School Cancels ‘Religious’ Halloween, Says Constitution Forbids It

I hate to even use the word “school” for this sort of brainless stupidity, but here we go again having a school attempting to destroy our American traditions and character this time by banning Halloween. Why? Because it is a “religious” holiday and the Constitution forbids religion in schools, of course.

Now you and I both know that the American holiday of Halloween has absolutely no religious connotations whatsoever. But this fool of a school principal has decreed that Halloween is all shot through with that monstrous “religious” stuff and so, because all our founders were 100% against religion–despite that this country was formed on freedom of religion–why we need to dump Halloween, too.

Now, it is true that Halloween has religious roots. It stems from the Christian celebration of All Hallows Eve, a holiday many think was derived from pagan practices. But that original origin does not have its roots in America’s celebration of the holiday.

In fact, Halloween was not much celebrated in the USA before the 20th century, though some immigrants did celebrate it here and there beforehand. It just wasn’t a nationalized holiday until it became a merchandising holiday pushed by Hollywood and the business sector in the 20th century. Halloween in the USA was never much associated with the ancient Christian and/or pagan celebrations. The way we do it is quite specifically American.

But, who needs real history when another nitwit “educator” wants to make a statement against religion, eh?

The principal of Inglewood Elementary School in Lansdale, PA, Orlando Taylor, recently sent out a letter to families saying that he intended to cancel Halloween because it is “religious.”

The headline of the letter reads, “No Halloween Parade or Celebrations,” and goes on to make the outlandish claim that the holiday is religious so it must be canceled.

This halfwit goes on the blame this all on the Constitution and the Supreme Court who, he says, “has ruled that school districts may not endorse, refer, favor, present of advance any religious beliefs.”

Taylor also said, “The school district’s policy directs all North Penn Schools to ‘not’ sponsor or support the celebration of Halloween Parades, Halloween Parties, or dressing in Halloween costumes.”

The Constitution, of course, does not prohibit religion in schools. The Amendment says freedom OF religion, not freedom from religion, after all. Further the mythic “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution at all.

Secondly, the Supreme Court did not say that no religion is allowed in school. It is just that cowards like this Taylor fellow have used the misconception to destroy Christianity for decades.

Amusingly, the school district threw this ahistoric, misinformed fool under the bus and told the media that Halloween is allowed in district schools and this principal is off the reservation on this matter.

Though an abortive attempt, all this really is was just another attempt to destroy America’s Christian roots–even though in this case it was both ill conceived and historically unfounded. Principal Orlando Taylor was merely trying to destroy America’s Judeo-Christian character and found himself left out on a limb for it.

Shortlink:

Posted by on October 11, 2013.
Filed under Asshats, Big government, Constitutional Issues, corruption, Culture Of Corruption, Democrats, Education, Leftist Tolerance, Liberals, Religion.
Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago-based freelance writer, has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and is featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com and BigJournalism.com, RightWingNews.com, CanadaFreePress.com, RightPundits.com, StoptheACLU.com, Human Events Magazine, among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a frequent guest on talk-radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book "Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture" which can be purchased on amazon.com. He is also the owner and operator of PubliusForum.com. Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions, EMAIL Warner Todd Huston: igcolonel .at. hotmail.com "The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it." --Samuel Johnson

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  • Lawrence Westlake

    Seems like a case of the left hand (the principal) not knowing what the other left hand (the district) was up to. The latter apparently just wanted not to have large-scale celebrations for pedagogical reasons and to limit the revelry to in-class parties. The former jumped the shark tank and exposed himself for the airheaded dope that he is. It’s tough to tell the real details. There are layers of idiocy at work here. A liberal newspaper (BIRM) reporting on the shenanigans of a liberal school district (BIRM). You need a flow chart to keep up. In any event, this really is a function of demographics. Public K-12 administrators (and private ones too, for that matter) are among the least experienced and loopiest people out there in Idiocracy Land. We’re not talking about the brightest bulbs in the display case. Very few of them have any utilitarian experience. These are not CEOs or licensed professionals working in regulated professional industries. They’re drones, is all. Glorified government clerical workers. They slant overwhelmingly to the left. So of course they’re bound to come up with ideas so dumb it boggles the mind. But that all said let’s not go all Glenn Beck hysterical. 99.99% of the country wouldn’t know Lansdale, PA from Land’s End clothiers. Not the end of the republic much less the world.

    • Retired military

      Peanut butter may be able to help that diarrhea of the mouth.

      • Scorpion

        That’s also banned in a lot of schools, except the latter.

    • Commander_Chico

      One paragraph, one comment.

      • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

        You LIE.

        • Commander_Chico

          On the sauce tonight?

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            You LIE a second time.

      • jim_m

        One monstrous paragraph of incoherent ranting.

        FIFY

    • 914

      It seems like a case of froot loops has invaded your space tower to be honest.

      lol

  • jim_m

    This is what you get when you have the lowest standards of performance to enter and advance in the field of education. When schools are run by morons we should not be surprised when idiotic things are done by the school administration.

