Choice Neglect: Personal Responsibility Becomes Governmental Responsibility

On January 11th, a federal judge in Rhode Island ruled on the side of Jessica Ahlquist, a 16-year-old who sought to remove a prayer banner from her school’s auditorium.  Ahlquist argued that the “School Prayer” sign, which started with the words “Our Heavenly Father” and concluded with “Amen” violated her First Amendment rights. According to the 16-year-old, the removal of the banner represents “what true American values are.”  However, in an attempt to ensure freedom “from” religion and religious influence, Ahlquist and her liberal supporters actually rejected her own possession of freedom at the same time.

Perhaps this is best explained in the words of John Adams, who once said, “Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent.  It implies thought and choice and power.”  Having a choice implies that freedom is present; therefore, a denial that choice exists is a symbolic rejection of freedom.  Ahlquist had the choice to ignore the banner and its presence did not infringe upon her freedom in any way.  Neither did it have a bearing on her own choice of religion (or in this case, lack thereof). I doubt she bent down and started “Tebowing” the first time her eyes fell upon the words “Our Heavenly Father.”

In this nation, we are granted the ability to freely choose our own form of worship, even in our schools. The First Amendment bans a state religion and theocracy.  It does not imply that Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religious displays are unacceptable in public schools.  However, many liberals demonstrate complete ignorance of this historical fact.  In this case, Ahlquist’s supporters backed their case with a common liberal argument — one that discounts the presence of choice all together.

How does one make First Amendment suppression palatable to a liberty-loving nation?  Simple: just change the premise of the argument.  This type of argument rests on the unstated premise that choice is nonexistent.  Jessica Ahlquist didn’t have a “choice” but to be “oppressed” by the prayer banner.  Her life was not degraded in any way because of the banner’s presence.  She had the choice to ignore it all together.  However, when this choice is rejected, the argument then shifts power from the individual to a higher power that will make the neglected choice.  Power and choice go hand in hand.  As Adams discussed, having a choice implies a degree of individual power is present.  Having a choice, and therefore, freedom, is the core of personal responsibility, and as the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” The presence of choice requires that individuals also retain the responsibility to exercise that choice. However, a claim that no individual choice exists symbolically implies that personal responsibility is nonexistent as well.

Yet, responsibility is still a necessity. When responsibility does not rest with the individual, it is shifted up the hierarchy, often to the government; personal responsibility becomes governmental responsibility.  Since individuals do not have a choice and freedom, they don’t have responsibility either.  When responsibility goes unclaimed (and by extension, power), the government is often more than happy to step in and take it.  After all, someone has to “protect” our freedoms, right?

Despite its claim that it is helping Americans retain liberty, when the government operates by this argument, it often infringes upon individual freedom. In this case, it’s freedom of (religious) expression.  Yes, it’s a circular argument.  The government steps in because “no choice exists” in order to “protect” individual freedoms.  Then, this “protection” results in a liberty infringement.  I never said it was logical.  So please, America, hold your power of choice and responsibility to choose close to your hearts. Our choices make us who we are as individuals. Perhaps this is summed up best with a quote from another well-loved movie, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” We are a people of freedom and liberty. In the United States, power is supposed to rest in the hands of the people. We just need to choose to claim it and protect our individual freedoms.

Amy Lutz :: Saint Louis University :: Saint Louis, Missouri :: @AmyLutz4

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42 Responses

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  1. The Arbiter of Wrath
    May 19, 2012 - 08:41 PM

    “It does not imply that Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religious displays are unacceptable in public schools.”

    No, but it DOES imply that these displays must be confined to PRIVATE individuals expression their OPINIONS, not TEACHERS or the SCHOOL itself endorsing them as though they were a matter of FACT.

    Reply
  2. The Arbiter of Wrath
    May 19, 2012 - 08:39 PM

    “Perhaps this is best explained in the words of John Adams, who once said, “Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power.” Having a choice implies that freedom is present; therefore, a denial that choice exists is a symbolic rejection of freedom. Ahlquist had the choice to ignore the banner and its presence did not infringe upon her freedom in any way. Neither did it have a bearing on her own choice of religion (or in this case, lack thereof). I doubt she bent down and started “Tebowing” the first time her eyes fell upon the words “Our Heavenly Father.”

