One for all the Americans out there. The U.S. Constitution, as amended, has precisely two mentions of “religion”:
Article VI: “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”
The first isn’t relevant to our question. The second, on a straight reading, means “no official state religion (like those English colonial oppressors have), no government persecution of religion”. Establishment in this case takes its original meaning of the verb “setting-up”, rather than being the noun “building”.
So here’s the question, from a confused foreign observer: how does that make stickers on educational textbooks “unconstitutional”?
“Make no law respecting an establishment of religion” seems to have been replaced by the nebulous concept of “separation of Church and State”, which has then been broadened into “anything any government or state body does which is even concerned with religion is unconstitutional”, and then on to “anything any government, state or otherwise publicly-elected body does which might even be perceived as having something to do with religion is unconstitutional”.
It seems to me that, in over-reaching the claims of the first half of the sentence, the U.S. is in serious danger of violating the second…
Maybe, but if you really believed that (the admittedly nebulous concept of) the separation of church and state is really restricting “the free exercise of religion?”
Living in the South will forever dispel the notion that free expression of religion is under attack. Just take a look at all the “God Bless our Troops” stickers, promise rings, and the haha-funny signs outside the local Pentecostal church (Seven days without prayers makes one weak … and yes, that really existed).
If religious expression is under attack, its not coming from Washington as much as it is from the society as a whole. By which I mean not the expression of Christianity, but , say, Islam instead.
It’s unconstitutional because the only argument for that sticker is religion. Evolution is the *only* non-religious explanation for our origins.
I must admit, I’m a little confused myself (and I’m in the UK, too). Even though I’m generally non-theistic, and pro-evolution (though not militarily so), and even though I thought these stickers were unbelievably stupid, I still don’t fully understand what the ruling was based on.
” For those who might cite the First Amendment: The judge based his decision on the test established by the SC in the Lemov vs. Kurtzman:
Under the Lemon test, a government-sponsored message violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment if: (1) it does not have a secular purpose, (2) its principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion, or (3) it creates an excessive entanglement of the government with religion.
Since putting the sticker violated rules (2) and (3), it was deemed to be unconstitutional.”
I don’t fully follow that argument. However, I think there were two other points that were relevant in the decision:
* The only people who were involved in the initial complaint that lead to the stickers were Christian fundamentalists, and they did so as part of an organised protest. That gets you the religion aspect, I guess.
* Evolution was the only theory singled out for complaint, and scientific theory already teaches open-mindedness, so why make evolution special? Why not the theory of gravity? (Or require similar stickers on Bibles, for example).
The sticker seems to me to have three sentences. The first two are true statements which I don’t think anyone would disagree with – even atheistic scientists call it “the theory of evolution”. The third recommends an approach to the book which I would hope all students would take to all their textbooks.
Whoa, there, dude. If you are saying that it matters who suggested the stickers, then you are heavily into discrimination territory.
I want to keep on the topic of the constitution rather than evolution, here. But it seems fairly plain that there’s a difference, because the theory of evolution purports to tell us about things which happened in the past which we cannot observe (how life came to be), whereas we can observe everything about the nature of gravity right now.
Yeah, but it doesn’t say “endorse/prohibit”, it says “make a law regarding“. If you say that it means a religious establishment (like a group or building), then you would have to exempt churches from planning laws ;-)
Damn near all science is based on theory. Calling the theory of evolution a theory is akin to a sticker on the front of the Bible stating it is a religious text.
Scientific theory is about fitting the facts. You can use the theories to make predictions. Scientific theories are falsifiable. If scientists were faced with a fact that could not be explained using evolution, they would change their theory.
Thus, the sticker contains no information of value. It *is* endorsing a religion since it’s singling out evolution on religious grounds. There are no other scientific theories (remember, a scientific theory must be falsifiable, which rules out creationism), lending further credence to the idea that the sticker is there for religious reasons.
Why do you always have to be such a smartarse, Gerv, eh? “How does THAT make unconstitutional” and “how does THIS make unconstitutional”…
You can preach your own kids whatever you bloody want (as long as you’re not breaking any other laws, anyroad), but separating state and church means you can’t lobby for government preaching the same to MY kids.
YOU want to make sure YOUR kids disregard science and believe that Lord Almighty created the earth in 6 days (managing to tuck in a 1 day weekend while being at it)? BE MY GUEST, by all means do so in the safety of your own home, slapping as many little stickers as you want on every page of every science book you buy for YOUR kids. But let ME handle MY kids the way I see fit.
“FREEDOM”. Poms ever heard of it? Well, it turns out that it includes freedom from religious dogmatics too!
I’ll also reply by email, because we’re now really into evolution, not interpretation of the constitution.
Two brief points:
* I think that in considering that this was a response to a complaint by (essentially) a pressure group, the idea was that the stickers were introduced as a response to the issues raised by that group, and thus representative of those points. That’s context, not discrimination. (I agree with your statement about discrimination, fwiw).
* I don’t think that just looking at the Constitution is definitive. Like tort law in this country, laws in the US have been established subsequently, based on latter interpretation of the Constitution.
