January 6, 2013

Shouldn't the Freedom From Religion Foundation sue the Madison school district for the extensive celebration of a religious holiday?

From the Madison Metropolitan School District website:
Kwanzaa celebrated at two schools

Students and staff at Falk and Lowell Elementary Schools recently performed and displayed art projects that reflect the principles of Kwanzaa. The culmination of a semester’s work incorporating Culturally Relevant Practices, the celebration also featured the donations from the schools' service learning project to help build a school library in Ghana. Four MMSD elementary schools (also Hawthorne and Mendota) are working together to provide Culturally Relevant Practices and experiences for all their students.
Video of Madison teachers and children celebrating Kwanzaa at the link.

The school district will surely say that Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but what constitutes religion for Establishment Clause purposes? It's not an easy question. I say that as someone who has taught a law school class in Religion and the Constitution for many years.

I once gave an exam that challenged students to think about Establishment Clause problems inherent in an invented state program pushing environmentalism, defined by statute to mean "the belief in the importance of honoring and conserving the Earth’s resources, minimizing the impact of individual human beings on the Earth, and understanding one’s personal duty to inspire others to honor and conserve resources and to minimize human impact on Earth." In my hypothetical, schools were required to stage day-long Earth Day celebrations every year, praising nature and inspiring conservation, and teachers had to begin each school day with a "solemnification exercise" that included "a recitation enforcing the values of environmentalism along with a set of symbolic gestures," with this example, described in the state law:
On a small table, the teacher unfolds a green cloth to reveal a twig, a small stone, an egg, and a small box of good soil. The teacher opens the box, takes out a bit of soil and sprinkles it on the stone, egg, and twig, and says: "This is our Earth, which is given to us, to love and preserve, for all time." The students then repeat that phrase aloud, and the teacher carefully closes the box, rewraps the items, and puts them away.
My hypothetical environmentalism, like Kwanzaa, is at least a religion substitute, in that it attempts to capture the children's idealism and spiritual longings and to direct them into a particular ideology. It employs the devices of traditional religion: songs of celebration, symbolic gestures and rituals, incantations. In the case of Kwanzaa, based on what I've read, it was originally designed as an alternative to Christmas. And the 7th of the 7 principles of Kwanzaa is:
Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Presumably the God part is watered down for school purposes, but watering down religion is a problem in itself.

ADDED: I see that at something called "The Official Kwanzaa Web Site" — what makes it "official"? — the "Imani/Faith" principle has no "God." It is otherwise word-for-word the same as what I've quoted above. Without God, the statement of faith is puzzling: believe with all your heart in our people and the righteousness of our struggle. That sounds like the worst of what governments have done grabbing at the hearts of young people.

127 comments:

rhhardin said...

It needs a dopiness clause too.

tim maguire said...

I never thought of Kwanzaa as a religious Celebration. Ignoring for now the artificial "invented" aspect, isn't Kwanzaa more a cultural event?

Except for the date, isn't it just another Black History Month activity?

wyo sis said...

To answer the question...Yes.

miss j said...

It looks like you went "on the lookout" for celebrations of this holiday in the schools. They're remarkably easy to find, aren't they?

The Drill SGT said...

so did they light a Menorah in Dec?

I suspect Madison has more folks celerating Hanukkah, thatn Kwanzaa?

or is this culturally relevant thing oriented on the smallest religious groups in Madison.. then let's do Confucianism or maybe Sikhism. Both are underrepresented in Madison and have a larger than their size warrants, impact on events.

the wiccans already get enough press :)

edutcher said...

Last I looked, Kwanzaa was 100% secular, but, since it's a sideways version of Hanukkah, why should they be any different?

Fernandinande said...

"Except for the date, isn't it just another Black History Month activity?"

At the silly tape, a silly woman is claiming that they're "building the Lowell community around the seven principals of Kwanzaa".

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Religion is a "culturally relevant practice."

It just doesn't belong in public schools.

tiger said...

They should but since they are a bunch of attention seeking whores who protest simply to see their names in the papers and since Kwanzaa is a Black folks 'holiday' they won't.

At least the ACLU come out against suppression of right-wing views once in a great while.

The FFRF is just another atheist group that isn't satisfied with denying God's existence for themselves they demand that others agree with them.

Azzhats, every one, and I post this as a hard-core agnostic/borderline atheist.

Pogo said...

Madison teachers must absolutely despise their students to do this to them.

I don't really think this is a constitutional question, because the SCOTUS and Obama have rendered it moot.

Sure, it violated the old US constitution, much as it violates common sense. I'm not sure what difference it makes. The courts and Obama abandoned any presence to following its guidance, so, meh.

The correct question is, can dictators do anything they want, no matter what the pretty piece of paper says?
Answer: Yes.

Ann Althouse said...

I mean practicing it doesn't belong in public schools.

It's fine and even desirable to teach children about the various religious traditions. It's part of history and social studies, and it should be taught competently and with a fact-based approach, not infused with promptings to feel inspired and devoted.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

"To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle."

Mein volk. Mein fuhrer. Mein kampf.

wyo sis said...

As a study of traditions and practices sure, talk about Kwanza and any other cultural practice. As a belief system, no.

Oso Negro said...

Why teach watered down Negro collectivism when you can go full Commie and teach Lenin and Marx?

betamax3000 said...

Kwanzaa always makes me think of Quonset, as in Quonset hut. Quonset huts bring to mind Gomer Pyle at the barracks.

"What's Kwanzaa, Sarge?" he would ask.

"Pyle, you couldn't tell Kwanzaa from a coconut!"