    You are missing the point. The POINT is that the whole REASON we have protections for things LIKE “freedom of religion” is so that as a citizen you don’t HAVE to just “put up with” public (and unavoidable) endorsements of religious persuasions that you JUST MIGHT NOT SHARE. The whole POINT of civil liberties, which the 1st Amendment guards several including the one in question, is to PREVENT self-righteous majorities from doing whatever they feel entitled to and justified in doing. I wouldn’t expect YOU to understand why an unavoidable public endorsement of YOUR religious persuasion is a problem, but that doesn’t mean you are exempted from the law, and it doesn’t mean, just because YOU can’t understand why it might be considered problematic (just imagine yourself in a Muslim majority society, maybe that will help), that doesn’t MEAN it ISN’T a problem for public institutions to endorse particular religious persuasions.

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  3. Amused
    Jan 28, 2012 - 09:14 AM

    Amy: The problem with your argument is that it could just as easily be used to defend a banner depicting, I don’t know, hardcore pornography. Hey, pornography is protected by the First Amendment. And you, the individual student — if you don’t like staring at an image of quadruple penetration, you have the freedom to not look. Just ignore it! But something tells me that you wouldn’t embrace your own argument if it were used to defend speech that YOU don’t like or agree with.

    Reply
  4. Jared Cowan
    Jan 26, 2012 - 04:14 AM

    Exposure to beliefs is not the same thing as supporting/endorsing beliefs. Public schools can teach religion in an academic context, but not advocate any of them

    I have never said we should shelter people from religion absolutely. But it is not the job of the school to educate children about religious devotion, that is the parents’

    Reply
  5. Dave Kasold
    Jan 26, 2012 - 12:38 AM

    Cutting through all of the rhetoric. Imposing one’s own beliefs on others is wrong, however allowing them exposure to them is not. The point about political correctness is that it is indeed being imposed, with real life consequences of punishment for those who choose not to observe what is basically a liberal belief system. Those, like you, who come to attack others and demand an absolute sheltering from any religious influence in our public areas nevertheless think it is perfectly fine to impose your anti-traditional values on others. The hypocrisy is rich to use a favorite liberal cliche. The author spoke of a subset of liberals, that subset is not the small fringe it is mainstream propaganda in today’s world. It is religiously fanatical, it’s just its adherents would never, ever admit that!

    Reply
  6. Jared Cowan
    Jan 26, 2012 - 12:12 AM

    I don’t deny that it has resemblance to religious fanaticism, but the very existence of a small group of politically motivated people who have something resembling religious faith in a political agenda only shows that this is an ideology and thus is dangerous for the same reason a religion can be. So in a sense, you’ve really just reinforced my secularism and irreligion I’ve had since I was able to think about religion. They can claim they’re the most enlightened, but they’ve failed to present an argument, except by authority, which is a fallacy when you argue it being true because of that authority.

    The magazine the article is from is hardly unbiased itself, when the goal of that publication is, and I quote, “to provide a place where Christians of various backgrounds can speak with one another on the basis of shared belief in the fundamental doctrines of the faith as revealed in Holy Scripture and summarized in the ancient creeds of the Church,”

    If this was in a philosophy journal, I might be more inclined to take it seriously even if the academic arguments are fairly flawed in structuring the very premise of the entire essay as “liberalism is a religion; oh wait, it just acts like one and I’m grasping at straws to make the average reader believe that it actually is a religion,” There’s a fine line here and that you don’t see where it is crossed in terms of a political agenda rooted in ideological ideas of reform and modernity instead of a moralizing crusade based on belief in the supernatural and traditionalist superstitions, then I don’t think we need to talk anymore. You think I’m against you, I’ve presented a qualification of my position that shows I am not against your individual free exercise of religion or the academic study of religion in schools to bring up the historical context of American culture, so clearly I’m not against you doing either of those.

    What I am against is this revisionist notion that the founding fathers wanted a Christian exceptionalist country, which is fundamentally missing the point of the idea of separation of church and state that existed during that time amongst politicians and preachers alike, at least if we take Roger Williams as an example of the latter and Thomas Jefferson of the former.