“But it seems fairly plain that there’s a difference, because the theory of evolution purports to tell us about things which happened in the past which we cannot observe (how life came to be), whereas we can observe everything about the nature of gravity right now.”
No. Gravity, quantum mechanics, relativity theory and evolution are all scientific theories. There are ways to test these theories. You can try to falsify them. And, as with all real scientific theories you can make predictions about the future or about things one could discover.
If you say you can’t observe evolution then you are very wrong indeed. Speciation and evolutionary adaption can be watched “live”. Normally these aren’t very spectacular occurences. The spectacular differences seen between species are the result of many evolutionary steps, for a lot of them you have intermediary artifacts like fossils. So evolution is a fact like anything else you can observe. It still is and remains a scientific theory. As newton’s law was refined by Einstein the theory of evolution will be refined everytime something new is found. But you won’t see it overturned totally.
You neither can falsify creationism nor can you observe it. And more importantly you can’t make any predictions. As someone said on slasdot we should pot stickers into bibles:
“God’s existance is an untestable hypothesis that can never rise to the level of validity of a theory. Belief that ‘God’ created the universe is as demonstratable and testable as ‘invisible pink elephants’ created the universe.”
P.S: By falsify I mean devising a test which contradicts the theory. If the test succeeds you either have to abandon the whole theory or the parts affected. No such test has been found yet for theories like the theory of gravitation or evolution.
It was a religious establishment (group of believers) that wanted it there, so putting it there would be endorsing that religions beliefs over other things such as science, and other religions.
But what if I believe in pullishm. I believe that it is the giant hand of God trying to pull things where they should be. Entirely unproveable, but you cannot shot it down since gravity is only a theory, (since science haven’t been everywhere and cannot prove that all objects follow their theory). same crap, different colour.
No it does not say regarding it says respecting.There is a difference.
What’s with powerful lobby groups pretending to be persecuted minorities?
And what’s with intelligent brits (you are british are you not, Gerv?) acting like they can’t understand what, “stickers on textbooks” (!) have to do with religion.
I can’t decide if you’re being disingenuous or smoking crack.
He is just following his beliefs (no matter the rationale)
Well I disagree with “Evolution is a theory … regarding the origin of living things”, in particular with the word “origin”.
Evolution explains how species change and develop over time (such as why Columbia is now full of herbicide-resistant cocaine plants) much more satisfactorily than it does how they came about in the first place.
So my objection to the sticker is that it gives the impression that if you don’t like evolution as the explanation of origin of humans then you should dismiss the entire theory.
But ignoring that, as a Christian I think the stickers are a bit daft (cos they’re only stating the obvious) but I can’t see how they’re unconstitutional (cos they’re only stating the obvious).
“they’re only stating the obvious”
Yes, and singling one theory among many in that textbook out. If you want such a sticker just make one with “All scientific theories are theories.”
I don’t like the phrasing of the sticker not a fact. I think it ought to say (even by the standards of those who think the stickers are a good idea) not proven to be a fact.
But that would kill the point of the sticker, Adam. The ones who want the sticker want you to think evolution is a flat out *lie*.
Henrik, one must use the meaning of the words as used when the writings were made. “Regarding” as we know it today is the same as “respecting” as they knew it then. In the case of the first amendment, “respecting an” means the same as “with regard to” or “on the subject of”.
The courts have thoroughly distorted the intent of the 1st amendment. It is now interpreted as if the clause “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” wasn’t even in it. :-(
So, since Congress can make “no law” on the subject, instead the Supremes have given us law that turns the intent upside down, and thus empty. This is in spite of the fact that both Congress and the Supreme Court have been starting their sessions with prayer to God, and not Buddha or Allah, since the very beginning.
The authors of our originating documents clearly believed in a higher power. Check out the Declaration of Independence, sentences first, second, and last, for example. Read the original constitutions of the original 13 colonies and the states that soon followed. Read the Northwest Ordinance. Entirely divorcing religion from government was not what our constitutional authors had in mind. They were smart enough to say what they meant. “Separation”, “Church” and “State” are not in the first amendment.
Check out http://www.wallbuilders.com/ and in particular David Barton’s book “Original Intent” for some real enlightenment on this subject.
“I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature” — Thomas Jefferson
This is in spite of the fact that both Congress and the Supreme Court have been starting their sessions with prayer to God, and not Buddha or Allah, since the very beginning
So would you allow or forbid Muslims/Buddhists (or whomever) in Congress from asking that prayers appropriate to and inclusive of them be used?
It isn’t up to me to allow or proscribe how the Supremes and Congress open their sessions. That’s their prerogative.
The point is that what they do speaks no less than their members’ words.
