Saturday, April 07, 2007

An Army of Christian Right Lawyers Is Waging War on the Constitution

Or are they? From AlterNet:

ADF recognizes that sometimes strange bedfellows--even the ACLU--can help its divine cause on behalf of the free-speech rights of America's public high schoolers. It recently sided with its arch-enemy (and against the Bush administration) in a Supreme Court case in which an Alaska high school student charged that his First Amendment rights were violated when school officials forced him to take down a sign reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." The student, Joseph Frederick, admitted that he designed the sign "to be meaningless and funny, in order to get on television" as the Olympic torch passed through his home town of Juneau in 2002. And even though Frederick's cause had nothing to do with Jesus (and even implicated the Savior in the defiled culture that ADF disdains), ADF has an interest in continuing to shape Supreme Court precedent, an effort it began with its first landmark case 12 years ago and that has been aided by a judiciary increasingly friendly to its views. ADF's legacy in these cases has been to elevate the First Amendment's free speech clause over its Establishment Clause, which separates church and state, and thereby to promote religious speech--even proselytizing speechin the nation's public schools.


Shortly before the Supreme Court heard arguments in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case, it had agreed to hear ADF's appeal of another case, one in which a San Diego student, Chase Harper, who participated in the first Day of Truth, claimed that his school prevented him from wearing a T-shirt that read "Be ashamed, our school has embraced what god has condemned" on the front, and "Homosexuality is shameful, Romans 1:27" on the back. After a federal appeals court for the Ninth Circuit (the Christian Right's bogeyman of the judiciary) ruled last year that the school could constitutionally restrain Harper from wearing the shirt in the interest of protecting the rights of other students, ADF issued a press release complaining that the opinion "implied that Brokeback Mountain is in, and the Bible is out."

Click here for the rest.

Well, for my money, freedom of speech does trump the separation of church and state. All civil rights flow from free expression. You can't have democracy without the freedom of speech. And I'm virtually an absolutist on the topic. I mean, okay, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is dangerous and all that, but, for the most part, people should be able to say or portray whatever they want. That's the American way.

So if fundamentalist kids want to proclaim that homosexuality is a sin and that sinners are going to hell, that's their right. I disagree, but that's how democracy works. We must have a totally unfettered marketplace of ideas, which means that we all have to hear a bunch of bullshit everyday. Of course, this also means that gay teens should be allowed to wear "I suck cock and I'm proud" t-shirts if they want. And that's where the real problem starts.

I've been bouncing around the idea recently that religion is inherently ideological, and therefore totally fair game as far as political criticism goes. Of course, this runs headlong into the "respect my religion" meme that gets thrown around so much these days. That is, some of the most froth-mouthed, fire and brimstone oriented, homophobic loudmouths think it's just fine to advance publicly what are obviously political ideas, but when they get some shit thrown back at them they like to take cover behind what they claim to be their special status as believers.

You can't have it both ways. You're either going to jump into the rough-and-tumble world of political speech, or you're not. These zealots are being really dishonest.

I think it's just fine that these guys are seeking free speech protection for their loony religious ideas, but it's as close to a smoking gun as we'll get that a great deal of religious speech is clearly political in nature. I mean, they're pretty much admitting that's the case. So, okay, teenagers can try to lead people to the lord while at school. That's cool. But don't freak out and whine and blather when other teenagers try to advance atheism, or Satanism, or Wicca, or communism, or gay circuit parties, whatever. Don't freak out when artists make chocolate Jesuses. Don't freak out when I quote Marx and say, "religion is the opium of the people," especially because, no matter what you believe in terms of a supreme being, it's uncontroversially the truth.

Also, the Rutles are definitely "bigger than God."