OK, simple story: kid goes to school dressed as a pirate, eyepatch, inflatable sword, and talking about the flying spaghetti monster; kid is asked to remove the eyepatch several times; kid refuses; kid gets kicked out of school for a day. You may be disappointed to learn that I don’t see a problem. I think it’s fair for schools to enforce some minimal level of decorum, by all accounts he was asked politely to remove the eyepatch, and even the kids’ mother thinks he got a little carried away. A mild punishment like suspension to enforce the reasonable authority of the school administration is a fine idea.
Except for one thing. (There’s always just one more thing.)
“It has nothing to do with religious beliefs,” school district spokesman Stan Alleyne rushed to say when asked about the suspension. “We respect students’ religious beliefs.”
What? Why? This is exactly what I’ve been talking about, the unwarranted deference given to wacky beliefs as long as they’re called “religious”. There is no reason religious beliefs should be privileged with a special status, no reason an administrator should “rush” to pander to irrationality as long as it is in service to a deity.
And here’s another irritation: I’m sure Mr Alleyne thinks he is being reasonable and reassuring when he punishes a young student for wearing a goofy eyepatch, but promises that he won’t administer a similar punishment to someone wearing a goofy crucifix, or a goofy skullcap, or a goofy chador … but he isn’t reassuring me. He is confirming my expectation that religious nonsense will be given an exalted status in his school.
If the school lets kids wear special religious garments or jewelry, or doesn’t tell them to wash their face when they daub themselves with grime on Ash Wednesday, or any of the other pointless rituals of faith, then they shouldn’t be punishing a kid for wearing an eyepatch — the pirate silliness is no more absurd than the crap the other kids are doing. Let one slide, you should let the other abide; enforce the rules against one, the other should also be forbidden. The problem here is inconsistency.