“. . . can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.” — Thomas Jefferson
I believe in God and I believe that Jesus died for our sins. Thus I believe in creationism. I also know that MICROevolution exists because we see it all around us. We as society are adapting to our surroundings. What I don’t believe is macroevolution. Lets start with the obvious. Darwin himself said that he could not back up his theory of macroevolution. If memory serves correctly, the big bang theory states that the universe was created from a big bang of collection cosmic dust, gasses, and whatever else. Well where did the collection of cosmic dust and gas come from? As for the apes to human theory, I don�t buy it. Sure apes act like humans but that doesn�t mean that humans came from apes. I�ve seen many cats that act like dogs. They�re playful, not proud like a dog, come running whenever you call them, and even do some half bark half meow whenever someone comes by the house. Does that mean since some cats act like dogs, dogs came from cats? Of course not! Ok now you�re probably saying that you can�t prove that there is a God. I find it much easier to believe that God created everything than believing in a big bang. I find it much easier to believe in God rather than to believe people�s lives are just coincidence. There are too many �random coincidence� to be coincidence. Maybe you found that perfect life partner, survived a wreak that you know you should have died in, seen a person miraculously healed for with no scientific explanation. There is too much coincidence to still be �coincidence�. I pray that God will soften the hearts of those that still just don�t get it.
Absolutely. “Life came about without the intervention of God” (i.e. abiogenesis) is not falsifiable, just as its opposite “Life came about via the intervention of God” is not falsifiable either. So, “Life came about without the intervention of God” (which is the key “evolution” issue here – let’s not get bogged down in macro vs micro) is not a scientific theory.
I’m genuinely interested. The American free software community seems to set a lot of store by the constitution – whether it’s the right to bear arms, or the original purpose of copyright. It just seems odd that in this case, actual practice is so far from what the words mean, and yet no-one seems to mind.
That’s not what I said at all. I asked what it had to do with the Constitution.
That’s possibly a fair point – although the sticker didn’t argue for dismissing the theory, just for carefully evaluating it. But yes, more of a distinction should be made between the falsifiable parts of the evolutionary idea, and those parts (evolutionary abiogenesis) which are not falsifiable.
“Does that mean since some cats act like dogs, dogs came from cats? Of course not!”
Nope, it means they probably came from a common ancestor. This is actually a common misunderstanding by creationists. Humans didn’t evolve from apes necessarily, but it’s likely both humans and apes evolved from the same roots.
Exactly. Thus, whether or not God created the universe is, scientifically speaking, a worthless supposition. The contention lies in the “how he did it” field. Evolution doesn’t make any presumptions about a God, but creationism does require the presence of a God and it provides zero scientific theories.
“Sure apes act like humans but that doesn�t mean that humans came from apes.”
EVOLUTION DOESN’T SUGGEST THAT!
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. All very interesting.
“I believe in God and I believe that Jesus died for our sins. Thus I believe in creationism.”
Mmph. What do you think about this?
“The authors of our originating documents clearly believed in a higher power.”
They also owned human beings as slaves. Fortunately the human spirit outgrows certain concepts.
“The third recommends an approach to the book which I would hope all students would take to all their textbooks.”
And yet they’re not pushing for stickers on History, Math or English textbooks. Because they have a very obvious agenda, which is to further their religion via legislation. That’s what the judge was concerned with.
Any endorsement is illegal Gerv. It’s that simple.
The US does allow the Bible in school for educational purposes. You can use it to teach how religion impacted western civilization for example. That’s done quite often.
My solution is quite simple:
On both the Bible, and the Science books, put a sticker saying that the contents of the books are “theory not fact”.
Both can’t be proven, but have believers. When someone can quantitatively prove them… then the sticker goes.
That doesn’t answer my question, which was “why is it unconstitutional (which is what the judge said), given the wording of the constitution?
Darren: the sticker talks about “the origins of life”, and is therefore presumably referring to evolutionary abiogenesis (although with slightly loose language). I think we can therefore assume that the book (as most books on evolution do) contained material on evolutionary abiogenesis.
So if you are going to argue that its non-falsifiability makes the contention that God created the universe a worthless supposition, you also need to argue that the contention that life came from nothing is also a worthless supposition, because that’s also non-falsifiable (as you have yourself agreed). So if it’s a worthless supposition, what’s it doing in a science textbook?
The one for the Bible would need to say its contents were also law, poetry, historical narrative, records, gospel (a literary category of its own), letters and apocalypse.
Lemme see – if you want to defend that a sticker can be added to an educational textbook (although religion doesn’t belong in a public school), why can’t I ask thata similar sticker be added to a religious textbook ? Can you image a bible with a sticker ?
Note that I’m proposing that (au contraire), the governement should mess with people’s religion, which is a private matter. But why do some people want to mess with *other* people’s believes ? A democratic governement has decided to teach evolution in schools. People are free to believe it or not. But they shouldn’t force their believes upon others.
hmmm … That last sentence could be applied to the Bush administration in general – but that’s another matter :-)
Scientifically, it doesn’t matter whether or not God created the universe, since you can’t predict God’s actions.
Scientifically speaking, it’s useful to know the means by which we ended up with the current ecology. If we claim “the earth and all life was brought into existence through some nebulous method that only God knows,” we can’t do anything with that knowledge. If, instead, we say “well, creatures started out simple and through environmental means, they gradually changed into the diverse numbers of species we have today,” we’ve got something useful to go on. If we find out what factors affect evolution, we can begin to understand how our ecology came to be and how it may progress.
As for whether the books talk about abiogenesis, that’s by no means certain. A number of states demanded the very concept of evolution be stricken from all school teaching. Yay. Then, in areas where there were too many people with common sense, they instead pushed for those stupid stickers on all books that talk about evolution in *any* way.
