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Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I don't consider myself an overly "religious" person, but for some reason the Federal Judge's decision in the Enfield graduation case is bothering me. To me, your religious beliefs aren't something you wear on your sleeve, but they hopefully come across in the way you live your life and treat others.

I guess the core of the matter revolved around the decision by the Enfield Board of Education to hold graduation ceremonies at the First Cathedral in Bloomfield. After the decision was made, three students and two of their parents objected and the ACLU apparently took up the charge and filed a federal suit.

Long story short, the hearing in Federal Court was fast tracked and yesterday Federal Judge Janet Hall issued her decision. In essence, graduation at the First Cathedral was off, Judge Hall claims it violates the First amendment of the US Constitution.

I guess the first thing that troubles me is that three "Jane" or "John" Doe's can file a lawsuit changing the course for a much larger group of people. This wasn't a majority decision, not even close. This was a decision by three students out of several hundred students and two of their parents

All five plaintiffs in the lawsuit requested "anonymity". So much for taking a stand for something you believe in. And what about that old standard to be able to face your accuser? How can you face an "anonymous" accuser?

Further more, the Judge toured the First Cathedral and as "neutral" as the Cathedral's leaders tried to make the building, there were still "secular" symbols that couldn't be hidden, such as the large cross atop the building.

If secular symbols are the issue, I think the parents and the three students must have much greater problems surviving in our society today. What do they use for currency if they object to secular symbols and statements? Do they refuse their paychecks and object to cashing them because of the phrase on every bill "IN GOD WE TRUST"?

Do they leave a ball park when "God Bless America" is sung? I totally agree that religion should not be forced on anyone, it should be a choice. But then again, for a couple of hundred years religious freedom has been a cornerstone of this country. Walking into a church is not going to make anyone a "bible thumping Christian" (no offense to bible thumping Christians intended) anymore than walking into a bar is going to convert someone into an alcoholic.

As adults, something these three students will eventually be forced to become, we face choices and decisions everyday. Some call for difficult decisions that are not always pleasant, but are one person's rights more important than the majority's rights?

And I'm not sure where the Judge's decision is coming from also. If it is based in the theory that "secular symbols" that can't be removed will somehow force religious beliefs upon the three students and their parents, this could end with an ironic twist.

If by some chance this should end up at the US Supreme Court, the students and their parents will be confronted with numerous "secular symbols".

As they walk up the front steps of the US Supreme Court, if they look up at the stately facade, they will see Moses holding the ten commandments in his lap. Not good for non-believers as they feel the pressure of organized religion staring back at them.

Then , if they make it as far as the entrance to the actual Supreme Court courtroom, they hopefully wont be offended as they pull open the doors to the courtroom, they have the symbols of the 10 commandments engraved into the doors

And then after they take their seats, God forbid (sorry bad choice of words mentioning God). I'll try again.... and then after they take their seats, Heaven forbid,sorry, another religious term. I guess you just can't get away from religious symbols and terms in this country.

After they take their seats, if they look up above the bench where the Supreme Court justices are seated, they will once again see a religious symbol of Moses carved in his full religious glory.

If a little religion is acceptable for the US Supreme Court, will it really hurt a couple of students from Enfield?

And finally, in the words of our 4th President of the United States and a founding father of our country and our Constitution James Madison;"We have staked the whole of all our political Institutions upon the capacity of mankind for Self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to The Ten Commandments of God."


Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree you with this, and I agree with judge. Religion and government should always be separate, and if you look around all over the world where there is conflict it is always when you mix religion and government together. Our founding fathers were very smart when they said religion and government should be separate. This was not in crime court so any one is allowed to file case under Jane Doe. Also when you said only three students changed what the majority wanted, it is not what the majority wants it is what the law says. Imagine if the board of education said we will held the graduation in synagogue or mosque or in temple you would see lot more people will disagree wit this.

Jeff said...

I strongly disagree with you also Kevin and I'm surprised about your position on this seeing how you champion causes against government agencies illegally imposing their will on others. (Mayor's Office and Sasha Hunter's case being just two examples)

The school is also government and the separation of church and state is law. Like you eluded to with Sasha's case, this act might not be harmless in and of itself but it can lead to a slippery slope situation. I think the judge made the right call.

Also, three people are not changing the will of the majority. The will of the majority has already been recorded in our constitution. These three people were just aware/concerned enough to catch it.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, I also disagree with you. This is what really makes the USA different. In England it's Anglican services in their public (ie private) schools. In Muslim countries it's the impact of Islam in the schools. I think the one country based on religion (Isreal) one can expect that influence. Whoops, I forgot the separation of India and the Pakistani nations (before Bangladesh was named). As the first commenter stated, religion associated with any parts of govenment is a poor road.


I still fail to see how renting the building is going to influence anyone's views . If there was a religious service or preaching, I would be opposed also. I have been in that building for a nephew's graduation a few years ago and religion wasn't even on my mind. It is a beautiful building, sitting in the balcony was like being at a modern Bushnell Theater with A/C that actually worked, the sound system and acoustics were great and you could actually hear the speakers.

Religion did not impose on the graduation or overshadow it, this just seems like a lot of uproar over nothing.

I do believe in the separation of church and state, but I don't see any undue influence here other than it made sense for the school system

Quibble said...

One nation under God? Sure, and all men are created equal. Only some are a little more equal than others.