One thing you can be certain of when dealing with someone from the Christian right is that they have swallowed a whole bunch of lie about the ACLU, lies that are repeated like a mantra in wingnut circles. Bradlee Dean repeats all the usual lies in his latest Worldnutaily column. He starts with a list of things he says students already have the right to do, most of which are true:
Students HAVE THE RIGHT to pray on a public school campus.
Students HAVE THE RIGHT to read their Bible on a public school campus.
Students HAVE THE RIGHT to form religious clubs on campus.
Students HAVE THE RIGHT to hand out tracts, flyers, or other religious material on campus.
Students HAVE THE RIGHT to do research papers, speeches, etc. with religious themes.
Students HAVE THE RIGHT to be exempt from participating in assignments that are contrary to their religious beliefs.
Students HAVE THE RIGHT to discuss religious issues even though other students may overhear them.
All correct except the second to last one. No, students do not have the right to be exempted from learning about evolution or the big bang or anything else that may conflict with their religion. But the rest are true. Students do have the right to pray, read the Bible, hand out religious tracts and discuss religious matters with their classmates, as long as they don’t do so in a disruptive manner or force anyone else to sit through them. And they do have the right to form religious clubs on campus; that’s why there are thousands of such clubs all over the country.
But then he trots out all the old lies about the ACLU:
In their ignorance and apathy, they think their assumptions are correct, not knowing that they are falling in line with the ideology of the ACLU, whose founder Roger Baldwin stated, “Communism is the goal” of the ACLU. This may explain the communist infiltration into the public schools. This may also explain why the ACLU will defend Muslims while attacking Christians.
This “Roger Baldwin was a communist” slur is such tired nonsense. Yes, he was a communist as a young man, but like many communists of that time he left it behind after seeing Stalin’s genocidal actions. After that, he actually led a purge of communists from the ACLU, amending the group’s by laws to prevent communists from being members. He held an internal trial of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and expelled her from the ACLU board because she was still a communist. He went on to write a book called The New Slavery about the evils of communism and was tapped by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to go to Japan after WW2 and help write their new constitution. But those are inconvenient facts, so they must be ignored.
And the last sentence is just plain wrong. The ACLU does, of course, defend the constitutional rights of Muslims, but they also do so for Christians. It was the ACLU that filed suit against the Muslim charter school in Minnesota for teaching Islam and got the whole school shut down. And every one of those rights he lists in the first part of the article (except for the second to last one) have been defended by the ACLU time and time again in cases involving Christians. The ACLU has repeatedly defended the right to read the Bible in school (not in front of the class as ordered by the state, of course, but that is an entirely different matter), the right to preach on public sidewalks, the right to hand out religious literature to classmates.
Remember that famous case in Massachusetts where a few students were suspended for handing out candy canes with Bible verses attached to them to their fellow students at Christmas time? Shortly after it happened, Jerry Falwell wrote a column for the Worldnutdaily in which he told the same lie Dean is telling today:
The fact is, students have the right to free speech in the form of verbal or written expression during non-instructional class time. And yes, students have just as much right to speak on religious topics as they do on secular topics – no matter what the ACLU might propagate.
Here’s what he left out: The ACLU had defended those very students. They wrote a letter to the school administration and told them that they had violated the First Amendment by censoring and suspending the students and if they didn’t reverse their decision they would get sued. Guess what? It worked. The school rescinded the suspension, expunged the students’ records and apologized for it. Falwell lied, and he did so even after the ACLU had actually defended him in a lawsuit against the state of Virginia because the constitution forbid churches from incorporating.
And the claim about Jefferson is wrong too, as Chris Rodda documented years ago.
This myth about Jefferson and the Washington D.C. schools was created by combining two things. One is that, in 1805, Jefferson was elected president of the Washington City school board. The other is an 1813 report by the teacher of one of the city’s early public schools, showing that the Bible and Watts’s Hymns were used as reading texts in that school. The problem with the story is that the school that these books were used in didn’t exist until several years after Jefferson left Washington and the school board.
Between the years of 1806 and 1811, the Washington City school board attempted to establish and maintain two public schools in the city. Classes were held in rented buildings until enough money was raised through private donations to build two schoolhouses in 1807. But, by 1809, the City Council had cut the public funding for these schools nearly in half, and one of the two was closed. These first two schools were the only schools that existed at the time that Jefferson was president of the school board. Neither of these schools, however, is the school referred to in the lie about Jefferson requiring Bible reading. The school in this lie is a Lancasterian school that opened in 1812, three years after Jefferson retired to Virginia.
Falwell lied. Bradlee Dean is lying. Pretty much every time you hear a wingnut talking about the ACLU, you can safely assume that they’re lying.