Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Julian Sanchez has a new column that is so devestatingly on the mark concerning the myth of Christian persecution that it makes me want to create an award to balance off the Robert O’Brien Trophy. In particular, he beautifully nails this bit of pure demagoguery:

Even when genuine cases of religious speech’s being squelched lead to a more prolonged battle, the narrative favored by the martyrs manqué doesn’t always quite fit. When a Massachusetts high school attempted to punish Bible club members for distributing candy canes with religious messages affixed, Rev. Jerry Falwell justly fumed, but unjustly added: “And yes, students have just as much right to speak on religious topics as they do on secular topics– no matter what the ACLU might propagate.” The hitch is that the ACLU successfully defended those very students. One wonders what Falwell makes of the fact that early puritans, regarding Christmas as too pagan and too papist (it’s Christ’s mass after all), banned its celebration, and that a few contemporary Christians remain sympathetic to that view.

Go read the whole thing. It makes my post on this subject the other day look like I was just setting up for the cleanup hitter.


  1. #1 Jon Rowe
    December 21, 2004

    I see the article has a cool link that mentions you and Liz D.

    Just skimmed the article — I’ll have to read it in more detail tomorrow night when I have more time.

  2. #2 Donny
    December 22, 2004

    My family recently dodged a Christian persecution bullet. We’re your basic ultra-liberal Episcopalians and staunch anti-establishmentarians. Last Sunday afternoon, at the Service of Lessons and Carols, my 7 year-old son read a passage from Isaiah for the First Lesson. He did it beautifully, and was showered with praise afterward. He was so proud of his accomplishment that he brought his copy of the passage to school the next day for show and tell. It didn’t occur to us that he would want to read it to the class to display his lexic prowess, but he did. Fortunately, his teacher stopped him and consulted with the principal, who agreed that it should not be read. I can only imagine the right-wing lunacy that might have ensued if the reading had gone forward and some non-Christian parent had taken offense. My son, who is blond and adorable, came uncomfortably close to being a poster boy for the Christian persecutionists. I might have enjoyed the opportunity to publicly tell them to buzz off, but it wouldn’t have been worth the shit my family would have had to endure, Thank God the teacher and the principal were on their toes at the time.

  3. #3 Reed A. Cartwright
    December 22, 2004

    Actually, Donny, I think the school should probably have allowed him to read it, unless they have specific rules, say against reading, for show-and-tell. Students are allowed to use scripture and religious messages in assignments. I’m glad the school did what you would have done, but they seem to me to have been wrong. The school was lucky that some other child wasn’t involved, because they probably would lose any case and the right would have a new poster child.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    December 22, 2004

    I agree with Reed, there is nothing wrong with student-initiated things like this. Separation of church and state deals with what the government can do, not what individual students can do. Once in a while you hear about a teacher or principal who won’t let a kid write a paper about Jesus, or perform a religious song in a talent contest, or something like that. Those things are done out of ignorance of the law, but they unfortunately make perfect scare cases for the right. The Clinton administration tried to put a stop to that sort of thing by sending out a set of guidelines to all of the public schools in the US that told them what is and is not allowed, but some clearly ignored those guidelines.

  5. #5 Donny
    December 22, 2004

    Whether it’s legally permissible is not the issue for me. I’m just pointing out the irony in that while I would sympathize with the parent objecting to what my kid read before the class, I’d wind up having all these right-wing hysterics trying to exploit my family to advance their agenda. I don’t care if the law permits my son to read from Isaiah at show-and-tell. I’m glad his teacher and his principal erred on the side of prudence.

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