You may remember Michael Egnor as the neurosurgeon who spends most of his time saying really stupid things about evolution. You’ll be happy to hear that he has now expanded his repertoire to saying stupid things about separation of church and state.
His subject is the case in Rhode Island, where a school has a large mural on one of its walls that contains a prayer, prompting a student to file a lawsuit. In Egnor’s fevered mind, that makes the student a “brownshirt” — because obviously not wanting the government to force religion on a small minority of people who do not share those views is just like being a fascist who commits violence against a small minority of people who are already considered second class citizens in society.
His style is to quote a single line from an article about it, then deliver a single line in response. I imagine he thinks those responses are pithy and clever; they are, in fact, ignorant, mean-spirited and considerably more juvenile than anything said by the teenager girl he sees fit to attack. I’ll put the quotes from the article in regular type and his responses in bold.
The prayer, still on display, begins “Our Heavenly Father,” and urges students to “grow mentally and morally.” Amen, it ends.
It was the ‘mental and moral growth’ that really ticked her off.
Actually, I imagine that the young lady has shown considerably more mental and moral strength than Egnor is ever likely to obtain. She has the courage to take on Christian hegemony in her school, which will inevitably subject her to the taunts, harassment and, quite possibly, vandalism and violence of the mentally and morally stunted local population of Christians. Lest you think I’m joking, I cannot think of a single plaintiff in any similar case who has been spared those things. Not one. Those responses range from threats of violence (Tammy Kitzmiller, for example, received threats to the life of her daughter) to actual violence (Joann Bell had her family’s home firebombed and received her own obituary in the mail — and she’s a fellow Christian). Nor are these ancient examples, they have happened in the last 25 years.
That’s illegal, thought Ahlquist, who began speaking up about the prayer at school meetings.
A mundane prayer on a plaque on a wall in a school is “illegal”. If we only had a Constitution that guaranteed freedom of speech…
We do, of course, but like most of his ilk Egnor deliberately erases the distinction between individual speech and government speech. A student who wants to say the same prayer in that mural has that right protected by the constitution. They can’t force others to listen to it or disrupt class, of course, but they can say it to themselves or out loud if they wish, they can gather their friends together and say it at the flagpole before or after school, they can even use a classroom before or after class to meet with others and say all the prayers they want. That has nothing to do with what the government can or can’t say. And if a school ever decided to put up a prayer to Allah instead of “Almighty God” you can guarandamntee that Egnor would suddenly discover the distinction.
The Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on Ahlquist’s behalf in April, alleging the prayer makes Ahlquist feel “excluded, ostracized and devalued as a member of the school community” because she does not share the religious beliefs on display. Ahlquist is an atheist.
Atheists have diaphanous egos. They’re paragons of courage, reason, and logic. But with a brief glance at a prayer they collapse in exclusion, ostracism, and devaluation.
That may be one of the single dumbest things anyone has ever said on this subject. He has it exactly backwards, of course. It is the government’s endorsement of that prayer that results in exclusion, ostracism and devaluation of anyone who is not Christian. Egnor just doesn’t care because he is one.
Her lawyers are seeking a court order to force officials to remove the prayer, which they claim violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which bars the government from promoting religious messages.
Censorship. Atheist boilerplate. Can you think of a single atheist lawsuit that protected freedom of speech?
This case has nothing to do with free speech, it has to do with the Establishment Clause. That’s clearly stated in the very text he quotes. He still doesn’t get it. But this case is brought by the ACLU, which fights constantly and tirelessly for freedom of speech. I see no need to even list the cases, since this should be too obvious to dispute.
“It’s a cutting-edge case that raises some important issues,” says Joseph V. Cavanagh Jr., one of several lawyers representing the school and city.
“Both sides,” he adds, “are passionate about the issue.”
One side (the people of Cranston) are passionate about freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The other side (the publicity-seeking little brownshirt and the ACLU) are passionate about censorship and suppression of religion.
There’s that illogic again. See, here’s how it works on Planet Wingnuttia. When the powerful majority wants to push their dominant religion on the minority of people, that’s freedom of religion. When that small minority dares to assert that they have a right not to have the government force those beliefs on them, they are brownshirted censors. Unless, of course, the government decided to push any other religion. If the government were to push Islam instead, for example, then the government would be the brownshirts. When Orwell writes of this sort of destruction of language, we rightly recoil in horror. Yet it goes on every day.
My friend Burt Humburg once referred to Egnorance — the name of his blog — as the “egotistical combination of ignorance and arrogance. And he ducks into the punch yet again.