January 14, 2012

The Appropriate Response to Totalitarians

Justin Katz

The aggressive and heated response to Jessica Ahlquist, upon her success in leveraging the power of the federal government to impose her religious preferences on her community's public high school, is ignorant, unproductive, and completely at odds with the message of the prayer banner that the federal judge ordered removed and the broader faith espoused by those who wish it to remain. For all that, the impulse behind the excessive behavior is not a defense of religion, but of liberty.

Unfortunately, Ms. Ahlquist has made herself — with the assistance of her father and the Rhode Island ACLU — the focal point for her community's reaction to the ongoing project of eliminating Americans' right to self governance. It's easy to ascribe the objectionable statements and actions of students and adults, alike, to intolerance, but it's also simplistic. The depth and breadth of the emotions being expressed would be more productively attributed to the federal government's imposition of a small minority's worldview on every public entity in the nation, no matter how local and no matter how benign the transgression.

The appropriate response, therefore, is not personal, against the student, but political, against the structure and philosophy that has given special interests the power to govern above the heads of the governed by way of a small number of unelected judges. If Ahliquist v. the City of Cranston has pushed the secularist envelope, as many of us believe it has, then push it back the other way.

Reproduce the banner on t-shirts and posters. Wear the former to school and public meetings. Display the latter on any bulletin board open to the public or any area designated for students' self expression (lockers and such). Those who are so inclined could make a point of reciting the prayer before or during events and assemblies (taking care to be minimally disruptive, of course).

Our system of government is designed (or at least it used to be designed) to direct deep differences of opinion toward such activities on the local scale, rather than toward sectarian violence. The way to fight back against those who are not content with the slow process of changing minds is not to revert to barbarism, but to faithfully and doggedly model the power of civility in the public square.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

So let me get this straight. . . . you're advocating a society in which folks can express their diverse religious views -- even post them on public school walls -- so long as they don't cause any disruption?

Hmm . . . sounds familiar . . .like, maybe the Royal Charter that Roger Williams obtained from King Charles...?


"noe person within the sayd colonye, at any tyme hereafter, shall bee any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinione in matters of religion, and doe not actually disturb the civill peace of our sayd colony; but that all and everye person and persons may, from tyme to tyme, and at all tymes hereafter, freelye and fullye have and enjoye his and theire owne judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments, throughout the tract of lance hereafter mentioned; they behaving themselves peaceablie and quietlie, and not useing this libertie to lycentiousnesse and profanenesse, nor to the civill injurye or outward disturbeance of others; any lawe, statute, or clause, therein contayned, or to bee contayned, usage or custome of this realme, to the contrary hereof, in any wise, notwithstanding. And that they may bee in the better capacity to defend themselves, in theire just rights and libertyes against all the enemies of the Christian ffaith, and others, in all respects, wee have further thought fit, and at the humble petition of the persons aforesayd are gratiously pleased to declare, That they shall have and enjoye the benefist of our late act of indempnity and ffree pardon, as the rest of our subjects in other our dominions and territoryes have; and to create and make them a bodye politique or corporate, with the powers and priviledges hereinafter mentioned."


Of course, the phony modern invocations of Roger Williams would ignore these aspects of the colony's founding, and conveniently forget Whose name he gave it.......

Posted by: brassband at January 14, 2012 12:38 PM

There is no separation of church and state in the US Constitution. It is in the old Soviet Constitution of the Humanist Joseph Stalin.
There IS however the First Amendment rights to association/non-association and free speech. I suspect the Ahlquist family are going to become very well acquainted with those rights as exercised by their fellow Cranstonians.

"In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the USSR is separated from the state, and the school from the church"
Article 147 of 1947 Stalin Soviet Constitution

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at January 14, 2012 2:13 PM

The young lady, in an interview described this as a secular nation,yet the founders of this country were Deists.

Apparently the schools have not taught her the true history of this country.

The judge went along. Maybe he never learned history either.

Posted by: helen at January 14, 2012 11:49 PM

Projo poll.......................
Did Judge Lagueux get it right in ordering the Cranston West prayer banner be removed? (11,898 votes)

Yes: 81.7% (9,725)

No: 17.8% (2,113)

Not sure: 0.5% (60)

Your Wellcome Sammy

Posted by: Sammy in Arizona at January 15, 2012 12:15 PM

You can't really be suggesting that an internet poll has any evidentiary value whatsoever, can you?

Posted by: David P at January 15, 2012 2:01 PM

"You can't really be suggesting that an internet poll has any evidentiary value whatsoever, can you?

Posted by David P"

It does prove that 11,898 people were sufficiently interested to make some response.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 15, 2012 6:26 PM

That's roughly one percent of the state of Rhode Island, assuming all the responders were Rhode Island residents. There is no way to determine how representative the sample is of the state as a whole since it is entirely self-selecting. If the poll results were at all reflective of sentiment in Cranston, the banner would have been removed long ago and there would never have been a lawsuit.

But let's assume for a minute that there is all this public support in favor of Lageux's action. Just because something is popular that doesn't make it correct, let alone lawful. There is no language in the U.S. Constitution to support Lageux's order. His ruling rests entirely on a line of Supreme Court cases which themselves bear little to no relation to the actual First Amendment. So what does it mean that a significant segment of the population is in favor of this ruling?

Either those who favor the decision are aware of what the Constitution says or they aren't. If they are not aware then their opinion is based on ignorance. This says something about the state of civics in the United States but it gets us no closer to resolving the banner dispute. If these people are aware that the courts no longer consider themselves bound by the law but feel free to make the law conform to their own opinions and prejudices, and nevertheless approve of such actions, then that means they have no concept of self-government and are unfit to be citizens of a free republic.

Posted by: David P at January 15, 2012 8:42 PM

"Reproduce the banner on t-shirts and posters. Wear the former to school and public meetings. Display the latter on any bulletin board open to the public or any area designated for students' self expression."

Absolutely, and keep it off the walls that the school administration (and by extension, the government) controls.

There's no war against religion going on, there's a war against establishment of religious norms by the government.

Posted by: mangeek at January 17, 2012 10:54 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.