Theocracy Watch: European Edition

While we Americans have been focusing on this week’s elections, there was another important piece of the news from across the Atlantic you might have missed: the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against displaying crucifixes in state-run Italian schools.

A panel of seven judges in Strasbourg said the display of Christian crosses, which is common but not mandatory in Italian schools, violated the principle of secular education and might be “disturbing” for children from other faiths.

It upheld a complaint filed by Soile Lautsi, a Finnish woman with Italian citizenship, who complained that her children had to attend a state school in northern Italy which had crucifixes in every classroom.

…”The presence of the crucifix could be … disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities,” the court said in its ruling.

Bravo! This is a well-reasoned and obviously correct ruling. Of course the crucifix may be disturbing to people of other faiths or atheists. It is, after all, a graphic depiction of a man being brutally tortured to death by one of the most sadistic and agonizing methods of execution ever invented by human beings. Imagine the unhappy parent who has to explain to her young child what this symbol means and why it’s on the wall at their school!

The presence of the crucifix in a state-run classroom is an obvious violation of secularism, an obvious intrusion of religion into the government, and it stands in opposition to parents’ right to direct the religious education of their own children as they wish. Any parent who would express outrage if their children were required to attend a school where the Muslim star-and-crescent, or the atheists’ scarlet A, was prominent on the wall of every classroom, should understand why the crucifix is equally problematic.

But just as in the U.S., Europe too has its religious supremacists who’ve grown used to official state support and sponsorship of their beliefs, and who resort to obvious sophistries to deny the reasoning behind this ruling. For example, this blogger from the Telegraph:

Ms Soile Lautsi, a Finnish-born Italian national, felt that the crucifixes were “contrary to the principle of secularism by which she wished to bring up her children”, and asked for them to be removed. The school – quite rightly – refused her request on the grounds that crucifixes have been in Italian state schools since the 1920s, and are as much a national symbol as they are a religious one.

In other words, this argument is saying that Italy is a Christian theocracy – the central symbol of the Christian religion is also a “national symbol” – and that this state of affairs is good and desirable and should continue. I’ll give him credit for being so explicit about his desire for theocracy, but his claim is false: Italy’s Constitution says that all citizens “are equal before the law, without regard to… religion”. A violation of secularism does not become more acceptable just because it’s been going on for longer.

Imagine an atheist mother in Britain – or, for that matter, a Muslim or a Hindu one – deciding that her local state school’s Nativity play was imposing a “particular religious belief” on her children. Would she be able to persuade the ECHR to ban it?

If the state sponsors religious activities for children and requires them to participate? Yes, absolutely! Religious functions directed and sponsored by the government absolutely should be banned. This author is essentially complaining, “If we correct one violation of state-church separation, we’ll have to correct all the violations of state-church separation!”

Whether this ruling will actually go into effect is more doubtful: at least so far, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has vowed to defy it. What the consequences of doing so might be are not yet clear. But regardless, we can celebrate this ruling as one clear victory for reason and common sense: state-sponsored religion is a medieval relic that has no place in a modern, secular democracy.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

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  • Kaltro

    How is banning religious symbols the way to solve this? I thought secularism was all about *tolerating* other views, not driving them away. If the schools were guilty of both displaying crucifixes and not allowing any other religious symbols I would agree with you. But the article says nothing about whether or not other religious symbols have been banned.

    Secondly, banning the display of crucifixes in the schools is itself an intrusion of religious sentiment into the government. The Italian constitution you linked to states: “(1) Religious denominations are equally free before the law.”(Part 0, Article 8, section 1) Later on it states: “Everyone is entitled to freely profess religious beliefs in any form, individually or with others, to promote them, and to celebrate rites in public or in private, provided they are not offensive to public morality.” ( Part 1, article 19). Banning the display of Christian symbols in schools violates freedom of religious expression.

    The correct approach would be to allow whatever symbols (or lack thereof) the students wish to have. If the majority of students turn out to want crucifixes how is it fair to strip them of their right to religious expression in the name of minorities?

    Barring more information–such as whether or not the majority of students *want* the crucifixes displayed, and whether or not minorities are free to bring and/or request their own religious symbols– it’s a bit rash to call this ruling a blow against theocracy. It is not clear to me from what’s presented that this even qualifies as a possible ‘theocratic’ tradition in Italy. It’s not as though the Pope has commanded that all Italian schools *must* display crucifixes. As the bit you quote says, it is “common but not mandatory”.

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com chanson

    Imagine the unhappy parent who has to explain to her young child what this symbol means and why it’s on the wall at their school!

    So true.

    I had to field that question, though, fortunately, not in a secular school. I was deliberately on Catholic ground to teach my kids about their Catholic heritage. That makes a very big difference — but the question is still difficult — so I’m glad it wasn’t forced on us against our will. I described the educational experience here.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    If the majority of students turn out to want crucifixes how is it fair to strip them of their right to religious expression in the name of minorities?

    Kaltro, you used to be a reasonable fellow, and I have no idea when you got this brain transplant.

  • Caiphen

    No wonder Christ hasn’t returned. Would you want to return and be brutally reminded of your own torturous death? I don’t think so!
    This theocratic view is so damn ridiculous.

  • Kaltro

    “Kaltro, you used to be a reasonable fellow, and I have no idea when you got this brain transplant.”

    Could you respond to what I said instead of using an ad hominem?

  • rennis

    This is the correct ruling for a state or public school. Students can still have their individual right if they wish but the school should not show a partiality to any religion. As long as the schools are truly neutral then parents are free to bring their children up teaching them their preferred beliefs about religion. State run schools should not confuse this.

  • Sarah Braasch

    This situation is going to get very interesting very fast, because, now that Ireland has voted in favor of the Lisbon Treaty (the new Euro Constitution, so to speak) and the Czech President has signed off on it (Euros get in on this — make sure I don’t misspeak), Europe will more or less have a Constitution with a Bill of Rights.

    Right now — all EU member states are required to join the Council of Europe and accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights is highly influential but possesses no real means of enforcing their rulings aside from naming and shaming.

    Before the ECJ (the European Court of Justice) was dabbling in human rights issues, but they could only go so far — everything had to be tied to their “Commerce Clause” or free movement of persons, capital, services, and goods.