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  7. Jared Cowan
    Jan 25, 2012 - 11:06 PM

    Why should I dedicate myself to any personal being in the sense of worship when that is asking for disappointment and misses the point of valuing principles over people in terms of the truth of a matter instead of what makes us feel good.

    The article confuses a religion in the primary definition in any Webster’s dictionary and tries to apply a tertiary definition of the “cause held to with ardor or faith” when that would better be defined as an agenda and in the case of the so called religion this philosophy professor describes, would be called an ideology, not a religion in the sense of affirming the sacred through devotion and worship.

    The author even admits this is a small minority of liberalism in general, so you’re attacking what is a small segment and evidently not representative of Jessica Ahlquist or even the ACLU, since there is documentation of them supporting Christians as well as atheists

    Reply
    • Dave Kasold
      Jan 25, 2012 - 11:24 PM

      Somehow I knew you would not like me providing you what you asked for Jared. I think you can see the author and I are right. Of course it is not a real religion, but it acts virtually the same and the outcome is an indoctrination in conformity to a very narrow view that is presented as the most enlightened one. Our young are not being exposed to neutral and balanced ideas in our school, on the contrary they are being taught by those only posing as being such, and many do not even bother disguising their religion of liberalism anymore. That article is dated too, because it is so much worse now than even five years ago.

      Reply
  8. Dave Kasold
    Jan 25, 2012 - 09:12 PM

    “But, especially in the last few centuries,
    Liberalism as Religion
    The Culture War Is Between Religious Believers on Both Sides“religion” has taken on the additional connotations of dedication to abstract principles or ideals rather
    than a personal being.”

    http://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1028&context=phil_fac

    Reply
  9. Jared Cowan
    Jan 25, 2012 - 08:33 PM

    This is speculative at best. The government is not worshipped unless you stretch the term beyond credibility. You could claim an ideology of political correctness, which I agree is troubling, but not a religion. You only try to do this because you want to claim the government is establishing a religion, but I don’t think anyone would buy your hypothesis that political correctness is even religious in nature in any sense of compelling mysterium tremendum or the sacred, but only social conformity, which is not unique to religion unless it involves the sacred anyway,

    You have failed to enumerate any of these Christian values and how losing that label of Christian values upon them will make them go away. The Golden Rule is far older than Christianity, as are notions of compassion for others. Start with that before you jump the gun on saying Christian values are under attack.

    I was considering rejecting the idea of God back in the 90s and our school wasn’t outright censoring any such religious history of the country. I chose this on my own by going to church. The school had little to do with it except by exposing me to other religions, which is not harmful to children. Learning about other faiths does not necessarily affect theirs negatively unless the child is already inculcated into a belief that if something makes sense to them, it’s true, which doesn’t hold in the real world. You make these claims of widespread persecution, but have not brought up even one source to support this claim. Color me skeptical until you bring evidence for this claim’s veracity.

    I didn’t say the school couldn’t teach religion in an academic setting, in terms of history especially. The United States has a rich heritage that involves Christians, but this does not equate to giving Christianity special treatment. If you are going to be fair about religion, treat all religions the same and do not advocate one over another. No one has said that simply educating children about religion in the context of academics and history, amongst other things, like sociology where I started learning about it, was establishment of religion. It’s when the school gives special treatment to Christianity that it is establishing religion in the sense of endorsement through its authority. That distinction has existed in secularism for some time, probably even as early as American Atheists’ founding back in the 60s.

    Religion might be untrue fundamentally, but this is no reason to censor it. A true free market of ideas allows proselytizing in public, but not in public schools under the school’s authority. If the Gideon group wants to pass out their green mini bibles, the school is not explicitly or implicitly condoning it, but allowing it as something privately funded. It’s a nuanced issue, and it shouldn’t be painted as a black and white one. I am not against learning religion academically, for I studied religion extensively in college and still learn day by day about it. This doesn’t mean I give religion credence as truth or reasonable philosophy, but simply that it reflects a part of the human condition that I honestly don’t hold in as much reverence. I hold philosophy and science as our tools to find knowledge and wisdom, religion simply being a foregone necessary evil borne of our psychology.

    Reply
  10. Dave Kasold
    Jan 25, 2012 - 07:40 PM

    Government plays the role of god, small “g.”