I really wouldn’t mind such stickers if a similar one was required for all religious texts, especially ones as self-contradictory as the Bible.
‘Absolutely. “Life came about without the intervention of God” (i.e. abiogenesis) is not falsifiable, just as its opposite “Life came about via the intervention of God” is not falsifiable either. So, “Life came about without the intervention of God” (which is the key “evolution” issue here – let’s not get bogged down in macro vs micro) is not a scientific theory.’
Gerv, you still don’t (want to) understand the word evolution and the theory behind it. Evolution is a process. It describes how simple lifeform developed into more complex ones.
How the very first life forms came into being is a whole set of theories which some say belong to the evolution theory and some say it doesn’t. But whatever you choose: The theory of evolution as a whole is much bigger and has a lot of subparts and most of them have abundant evidence in support of them.
There are many and very diverse theories about how life started. A lot is understood nowadays but many questions remain. If mankind will find a way to reproduce the forming of life it still won’t be a prove that it happened jsut like this on earth millions of years ago. It will only be a very strong indication that this particular theory holds. But those open questions don’t invalidate at all the whole theory of the process of evolution.
You just try to get back to that one question that doesn’t seem to be answered to you to divert from the fact that you want all the rest invalidated as well. No matter that whenever new facts are discovered which support the existing theories creationists will always point at the next open question and claim that the whole theory is bogus. They somehow can’t loose because they can always shift the moment of god’s intervention a bit back. But they are still not able to make a single prediction and that’s why scientific theories will continue to be important.
If the sticker said this, no one would be offended:
It really doesn’t say anything different; it just sounds stupid, doesn’t it?
You’re being deliberately obtuse, it seems to me. It’s unconstitutional to place a sticker on textbooks in a public (i.e., state-run school) because the sticker is motivated by religious concerns and requested by religious groups to further their point of view. Instead of a sticker, it’s best to teach a solid explanation of the differences between scientific theories (of which all science is comprised) and personal beliefs, religious or otherwise.
The constitutional warning about congress making laws respecting religion, along with the writings of the time by those who wrote the freakin’ constitution, suggest that the proper role for the state is to stay out of religious promotion, prohibition, or celebration. And those stickers were not staying out of it.
You can read the actual ruling here:
Malcolm’s post summarized the issues pretty well, though.
This discussion is an example of why the judge was able to find the law unconsitutional. Because language is inprecise, and different people interpret language in diffent ways, a human factor was added to the constitution.
Federal judges are appointed by the President, and confirmed by the Congress. It is assumed that those appointed are fair judges, properly vetted before their appointment is approved.
It is up to these judges to decide if the laws enacted by the Congress are constitutional, based on their opinion as to the spirit of the Consitution. This takes place after a court case was appealed on the grounds that the broken law was unconstitutional, and enters the lowest of federal courts. From there, each judge can either decide to here the case, or let the lower courts ruling stand. This can continue on appeals to the supreme court.
Once the process stops by a higher court refusing to hear an appeal, or the supreme court giving their judgement, the ruling is considered precedent for all future constitutional appeals. To guaruntee that the courts must obey the will of the people, the Congress can pass constitutional amendments non-trivialy. Once this happens, the courts must then consider in future cases.
The result of this entire system is that sometimes the courts make rulings that do not seem to follow your interpretation of the constitution. The chaos that would occur otherwise can be typified by the responses to this post, wherein many people claim that the consitution supports their viewpoint.
1776 Delaware Constitution:
“Everyone appointed to public office must say: ‘I do profess faith in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Chist his only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God and blessed forevermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration.'”
Similar wording was in the constitutions of the other states at the time. How did the Supremes ever reconcile such sentiments with their interpretation of the 1st amendment to say there should be a wall of separation?
“He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.” — Benjamin Franklin, 1774
I tried to trackback, but it didn’t seem to work:
“The stickers were added after more than 2,000 parents complained that the textbooks presented evolution as fact, without mentioning rival ideas about the beginnings of life, such as the biblical story of creation.”
This is what bothers the heck out of me. The people who pushed for these stickers don’t want all possible theories in the book, they just want their theory in the book. They don’t want the Norse giant Ymir mentioned, nor do they want mention of the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda. All they want is a sticker that essentially says “Don’t forget, you could have come from a rib of a woman!”.
Malcolm’s post already summed up why this is unconstitutional, but you’re of course being obtuse and difficult because, as a christian, you don’t like this ruling.
Look, if you or other people want to believe that all of mankind came from two people, and a talking snake in a tree tempted Eve to eat a forbidden apple and all of that other stuff, knock yourself out. I, however, don’t see how it’s your place to force the rest of us to validate your theories in a science class.
“The one for the Bible would need to say its contents were also law, poetry, historical narrative, records, gospel (a literary category of its own), letters and apocalypse.”
If you want to play that game, then the sticker on a science textbook should say “Contains theories, facts, history, oral history, correspondence, interviews, essays, dissertations, and bibliographies.” Don’t be difficult for the sake of being difficult.
‘”He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.” — Benjamin Franklin, 1774’
Interesting that you come up with Franklin. He believed that Jesus existed as a man and a philosopher but doubted his divinity. What he liked about “primitive christians” is that they have a positive moral of forgiving. That’s what the citation above refers to.
