May 3, 2016

Jesus Lunch update.

A couple weeks ago, we were talking about the "Jesus Lunches" in the Middleton, Wisconsin park next to the high school. I'd said:
The district superintendent and the high school principal in Middleton, Wisconsin are trying to end this activity, which started in 2014, when some parents began meeting with their own children and their children's friends, and has grown to the point were the authorities are worrying about whether it's legal (and not worrying enough about whether stopping it is illegal).... A city park is a traditional speech forum where free-speech rights are at their strongest.... These are private citizens, not government employees, and they're speaking on a subject of their choice with their own point of view. That's plain old freedom of speech. You can't discriminate against it because the religious message is making some people uncomfortable or because you're reminded of things like prayer in the classroom that would present a problem under the Establishment Clause.
A fine point was that the school had some kind of lease on the park that let it impose school rules on the students, but the park was still open to the general public, to whom the school rules didn't apply.

The news today is that the school officials are planning to ask the city to cancel the lease, so the school will have no authority over the park. Email from the district superintendent Don Johnson to employees and parents suggested that this was the best move, in view of the potential for lawsuits from both sides of the controversy.
Johnson wrote in his message that Fleming believes the district’s authority to enforce school rules in Fireman’s Park under the lease “is questionable, and that the city has no interest in litigation to resolve the ambiguities in the language.”

[City attorney Matt] Fleming didn’t disagree. “The only legal problems they might have right now, they brought on to themselves,” he said. “Their school rules only apply to school people. It is a public park, and I don’t think anything untoward was happening.”
In Fleming's view, canceling the lease doesn't make a difference. But I'd say that since some people thought the school's lease mattered, getting that out of the picture could help them adjust to the reality of life in the United States of America.

Fleming says the situation "needs to calm down," but "there isn’t anything the city will do, if there’s no lease, to fundamentally change anything." He's right about that. The city shouldn't do anything (other than enforce the neutral rules that apply to everyone using the park, whatever they're talking about Jesus or geometry or whatever).

35 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

I think of the gerund of "to cancel" as requiring a double consonant: "cancelling", not "canceling".

EDH said...

Just dress Jesus like a broad and the school will exalt the gathering.

traditionalguy said...

The war on Christian faith is still un-Constitutional. Scary country we live in.

But until Obama and friends have finished enacting UN Mandated Sharia and imported an Army of Islamic Jihadists called refugees, the Christian faith still has a chance to fight back.

Bob Boyd said...

It's all fun and games until somebody gets reborn.

YoungHegelian said...

Email from the district superintendent Don Johnson said the park "won't be a place for nuns, but it's not like we're trying to re-create Sodom & Gomorrah".

robother said...

"School rules" in the park across the street. In the early 60s, I remember the little park across the street from my high school is where you'd go to settle hall way shoving matches after school. Also where the (cigarette) smokers would go at lunch.

Easy to imagine that high school administrators (and helicopter parents) would in the intervening decades come to think that they needed to impose school rules on such a space.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

I think the Jesus Lunch people have a right to use the park as they have been doing. On the other hand, it shouldn't be that difficult to allow the school to use the fields for gym class or other purpose if they need to, and to have school rules apply on those fields when they do. In the good old days they'd just walk over there and conduct the class. Now there has to be some sort of legal agreement hammered out. Bah. Threats of lawsuits spoiling things. My kids aren't in high school yet, but this is our (awesome) district and my kids aren't Christian. Should I be concerned about Jesus Lunch? I can't for the life of me see why.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

But I'd say that since some people thought the school's lease mattered, getting that out of the picture could help them adjust to the reality of life in the United States of America.

I like this. Adjust to the reality of life in the United States of America.

Completely on topic:

http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/27212/

Rick said...

It's an adult, look quick before he's gone.

Mark said...

I wonder if they are serving pork again today as they did two weeks ago, after making all those statements about how inclusive they were.

I note it is acceptable for people over 21 to drink there during school hours. A crafty group of adults could really create a scene for the Jesus Lunch folks to work around.

I think the lease was cancelled so the city can enforce food regulations and look for any way the park lease is violated so it can be permanently denied. They got what they wanted, but that means a whole different set of regulations now.

James Pawlak said...