    It is also yet another sign that sending your children to public school amounts to little more than parental malpractice.

  • GarandFan

    Let me guess, “affirmative action” in action.

    • zengardener

      Wow, you jumped strait to racism. Why the rush?

      • alanstorm

        Why don’t you just admit you don’t understand the issue, and that affirmative action IS institutionalized racism?

        Probably because the race card is all you know how to play. I’m sorry, that account is overdrawn.

  • Studying_Nomad

    I was taught that good Christians do not celebrate Halloween. Are you sure the guy is not a good Christian and turning the tables on those who are anti-religious to make a point?

    • jim_m

      Ugh! Yes, there is an intolerant strain within evangelical Christianity that remains anti-Halloween. But this is only a recent development due to an ignorant reaction against the faddist affectation of wicca. It’s basically the no fun brigade making fools of themselves.

      However, while there are those in Christian circles that act this way, this does not seem to be the case here. This seems more like an ignorant school official making an ass of himself by making arbitrary and capricious rules and throwing his weight around to demonstrate to himself that he is important.

      • Commander_Chico

        Gave you an up vote even though you backtracked. Yes, I suspect this might be motivated by those religious fanatics who say that Halloween is devil worship and paganism.

        • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

          And here you have proof positive of the opposite position…

        • jim_m

          There is no evidence that this is motivated by anything other than ignorance. His objection was that Halloween is a religious holiday and not that it promotes satanism.

          And where the hell did I backtrack?

      • ackwired

        Halloween was not widely practiced in colonial America nor in the early days of the United States because of it’s pagan religious origin. This was especially true in the Puritanical New England area. The holiday was introduced to American culture by the large Irish immigration of the mid 19th century. Virtually all of the Halloween symbolism (jack-o-lanterns, witches, etc.) derive from the druid holiday rather than from the Christian all-hallowed eve. I certainly do not see any reason to ban it from schools. But let’s not twist history to try to prove our point.

        • warnertoddhuston

          That’s pretty much what I said. Thanks for just restating it.

        • jim_m

          Twisting history? You are the one twisting history if you are claiming that the complaint of modern evangelical Christianity against Halloween represents an unbroken thread from the puritans to today (Heck, this complaint does not even represent a dominant belief within evangelicalism). As an evangelical Christian disgusted with the Pharisaical hypocrisy of my coreligionists I do not believe that I am twisting a thing.

          • ackwired

            Well, if you think that churches being against Halloween is a recent development, you are wrong, whether you are twisting anything or not. By the way, my twisting comment referred to the idea that Halloween is a commercial holiday without significant religious aspects, and that opposition to Halloween is motivated by opposition to Christianity.

          • jim_m

            There may have been churches that were against it in years past, but I never saw these in my childhood, not did I ever come in contact with anyone who went to such a church. It simply was not a big deal.

          • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

            Part of the problem, I think, is that there’s no such thing as ‘elsewhere’ with the internet and a 24-hour news cycle. You hear about a child kidnapping in CA, and if you’re in Maine you hear ‘child kidnapping’, and you feel it’s a local threat. You hear about an asshole who wants to ban Halloween, and instead of it being at an elementary school in PA, you envision it happening at the school down the street.

            Before CNN and the internet, there was a limit to how much crap you’d see. A really big story would go national – but local stuff tended to stay local.

          • Commander_Chico

            Not to mention the car chase of the day . . .

          • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

            The ‘exciting’ elsewhere becomes important when there’s nothing going on locally.

            And don’t even get me started on how parents won’t allow their kids outdoors because of roving bands of child snatchers just looking for fresh meat.

            “No, you can’t go over to Jimmy’s! He lives five houses away, and I just saw on the news where a kid was snatched in California! I won’t take that chance!”

            “But Mom, we live in Kansas! And I’ve been doing that for years!”

            “It’s not safe! I’ll walk you over there, and you call me when you’re ready to come home!”

            “MOM! I’m 17!”

            “It doesn’t matter! Do you WANT to give me a heart attack?!”

            When the media plays on people’s fears to get them to watch, things go out of whack quickly.

    • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

      You are a product of the Public Schools, aren’t you?

  • JWH

    I’d say a public school shouldn’t do Halloween. It’s a waste of time.

    • Retired military

      Halloween is about kids being kids. it is a tradition. What’s next. Cancelling Christmas. That is coming.

      • zengardener

        yep, Christmas too.
        The school is supposed to be a place for education, not where they get to have parties celebrating ancient pagan traditions or religious nonsense.

        Have your stupid parties at home.

        • jim_m

          Yeah, why should we teach our kids to be literate in the culture they are growing up in? School should be used to tear down our culture and society.

          • LiberalNightmare

            twerking 101?

        • warnertoddhuston

          Joe Swollen is just another moron aping what others tell him instead of actually knowing anything. A product of the garbage schools we have, sadly.

        • Retired military

          I guess Joe Wallen thinks the kids don’t have enough time to learn about govt paid abortions, Gaia, manmade global warming, fisting, gay marriage and the like. Nope have to do away with fun stuff to teach them about all the important stuff.

        • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

          Best get busy amending the Constitution there Wallen, as the Constitution defends the free practice of religion, not the exclusion thereof nor freedom from religion.

      • http://www.traveLightgame.com/ ljcarolyne

        That’s the Idea. Lighten up folks, and just have school without all this in fighting. No biggie unless you make it so.

  • zengardener

    The principal was right. The school is no place for superstitious holidays.

    The author of this article forgets that there is supposed to be a clear wall of separation between church and state. It is clearly outlined in the 1st amendment.

    Teach our kids and send them home. We will have our own parties.

    • jim_m

      Except that Halloween is not a religious holiday and hasn’t been so for generations. And yet I doubt that you would say a peep about schools bringing in muslims to teach about islam. I am sure that you would excuse that as “cultural education” and file it under “tolerance”.

      The first amendment does not dictate that all public institutions must bar all expressions of religion. It simply prevents the establishment of one religion over another.

      • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

        All Hallow’s Even, the night before the Feast of All Saints.

        • jim_m

          I know its origins. I am just saying that precious few people know about them and fewer still celebrate Halloween for the original religious purpose.

      • zengardener

        You are correct. Halloween is, in all practical terms, not a religious holiday. It is a commercialized version of some ancient watered down pagan tradition or something….It doesn’t matter. It is all based on tradition, and superstition, and commercialism and is useless to our children’s education.
        It might be a footnote in history or World religions or some class like that, but there are countless such traditions, and I see no reason why our schools should waste time on them.

      • zengardener

        About Islam,
        I think there would be great value in studying history of the world and how religions have affected the course of humans. That would include Islam, but would not endorse any religion as real or valid, just things that people believed in.
        There are many examples.

      • zengardener

        Having a special event at school celebrating Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve would meet the criteria for establishing religion.
        Having a trick or treat parade would not.
        That’s the difference between singing Holy night at the Christmas special and having a Winter solstice gift exchange.

    • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

      Thank you ever so much for sharing from the shallow recesses of your wit and tolerance. We know you don’t have much to go around, which makes your sharing that much more important.

      • zengardener

        I appreciate that you have acknowledged my greatness.

        • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

          We believe your demonstrated intelligence and education would lead you to parse my earlier comment in that fashion.

    • jim_m

      Hey there brainiac, I defy you to point out where the words “separation between church and state” (or any facsimile thereof) appear in the US Constitution.

      It may be news to you but the person who invented that phrase wasn’t even at the Constitutional Convention. But why let facts get in the way of your epic ignorance?

      • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

        Gee, someone here wrote a post on that very subject…

      • zengardener

        It doesn’t matter that “separation between church and state” does not appear as you quote, only that the 1st amendment prevents the government from respecting the establishment of religion.
        State Funded schools leading children in a religious ceremony is as clear a violation as one could ask for.

        I am not saying that that is what was happening, only that it was a waste of time and that there is a separation of church and state.

        We also have many laws that were not written by the founding fathers. They are just as valid.

    • LiberalNightmare

      >>The author of this article forgets that there is supposed to be a clear wall of separation between church and state. It is clearly outlined in the 1st amendment.

      Ill bet you learned that in the public school system, di’ntcha?.

      • zengardener

        Yes. I learned more about it by reading books at my local library.

    • Retired military

      Where in the first amendment does it outline separation of church and state. It does mention that there will be no establishment of religion. Last I checked Christianity was established about 1700 years prior to the US.

      • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

        Establishment as used in the Constitution is Government imposing a tax upon the populace for the support of a state sanctioned church. Numerous states had such arrangements at the time the Constitution was ratified.

    • Jwb10001

      Freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion. The principal is wrong. If he had said we’re busy teaching math and reading and don’t have time for this that would be different. That’s not what he said. He was wrong and so are you.

      • zengardener

        The constitution guarantees both freedom of and from.

    • alanstorm

      “The author of this article forgets that there is supposed to be a clear
      wall of separation between church and state. It is clearly outlined in
      the 1st amendment.”

      Thus demonstrating that you neither know the history of the concept of “separation between church and state” nor what the text of the First Amendment is.

      Nor do you appear to have any clue as to how well “our” schools are doing their primary job.

      Go peddle your ignorance somewhere else.

      • zengardener

        Enlighten me.

  • 914

    Chanting about Barry Guevara however is a good thing.

  • Bernard Baum

    So Thanksgiving is out , too?

    • zengardener

      Thanksgiving is a Secular holiday. It could only be removed from the school schedule as a waste of time.