Coconuts -- of course -- bring us to Gilligan's island.

"Skipper, what's Kwanzaa?"

"Ask the Professor, he'd know" the Skipper would reply.

The Professor would then look up Kwanzaa on Wikipedia through his coconut-and-bamboo radio.

"Gilligan, Kwanzaa has seven principles..."

"Seven principals? That Kwanzaa must be a pretty big school, Professor!"

The Professor would shake his head a little, then reply:

"Seven PRINCIPLES, Gilligan. For instance, the principle of Kuumba celebrates creativity, to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it."

"Is that why you made a radio out of coconuts, Professor?"

"Why yes, Gilligan, I believe it does."

"Professor, which principle gets us off the island?"

cubanbob said...

Ann CJ Roberts made it easy for you. Labels don't count. Properties count. Using the court's logic on taxes any belief is a form of religious belief. Your hypothetical would constitute an analogous religious belief. Indeed atheists are boxed in as well. Let the litigation begin!

rhhardin said...

It's a move to make white kids as dumb as black kids.

Black kids in turn must be kept dumb enough to believe their appointed black leaders.

The Drill SGT said...

the real malpractice is spending so much time on that BS instead of you know, reading writing and 'rithmatic...

As i recall, WI minorities test lower than minorities in that evil Texas place.

rhhardin said...

When I was in school we had regular christmas carols.

The kids had their own words.

Even then we didn't believe any of it.

I imagine that's been stamped out by means of dumbing down the boys.

sydney said...

Bart Hall,
That is exactly what came to my mind. Very disturbing. Do you suppose the people who created Kwanzaa have any idea how close that 7th principle is to the Third Reich? Or are they historically ignorant?

Fernandinande said...

OP : "The Official Kwanzaa Web Site"

Kwanzaa Principl #1:
"To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race."

Are the schools really striving for racial unity?

Isn't that illegal if you're white?

Michael K said...

In centers of advanced learning, like Chicago, parents are trying to get their kids into Catholic schools. Not to celebrate Christmas but to learn to read and write.

Sorun said...

It's all so condescending. They're also donating to help build a library in Ghana. I bet it never occurred to them that Sweden needed their help.

AJ Lynch said...

Pogo said:

"the old U.S. constitution" heh- sadly I hear you pal.

Seeing Red said...

What is going on in Northern Europe?

We help out an organization Feed Our Starving Children every now & then and they're sending food to The Netherlands.

We were very surprised.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

Religion is a "culturally relevant practice."

It just doesn't belong in public schools.


According to the Warren Court.

Of course, Earl Warren thought it was OK to ship American-born Japanese off to relocation camps without trial and for the State to seize their belongings and assets.

Chuck Currie said...

Kwanzaa in Rwanda - now those were good times.

Cheers

Quayle said...

No law against listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing in tribute to the children killed in Connecticut, on live right now (11:30 Eastern) on BYU TV (on most cable and satellite systems.)

garage mahal said...

It's a move to make white kids as dumb as black kids.

You might want to rethink this. The skinny black kid way outsmarted the white kids in the last two elections.

rhhardin said...

Kliban had a guy pounding on the ceiling with a broom, caption "Downstairs at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir"

Paddy O said...

The trouble with religion after modernity is that humanism essentially is now a consistent replacement for theism in a great many religion equivalents.

Even if this was implicitly true during the earliest days of our country, with the blip of more explicit development in the French revolution, it really wasn't as much of a culturally popular ideal.

It is now, and that has made an unfortunate bias against religions with deities while favoring religiosn without deities. A religious test, in effect: if it does not have a deity it is an acceptable religion.

The term "Religion" itself, then, becomes a way of categorizing and separating otherwise entirely equivalent frames of reference, that serve almost the entirely same role and purpose in a person's life. That's why I think it's better to use the term 'orientating philosophy.'

An orientating philosophy serves as a construct for shaping a personal and communal life in a distinct way, which then lumps together all the various agnostic, religious, atheistic approaches.

These approaches all begin with some kind of declarative pattern and all have assumed statements about how life is and should be. So, they should be treated the same no matter if there is some sort of higher power or not.

Chef Mojo said...

The skinny black kid way outsmarted the white kids in the last two elections.

You mean the skinny bi-racial kid raised in Indonesia and Hawaii by Asians and white people?

Totally ghetto.

rhhardin said...

It's media smarts, entirely owing to the soap opera women MSM business model.

The Republicans haven't figured out how to attract the estrogen vote without losing the male vote.

Goju said...

Rh, thats because liberal males are so feminized they are now considered to be part of the estrogen vote.

jr565 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
garage mahal said...

You mean the skinny bi-racial kid raised in Indonesia and Hawaii by Asians and white people?

So Obama's "white half" and being around white people growing up gave him his smarts? It can't come as a shock to you as to why blacks don't vote for Republicans.

betamax3000 said...

Kwanzaa also sounds like it could be a model of car: the Buick Kwanzaa, say.

A shiny new car seen from above, gliding along one of those windy rows beloved by car ad makers. As the camera pans in we can see a happy family doing happy things while wearing seatbelts; gaily wrapped presents sit between the children in the back seat. A close-up of rolling tires, vaguely ethnic music with a light hip-hop beat, lens flare, then, superimposed on the screen in a shimmering sans serif font:

"The Seventh Principle of Luxury Driving: to believe with all our hearts in Detriot, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle, now with heated leather seats."

-- cut to Buick logo shiny on a moving hood --

"This is not your father's Kwanzaa"

Tim said...