    Reply
  11. Jared Cowan
    Jan 25, 2012 - 06:44 PM

    The Christian values you purport to be unique are not so in the vast span of history, unless you can bring evidence to the contrary about particular ideals in that list that is implicit, but never written out at all, as far as I’ve seen.

    Political correctness is not a religion in any sense of the term. The best term to describe your concerns, which I share as well, would be an ideology, which is something that is an overall plan for change.

    The government is not advocating atheism or irreligion by removing a prayer banner, since atheism and irreligion are not advocating such a thing by necessity. And the government is not replacing the prayer banner with something that supports anti religion, so that line of argument fails as well. The government is merely maintaining impartiality to all positions in terms of religion because it has no reason to be involved and it is demonstrably illegal by the wording in the first amendment’s establishment clause, “respecting an establishment of religion”

    I object to religious devotional practices being performed by the school’s authority, I do not object to religious exercise by individual students in school, as long as they are not disrupting class proceedings. As long as there are pop quizzes and standardized tests, there will be prayer in school.

    Reply
    • Dave Kasold
      Jan 25, 2012 - 07:37 PM

      If one looks at the aspects that make up religious doctrines one finds they all exist in the cultural changing devise known as “political correctness.” Government plays the role of god, small “d.” The denial that our culture is being deliberately manipulated in order to prepare the masses for a different attitude devoid of Christian values and outlook on life does not change the facts.

      Students at all levels, who are not already gone, can and do cite numerous instances where they are not being taught by impartial teachers(government) by a long shot. They are getting full-on Marxist indoctrination, where they openly talk of rejecting the whole idea of God and students are encouraged to reject traditional values & principles across the spectrum from church or parents and are even punished for rejecting these imposed views.

      Looks like you changed much of what I actually said in your last response btw Jared. My point is our youth cannot even understand the history of the United States, much less our Constitution, unless the religious context in which our laws were based are taken into account and acknowledged. This is not establishing religion. This likely means that those without the benefit of private schooling are no longer receiving a good education in either US civics or our true history.

      Reply
  12. Sandra Jokovich
    Jan 25, 2012 - 04:31 AM

    Well written, which is appreciative though. I totally impressed to point out that you are trying here to raise responsibility about thoughtful issue of around us. Thanks for making such a useful impression mate. Keep up this.

    Reply
  13. Dave Kasold
    Jan 25, 2012 - 03:10 AM

    The fact is from our English common law roots, to the establishment of our secular Constitutional republic, we still have our societies’ foundations based in the moral Christian values and principles and it is clear when reading the doctrines of freedom.

    The government is hardly being neutral. The government, especially when controlled by progressive bureaucrats, is pushing their own brand of values and beliefs onto our young impressionable minds using a variety of techniques to mold opinions and attitudes. In previous comment I describe how “political correctness” has acted as a religion being culturally established by leftists precisely for the same reasons our system prevents the establishment of ANY religion by government. This indoctrination is widespread and prevalent in academia and in our children’s textbooks. It has been deliberate as part of the cultural remaking of America for as long time.

    Those whom object to any religion in school might also reject this PC agenda were they intellectually honest, or they are merely hypocrites trying to impose their own personal beliefs on others.

    http://www.learn-usa.com/

    Reply
  14. Jared Cowan
    Jan 24, 2012 - 06:36 PM

    Even if there is technically a historical precedent for praying in government buildings, it should not override the principle many founding fathers advocated of the government staying out of religious matters and not taking a stand itself, at least implicitly.

    The practice of swearing an oath was given an alternative not because of atheists, ironically, but Christians who found it objectionable to swear an oath. Your ignorance of the offering of another option for this practice for legal proceedings is disappointing, but that’s not the only thing

    Students’ rights to religious freedom are not being trampled on here, since they are not being told they cannot express their religious beliefs and exercise them within reason. The government has no reason to educate children about religion except for a secular purpose of education in terms of world history and the like. I’m personally an atheist, but am fascinated by religion as an academic subject in various areas. This doesn’t make me a hypocrite and in fact it has made me see that religion, as understood by Thomas Jefferson as a personal and private matter, which I agree with, should not be foisted on children through a government entity, including a public school.