Franklin was in France when he said that to those working up a new French government. In order to apply any principles one generally must first know what they are, which is what foundational educational process (school) is about. For over 200 years the most widely used textbooks in schools were the New England Primer, largely based upon the Bible, and the Bible. Now that they are no longer used, and the Ten Commandments aren’t allowed to be displayed in schools, kids think things like stealing and murdering are OK, and that honoring God & others isn’t important.
“Now that they are no longer used, and the Ten Commandments aren’t allowed to be displayed in schools, kids think things like stealing and murdering are OK, and that honoring God & others isn’t important.”
Yeah, all the problems of our society are because of those bad atheists and agnostics. Christians never killed heretics, witches or muslims. People find always excuses why the rules aren’t to be applied to a certain group of people. But I wholeheartedly agree that moral values should be teached. But they don’t have to be mixed with religion.
Now that they are no longer used, and the Ten Commandments aren’t allowed to be displayed in schools, kids think things like stealing and murdering are OK
That’s awfully specious reasoning, especially when you consider that the bible is one of the most bloody and violent books around. By your logic, one could say that teaching the bible in school would lead to an increase in crucifixions and animal sacrifices.
One can have a moral belief system and not be christian, or religous at all.
We didn’t have any of this Satanic rock music before Integration, you know.
Among all groups are bad examples. The widespread ability to read and the ready availability of things to read, including the Bible, are a modern development. Previously, people mostly just followed the dictates of whoever their leaders were, good or bad.
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. … Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” — John Adams
1776 Delaware Constitution:
“Everyone appointed to public office must say: ‘I do profess faith in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Chist his only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God and blessed forevermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration.'”
These all predate the Constitution so when they were written they did not voilate the Constitution because it did not go into effect until March 4, 1789–12 years after the Declaration of Independence. Also please note people, the Declaration of Independence is not a legal document of the U.S.A. It cannot be used in courts for arguments.
The courts almost never directly state the Constitution as the reason for a ruling in cases like this. They are more to base it upon the ruling of a case that did interpret the Consititution which the Supereme Court does. And even the Supereme Court tends to avoid from interpreting the Constitution.
Hmm. Well, we at least seem to have established that either Jefferson was irredeemably double-minded, or someone’s quoting him out of context, and that it’s possible to have a big argument about whether various founding fathers were Christians or not..
The word evolution is overloaded – people use it (rightly or wrongly) to mean all three of the idea that species adapt under external environmental pressures, that simple organisms develop into more complex ones, and that life originated from nothing.
The sticker talks about the “origins of life”, therefore when I talk about evolutionary abiogenesis I am talking about the same ‘evolution’ as it is. If you are talking about simple organisms developing into more complex ones, you are talking about a different one. :-)
But why is that unconstitutional? What’s wrong with religious groups furthering their point of view? The constitution doesn’t talk about that, it merely talks about having an official state religion.
However, light may be dawning. Someone who emailed me privately pointed out that, although the constitution doesn’t discuss such things, and you can’t get them from a direct reading of it, there’s various forms of “constitutional interpretation” which allow you to try and decide what it really means for people today. And there are people who put more emphasis on the original text (“originalists”) and those who put more emphasis on previous precedent and the consequences of particular rulings (“non-originalists”).
So this is probably the answer to my question: “It’s not in the constitution, but judges get to say what the constitution means today, and they decided.”
“What’s wrong with religious groups furthering their point of view?”
Using the law to do it… that’s what pretty much everyone has been saying.
The folks behind the stickers would have been totally within their rights if they’d had people stationed outside of the schools, handing out pamphlets to kids, talking to them about the issues… that’s 100% fine. That’s Free Speech. Legislating that same viewpoint onto classroom material involves the cooperation of the government, and that’s where the judge drew the line.
If you haven’t read the Judge’s finding in full then you do so.
It was ruled unconstitutional because an informed, reasonable person would conclude that the sticker was placed on the books to satisfy (and support the position of) creationists.
Thus it is indeed to do with the “perception” of religious content in the sticker but only because that perception is a real and well founded one based on the origins of that sticker as part of a raft of attempts by creatiionists to ‘water down’ the teaching of evolution theory in science.
From the finding:
Why should people who wrote books about evolution have to tolerate other people putting stickers on their books? Picking out evolution as a “theory” we need to warn people out is clearly serving a religious establishment – there are lots of “theories” like evolution out there – why not warn people about all of them?
That is why it ought to be unconstitutional. Because it is a religious concern mandating presence on other authors’ material. If the stickers were acceptable, then can we start putting stickers on whoever’s books we want? For example – can we mandate putting stickers on everything Ann Coulter wrote on the grounds that nearly everything she says is idiotic bullshit? This brings up the interesting question of “Parental Advisory” stickers on albums…
I should have read all the comments before posting – my bad. Turns out I was quite unclear on the question.
With regards to the constitutionality question.
Presumably the courts (and thinking people) realise that as well as laws that expressly intend to establish a religion it is possible to “backdoor” such establishment (which is a process as much as a single act) through otherwise apparantly a-religious legislation. The intent of the amendment is clear, that legislation shall not be used to promote religion. As it is legislation that empowers and enables the state to do everything it does therefore the state shall not be used to promote religion.
