March 28, 2011

"The European Court of Human Rights has just upheld Italy's policy of displaying crucifixes in its public school classrooms."

John Witte Jr. writes about the 15-2 decision in Lautsi v. Italy:
The Court stated clearly that the crucifix is a religious symbol, that atheism is a protected religious belief and that public schools must be religiously neutral. But the Court held that a "passive display" of a crucifix in a public school classroom was no violation of religious freedom — particularly when students of all faiths were welcome in public schools and free to wear their own religious symbols. The Court held further that Italy's policy of displaying only the crucifix was no violation of religious neutrality, but an acceptable reflection of its majoritarian Catholic culture....
This is much more accommodating to government religious expression in public schools than U.S. constitutional law is, but Witte notes 6 similarities:
First, tradition counts in these cases....

Second, religious symbols often have redeeming cultural value.

Third, local values deserve some deference...

Fourth, religious freedom does not require the secularization of society...

Fifth, religious freedom does not give a minority a heckler's veto over majoritarian policies....

Finally, religious symbolism cases are serious business...
Rich detail on each of the six points, so go to the link. Witte has a definite point of view, as he shows by referring giving "a minority a heckler's veto." The actual U.S. Supreme Court cases express concern about children feeling like outsiders.

87 comments:

Fen said...

Its of little consequence. Their children will worship Allah. In the classroom.

shoutingthomas said...

Fen, you're probably right.

The bigger question is: Why in the hell did Italy cede any authority to the European Court of Human Rights?

tim maguire said...

I wonder how the international and foreign law fans in the US will react to this? Will they cite it in support of crucifixes in US public school classrooms?

Simon said...

The liberal conception of courts peeks through at the end: "These cases are essential forums [read: fora] to work through our deep cultural differences and to sort out peaceably which traditions and practices should continue and which should change." Right. It's for courts to make such decisions.

Ann Althouse said...

@tim Excellent point!

Simon said...

Incidentally, this case involves a cruficix, which is a much more specifically Catholic symbol than the more generically Christian "bare cross"; some evangelicals are uncomfortable with it. And so I wonder whether any critics of Engel would have felt differently had the prayer involved been the Angelus rather than the non-denominational "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country"?

shoutingthomas said...

Fen's point is well taken.

It appears that the future may hold a different choice for Europeans than they imagined:

Dhimmitude vs. cultural suicide by failure to reproduce.

See Mark Steyn.

Pogo said...

The European Court of Human Rights has just set the stage for sharia across the EU.

mariner said...

"European Court of Human Rights" was the scariest part of the article.

John Foust said...

Even if the Muslims take over, look at the bright side: You can bet they'll have prayer in the public schools.

traditionalguy said...

"Religious freedom does not require secularization of sociey...". That puts it in a nutshell. Traditional tolerance for and freedom of religious expression in America was hi-jacked by the Supreme Court who preemptively declared the law to read its exact opposite, which is a mandatory prohibition of religious expression.

PaulV said...

The majority of children in public schools feel like outsiders. In crowd is minority.

The Crack Emcee said...

"atheism is a protected religious belief"

[shaking head] They'll never get it. Not that they practice it. All that recent "religion is disappearing" noise? They never ask about NewAge, which is alive and well.

BTW - my god sons say, whenever my name comes up, all the adults start fighting. Good.

virgil xenophon said...

Future SCOTUS cases on this score will prove Scalia right; that lovers of int. law and forwign courts are simply picking & chosing to support their personal convictions.

Pogo said...

' giving "a minority a heckler's veto." The actual U.S. Supreme Court cases express concern about children feeling like outsiders."

Children, the leftist's veto.

You can abort them, but if you show them a crucifix, all hell will break loose.

36fsfiend said...

But what did Jesus say about public displays of praying?

Irene said...

The decision addresses the display of crucifixes in public schools, but many of Witte's six similarities would apply to displays of a crucifix elsewhere in a society's life: especially tradition, redeeming cultural values, local values, and symbolism.

The case's reasoning seems to address a broader arena of Italian culture. Crucifixes presently also hang in all Italian public buildings, including police stations and courtrooms. A crucifix hanging behind the jury has been visible through the trial and appeal of Amanda Knox.