    Parents and churches are the ones who have their responsibility (emphasis on this word) to inculcate their beliefs on the impressionable minds of the youth. If they are lax in exercising their responsibility, they cannot therefore blame the government for simply taking the logical step in maintaining neutrality.

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  15. Jared Cowan
    Jan 24, 2012 - 03:52 AM

    Again, to those supporting this article, particularly the recent one, schools don’t have rights to foist religion on students. The groups like FCA and Young Life do that enough on their own and with their own funding, I might add. No one’s individual rights were trampled on, since you don’t have a right to get special treatment as a religious group even if you are a majority.

    This idgit is seemingly trying to make this about something that’s practically 50 years old, Madalyn Murray’s removal of school sponsored prayer, which was not the same thing as removal of prayer from school entirely, but that’s just the kind of non seqitur argument I’d expect from conservative Christian pundits who think that corporations don’t deserve to be persons, but have no problem with the government in any sense promoting their particular religion. Ridiculous and disappointing to boot.

    Reply
  16. Dave Kasold
    Jan 24, 2012 - 02:57 AM

    Our natural rights have always proceeded our Constitution and our founding documents clearly acknowledged a higher power. Prayer has always been part of America’s official traditions in our highest public offices, including using holy books to affirm one’s oath of office. An argument could be made that all students are having their religious freedom displaced by an overriding new liberty-stifling religion established by government…political correctness. Some may scoff at this, but political correctness has all the same elements as other organized religions and it’s own brand of zealots. In this religion, the schools administrators and teaching staff have no problem whatsoever espousing their often crude, amoral or atheist beliefs in everything non-traditional which tears down the basic units of our society, God, and the family. This has been the aim of the progressive tenants all along in order to install their ideas for government controlled society (a polar opposite of freedom) where the whims of other men determine what rights are. We see it now frequently in the Obama administration, where it is the rule of man, not the rule of law, which is consulted.The article’s main point that rights also come with responsibility is absolutely correct and seems lost among many like most of the OWS participants to use a recent example. If you do not take responsibility to observe others rights you will surely infringe upon them, and if one does not stand up for one’s own rights they will surely be trampled as well. Unfortunately, because we have let government take over the responsibility of educating our children, we now have this situation where in the name of protecting all minority opinions, the majority is trespassed against in their abilities to exercise their religion freely when it is attempted in a public (government administered) area. Good discussion and thought provoking article Amy.

    Reply
  17. Greg du Pille
    Jan 23, 2012 - 07:22 PM

    The Political Informer: Who on earth is saying that you don’t have the right to pray in public. Of course you do! Who could possibly have an issue with that? You just cannot do it at school if you are a member of the administration leading students in prayer, for example. The students are free to bring in bibles, pray where and when they want, provided it’s not disruptive to lessons. Who has a problem with that? The only problem seems to be that some think that it’s their right to get the school to prosthelytize on their behalf for the religion of the majority’s choice. What are these other’s rights of which you speak and how has she violated them?

    Clearly, that Reagan-appointed Conservative Christian Judge doesn’t agree with you about her being misguided about the Constitution, either.

    Reply
  18. The Political Informer
    Jan 23, 2012 - 07:13 PM

    Thank you! That teenager is bragging that she did her constitutional “duty” by removing the prayer mural, but what she has done is violated other’s rights. I can pray anywhere I want if people don’t like it they don’t have to pay attention to me, but I shouldn’t be banned from praying in public. That girl is so misguided and her view of the constitition is so screwed up.

    Reply
  19. Jared Cowan
    Jan 23, 2012 - 07:12 PM

    It’s that the argument is flawed by nature and misses the point of why Jessica fought against this prayer banner. It’s not secular in purpose and any argument by history doesn’t stand up to scrutiny of the content of the prayer banner itself.

    She didn’t do this because she was personally insulted, but offended that the constitution was being ignored in favor of the supposed right of a school to express a religious belief, which is ridiculous. People, sure, institutions, not so much, particularly with government support.

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  20. Greg du Pille
    Jan 23, 2012 - 06:55 PM

    Re Katie Berger’s comment above, let me state that I was the member of the Facebook group mentioned by Katie above. There are just shy of 4,000 members in that group and so I am not surprised that some of them have chosen to comment here as well.

