Posts Tagged ‘free speech’

I have a headache and the airplane I’m in as I’m writing this has hit some turbulence, so forgive me for a short post. There are three links for this one. First, there’s the WND post, which is “Student Reprimanded for Saying ‘God Bless America.'”

There actually is no story. Nada. No description in the RSS feed, no three-paragraph snippet. Just a link to “Read the full story” which takes you to Fox “news” and an article by Todd Starnes: “Student Reprimanded for Saying ‘God Bless America.'” The Fox story has nearly 10,000 comments when I loaded it in the airport.

“Similarly,” the WND story has 53 comments when I last loaded it. The top-rated comment is by “daleetaylor” who wrote: “I wonder if we realize how close we are to a national collapse. The leaders of this nation are doing whatever they want and they could care less what the American people want. That is the sad truth. They LIE, LIE, LIE and LIE about their lying. We as a nation must pray to the only true God and repent or we will perish. That is the truth. God forgive us.”

Without even reading the story or anything else, my knee-jerk reaction is pretty much what “kim” said in response: “The american people don’t want god in the classroom. They decided 230 years ago and reaffirm that every election since. Maybe you should move to a theocracy.” “kim” was attacked, as expected.

But, the whole reason that I found this story and even clicked on it was because Hemant posted about it on his The Friendly Atheist blog: “Todd Starnes Flips Out After Student Told Not to Say “God Bless America” During Morning Announcements.”

Here’s the real story:

  1. Students at this school (Yulee High School in Florida) are allowed to read the morning announcements. Over the loudspeaker. To a captive audience. At that point, they legally become an agent of the school. More on that later.
  2. Students were adding “God Bless America” to the end of the announcements.
  3. Two students who are atheists, fearing reprisal, told their parents and the parents complained to the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
  4. The legal center wrote a letter to the school explaining the problem.
  5. The principal wrote back within hours saying that “the theistic assertion was not part of the scripted announcements but was added by a student without the school’s approval.” And, “The principal reassured the legal center, “It is our desire and intention to respect the belief and constitutional freedoms of all our students at Yulee High School.””

Enter Todd Starnes. Who “asked Jeremy Dys, an attorney with Liberty Institute to weigh in on this nonsense and he said the atheists don’t have a prayer:”

“Whether a student is being patriotic or engaging in religious speech, there is no law in this country forbidding a student from telling his or her classmates, ‘God bless America’ and it is illegal for a school to censor a student for doing so,” he said.

Dys also wonders why atheists are so hell-bent on trying to censor the patriotic speech of a red-blooded American high school student.

“Regardless of this attempt by secularists to white wash over this demonstration of patriotism by a teenager, America’s students do not give up their right to free speech and the expression of their religious beliefs when they go to school,” he said.

Here’s the issue: Students don’t give up their First Amendment rights to free speech when at school. They can tell fellow students anything they want about their religious beliefs or wear clothing that does – provided they do not create a hostile environment or interfere with learning – during school hours and on school property.

The issue goes to my first enumerated step in the story: They are giving this to a captive audience over the public address system as agents of the school. The school – and its agents – cannot advocate a religious belief. Therefore, the students saying “God Bless America” over the loudspeakers to a captive audience as part of the morning announcements is illegal.

Another part of the comments are people screaming about the “atheist students” and how they feared reprisal, and how they should have just come forward on their own. Um, this is high school. Do you really want to be even more of a pariah if, say, you’re the person already with few friends, and it’s the school’s prize quarterback who’s the one saying this in the announcements? Really?

And, I can personally relate: In my elementary school (grades 3-5), we were allowed, two at a time, for fifth graders, to go to the office in the morning and read the Pledge of Allegiance over the loudspeakers. Like good little minions, everyone in their homerooms would stand and recite it along with us.

I was fairly atheistic from a young age. I would say the pledge (I stopped in high school, for which I got bullied even by friends for not saying it when everyone else would during assemblies), but I would remain silent during the “under God” part. I was going to skip over it when I read it to the school. But even I, who already at that age didn’t have too many friends to lose anyway, chickened out and just read it as I was “supposed to.” Though because I didn’t chicken out until literally the word before it, I tripped up anyway and instead of a proud statement of church-state separation, I just was laughed at because I stumbled over several words in front of the entire school. The girl who did it with me (since it was boy-girl pairs) just shook her head, and the secretaries administrative staff looked at me with pity.

