Freedom Of Religion?

I know I’m asking for trouble here, but . . .

In December 1999, in Tulsa, OK, USA, a 15 year old girl got interested in Wicca, started doing some research on it, and showed up at her public high school with a pentagram on her hand. Not long after, people started saying she’d put a hex on a teacher. The teacher fell ill that evening and had to be hospitalized. The next day, the school’s assistant principal asked the teenager directly if she was a witch, accused her of inflicting sickness by way of magic, suspended her for 15 days, and told her not to wear any Wiccan symbols to school. A federal lawsuit has been filed.

I hear a lot of my fellow Christians talking about wanting freedom to practice their beliefs; here we have a young woman who was only investigating another religion only to be suspended for it.

I’d be interested in reading my fellow 'Dopers thoughts on this, especially those of you who lament loudest about the infringement of the rights of the religious.

Are the Democrats still forcing people to send their children to those central state-run mind-control camps nine months a year for 13 years?

For shame!

This was discussed in an earlier thread. At that time, only the student’s side had been made public. It’s hard to tell without any more information whether she was suspended for being Wiccan, or for intimidating the teacher with Wiccan symbology.

and framed the girl. LOL!

the principal should be fired for stupidity.

Dal Timgar

Hey, now, don’t go pooh-poohing this thing. Wicca is a very dangerous power, and they should be stomped out immed–* ::POOF!!:: Ribbit, ribbit…

Whats wrong with a bit of magic in schools anyway? No really - I recon they should introduce compulsory voodoo to all state schools. Might improve standards a bit! :slight_smile:

jmullaney: *Are the Democrats still forcing people to send their children to those central state-run mind-control camps nine months a year for 13 years? *

Uh, no, jmullaney, they aren’t. Haven’t you ever heard of homeschooling? And compulsory education is not the same thing as religious discrimination, though you are free to consider it worse, if you like.

In the Brandi Blackbear case, as far as I know there is no claim made on either side for either of The Ryan’s suggestions: nobody is saying either that Blackbear was suspended for being Wiccan or that she “intimidated” the teacher. What is claimed by the plaintiffs is that Blackbear’s interest in Wicca was known to others in the school, and that when a teacher suddenly fell sick, the principal (off his own bat) accused her of being a witch and of supernaturally causing the teacher’s illness.

That’s right folks, an American high school principal (if the plaintiffs’ complaint is accurate) considered it credible that a teacher’s sudden illness was caused by a student’s witchcraft, and suspended her in consequence. (Actually, a fifteen-day suspension sounds like kind of a mild disciplinary response to malevolent trafficking with the devil, don’t you think? Perhaps they couldn’t find enough firewood for a proper auto-da-fe.) Here is an excerpt from the brief describing it:

I am barely containing rage here. That goddamn moron Bushyhead accused a fifteen-year-old girl of being a witch and casting a disease on a teacher?! Is this SALEM?! Is this SPAIN?! Is this ITALY?! Bushyhead needs to get some sense kicked into his head once he extricates it from the bush growing up his ass. I am completely speechless. A principle of an AMERICAN PUBLIC SCHOOL accused a STUDENT of being a WITCH?! Bushyhead … Ah, fuck it, this is going to the Pit.

:mad:

So where did this happen? Kansas? Did they call her in during creation “science” class?

That’s right, let’s start drawing generalizations about the mid-west Bible belt and creationists. Cuz you know, we’re all just superstitious Bible-thumping God-fearing people here without the mental faculties to determine for ourselves that the girl wearing a pentagram and the teacher getting sick is coincidence.

As for the subject at hand, it’s absolutely ridiculous. Not only are they suppressing the student’s right to fredom of religion, they’re using their own religious views to make decisions invloving a student’s future. There’s no place for this in a public school. Both the counselor and principal should be fired IMO. We stopped burning witches in this country a long time ago.

Do we actually know that any of the stuff you are accusing the Principal, etc of is true? Have we heard their side of the story? Or is just the plaintiffs side of the story, in a Civil lawsuit- enuf for all of you to decide the defendants are evil stupid & wrong? Maybe- the Plaintiff made it all up. Maybe the defendant has good reasons or explanations. Or- maybe not. So far, all of you have read only ONE side (or, at least that is all that we have available, maybe some have done outside reading)- and only Kimstu- in a throwaway line- has expressed any doubt at all that it happened exactly as the Plaintiff claims. If a Plaintiffs brief was Gospel truth- there would be no need for a trial and all that stuff, now would there be?