"That sounds like the worst of what governments have done grabbing at the hearts of young people."

Of course.

Do you think they'd like it even more if they knew the seven-headed Symbionese Liberation Army (you know, the Leftists "revolutionaries" who kidnapped Patty Hearst and killed innocents during bank robberies?) cobra symbol was based on the seven principles of Kwanzaa, with each head representing a principle?

I do think they'd like it more.

It provides validation and authenticity: an honest to God, armed, violent Left-wing revolutionary creed that sanctioned kidnapping and murder.

Kwanzaa rocks!

Mitchell the Bat said...

Vestments for the observance of Kwanzaa should be baggy pants hanging off your ass made of kente cloth.

betamax3000 said...

When I was a kid I feared that the SLA would kidnap me. Really.

AS I got older I realized that if they HAD kidnapped me they would have forced my parents to give free canned hams to The People.

gutless said...

If it didn't have sinister undertones this comically made up holiday would be a natural for George Stevens.

chrisnavin.com said...

If Paddy's right, perhaps in California we are seeing an experiment of sorts in the soft collectivism of organizing philosophies.

New age, "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual," Environmentalism, diversity, humanism, all form the mash of organizing culture in the population centers, where activism is quietly encouraged.

Young people's idealism and longings are routed through these organizing philosophies, this combined with California's draw for the less-rooted and you get an overwhelming Democratic majority routed through a prop system, allowing unions, greens, diversity and minority groups to overwhelmingly accrue political power and money for themselves.

It works for a while if money's flowing in. I also suspect it's what many in the liberal establishment want nationally.

It's almost useless pointing out the problems to them: crony capitalism, less wealth, big money and big politics, political patronage...fiscal unsustainability

...because it's a belief system for them, a way for them to belong, to organize into groups, to direct their idealism, to have the right knowledge and they even look down on religion because they have moved beyond such base belief, they are rooted in science and technology and Progress

Chef Mojo said...

It can't come as a shock to you as to why blacks don't vote for Republicans.

Blacks have been voting Dem now for over 2 generations. Blacks managed to vote for idiots long before Obama came along and bamboozled them into thinking he was black like them.

I really could care less if blacks don't vote Republican, if they don't share my beliefs; they can just keep voting to stay on the plantation. When blacks share my beliefs, I'm happy to welcome them to my side of the fence.

chickelit said...

Shouldn't the Freedom From Religion Foundation sue the Madison school district for the extensive celebration of a religious holiday?

Unless they personally offended Annie Laurie Gaylor, no. Isn't that their only consistent policy?

Wendel Eckford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane said...

No, Kwanzaa isn't a religion. But it is a celebration of racial separatism. Not all, but most of the principles are an us-vs.-them banding together of the black community. Unity -- of the black community. Faith -- in the black community. Cooperative economics -- of the black community. Etc.

Presumably the school has revised the "principles" to be inclusive -- but how can they be tweaked without a wholesale revision?

On some prior comment thread, or maybe another site, someone suggested elevating Juneteenth to suck the air out of Kwanzaa. I suppose the problem with that is that schools want events that fall in their September - May calendar.

miss j said...

What makes it official? Rather obviously, the website is official because,for 15 years, it has been owned by the organization founded by the man who created Kwanzaa.

William said...

I get the sense that the left are far more self righteous about their beliefs than most Christians.....A long time ago, Spinoza pointed out that that the mischief comes in when people embrace their hatreds in a religious way and think that such hatreds make them better people. I can see a lot of mischief flowing out of Kwanza, but, fortunately, most people think it's a big load of crap..

homo œconomicus said...

People seem more interested in bashing Kwanzaa than discussing whether it should be showcased in public schools like this.

Why bash Kwanzaa? All religious traditions were invented by someone at some point. Kwanzaa is just more recent. It's no more arbitrary and irrational than any other religious celebration. Such celebrations have meaning because the participants in them imbue them with meaning.

And the political background of the creation of Kwanzaa (60s Pan-Africanism) is no different from the political nature of other religions through the ages.

It's no more illegitimate or real than any other established religious practice.

Which is why it has no place in public schools.

homo œconomicus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck Currie said...

Chef Mojo said - "You mean the skinny bi-racial kid raised in Indonesia and Hawaii by Asians and white people?"

Garage Mahal said - "So Obama's "white half" and being around white people growing up gave him his smarts? It can't come as a shock to you as to why blacks don't vote for Republicans."

Welcome to 1984 Newspeak - facts now equal racist/racism.

Was Barack Obama raised by his African father (there is some evidence that he was ancestrally Arab - I guess bringing that up is also racist) - True or False

During his childhood, did he live in an southeast Asian country and attend local schools - True or False

During his childhood, did he live in the USA, on an island state where the population is 40% Asian, 24% White and <2% African-American - True or False

During his childhood, did he ever live in Africa or an African-American neighborhood - True or False

If he couldn't zip up his pants and tie his shoelaces, would it be racist to blame it on his non-African, yet, mix racial up-bring - True or False

In any case, I blame the Asians for his smarts, and if history proves that he wasn't so smart after all, then you can blame whitey.

It's good that dictionaries are now digitized - the meaning of words change too fast for old fashion ink on paper.

Cheers

roesch/voltaire said...

I think as Joseph Campbell suggests there is a force in humans that wants to understand unknown forces, and this is reflected in common narrations that employ metaphors, masks etc in an attempt to explain the mystery of life. In some sense many narrations over-lap with religious ones, making it a challenge to determine when a “study” or discussion of these myths conflicts with the Establishment Clause. Some atheists therefore have objected reading the Old Testament as important literature in a World Literature class- a misguided concept I think. And some Christians object to students engaging in meditation. Somehow this is tied to “compelling interests” and the difference between study of and practice of a religion

rhhardin said...

