Unwelcome dissent

In the comments on my blog you will always have a fairly wide berth for discussion. Disagree with me and anyone else who posts all you want. The only “rule” I have is that you not lower yourself to the level of attacking a person instead of the points of their argument. Doing so reduces a discussion into a near-endless flame war, bringing any possible discussion to a complete standstill, a pileup on the interstate of discourse and discussion. Discussion is welcome. Dissent is welcome. Flame wars and personal attacks are not.

Many other sites will afford you the same, however, some aren’t so willing. Some aren’t into discussion, only ego-stroking, apparently.

The right-wing blog “The Right Scoop” recently posted an article discussing a “brave” senior named Laci Mattice who openly engaged her senior class in the Lord’s prayer during what was supposed to only be a moment of silence during the graduation ceremony. The writer behind the blog ascribed her actions to the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment:

A prayer said by a senior, listed on a graduation event program is nothing short of the free exercise of religion and has nothing to do with the creation of any law. End of story.

I disagreed. The Establishment Clause controls, and I posted this to define and support that opinion, based on a long line of jurisprudence extending back approaching 70 years:

Actually the Free Exercise Clause does not apply to this case. Allow me to explain why.

First and foremost, any institution established by the government becomes subject to the same limitations upon their powers and abilities as on the government that created it, for if the government is able to establish an institution with greater power than itself, we have tyranny.

The First Amendment restriction upon Congress implied that all actions of the government begin with Congress. This is why Article I is the longest article in the entirety of the Constitution. Restrict Congress and you restrict the entire Federal government, because the Executive Branch cannot do anything not authorized by Congress, or at least that was how it used to work. Unless Congress says “yes”, the Executive Branch cannot act, and Congress is enjoined by the Constitution in what they can say “yes” to.

The Fourteenth Amendment extends the limitations of the Bill of Rights upon the States and municipalities.

School boards are created by acts of law of the governments of each State, thus the same limitations upon the legislatures are inherited by the individual school boards, and thus the individual schools and their administrations, including the principal. Graduation ceremonies are official school functions, sanctioned by the school and school board by official act. School administrators may not design official school functions in such a way that it exceeds the limitations they have inherited from the very government that grants them any authority at all. This includes the limitations of the First Amendment.

These limitations are also inherited by those who are chosen by the school to speak during the ceremony — they are enjoined by the same limitations that enjoin the government due to their appointment by the school for the school function. Thus Laci Mattice exceeded the scope of her appointment by her attempt to join everyone together in prayer, thus she violated the First Amendment.

Again, this is based on decades of jurisprudence. And as you can tell the comment is fairly well-written, not heated or pointed in any way. A basic and brief overview of why public schools cannot endorse or sanction prayer — private schools do not have the same limitations because they are not entities created by an act of government.

And this comment, apparently, was enough to get me banned from commenting at The Right Scoop. An unregistered user going by the moniker “Valley Bash” spoke in support of my comment, and came under attack as well. Other comments that have also pointed out the impropriety of Laci’s actions have been edited by a moderator — I have the e-mail notifications showing the original text of the comments to show this.

Now it is perfectly within their right to do this. Going to their site is about the same as walking onto someone’s property. If they don’t like what I have to say, they can take whatever steps are reasonable to prevent me from stating my opinion there in the future.I knew that by commenting on the site I was risking being blocked. However it is also cowardly and disingenuous, and implies that the only people they want posting comments are those that already agree with the hard-right Christian conservative point of view. This basically means that if you don’t believe that the First Amendment gives Christians the right to engage anyone, anywhere in public prayer, including at public school functions and other government-sponsored events, then you are not welcome, despite the fact that such a belief does not jive with the law, decades of jurisprudence, and any idea even marginally in line with religious freedom and proper discourse.

Now while I have spoken harshly of religion on this blog, notably Christianity, I will always defend your right to practice your religion in peace. But once your beliefs enter the public square, or you put them on public display, they are fair game with regard to debate and discussion. No person’s beliefs, including my own, are immune from discussion and debate. Further while you have the freedom to practice your religion, protected by the First Amendment, that does not mean you have the right to use the captive audience of a public high school graduation ceremony to put your religious beliefs on display.

Religious expression is to be a purely private matter. The words of Jesus Christ even speak as such: (Matthew 6:1-6)

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Again, disagree with me all you want. Express your dissent. It will always be welcome here.