TMink said...

I am glad to see the distinction between freedom of religion and freedom from religion upheld.

Trey

TMink said...

Fen, I am not so sure. Maybe the Catholics will stand up against that sort of thing. God knows they have fought the Muslims before. 8)

Trey

Duncan said...

"cases express concern about children feeling like outsiders"

Had I attended gubmint schrools, I certainly would have felt like an outsider but I doubt the Supremes would have protected me.

No one cares for the plight of little libertarian children in government schools. Perhaps they would care more, if we topped ourselves at the same rate as the obviously weaker minded commie children.

TMink said...

Simon, as an Evangelical, I see the crucifix as an important part of iconography. It emphasizes the suffering Christ. I appreciate that. The empty cross refers to the triumphant Christ, which I also appreciate. Same coin, different side.

Of couse, some "Evangelicals" are just mean and bigoted.

Trey

traditionalguy said...

36fsfiend...The secretive Jesus spent 3 years publicly teaching about the kingdom of God, healing the sick, cleansing lepers, restoring sight to men born blind, miraculously feeding crowds, raising the dead and casting out demons. Apparently He did not want any of that done in a secret closet because he commissioned his disciples with the authority to go out and publicly proclaim his words and do the same stuff until his return. Take my word for it, doing those things Jesus did in public still draws huge crowds. A public display of a cross is one small symbol that recognizes that key event in human history, and keeping it secret not to disturb men is not going to happen.

36fsfiend said...

traditionalguy

Yes, hence I believe he would be an advocate of universal health care.

As far as praying:

Matthew 6:5-6: "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....when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret...."

I don't believe Jesus would be too worked up about Crucifixes in public places.

traditionalguy said...

36fsfiend...That I agree with. Jesus is probably too excited these days to worry about crucifix displays.

36fsfiend said...

traditionalguy

I just don't believe Jesus would be that concerned about the displays of crucifixes in public or public prayer.

So why are Christians so concerned about it?

jimbino said...

A big difference is that an American kid can object to a patriotic or religious imposition by wearing a swastika. Try that in Bavaria, where the swastika still has a greater following than the empty churches.

Carol_Herman said...

Expounding on "atheism" put ya in jail for blasphemy.

"Secular" was born around 1840, when a British gent (Holyoake) was jailed for being an atheist. It's just the world of unintended consequences.

In Italy, today, you're looking at the country with the lowest birth rate. (Less than 2 kids per family.) So, either, besides the crucifixes, Italians don't like to have sex. Or they've found a way for the dogma to float. While they ignore it. Shallow and posturing, replacing devotion and belief. But that's just my opinion.

Freeman Hunt said...

Fourth, religious freedom does not require the secularization of society...

This is how we've gone about implementing religious freedom here.

Carol_Herman said...

Public Schools became very popular in the USA. The first country, I think, that offered all kids a free public school education. And, yes. The textbook was the King James version of the Bible. Poetic. And, every American home had one. So, kids got educated using a book that was at home. (This was before Sears got started with its catalog. Which took the invention of the telephone.) But why digress?

Abraham Lincoln learned "cadence," by reading the Bible out loud. That. And, Shakespeare, too. Different day and age.

Kids would come home with reading assignments, and parents at home, knowing the Bible verses well, could judge for themselves if kids were learning to read. Or not.

Add here Latin, which was a requirement dumped by the hippies. Who also saw tossed out a wonderful curriculum based on "The Classics." And, adopted much easier stuff, that also lowered the bar.

Throwing out "the baby with the bathwater" is as true on this subject as any. Then you add in TV, and you watch people losing so much in terms a well-rounded education.

David said...

local values deserve some deference...

That's big of them. Diversity is great, though suspect when it involves beliefs that conflict with yours.

Kirk Parker said...

Althouse,

You sound perhaps a little unsympathetic to the author's assertion "religious freedom does not give a minority a heckler's veto over majoritarian policies."

It doesn't sound that bad to me. If I lived (*ll*h forbid!) in Riyadh, and my kids were going to local schools (*ll*a doubly forbid!!!), not only would I expect my kids to feel like outsiders, I'd sure as heck want them to feel that way!

