Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Blaming the ACLU

You’ve gotta laugh at this post from Glib Fortuna about the case in PA where the principal told a kid he couldn’t dress up as Jesus for halloween. He rightly condemns the stupidity of the principal, and even admits that the ACLU would be on the student’s side in the case, but still finds a way to blame it on the ACLU:

Thanks ACLU for creating an environment in which school administrators are either so deeply confused about what the US Constitution requires or feel emboldened enough in their hostility to make an outrageous move like this.

One may say, “The ACLU is not involved in this and if they were, they’d be on the student’s side.” That may be accurate, but the ACLU cannot escape the fact that its fingerpirnts are on every case like this. The ACLU has spent nearly a century promoting its twisted separationist doctrine and have been wildly successful in imposing intimidation and ignorance on generations of Americans. So no matter if it is directly involved, the ACLU bears responsibility.


You see, they’re not only responsible for the actions they favor, they’re responsible for the actions they oppose and file suits to stop. Never mind that the ACLU helped put together a set of guidelines sent to every public school in the country that makes clear that the principal was wrong in this situation. Never mind that the only ones who have ever tried to tell school officials that this sort of thing would bring them a lawsuit are those in the religious right who spread lies about the ACLU. You know, like you.

Comments

  1. #1 llDayo
    February 26, 2007

    The principal and school administration is to blame for not studying up on what is and is not legal. They made a poor decision based on limited knowledge of the subject and should be held accountable for it.

  2. #2 Craig Pennington
    February 26, 2007

    The principal and school administration is to blame for not studying up on what is and is not legal. They made a poor decision based on limited knowledge of the subject and should be held accountable for it.

    Let’s not let the clowns who promote disinformation about the ACLU off the hook. It is they who, either out of a personal inability to distinguish state actions from individual actions or out of actual malice, promote the general perception that the ACLU will sue a kid for praying over his lunch in a public school. The principal’s incorrect knowledge has its origins in the ignorant and malicious rantings of people like those found at STACLU.

  3. #3 meatbrain
    February 26, 2007

    Let’s say it even more succintly: Glib Fortuna is a liar, and he knows that he is spreading lies. He has the moral competence of a tapeworm.

  4. #4 llDayo
    February 26, 2007

    I thought about that Craig but I still feel that the administrators are responsible for truly learning what is legal and what isn’t. No matter how much misinformation is spread about the ACLU they still have access to the ACLU itself to understand exactly where this organization stands. If they are unsure about a certain situtation involving a student’s practice of their beliefs I would think it in their best interest to not act on it. If they have foreknowledge of the event this would give them enough time to contact the ACLU itself to make sure they act within the law.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    February 26, 2007

    While I think Craig is correct that the exaggerations and distortions from the religious right are to blame for those false ideas becoming common “knowledge”, I don’t think that lets the principal off the hook at all. Not only is it their job to know the law, it’s been made easy for them. Twice in the last 13 years, once from the Clinton administration and once from the Bush administration, information packets have been sent to every single public school in the nation detailing what the law says in regard to such situations. All they had to do was read it.

  6. #6 Farb
    February 26, 2007

    It would have been interesting to see what the STACLU’s response would have been to a school stopping a student who wore a Jesus costume designed to ridicule Christians.

    Or if, say, there had been one of each at the same school.

    Or if, say, that it was impossible, from the costume itself, to identify the intent of the wearer, only from the wearer’s previous statements to others.

    What if a student dressed as a rich and influential televangelist for Halloween? That would be a pretty scary costume. Would the morality police allow that?

  7. #7 Kearby
    February 26, 2007

    What if a student dressed as a rich and influential televangelist for Halloween? That would be a pretty scary costume. Would the morality police allow that?

    A friend of mine did just that last year. Luckily we went to a school with a sane administration, though he did get a talking to for wearing one of those “Meet the Fuckers” t-shirts.

  8. #8 Alan B.
    February 26, 2007

    The president and vice president of the Abington school board are both lawyers. The current budget of the school district is $117 million. If the principal can’t understand the information packets mentioned, at least the school district ought to be able to afford a little legal advice.

  9. #9 hmd
    February 26, 2007

    I think in many school districts there is an exaggerated caution against possibly “controversial” things like this. For example, our local district has had a policy against student clubs unless they were somehow “related to the curriculum”. The enforcement was – um – less than even-handed. Chess club – ok. Bible club – not ok. Pep club – ok. Gay-lesbian alliance – not ok. Obviously the intent was to provide a pretext for blocking anything that might raise issues. But an even-handed, non-pretextual enforcement of this would have caused its own problems.

    I have to wonder if the principal in this case was reacting more to the underlying atmosphere of “avoiding controversy” rather than the more relevant questions of actual legal rights.

    The irony is that the districts’ actions to prevent smaller controversies often end by embroiling themselves in even bigger controversies.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    February 26, 2007

    hmd wrote:

    I think in many school districts there is an exaggerated caution against possibly “controversial” things like this. For example, our local district has had a policy against student clubs unless they were somehow “related to the curriculum”. The enforcement was – um – less than even-handed. Chess club – ok. Bible club – not ok. Pep club – ok. Gay-lesbian alliance – not ok. Obviously the intent was to provide a pretext for blocking anything that might raise issues. But an even-handed, non-pretextual enforcement of this would have caused its own problems.

    The irony is that, in trying to avoid “controversy”, they acted illegally and made it more likely that they would be sued, not less.

  11. #11 Dr. X.
    February 26, 2007

    And Glib Fortuna would suggest what as an alternative? Should the ACLU should refrain from taking positions on anything because some people will misunderstand the rulings of the courts?

    I suspect that Glib Fortuna lacks a normal capacity for the experience shame.

  12. #12 hmd
    February 27, 2007

    Of course Ed is right. Illegal actions are dumb.

    If the school board and administration had made it a priority to educate their employees about what the law actually says, there really wouldn’t have been an issue here. This isn’t even really a borderline case. But apparently the principal here got a different message. He saw something that he thought might offend someone, and felt he needed to take action. His priorities were misplaced. I’d say the chances are this is part of the overall organizational culture of his school district – at least if my local district is any indication.

    I think the take home lesson for school boards and administrators is that there’s just no avoiding controversy. They need to make respecting the rights of students a priority, and make sure their employees are well-educated in this. Of course, since many school boards are made up of whoever is willing to serve, and the others are mostly stepping stones for would-be politicos, I’d say the chances of that happening are slim.

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