Re: [asa] Re: 7th Circuit Decision

From: PvM <>
Date: Sat Jun 30 2007 - 15:51:17 EDT

I am still somewhat confused as to the exact circumstances. It seems
that the issue was science and how to present it? In that case, it
seems that rejecting religious perspectives is quite within the realm
of possibilities. Could you tell me which book was rejected and for
what purpose?
Without further details it is hard to argue one way or the other.
Nevertheless, it is safe to reiterate that religious viewpoints on
scientific issues can be rejected in a science curriculum without a
risk of violating the establishment clause of the constitution.
Lacking further details, it's hard to say who is 'right' and 'wrong' here.

Is there any chance that you can provide us with sufficient details to
allow us to draw our own conclusions?

On 6/30/07, David Clounch <> wrote:
> The facts are this: The book was rejected because the author said in one
> line of the book (and I am paraphrasing the book) "that his purpose for
> writing the book was to argue for the validity of a Christian world view".
> This line was specifically cited by officials in front of TV cameras as the
> reason for rejecting the book.
> Other related tidbits:
> A school board member later said "why can't we have these books on the
> philosophy shelf?"
> The American Library Association later officially listed the district as a
> book banning district.
> Keep in mind this is a district that had something sort of odd contained
> within one high school's official science curriculum guidelines. The
> guidelines called for bringing shamans and other various non-Christian
> religious figures into the science classroom as guest speakers to explain
> certain theories of origins.
> I won't go into all the details of how it came about, but a member of the
> district curriculum committee investigated and took a deposition from
> teachers at that high school. Because I was curious I sat in on the entire
> deposition. The rule was that, as a member of the public, I wasn't allowed
> to say anything. I just observed and took copious notes. They went over
> the various books used in that science course. This took 5-1/2 hours in two
> sessions. On the subject of Christianity, and presenting the Christian
> views on origins, the teachers showed a book titled "Ishmael". I haven't
> read this book, but I know students who have. Ishmael is said to be a
> telepathic ape who lived from the dawn of time through modern times. (Does
> this make him immortal? An immortal telepathic ape. Hmmm). Anyway, Ishmael
> reports on his observations of the "tension" between Christianity and
> western civilization throughout western history. And thats the viewpoint of
> Christianity as told by that school!!!!
> I did ask afterwards why they were covering this material in science class.
> I do not feel I received a satisfactory answer.
> On 6/29/07, PvM <> wrote:
> > 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
> > content.
> > 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 15:51:45 2007

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