David said...

this case involves a cruficix[sic], which is a much more specifically Catholic symbol than the more generically .

Gotta disagree with that one. The main difference is that it takes more artistic talent to do a crucifix, so you get these bare crosses. For a Christian it brings the same thing to mind.

traditionalguy said...

36fsfiend...The traditional stance of Christianity has been to stand out with a symbol to remind people during their everyday hustle and bustle of work for money and power that there is something of eternal importance to their lives. For example, Anglican Churches were built 2 feet out into the street right of ways to remind people. That is also why America developed a strong tradition of religious toleration to the making of such displays. I guess that today's Christians don't enjoy being harassed in a country that they founded to protect religious faiths from harassment.

vnjagvet said...

36:

How do you equate display of religious symbols with prayer? I don't understand the connection.

WV: shamet -- a female opponent of the latest Wisconsin legislation.

TMink said...

36, Jesus was all about PERSONAL charity and nothing about corporate charity. So if you feel lead to help with the sick, give your money personally. That will please Jesus.

Trey

Chip Ahoy said...

that atheism is a protected religious belief

The contradiction inherent in that tickles me.

murgatroyd666 said...

Fourth, religious freedom does not require the secularization of society...

Slick trick there, conflating society with government.

In the U.S. we have a society that accommodates all sorts of religious symbols, practices, and beliefs. (And yes, Crack, some of them aren't particualrly sane.) But we have a government that is almost entirely secular, and we're better off for it.

Keep Caesar and God separate, and don't imagine that one is the other.

36fsfiend said...

traditionalguy

I'm just going by Jesus' own words regarding public displays of prayer.

I don't recall him saying anything about building grand edifices to honor God.

36fsfiend said...

vnjagvet

I guess I'm equating the display of religious symbols in public, and the passing of laws regarding those displays, as an example of the showiness which Jesus seems to not condone as stated in Matthew 6:5-6.

36fsfiend said...

TMink

I thought that IAW the Supreme Court corporations are persons?

I just don't believe Jesus would be standing with the health insurance companies today in regards to providing health care. Kind of like his view against the money changers in the temple.

Simon said...

David, Trey: Perhaps it's just my experience. A few evangelical friends have expressed distaste and I've seen similar comments on the web from types who dislike anything with even the faintest aroma of Rome. To be sure, that isn't all evangelicals, granted. Anyway, I was mainly trying to bridge into my larger point which is that I wonder how non-Catholic critics of Engel v. Vitale would feel if the prayer at issue was more sectarian, something like the (Marian-focussed) Angelus?

Simon said...

36fsfiend said...
"I'm just going by Jesus' own words regarding public displays of prayer."

You're going by a conveniently over-literal interpretation of what He said. His point was not that public prayer was bad, but that empty prayer done for the wrong reasons—for instance, public appearances—is bad. Cf. Mt 5:14-16.

"I don't recall him saying anything about building grand edifices to honor God."

See, e.g., Mt 26:6-11.

PaulV said...

36fsfiend said...
traditionalguy

Yes, hence I believe he would be an advocate of universal health care
Jesus tolerate big government, "render unto Ceasar, carry Roman soldier's pack extra mile, etc.", but really never endorsed it. He spoke more of capitalism, fishing, farming and getting returns from Talents. Jesus had little faith in organization such as Roman Empire.

vnjagvet said...

To the extent we read it, 36, we all are entitled to our interpretations of scripture and I respect yours.

I believe Christ's commandment in Mark's gospel, for us to "[g]o into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" encourages us to overtly identify ourselves as Christians. One way to do this is by displaying symbols of our faith.

36fsfiend said...

Simon,

As far as public prayer, it seems that Jesus tended to pray in private, such as at Gethsemane - no.

As far as Matthew 5:14-16, that's about doing good deeds, no? I'm thinking more along the lines of Mark 10:17-25 and how the wealth of the Church could be better used.

36fsfiend said...

PaulV,

I guess me point is that Jesus didn't get involved with government. He didn't work with the Roman governor to have his teachings made the laws of the land or that his words or symbols representing him be required as displays in public buildings.

YoungHegelian said...