It would have been much better for those teachers of our young to, rather, declare their support of "free speech" and the "free exercise of religion" as was the intent of the authors of the First Amendment.

Fernandinande said...

Bob Ellison said...
I think of the gerund of "to cancel" as requiring a double consonant: "cancelling", not "canceling".


Thinkin' again. Apparently nobody got hurt.

Ron Winkleheimer said...
Completely on topic:
http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/27212/


Yikes!
"The employee told Carleo, who identifies as gender-neutral, that only two genders exist, male and female, according to the student. Carleo told The Fix that statement was the hate crime.

Carleo responded that “you can have your opinion” as long as it doesn’t “deny my existence.”

My opinion is that Carleo is imaginary. At least I hope it's imaginary.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Mark said...

I think the lease was cancelled so the city can enforce food regulations and look for any way the park lease is violated so it can be permanently denied. They got what they wanted, but that means a whole different set of regulations now.

The city always had the option of enforcing any laws and regulations on people using the park. Do you have any evidence that any food regulations were being violated? If the school's lease is cancelled then what lease do you think might now be violated and permanently denied?

ndspinelli said...

Middleton is a small minded town that produces small minded people. These normal people wanting to have a religious discussion just need to get a transgender to join them. Then they are inoculated from liberal fascism.

Paddy O said...

From here, it sounds like the school administrators were getting harassed on both sides, that they were spurred to stop the lunch by people who threatened to sue the school otherwise. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it should sounds like "concerned parent" vs school lunch parents more than random administrator decision.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

The remedy to be applied is more science education, not enforced silence.

Mark said...

Ignorance is Bliss, the Jesus Lunch people also have a park lease so as to reserve use of the shelter. By removing the school from the equation, the police enforce ordinances and the JL folks cannot claim the school is doing so on false pretenses. Similarly, any violence or such is now the duty of the permit holders (Jesus Lunch) and the cops.

One of their complaints about the suggestion to use Parisi Park (which is often parked up by high schoolers who do not have on-campus parking tags) was that the much smaller shelter could not accommodate them.

If the shelter use permit is denied, then it's all over. The organizers know that they can't get the numbers of students they want to walk 400 yards to Parisi, the only way to get the numbers they do is 100' from the school door on the lawn as currently is the case. Also, it's hard to get $2500 a week donated after people find out you had to throw half away (or 90% on rain days).

Char Char Binks said...

Why would the school lease that park, anyway? They have a huge campus adjacent to it, with plenty of room for whatever they need to do.

aritai said...

Is there a "common sense" solution to lawfare of this type? Lawfare that wedges the powerless, someone with no evil intent between the law and minding their own business. Don't like it? avert your eyes and ears. What would Solomon do? What would Andrew Jackson do, or could your pTb do with a wave of his presidential pen. Perhaps just guaranteeing a pardon to those who are willing to risk their lives to insure civil society? Bringing common sense back to the law. Is there a splitting the baby solution, so the representative of the common man can return civil society to the common, and the commons? Causing both sides to choose between a bad and a much worse. Perhaps an entry fee at the courthouse door for every second entry after the first, increasing by 2x at every return, including paying the defendant's bill if they choose to accept whatever this small annoyance fee is for an act that chips away at civil society. With judge Jane Average paid from these fees and being drawn out of the street to make the decision. Another form of small claims court.

Me, I hope your Andrew Jackson brings back the Duel. Those that truly believe could put their life on the line, those that just want to annoy and diminish civil society and the majesty of the law could do the same. And and if one duel a year or less didn’t end all of these trivial disputes, then start increasing them to NxN complainants shooting at each other, until you reached no more stupid disputes where you’d televise the duels and broadcast all. Grandmother tells me the romans did this right, bread and circuses kept the population calm and productive, besides being great object lessons for children. No need for the rod once consequences were obvious. No petty theft then.

And maybe always have one lawyer attend a duel, in the line of fire. Participants the victim of the complaint choosing where the lawyer, even judge stands. Grandmother says “stop daydreaming and get back to work, you spawn of a lizard! Ok! true enough.

Mark said...

Char Char, most of the schools outdoor space is much further away from the school door than this park which is an extension of the schools lawn and is contiguous (all athletic fields require crossing a parking lot, this is even closer).