    I imagine that it would be true to say that many conservatives would argue as you have done, in fact I’ve seen the same sort of arguments made in the online comments from the local papers … people naturally chime in on “personal freedom” when they see their perceived interests being restricted by an outside agency, such as the Federal Court or (horrors) the ACLU.

    I’d probably agree that most people in Cranston are Conservative, religious and don’t want the banner removed, although I note that it seems many non-Catholic leaders do now seem to speaking up in favour of removal. As far as Katie’s advice that comments received here might not be representative of a wider base of people who would naturally include more Conservative people, well that’s probably right as well.

    However, you should also understand that a large number of us feel that Ms Ahlquist’s stand has for a long time been a lonely, courageous one that has made her the target of some quite brutal vilification, and it’s not entirely surprising that an article such as yours would ruffle a few feathers as it seems to be yet another unfairness to characterise her action as you have done.

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  21. Greg du Pille
    Jan 23, 2012 - 06:15 PM

    If, as Raymond Usell says, it was all about choice, then what should be a relatively easy argument to understand as merely a choice that faced Ms Ahlquist either to do nothing and let the constitution be flouted or to point out the school’s error and invite them to put it right, which they chose not to do. It really had nothing to do with rejection of personal freedom, as Amy would prefer the matter, a subject which of course is more resonant to conservative ears. As has been explained above by many people, the issue had nothing to do with restricting personal freedom. Rather, it was ensuring government did not overstep the authority which the constitution has given it. Nothing to do with personal freedom whatsoever, and erroneous to try to make it appear so.

    If the school had chosen the opposite course, like the nearby school of Bain, who got rid of their similarly religious banner, the ensuing dramas could have all have been avoided, with minimal fuss. As Jessica herself points out, for her, it’s never been about religion, merely righting a constitutional wrong.

    As regards hammering Amy, who incidentally seems to be quite a good writer, I don’t think anybody here is really interested in doing that. All people are annoyed about is that such an easy argument to understand is being framed to make it look as if it’s all about personal choice per “why did Ms Ahlquist have to make the choice she did … why couldn’t she have left well enough alone?… by making the choice she did erodes her own freedoms as wellas those of others etc.” (paraphrasing of course), when quite plainly she has not done such a thing.

    All Ms Ahlquist reallyy did was report an error and insist that it should be fixed. Not doing so would be akin to being a witness to a crime and saying nothing to the authorities … not a moral lesson I would wish to be selling to today’s students. Let’s neglect what’s right because it might ruffle some feathers … or let’s not.

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  22. Jared Cowan
    Jan 23, 2012 - 06:15 PM

    It is about religion even if it also speaks about choice and personal responsibility on various decisions of a deeply individual and private matter. Religion being one of these matters, as Thomas Jefferson put it, suggests that the government should take a position of neutrality and impartiality on religion and nonreligion. Enforcing this interpretation of the First Amendment not only protects the free exercise of religion as a personal and private matter, but it keeps the government out of people’s individual expressions of religion by recusing itself of involvement with religious expression in its own practice.

    The government keeping schools and itself as secular and neutral to religion as possible by association does not make me think that I do not have a choice in virtually every instance of daily life that I make decisions on with that belief of libertarian free will. Wanting government to stay out of religious affairs has little to do with determinism in a political or metaphysical sense and spinning it that was is disingenuous. The government is not saying individuals have no right to religious expression; merely that a school is not an individual even if it is composed of them and those individuals are not permitted to support or denigrate religion as people paid in part or whole by the government.

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  23. Adam
    Jan 23, 2012 - 06:01 PM

    Good article, and I agree with you, but a better legal argument may be that the banner was historical, as it was over 50 years old if the article I read is accurate, meaning that its purpose was secular, aka okay to be presented by the school. For instance, the government isn’t going to remove the crosses from Arlington cemetery, nor is the Supreme Court going to order the 10 commandments chiseled off of the frieze in its own courtroom.

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  24. Raymond Usell
    Jan 23, 2012 - 05:10 PM

    I’m sorry to see Amy is getting hammered by people thinking the article is about religion. The title of the article shows it’s about choice and individual responsibility. It’s about unintended side-effects of government actions. Religion happens to be part of the example, an example that unfortunately draws lots of knee-jerk reaction.