@36fsfiend,

Could you please refrain from telling people who have been working very hard at trying to understand their faith for 2000 years how to do it? It's very tiresome.

Not all Christians are "sola biblia, sola fides". If one is high-church of any sort (RC, Orthodox, Anglican) the Church puts together the Bible -- the Bible doesn't put together the Church.

What's next, you gonna tell IBM how to write software, or Toyota how to build cars?

36fsfiend said...

YoungHegelian

I'm certainly not trying to tell anyone who trying to understand their faith on how to do it.

What I don't understand is why people of faith have to use the government to ensure their particular religious symbols are displayed in public schools, public buildings, etc.

If we are going to display crucifixes in public buildings then how about the star and crescent?

Simon said...

36fsfiend said...
"As far as public prayer, it seems that Jesus tended to pray in private, such as at Gethsemane - no."

Certainly, but that is far from an insistence that prayer must always be private. Notice that your interpretation demands that Jesus enjoined liturgy (the formal public prayer and worship of the Church)—yet we had liturgy from the very beginning. Indeed, we had liturgy before we had scripture! Here's a good rule of thumb. When one comes up with an interpretation of scripture that requires that the Church has been wrong throughout her entire existence, it's a good bet that she is right and you're wrong. In this case, almost the entirety of Christendom—even those ecclesial groups who reject liturgy entirely—engage in public prayer, and always have done. That's a pretty good hint that you're off-base.

Jesus wasn't saying that you can't pray sincerely with people or in public. Insincerity was the problem. The incident with the Pharisees who scrupulously attend to the outside of the cup while ignoring the inside (Mt 23:25; Lk 11:39) provides an instructive frame of reference; He was castigating boastful and showy "prayer" done for public appearances.

"As far as Matthew 5:14-16, that's about doing good deeds, no?"

Not exclusively, no.

YoungHegelian said...

@36fsfiend,

"I don't recall him saying anything about building grand edifices to honor God."

The building of great churches with private, non govermental funds has exactly what to do with the topic of the faithful vis-a-vis their goverment?

You brought it up, buddy. You own it.

YoungHegelian said...

You know, I jusr re-read the comments and what springs to mind is:
.
.
.
.
.
"No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

Feisty bunch of believers here today!

36fsfiend said...

YoungHegelian

"The building of great churches with private, non govermental funds has exactly what to do with the topic of the faithful vis-a-vis their goverment?"

Tax exempted, no?

YoungHegelian said...

@36fsfiend,

"Tax exempt, no?"

As is every college, arts organization, orchestra, industrial association, charitable organization, union, and just many ordinary businesses in this country.

Why have a bee up your butt about just about the churches?

36fsfiend said...

Simon,

I guess may understanding of Jesus' teachings on prayer is that it is a deeply personal relationship. Hence my confusion on why there is such a push from some to use government to promote praying and the display of religious symbols in public schools, buildings, etc.

I certainly have no problem with parochial schools.

YoungHegelian said...

"I guess my understanding of Jesus' teachings on prayer is that it is a deeply personal relationship."

The important part of what you just said above is that it's YOUR UNDERSTANDING of Jesus' teachings.

Your understanding of His teachings has been, in the history of Christendum, an outlier view.


It may be the correct view and you may get extra brownie points for holding it when you appear before the pearly gates, but it is a very much a minority view.

The majority view is that the Holy Spirit resides in the Christian community and that we are called to witness the Gospel to the world.

I know, it makes Christians royal pains in the butt, but that's the way it is.

36fsfiend said...

YoungHegelian,

"Why have a bee up your butt about just about the churches?"

Separation of church and state.

"Your understanding of His teachings has been, in the history of Christendum, an outlier view."

Your opinion or do you have a reference that I may refer to regarding that position?

vbspurs said...

Why can't most people admit that one law works for one country, and another one doesn't?

I am a practising Catholic, but I would be against crucifixes in US public schools, for the same reason that I would probably not blanch in horror at crucifixes in Italian public schools.

Sometimes laws make sense given the historical trajectory of a nation's culture. America was founded on religious freedom, and Italy is the homeland to the world's largest Christian religion.