    It will be very interesting to see how the ECJ responds. The EU has not joined the Council of Europe and has not acceded to the European Convention on Human Rights. Yet. But, the ECJ and the ECtHR have developed a sort of strange, somewhat deferential relationship.

    The ECJ and the EU DOES have the means to enforce their human rights rulings.

    So, we shall see, we shall see.

    Of course — I think it’s preposterous for a state run school to hang crucifixes.

    It’s coercive indoctrination — pure and simple.

  • http://timecube.com Oro Mezclado

    Well, Kaltro, since Ebon, ah, seems to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday, I’ll take a crack at responding to your post.

    The situation as I understand it is that the schools in question come equipped with crucifixes hanging on the walls. They were put up there not by the students, but by school employees. This is clearly expresses a state endorsement of one particular religion. (And the crucifixes serve no practical purpose sufficient to override the goal of church-state separation.)

    Allowing students to add their own religious symbols alongside the crucifix doesn’t change the fact that the crucifix, being the default religious symbol, is implicitly the one endorsed by the school, and thus the state. (If a child does bring his own religious symbol, there’s also the possibility of him being singled out as the class Muslim or Jew, which he may not be thrilled about even if he is devout.) Instead of this putative gallery of religious symbols, the obvious practical solution is is no symbols at all. A bare wall isn’t atheistic; it’s secular.

    To reiterate: the ruling leaves the students free to express their religion, it just prohibits the school doing it for them. If you want a real example of a positively anti-religion stance on religious symbols in schools, look no further than the other side of the Alps: the French law banning public-school students from displaying conspicuous religious symbols on their persons, which I consider an indefensible assault on religious freedom.

    P.S. Notwithstanding the above, I find the “it’s disturbing” argument silly, or at least unnecessary. I’ll hazard a guess that there aren’t any little Italian schoolchildren having nightmares about Christ on the cross because they saw a crucifix in their classrooms. Admittedly this is just speculation, since it’s an empirical question.

    P.P.S. Hooray for HTML tags in comments!

  • http://lorenz.klopfenstein.net Lorenz Cuno Klopfenstein

    I agree with Kaltro: students should be allowed to wear any religion symbol they like and, if all students agree, should be also allowed to put them on the wall. The problem here is that most schools here in Italy (and most public places, like post offices, waiting rooms, etc.) have crucifixes “by default”. Those should be removed and public institutions should be banned from buying and displaying them in their rooms (and, as I understand it, the ban refers exactly to this, not to personal religious symbols).

  • F

    I am Italian, I just add some comments in my poor english.
    The crucifix in schools and in other public places (worth to mention tribunals), are indeed placed by schools employees and they were there since when catholic religion was religion of the state (during fascism, pre WW2). So it was mandatory.
    Now in the constitution we have freedom of religion, but we have also the “concordato” which is an agreement between the state and the Vatican with many consequences.
    So things are evolving very slowly and we have to thank mostly muslim immigrants for that (wonder what? there is another religion out there?)
    Anyway, if you try to remove symbols from the schools will encounter resistance (by other parents, by politics), if you try to add other symbols they will say that is not permitted and the cross is there not as religious symbol but as a cultural and historical one so all Italians should acknowledge that.
    Sadly Italy is still in the middle age.

  • Seomah

    @Lorenz Cuno Klopfenstein:

    I agree with you in that students should be free to wear any religious symbol and express their religion in any way as long as they don’t interfere with others’ rights. But why should they be allowed to put their symbols on walls? If it’s unconstitutional, it should be banned, no matter what students, teachers or parents say. Democracy is a great thing, but a nation constitution is above that. Do they think it’s a mistake? Alright, change the constitution. Should they be allowed to decide their studies program? Their school board?

  • prase

    If religious symbols in schools are wrong (I believe that they are, but even if I didn’t I would ask the question), why should they be banned only in state schools? The logic for the ban of religious symbols is, supposedly, that they serve to indoctrinate the children. It is no different in a private school. The school is the authority for the children, not the state. A pupil attending a private school doesn’t meditate about ownership of his(her) school when (s)he sees a crucifix on the wall.

    We secularists tend to give the parents right to bring up their children as they wish, and we also think that school education should be independent of the parent’s prejudices. So, why is it that we are fighting fiercely against crucifixes in state schools while being content with possibility of sending children in a private church school where religious symbols are the least problem? Is it the word private that avoids further criticism? The state shouldn’t interfere in anything what’s private? But children aren’t their parents’ private property.

    Kaltro, you used to be a reasonable fellow, and I have no idea when you got this brain transplant.

    Let me note that although I rather support the court’s decision, this is absolutely not the way I would defend it. Ebon, you used to debate politely and in a civilised manner, and I hope that this was only an isolated deviation from that.

  • prase

    This situation is going to get very interesting very fast, because, now that Ireland has voted in favor of the Lisbon Treaty (the new Euro Constitution, so to speak) and the Czech President has signed off on it (Euros get in on this — make sure I don’t misspeak), Europe will more or less have a Constitution with a Bill of Rights.

    As a Czech citizen, I have heard and read a lot of debates about the Bill of Rights, and I am far from being convinced about its efficiency. In short, our president Václav Klaus declared* that he hesitated to sign it because he was afraid that the Bill could give the European court power to abolish the Beneš decree which enabled the deportation of ethnic Germans after WW II. Finally an exception was agreed, which says that the Bill isn’t valid for the Czech republic (similar exceptions hold for Poland and Ireland, there because of religious issues, as Catholics fear legalisation of abortion and gay marriage).

    The commenters interpret these exceptions in several different ways. The interpretation I see most trustworthy is that the Bill is in practice only declaratory, and that was the reason why the exception was so quickly agreed. The European laws can be applied only in concordance with national laws and each country has its own version of the Bill. Controversial decisions of the European court could inspire resistance from eurosceptical parties and we can expect that the pro-integration politicians will try to avoid that, by endorsing as loose interpretation of the Bill as possible.

    *) Many people believe that in fact, Klaus was affraid that the Bill grant too many rights to employees, which goes against Klaus’ quasi-libertarian opinion. I believe that the real reason was only his strong anti-European bias.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    A quick note:

    Well, Kaltro, since Ebon, ah, seems to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday, I’ll take a crack at responding to your post.