  • cirby

    Other holidays that should also be banned according to this “superstition/religion” theory:

    Reverend Martin Luther King Day
    Groundhog Day
    Valentine’s Day
    Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday
    St Patrick’s Day
    April Fools’ Day
    Passover
    Palm Sunday
    Good Friday
    Easter
    Earth Day (celebrated by many Gaia-worshippers)
    May Day (a traditional Pagan holiday appropriated by the Communists)
    Dia de los Muertos
    Thanksgiving
    Rosh Hashanah
    Yom Kippur
    Hanukkah
    Festivus
    Christmas
    Kwanzaa

    • jim_m

      I object. Kwanzaa is not religious, it was invented by a black socialist to inculcate communist ideology into black youth. It fabricated non existent ‘traditions’ from Africa and is from its outset a complete lie. It is no more a real holiday than Festivus.

    • Retired military

      You left out the following but had good reasons not to include them.
      Cinco De May – it would offend Hispanics
      Ramadan. – Cant go offending the muslms now can we.

    • zengardener

      Why MLK day? He was an activist, not a deity.
      April Fools? I thought that was a historic event. A waste of time for sure, but not religious.
      Earth Day? The Earth is real whether some people worship it or not.
      Thanksgiving is Secular
      Some of the other I am not so sure about.

      • cirby

        The Reverend Martin Luther King? Religious figure. Out he goes.

        April Fools? Originally had religious connections. “Holy Fool’s Day,” for one. It’s also “National Atheist Day” to a lots of people, which means – ta-daa! Religion.

        Earth Day? Gaia-worshippers.

        Thanksgiving may be secular, but has religious connections in the US. That’s more than Halloween has.

        • zengardener

          King was religious, but he was a human. Admiring his accomplishments is not a religious act. Are you trying to be silly?

          Earth day. The Earth is real. You cannot refuse to teach about something just because somebody else decides to worship it.

          You are just being ridiculous.

          • jim_m

            Jesus Christ was real. Mohammad was real. We can go on about your bigoted, arbitrary designations of which persons we should teach about and which ones we should not but the bottom line is that you are a bigot.

          • zengardener

            Worshiping King/Jesus as a god whether he was real or not, is religious.
            That is what our schools are not allowed to do.
            What our schools should do is teach about history. That would include any real people and any myths or legends.
            Obviously understanding the impact of Christianity is important for anyone. That is not arbitrary.

            Exactly how is it bigoted?

          • jim_m

            You arbitrarily categorize everything related to a real person as religious based upon your biases, yet you use the excuse that teaching about MLK Jr is OK because he is real. Your excuse is biased because you deliberately exempt other real people based on their connections to religion and it is those connections that you object to and the fact that MLK is real is irrelevant.

          • zengardener

            It’s not arbitrary.
            There is no evidence that Jesus was real.
            There is no merit in teaching children so.
            The impact of Christianity is painfully clear, and any lesson in history would include that.
            Teaching that Christianity is true, is way over the line.
            Mohammad was real. There is quite a bit of evidence.
            There is no evidence that anything he said was inspired by God though, so teaching children that it was is way over the line. Islam has made a large impact on the world, and again that should be covered in history.
            MLK was real. There is a great deal of evidence. The things he said had an impact and should be covered in history.
            If you wanted to exclude celebration of MLK from school, I cannot complain because one could always argue that other things were more influential on the world. Teaching about him is not religious study though and could not be excluded because of that.

            What about this don’t you get?

          • jim_m

            Only an idiot argues that Jesus Christ never existed. There is plenty of evidence of his existence from writings of the period even if you choose to deny his miracles, etc. There is better evidence of Jesus than there is for most people in that age.

            So I think that since you have established yourself as not only a bigot but as an irrational and uneducated one to boot, we can safely say that you know precious little about what you are opining about.

          • zengardener

            [citation please]

          • jim_m

            Seriously? You really are a bigot.

            Apart form dozens of Christian church fathers who wrote in the first century and some of whom lived contemporaneously with Jesus, there are writings of non-Christians such as Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Flavius Josephus, Seutonius, Pliny the Younger, Tertullian, Thallus, Philegon, and others. Many of these are 1st century historians.

            There is also the evidence of the Jewish Talmuds, which refer to Jesus as a bastard and ascribed his miracles to acts of sorcery. Some even describe him as having been hanged on the eve of Passover.

            There are literally hundreds of early manuscripts referring to Jesus. There is better evidence that Jesus existed than the Trojan war happened yet no one doubts that the war happened even if they do not believe in the story of the Trojan horse. Whatever you believe about him you are only ignorant if you deny that someone named Jesus existed and that people believed in him and followed him.

            The only reason to deny his existence is prejudice.

          • zengardener

            “Whatever you believe about him you are only ignorant if you deny that someone named Jesus existed and that people believed in him and followed him.”

            That is so vague, that it must certainly be true, but that is a far cry from establishing that Jesus existed in any form described by the unreliable sources that you cite.

            Which of your sources do you consider to be the most reliable, so that I may address your claim head on instead of wasting time on the low hanging fruit?

            How am I a bigot?

          • jim_m

            These sources are every bit as reliable as the sources that we have relied upon to establish much of what we claim to know about the ancient world. In fact there is more documentary evidence of Jesus’ existence that there is for most other figures of Greek and Roman history and few contest those figures. It is only religious bigots who cast doubt in this case.

