Saturday, February 20, 2010

Constitution 2, Christian Right 0

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Casey Rogers, sitting in Pensacola, issued a 35-page opinion that prevents a self-proclaimed "Christian educators association" from challenging the year-old "consent decree" that bars them from "promoting their personal religious beliefs in public schools." The opinion should surprise no one who's been paying attention and has at least a minimal understanding of our nation's Constitution.

As we pointed out some time ago, for decades Pace High School in northern Santa Rosa County was notorious for openly promoting a particular brand of religion favored by a handful of teachers and administrators. When informal requests to cease the daily prayers being piped over loudspeakers into classrooms and other such nonsense were rejected, a few brave students and their parents filed suit. The school district fought the suit for a time, got schooled by lawyers for both sides on the constitutional mandate to separate Church and State, and gave in. It signed a consent decree and set about ensuring that the school district's promise to obey the law would be honored by its employees.

Enter the wackos. A group calling itself "Christian Educators Association International" found out about the deal and sought to "intervene" after the fact to re-litigate the issue. Apparently, it managed to sign up a handful of so-called 'educators' in Santa Rosa County -- altogether, eleven of them if you count as "educators" sermonizing secretaries, catechizing coaches, and the Proselytizing Principal of Pace.

No dice, ruled the judge. As the Pensacola News Journal reports, the judge wrote in part that --
The members' assertions of fear and self-censorship are based on a misunderstanding and an isolated reading of selected portions of the decree's definitions of 'prayer, school official and school event,' taken out of context, and further, at least as to some of the conduct the members wish to engage in, they have no arguable constitutionally protected right to engage in such conduct.
A judge has to be circumspect in her written rulings. We're free to be more candid. What the judge probably meant is that the "Christian Educators Association International" is just too stupid to get it. Simply because some school employees' own religious impulses may urge it, doesn't mean the employees have a constitutional right to abuse their public salaried positions to market some personal religion-of-the-month to students and other teachers of the public school system.

The biggest dunce of all, though, is the lawyer they hired. His name is Mathew Staver and he works for the right-wing "Liberty Counsel" law firm that ginned up the latest legal maneuver. After learning of the judicial ruling, attorney Staver apparently told a reporter for the PNJ, "I think the judge has just created nuclear war."

Whoa! Accusing a federal judge of starting a "nuclear war" certainly doesn't display what many might think of as a 'Christian' attitude. It even might be contumacious. In any event, it's certainly laughable.

We can almost hear the ACLU lawyers now: 'Bring it on, by all means, Mr. Staver. We could use the additional attorney's fee awards. And, this time no discount for you.'

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