Seperation of church and state in public schools

GilDodgen over at Uncommon Descent points out an article from the associated press about a controversy over a public school student’s art class project. And in this case I am going to have to agree, at least on one level, that the the students rights were infringed.

First I have to address Gil’s propaganda spin attached to the story:

GilDodgen: Judge Jones ruled that rational and evidential challenges to Darwinian orthodoxy cannot be tolerated in public education because they violate the First Amendment.

Judge Jones did not rule that intelligent design creationists challenges to Darwinian orthodoxy evolutionary theory were “rational and evidential” but nevertheless must be kept out of public schools on first amendment grounds (in the Dover, PA intelligent design trial, Kitzmiller v. Dover).

Here is a taste of Jone’s ruling to compare to Gil’s characterization:

After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.

And from the conclusion:

In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

I highly recommend you read the whole thing.

Now onto the separation of church and state with regards to the public high school student in Madison WI, and his art class project. From the AP article:

According to the lawsuit, the student’s art teacher asked his class in February to draw landscapes. The student, a senior identified in the lawsuit by the initials A.P., added a cross and the words “John 3:16 A sign of peace” in his drawing.

His teacher, Julie Millin, asked him to remove the reference to the Bible, saying students were making remarks about it. He refused, and she gave him a zero on the project.

Millin showed the student a policy for the class that prohibited any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs in artwork. The lawsuit claims Millin told the boy he had signed away his constitutional rights when he signed the policy at the beginning of the semester.

The boy tore the policy up in front of Millin, who kicked him out of class. Later that day, assistant principal Cale Jackson told the boy his religious expression infringed on other students’ rights.

No, no, no (assuming the facts are as presented in the article). The First Amendment would prohibit the teacher, or any other govt. agent, from assigning a student to create religiously inspired artwork, or giving him bad marks for his artwork merely because it expressed a religious point of view (establishing or prohibiting the free exorcise of), but it does not limit a student from expressing their personal beliefs as long is doing so is not inherently disruptive (standing up in class and shouting about Jesus, etc.). Nor does the religious expression in this case infringed on anyone else’s rights. You don’t have a right to be free of other individuals religious expression in the public square.

Jackson told the boy, his stepfather and his pastor at a meeting a week later that religious expression could be legally censored in class assignments.

I predict assistant principal Jackson is going to be getting a lesson in Constitutional law here pretty quick. By these peoples “thinking” every time I drive down the street and see a church, temple or mosque my rights are somehow being violated because I am seeing other peoples expressions of faith. Obviously that is nonsenses.

A Buddha and Hindu figurines are on display in a social studies classroom, the lawsuit claims, adding the teacher passionately teaches Hindu principles to students.

In addition, a replica of Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Man” is displayed at the school’s entrance, a picture of a six-limbed Hindu goddess is in the school’s hallway and a drawing of a robed sorcerer hangs on a hallway bulletin board.

Drawings of Medusa, the Grim Reaper with a scythe and a being with a horned head and protruding tongue hang in the art room and demonic masks are displayed in the metals room, the lawsuit alleges.

These if true are much more objectionable as they were probably put where they are by school employees, though I wouldn’t make a big deal about as it appears to represent a wide varieties of beliefs rather that any particular one. Just maybe throw something in for the atheists and agnostics out there.

“No compelling state interest exists to justify the censorship of A.P.’s religious expression.”

I have to agree.


4 thoughts on “Seperation of church and state in public schools

  1. I just got up, so I’m still a little too stiff for any deep knee-jerking. Damn, now I have to think about this one, rather than just say no to religion. Can I at least have some damn coffee, first?


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