    The reason for my admittedly rather snappish reply is because Kaltro has been a commenter here for far too long to not understand this already. In fact, he himself has written comments in which he rejects the idea of dictatorship of the majority (e.g., here and here). I can only conclude he was just trying to pick a fight, but I have no idea why; hence my dismissive response.

  • http://timecube.com Oro Mezclado

    If religious symbols in schools are wrong [...] why should they be banned only in state schools? The logic for the ban of religious symbols is, supposedly, that they serve to indoctrinate the children.

    I disagree. The logic of the ban is (or should be) that crucifixes in public schools are a state endorsement of religion. Maybe it’s wrong for private schools to display religious symbols, but it shouldn’t be illegal. That would cross the line from secular to anti-religious.

  • http://timecube.com Oro Mezclado

    [C]rucifixes [...] are as much a national symbol as they are a religious one.

    This is ridiculous. If someone were to start throwing crosses in a chipper-shredder in some piazza in Rome, I’d bet good money people would be flipping out because of sacrilege, not anti-Italianism. Another example of people trying to pretend that a clearly religious symbol isn’t (just) religious, so they can claim that a state isn’t endorsing a religion.

    By the way, is the cross of the Scandinavian flags (originally) a Christian cross? ‘Cause if it is, I think that would be a real example of a Christian symbol that has transcended its religious origins to become a national / regional symbol.

  • Alex, FCD

    Oro:

    By the way, is the cross of the Scandinavian flags (originally) a Christian cross?

    From Wikipedia:

    The legend [links] the origin of the [Scandinavian cross] to the Battle of Lyndanisse, also known as the Battle of Valdemar[...]

    The battle was going badly, and defeat seemed imminent. But then, right when the Danes were about to give up, the flag fell from heaven. Grasping the flag before it could ever touch the ground, the king took it in his hand, and proudly waved it in front of his discouraged troops, giving them hope, and leading them to victory.

    The myth is clear. The flag, Dannebrog was given to the Danes from God himself, and from that day forward, it was the flag of Denmark, and the Danish kings.

    The article hilariously goes on to point out that:

    No historical record supports this legend.

    This, for some reason, tends to be the case in legends about God throwing things at people.

    The crosses of St. George and St. Andrew are other “Christian symbol[s] that transcend[...] their religious origins”.

  • Kaltro

    “In fact, he himself has written comments in which he rejects the idea of dictatorship of the majority”

    I wasn’t arguing here for a dictatorship of the majority. I tried to be clear in my post that the ideal would be to avoid both a majority dictatorship and the equally bad opposite extreme, minority dictatorship.

  • prase

    The logic of the ban is (or should be) that crucifixes in public schools are a state endorsement of religion. Maybe it’s wrong for private schools to display religious symbols, but it shouldn’t be illegal. That would cross the line from secular to anti-religious.

    I understand the reasoning, but disagree.

    I wasn’t brought up by religious parents, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but if I were, I wish I would had access to unbiased information in school. I would much prefer looking at Jesus hanging on the wall to being taught creationism. Whether the school is run by state or not wouldn’t be at all important for me.

    Insisting on strict separation of state and religion, in every detail, while maintaining that private schools have right to teach any religious nonsense – it just seems like a bit weird priority ordering. At least from European perspective. Strict secularism hasn’t long tradition in any European country. Some countries still have a de iure state religion (if I remember correctly, Den norske kirke – Norwegian church – is by constitution a state church of Norway, de facto one of the most secular states in Europe).

    My opinion, in general, is that religion loses power when people lose interest in it. Fighting religious symbols gains very little, while attracting too much attention to religious issues. Although it is wrong to hang crucifixes in classrooms, there are more serious flaws in education that ought to be repaired.

  • http://timecube.com Oro Mezclado

    [M]aintaining that private schools have right to teach any religious nonsense [...] seems like a bit weird priority ordering. [...] [T]here are more serious flaws in education that ought to be repaired.

    To be clear, what exactly do you suggest the state ought to do in regards to “religious nosense” being taught in private schools? (Sorry if that sounds combative; it’s not meant that way – and looking back over your posts, I have a feeling that we agree more than we disagree.)

    Some countries still have a de iure state religion (if I remember correctly, Den norske kirke – Norwegian church – is by constitution a state church of Norway, de facto one of the most secular states in Europe).

    I’ve long considered this state of affairs a fascinating contradiction. Definitely one of those historical things I need to find the time to study up on.

  • kc

    prase: The thing is, private schools can teach any religious nonsense they want. The state does not fund anything to do with religious education, so it does not fall under the separation of church and state argument. That’s the entire point of it being private–yes, the word does make a difference, if for no other reason than because it describes the sort of funding it operates on–for people to send their children to learn that religious nonsense. Granted, some do it for the perceived quality of education, but they are well aware that religion will be taught there, and choose to send them anyway.

    Oro:

    By the way, is the cross of the Scandinavian flags (originally) a Christian cross?

    I learned that the Scandinavian flags were not crosses, but (extremely) stylized swords which represented their Viking origins. Of course, I don’t have a citation for that, and it could be complete bull. If it counts for anything, though, I did learn that in an AP course during high school.

  • keddaw

    Imagine an atheist mother in Britain – or, for that matter, a Muslim or a Hindu one – deciding that her local state school’s Nativity play was imposing a “particular religious belief” on her children. Would she be able to persuade the ECHR to ban it?

    Unfortunately this cannot happen in the UK as there is a state religion (Church of England, Church of Scotland) so there are more severe religious problems in UK society to be fought before we can even attempt to get rid of the nativity play.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Unfortunately this cannot happen in the UK as there is a state religion (Church of England, Church of Scotland)

    Not to mention that a large number of schools are directly controlled by the Church of England whilst still having their primary income funded by the state.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com Spanish Inquisitor

    I tried to be clear in my post that the ideal would be to avoid both a majority dictatorship and the equally bad opposite extreme, minority dictatorship.

    I’m unclear how neutrality in religious symbolism = minority dictatorship? Requiring no religious symbols is not dictatorship. Requiring that the Atheist Scarlet A be put on every schoolroom would be.

  • Kaltro

    “I’m unclear how neutrality in religious symbolism = minority dictatorship? Requiring no religious symbols is not dictatorship. Requiring that the Atheist Scarlet A be put on every schoolroom would be.”