Here's what they ought to be teaching. It's multicultural.

Quantum Mechanics in Chinese with English names.

Curiously, you can follow it.

AprilApple said...

Ann said... "It's fine and even desirable to teach children about the various religious traditions. It's part of history and social studies, and it should be taught competently and with a fact-based approach, not infused with promptings to feel inspired and devoted."

Seems clear to me.

traditionalguy said...

Pagan cultures are religions themselves, each headed by a High Priesthood and king combined with their Temple Police that takes what they want to buy off god's curses.

The Hebrew revelation written down by Moses and in the subsequent Hebrew Prophets seems to be the only enemy of secularists. That is because apart from magic tricks and fear of murder the Pagan priests have nothing to offer except darkness.

The light of the Hebrew scripture and the Hebrew Messiah's revelation written in the Nicene Creed is the only enemy that the Priests of darkness feel a need to extinguish and replace.

ricpic said...

Are little white kids part of "our people and our struggle?" Of course not. In fact until they internalize self-hatred as white debils the spirit of Kwanzaa has not been fully realized. Fundamental Transformation, FORWARD!!!

ricpic said...

Roeschi honors us with another dry turd.

ricpic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

Come on, Althouse, you know the answer to this one. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is not about "freedom" for anyone and is not against "religion" per se. It is actually an organization devoted to the suppression of Christianity.

YoungHegelian said...

.... believe with all your heart in our people and the righteousness of our struggle. That sounds like the worst of what governments have done grabbing at the hearts of young people.

Like fascism doesn't come in black?

chickelit said...

I echo what Greg said, and I've been watching them far longer that Althouse has, from the late 1970's--since Annie took over from Ann.

Aridog said...

Being from Detroit and living within a couple hundred yards of the shambles of the west side at present...Kwanzaa in Madison, Wisconsin as part of Afro-Centric Education?

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! OMG...Quick, gag me...

Opps. Sorry. I lack sensitivity. I know it.

As you were, carry on...

bagoh20 said...

How established does a religion have to be before it's "established"?

There was a time just a few years ago where Kwanzaa was just one guy's idea. So, how many people for how long before it a real deal?

What we need in schools is a religion that glorifies basic math.

garage mahal said...

There was a time just a few years ago where Kwanzaa was just one guy's idea.

Every religion and religious holiday started with just one guy's idea.

Maguro said...

I wouldn't think celebrating Kwanzaa in public schools would violate the Establishment Clause because Kwanzaa isn't religion, it's politics. Black nationalist politics, to be specific.

So rest easy, Althouse, your spectacular property tax bill isn't funding religious indoctrination, it's funding black nationalist political indoctination. The Constitution is safe.

miss j said...

I remain puzzled as to why *you* conflate celebrations of Kwaanzaa with religious celebrations.
Representative Grothman did not that mistake.

Elements of it were modelled after Swahili celebrations of the harvest and consequently has more in common with Thanksgiving than Christmas.
Thanksgiving is a secular holiday to celebrate the harvest and was formed relatively recently compared to Christmas or Hanukkah or other religious celebrations that occur near the end of our calendar year.

There are interesting questions about it, if you would only choose to consider them. For instance,

Why did the founder choose Swahili traditions and language when most of the African Americans are part of the West African diaspora?

What evidence is there that the espoused values are "pan-African," as the founder claims, when Africa has always been comprise of many different rich cultures with different traditions?

How well do individual leaders in Africa (e.g. Mobuto Sese Seko, Idi Amin, Danie arap Moi, Charles Taylor, Muammar Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe, Hissene Habre, Juvenal Habarimana, Kwame, Nkrumah) follow the precepts the founder espoused?

Karenga was convicted for assault several years after he started Kwaanzaa. After reading the sworn testimony of one of the woman who was tortured by him, how do you reconcile his actions with his precepts?

Kwaanzaa was born during a time when there were many efforts toward pan-African unity. What was the fate of the individual Africans who were subject to leaders who shared the dream of pan-Africanism?

It surprises me that you, a baby boomer, do not recognize how this holiday is related to brutal dictators who were frequently seen in our news during the 70s. Your profound lack of interest in the consequences of baby-boomer leftist thought is staggering.

Think.

Aridog said...

Question: How can a little city that is 85+% white, 93% non-African, possibly do without Kwanzaa and its collectivist import? Never mind its original separatist import that the ignorant teachers seem unaware of or intentionally disguise it. Over reaching much?

Umoja Unity specifically cites "race." Hard to ignore that when honestly studying Kwanzaa.

Ujamaa Cooperative economics where blacks own and operate the businesses that support their community. Actually, a good idea, even tried a bit, but NOT supported by the inherent community...devolved in to blaming Koreans, Arabs, Jews, and Pakistanis for taking advantage for operating businesses in their communities. Some zones are so raggedy that NO businesses operate there, NONE....except for liquor stores, maybe.

It is just almost too funny that this is a object of study in pansy white Madison Wisconsin primary education. Seriously.

I read recently that 80% of African Americans graduate from High School. It is really hard for me to reconcile that claim with the 25% who graduate in Detroit or Benton Harbor, Michigan. It is a tragedy and needs remedy. Kwanzaa is the very last way to achieve that....it emphasizes nothing but unity in uselessness.

I still say that in the 1960's the graduation and education level for African Americans, and all others, in my town, Detroit, was better than anything today. Not sure we can get back to a decent future.