    The point of the article is government is doing many things in many areas that discourage individual responsibility, thinking and choosing. I think she is right about that.

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  25. Katie Berger
    Jan 23, 2012 - 05:04 PM

    Amy,

    All but one of the above commentators that disagree with you are from a Facebook group called “Support the Removal of the Cranston High School West Prayer Members”. A member posted it on the group’s wall and from other posts I’ve seen they try get people to rally together and attack their opponents beliefs as a group. I believe that it is not really a fair representation of how the general public would react to your argument. Just thought you should know. I enjoyed your article and thought it was very well written.

    KAS

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  26. Thomas Gibson
    Jan 23, 2012 - 03:45 PM

    I’ve never read such an obscure, pretentious and embarrassing article.

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  27. John Osmond
    Jan 23, 2012 - 03:07 PM

    Amy, you are projecting. You are projecting your own short-sightedness onto Jessica and others.

    “How does one make First Amendment suppression palatable to a liberty-loving nation? Simple: just change the premise of the argument.” – which is exactly what you’re doing in this post.

    Your post has numerous references to the display without once recognizing that it’s a display by the public school. Instead you consistently act as if the debate is over a display by an unknown entity which bears no responsibility. Wrong Amy. Wrong.

    “Ahlquist argued that the “School Prayer” sign, which started with the words “Our Heavenly Father” and concluded with “Amen” violated her First Amendment rights.” – No, she didn’t. She argued that it violates the First Amendment, not her own personal rights and not in defense of her own emotions. Trying to make it sound like she made this all about herself is dishonest. You’re wrong again Amy.

    I support Jessica Ahlquist. She is brave while you spin lies.

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  28. Jared Cowan
    Jan 23, 2012 - 02:59 PM

    The very presupposition of this argument is mistaken in thinking that when claiming that a school has no right or choice of religion that individual citizens do not have a choice of religion or lack thereof. It doesn’t necessarily follow that denying choice to an institution is supposed to remain neutral to religion and nonreligion by the same First Amendment that indeed prohibits state religion and theocracy (no law respecting an establishment of religion) implies that I deny choice to individuals.

    I have no problem with people believing things I believe are untrue, but the government and its representative groups by extension, such as schools, do not have those rights for the same reason that corporations do not have the same status or rights as an individual person. Individual freedoms still exist. The school is not an individual, therefore it doesn’t necessarily possess those individual freedoms we both agree are valuable, such as freedom of religious exercise.

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  29. Sunda
    Jan 23, 2012 - 02:56 PM

    In addition to the point that schools cannot and should not take a particular religious stance when they accept government money (which would be an insult to the ideals upon which this country was founded), it also bears pointing out that schools exist for the express purpose of teaching. Therefore, materials used and displayed by them are also for the express purpose of teaching.

    So, to make the argument that she can can just look the other way misses entirely the point that the government should not be in the business of teaching religion to non-consenting children whose parents may not even be aware of such a curriculum, whether hidden or not. She is there to learn and should be allowed to do so free from discrimination, harassment or erasure due to religious influence. All other children in our great nation should similarly be free to learn without interference from non-academic agendas, as well.

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  30. Quanah Parker
    Jan 23, 2012 - 02:54 PM

    Before any attempt at philosophy, why not start by reading some, then take as much time as required to actually understand it? Concepts such as ‘freedom’, ‘choice’ and ‘social contract’ are anything but trivial, for instance. You pathetic anencephalic puppet. (Of course you are *free* to *choose* not to read the last four preceding words, and I’m free to express my opinion in chosen words.)

    Reply
    • clownlucky
      Jun 20, 2012 - 05:32 PM

      How about you be more respectful of her opinion instead of calling names.

      Reply
  31. Mike Hitchcock
    Jan 23, 2012 - 01:10 PM

    “We are a people of freedom and liberty. In the United States, power is supposed to rest in the hands of the people. We just need to choose to claim it and protect our individual freedoms.”

    Absolutely correct. No way should government be dictating individuals’ choice of religion. It should be up to us to decide in which, if any, religion we bring up our children. Government mandates on this are unconstitutional, go directly against personal liberty and should be removed from all government buildings. Which is exactly what Jessica Ahlquist has done.