    An outright ban on religious symbolism is not neutral. Dictatorship can involve both positive and negative commands. In other words, both “Do this” and “Do not do that” are dictatorial. Both sorts of command are definitely NOT neutral. Both express the will of whoever is doing the dictating.

  • Alex, FCD

    An outright ban on religious symbolism…

    …is not what’s being suggested by anyone. What’s banned is the state’s endorsement of the symbolism of any one particular religion.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    In other words, both “Do this” and “Do not do that” are dictatorial. Both sorts of command are definitely NOT neutral. Both express the will of whoever is doing the dictating.

    Well then, Kaltro, your moral system paints itself into a corner, doesn’t it? If we put up religious symbols because the majority want them, that’s dictatorship of the majority. But if we take them down because the minority doesn’t want them, that’s dictatorship of the minority. Is there any option at all that you find acceptable in this situation, or are we doomed to tyranny no matter what choice we make?

  • Danikajaye

    Apologies, I haven’t read the whole thread yet, but I was deeply disturbed by crucifix’s as a child. The freaked the shit out of me and they still make me feel uneasy. I think there is some merit to the “disturbing” argument.

  • prase

    Oro,

    To be clear, what exactly do you suggest the state ought to do in regards to “religious nosense” being taught in private schools?

    I suggest the state should issue licenses to schools and teachers, while demanding some minimal standard of education. Schools shall be inspected regularly. After all, it isn’t much natural to have a law which makes school attendance compulsory, while leaving the substance of the education arbitrary and undefined. I wouldn’t ban teaching of religion in general, but fundamentalist schools teaching hatred and prejudice shouldn’t get the license. Let these institutions exist, but don’t let them count as schools providing compulsory education. On the other hand, the society probably has to be already secular to see this working.

    kc,

    [P]rivate schools can teach any religious nonsense they want. The state does not fund anything to do with religious education, so it does not fall under the separation of church and state argument.

    Absolutely, but I haven’t said that the separation argument applies here. On the contrary, I was objecting to the fact that people seem to be bothered more by separation of state and church, even when it comes to details like display of religious symbols, than they are bothered by tyrannical indoctrination of children in some religious schools.

  • Kaltro

    “Well then, Kaltro, your moral system paints itself into a corner, doesn’t it? If we put up religious symbols because the majority want them, that’s dictatorship of the majority. But if we take them down because the minority doesn’t want them, that’s dictatorship of the minority. Is there any option at all that you find acceptable in this situation, or are we doomed to tyranny no matter what choice we make?”

    Let both majorities and minorities put up the symbols they want.

  • http://timecube.com Oro Mezclado

    Kaltro:

    Let both majorities and minorities put up the symbols they want.

    Suppose the school takes the crucifixes down. Then we let the students put up as many religious symbols as they want. At the end of the school year, they all get taken down, and the next year starts over again with empty walls.

    I’m not endorsing this solution, but I’m curious if you would be satisfied with it.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    We’ve tried that solution as well, and it inevitably turns into a circus.

  • Sarah Braasch

    In the US: The government may choose to create a public forum for unfettered speech within a space under its purview. Generally speaking, in the US, public schools are not public forums for unfettered speech, because their purpose is to educate. Now, having said that, public schools do create public forums in spaces and at times deemed appropriate to further the purpose of educating our youth.

    The other thing you have to consider with the creation of a public forum for unfettered speech is that you cannot only allow religious speech and preclude other types of speech in a public forum. So, if we leave a wall bare in a public school as a public forum for free speech for the students — the school has to allow the Satanist to put something up. The school has to allow the atheist to put something up mocking religion. The school has to allow the Wiccan to put something up, the JW, etc., etc.. It can’t just be for the favored religions. Or, just for religions.

    Needless to say — this can often result in divisions and animosities, which are not exactly conducive to book learning.

    I wrote this and then realized that Ebon’s link to the controversy created at Washington State’s Capitol building by FFRF’s Solstice Sign does a great job of summarizing the law on this issue. Sorry.

  • http://timecube.com Oro Mezclado

    It’s too late for anyone to ever read this, but I wanted to point out the purpose of my last post: frankly I was hoping Kaltro would say that he wouldn’t even except my gallery ‘o religion solution, just to see how far he’s willing to twist the definition of secularism to allow it to accommodate a government giving preferential treatment to Christianity.

    Fortunately, no one will ever read that train wreck of a sentence.

  • Kaltro

    Oro, sorry to prove you wrong about nobody reading your latest. I didn’t see anything wrong with your ‘gallery o’ religion’ solution. Now you know if you come back to read this.

    Also, to Ebon if you read this: Isn’t it the nature of a democratic system to resemble a circus? If you only support a democratic system when it can be kept tidy and controlled perhaps you should reconsider your previous rhetoric in support of democracy. The ‘circus’ is part of the package.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Democracy is not anarchy.

    While this democratic circus is taking place inside the public schools, when do the kids get around to learning how to read and write?

    The SC in the US has been pretty consistent and clear that the government may control speech within its own purview.

  • Kaltro

    “While this democratic circus is taking place inside the public schools, when do the kids get around to learning how to read and write?”

    Perhaps that’s a problem with the concept of a ‘public’ school then. But it’s deceptive to call a school ‘public’ if it is not, after all, subject to the will of the public it is supposed to be serving.

    “The SC in the US has been pretty consistent and clear that the government may control speech within its own purview.”

    Since in a democratic system the people are supposed to be the government I don’t see your point.

  • Sarah Braasch

    So, are you arguing for anarchy, or are you arguing for a might makes right, majoritarian democracy, sans a judiciary and rights protections, which, in my humble opinion, is about as low on the totem pole as democratic systems of government can get?

    Because, I can pretty much promise you, that if we go with a strict majoritarian democracy, the “democratic” circus idea is out and the single state sponsored cross with impaled bleeding Jesus is in.

    Also, I’m pretty sure it was the public will that established public education in the first place, because we realized that you cannot sustain a liberal constitutional democracy without an educated and informed citizenry. (You actually can maintain a strict majoritarian democracy with an ignorant and credulous citizenry — in fact, it’s probably better that way, so, if that is what you are arguing for, yes, by all means, throw out the public schools along with the Constitution and the judiciary.)

