Dispatches from the Creation Wars

More STACLU Hypocrisy

Well now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time for the fake “War on Christmas” bleating to begin in earnest. Jay at STACLU jumps in with this post about the ACLU filing suit over a school having children reenact the manger scene, with kids in the roles of Joseph, Mary, the Three Wise Men, and so forth. The ACLJ is screaming holy hell about this suit, claiming that it amounts to a “frontal attack on the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.”

This, of course, is nonsense. Freedom of religion protects what you do in your private life to express your own religious faith, not what you can require schoolchildren to do. This has nothind to do with the free exercise of religion and everything to do with what a government agency can endorse or require of others. That this distinction constantly escapes the religious right is quite absurd.

The test of whether they really mean it – and they clearly don’t – is this: ask yourself if the two Jays (the one at STACLU and the one at the ACLJ) would be screaming “freedom of religion” if a Muslim schoolteacher had her grade school class acting out the roles in a reenactment of a Ramadan celebration. I’ll guarantee you one thing if the situation was reversed: not only would that teacher likely lose their job, they’d be lucky to escape without their house being firebombed.

You know what else? We wouldn’t hear one word from the two Jays about the “frontal assault on freedom of speech and freedom of religion.” In fact, we don’t have to do this as a hypothetical. It’s actually happened, in California, where some schools had students pretending to be Muslim and the religious right was up in arms, and continues to be, over it.

Now, I don’t really know how much of that was legit; I haven’t seen the actual evidence presented in the case and I’m not willing to trust breathless reports in places like the Worldnutdaily. If they were accurate in their description of what went on, then I’d say the case was decided wrongly. But the key point here is that we didn’t hear one word about “freedom of religion” from these folks. And there’s a simple reason for that; for them, it’s all about majority rule. As long as Christians are in the majority, they get to force everyone else to participate in their religious exercises at public expense. Turn the tables and you’ll quickly find out how hollow their rhetoric is.


  1. #1 tacitus
    December 1, 2006

    Of course, the interesting fact is that in the UK, thousands of state schools around the country will be holding Nativity plays, Christmas carol services and other events of festive cheer without much of a fuss from anyone.

    It’s interesting because, compared with the USA, Christianity is a moribund movement, in danger of dying out completely as an organization of any major power or influence.

    Perhaps STACLU would prefer that no one protested Christian activities by public officials. Somehow I doubt it, since it would simply prove that nobody cared about Christianity any more.

  2. #2 BC
    December 1, 2006

    I remember when I was in elementary school (long time ago), we had a nativity play for our Christmas play – and the audience laughed at all of it. One of the teachers explained to my parents that was why she never had advocated the nativity: if you took it seriously, you should be upset that it had become a comedy.

  3. #3 DuWayne
    December 1, 2006

    BC –

    Using that logic one shouldn’t attempt to get the little ones into anything serious, they are capable of turning anything into comedy. During my churches children’s nativity last year, Mary punched Joseph after he accidentaly stepped on her foot and one of the sheep, who owned the doll representing Jesus, felt compelled to take him back and cuddle him. Believe me, a lot of people at my church take the nativity very seriously, but everyone was rolling from that one. That said, it is not in the least bit appropriate for school.

  4. #4 kehrsam
    December 1, 2006

    I can no longer hear about children’s Christmas pageants without thinking of David Sedaris’ story, “Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol.” You can listen to David read it at the This American Life homepage. http://www.thislife.org/

  5. #5 Leni
    December 1, 2006

    I love, love, love David Sedaris! (And TAL. I can’t wait to listen- I don’t think I’ve heard this one yet.)

  6. #6 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    December 1, 2006

    The sad part is that they are missing the real war on Christmas:
    Swedish town moves against Christmas ram raiders

    STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – A town in Sweden this Christmas hopes to win its battle with vandals who almost every year for the past four decades have foiled security measures to burn down the town’s giant Yuletide straw ram.

  7. #7 Ingrid
    December 1, 2006

    “Freedom of religion protects what you do in your private life to express your own religious faith, not what you can require schoolchildren to do.”

    This is somewhat incorrect… the free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects BOTH private and PUBLIC religious expression. BUT it is the establishment clause that limits “what you can require schoolchildren to do.” The establishment clause protects (to a certain degree, see various Supreme Court cases: Sherbert v. Verner, Yoder v. WI, Simmons v. Zelman-Harris, etc.) students and other persons from state sponsored, coerced, or endorsed religious activities and expression.

  8. #8 Ed Brayton
    December 1, 2006

    Reread what I said: freedom of religion (i.e. the free speech clause) does not protect what you can require schoolchildren to do. The reason, of course, is because the establishment clause restricts those actions. My point is that claiming freedom of religion is nonsense; the free speech clause does not apply to what a government employee can force someone to do.

  9. #9 Daniel Morgan
    December 2, 2006

    These STACLU guys are so nutty I almost think you ought not send them traffic…

  10. #10 Thinker
    December 2, 2006

    Not to derail the thread, but as an addition to the comment by Mustafa, here is the full story of this particular recurring battle in the war on christmas for those who may be interested.

    Because this is by now a tradition in its own right (people even place bets on how long it will “survive”), you can actually watch the straw ram live on a webcam.

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