Sometimes school sucks. Trying to make a political, religious, or a-religious statement – even if you’re in the right – can make you a social pariah right at that age where you’re trying to figure out who you are, what your values are, and just fit in.

Public servants are supposed to serve the public. The public should feel confident that these public servants are going to execute their jobs fairly and not discriminate against anyone. Yes, there is such a thing as the First Amendment protection for their speech; however, when that speech gets in the way of that faith the public has in them, then there are consequences to that free speech.

Atlanta fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, is learning this, but WND commenters don’t understand it: “Fire Chief Suspended for Publishing ‘Anti-Gay’ Book.” The Raw Story has a different headline/sentence: “Atlanta fire chief’s book says ‘unclean’ gay people ‘defile their body-temple and dishonor God.’”

From The Raw Story:

“Naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God,” writes Kelvin Cochran in the book, which is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

[…] He was suspended because he violated city rules by not seeking and receiving approval to publish the book, in which he compares homosexuality to bestiality and proclaims that his top priority as head of the fire department was “to cultivate its culture to the glory of God.”

[…] The mayor suspended Cochran for one month without pay and ordered him to attend sensitivity training and prohibited him from distributing the book on city property.

Civil rights activists are concerned the punishment is too lenient.

“His views towards the LGBT community are shameful,” said Glen Paul Freedman, chair of Georgia Equality’s board of directors. “He will be back in charge, and I am sure telling his staff anti-LGBT stuff. I wonder how many LGBT AFD staff were not promoted or held back because of his views and telling his staff his views. The mayor should fire him.”

Keep in mind here that the Fire Chief serves at the discretion of the Mayor. They Mayor can suspend or fire the Chief at will, with or without reason (though generally it’s illegal to do so for purely political reasons, I think).

Here are two other quotes from the book: “Uncleanness — whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion.” And: “Naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God.”

The three paragraphs that WND published are this:

(WASHINGTON TIMES) Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran has been suspended without pay for one month and must undergo sensitivity training for authoring a Christian book in 1992 that described homosexuality as a “sexual perversion.”

Mayor Kasim Reed’s spokeswoman Anne Torres said the administration didn’t know about the decades-old book, titled “Who Told You That You Are Naked?” until employees came forward with complaints last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The book identifies Mr. Cochran as Atlanta’s fire chief and says it’s his first priority as chief is to run the department “to cultivate its culture to the glory of God,” a local ABC affiliate reported.

Straight-forward. Though I think the WND snippet / source article is wrong, because from what I can tell this book was published last year. That’s when Amazon says it was available, and if the guy identifies himself as the Chief, he was not Chief in 1992, there was a different person.

That aside, the WND commenters obviously don’t like this. Top-rated comment is by “Jacob Burke Jr.” who wrote: “Hope he doesn’t cave on this issue, because he was and is 100% correct.”

Or “Watson Forrest” wrote: “I hope he has enough backbone to not back down. The allowing of this perversion has gone on long enough. If they (gays) don’t like the way things are they need to go to Afghanistan. I hear it’s nice there this time of the year.”

This is why in recent posts about homosexual-related maters I’ve just stated, “WND comments are what you’d expect.”

It’s been in the news quite a bit the last week or month, that Russia has passed a law against “gay propaganda.” As in any advocacy, any outreach, any PDA … you face fines at the very least. That could pose a problem for the Winter Olympic Games which are to be held in 2014 in Sochi (in Russia).

What came out last week was that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) had received assurances from “the highest level” of government that anyone affiliated with the Olympics – athlete, coach, press, spectators – would be free from persecution. Then, the people who had been the prime advocates for the law, came out and said “nope.” Well, not quite “nope,” but they very vehemently stated that the law is in full effect and would not be selectively applied or selectively not applied. This has sparked numerous protests including a movement to boycott Russian vodka.

Hence the WND snippet linking to an ABC article, “‘Gay’ Athletes Face Prosecution at 2014 Olympics.” The snippet basically says what I said above but without quite as much background.

Now, let’s pretend that instead of gays, it was Christians that this law was aimed against. With that little imagination in play, let’s look at the WND commenters. (This is why I started this blog — so that people could see the kind of bigotry and hatred that’s out there.)