    The French approach to this problem is more or less thus: creating a neutral space, sans religious baggage, is not minority dictatorship — it is the only possible way to create a truly egalitarian public space in which all citizens have equal rights.

    The US doesn’t go that far — it allows more room for free expression — even within the government’s space, but it allows the government to control the creation of public forums within its purview to ensure that constitutional violations of individual rights are not occurring within said government space. Not only is this not minority dictatorship — it’s required by our Constitution. And, thank God, our government — all of it — state and fed is bound by our Constitution.

    The distinction between government speech and the speech of individual citizens is one of the most important distinctions in Supreme Court jurisprudence. It is continually evolving, to be sure, BUT they are not one and the same. Nor would we wish this to be the case. (The whole majoritarian democratic tyranny problem.) The slope between strict majoritarian democracy and autocracy or oligarchy is steep and slippery.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Additionally, the purpose of a school is to educate. While religious debate is sometimes educational, I’m sure most here will agree with me that such debate, especially if carried on by primary school students who have little knowledge but much energy, would quickly radiate more heat than light.

  • Kaltro

    “So, are you arguing for anarchy, or are you arguing for a might makes right, majoritarian democracy, sans a judiciary and rights protections, which, in my humble opinion, is about as low on the totem pole as democratic systems of government can get?”

    I’d argue for the right of each student, teacher, administrator, etc. to wear and/or bring whatever religious symbols in to class they want.

    “The French approach to this problem is more or less thus: creating a neutral space, sans religious baggage, is not minority dictatorship — it is the only possible way to create a truly egalitarian public space in which all citizens have equal rights.”

    Well, I suppose denying rights equally so that there’s no religious expression at all is one form of egalitarianism. If it were really a neutral space, though, it would not matter what religious symbols were brought in to it. It’s good I don’t live in France.

    “And, thank God, our government — all of it — state and fed is bound by our Constitution.”

    I’d like to know how you’d defend that assertion. Where does the Constitution provide for a federal Dept. of Education, for starters?

    “You actually can maintain a strict majoritarian democracy with an ignorant and credulous citizenry — in fact, it’s probably better that way, so, if that is what you are arguing for, yes, by all means, throw out the public schools along with the Constitution and the judiciary.”

    What’s your explanation for the continuing ignorance and credulity of the U.S. population even though the U.S. has had a public school system for years and years now? Also, see my question above about defending the assertion that public education–at least on the federal level– is sanctioned by the Constitution.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I’d like to know how you’d defend that assertion. Where does the Constitution provide for a federal Dept. of Education, for starters?

    Your question/challenge doesn’t address what she said. What she’s saying is that if we do have a government entity, whether it is constitutional or not, it must remain religiously neutral. If you open the door to one type of religion, then you must open the door to all religions and non-religions. The best policy is to remain neutral and leave it out all together. Don’t even have a surface for children to bring in their religious artifacts at all and it’s not a problem.

    Besides, one could easily argue that the Preamble gives the government the right to set up a public education.

    What’s your explanation for the continuing ignorance and credulity of the U.S. population even though the U.S. has had a public school system for years and years now?

    Peddlers of ignorance and credulity are often at the helm of public education, and those that aren’t generally push for their ignorant and credulous ideas to be treated equally (i.e. creationism).

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Kaltro asked:

    I’d like to know how you’d defend that assertion. Where does the Constitution provide for a federal Dept. of Education, for starters?

    The Constitution reads (Art. 1, Sec. 8):

    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; [emphasis added]

    Kaltro asked:

    What’s your explanation for the continuing ignorance and credulity of the U.S. population even though the U.S. has had a public school system for years and years now?

    The abdication by parents of their responsibility to be the main teachers of, and examples for, their children.

    Finallly, I should add that you didn’t address my point as to how the display of religious iconography furthers the mission of a public school, which is to provide a sound education.

  • Kaltro

    OMGF:
    “Your question/challenge doesn’t address what she said.”

    She specifically referred to the Constitution more than once. I asked her how the Constitution supported a federal hand in education, and also, if possible, to show how much of our current government is constitutional and why. It’s all well and good invoking an old and reverenced document, but I’d like her to provide a bit more than just a vague reference to it. Does the Constitution support what she says it does? What led her to the conclusion that it does support what she says?

    “What she’s saying is that if we do have a government entity, whether it is constitutional or not, it must remain religiously neutral. If you open the door to one type of religion, then you must open the door to all religions and non-religions.”

    That’s what I’ve been saying.

    “The best policy is to remain neutral and leave it out all together.”

    How is that remaining neutral, and how is that the best policy? Would you accept that sort of reasoning in other areas? For instance: “The Donner Bar is clothing neutral, and does not allow any clothing of any sort. Come nude or go home. This is the only fair and neutral position that serves any and all of our present and possible future customers. To allow clothing on the premises would be biased, discriminatory, and unfair.” Banning all clothing is clothing neutral, right?

    “Besides, one could easily argue that the Preamble gives the government the right to set up a public education.”

    Are you referring to the ‘general welfare’ clause? How does that square with the tenth amendment, though, and where is the federal government’s right to administer education enumerated in the Constitution?

  • Kaltro

    Thumpalumpacus, what exactly did the term ‘general welfare’ mean when it was written? Let’s not assume the word ‘welfare’ mean the same thing it does today.

    “Finallly, I should add that you didn’t address my point as to how the display of religious iconography furthers the mission of a public school, which is to provide a sound education.”

    The religious iconography doesn’t further education. It’s an issue of rights. A public school, being paid for ‘the people’, cannot discriminate as a private school or other business could.

    Certainly, this might not be the best way to further education. But I see that as a flaw in the concept of public education, not a reason to turn schools into quasi-fascist institutions that are run like private schools but paid for with public funds. If you want a school without any religious symbols allowed you should start your own private school that bans all religious symbolism. Of course, most people would see that as an atheist school rather than a religiously neutral one.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    It means what the Congress says it means, subject to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.

    Are you arguing that the Dept of Education is unconstitutional? Really?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Also, if a religious display doesn’t further education in a public school, exactly why should taxes collected from atheists, amongst others, give such iconography a platform?

    How is limiting displays to the educationally useful approximate “quasi-fascist” behavior? Minors do not have the full panoply of rights, particularly in schools, as has been adjudicated through many cases, and such a display as you seem to support has the definite potential to be deeply divisive and disturbing to the school’s mission. No matter my outlook, this is an undesirable effect, and ought to be avoided.