            There is no reason to doubt the evidence of the existence of a man named Jesus who lived in Judea and who made certain religious claims. I have not even asked you to believe in any claims I merely pointed out the fact that this person existed and that regardless of whether or not you believe that he was God, in order to deny his existence you have to deny a volume of evidence that exceeds the evidence for many other historical figures and events.

            There is better documentary evidence for the existence of Jess than there is for the battle of Thermopylae for which we rely upon only Herodotus for a description of the events. Few doubt this happened or that the description is far from the truth.

            This is why you are a bigot. You demand a different standard for proof simply because Jesus is connected with religion. You cannot even admit to the fact that sch a person existed because then you must address the truth or falsity of his claims. You would rather set up a bogus standard of evidence that you would never ask for for any other person or event because you cannot tolerate even allowing the least concession to people who believe in him.

          • zengardener

            You are overstating your case.

            ” In fact there is more documentary evidence of Jesus’ existence that there is for most other figures of Greek and Roman history and few contest those figures.”

            You are clearly exaggerating.
            Certainly, you must think that one of those sources is the most reliable. Which one? I don’t have time to read everything.

            “You demand a different standard for proof simply because Jesus is connected with religion.”

            That might make me a bigot, except that I never claimed to believe in anyone else but Mohammad and Martin Luther King Jr.

            Both of those people are connected with religion. So…

          • cirby

            Well, you’ve demonstrated that you can actually LEARN, anyway.

            Yes, I was being silly. And ridiculous. Just like the idiot in the article who wants to cancel his school’s Halloween events. In his case, however, he didn’t realize it.

            …and it seems to have taken you several days for you to manage it, yourself.

          • zengardener

            I don’t check these messages every day. I have a lot of studying to do.

        • zengardener

          The government is not forbidden from acknowledging the secular accomplishments of people who also happen to be religious.

          Thanksgiving is the remembrance of a real event. Just because some people pray means nothing.

          Are you being honest in your comparisons?

          • cirby

            Which part of “Yes, I was being silly” have you not read yet? How many days will it take for you to read that?

          • zengardener

            Ok. Maybe I was over reacting. It’s hard to tell if someone is being dishonestly hyperbolic, trolling, or is just crazy.

            Peace.

  • LiberalNightmare

    This sort of thing is a fine example of what happens when liberals become too entrenched in local govt. Simply put, When this decision was made, there was no one in the room with enough brains to tell the principal just how stupid he is.

    One goal for conservatism should be to regain control of the educational system.

  • Doug Indeap

    The principal’s decision is mistaken, but hardly for the reasons suggested in this post. Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) according that government limited, enumerated powers, (3) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (4) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (5), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day (by which governments generally were grounded in some appeal to god(s)), the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which affirmatively constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

    That the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, to some who mistakenly supposed it was there and, upon learning of their error, reckon they’ve solved a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to name one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

    The Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

    Wake Forest University has published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx

    • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

      The Government created by the Constitution does so as a limited grant of power by The People. Nor is there any mention of religion in the body of the Constitution (less amendments) as adopted.

      Having not granted the Federal Government any power over religious practice the Federalists considered the issue settled. The anti-Federalists were less assured (in retrospect, they were wise to be) and insisted on a set of amendments which were adopted at the same time and which became known as the Bill of Rights.

      The pertinent part of the First Amendment reads:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…

      The “bedrock principle” of a seperation of church and state appears no where in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence.

      The phrase (“a wall of separation between church and state”) itself arises from an 1802 letter by then President Thomas Jefferson replying to a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut (one of the states which still had an established religion in 1802, which states in pertinent part):

      Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people [The Constitution and Bill of Rights] which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

      Your “bedrock principle” first entered Federal Jurisprudence in Everson v. Board of Education (330 U.S. 1 (1947)).

      • Doug Indeap

        You are correct to observe that the Constitution affords the federal government limited, enumerated powers, and says nothing to give that government power over matters of religion. That indeed is perhaps the most fundamental basis (or bedrock) of the separation of church and state, as I tried to explain in my comment and as the Federalists thought (as you noted in your comment). How this observation leads you to conclude that the principle does not “appear” in the Constitution is not . . . well, apparent.

        To the extent that some would like confirmation–in those very words–of the founders’ intent to separate government and religion, Madison and Jefferson supplied it. Some try to pass off the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that were the only basis of the Court’s decision. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court’s decision. Rather, the Court discussed the historical context in which the Constitution and First Amendment were drafted, noting the expressed understanding of Madison perhaps even more than Jefferson, and only after concluding its analysis and stating its conclusion did the Court refer–once–to Jefferson’s letter, largely to borrow his famous metaphor as a clever label or summary of its conclusion. The notion, often heard, that the Court rested its decision solely or largely on that letter is a red herring.

        Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). Indeed, he understood the original Constitution–without the First Amendment–to separate religion and government. He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

        • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

          Your argument boils down to: Since the Government is not empowered to interfere in religiuos matters it is empowered to ban religious observance.

          Ha ha!

