"See You At The Pole" - Atheist Approved!

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is a Christian for-profit organization that uses litigation to oppose those who support certain rights - including abortion, same sex marriage, and sex education. They also litigate to blur the line between Church and State.

I've received a couple of self-important emails from the ADF on the subject of the annual gathering called "See You at the Pole" (SYATP). This event happens on the fourth Wednesday of September, every year. During this event students will gather at their school flagpole before the start of class in order to hold hands, pray together, and maybe read some scripture and sing a hymn. It is supposed to be a student initiated and student led gathering.

So the ADF's alert points out a very formal ADF legal memo about this event, and also references an ACLJ memo about this. The alert, and the memos, seem to imply that this student right was a hard won victory by the Christian forces of good.

Of course, they don't mention that the ACLU also approves of SYATP.

And you know what? I also approve of "See You at the Pole". Students have the right to pray, or sing, or read the Bible (silently or aloud). They can pray before tests and before their cafeteria meals. They can let their friends borrow their Bibles, or they can give them as gifts.

What the students can not do is disrupt class, or create a hostile environment for other students.

And what a school can not do is to show preference to one type of student over another. By "establishing" a preferred religion, a public school would be acting against the American Constitution, and in doing so would give a clear message that those students of one faith are "better" than students of different faiths, or without faith. Regardless of Constitutionality, this is clearly immoral.

So, I've got an offer to all of you good Christians who are cheering about this religious "Victory" in public schools:

I will happily help you pass out Bibles to any student who wants one.

I'll add a couple of caveats.
  • I won't help you pass out Bibles on a public school campus or property. That is a clear breech of the Establishment Clause, and it indicates school-sanctioned favoritism toward one religion over others.

  • I won't force, coerce or bribe any student to take a Bible. I realize that the Bible isn't for everyone, and urging it upon some people would be insulting.

So - how about it? Wouldn't this be a public relations coup? "President of Local Atheist Organization helps pass out Bibles to Schoolchildren!" Pastors, you could make this sound like a win over Satan himself during your Sunday sermon!

And yes, I'm being a bit glib here - but I'm also very serious. And I'll remind any pastor in the Fresno and Clovis area - if you preach that Atheists are trying to keep religion out of school, I'll call you on it. I'll do more than that - I'll help you make sure that any public school student has the right to his religion in school.


R. Moore said...

Calladus said:
"...if you preach that Atheists are trying to keep religion out of school, I'll call you on it. I'll do more than that - I'll help you make sure that any public school student has the right to his religion in school."

I don't agree with the wording here. Religion is *not* allowed in public schools, and should not be, outside of certain academic subjects. However, religious belief is allowed, along with the non-disruptive practice of that belief. The passing out of Bibles is religion, should not be allowed with the school "safe zones" -- just as drug dealers and child molesters are prevented from standing by school fences. While the passing out of Bibles may seem to be a free speech issue, in this case, it is not. Children have no choice in attending school, and the school entrances are control points for access, creating a captive audience. (For the same reason, panhandlers cannot station themselves next to an ATM). Religion must always be at a distance, and it must be my option to engage it or not. The airport Hari Krishna of the 70's and 80's made clear why this is necessary.

Calladus said...

I don't think we disagree on the concept here Richard. I'm not advocating passing out bibles in school or on school property. When I was in high school, a local church put up fliers in the neighborhood around the school that targeted teens. I'm fine with that sort of thing, and if the event came with a free bible for every teen, I'd be happy to help pass them out.

The high school that I used to attend only had one road for access, so I would be against setting up a "Bible stand" on that road, even though it wouldn't be on school property. You're right in that it would be a captive audience.

I don't think there would be a problem with advertising along that road - perhaps a billboard? As long as all potential advertisers are treated equally. It would be just as much a captive audience as the drivers on highway 99 that are forced to see all the "abortion stops a beating heart" billboards.

But let's say that a Church set up a bible give-away event at Letterman park, targeting teens at the rotary club skate park. I'd have no problem with helping out there. I'd happily pass out bibles to school kids in that sort of an environment.

R. Moore said...

Calladus said:
"that a Church set up a bible give-away event at Letterman park, targeting teens at the rotary club skate park"

Again I disagree. The government has banned skating in all but a few places, and the park is fenced with one entrance. If I want to skate, I have no other choice. I could choose not to skate, but religion should not restrict my activities to the point of preventing them. As I said earlier -- it should exist in the distance, and be my choice to engage.

Billboards are a pox, regardless of their message. But they can be (and often are) controlled through local legislation -- if my community allows them, then I feel they are open to all free speech. This would include hard core pornography I guess. But maybe changing one's route to work or school is analogous to changing the TV channel?

My stance runs afoul of several constitutional amendments I know, but based on the history of religion's corruption of our youth, I am willing to grant evangelicals all the rights we grant pedophiles. This is not because I demand a right to "not be offended", but because I demand my right to "freedom from religion".

R. Moore said...

Another comment. An atheist handing out bibles is like a "pro-lifer" helping Planned Parenthood by handing out defective condoms. It does no one any good.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

In the year before I was hired at Bullard, there was an incident in which coercion was used on campus at an event during the lunch hour sponsored, if I recall correctly, by FCA (Fellowship of Christian Atheletes). Essentially, students were offered food if they would go into the gym where FCA was hanging out during lunch. Some students, when they found out what FCA stood for, quickly tried to leave after some of them had sampled the fare and they were told they had to stay.

As I understand it, there was hell to pay for this incident, and the people who dragged those involved through the coals, interestingly enough, was NOT the ACLU or some secular organization. Rather, it was my good friend Babs Eskin and her compadres at the Interfaith Alliance who met with site administrators and the School Board. I strongly suspect the Babs and a lot of other IFA members would agree with you, Mark!