Time to start offering downtown street folks a free bus ride and a bottle once they reach the park. If FFRF was smart, they could make quite a photo op.

Rick said...

Paddy O said...
From here, it sounds like the school administrators were getting harassed on both sides, that they were spurred to stop the lunch by people who threatened to sue the school otherwise. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it should sounds like "concerned parent" vs school lunch parents more than random administrator decision.


If this were the circumstance the school should have explained the theory of freedom (of speech and association) and let them sue if they still couldn't understand. Since they did not it appears more like the administration colluding with "concerned parents" similar to how the EPA colludes with activist groups.

If administrators were merely mediators they would have taken considered the other parents' preferences as well as those of the complainers.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why would the school lease that park, anyway? They have a huge campus adjacent to it, with plenty of room for whatever they need to do."

It seems to have been considered a way to impose school rules on the students.

Joe Veenstra said...

I think the humanists (or maybe some different faith than these church lunch ladies)should hold a lunch and just ask to use the same area in the public park. At some point it is just absurd.

BrianE said...

In our state the schools have authority over the student from the time they leave their house until they return, according to my middle school principal son-in-law.
So there is that.
My son got into a fight club at school year ago, where they would leave the school grounds during lunch to fight.
The school got wind of it, the security guard apprehended my son when he returned to the school grounds and arrested him.
He ended up getting suspended for two weeks.

damikesc said...

Fleming says the situation "needs to calm down"

Given that there is no word about what side needs to "calm down", you feel safe in assuming it is not the pro-Jesus lunch crowd.

mikee said...

Althouse, think this through like a damn lawyer, not an academic: If the park is no longer under lease to the school, the principal can forbid students from leaving school property during lunch!

Fernandinande said...

Eric the Fruit Bat said...
The remedy to be applied is more science education, not enforced silence.


I tried that and was struck by lightning, covered with boils and chewed on by locusts.

Rick said...

mikee said...
If the park is no longer under lease to the school, the principal can forbid students from leaving school property during lunch!


Yes, but if the school administration does this for the express purpose of denying students the opportunity to engage in this religious activity the action violates legal precedent. Any act undertaken to accomplish a result which would be held impermissible if done directly is also impermissible. If the school wanted to accomplish this they should have never said a word about the lunch activities and ended the practice due to risk management. They would need unanimous support since doing so would still be impermissible, but it would be impossible to prove and thus might possibly stand. But since the issue was made so public there's no way they can get this through.

Althouse, think this through like a damn lawyer, not an academic:

When you think someone who spends their life immersed in a subject has missed an obvious "step two" you should probably take a minute and glance around for a "step three".

Birches said...

The FFR people say the only solution is closing the campus. What a bunch of nannies, it has nothing to do with the establishment clause.

Ann Althouse said...

I don't see how those protesting the lunches can possibly think they are doing their cause -- whatever it's supposed to be -- any good.

Larvell said...

I'm trying to think of a reason why anyone would care that people who want to eat lunch and talk about Jesus are allowed to eat lunch and talk about Jesus. Other than being a d**k, of course.

Birches said...

"My child was born again because of a couple of free sandwiches!" The horror.

mikee said...

Thank you, Rick, for IANAL and IDWBO (I Don't Wanna Be One).
The precedent you describe is interesting.

Brad said...

Ann Althouse said...

I don't see how those protesting the lunches can possibly think they are doing their cause -- whatever it's supposed to be -- any good.


I've not seen many "freedom from religion" types who have done their cause any good by the forms of protest / argument they choose to make - mostly, they seem only to care about expressing their outrage that someone, somewhere is expressing religious faith in their presence.

paminwi said...

I have gone to the park on 2 consecutive Tuesday's to see what all the hubbub was about. Both weeks there were lots of well behaved kids and adults packing lunches and distributing them. The first week the FFR folks showed up and there were kids standing on picnic tables saying things like "Jesus lunch is causing pain to your fellow students. Stop the Jesus lunch!" I got to thinking-don't high schoolers have some kind of pain everyday? People laugh at you, your clothes get commented on, your friends say nasty things, you get turned down for prom, all kinds of high school "pain" going around. This is no big deal.

The second week was really calm-lots of kids eating & talking. No fuss at all.