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Dueling Lawsuits

2003-05-13 15:32:37.668006+00 by ebradway 12 comments

I was once again disappointed when I heard the report on All Things Considered about the Union County pagan suing the school system because she was harrassed for 'being different' (according to the principal). But that's really bleeding-edge civil rights activism compared to what's going on in Marin County: Lawyer Seeks Ban on Oreo Cookies. I think Dan missed the point living in the cultural bubble of San Francisco. Out there you guys are quibbling over the right to eat cookies and here we are dealing with real First Amendment issues!

[ related topics: Bay Area Sociology Law Civil Liberties California Culture Chattanooga ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2003-05-13 17:12:25.329451+00 by: other_todd

Same link twice - the "ban on oreo cookies" link goes to the same place as the Union County article. Fix, please! I HAVE to read why anyone on earth would possibly want to ban Oreos!

#Comment made: 2003-05-13 17:31:04.617055+00 by: ebradway

Sorry. It's fixed.

#Comment made: 2003-05-13 17:40:13.450426+00 by: Dan Lyke

As to why to ban Oreos: Hydrogenated fats. If there's any health research of the past decade or two that can be duplicated, it's that hydrogenated fats are baaaaad.

#Comment made: 2003-05-13 17:58:41.520158+00 by: Diane Reese

I'm making a Costco run this weekend, then: how long will the huge-packs keep in storage? (It's for my 16-year-old, not for me, sheesh. You don't think I lost 30 pounds last year by eating OREOS, do you?)

#Comment made: 2003-05-14 00:01:20.831291+00 by: ebradway

Are hydorgenated fats worse than hypocritical high school principals?

#Comment made: 2003-05-14 01:51:06.043468+00 by: Larry Burton

In this case, even as stupid as I think the ban on Oreos is, I've got to say yes. I know some folks are going to point to my Christianity on this and claim that I'm biased but please believe me when I say I don't want my sons' schools teaching them their version of Christianity. Still, unless there were some pagan festivals that students were denied access to during school hours I'm not so sure that this is a 1st Amendment case. If these students had not been allowed to attend these revival services then wouldn't that be a case of the school preventing them from practicing their religion?

#Comment made: 2003-05-14 04:06:23.130486+00 by: Diane Reese

Outside of school hours? Sure, it's their own time. DURING school hours? No way, unless it's counted as an "unexcused absence", like any other time a kid cuts school to do whatever the heck they want instead of school. Most schools have required numbers of hours students must attend (whether you agree with that policy or not). When a student misses too many hours, they're routinely counseled to stop cutting school so much. And if they miss *too* many hours (in most school districts), they won't be passed to the next grade.

Did any of these students get counseling for cutting school? Let me give you three guesses, and the first two don't count. Would the student in Union County be counseled if she left school for Samhain in the woods? Try those guesses again.

I hate living in a culture that presumes I should be happy to glorify Christianity and the special dominance its adherents assume as their right in some parts of the country (which is why I could never be paid enough to move to most parts of the south). I am not picking on you, Larry, please believe me: you seem far more reasonable than most on these matters, thank you. But when a school all but sponsors religious events (and at minimum looks the other way, allowing attendance at these events to be at best an excused absence and at worst an *expected* absence), its administration has stepped far beyond the bounds of propriety. And my faith in my fellow Americans drops yet another few rungs.

I wish I liked Oreos; I'd go eat some now in symbolic protest. But then I'd have to do another half hour of weighlifting to work them off. Never mind. (Ooops. Sorry. I ranted. My bad.)

#Comment made: 2003-05-14 17:17:17.735931+00 by: Larry Burton

Diane, I generally have a problem realizing when I'm being picked on. You could have actually done some picking and I probably wouldn't have taken it as such. ;)

I think that you may be looking at this from a diffferent perspective than I am, though. I don't deny that given the opportunity that the good folks in the Union County School System would do everything within their power to promote Christianity in their classrooms. All I'm saying here is that to me it looks like the school system is only guilty of allowing students to participate in their own chosen religious ritual during school hours. It isn't technically a violation of anyone first amendment rights unless it can be shown that students of different religious beliefs were denied the same privilige.

As far as cutting classes go, the school system has the authority to grant excused absences for any reason they choose. As long as any student in the school could have been granted the same excuse for an absence where they were attending one of their own religous rituals. If there is no evidence that anyother religion was denied the same treatment then there is no 1st Amendment violation. Is there?

Now I will concede that if the opportunity had been there to deny a pagan an excused absence for attending a pagan festival during school hours the Union County School System would most likely have taken that opportunity. However, I don't see, in the article that Eric pointed to, anything to substatiate that they did. One can't be guilty of a crime one never had an opportunity to commit.

#Comment made: 2003-05-14 17:25:41.735651+00 by: Dan Lyke

An AP report which says:

Union County officials say the system is neutral when it comes to religious activities, pointing out that the crusade is voluntary, teachers chaperone on their own time and school buses are operated by private contractors.

"We do not endorse, promote or prohibit it," said school spokesman Wayne Goforth.

Which, in conjunction with the rest of the article, sounds an awful lot like someone might be within the letter of the law, but has trampled the spirit.

#Comment made: 2003-05-14 19:58:31.187923+00 by: Diane Reese

Who pays for the school buses? Do the teachers take unpaid time off? (How can it be on teachers' "own time" if it's during the school day?) What happens for the students left behind, are their classes cancelled? If, as the article says, parental permission is required for students to attend, that implies that the school sends home notices of the crusade ("crusade": how quaint, do they get to wear armor and stick spears through the heathens?), and permission slips must be returned. But of course it's "voluntary". So now tell me how all this is within the letter of the law?

#Comment made: 2003-05-14 21:06:58.557978+00 by: ebradway

As far as the Revival goes, according to NPR the school allows the students and the teachers to leave during school hours. The school doesn't promote any one religion, but they do allow one particular faith to hold a favored position. The revival doesn't have to be offered during school hours.

As far as the first amendment goes, the principal stated when interviewed by NPR that the incidents of the girl being teased and threatened were normal teenage hijinx. But unless I'm wrong, teasing and threatening someone because of their religious faith would be considered a hate crime. Wouldn't the principal be obligated if the girl were black and the other kids were mistreating her because she was a different race? I'm not positive that this is actually a first amendment issue, but the school, given that they give such special privileges to students (excused absents) for the revival should at least make sure the Pagan girl isn't being harrassed because of her faith.

But that really speaks to the issue of separation of church and state. If the school system even appears to give special consideration to one faith, then it must give equal consideration to all faiths. But how do you define 'equal consideration'? This is why religion should be avoided completely in the schools. Zero consideration to all faiths is equality!

Of course this creates a problem with Secular Humanism... And how do you teach a religious studies class?

#Comment made: 2003-05-14 23:04:32.395602+00 by: Dan Lyke

Awwwww... The Oreo case has been dropped.