RichardS said...

If memory serves, our free exercise jurisprudence accepts a humanistic definition of religion, or perhaps even a teleological defintion--defining religion by its ends, or perhaps what it does in human life.
At the same time, our establishment clause jurisprudence uses a conventional/ traditional definition--Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. are "religions."

The museum, of course, was designed to replace the church in human life in Europe and America. According to our free exercise standard, "beauty is truth, and truth beauty . . ." is a religious idea, but according to our establishment clause standard it is not.

Ultimately, if we accept the fact/ value distinction, as all reasoning based upon the modern scientific method must, all moral ideas are, ultimately, based upon a leap of faith.

SteveR said...

OK I'm not a constitutional scholar or anything close but clearly when singing Silent Night in 4th grade choir violates the First Amendment than you really have cut a lot of these "cultural practices" out.

garage mahal said...

It is just almost too funny that this is a object of study in pansy white Madison Wisconsin primary education. Seriously.

What about pansy Green Bay?

I love the argument that unless you live around black people you can't possibly have an opinion about them. Like having fleas. If you've never actually had them, you can't appreciate how bad it is.

Synova said...

The Freedom From Religion people ought to go get a life. How pathetic is it, that to get meaning in your life, when you don't believe in god, you have to make that meaning opposing god? It's just as dependent for life meaning as any religious person is. Maybe more so.

Kwanzaa is still what it is... but the reason not to have celebrations of different religions is the same. Parents don't want their elementary school children to do the sorts of activities you often hear about, and if Evangelical parents don't want their kids reciting a Muslim prayer, trust that Muslims don't want their kids learning the Nicene Creed.

It's like the teacher who got in so much trouble for having a Teddy Bear named Muhammad. Either kids are being led through religions that aren't their own OR the religions themselves are made quaint and meaningless, which is just as bad.

bagoh20 said...

"Every religion and religious holiday started with just one guy's idea."

Not really, and not like this. This was one man's idea entirely built by him, with little other development by others, and no similar testing by time.

My point is why this one, and not a hundred other new age creative writing assignments equally qualified?

The social gravitas of other religions is their long term tradition throughout the culture, and Kwanzaa may get there someday, but so far it's just been established by educators as a religion to be taught in the "secular" area where they have power.

Mick Havoc said...

When you go after Christians, they usually pray for you.
Ron Karenga would bring out the blowtorch and pliers.
Don't think Ms Gaylor has those kind of stones.

mtrobertsattorney said...

What about using biblical stories in public schools to illustrate a positive ethical principle? Is this the "practice" of religion?

mtrobertsattorney said...

What about using biblical stories in public schools to illustrate a positive ethical principle? Is this the "practice" of religion?

Chuck Currie said...

I think that holidays that do not include copious amounts of barbeque and/or alcohol, and at least three days off should be outlawed.

For the religionist - St Anthony's Fire or Holy Fire - once thought of as a punishment from God, was actually Ergotism caused by a rye fungus.

Cheers

Synova said...

Education is ideology... in a very real way education is facts combined with meaning. So while I suppose it would be possible to simply teach facts, the result would be, well, Math would make it, but I don't think that even Science would be as rich as it ought and other than learning to read and reading the most boring material possible, humanities, social studies, and history would be a bust.

The government teaching citizenship is a clear conflict of interest and teaching children in a setting that aggressively portrays the world as a secular place is hostile to faith and likely violates the 1st Am by inhibiting religions.

A solution would be leaving the public school model for a private school voucher model where enrollment is a voluntary contract and education can happen in the context of meaning without stepping on ideological or religious toes.

And if you're an atheist or the Freedom From Religion foundation and you're afraid that poor people will be forced to send their kids to the local Baptist k-8, prove your concept by founding your own schools.

MadisonMan said...

The Freedom From Religion people ought to go get a life.

They make a great living doing what they're doing. It's the American Way! So I'd say they have a great life.

For FFRF, I draw a parallel with Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh, like Annie blanking-on-her-last name, has carved out a very nice niche and earns a living doing something they're pretty good at. What could be more American than that?

Anglelyne said...

garage mahal: So Obama's "white half" and being around white people growing up gave him his smarts? It can't come as a shock to you as to why blacks don't vote for Republicans.

Well of course if one accepts the first statement the second follows. I'm just surprised to see you asserting that blacks don't vote Republican because they're dumb.

Synova said...

MM, nothing unamerican about that, but I will say that Rush isn't basing his niche on the need to force anyone else to participate in his niche involuntarily.

Tim said...

"What about pansy Green Bay?"

I wouldn't call them pansies - just their offensive line - but this is a pertinent question.

The answer, of course, is that their season ends next week.

In San Francisco.

Aridog said...

garage mahal said...

I love the argument that unless you live around black people you can't possibly have an opinion about them. Like having fleas...

Oh, please. You know that is not what I was saying, it is what YOU are saying as you conflate it with "fleas".

What I was and am saying is that Kwanzaa and all the nifty values do not apply in a community of primarily white folks. Period.

For two reasons...one non-Africans have already achieved their version of "Ujamaa" ...long ago in fact. Next, "Umoja" where it pertains to "race" (and it does, skip the denials) would be illegal for non-blacks to even try.

You do much better, Garage, when you stick to things you actually know something about. Why embarass yourself? I've lived in Madison..."pansy white" is apt.

No, you do not have to live in a community to know something about it. No don't have to own an airplane to know something about flying. I'd suggest, however, you learn to fly before you lecture others on the subject. Same for those of us who actually live or have lived in truly diverse communities ... and that you never have heard us say a bad worth about other cultures and races generally.

