Saturday, April 09, 2005


(Post excerpted from an article by the estimable Tom Barrett)

Churches meet in schools all across our nation. In fact, another minister and I have teamed up to start a church in a public school here in Loxahatchee, Florida. So I was understandably interested when I discovered that New York City is trying to throw churches out of their public schools.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." The New York City School District is interpreting this principle as requiring that their facilities to be religion-free zones. But the Constitution requires schools to be neutral regarding religion. They can neither endorse nor discriminate against churches.

There are several important principles that must be understood in order to determine whether the School District is right or wrong. First, the District looks at the schools as its property. Government at all levels makes this fundamental mistake. The New York City Schools, as well as all government property at all levels, belongs to "We, the People." Yellowstone National Park belongs to us. The Statue of liberty belongs to us. And our local schools and libraries belong to us. Government is our servant, and is only the steward, or caretaker, of our property.

The second principle is that the New York City schools regularly rent out their facilities to all kinds of organizations. These include everything from political organizations to self-help groups. When did people of faith become second-class citizens in this nation? When did it become OK to welcome literally everyone except for people who worship God? Who decided it was acceptable to violate our First Amendment rights?

Finally, many of the organizations that New York City welcomes with open arms (while trying to exclude Christians) are actually religious organizations. Witches are welcome. Secular humanists are welcome. And atheists are welcome. Yet all of these are religions. Witches worship Satan. Humanists worship man. And the atheist's religion is that there is no God. So apparently New York City's position is that it is OK to rent to religious organizations unless the religion is Christian.


How the Left hate free speech!

Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) has warned the members of the College Republicans that both the students and the group will be punished if they hold a campus protest against affirmative action. The NEIU College Republicans canceled its planned "affirmative action bake sale" protest after NEIU's dean of students warned them in an e-mail that to hold such a sale would violate NEIU's "nondiscrimination" policy and expose the students to punishment. NEIU, which allowed a feminist group to hold a similar "pay equity bake sale" protest on campus, is the latest in a string of schools nationwide that have attempted to shut down these protests against affirmative action.

"You would think that universities would have learned that affirmative action bake sales are constitutionally protected," remarked David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has twice written to NEIU on behalf of the College Republicans. "In this case, NEIU's disregard for its students' First Amendment freedom of expression is made all the more severe by the university's apparent double standards."

The NEIU College Republicans originally planned to hold its "affirmative action bake sale" protest on February 25. Such protests have become a widely used form of political parody directed against affirmative action. Organizers typically display a menu with satirical prices charging black and Hispanic students less than Asian and white students for the same items. The "bake sales" are intended to spark debate about affirmative action policies, not to raise revenue. The College Republicans postponed the protest, however, after receiving an e-mail from NEIU Dean of Students Michael Kelly stating that the protest would violate the school's nondiscrimination policy. Dean Kelly wrote that "[v]iolating University rules can and will result in charges being filed," and that "any disruption of university activities that would be caused by this event is also actionable.."

The College Republicans immediately turned to FIRE for help. On March 8, FIRE wrote NEIU President Salme Steinberg, reminding her that "`[a]ffirmative action bake sales' constitute a form of satirical political protest, and therefore enjoy the fullest protection of the First Amendment." On March 17, NEIU attorney Mark Dunn responded that the university was encouraging the students to explore alternatives to the bake sale protest. Dunn did not address NEIU's threat to punish the students for their protected expression. FIRE replied to Dunn, insisting that the students be allowed to hold the protest of their choice. FIRE also pointed out that since the NEIU Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance apparently has held a "pay equity bake sale" protest (in which men are charged more than women for baked goods to protest the "wage gap" between men and women) on NEIU's campus, it would be unlawful viewpoint discrimination to forbid the College Republicans from holding a similar protest. NEIU's second letter to FIRE once again did not address FIRE's concerns.

"NEIU's position is simply indefensible," noted FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Greg Lukianoff. "Neither the feminist group nor the College Republicans were engaged in `discrimination' with their protests. Both bake sale protests are forms of satire that are highly protected by the U.S. Constitution. NEIU must respect the free speech rights of all students even if it dislikes the message of a particular protest."

More here

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