          • jim_m

            More like: since government must stay out of organized religion, the official religion of the United States is atheism and an enforced secularism is the law of the land.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            Ha ha!

          • Doug Indeap

            It should not be supposed that the government, by remaining separate from and neutral toward religion in keeping with the Constitution, somehow thereby favors atheism over theism. There is a difference between the government (1) remaining neutral in matters of religion and leaving individuals free to choose, exercise, and express their religious views without government intrusion and (2) taking sides in matters of religion and promoting one view (whether theism [in one, any, or all its various forms], atheism, or whatever) to the detriment of others. It is one thing for the government to endorse the idea that god(s) exist or, alternatively, endorse the idea that god(s) do not exist; it is quite another for the government to take no position on the matter and respect the right of each individual to freely decide for himself.

          • jim_m

            AH, but by suppressing all religious expression within the government it de facto does take a position in favor of atheism. This is in fact something you have expressed support for so you are therefore in favor of an officially atheist state.

          • Doug Indeap

            I spoke of how the Constitution constrains the government. It does, of course. I gather that you don’t like where the Supreme Court has drawn that line. Where would you draw it?

            Careful reading of my comments would reveal that they do not mention or suggest suppressing all religious expression within the government. Indeed, they note how individuals within government may exercise and express their religions. Moreover, beyond that, while the Supreme Court has confirmed the basic constitutional principle of separation of church and state, it has given a pass to the appointment of chaplains for the house of Congress and army and navy and the issuance of religious proclamations, as well as various governmental statements or actions about religion on one or another theory, e.g., ceremonial deism. Notwithstanding sometimes lofty rhetoric by courts and commentators about an impenetrable wall of separation, as maintained by the courts, that wall is low and leaky enough to allow various connections between government and religion. Indeed, the exceptions and nuances recognized by the courts can confuse laymen and lawyers alike, occasionally prompting some to question the principle itself, since decisions in various cases may seem contradictory (e.g., depending on the circumstances, sometimes government display of the 10 commandments is okay and sometimes not).

          • Brucehenry

            “Careful reading” is often too much to ask around here, Doug, jsyk. Clinging to ideological sacred cows is held too dear.

          • jim_m

            Careful reading of my comments would mean recognizing that I was not speaking against any SCOTUS ruling but against idiots like the FFRF and other intolerant tools that think that religion is prohibited within 500 feet of any government building.

          • zengardener

            The distance is irreverent, it’s the State sponsorship that matters.

            Nobody is stopping your child from praying at school.
            They prevent teachers from leading children in prayer.
            I am sure that you are happy that the teachers are not leading your children in Satanic Animal sacrifices at school.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            You still create a power to constrain or suppress that which the Government was granted no power over, and which the Government was established to protect as in of the Rights of the Sovereign Power (The People).

          • Doug Indeap

            You’ve said this several times. I gather that I’m not understanding your point, and thus I could benefit from further explanation.

            I have spoken of the Constitution constraining the government. It plainly does; indeed that is largely what the Bill of Rights does. You seem to see that constitutional constraint as somehow creating a power in the government to constrain or suppress itself–a power you seem to find objectionable. I don’t understand this, but somehow the image of a dog chasing its tail comes to mind.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            It’s a logical contradiction you cannot hand wave away.

          • Doug Indeap

            I still don’t understand your point–or perhaps I do, but I just cannot believe that’s what you mean.

            Am I correct in understanding you to interpret the First Amendment as creating a power in the government to constrain itself from taking steps toward establishment of religion? And then, having read the Amendment that way, you object to that power because the Constitution has not granted it?

            If every prohibition in the Constitution is read to create a power in the government to thus prohibit itself, and then that power is somehow cancelled because the Constitution does not otherwise expressly grant the government any such power, how is any constitutional prohibition to have any effect?

            To the extent that that interpretation is what you have in mind, might I suggest that the necessary and proper clause provides the solution to the logical contradiction your interpretation presents.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            No, you don’t.

            A prohibition against enacting legislation to Establish a church (collect taxes on behalf of the official church thus Established) does not logically imply a power of the government to exclude religious practice, and is in fact injurious to the right of the people to freely practice religion.

            HETL

          • Doug Indeap

            OK. If I understand, you raise two issues: 1. The scope of the prohibition in the establishment clause. 2. The interrelationship or tension between the establishment clause and the free exercise clause.

            With respect to the scope, while the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from establishing a national religion by collecting taxes for an official church as you note, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. During his presidency, Madison vetoed two bills, neither of which would form a national religion or compel observance of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the Constitution prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of Alexandria in the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the Mississippi Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. Separation of church and state is hardly a new invention of modern courts. In keeping with the Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other evidence, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

            With respect to the relationship between the two, the trick (as I noted earlier) is to distinguish government and individual speech and action about religion, since the First Amendment affirmatively constrains what government can say and do, and affirmatively protects the freedom of individuals to exercise their religious beliefs.

          • Doug Indeap

            Hardly. See my reply to Rodney above.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            I am he and you are still finding a power to suppress where no power is granted at all.