Of 50 comments, the top-rated right now is from “crowleycr” with 10 up and 0 down votes: “my advice would be not to disobey laws in foreign countries you are a guest in. If that is a problem, stay home and enjoy yourselves.” Think they would say this if it was a ban on Christian propaganda?

Or what about the third-highest-rated comment based on Disqus’s rating scheme. It’s by “wearyconservative1946” with 13 up and 2 down votes: “I always knew there was SOMETHING redeemable about Russia. Looks like you’re about the last hold out for any form of decency and morality left in a fallen world of sin and perversion.”

Now, I don’t know how exactly the law will be enforced. Or what kind of activity or display would be considered tipping an arresting officer over the edge. I’ll admit one or two WND people raise a decent point. “Lady Di” writes some horrificly bigoted things, but she also states: “These gay athetes just need to go and compete in the physical competitions and nothing more.”

I kinda see that point. But at the same time, I have a shirt that has a bunch of DNA strands and they’re in rainbow colors. The shirt says, “Awesome Is in My DNA.” Would that get me fined? If so, then I have an issue here. Granted, I have an issue with the broader law which, if in the US, would clearly be unconstitutional. But, at the same time, you’re there for the Olympics, and granted there’s a lot of sex that goes on among the athletes at the Olympics (over 70,000 condoms were used at the 2012 Olympics in London among athletes), but none of that is public. If you’re reading this, what do you think?

Before I start to agree too much with WND people, here’s a comment from “ernestomattaponi” to round things out: “I think we should ban air from homos. You can get HIV from breathing their used air.”

I think we should ban the internet and public discourse from most WND readers and contributors. You can get stupid from reading or listening to what they say.

Imagine, if you will, that you and your brother or sister go to a public high school. You get there in the morning, walk up the steps to school, go to your locker, hang out with your friends for a few minutes, and then go to your first class. It’s high school, so everything is about social standing, from your shoes to your diction to the company you keep.

Now imagine that your mother is outside on those steps to the school every morning, she “holds her hands out toward students entering the school building,” and she prays and reads from the Bible.

I feel sorry for her children. If that were my mother, I would disown her.

But, that’s the case of Lizarda Urena in Concord, NH, via an article in the New Hampshire Union Leader linked to by WND with the headline, “Mom Banned from Praying at School Steps Each Morning.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation heard about it and asked the school to clarify if it had allowed her to do it. When they came back a few days later and said “no,” FFRF advised them that they should stop her, and the NH Civil Liberties Union “takes the position that in the conflict between freedom of speech and religious speech to students compelled to walk through the door to attend class,” the latter should win. Hence, the Superintendent told the mother that she needed to stop.

The School Board President supports the decision, stating: “To be fair to all the kids in the school, it is probably best for the principal to say that she shouldn’t be speaking out like this and proselytizing on school grounds. The best mode of action was to tell her to cool it.”

Won’t somebody PLEASE think of her children?

Obviously not WND’s commenters, with the top-rated one by “dude911” quoting the establishment clause and concluding, “Denying a person the right to pray for the safety of her children violates the US Constitution. The term “NO LAW” is pretty hard to misunderstand.”

Yes, exactly, “NO LAW” is usually hard to misunderstand, except when you don’t. Like in this case, this isn’t a law, this is the school could be misconstrued to support her speech by allowing her to be there in a VERY visible way and right at the door, AND she’s creating a nuisance of herself which gets into safety and right to free passage issues.

“Bryan Taylor” states: “Funny how liberals are afraid of words and prayers. They claim to be all for free speech [they would defend porn in the library at the same school], but when it comes down to hearing prayers….their double standards kick in.”

I’d like to see Bryan say the same thing if this were a Muslim parent reading from the Quran.

Let me first state that I agree with my subject line. The First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause makes people free to be a bigot. They can say what they want (so long as it’s not libel nor slander nor does it specifically call others to violence) and shouldn’t be persecuted legally. It also gives me the freedom to call them out on it.

That changes when the bigots provide a service and/or public accommodation. Then, there are other laws that matter. They can still say and think what they want, but they can’t discriminate in that service except for other legal reasons such as safety (e.g., “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs). At least, that’s my understanding of the law. And it’s not in conflict with the First Amendment.

