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Another Victory for Religious Speech Rights:

Yet another case, O.T. v. Frenchtown Elementary School Dist. Bd. of Ed., 2006 WL 3579215 (D.N.J. Dec. 11), finds that the government acted unconstitutionally in excluding a private religious speaker from a government-run program. Here, the school district was running an after-school talent show, which wasn't part of the school curriculum. The show was apparently open to all "G-rated" acts, and the context strongly suggests that the acts were seen by the audience as the performer's act, not the school's. Yet the school excluded O.T. from singing Awesome God (which I take is this song) on the grounds that the lyrics constituted religious proselytizing, and that allowing the lyrics would violate the Establishment Clause.

The court disagreed. The program, the court said, was a designated public forum for student expression; and excluding a song because it conveyed a message of advocacy for the singer's religious beliefs was viewpoint-based, and thus presumptively unconstitutional. And the court rejected the school's argument that this presumption was rebutted because allowing the song would have violated the Establishment Clause: The song would have been seen as the student's own speech, not the school's speech, and thus wouldn't be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the government.

It seems to me the court got it quite right. I suspect it also seems this way to the Department of Justice and to the New Jersey ACLU, both of which filed amicus briefs on behalf of the plaintiff (here's the ACLU brief).

Thanks to Allen Asch (here, in his capacity as operator of ACLU Fights for Christians) for the pointer.

Daniel San:
Schools are in a bit of a bind. Permit religious speech, face a lawsuit. Forbid religious speech, face a lawsuit. Where religious speech is involved, there is no discretion and no room for error or for misunderstanding of rather arcane rules.

Full employment for civil rights lawyers!
12.14.2006 8:25pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Nothing wrong for keeping lawyers employed in useful pursuits to sort all this our, Daniel. Is there?
12.14.2006 8:43pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Jim. I don't see what needs to be sorted, especially in this case.
It seems about as well-grounded as the officious twit who had a high school choir stop "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" for fear of offending Sasha Cohen who was present at the event.
But you may have a point. Lawyers involved in this kind of thing can do less harm than in most areas of the law.
12.14.2006 10:27pm
Justin (mail):
There's the ACLU again, supporting Christians just to piss off the Right via confusing their unintelligent stereotypes!
12.14.2006 10:54pm
Ken Arromdee:
There's the ACLU again, supporting Christians just to piss off the Right via confusing their unintelligent stereotypes!

Either that, or perhaps there are different chapters of the ACLU and the fact that some of them don't just support the left doesn't excuse the others. (The same answer is a reply to "well, the ACLU fought for gun rights in Texas"--I'd expect the ACLU in Texas to support gun rights more than the typical ACLU chapter.)

Another possibility is that the ACLU is supporting a right-wing cause because they want to set the precedent so badly that they'd even help someone they normally wouldn't help.
12.14.2006 11:11pm
Steve:
It seems like a good rule of thumb that where the ACLU and the Christians are on the same side, that's probably the right side of the argument.
12.14.2006 11:16pm
Justin (mail):
"It seems like a good rule of thumb that where the ACLU and the Christians are on the same side, that's probably the right side of the argument."

Shorter Steve: I like the ACLU when they support people that I like. I think the law should apply differently for people that I like as opposed to people that I do not like.
12.15.2006 9:27am
Justin (mail):
"Either that, or perhaps there are different chapters of the ACLU and the fact that some of them don't just support the left doesn't excuse the others. (The same answer is a reply to "well, the ACLU fought for gun rights in Texas"--I'd expect the ACLU in Texas to support gun rights more than the typical ACLU chapter.)

Another possibility is that the ACLU is supporting a right-wing cause because they want to set the precedent so badly that they'd even help someone they normally wouldn't help."

Shorter Ken: I don't need evidence to support my biases, when I have truthiness at my side!
12.15.2006 9:28am
Allen Asch (mail) (www):
Ken Arromdee wrote:

Another possibility is that the ACLU is supporting a right-wing cause because they want to set the precedent so badly that they'd even help someone they normally wouldn't help

Or, another possibility is that the ACLU is an organization that supports principles and will defend speech and religion regardless of content based on those principles.

Why do you seem to start with the opposite assumption? Has the misinformation campaign to which I refer on my ACLU Christians page been that successful?

And, if youre wondering to what misinfo campaign I refer, see this link: Anti-ACLU falsehood about religion

Or this link: Another anti-ACLU falsehood about religion

Or, even worse, see this recent link: Jay Sekulow adds to misinfo about ACLU

Shouldnt Jay Sekulow know better?
12.15.2006 9:44am
Ken Arromdee:
I now see why we needed a message about sarcasm not being an argument.
12.15.2006 9:44am
Steve:
Shorter Steve: I like the ACLU when they support people that I like. I think the law should apply differently for people that I like as opposed to people that I do not like.

Actually, I support the ACLU almost all the time. I still stand by my proposed rule of thumb, though!
12.15.2006 10:03am
Steve:
Also, Justin, you have a funny definition of "shorter" ;)
12.15.2006 10:04am
Allen Asch (mail) (www):
OOPS. That last link should have been:

Jay Sekulow adds to misinfo about ACLU
12.15.2006 10:07am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Conspirator Bernstein in his book, "you can't say that" makes a case that a lot of what appears to be scitzoid behavior by the ACLU is really a result of its decentralized organization, with some chapters taking one viewpoint, and others, another.
12.15.2006 12:03pm
MnZ (mail):
Conspirator Bernstein in his book, "you can't say that" makes a case that a lot of what appears to be scitzoid behavior by the ACLU is really a result of its decentralized organization, with some chapters taking one viewpoint, and others, another.


Some people in the ACLU tend to forget that members in (supposedly) socially and religiously dominant groups have civil rights as well. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the ACLU has been one of the more ideologically consistent and intellectually honest advocacy groups in existence. I respect them for that.
12.15.2006 12:26pm