This is a plug-and-play topic, at that. The same argument can be made for handguns, quite easily.

Cheers,
Victoria

36fsfiend said...

vbspurs,

I had assumed the Professor posted this topic to stimulate discussion on how the Italian position on the issue compares to the U.S. Maybe I misunderstood.

Cheers,

Mike

vbspurs said...

Mike, then the topic was successful with me, since it stimulated my reaction.

Revenant said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that neither Italy nor the EU has constaints upon it forbidding establishment of religion. That would be the key difference, yes?

traditionalguy said...

36...Can you conceive of the famous phrase "separation of Church and State" as being what the First Amendment actually says? It Simply says that the State shall not pick one Church organisation to the exclusion of the others. That means all churches must be equally privileged and none penalised. How that went 50 years ago to a law that says every symbol of faith is forever outlawed from public places is a sophist's argument at best. Are you a sophist?

36fsfiend said...

traditionalguy,

No, I don't consider myself a Sophist.

My initial post was regarding what Jesus stated about praying in public and not being ostentatious about it.

It seems to me that using the government to pass laws dictating the display of crucifixes, as well as other religious symbols, in public schools and building is not something Christ would be overly concerned with. Indeed, Christ had no involvement with the government of his time, other than when he was brought to trail and crucified. Why should his followers be so concerned about the display of symbols of their faith in public facilities and use the government to facilitate this?

As far as other religious, I admit I'm not familiar enough with them to know their particular teachings on private vs. public praying and their position on displaying religious symbols in public facilities.

Yes, I know that the phrase "separation of Church and State" is Jefferson's phrase for what the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution setup in regards to religion.
I personally feel that government corrupts religion and religion corrupts government.

As far as all churches must be equally privileged and none penalized, how does that square up with the various states that are looking to pass laws against Sharia? Will these laws preclude the display of the Star and Crescent in public schools and building?

wands95939 said...

Many commentators seem to long for the assertion of Christian symbols through public schools, perhaps even the hanging cross. This yearning for Christian push-back against “raging secularists” seems uncognizant of what happens to non-Christian kids. Ann's post helpfully notes: "The actual U.S. Supreme Court cases express concern about children feeling like outsiders."

The US Supreme Court was right.

I’m the parent of a Jewish kid in a public school in the Deep South. Managing the tensions between minority religion and majority culture isn’t simple. Children at ages 7-12 can understand there are different religions, but they need some protection from forced religious observance, or being forced into situations where their minority status creates unfair stress that should not be part of a regular schoolday.

I’m dedicated to pluralism. My kid’s in minority status and it’s important he know that. That’s why I want him in a public school, seeing that kids come from other backgrounds. In voluntary situations, visiting a friend's home or at the YMCA soccer game, we bow our head in the style of Christian prayer, and I don't think it raises any concern for him.

But public school is a situation of forced performance. I do not approve schools forcing our children into religious observance, or punishing them for non-Christian status. The many who long for more overtly Christian schools can't seem to recognize that this happens. It’s typically unintentional, but consequential.

In our public school, Christmas preparation and celebrations occupy the month of December. The required songs include many devotional and religious prayers that specifically invoke the divinity of Jesus Christ. My 7-year old Jewish kid is very aware of the devotional nature of those songs in contrast to, say, Frosty the Snowman. He knows he’s not Christian, and he has told me he "hates" being forced to mouth words of devotional liturgy.

When I offered to complain on his behalf, he asked me to stand down, because he felt he would be embarrassed. He’s not embarrassed to be Jewish (he tells anyone that, anytime).

However, he would have been embarrassed to have me raise trouble on his behalf.

His preference is to pretend to sing the portions of the songs that involve devotion to Jesus, but not vocalize the words. I don’t think that America was founded on the ideal of Jews pretending to mouth Christian prayers. Can't Christians find reassurance regarding the divinity of Jesus through some other mechanism?

To give a second example, all children in my son’s class were asked to write a Christmas story. His effort was seen by the teacher as poor in quality and he was forced to rewrite it several times, and punished with loss of recess (and lunch) for his failure to make suitable improvements in the story over time. Of course the story was probably faulty in numerous non-religious ways. But the required topic opened the door for a 7-year old to infer lessons that might not have been intended: in America, Jews who can’t tell Christmas stories well are punished with loss of lunch and recess.