If the state is being used to promote religion, as the judge found a reasonably informed person would conclude in this case, then whatever legislation they were acting through would be unconstitutional. Presumably this then gives the possibility of ruling that legislation unconstitutional (if it is flagrently so) or saving the constitutionality of the legislation by reversing the behaviour that made it unconstitutional.
So, Gerv, you were “genuinely interested” in what was unconstitutional about that sticker? Well, thanks to your visitors who were kind enough to supply us the relevant links (that’d be Joel), now you have the explanation you were looking for, with both the original decision (PDF) and a couple of very neat summaries : 1 & 2 ready for you to peruse. Case closed?
Sorry to disappoint you, mate, but the same applies to every law, constitution and regulation in every country. Because it is simply impossible to create the perfect law that would foresee and take into account every possible combination of circumstances (especially a hundred or two hundred years after the law was passed). So, a system of precedents is created from individual decisions by judges that must “adapt” laws for the new circumstances, and then that system is reused in the following cases. Have a look at the decision text. It’s littered with previous cases setting precedents.
Generally speaking? Nothing. Except it would appear that it is illegal (according to Georgia Constitution, Art. I Sec. II) to do so at taxpayers’ expense – precisely what was done in Cobb County, and it is illegal (according to US Constitution, Amend. I + Amend. XIV) for it to be done by official/public bodies on those religious groups’ behalf. Aside from that, it is highly immoral (according to my own personal beliefs) to brainwash children and adolescents.
BTW, you really should read that Decision doc, at least the first part of it. It’s pretty funny. Ok, ok, it’s actually pretty sad, but it’s definitely worth a read. Maybe I’ll post some excerpts from it later on.
N.B. : IANAL.
That’s the simplistic story. The longer one is that lawyers put words in the courts’ collective mouths. Lawyers elicit testimony at trial. Then on appeal, lawyers file briefs. IMO, most appellate justices rely much too heavily on appellate briefs, and much too little on their own efforts to confirm or deny the validity of the arguments and applicable law cited in the briefs, leaving most post-argument work up to clerks. Unfortunately, clerks are people with the least experience or understanding of law and history, precisely when and where such experience and understanding are most needed.
Lawyers’ object is to win (advocacy), which isn’t necessarily coincident with doing the right thing (honor & justice). The frequent consequence is the people have to live with resulting bad precedent until such time, if ever, that the people overrule via statutory change, or far less frequently, but more forcefully, constitutional amendment.
Oh, and most judges were lawyers before becoming judges. So, ultimately, the poor reputation of lawyers is well deserved.
“Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, of inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and . . . the love of their country . . . in short, of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.” — Samuel Adams
Here’s a very simple answer:
There’s no way, within the scope of the law, that a sticker would be required, simply on the basis of a religion.
The “theory” of creationism is religon. Strait out. There’s no actual “theory”, or “fact”… it’s a religous article.
The law says that religion shall get no preference.
Still doesn’t make sense?
I have a new theory. I created the world.
Now should the schools be required to put a sticker on the books because of my new theory? Why not?
You can’t put a sticker on a book on the basis of religion.
If you can remove religion from creationism… then you’d have a 100% valid argument.
But the fact is… you can’t. Creationism == religion.
If you could come up with a way to support it scientifically… then it could be a theory, and validated that way. But to date, there’s no scientific, quantitative evidence to indicate creationism. It only exists within the realm of religion.
Not as such. I was interested in why such a sticker fell under the remit of the constitution at all, not what particular part of the sticker a judge might pick on in order to justify his decision.
Still, thank you for the case summaries – very interesting. They do confirm my initial conclusion – the judge has gone several steps from the original meaning of the words in the constitution to arrive at his conclusion. That’s not a criticism – the US has the right for its legal system to work any way the people want.
I’m not sure that “regarding the establishment of” means “promote”. As I understand and read it, the Founding Fathers were very keen not to have an American equivalent of the “established” Church of England (the official state church in the UK), and that’s what it was immediately referring to.
Also, your line of argument can lead to negative discrimination, of the sort you see when someone advances a view because it’s in line with their beliefs (for example, that people should be married before they have children, and the state tax system should encourage that) and they are denigrated for holding that belief “for religious reasons”. Why should they not be allowed to hold that view, when someone who argues for the same change “for the good of society and the coherency of the family unit” is allowed to hold it? (Note: this example may be to some extent theoretical in the US; similar issues have occurred in the UK.)
That shows a rather disappointing lack of awareness of alternative legal systems in the world. :-) (At least, if “the same applies” refers to the level of interpretation being applied here to the US Constitution.)
If you can’t strip out the religious argument and be left with some substantial reason, then yes, the law should be disallowed. Presumably, the argument for marriage before children *must* have some argument for it other than “God decreed it.”
To be perfectly honest, the religion argument is the *last* one I trot out unless the opponent uses it first. In your example, marriage before children, I’d argue that it’s a law to arbitrarily limit my freedoms for no good reason. I don’t believe in marriage and don’t think I will ever get married, so should I be barred from having children when some muppets who ran off for a shotgun wedding would be? People do get married on a whim because they know they can get divorced for no good reason.