The issues for places like Detroit are political, not ethnic or racial. No more than problems in Dearborn are Arabic only. See, with fleas or not, you can't know what you don't examine closely, from whatever your perch.

When you import a "negative" interpretation, it is of your own mind, not ours.

ken in sc said...

Bart, the phrase you are thinking of is 'ein reich, ein volk, ein führer', meaning 'one realm, one people, one leader.' A Nazi motto.

Carnifex said...

If the athiest bastards really cared about removing religion from public life they would, but they only care about removing ONE religion...Christianity.

I wish people would quit dancing around truth about what's going on...there is an all out war on Christianity going on in our country by the queers, the communists, and the liberal elite... any group that knows deep in their heart, that they just like committing sin, and don;'t want to admit it.

Same as politicians lying...you have to be a fool to believe even half of what comes out of a politicians mouth.

Carnifex said...

Althouse said: "Religion is a "culturally relevant practice."

It just doesn't belong in public schools
"

Yes, because teaching kids that lying, cheating, stealing, and killing, is supressing their natural expression...to commit mayhem...and crimes.

Carnifex said...

Garbage mahal said: "So Obama's "white half" and being around white people growing up gave him his smarts? It can't come as a shock to you as to why blacks don't vote for Republicans."

Would it be "RACIST" to say we were completely surprised by super nigger getting 110 % votes in totally black democratic run precints? Or maybe black people and liberals are really stupid enough to fall for his line of shit?

You don't have to answer that... we know you are.

Chef Mojo said...

If the athiest bastards really cared about removing religion from public life they would, but they only care about removing ONE religion...Christianity.

Don't lump me in with that bunch, Carnifex. I'm an atheist and a conservative/libertarian.

One thing I'm not is an evangelical atheist, an absurd individual that is a living contradiction in terms. I do not proselytize my atheism. I could care less about Christianity or any other religion, and as long as they leave me alone to go about my life, I'm content. I do not take offense at the religious; in fact, I love religious people. My mother is intensely religious. She doesn't understand my unbelief, but she doesn't let that get in her way of her love for me, and I return that.

I have a problem with atheists who congregate to be atheists. They haven't quite gotten the concept of unbelief in a deity. Nor have the ones who have taken up the profession of being perpetually offended by the presence of the religious. Silly.

Chef Mojo said...

As far as Kwanzaa?

It's a dog's breakfast of African animist tradition combined with African-American liberation theology, with a healthy slathering of socialist dogma to force it all down.

It's inevitable that it gets taught in schools, given that. It can be shifted quietly and smoothly from the religious to the secular as the need arises.

I could really give two shits. If parents are content to let teachers teach this drivel without counseling their children, then it's their own damn fault.

Jdennyv said...

WOW ! Every once in awhile you hit it out of the park. Except for the Dog stuff...which is always a Home Run. BTW does Mead make House Calls ? I live not all that far away, Mpls. MN., on rocky, sandy soil and.....I could use a little help. If he likes Jameson's I'm his guy.

Ann Althouse said...

"How established does a religion have to be before it's "established"?"

The govt can't treat religions differently based on how well "established" a religion is, so that an old religion gets different treatment from a new one. That's not what "establishment" means in the case law.

Ann Althouse said...

"Elements of it were modelled after Swahili celebrations of the harvest and consequently has more in common with Thanksgiving than Christmas.
Thanksgiving is a secular holiday to celebrate the harvest and was formed relatively recently compared to Christmas or Hanukkah or other religious celebrations that occur near the end of our calendar year."

Thanksgiving is religious. Who do you think is being thanked? Read some presidential Thanksgiving messages. I recommend beginning at the beginning, with George Washington.

If something begins as religious, but then religion is obscured so that you only see the laundered version, with no references to religion, that's kind of a problem.

I'm challenging you to think about what religion is for Establishment Clause purposes. Reflexive denials -- Kwanzaa is not religion! -- without more are not good enough. Please engage with the topic on a deeper level.

tiger said...

Don't know if anyone mentioned this but in addition to being completely man-made in the mid- 20th century I think it was intentionally set to run right after Channukah and X'mas to give it a sheen of religiousness.

Ann Althouse said...

Paddy O said “The trouble with religion after modernity is that humanism essentially is now a consistent replacement for theism in a great many religion equivalents. Even if this was implicitly true during the earliest days of our country, with the blip of more explicit development in the French revolution, it really wasn't as much of a culturally popular ideal. It is now, and that has made an unfortunate bias against religions with deities while favoring religion without deities. A religious test, in effect: if it does not have a deity it is an acceptable religion.

The term ‘Religion’ itself, then, becomes a way of categorizing and separating otherwise entirely equivalent frames of reference, that serve almost the entirely same role and purpose in a person's life. That's why I think it's better to use the term ‘orientating philosophy.’ An orientating philosophy serves as a construct for shaping a personal and communal life in a distinct way, which then lumps together all the various agnostic, religious, atheistic approaches. These approaches all begin with some kind of declarative pattern and all have assumed statements about how life is and should be. So, they should be treated the same no matter if there is some sort of higher power or not.”

The term “religion” is needed for legal purposes, because it’s in the text we are applying. That’s why I’m writing about the definition of “religion.” The option of substituting another phrase really isn’t there. You have to work in the zone of defining religion. There were a couple of key Supreme Court cases dealing with conscientious objector status under the military draft, and these took a broad view of religion that was very close to what you are arguing for as a reason to use this other term.