None of the problematic situations I’ve described were “intentional”.

They all entail nice Christian folks assuming that everyone should be able to partake of American life as they see it; I can't completely disagree, because I enrolled my child in a situation where he would learn about being in a minority.

Some Christian parents will go home thankful that in our district, at least, “Jesus has not been kicked out of the public schools.” But the price of that reassurance includes special challenges for the non-Christian kids. Not all those challenges are fair. The Supreme Court was right to notice, and I appreciate that Ann pointed that out.

traditionalguy said...

36...No, I know of no law forbidding religious symbols, except for Germany's prohibtion on the Hagencruz, and perhaps some of the Moslem country's forbid Crosses, and oh yes, the SCOTUS. The Sharia prohibition forbids neither symbols nor religions. It is a safety net for resistance to any Treaty Obama sneaks through placing Americans under a Sharia Law yoke fashioned by the United nations. This even handed article runs down a trend allowing religious symbols in America and it comes from a Methodist School in Atlanta. That probably explains why its Law school dropped from a long consistent 19 down to a 31 in one year in the USNews law school rankings.

Revenant said...

I personally feel that government corrupts religion and religion corrupts government.

Making that kind of observation around here usually results in your being labeled a radical atheist. :)

36fsfiend said...

traditionalguy,

I'm not a lawyer but how could Obama sneak through a U.N. treaty placing Americans under a Sharia Law? I just don't see the Senate ratifying such a treaty or it surviving a SCOTUS ruling.

36fsfiend said...

Revenant,

Why. I believe that religions should be above the fray of government. Minister directly to the people and do good works.

Worst case is you end up with theocracies like we see in the Middle East.

traditionalguy said...

36...It is reassuring to hear your reasons that Sharia Law prohibition affects nothing... unless it affects the inflow of anonymous cash donations from Saudi Arabia flowing to Democrat political causes that are hinting around to the Saudis that they can grease the skids for Sharia Law here. Try calling NPR and see what their policy is today.

traditionalguy said...

36...And I agree with you that we need to be eternally vigilant to prevent all those theocracies popping up everywhere. Did you ever hear about the man sitting in a rocking chair on his front porch with a shotgun in his lap . When a visitor asked him why, he replied that he was guarding the house from alligators. They said there are no alligators around here, and the old man replied, "See, it's working".

Belkys said...

Karlsruhe Court allowed the cross but not the Christ in 199... Until today remain to be enforce

36fsfiend said...

traditionalguy,

I'm not following you on why the Democrats are favoring Sharia Law?

Regarding anonymous cash donations - what's your thoughts on Citizens United and campaign advertizement donations?

Belkys said...

I wonder how the international and foreign law fans in the US will react to this?
Ignoring it. abortion law is far more restrictive in almost every european country. Back in 1974, the equivalent law of Roe vs wade was rejected by the German Constitutional Court.
Freedom of expression is far more restricted in Europe, For example you have no right to insult politicians not called Heider

Belkys said...

PaulV has a point, The talent parable shows he was keynesian.
And he will be jailed for practicing medicine without license

36fsfiend said...

traditionalguy,

Never about the man sitting in a rocking chair on his front porch with a shotgun in his lap. How does that related to theocracies in the Middle East?

Belkys said...

The ruling:
http://www.echr.coe.int/echr/resources/hudoc/lautsi_and_others_v__italy.pdf
Kommers has the german ruling, thee Christ was ordered to be removed because the suffering body was frightening

Revenant said...

Revenant,

Why. I believe that religions should be above the fray of government. Minister directly to the people and do good works.

Oh, I know that.

I made an observation here a while ago, in response to a claim that libertarians are all libertine atheists, that there are plenty of Christian libertarians who simply realize that government corrupts religion and vice-versa.

This observation was met with sneers from the local right-wingers, who often have trouble with any mindset that falls outside of the precisely 2 categories of religious/political thought they are comfortable with.

rcocean said...

"I guess my understanding of Jesus' teachings on prayer is that it is a deeply personal relationship."