    Reply
  32. Rob Ploski
    Jan 23, 2012 - 12:42 PM

    One problem with your argument. While individual students have a right to religious expression and can wear crucifixes or Stars of David and pray in a non-disruptive manner, the school itself has no right to religious expression and as such cannot and should not be having any religious displays.

    People can be easily influenced, young people even more so. Only by making the government (and that includes schools) religiously neutral, does each person have the freedom to make his/her own choice in regards to religious belief.

    Reply
  33. Cat's Staff
    Jan 23, 2012 - 12:36 PM

    Worst understanding of the idea of freedom of religion I have seen in a long time. Individuals have freedom of religious expression, the government doesn’t. The school(government) can’t take a position regarding religious expression so that you can continue to without feeling the government is endorsing a different viewpoint. You can have a cross in your yard, or stand out on the street corner with a sandwhich board telling everyone they’re dirty rotten sinners, or print that school prayer on a T-shirt with the Ten Commandments on the other side and wear them to school. If you happened to wear something to school that expressed a Jewish viewpoint, no one should be able to point to the prayer on the wall and say “You’re a second class citizen here. See, even the school prefers my religion”. You zeal for a theocracy frightens me.

    “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.” – Barry Goldwater

    Reply
    • clownlucky
      Jun 20, 2012 - 05:30 PM

      Still, we have a right to believe and you have a right not to. Christians are not the crazy people you make them out to be. That’s as ignorant as saying we’re part of the KKK, which we aren’t. Tolerance goes both ways.

      Reply
  34. Raymond Usell
    Jan 23, 2012 - 12:19 PM

    Excellent job, Amy!

    It’s easy to become pessimistic over the state of America these days, BUT I see lots of signs of hope. Your post is one of them. It is as insightful as anything I’ve read by long-time pundits in months.

    Please consider submitting it to American Thinker. To do so, you would have to change it a bit as AT only wants previously unpublished articles. AT’s word count target is 800-1200 words, so you have room to “adjust.”

    Thanks, this made my day.

    Reply
  35. Greg du Pille
    Jan 23, 2012 - 11:12 AM

    As I understand it, the writer appears to be arguing that there is a freedom of choice to ignore anything that one disagrees with that someone installs in a public place (like a school for example), on the basis that others may like it, even if you don’t. One might equally argue that if someone who likes, say, gay porn, could post this on a public wall and others could just choose to ignore that individual’s right of free expression if they chose to do so.

    However, others might argue that posting gay porn in a public place, such as a school wall was inappropriate, if not illegal, and could argue that the poster’s right to free expression was not absolute and was in fact curtailed by the law (and/or the interests of public decency).

    Let’s also not forget that the banner in question was not a little thing to be easily ignored. Instead it was an 8 foot-tall by 4 feet wide creation with three inch high letters. I imagine that if you put your mind to it, you might just be able to ignore an image of an 8 foot high phallus, but should you have to, if you really didn’t like to see that sort of stuff, especially in an inappropriate public forum where the administrators of that forum lacked the right to place it there?

    The issue is not really a question of personal freedom, however. It is not about an individual’s right being curtailed. Rather, it is about ensuring that government does not exceed the powers that have been granted to it under the constitution.

    In the Ahlquist case, the plaintiff argued not that she was offended by the religious content of the banner, but instead that it was illegal to be posted where it had been. People who supported the banner because of their religious viewpoint couldn’t prevail because it was not the wholesomeness of the message which was at issue. It was the legality of placing it which was the issue. Quite simply, the government lacked the right to allow it to be placed where it was.

    The reason for the curtailment was the notion that government should remain strictly neutral with regard to religion. Whilst it is notionally possible to remain neutral by, say, allowing people of all faiths or none to post their doctrines willy nilly, in practice it is nigh on impossible for government institutions to remain strictly balanced and not appear to be expressing a preference for one view over another, For that reason neutrality tends to lead to the prohibition of all such material.

    Reply
  36. Dawnsearlylight
    Jan 23, 2012 - 10:05 AM

    One of the best articles I’ve ever read. Smooth and powerful from start to finish.

    Reply
  37. Ron
    Jan 23, 2012 - 06:59 AM

    Good article….Write more… Thanks, Ron

    Reply

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