          • jim_m

            I think he may have started drinking a wee bit early. Must have been a killer tailgate party.

            Either that or having expended so much energy trying to make himself sound intelligent and self important that he simply has nothing left to bother paying attention to a peon like you.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            Next he’ll be reading his own poetry aloud to the praise of bh and other assorted trolls.

          • Brucehenry

            Pity. You guys were doing so well and then suddenly took a couple of personal potshots and insulted this guy out of thin air for no good reason. What he’s saying is perfectly reasonable and logic-based, what you guys have been saying only slightly less so.

            Why don’t you argue the merits instead of resorting to insults?

          • jim_m

            I see no issue with pointing out that he comes across as a ridiculous, self important pedant as I have several times. It happens to be the case.

          • Brucehenry

            Well to each his own. I think he sounds fine. What’s the matter with a few big words and knowing a little history?

            Don’t be jealous.

          • jim_m

            I also addressed the issues in my comments to him so your criticism is out of place.

          • Brucehenry

            Yes you and Rodney are completely justified and I guess you told me!

          • jim_m

            Blathering on about something which is not the point of the comment you are responding to is unnecessary. I have not been arguing in favor of prayer in schools or to allow teachers to proselytize students but that was the nature of the response I received. It was a lengthy, non-responsive, turgid block of prose meant to impress with its language rather than its content.

            Leftists are generally impressed with people who use big words and sound self important (eg John Kerry). Conservatives are impressed with people who can concisely communicate ideas.

            To each his own.

          • Doug Indeap

            Yeah, yeah. You think I come across as highhanded. I get it; perhaps so. I trust that you can get past that, and I can get past your criticisms of my tone. I think there are a few comments outstanding. Or are we done?

          • jim_m

            Don’t get me wrong. I think you make some good points although there are some issues where we disagree. I have pointed those out. I am sure I will get used to your tone.

          • Brucehenry

            But he was responding to comments made about the phrase “separation of church and state” not appearing in the Constitution. He pointed out, quite cogently I thought, that the phrases “separation of powers,” “checks and balances,” “fair trial,” and others, are not explicitly used either, but no one doubts that the concepts are indeed there.

            Leftists may be impressed with people who use big words, but wingnuts, on the other hand, are more impressed with mediocrities who hate people they consider smarty-pantses.

          • jim_m

            Let’s take the notion of separation of powers for instance. If we applied the same logic as the FFRF the SOTU address would be unconstitutional in its current form as the President would be barred from entering the capitol building.

            It isn’t that the notion that a separation between church and state is not contained within the constitution it is that idiots on the left have forced an idiotic interpretation on the constitution based on that phrase.

            Nobody disagrees that government should not be sponsoring religion or promoting a denomination, but the 1st amendment was never intended to outlaw prayer at a public meeting or the invocation of God in an address by an elected official. These are the things that idiots like the FFRF are claiming need to be done.

            The canceling of Halloween celebration at the school is an example of just this type of idiotic application of a false reading of the constitution. I’ll bet my paycheck that the same school principal would not blink an eye at a class activity teaching about Ramadan or Eid.

          • Brucehenry

            Two things: Who the hell are the FFRF you keep mentioning? No one else has. I never heard of ‘em.

            Also, too, you’ve said twice that one commenter, and now this principal, would somehow give Islam a pass. An allegation (two, actually) without evidence.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            Physician, heal thyself.

          • jim_m

            The Freedom From Religion Foundation.

          • Brucehenry

            HUGELY influential I’m sure. Probably funded by……SOROSSSS!!!!

          • zengardener

            Freedom From Religion Foundation.
            They try to keep the government strictly secular, which is why they would oppose Islam and Judaism as well.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            Get busy with the amendment process. You’ve a long row to hoe.

          • jim_m

            I have a large vocabulary too. I just do not feel compelled to use the entirety of it in every post I make.

          • Brucehenry

            Meh, you can get a little pedantic yourself sometimes, as can I. And don’t get me started on RGG and his Franco-Italian Repeatin’ Catchphrases and his Latin cliches. The other day he posted something in Greek fucking script for God’s sake and you never said a word.

          • jim_m

            I didn’t see any Greek script but I was in Germany all week and didn’t follow the blog much. (the Hilton was charging $20 euros a day for wifi connection)

          • Brucehenry

            It was hilarious. I think it was Greek for “My fedora’s too tight.”

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            Another shining example of public education…

          • Commander_Chico

            Perverse rule: many of the most expensive hotels charge for internet connection. But the cheap ones more often have it for free.

            I avoid hotels that charge extra. You can screen them on agoda.com for that.

            Good time to be in Germany.

          • jim_m

            Hamburg and Frankfurt not Munich so no Oktoberfest. I usually don’t stay at this hotel but it proved convenient this time around.

          • Commander_Chico

            Ha! I bet there were a dozen small town feste around those places last two weeks. Small town/city wien/bier festivals are better than Oktoberfest.