Now- maybe the defendants REALLY did do all that stuff- and maybe not- but until a jury hears ALL the info- including BOTH sides- we can’t really KNOW who is wrong & who is right- now can we?

Shame on you all for jumping to conclusions based upon inadequate info. Hm, it almost seems like some of you might WANT to believe such a thing of a Midwestern principal. Naaaahh. That would mean that instead of trying to FIGHT ingnorance- we would be quilty of aiding it. :rolleyes:

Oh, really? So the democrats are allowing parents to get a refund of their school taxes if their children don’t go to public school? I had no idea. Because if they didn’t, of course, in many cases both parents have to work in order to pay the taxes so chances are there wouldn’t be anyone at home to actually school the kids, and only the rich would really have this option. Thanks for the update.

jmullaney: So the democrats [sic] are allowing parents to get a refund of their school taxes if their children don’t go to public school?

Now let me get this straight:

  • First, you complain that compulsory education consists of “forcing people to send their children to state-run mind control camps”, and (rather puzzlingly) imply that those who support compulsory education are ipso facto Democrats. (Why you think this complaint is sufficiently relevant to a specific case of allegedly unconstitutional religious discrimination in a public school to enable it to be posted to this thread I have no idea, btw.)

  • I point out that in fact, compulsory education requirements can be and often are fulfilled outside of “state-run” public schools.

  • You seem to be responding that this somehow doesn’t count unless those who don’t use the public schools don’t have to pay taxes for them. (And your reason for this seems to be, bizarrely, that school taxes frequently require both parents to work outside the home and thus make it impossible to homeschool. Are you seriously suggesting that the chief financial pressure that keeps both parents working outside jobs is the public school tax burden?!) Very interesting; I wasn’t aware that anybody who doesn’t get immediate personal benefit out of some government enterprise should automatically be relieved of their portion of the tax burden that contributes to it. Of course, by that same token, you also believe that people like me who at present have no children should not have to pay school taxes?

(And I’m still waiting to hear what any of this has to do with the specific questions raised in the Brandi Blackbear case.)

Daniel, I explicitly stated twice that the statements I was making about the Blackbear case were based on the plaintiffs’ claims; I don’t think that is adequately described as “a throwaway line”.

And I am absolutely dumbfounded by your statement:

Huh?? You are suggesting that trials are unnecessary when a plaintiff’s allegations are true? How the hell do you figure that? Do you seriously think that all incidents of real discrimination are somehow so patently obvious and universally repudiated that they don’t need to be taken to court? What planet are you from again?!?

And I must say I’m mighty skeptical about your indignation that people would dare to debate this issue without hearing the defendants’ side of the story. The information I posted came from an ACLU brief, and their legal teams are on the whole extremely responsible and have seldom if ever been corrected by the courts on findings of fact (though of course, their claims about legality and constitutionality don’t always prevail). If you have information from the defendants’ side of the story that challenges these claims, do feel entirely free to post or cite it. In the meantime, I don’t see why people shouldn’t debate the merits of the case as far as we now know them, as we do with every other GD thread, always of course with the proviso that new information might change our minds.

School choice is part of the Republican platform, isn’t it? If the Democrats supported this idea, then parents would be able to choose what school their children went to using vouchers to offset the financial burden this would cause. Note that parents who don’t have the money to do so don’t really have a choice in the matter.

If Ms. Blackbear’s parent can’t choose to send their child to a more tolerent school, that is a component to the problem.

I have no problem with community funding of education. I have a problem with the idea that parents can’t decide how to use their share of the community funding earmarked for their children to educate their kids in a manner of their own choosing. I think this case points to the basic problem with giving the state control not only over raising funding for education but ultimately, with the exception of certain wealthy families, sole power over what the children are taught. If the children in this school are being taught that Wiccans are evil (whether in the classroom or the hallway), Ms. Blackbear and kin should be able to freely choose to invest their share of community education funding in a school which does not hold a position that is contrary to her or their belief system.

So you find it perfectly acceptable that a PUBLIC REPEAT PUBLIC school funded by (anyone’s) tax dollars should harass and discriminate against a student based upon that student’s alleged religious beliefs???

And that the responsibility for fixing this problem lies with the parents, who should change schools, rather than with the school???
I’m speechless. Truly. I knew you were wack, but I had no idea.

“Brandi Blackbear” and “Charley Bushyhead?” Mmnpphh [strangled laughter noises]

Now that our president (Bush, not Bushyhead) has invited religious groups to apply for government grants, I hope hope HOPE the Church of Satan applies for one . . .

jmullaney: I have a problem with the idea that parents can’t decide how to use their share of the community funding earmarked for their children to educate their kids in a manner of their own choosing.