This isn’t about the actual laws, it’s about the right to have your view taken into account in the law-making process with the same weight as anyone else’s, no matter what your rationale might be.
Discounting the weight of arguments from religious belief is assuming that God does not exist or does not matter, and that decisions have to be taken on that basis. This is therefore, I would say, violating the second half of the First Amendment religion clause. After all, it works both ways – if taking religious belief into account when making decisions is promoting religion, taking decisions based only on atheistic belief and discounting the views of those who think otherwise must be inhibiting it (both “promoting” and “inhibiting” are from the Lemon test quoted above).
My example was not that it should be illegal to have children before getting married, but that the tax system should be slanted to reward people who had children within marriage more than those who had children outside it.
[Using financial incentives to try and encourage behaviour it likes (for whatever reason it likes it) is a long-standing Government thing, of course. Tax credits for job creation, etc. etc.]
The US isn’t a pure democracy, nowhere is, and thank God for it. The US was founded on the principle of freedom and part of that freedom was the freedom from oppression of the minority by the majority.
Part of the freedom the US was founded on was freedom of religion. The only way to ensure that is to prevent laws being made that favour a particular religious view if the only argument for it was religion. Religious types are perfectly entitled to create laws that favour their religion if they can come up with reasons that don’t amount to “my religion dictates it.”
My argument’s just as valid. Why should I be penalised when some shotgun-wedding yahoo can get tax breaks?
Actually I find that first mention of religion you found more interesting. It would appear to make the oath of office that the President will be taking later on in the month unconstitutional.
It’s very interesting the kind of things you can find in studying a large document that was obviously written before computers and the ability to automate searches for inconsistancies.
We seem to still have problems producing documents that don’t contradict themselves today when such technology is readily available.
While that is true one has to assume they are against the actuality of established religion, not merely a straight out legal proclaimation of an established church. It is sensible to conclude that they would be against measures that promoted a certain church. If you were “allowed” to follow whatever you like but were taxed higher for not aligning with a particular church for example. Etc etc etc. The step between merely promoting a particular church and the establishment of one is indeterminable. Thus the only resolvable position is to keep church out of it completely.
Assuming he is entitled to make an oath that doesn’t include religious content if he so desires then no. Only if it is “required” is it a problem.
But the Supreme Court is, and the aforementioned Lemon test is the usual legal instrument. This has been the case for at least thirty years, since Lemon vs. Kurtzman, and, I think, the principle has been standard for longer than that. I vaguely recall that the government is permitted to promote religion in general, but that is tricky, and these stickers (in my opinion) clearly promote the views of the evangelical wing of the Christian church. Few if any other groups hold those (anti-evolutionist) views.
The Amendments of the Constitution are terse by design. The U.S. Constitution, like most federal constitutions, is a living document which, byway of progressive interpretation, accommodates and addresses the realities of current day life.
A large and liberal, or progressive, interpretation ensures the continued relevance and legitimacy of the document. By way of progressive interpretation the Constitution succeeds in its ambitious enterprise, that of structuring the exercise of power by the organs of the state in times vastly different from those in which it was crafted.
Different countries have different judicial systems. Some countries (some European countries come to mind) have official “Constitution”s or “Basic Laws” hundreds of pages long that try to account for too many issues in considerable detail. The countries that try to persist with such approach are forced to review and rewrite their constitutions quite frequently (in historical terms) to accommodate for changes in technology and society. They are not spared, however, the need for mountain-high piles of additional paperwork to clarify things in their courthouses. Other countries (US being one of those) opted for a relatively short document mentioning the most important aspects of running the state, leaving the details for further litigation and lawmaking, sometimes – at lower levels of judicial hierarchy. Those countries are only forced to make occasional amendments to the “constitution” itself, because the specifics of how those general guidelines are to be implemented are scattered throughout other documents.
Thus, even though the only thing the first amendment states about, e.g., “freedom of speech” is :
you’ll see the first amendment mentioned in great many rulings. The specific details of how that principle is to be implemented are simply listed in other documents, but it is the principle itself that is mentioned in bottom line.
You may also find the “Annotations” listed here to be of some interest (the link is directly to the Amend. I related stuff, including the “religion” portion of it, but similar info is available there for the entire constitution, just follow the links).
“The same applies” refers to judges around the world having to make decisions on how to interpret the letter of law under specific circumstances, while preserving the spirit of law. There are no all singing all dancing laws anywhere in the world, because such laws are simply impossible to come up with.
It would appear that you were having some issues with the fact that the hundreds of years old US Constitution is not intended to be used in a court of law as a sole legal document leading to either acquittal or conviction based on a word for word application.
Something like that. The bulk of US judicial system “documentation” seems to be spread a little differently between the constitution and other laws/precedent cases than you were expecting it to be. That’s all.
(The usual IANAL disclaimer applies)
Let’s start off with “assuming that God does not exist”. What “God” would that be? Jesus Christ? If so, of which Christianity flavor? (Christians, after all, have a history of slaughtering other Christians belonging to different confessions strictly on religious grounds, do they not? Despite supposedly believing in one and the same J. Christ…) Judaic God, perhaps? Allah? Buddha? <long list follows> How about Satanists with their, er, Satan?