  • Kaltro

    Thumpalumpacus, are you saying you don’t care at all what the original intent behind the Constitution was, and that you see no problem with changing the meaning of the document to suit the whims of whoever is doing the interpreting? Depending on how you answer we can either talk more about the Dept. of Education or set that aside as a pointless waste of time.

    “How is limiting displays to the educationally useful approximate “quasi-fascist” behavior?”

    Because this isn’t about how ‘educationally useful’ they are but about respecting the religious liberty of the students. A public school, since it is supposed to represent the public as a whole, shouldn’t discriminate against any of them. Banning students’ religious expression is discrimination. When a school bans, discriminates, and so on it’s acting more like a private school. But since the school would still be getting public funding it would then resemble the public/private partnerships that some forms of Fascism advocated. In other words, the schools are run privately by committees or other small groups, but paid for by the public at large. If the schools are run like private schools they should be paid for like private schools as well. If they want to be public schools they should be entirely public. Making school attendance mandatory is another bad trait of modern schools.

    “Minors do not have the full panoply of rights, particularly in schools, as has been adjudicated through many cases, and such a display as you seem to support has the definite potential to be deeply divisive and disturbing to the school’s mission.”

    Well, I don’t think rights are handed out from on high by the government. I think rights originate in individuals. While minors might not have much experience in using their rights, and would need some help in the beginning, I don’t think the government should be responsible for them. Parents should be.

    I’d argue that a much better way to fulfill the mission of schools would be to make schooling an entirely private enterprise. Let private industry reform it, and get the government out of it. Then if you like you could open an atheist school that bans all religious symbolism, and the Christians and the Muslims and the Hindus and all the rest could open their own schools as well. Other things being equal, the best schools of the bunch would get the most students applying and all of the schools would have to work hard to improve themselves if they wanted to stay in business.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Ugh. I’m going to give this one more shot. I can’t tell if Kaltro is being disingenuous or no. I’m probably beating my head against a wall. But, nonetheless:

    No one brought up the constitutionality of public education. Not the topic of discussion.

    When a teacher or administrator puts up a religious symbol on his or her classroom wall, this is coercive state sponsored indoctrination. You disagree, but this is what the Supreme Court has said. And, they are the final word on constitutional interpretation. When the SC engages in an Establishment Clause analysis, the SC takes into account the vulnerability of the audience. Public school children have been deemed especially vulnerable to indoctrination and impressionable, thus they receive particular attention when claims of coercive state sponsored religious indoctrination arise.

    But, seriously, think about it for a second. Do you really want a public school teacher indoctrinating children? Really? How about teacher led prayer? How about outright proselytization?

    The SC has said that what a public school teacher says and does in his or her classroom is government speech. You disagree. Again, I defer to the Supreme Court’s constitutional interpretation. And, I concur with their assessment.

    Now, the speech of a public school child in the classroom is not government speech, necessarily; however, the Supreme Court has again said that if the government knowingly relinquishes its space and time for speech, which favors a certain religion or religion period, then that speech becomes unconstitutional government speech.

    Public schools try to pull this one all the time. They’ll have a “student led” morning prayer over the school intercom. If a student spontaneously prays in the classroom — not unconstitutional government speech. If the school selects a student to lead the entire school in prayer over the school intercom each morning or at all — unconstitutional government speech.

    Now, a public school in the US can create a public forum for free speech for all of the students. But, if they do this, they cannot censor any opinions. They can not favor religion or a specific religion. If they do so, it becomes unconstitutional government speech.

    So, in theory, yes, a public school could say that their classrooms are public forums for free speech (for the students only — not the teachers or administrators).

    They could let the students bring in whatever symbols they want.

    But, then, they can’t just allow religious symbols. Because, the government cannot favor religion over other viewpoints.

    So, the student who walks into class wearing a t shirt that reads, ” Religions are stupid. God does NOT exist. Christianity is false,” would have to be allowed to sit next to the child with a t-shirt that reads, “Jesus died to save you from hell,” with a big pic of a dying, bleeding Christ, or next to the child that put up a poster proclaiming the veracity of Islam or next to the child who put up a poster with one of the Danish cartoons of Mohammed.

    Can you see how this would not exactly be conducive to an environment meant for educating all of our youth?

    And, not to mention the fact that most of these children would just be aping their parents’ viewpoints, if not forced to engage in these behaviors at the behest of their parents.

    Thus, the SC has said that if the government has NOT created a public forum in its space and time, then that which occurs in that space and during that time may be controlled by the government as government speech, in order to ensure that no one’s individual constitutional rights are being violated.

    Reasonable religious accommodation is also required, i.e. the Muslim student who wishes to pray five times a day may be allowed to leave the classroom briefly to do so, etc., etc.. This is NOT the creation of a public forum. And, reasonable religious accommodation does not entail allowing students to proselytize one another. People have tried that in public schools as well — “I have to proselytize my classmates, because it’s part of my religion.” No dice.

    I’m not sure how to make this any clearer. This is the approach of the SCOTUS when they approach these issues. For the most part, I concur with their approach.

    If you disagree, then you’ll need to find a way to change the precedent on this issue via civil rights litigation, precedent that is considered as pretty well settled law, OR you’ll have to change the Constitution of the US.

    You’ll probably have better luck with the former rather than the latter, but, regardless, I wish you much luck.

    And, public school education is not mandatory — I think it’s something like 75% of home schooled children in the US live in Evangelical Christian homes. Their parents don’t want them exposed to “atheist” public education. Parents who have a problem with their children not being allowed to proselytize their classmates are more than welcome to educate them at home or enroll them in religious schools. I feel badly for these kids. I think they are being ill served by their parents, but it is what it is.

    I’ve said my peace. I’m not quite sure how else to explain this issue. I think it’s pretty clear. Now — feel free to rebut at will.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Other things being equal, the best schools of the bunch would get the most students applying and all of the schools would have to work hard to improve themselves if they wanted to stay in business.

    Only assuming a rational market place where parents did not see the teaching of evolution or similar as against their religion. In other words things aren’t equal for the vulnerable children who will unfortunately find themselves in a faith school, deprived of critical thought and secular values.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Kaltro:

    Thumpalumpacus, are you saying you don’t care at all what the original intent behind the Constitution was[...?]