Unless you’re Scott Lively. Right Wing Watch has an extensive set of articles on this particular bigot from Defend the Family. Such as, him claiming to have proof Obama is gay, that a gay man’s death from meningitis is divine judgement, and that after the Boy Scouts voted to allow homosexuals as scouts (until they’re 18), that gay activists would launch a “Blitzkrieg Against the Church.”

It’s Scott Lively that the latest WND article by Bob Unruh is about, entitled “Campaign Puts ‘Gay Rights’ Behind Constitution” (emphasis theirs). It’s reporting on Mr. Lively’s “The First Amendment Supremacy Clause” movement.

It states, “In no circumstance shall sexual orientation regulations superseded the First Amendment rights of individuals, churches and religious organizations to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion. For the purpose of this statute religious organizations are those whose policies or culture are substantially influenced by religious values, including but not limited to Christian bookstores, adoption agencies, hospitals, businesses, social organizations and student clubs on college campuses.”

He explains that would allow municipalities or other branches of government to adopt those nondiscrimination laws demanded by homosexuals – without infringing on the constitutional rights of citizens.

In other words, attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, but having this on the books to then use to challenge when individuals or businesses are charged with discrimination by refusing service to someone(s) just because they are homosexual.

I shouldn’t need to point this out, but you could easily simply replace “homosexual” with “black.” Or “Latino.” Is there any possible way that such a movement would work if you did that? Of course not. And for the exact same reasons that it is ridiculous and won’t work by having “homosexual” in there. He’s just a bigot and wants to protect his fantasy that he has the right to not be offended. And I should note (in case it was too subtle) that I’m exercising my First Amendment rights by calling these people bigots … because they are.

Comments are pouring in and in the time it took me to write that intro, 13 new ones were posted. And I type around 80 WAM these days. At the moment, the top-rated comment with 22 up-votes and (surprisingly) 2 down-votes is by “NUTN2SAY” (who should’ve stood by that pseudonym), who seems to have a lot to say:

Human life requires heterosexual men and women to unite for the purpose of bringing new life into this world. People of the same sex…for them it’s all about recreational sex and to hell with mankind! Homosexuals just want to play all day while heterosexuals do all the work!

We The People need to hire tax paid government employees who understand and comprehend these facts of life. Those employees that don’t understand these facts of life need to be fired ASAP! Turning America’s Posterity into homosexuals is an act of treason! The subject of sex is not in We The People’s Constitution and therefore needs not to be discussed. What adults do in private should stay private!

We The People…We Need To Talk! Turning children into homosexuals is a mentally ill crime that needs to be talked about!

I don’t think I need to comment on that. I think it’s enough to point out that this is the top-rated comment on this article on WND and leave it at that … there comes a point where you just shake your head.

Most of the comments are along this vein – simply anti-gay bigotry. Some are religious, lamenting that Christians are a minority being persecuted (*cough*bullSh¡‡*cough*).

The most negatived comment is by AutumnDenver with 1 up-votes and 15 down, who states, “And when framing the constitution women didn’t have the right to own property or vote. I kinda like the 21st centuries version better, thank you.” I’d add that we also had slavery enshrined within it. In response, we get:

  • Yeah, where the rights of mentally ill perverts are upheld, against those of moral beliefs, and law abiding behaviors.
  • Ignorance in motion. Typical liberal.
  • Me thinks men were happier back then too……go figure.

I don’t even understand what those first two are trying to get across. The third one is just misogyny to an extreme.

There’s also a comment by Butch1 who has 2 up-votes and 11 down-votes:

You’ve got to be kidding me. You deny people the right to marriage and then you make up this stuff? Why would any self-respecting gay person want a cake shop that hates them to make their cake? Grow up and stop pushing false lies to stir the pot on your gullible audience

Yeah, pretty much. Lots of highly up-voted responses, though, including:

  • If they were self respecting they wouldn’t be gay.
  • btw calling it marriage doesn’t make it so
  • Why would they indeed? Because it gives them something to talk or brag about at their social gatherings. Because it makes the papers. Because it sends a message to Christians to either shut up and service them or get sued. For the money. Because they hate Christians in general. Because they are trying to compensate for being picked on in school. Take your pick.
  • Go back to your closet.
  • Why would any self-respecting person be gay?