science is not necessarily atheistic 2) evolutionary
science serves a valid secular purpose and thus cannot be seen as
violating the establishment clause.

As far as the flyer case is concerned, there is, once again,
insufficient data to draw much of any conclusion.
Safely to say though that the rulings that for first amendment
purposes non-religions are included as religions is not surprising,
given the neutrality viewpoint. Of course, that does not mean that
thus when science is taught, religious viewpoints should be given a
similar scientific status, on the contrary, the supreme court and
other judicial rulings show clearly that religious viewpoints can be
surpressed legitimately.

But I am still not certain where David is going with these quotes.
Perhaps he can present his argument in a clear format? So far, his
interpretations, or at least my best attempts to understand his
interpretations, of 1st amendment case law as it pertains to the
establishment clause, seems rather atypical of the more common
interpretations, in full context.

David, could you do us all a favor and present us what you believe
these rulings mean? For instance, do you believe that it is
unconstitutional to reject Intelligent Design as an alternative
'explanation' of evolution? What is constitutionally acceptable and
unacceptable in your opinion? That non religion is given establishment
clause protection seems quite interesting though, this may have quite
some unexpected consequences.

On 6/29/07, David Clounch <> wrote:
> The Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent
> to a "religion" for purposes of the First Amendment on
> numerous occasions, most recently in McCreary County, Ky.
> v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., 125 S.Ct. 2722
> (2005). The Establishment Clause itself says only that
> "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
> of religion," but the Court understands the reference to
> religion to include what it often calls "nonreligion." In
> McCreary County, it described the touchstone of
> Establishment Clause analysis as "the principle that the
> First Amendment mandates government neutrality between
> religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion."
> - 7th Circuit
> Court
> In my school district the school board and administration officials argue
> that the first amendment calls for them to ban books that explain the
> Christian world view (even if its only one sentence in the book). But books
> that explain non-religious world-views (non-religion) are ok, and in fact
> are protected. This is a common misunderstanding held by many people. And my
> school board is a subset of folks who happen to have that misunderstanding
> but who also have the power to act on it. And indeed have acted on it.
> Would anybody like to see the video tape? They ban books based on the
> content of the books. But only pro-religious books are banned. Another
> book, objected to by parents because it tells elementary children about
> deviant sexual practices such as necrophila, was defended by board members
> as being protected by the First Amendment.
> Many parents in the district consider this banning of "religion only" to
> have the effect of a preference of non-religion. It is difficult to see
> how this preference amounts to neutrality.
> The district has a history of non-neutral banishment of religion,
> particularly of Christianity. For example, the district historically had a
> backpack flyer policy that allowed all extra-curricular after school
> programs to notify students and parents of after school events. The
> superintendent, John Haro, decided that Christianity must be excluded, and
> he banned the one church group that was providing flyers to invite students
> to their after school sports program. It is said the district's own
> attorney advised this banning would lose in court. A local group challenged
> the new policy. Approximately 18 months went by with the ban still in
> effect. When the North Star Legal Center filed federal lawsuit Haro
> relented, but only after suit was filed. Then he banned flyers from all
> groups equally. Just to get rid of the Christians. While technically
> banning all groups (sailing club? chess club) is neutral, clearly Haro did
> not intend to be neutral in the sense of the cited principle. A principle
> which itself comes from U S Supreme Court cases. (Sorry, I dont have time
> to quote that case tonight because I really would like to quote the entire
> case in context so readers can just read it and make up their own minds
> about what it actually says. The above pink background paragraph/fragment is
> not out of context because the entire establishment clause argument of the
> 7th Circuit appears in this thread as one contiguous series of postings.)

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Received on Sat Jun 30 00:44:55 2007

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