Yes, and if that means no public prayers then that understanding is in conflict with the Catholic Church (2,000 years old) the Orthodox Churches, and almost all mainstream Protestant thinking.

Of course maybe they got it all wrong and the other view is right.

36fsfiend said...

rcocean,

Again, my initial post was regarding what Jesus stated about praying in public and not being ostentatious about it and, consequently, my feeling that Jesus would not be overly concerned about using the government to pass laws dictating the display of crucifixes and other religious symbols be displayed in public schools and buildings.

I'm not disagreeing with the idea of praying in public but passing laws stipulating religious symbols will be displayed in public facilities is, in my opinion, contrary to the 1st Amendment unless all religions are allowed to do so.

Revenant said...

I kind of think Jesus' reaction to lots of little replicas of himself nailed to a cross would be something along the lines of "yeesh!".

From a religious perspective he probably would have considered it idolatry.

Fen said...

Rev: there are plenty of Christian libertarians who simply realize that government corrupts religion and vice-versa.

What a brilliant observation. Religion is corrupt? Who knew?

This observation was met with sneers from the local right-wingers, who often have trouble with any mindset that falls outside of the precisely 2 categories of religious/political thought they are comfortable with.

I don't remember this. I've always maintained that religion is merely man's interpretation of God and that men are imperfect and corrupt.

I think you're just attacking to the right again to bolster your cred as a moderate.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"I kind of think Jesus' reaction to lots of little replicas of himself nailed to a cross would be something along the lines of 'yeesh!'. ¶ From a religious perspective he probably would have considered it idolatry."

Well, the anabaptists would probably agree, and Calvin certainly did, see 1 Institutes 106 et seq. (Allen, trns. 1816), but that suffers from the same problem as 36fsfiend's suggestion about public prayer. When the all-but universal witness of the Church since the very beginning contradicts a novel interpretation teased from scripture, it's probably safe to assume that the novelty is wrong. To do otherwise is to assume that generation after generation of Christians were total clots, bereft of the assistance of the spirit or at least willing to ignore it, a position which raises scriptural difficulties of its own.

WV: Ironically, "luteran."

36fsfiend said...

Simon,

I guess I didn't make my original point very clear. I'm certainly not against public prayer - that was not my intended point. I used Matthew 6:5-6 as a source regarding what I felt was Jesus' view on being ostentatious and it just seems to me that using government to create laws and the courts to rule in favor of having one religion's symbols displayed in public facilities that serve people of all faiths is somewhat ostentatious.

In an earlier post you stated:

"When one comes up with an interpretation of scripture that requires that the Church has been wrong throughout her entire existence, it's a good bet that she is right and you're wrong."

I'm not claiming the Church is wrong in regards to public prayer. Although the Church has been wrong on other issues in the past, yes?

craig said...

"...it just seems to me that using government to create laws and the courts to rule in favor of having one religion's symbols displayed in public facilities that serve people of all faiths is somewhat ostentatious."

Because you assume a priori that society has a duty to pluralism that generally takes priority over its duty to act in accordance with truth. That is a typically American axiom. Like any axiom, it is convenient, but not provably correct.


But even First Amendment case law is full of limits to the exercise of religion placed by the majority onto the minority. Indians can't worship using peyote; Moslems can't behead their disobedient daughters; Christian Scientists can't withhold medical treatment from their children. These limits exist because other social ideals are held by common law and politics as higher priorities than the absolute free exercise of religion.

The very idea of "culture" derives from "cultus", or worship. You can't describe how a culture thinks and acts without identifying what it holds sacred. European culture as we know it is the residue of Christendom, and its ideals are residually Christian. The important thing to understand is that positive law is not itself the ideal; at best it can be thought of as an interpretation of some other source which names the truth.

When the crucifixes are taken down, it is a sign that those objective truths are no longer held true and sacred. The legitimacy of the entire social order is threatened; it cannot not be replaced by mob rule until such time as a new framework emerges by force to identify what society should hold sacred. (Three guesses as to what framework is likeliest to dominate Europe going forward.)

America's closest analogue to a sacred social doctrine would be the words of the Declaration of Independence. If the Declaration were expunged from American textbooks, that would be a pretty fair indicator that no-one holds these truths self-evident anymore.