Following this logic (and a bit of math ;) ), not discounting the weight of arguments from religious belief is assuming that God does exist and probably matters, which would imply that decisions have to be taken on that basis… Now all we have to do is decide which god of the available plethora “exists” (We could try to assume that all of them do, but there’s a bit of a problem with that, a good deal of religions happen to claim that – as Zappa put it – “Our God says : There ain�t no other!”). Once we’re done with that, I’m not so sure I’d want to see the outcome of the decisions that were “taken on that basis” – after all, we’re talking here about legislation, not some weekend paintball session…
I’m kind of tired at the moment, so I might be missing something, but… Aren’t you kind of reducing the world to just two specific situations that would suite you? What about taking decisions based only on “agnostic belief”? “We’re not saying they big guy’s up there, we’re not saying he ain’t. That’s why we’ll do our best to protect the believers from the non-believers and vice versa. So, either it’s stickers on all books in school, listing all scientific theories mentioned within as, er, ‘scientific theories’ and listing every religion mentioned within as ‘superstition’, or no stickers at all”. Middle ground, mate? ;)
I don’t know that anyone actually linked the ACLU’s release concerning the issue (though the suit was filed by the ACLU) If so, sorry.
From the release:
‘”The school district gave evolution second-class status among all scientific theories and, at the same time, gave advantage to a specific religious viewpoint that rejects evolution,” said Maggie Garrett, an ACLU of Georgia staff attorney who argued the case.’
Apparently the judge agreed, and as the Lemon test has been brought up here elsewhere, that’s the ballgame, as you might say.
“Separation of Church and State” is a delicate issue here, that’s for sure. Many different viewpoints on what should be allowed/disallowed, and no real Constitutional guidance, other than preventing Congress from creating National Church Day or something overtly tied to a particular religion.
As was mentioned before, the Bible is certainly allowed to be studied, but the Bible is not allowed to be taught. Of course, this applies only to public schools.
gerv: I recently read an analysis of this case by a lawyer, you might find it interesting. It’s obvious from his tone which side he wanted to win, but the actual discussion of the case might still be illuminating, regardless of how you feel about his beliefs.
It includes this quotation from the actual decision:
[T]he informed, reasonable observer would know that a significant number of Cobb County citizens had voiced opposition to the teaching of evolution for religious reasons. The informed, reasonable observer would also know that despite this opposition, the Cobb County School District was in the process of revising its policy and regulation[s] regarding theories of origin to reflect that evolution would be taught in Cobb County schools. Further, the informed, reasonable observer would be aware that citizens and parents largely motivated by religion put pressure on the School Board to implement certain measures that would nevertheless dilute the teaching of evolution, including placing a disclaimer in the front of certain textbooks that distinguished evolution as a theory, not a fact. Finally, the informed, reasonable observer would be aware that the language of the Sticker essentially mirrors the viewpoint of these religiously-motivated [sic] citizens.
There’s also several posts on that same blog referring to originalism…
A public library should have scientific books and religious books; furthermore some actions must be taken to stand against a group of people trying to pass their messages on certain books.
Ask yourself this question: would you stand against this judgment if an Islamic group was putting stickers on the bible saying ‘Beware, the content of this book can’t be proved. This God might be a false one. Please consider it when you read that book’? Honestly…
Athiest wants schools to teach creationism
I’m afraid that that one particular “atheist” was playing a bit of an unfair game in that 3 years old post. Some of the thoughts mentioned there might have some merit, but only if religion as a whole (Christianity, by the looks of it) was vigorously taught in schools. He, on the other hand, only proposes to teach creationism instead of theory of evolution. Which certainly can’t achieve the same effect, because the bulk of religious (Christian or otherwise) do-s and don’t-s are not part of creationism per se. So, it would appear that he’s saying something related to what he’d really like to say, but not exactly what he believes (if he really believes that dung).
I’m thinking this is better then :-)
Yes, it is, much better! I am afraid, though, that those that insist on intelligent design/creationism being taught in schools might not be satisfied with such a solution. It does not further their point of view, after all… :)
This is so ridiculous I think that the people who want these stickers need to get a reality check in a psychiatric hospital. These stickers imply religious madness as much as they can, without actually using concrete words.
In fact, it’s sickening kids in the US are being thought to have blind faith and not to question their convictions regarding god, religion, flag, country; and that books containing information as real to nature as possible and based on ever more verifiable facts carry labels while books full of uninquisitive drivel brainwash them since birth.
How funny religious scum now prints labels to encourage ‘critical considering’.
May I suggest next time you are sick, have an accident and bleed to death or develop a nice cancer, you go to a church, instead of a hospital where people might use all this evil knowledge of evolution and the human body to cure you.
Perhaps the US should take care of the taliban in their own country first. No other country in this world still lives so massively in the Dark Ages, despite its inhabitants’ view of themselves.
Why are these two options mutually exclusive? I am praying that God will heal me (which, in his wisdom, he may or may not do), and he may well work through the doctors to do so.
Also, I wouldn’t really describe my cancer as “nice”.