Balfegor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paddy O said...

So, if religion is the necessary word, then I think it should be defined as "orientating philosophy" rather than "organized belief in deity."

Seems like the word itself allows such a definition:

According to Cicero derived from relegere "go through again, read again," from re- "again" + legere "read" (see lecture (n.)). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare "to bind fast" (see rely), via notion of "place an obligation on," or "bond between humans and gods." Another possible origin is religiens "careful," opposite of negligens.

chickelit said...

Paddy O: Thanks for your 6:29 and pointing to the definition of religion. I did a titular pun on that link

/crack

mtrobertsattorney said...

Suppose a 5th grade public school teacher begins the day by having her class recite the following:

"WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." ...

Is it fair to charge this teacher with encouraging the "practice" of religion? I don't think so.

A more accurate description of what she is doing is getting her students to seriously think about a principle of a particular political philosophy that happens to be fundamental to our nation's system of government.

RichardS said...

"If something begins as religious, but then religion is obscured so that you only see the laundered version, with no references to religion, that's kind of a problem."

As in this case?
"I, XXX XXX, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as XXX under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/28/453
"You must not act unjustly in a legal case. Do not show favoritism to the poor or deference to the great."
http://www.biblestudytools.com/leviticus/19-15-compare.html

The idea of the rule of law is itself a religious idea.

On the other hand, there's Jefferson's view, according to which natural law, being reason, is not religion.

RichardS said...

P.S. To be consistent, an atheist cannot include "god" in his definition of religion. Why? To an athiest "god" is a myth. How can an atheist separate that myth from others that serve the same function in human life?

Synova said...

"Thanksgiving is religious. Who do you think is being thanked?"

But it's not, in any way, a religious observance or "feast" or anything like that. No religion has the observance of Thanksgiving as a "holy day".

If you move to England you have Thanksgiving because you're American, not because you're Lutheran.

Synova said...

If you're Japanese you have Thanksgiving because Kentucky Fried Chicken had a tremendously successful promotion in the 1970s.

chickelit said...

@mtrobertsattorney:

You hypothetical Madison 5th grade teacher (or Annie Laurie Gaylor) would like to see that Declaration amended to read:

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men evolved equally, that they are endowed by random Chance with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." ...

kimsch said...

Synova, it's KFC for Christmas. Secular Christmas is very big in Japan.

David R. Graham said...

IANAL. Doesn't "establishment" mean taxes collected by government supporting a specific ecclesial judicatory, specifically, in the late 18th Century in USA, the Episcopal Church/Church of England - or, in principle, any other, e.g., Quakers, Unitarians (who were originally Calvinist Puritans), etc.?

I think lawyers and laity have over-thought this one, making it more portentous and difficult than it is. It's about taxes and money flows, nothing more. And rightly so, IMO.

Now, despite the Establishment Clause, religious organizations are allowed tax exempt status. That is back-door establishment. Relatively even-handed, to be sure, but still crypto establishment. And begs the question of what is a religion, as Althouse points out. I think that should be ended. Plenty of con artists are claiming to be ministers of a religion. IRS has not a theological standard for say what is and isn't. Too bad, revenue is lost for that omission.

Lawyers try to define religion in legal terms. They can't because religion is not a legalistic activity. They don't study theological terms for defining it. Or the word itself. Arrogant. The Latin roots of the word are simple and direct. Religion is binding up that which has come apart, is separated from itself and/or its mother's milk. Making the paralyzed able to work again. That's all religion is.

Duty is God. Work is worship.

God, too, is an easy one: that which or who concerns one ultimately. It's that simple.

I went to Watts to meet Ron Karenga in the Spring of 1968. Three years after the riots. I had been suggested to audience, requested it and was received. Scene substantially sketched by Clint in The Enforcer, except that guards stood behind me while I was in the inner sanctum, one on either side, during the interview. I asked him for help on a project I was intending in New York City over the summer. He said he would and did nothing.

Synova said...

kimsch... in the back of my head I thought... waitaminute. :)

kimsch said...

:)

DEEBEE said...

our people (so provide more food stamps), our parents (touch social security or medicare and die), our teachers (increase allocation to education), our leaders (search for a true successor to the One)

SGT Ted said...

Of course its a religion. Its a weird black nationalist rejection of Christianity for a faux Afro-Centric fabrication of a co-Christmas, decorated with leftwing revolutionary claptrap.

It's kinda like a Black Nationalist Wicca. A call to older, simpler times using the imagined trappings of a past they know nothing of.

SGT Ted said...

And, if the schools aren't celebrating Christmas as cultural event and calling it "Christmas" as opposed to "The Holidays", they need to quit celebtrating Kwanzaa too.

Duncan said...

It's also possible to challenge mandatory diversity exercises on the same basis. "Harvard abolished mandatory chapel in 1881, and now they're bringing it back."

Duncan said...

It's also possible to challenge mandatory diversity exercises on the same basis. "Harvard abolished mandatory chapel in 1881, and now they're bringing it back."

Dennis Howell said...

Kwanzaa has its roots in black liberation theology which, as practiced by many including our Dear Leader's ex-pastor Rev. Wright, is an extremist and thoroughly racist theology.

I find it ironic that some schools are celebrating Kwanzaa when the black community is overwhelmingly Christian, and the fastest growing religion in Africa today is Christianity.

I've got an idea. Let's prepare ALL kids to function effectively as adults with good basic education, a good drilling in Western civilization, and a foundation in Judeo-Christian morals and work ethic.

Sorry, I forgot. That idea, although proven effective, is so passe by "elite" standards today.

rasqual said...