36fsfiend said...

craig,

I'm arguing the position from Christ's words regarding being ostentatious.

Why do the followers of Christ feel it is necessary to have symbols of their religious beliefs displayed in secular, public facilities?

Again, I just don't believe this is something Christ himself would be concerned with. It seems he would be more concerned with healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, i.e., tending his flock.

As far as us being a Christian culture, the greed of Wall Street, unprovoked wars, our treatment of indigenous peoples and other activities do not seem to comport with the teachings of Christ.

craig said...

You have already read others refuting the notion that Christians are instructed to hide their faith. Something about hiding one's lampstand under a bushel, and all that.

But you must have missed the point of my comment. I'm asking you to question the proposition that it is even possible in the larger sense to have a secular space where the sacred is off-limits. By even trying, aren't you actually declaring something else as deserving of higher regard? Is it "ostentatious" to actually live out the belief that God exists?

The charge for Christians to spread the gospel necessarily warrants charity and tact; that said, any silence by Christians on the subject of Jesus cannot be strategic. The great commission necessarily precludes a blackout on the public mention of God.

As for what Christ himself would be concerned with, I will simply note that "Jesus never taught against X" is the rallying cry of every dissenter or sect seeking to alter the apostolic faith to conform it to the wishes of the era. (X may be pederasty during one century, slavery in another, and abortion in still another; the method is the same.) The argument is usually that what He would be more concerned with right now are precisely those things which are uncontroversial in the surrounding social order.

This is why it is more work to be a serious Christian than not, because you will always be swimming against some current. But that's not a bad thing. When you criticize things about our not-Christian-enough culture which are not things over which non-Christian cultures ever get heartburn, you swim against the current too.

36fsfiend said...

“You have already read others refuting the notion that Christians are instructed to hide their faith. Something about hiding one's lampstand under a bushel, and all that.”

- I never said Christ stated one must hide his faith. He was saying not to be ostentation in prayer and in charity.

“But you must have missed the point of my comment. I'm asking you to question the proposition that it is even possible in the larger sense to have a secular space where the sacred is off-limits. By even trying, aren't you actually declaring something else as deserving of higher regard? Is it "ostentatious" to actually live out the belief that God exists?”

- No. See above. Also, I believe that Christ would rather not have his followers involved in government and courts pursuing efforts to get religious symbols (which did not even exist while he was alive and forming his church) displayed in public buildings. You know the whole render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s command.

“The charge for Christians to spread the gospel necessarily warrants charity and tact; that said, any silence by Christians on the subject of Jesus cannot be strategic. The great commission necessarily precludes a blackout on the public mention of God.”

- Again, I didn’t say that Christ said to be silent. He said not to be ostentatious: “Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.”

“As for what Christ himself would be concerned with, I will simply note that "Jesus never taught against X" is the rallying cry of every dissenter or sect seeking to alter the apostolic faith to conform it to the wishes of the era. (X may be pederasty during one century, slavery in another, and abortion in still another; the method is the same.) The argument is usually that what He would be more concerned with right now are precisely those things which are uncontroversial in the surrounding social order.”

- He did command not to be ostentatious.

Not to be only focused on the Christians, but are there any Jewish groups pushing to get the Torah displayed in front of court houses? I know the issue of the mosque being built in NY City caused a stirrup. How about any Moslem groups getting the Qur'an displayed in front of court houses?

From your previous post:
“When the crucifixes are taken down, it is a sign that those objective truths are no longer held true and sacred. The legitimacy of the entire social order is threatened.”

I don’t agree. There are plenty of crucifixes, as wells as other religious symbols, displayed in the numerous cathedrals, churches, synagogues, mosques, parochial schools and private universities throughout this country. That’s the great thing about this nation – religious freedom. However, I believe the unrestraint greed, the vast expenditure of our country’s blood and treasure in these smilingly endless wars and our failure to invest in our country’s people may lead to our downfall. I see us maybe going the way of the former Soviet Union.

Also, another thought, remember the Roman Empire was at its greatest strength when it was a pagan state. It fell after it instituted Christianity as its national religion.

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