            The website to check is
            http://www.veranstaltungen-in-deutschland.de/

          • Ken in Camarillo

            I’m with you about the chintzy expensive hotels. Parking is another item where the supposedly comprehensive expensive hotel charges, but the economy hotel provides it free.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            I did indeed do that thing. That you could neither figure it out from context nor bother to hit Google Translate is everything anyone needs to know about you.

          • zengardener

            No. Since our government is prohibited from endorsing religion, it cannot do so by way of school ceremonies.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            Establishment =/= endorsement.

          • zengardener

            Yeah, it pretty much is.

          • jim_m

            Not for anyone who understand the English language

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            No, it very much is not.

    • jim_m

      Not to belabor the point, but the point is that the constitution was never intended to establish a secular society where no one in government could express a religious viewpoint or where religion was forbidden from public expression outside of the church or the home.

      Despite your snotty, self congratulatory attitude I would say that most people do understand what the Constitution says and that there is great agreement by the public what it means, but there do exist extremists who believe that it really does ban religious expression in public places and that religion, religious ideas, and religious people should be barred from the government.

      • Doug Indeap

        It is important to distinguish between the “public square” and “government” and between “individual” and “government” speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. (Students also are free to exercise and express their religious views–in a time, manner, and place that does not interfere with school programs and activities.) If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

        Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.

        • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

          You are still justifying the suppression of religion on the basis of not interfering with religion.

        • jim_m

          No. It has been SCOTUS jurisprudence that government workers do not shed their 1st Amendment right to freedom of religious expression.

          • Doug Indeap

            I suggest you read the Wake Forest paper or some other summary of First Amendment law. My comment does not merely set forth my opinions, rather it largely summarizes what the Supreme Court has ruled.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            That same institution that arrogated unto itself the power of adjudging the Constitutionality of the laws?

          • Doug Indeap

            Because the Constitution does not specify what the legislative and judicial powers encompass, that question needed to be resolved. Early in our nation’s history, it was–in Marbury v. Madison. In that case, the Supreme Court decided that it was the legislature’s role to make the laws and the court’s role to decide and declare what the law is. The Court further held that in deciding what the law is with respect to the Constitution, the Court necessarily must decide whether a particular statute enacted by Congress conforms to the Constitution. I suppose the Congress or the Executive, co-equal branches of the government (comprised largely of founders at the time), or the People could have challenged the Court’s power to decide that it had the power it said it had, but they did not and instead accepted and ratified the Court’s decision. And now their collective decision is part of the bedrock of our Constitutional law and history. You, I gather, don’t like that aspect of our nation either and would like to turn back the clock and argue for a different approach (exactly what isn’t clear since our nation has never known any other approach).

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            The proper method would have been to amend the Constitution vice arrogating a power not granted.

          • Doug Indeap

            Okay. Assuming for the sake of argument that you are right about that, that issue was decided in 1803 and the United States has operated with judicial review ever since. It seems that your choices are to somehow turn back the clock or just get over it and move on.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            I think the same was said about Dredd Scott…

          • jim_m

            Oh, but the SCOTUS rulings are infallible… except where they are not. But any lefty is able to tell the difference – Because shut up!

          • Doug Indeap

            Rodney and Jim,

            You offer glib responses to a serious point. If you truly object to judicial review of the constitutionality of acts of Congress–the system under which the United States has operated for the last 210 years of its existence–what would you have us do? Absent a serious alternative to such judicial review, you cannot simply dismiss Supreme Court decisions as (unconstitutional) arrogation of power.

          • jim_m

            Unlike Rodney I do not object to it. I do object to the elevation of their rulings to pronouncements from the mountain top that some believe to be appropriate,

            SCOTUS makes mistakes. What many people try to do is to end discussion on an issue by claiming that SCOTUS has spoken so there is to be no more date on the issue forever.

          • Doug Indeap

            The Supreme Court, as a human institution, of course, can and does make mistakes and can and does change its mind. Mercifully, it does a relatively good job, so such occasions are fairly infrequent all in all.

            Given the Court’s fallibility (and the difficulty of many of the issues presented to it, and the associated closeness (e.g., 5-4) of some of its decisions), you are right to observe that a decision by the Court does not necessarily end the debate.

            Not all decisions are equal in this respect though. Some are so well settled and/or so thoroughly embedded in our legal, governmental, and social institutions and history that it would be highly unlikely and quite disruptive if they were somehow reversed. Marbury v. Madison, I submit, is one such decision. I don’t see any serious prospect that we’ll jettison judicial review of the constitutionality of statutes.

            The principle of separation of church and state, at least in the main, while perhaps not as fundamental as that on judicial review, is nonetheless among those well settled principles that has long since become an integral part of United States history and law. While the Supreme Court may adjust the scope of its application in various respects, I don’t see any serious prospect that it will abandon the principle. That said, in discussions such as this, I don’t point to the Court’s decisions, fold my arms, and declare victory; it is much more interesting and enlightening to discuss the underlying concepts and history, since they will in any event inform future arguments to the Court.