    Are you honestly arguing that the Dept of Educ is unconstitutional based on the outlook of the Framers, or are you merely being obstreperous? And, as Sarah pointed out, this issue seems to be a red herring anyway.

    A public school, since it is supposed to represent the public as a whole, shouldn’t discriminate against any of them.

    It’s only discrimination if the school bars some but not all religious views. Barring all of them merely keeps religion private — as it should be.

    Well, I don’t think rights are handed out from on high by the government. I think rights originate in individuals. While minors might not have much experience in using their rights, and would need some help in the beginning, I don’t think the government should be responsible for them. Parents should be.

    All rights have limits, even those enjoyed by adults. The rights of minors are more limited, as per case law, and with all due respect, your opinion doesn’t change that fact. I personally think that, given the lack of experience and judgement generally prevalent in the young, this policy is correct.

    The matter of abolishing public education is another thread, it seems to me.

    Sarah:

    Excellent summation.

  • Kaltro

    “Are you honestly arguing that the Dept of Educ is unconstitutional based on the outlook of the Framers, or are you merely being obstreperous?”

    Thumpalumpacus, why don’t you answer my question? Do you think the meaning of a document has any relation to the intent of the original authors or not? I ask because if you do believe you can import any meaning you want into a document then there is no point in discussing constitutionality since ‘constitutionality’ would merely be what you happen to approve of, or what the person ‘interpreting’ the document supports. If that is your view the constitution becomes nothing more than an ideological blank check that can be used for any and every possible purpose. Do you care at all what the words meant when the authors used them, or not?

    “It’s only discrimination if the school bars some but not all religious views. Barring all of them merely keeps religion private — as it should be.”

    You must be joking. Barring all of them is still discrimination. Why not just call it what it is?

    “All rights have limits, even those enjoyed by adults.”

    Limited to their own person and property, yes. But within that limit the rights should not be infringed.

    “The rights of minors are more limited, as per case law, and with all due respect, your opinion doesn’t change that fact.”

    I don’t hold any reverence for the opinions of federal courts just because they are federal courts. Of course I realize the high-ranking state officials are going to try to do what they want no matter what I think. That doesn’t change the fact that I think they’re completely wrong.

    “I personally think that, given the lack of experience and judgment generally prevalent in the young, this policy is correct.”

    Sure, but the responsibility for them should fall to the parents, not the state. The state interfering with the parents’ upbringing of the kids is a violation of the parents’ rights to be stewards to their children.

    Steve Bowen:

    “Only assuming a rational market place where parents did not see the teaching of evolution or similar as against their religion. In other words things aren’t equal for the vulnerable children who will unfortunately find themselves in a faith school, deprived of critical thought and secular values.”

    How do you increase rationality by giving up rational discourse and using state coercion instead? Using the strong-arm of the state will not convince the skeptics. It will only harden them against being persuaded even more. It is a sign of weakness, after all, if you give up trying to rationally persuade someone in an open arena of ideas and instead resort to exclusion, threats of fines, and the other means of state violence and intimidation. Do you really want to use the same tactics that some oppressive religious and political groups have used and still use?

  • Scotlyn

    Interesting historical footnote – the presence of crucifixes, and other religious images on the walls of the Irish schools, which are also traditionally co-opted as voting stations, was widely held to have a strong influence on voting patterns when referenda on abortion and divorce were held in Ireland (abortion defeated twice, divorce defeated once and narrowly approved the second time). I heartily agree both with the proposition that State-run and funded institutions have no right to religious expression of any kind, and the proposition that individuals do.

    @ Sarah Braasch

    Europe will more or less have a Constitution with a Bill of Rights.

    I so much wish I could agree with you Sarah, but I cannot. Compared to Thomas Jefferson’s brilliant political innovation in the American Bill of Rights, the so-called rights of European citizens – which we now are – are paltry things, and do not include, for example, the most fundamental of all – the right to be governed by consent. The Irish, for example, agreed in our last vote to allow our constitution, which stated that “all power is derived …from the people” to become subservient to the European Treaties in which, it seems, all power, in a singular circular logic of its own, derives from the Treaties. We have exchanged the spirit of democracy for its empty outward forms, leading to the charade that will be our “right” to vote for the photogenic, but powerless, European Parliament, while the institutions that will govern us proceed to unfold without our say-so and behind closed doors – as witness the recent selection of the European President and Foreign Minister at a select banquet hosted by a Swedish diplomat. We, the people of Europe have been disenfranchised mightily by the European Treaties, whose power, unchecked by the will of the governed will hold sway in every aspect of our lives.

    As to the European Rights Charter, it is a very questionable document, and has already been used in Ireland for example, to promote the interests of the unfettered market above that of workers – holding that a foreign company accepting a contract to carry out work in Ireland does not have to adhere to Irish minimum wage laws or provide Irish entitlements to their own non-Irish workers. Its long term effects remain very much to be seen.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus, why don’t you answer my question? [....] Do you care at all what the words meant when the authors used them, or not?

    I do care. However, debating the constitutionality of the DoE would seem to be a massive derail of this thread. Out of respect for Ebon, I won’t partake.

    You must be joking. Barring all of them is still discrimination. Why not just call it what it is?

    Because that is not what it is, to wit:

    dis·crim·i·na·tion (dĭ-skrĭm’ə-nā’shən)
    n.
    The act of discriminating.

    The ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment.

    Treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality or prejudice: racial discrimination; discrimination against foreigners.

    Source: American Heritage Dictionary 4th Edition

    Now, if you’re arguing that this is discriminating against the religious, I’d still disagree; the reason being is that atheists are not allowed to make demonstrations or displays in school that are prejudicial to good order. Again, the mission of the school is to educate and not to support religious, or irreligious, expression.

    Limited to their own person and property, yes. But within that limit the rights should not be infringed.

    Palpably false. Every right in the Bill of Rights has adjudicated limits. Whether they’d ought to or not is a different question. Explain to me why your right to a religious display should trump my right to raise my son free of religion.

    Sure, but the responsibility for them should fall to the parents, not the state. The state interfering with the parents’ upbringing of the kids is a violation of the parents’ rights to be stewards to their children.

