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Archive for November 20th, 2007

After posting about the school prayer issue in Illinois, my sister mentioned to me that her attorney friend was a little skeptical about my argument. He noted that the establishment clause simply prohibits the official establishment of any particular religion over another (B, let me know if I’ve got this wrong). I appreciate all reasoned comments and questions, because they cause me to continually rethink and evaluate my opinions (as they should).

At any rate, I think this is a common point with respect to school prayer, and to religious expression in general in the United States. And it is precisely one of the reasons why I don’t support mandating school prayer in public schools. Mandating “moments of silence” or other thinly veiled, similarly worded directives is, in my mind, basically saying, “we won’t tell you which religion you should be, but you ought to be some religion. A religion that involves praying to a god or higher power.”

No, no, no, the proponents say. You can meditate. You can reflect on your life. You can send good wishes to your aunt in Tulsa. You can work on that chunk of dry skin on your lower lip while scheming up ways to get back at your little brother.

Feh. What is the point, then? Why are some state legislators so adamant about enacting these laws if the time can be spent in sheer idleness? It is certainly not to protect a child’s right to let his mind wander aimlessly – that clearly isn’t the goal of institutionalized education – and in institutionalized education today, kids usually have more than enough opportunity during the day to take a mental vacation or two. It isn’t about giving kids a break – they get that at lunch, recess and study hall. That narrows it down to…could it be? An agenda to inject religion into public schools?

Oh, it is all so silly (and more than a little scary) and unnecessary anyway – unnecessary because all public schoolchildren already have the right to pray, and the government doesn’t have the right to tell them to, or not to:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

It doesn’t say “an establishment of a religion” (a particular religion over another). There is no article. It may certainly be implied (i.e. we don’t want a Church of America), but still – mandating prayer in public schools is an establishment of religion – not of one denomination over another, but just religion, period. It is mandating that administrators and teachers set aside time for religious practice in a public school.

A few quotes to chew on:

“The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” (from the Treaty of Tripoli, passed by the U.S. Senate by unanimous vote in 1797)

“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.” (James Madison)

“The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained.” (Thomas Jefferson)

“[I am] denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian.” (Ethan Allen)

“As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion…has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon…” (Benjamin Franklin)

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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2. The Big Woods

Bonnie and I were smooshed up in the backseat of daddy’s car and we were driving at night. We were going to Wisconsin! It was nighttime and it was the darkest it could be. Then there was a problem with the car. The lights went out and then it was so dark you couldn’t see anything. It was a big problem. Daddy stopped the car and got out. He opened the hood and he just had to feel the wires and he said we were lucky because he just wiggled one thing and the lights worked again so then we could go on our way again. We kept going forever in the dark and Bonnie was sleeping when we finally got there, but not me. I don’t really sleep in the car because I like to stay awake to see the dark out the windows and listen to the radio and mommy and daddy talking quietly in the front. Sometimes I close my eyes, and mommy says I think she’s asleep and I don’t say anything because I like how they talk about different things when they think I’m asleep. Then we were there, and there was snow even though there wasn’t snow back home. All I could see was snow on the ground in the headlights and the front of a little house and the woods all around. And then my daddy’s friend whose name is also Mike came out of the house. We got out of the car and went inside. It was a kitchen and then a living room and a bedroom and a bathroom except you couldn’t use the toilet or the bathtub or the sink. I thought it was funny to have a bathroom that you couldn’t really use like a bathroom, but Mike said it was because the pipes would freeze since it was winter, even though it was only fall in Illinois. But then in the summer you could turn the water back on. So we had to use the outhouse to go to the bathroom, and milk cartons filled with water for in the kitchen. This was bad at night because I always had to pee a lot. And when I try not to have to pee that’s when I always have to pee even more. I tried to hold it as long as I could, but then I had to wake up my mommy and she sighed because she had to get up and put on my coat and boots and her coat and boots and get the flashlight and walk outside in the snow and then I had to sit in the outhouse over that dark black hole and it made me scared because I could not see what was down there. Then we had to walk back inside and take off our boots and coats and lie back down in the living room, which is where we were sleeping since Mike and Patty were in the bedroom.

Then it was daytime and we visited some friends of Mike and Patty who also live in a house in those same woods, only their house had a basement. They had a little girl and we were playing in one room in the basement and she said we should go in this other room to see something, so we did. It was a deer hanging upside down by its back leg and its skin was all off. It was kind of a weird thing to see.

One night we went for a walk. Only it was sort of light outside because the moon was big and round and the stars were big and shiny and the leaves were off the trees, so we could see to walk. I could hear the crunch crunch of my boots and I could smell that cold winter smell. Then Mike said stop, listen. So we stopped and listened. We heard a HOO HOO sound and Mike scrunched down by me and pointed up in a tree. So I looked up and heard the HOO HOO sound again and there was a great big owl in the top of the tree. I saw the owl, and it saw me. It stopped saying HOO HOO and just looked at us, down there in the snow. I said hi to it in my mind, and I felt a shiver like it heard me and was saying something back only in its mind too. Owls are like magic.

When I woke up in the morning there was a big emergency going on. I went in the kitchen and there was this little black thing on the table and it was an ant trap. Everybody was looking at it and Bonnie was crying because everybody was upset. I asked what happened what happened until mommy said that Bonnie was crawling on the floor and she had the ant trap in one hand and her other hand was in her mouth. Bonnie likes to eat weird stuff she finds on the floor like fuzz from the carpet and little pieces of dirt from the big plant in the living room. So the adults were looking inside the trap to see if any stuff could come out of it and then looking in Bonnie’s mouth to see if there was any poison stuff in there. They couldn’t tell. So then there was a big decision to take Bonnie to the hospital just in case she ate some poison. So then everybody was in a big hurry to go to the hospital. Mike and daddy were taking her and I was getting really upset because Bonnie is my sister and she gets into stuff a lot and sometimes she hurts herself. Like the time she climbed up on the kitchen chair and was standing and jumping on it while mommy was in the pantry and then she fell off it and bit her tongue. Her mouth was bleeding and I started crying louder than Bonnie because she’s so little and I bet it hurt her a lot to bite her tongue like that. So I wanted to come with to the hospital but I had to stay and I was too close to the door when they were leaving and Mike on accident closed the door when my head was still a little bit in the way and the door bumped my head. It didn’t hurt that much on the outside but I felt like everybody forgot about me in the big emergency.

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