Hmm. Having no God hardly makes ones devotion non-religious. A religious proposition either affirms or denies a thing. Both "It is the case that there is a God" and "It is not the case that there is a God" are religious propositions -- one theistic, the other atheistic.

But there's a difference, so to speak, between not believing a God exists, and believing that a God does not exist. The former obtains without ever having affirmed or denied any proposition at all; it's agnostic on the question. The latter has embraced a particular proposition.

It seems to me that indifference to the question is irreligious (though that indifference could be a matter of some other religious principle ;-) whereas vestedness (pardon the pun) is religious whether atheistic or theistic.

That doesn't mean atheists behave in religious ways. It just means that with regard to the truth or falsity of religious propositions -- that is, regarding their or others' opinions of such -- atheists have no more or less privilege than their detractors.

Something like that.

James said...

The problem here is the SCOTUS decisions in the early 1900s that the Bill of Rights limited all governments, not just the Federal one. Because of that lousy decision, we have constant logical inconsistencies and paradoxes.

Also, adding to the problem is the Public School system which distanced parents as an educational authority. An important aspect of childhood education is instilling values. But, naturally, parents want to be in charge of that. That's a problem.

Leroy Hurt said...

Thanks for posting those thoughts. It brings to mind something the Founding Fathers were born a bit too early to consider: ideology. If you look at the definition of ideology (as you've suggested in your post), it certainly corresponds closely to that of religion. I'm not aware, however, of much scholarship that addresses that functional equivalency to argue that ideology should come under the same clause.

BarryD said...

"isn't Kwanzaa more a cultural event?"

But isn't Christmas, as it is often celebrated, also? Plenty of atheists celebrate it in the same way that plenty of Christians do.

Many devout Christians may go to church on Christmas Eve, for a specifically religious ceremony, but on the morning of December 25th, it's stockings and presents, reindeer, Santa Claus and a decorated tree, just like in many atheist and even Jewish households.

BarryD said...

"The problem here is the SCOTUS decisions in the early 1900s that the Bill of Rights limited all governments, not just the Federal one. Because of that lousy decision, we have constant logical inconsistencies and paradoxes."

"Pesky 14th Amendment, just like the pesky 1-10! Damn that Constitution! It's the root of all our problems." -The New York Times

jimbino said...

I think that equating "faith" and "religion" obscures many nuances. To me, faith involves belief; religion involves ritual.

Considering Kwanzaa, I think it useful to rank it among the major religions, for starters, in the degree to which is relies on state support, oppresses other religions, has a scripture, requires belief, and is characterized by ritual.

I see other faiths as following this scheme:

Religion = [State Patronage, Repression, Scripture, Belief, Ritual]

Islam = State Patronage, Repression, Scripture, Belief, Ritual
Catholicism = State Patronage, Repression, Scripture, Belief, Ritual
Protestantism = State Patronage, Repression, Scripture, Belief, Ritual
Judaism = State Patronage, Scripture, Ritual
Hinduism = State Patronage, Scripture, Ritual
Buddhism = State Patronage, Ritual
Shintoism = State Patronage, Repression, Ritual
Unitarian/Universalism = Belief, Scripture
Deism = Belief
Humanism = Belief
Atheism = Belief

Clayton said...

For those at all curious about the founder of Kwanzaa: here's a detailed account of his conviction and imprisonment for kidnapping and torture. http://www.wabashunion.org/dec2007/the-story-of-ron-karenga-kwanzaa%E2%80%99s-founder

BarryD said...

jimbino, I'm not a Humanist myself, so I have no way to confirm what is or isn't characteristic of one. But it appears there actually is scripture, of sorts, in Humanism.

Unlike, say, atheism or deism that, at their core, are beliefs of "meh" regarding the dogma of all religions, Humanism is an actual system of beliefs that looks like a bizarre amalgamation of the DNC's official platform, Marxism and Political Correctness, built on a foundation of atheism or deism.

I.e., a foundation of "meh", with trendy cargo culty groupthink built on top of it -- but it is a pretty specific dogma.

McGehee said...

Maybe these questions could be simplified with a return to a narrower and more logical definition -- as no doubt intended back when -- of "establishment" for First Amendment purposes.

jimbino said...

Good call McGehee.

Of the religions I listed in my comment,

Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism,
Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shintoism have been "established," whereas Unitarian/Universalism, Deism, Humanism, Atheism, and Kwanzaa have not.

BarryD said...

jimbino, that wouldn't resolve anything at all, if you read the First Amendment's language.

Also, IIRC John Adams was a Unitarian, so it was clearly established.

RichardS said...

"Protestantism = State Patronage, Repression, Scripture, Belief, Ritual."
Roger Williams, among others, might beg to disagree. One could even argue that disestablishment is a Protestant idea, or, at least, an idea that owes a great deal to Protestantism.

RichardS said...

P.S. Not sure what that John Adams comment means. He opposed establishments, but lacked the votes in the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1779-1780 to block it.
P.P.S. It's not a coincidence that Jefferson call the VA bill a bill "for the establishment of religious liberty," and included "almighty God hath created the mind free" in the bill.

McGehee said...

jimbino said... 1/7/13 3:32 PM

Not what I meant.

The First Amendment used the wod "establishment" for a very singular reason: that in England they have an Established Church. Established as in it's the official Church of England.

Courts in recent years have interpreted "establishment" in an entirely new and innovative way having no relationship whatsoever to the intent of the First Amendment.

More like the way you seem to be using it, in fact. So no -- that is't what I meant at all.