Egnor Blathers About a New Subject

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.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Quantum Mechanic

    In Egnor’s fevered mind, that makes the student a “brownshit”

    Forgetting your R’s? To be fair, though, it is an understandable mistake when talking about the mind of a shithead.

  • http://thelatinone.com/blog thelatinone

    I had the chance to see Jessica in the FFRF meeting in Hartford. At 16 she’s far more coherent , eloquent and brave than Egnor will ever be. That same day I got the chance to meet Ellery Schempp, it was a good day.

  • Cuttlefish

    Not to defend Egnor (far from it), but his comments are far from the worst I have seen.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2011/10/14/fox-news-commenters-hate-america/

  • chilidog99

    What color are Egnor’s shits, I wonder?

  • Aaron

    If wing-nuts had a firm grasp on the law, and could stop knee jerking long enough, they would see that this really is better for everyone. I mean somehow (magically, miraculously even) if it became OK to put up Christian prayers in school, wouldn’t it then be OK to put up Islamic prayers, Scientology murals, etc? I am pretty sure that most fundamentalists definitely do not want that.

  • What a Maroon

    What color are Egnor’s shits, I wonder?

    Red with the blood of Jesus.

  • abb3w

    …from a theological standpoint, isn’t “mundane prayer” an oxymoron?

  • chilidog99

    Red with the blood of Jesus.

    Either he has been eating too many beets or he has a nasty hemoroid.

  • khms

    Red with the blood of Jesus.

    You know, when blood dries, it changes its color to …

  • Modusoperandi

    The quality of comments there is remarkable (exempt egnor and co). It’s like Bizarro Youtube.

  • Aquaria

    You’ll be happy to hear that he has now expanded his repertoire to saying stupid things about separation of church and state.

    Happy in a have-to-laugh-at-the-stupid-to-keep-from-strangling-this-idiot way, but unfortunately, not surprised.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    How does Egnor have the mental capacity to think and breathe simultaneously?

    The Constitution is quite specific, no governmental body may endorse religion. The Cranston school is endorsing religion. They know they’re going to lose the lawsuit but they’re too pigheaded to save money by just removing the mural. They have to show how persecuted the poor majority Christians are. So the case will probably go to at least the appeals court before the school board orders the school to remove or cover up the mural.

  • slc1

    As I understand it, Mr. Egnor is a neurosurgeon. Anyone who allows him to come within 10 feet of them with a scalpel in his hand is drawing to an inside straight.

  • alanb

    Since this posting I’ve had the opportunity to research Jessica Ahlquist, and she is indeed an incredibly brave girl. (I’m tempted, despite her age, to call her a woman, since she appears to be considerably more mature than I was at a much older age.) I would urge readers to follow the same Google path that I did. It is an extremely inspiring story.

  • scienceavenger

    I find Egnor totally unreadable. The man seems incapable of accurately representing the other side, or its arguments. No one could be that obtuse. Egnorance = intellectual dishonesty.

  • marymallone

    Wait, a neurosurgeon? I always wonder how super-smart people can believe in creationism. I mean, you don’t accidentally get into neurosurgery; it takes a shitload of work and a lot of natural intelligence.

    Would anyone else feel apprehensive about being operated on by this man? “The frontal lobe doesn’t need to be operated on, despite the tumour; I don’t believe anything is wrong with this brain, despite alleged evidence to the contrary” or “dealing with the hemorrage would be sinful, because it is God’s will that this individual die.” Sarcasm aside, I’m genuinely curious about how people compartmentalize their brains such that they can be really brilliant in one field, and phenomenally stupid in another.

  • escuerd

    marymallone @16:

    It’s important to remember that intelligence doesn’t preclude people from believing stupid things. As a group, intelligent people usually tend to believe fewer stupid things than people in general, but cases like Egnor’s demonstrate that there’s a lot more than raw intelligence involved in critical thinking.

  • tantalusprime

    Ed said: 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.

    And

    Aaron said: … if it became OK to put up Christian prayers in school, wouldn’t it then be OK to put up Islamic prayers, Scientology murals, etc?

    Actually Egnor has said before he would be hunky dory with an Islamic prayer being posted in schools if the majority of students were Muslim. Apparently some god is better than no god. He and Dinesh D’Souza must be best pals.

  • tantalusprime

    In addition to implying this student is a Nazi in a later post he suggested that one commentor who diagreed with him is schizophrenic. Way to keep it classy Mike!

    Marymallone said: Would anyone else feel apprehensive about being operated on by this man? “The frontal lobe doesn’t need to be operated on, despite the tumour; I don’t believe anything is wrong with this brain, despite alleged evidence to the contrary”

    Oh it is that bad. Egnor has said that large parts of the brain can be removed without specific loss of function.

    http://tantalusprime.blogspot.com/2011/08/as-usual-i-am-late-to-party.html?m=1

    Commentors have suggested he remove his frontal lobe to prove his assertion. I suspect he already has.

  • Jack Krebs

    Actually, Burt coined the term Egnorance (a great neologism)for the blatherings of Egnor long before Egnor got a blog, and in a typicaly egnorant fashion, Egnor later adopted it for the name of his blog. Talk about clueless.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    “Actually Egnor has said before he would be hunky dory with an Islamic prayer being posted in schools if the majority of students were Muslim.”

    I’m assuming he means Madrassahs which are like schuls and the Kindergarten of Gethsemane, um, private, not public.

    I suspect his hunky doryness would slide into handwavingibberishspoutin’ if such a thing happened in, say, Dearborn, MI.

  • tantalusprime

    Democommie said: I’m assuming he means Madrassahs which are like schuls and the Kindergarten of Gethsemane, um, private, not public.

    As I recall (and I don’t have the refernce to back it up) he was talking about public schools specifically. Basically freedom of speech for individuals and government entities trump all other rights in the Constitution as I read him.

    One thing I have learned from reading Egnor: don’t challenge him with counter examples to his position because he has no problem riding that slippery slope train all the way to crazy town.

  • scifi1

    @Aaron

    I don’t think it’s their knees they’re jerkin’…; -D