The question of whether parents can educate their kids in a manner of their own choosing (which they are free to do, as long as they meet equivalency standards) is not the same as the question of whether parents should get individual control over their own tax contributions to education. You can control (within limits) where your kids go to school; you don’t control where your school tax funds go, except by participating in the public school oversight process like any other citizen.

If you want this to be different, then you have to give me, a non-parent, the same right to exercise my own choice over where my school tax funds go too. If conservatives are so much in favor of individual choice, then why aren’t they making provisions in all their school voucher bills allowing people who don’t currently have children in school the right to direct the allocation of their share of the tax burden? I don’t have a problem with your choosing a different education for your children, but if you also get to choose the allocation of your tax funds, I’m entitled to make the same choice.

I think this case points to the basic problem with giving the state control not only over raising funding for education but ultimately, with the exception of certain wealthy families, sole power over what the children are taught.

In the first place, it’s kind of disingenuous to suggest that only “certain wealthy families” have options other than the public schools: there are many, many non-wealthy families who educate their children privately. In the second place, local, state, and federal governments all have input into what the public school curriculum should be, and the public has input into their decisions; there is not some kind of totalitarian institution being granted “sole power”. In the third place, we have all this constitutional oversight in place precisely so the public school curriculum won’t stray beyond what a general citizens’ consensus accepts as useful information for educated and competent citizens—that’s why we don’t permit religious indoctrination or other unconstitutional forms of interference with students’ civil liberties.

Remember, there is a huge practical motivation for retaining that general consensus on what you call “state-run mind control camps” and what most of us call “public education.” You may say that you as a parent should be the one to have control over what your kids are being taught, but if your idea of what kids should be taught is some kind of zealot agenda with very little content that’s useful from the point of view of the rest of society, why should the rest of society help pay for that teaching? And if the rest of society won’t help pay for it, how are you going to be able to afford it? That’s why most of us believe that the best answer is still a compromise: we all chip in money for general education which does its best to be pedagogically responsible while not trampling individual liberties, and we all put up with the inevitable imperfections that result without demanding our money back.

If the children in this school are being taught that Wiccans are evil (whether in the classroom or the hallway), Ms. Blackbear and kin should be able to freely choose to invest their share of community education funding in a school which does not hold a position that is contrary to her or their belief system.

Oooh, now that’s practical. If public education does sometimes neglect its mandate and trample individual liberties, we shouldn’t correct this illegal and unconstitutional situation, instead we should demand our money back and go find another school! :rolleyes: Have you been reading any of the recent school voucher threads here and in GQ? You will find lots of evidence there that the notion of creating a huge spectrum of choices in effective basic education just by privatizing it is pretty much a pipe dream. Good basic education is very cost- and labor-intensive, and is not a particularly profitable business. Even if it were, it still wouldn’t be right to respond to religious discrimination in public schools by saying “well, if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”

[Note added in preview: yeah, what redtail said. Eve, babe, easy does it, they’re Native American names, they’re generally a little more, um, verbally concrete than more familiar Anglo appellations like Smith or White that hardly sound to us like common nouns at all any more. :)]

jmullaney, could you please maybe produce a single reasonably authoritative cite demonstrating that only wealthy parents are capable of or choose to homeschool their children? That’s an awfully strong assertion, and I don’t think it should be allowed to stand on its own absent some support.

There was an article on this case in People (I was at the dentist’s office, OK?). Said pretty much the same thing, except made one point that hasn’t been made here…the Blackbears had moved to the area to give Brandi a more diverse experience and more exposure to her Native American roots.

The ACLU didn’t become what it is today by filing suits based on hearsay. They’ve got a reputation of their own to protect, and they know there are countless people who’d like to take them down a peg, many of whom (Limbaugh, Robertson, Dobson, etc.) have regular access to the airwaves. I’m willing to bet serious money that they talked with the school officials in question to ensure that some dippy ninth-grader wasn’t pulling the wool over their eyes before they made (literally) a Federal case of this.


What disappoints me, of course, is that before accusing her of being a witch, the principal didn’t check to see if she weighed the same as a duck. Hell, he didn’t even try to build a bridge out of her, from all accounts. :wink:


As far as milroy…er, Milo…er, mullaney’s hijack/troll is concerned, well, it’s that and nothing but. Nothing to do but ignore it.