    The state is only interfering with what is presented at public school. It is not forbidding the teaching of religion, only the teaching of religious doctrine on public property.

    Finally, please explain again why my tax dollars should be spent supporting a display of medieval theology. I missed it the first time.

    Oh, never mind; you avoided this question altogether.

  • Kaltro

    Thump, from your cited definition:
    “Treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality or prejudice”

    Now, would you agree that barring all religious expression is showing partiality to an absence of religion? Just like barring all clothing in a certain establishment is being partial to nudity (or an absence of clothes, in other words)?

    “Now, if you’re arguing that this is discriminating against the religious, I’d still disagree; the reason being is that atheists are not allowed to make demonstrations or displays in school that are prejudicial to good order.”

    I’m having trouble understanding this reasoning. You say atheists are not allowed to demonstrate or make displays– atheists are discriminated against, in other words. But if the religious are discriminated against as well suddenly it isn’t discrimination anymore? Is that what you are arguing? I’m honestly not sure what you mean.

    “Palpably false. Every right in the Bill of Rights has adjudicated limits.”

    The rights exist independent of the Bill of Rights. I am talking here about moral rights, not about the shifting definitions of legal rights. Legal codes can be and often are corrupted and plain wrong.

    “Explain to me why your right to a religious display should trump my right to raise my son free of religion.”

    There’s nothing to explain. I don’t think the right to religious displays trumps your right to raise your son how you wish so long as you raise your son using your own property or the freely given property of another. If you don’t like some of the students at a particular school find a different school for your son. Why does your desire to raise your son free of religion trump the right of the religious to display what religious symbols they wish on themselves? They aren’t forcing you or your son to look at the symbols, are they? Or keeping you from displaying your own symbols or going somewhere else? So long as you are as free to display what you wish, or to leave, and they have the same rights, I see no problem.

    “The state is only interfering with what is presented at public school. It is not forbidding the teaching of religion, only the teaching of religious doctrine on public property.”

    How do religious displays teach religious doctrine?

    “Finally, please explain again why my tax dollars should be spent supporting a display of medieval theology.”

    It’s not just your tax dollars. Every person who pays taxes toward the school system has some say, some ownership. Why does your ownership trump theirs? Do you pay more in taxes than they do? But if you want to make your ownership proportional to the amount of taxes you pay there are probably a number of individuals in higher tax brackets that will have even more say than you. Unless you’re Bill Gates or somebody else who is incredibly rich.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Now, would you agree that barring all religious expression is showing partiality to an absence of religion? Just like barring all clothing in a certain establishment is being partial to nudity (or an absence of clothes, in other words)?

    Yes, in that sense it is being partial to “no religion”, but in a larger sense, which I pointed out, it is not, for it also bans irreligious disturbance. Simply not mentioning religion is not the same as speaking against it. Until you recognize this essential fact, your arguments are suspect.

    They aren’t forcing you or your son to look at the symbols, are they?

    Mounting them in his schoolroom would have that effect, don’t you think? And since all of our rights cannot trump those of others, itr stands to reason that we’d ougnot introduce such an irrelevant controversy into the classroom.

    How do religious displays teach religious doctrine?

    What exactly does a Crucifix depict?

    Every person who pays taxes toward the school system has some say, some ownership. Why does your ownership trump theirs?

    It doesn’t. Therefore, I have no problem if my son’s school counsels him against expositing his views on religious matters. It simply is not the place for it.

  • Kaltro

    “Yes, in that sense it is being partial to “no religion”, but in a larger sense, which I pointed out, it is not, for it also bans irreligious disturbance. Simply not mentioning religion is not the same as speaking against it. Until you recognize this essential fact, your arguments are suspect.”

    Not mentioning religion is one thing. Banning anyone from mentioning religion is another. Trying to equate a ban with ‘not mentioning it’ is disingenuous. It’s true that you wouldn’t be verbally speaking out against religion in the case of a ban, but only because there would be no need since all the religious advocates would be silenced. And this begs the question. Why do people usually silence something? Because they are against it for some reason or another. So you are, in practical terms, speaking against religion by banning religious expression. The fact that ‘irreligious expression’ would also be banned is beside the point, since there would be no need for such expression in the absence of religious expression. Actions speak louder than words, they say. A ban is clearly a vote *against* something. You seem to be playing word games here, Thump. Either that or your thinking on this issue is muddled.

    “Mounting them in his schoolroom would have that effect, don’t you think?”

    He doesn’t have to look at them, and if he is free to leave the room they wouldn’t be forcing him in that way either. Out of curiosity, what’s your opinion on things such as saying the pledge of allegiance, or having portraits of presidents mounted on the walls, or other things of that nature?

    “What exactly does a Crucifix depict?”

    A man being executed in a manner popular in ancient times. But without further explanation students would have no idea who he was, or why he was being executed. By itself it’s just a depiction of a gruesome death. The religious significance has to be added to it later.

    “It doesn’t. Therefore, I have no problem if my son’s school counsels him against expositing his views on religious matters. It simply is not the place for it.”

    If it doesn’t, you should have no problem with others who wish to allow religious expression in school to any who desire it either. If your son doesn’t want to have any religious symbols, that’s up to him. If other students do, that’s up to them. You’d have no problem with that, right?

  • André

    I realize I’m pretty late to the show for this one, so I apologize for reviving a beaten dead horse, but I read the first dozen comments or so and then skipped to the end and it left me quite puzzled. How is it possible that after 56 comments Kaltro still seems to think the ban was against anyone bringing in their own religious symbols? Is it not obvious that the ban is simply on the school itself displaying crosses? What on Earth does that have to do with the students’ religious expression? Unless I missed something in the comments, the OP seems to be only about crosses on the wall.

    Also, I have to say something because nobody responded to this:

    He doesn’t have to look at them, and if he is free to leave the room they wouldn’t be forcing him in that way either.

    Is that honestly saying that children (repeat: children) who don’t like having a cross displayed in the classroom should just leave the room? I hope I missed something and just misinterpreted that statement because otherwise that’s just shameful.

    Lastly, I love the argument from way back in the beginning of the comments that kids should be able to vote on whether or not they want a cross in the room. “No pressure or anything, but 25 of your classmates voted yes, are you sure you want to vote no?” Plus, there are very good reasons children are the responsibility of their parents and some decisions aren’t left up to them.