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November 26, 2004

Bearing false witness

Here we go again. Another piece of legal theater contrived by the Alliance Legal Defense Fund and aided and abetted by a credulous reporter.

Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School

By Dan Whitcomb
Wed Nov 24, 2004 04:12 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

"It's a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful," said Williams' attorney, Terry Thompson.

"Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country," he said. "There is nothing in the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence."

Vidmar could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in San Jose and claims violations of Williams rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

Phyllis Vogel, assistant superintendent for Cupertino Unified School District, said the lawsuit had been forwarded to a staff attorney. She declined to comment further.

Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."

"He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote," said Thompson, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which advocates for religious freedom. "The principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity and it is pure discrimination."

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a California atheist who wanted the words "under God" struck from the Pledge of Allegiance as recited by school children. The appeals court in California had found that the phrase amounted to a violation of church and state separation.

What kind of headline is "Declaration of Independence Banned?" The article says the guy was fired for distributing leaflets containing excerpts from the Declaration and other historical documents. Of course, we have no idea what else he was putting in those leaflets or even whether he was fired for distributing them. Suddenly we go from "Guy claims to have been fired for distributing excerpts of the Declaration of Independence and some other stuff (employers unable to comment)" to "Declaration banned in California."

Dave Johnson has a comprehensive roundup of news and commentary on the lawsuit at Seeing the Forest. Check it out. In addition to a bracing rant, he has links to an ADF press release, additional news coverage, and reactions from at least 20 liberal bloggers. Dave writes:

The school did not "ban the Declaration of Independence" -- that is just a lie. This story is like when you hear that a man was "arrested for praying" and you find out he was kneeling in the middle of a busy intersection at rush hour and refused to move.

This is the BIG STORY today, on Rush, and Drudge, and the rest of the Usual Suspects. And it is a carefully planned and carefully timed lie. [Emphasis Dave's]


See also Disinfopeida's entry on The Alliance Defense Fund, aka "The Anti-ACLU."

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bearing false witness:

» "Declaration Of Independence Banned" - Christian Group Lies, Media Buys from RelentlesslyOptimistic
As Majikthise says, isn't bearing false witness a sin? Seeing The Forest - a Weblog of Politics. [Read More]

» Update on the Declaration of Independence Story from Dispatches from the Culture Wars
It's looking more and more like the story is nonsense. According to the actual complaint filed, the principal did not ban the Declaration of Independence, but told him he could not hand out a list of excerpts and quotations that... [Read More]

Comments

The part of the Declaration of Independence they will try to ban next...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness
...Down with King George. Just like in Common Sense.

Kevin, c'mon. I don't write off conservatives out of hand, and nobody's banning the Declaration of Independence. Nobody. It's a ruse perpetrated by litigious activists.

You mean the free state project in Grafton, New Hampshire? I'm willing to let anyone who wants to move to NH move there and vote their conscience in town elections. Towns only have so much jurisdiction--i.e. Grafton can't have nukes and if they make any threatening moves in that regard, well...

I don't think that the current residents of Grafton will be too happy, but democracy is democracy. Last night, I was talking to a Selectman from NH whose town narrowly avoided being chosen by the free staters. The only thing that "saved" them (his word) was the fact their town already had subdivision laws (though no zoning, which made them an attractive candidate for the free staters).

I find it difficult to believe that Kevin is not a conservative, when his email is from anti-sam.org, which has at its front page the following:

Socialism is that pernicious view that human prosperity and human justice require violence and aggression to come to pass.

Atheism is that pernicious view that man’s true happiness, the unio mystico, is unachievable. As God does not exist.

Materialism is that pernicious view that man has no unified being of his own, that he is merely a heap of neurons.

S.A.M., and the web site is anti-SAM. On the personal blog, two of the six blogroll links are Lew Rockwell and the Mises Institute. Of course, maybe I completely mistake the import of those clues as to KV's politics, as well as the general vibe of the posts in the personal blog. It's theoretically possible that Kevin is a religious libertarian/austrian economist, but NOT a conservative.

Libertarians are allowed to vote their consciences on a state level. So far, they aren't in any danger of swinging the entire state of New Hampshire.

I'm not sure what I would say if NH wanted to succeed from the union. I'd probably not object too strenuously. In Canada, we all more or less accept that Quebec could go at any time. (Not that it's imminent or anything, but, it could happen.) I have a huge emotional attachment to Quebec's ongoing membership in Canada. I also believe that Quebec's departure would imperil Canada's future as an independent country. Still I acknowledge that if a huge majority of Quebecers chose to form an independent country, there would be little the rest of Canada could or should do about it.

Interesting. Well, I look forward to your comments here, and when I have time, your blog. I have spent enough time around libertarian thought and read enough Austrian economics that I tend to think that both classes of thought (a) are most generally advocated by people who use them to justify their privileged position (and/or blame others for their failings), and (b) run spang into the ugly irrational realities of real people (rather than dispassionate, rational, self-interest-maximizing perfectly knowledgeble machines).

By contrast, both liberal and conservative political philosophies (only the first of which is even nominally represented in the politics of the United States -- the second is regrettably absent, despite its titular ascendance) at least have a passing acquaintance with the limitations of human beings and the historical reality of the situations in which they find themselves.

Kevin -

Actually I think of libertarians as utopians, far less so than liberals. Market systems, when unregulated, will always degenerate into warlordism or corporatism, and have no response whatsoever to (a) self-perpetuating concentrations of wealth and power (whether corporate or dynastic) and (b) human irrationality like bigotry which (i) contributes to (a) and (ii) creates permanent underclasses. And of course when you start reading people like Coase, the intractability of the collective action problem (no matter what Coase says) makes it clear that some form of state regulation is necessary in order to prevent huge and irrevocable wealth transfers in the form of (at least) negative externalities. [I'm reading Hayek now, and at least in "The Road to Serfdom", I don't read him as complaining of reasonable regulations on negative externalities.]

I would also add that the preference for pure market systems for all things (especially things like labor, housing, medical care) simply transfers from the government to the individual the burden of perfect knowledge. And again, you run into the burden of the collective action problem -- unions could nominally solve that, but I have yet to meet a pro-union libertarian.

Perhaps if there were some way to make sure that every single person started with a freehold of some kind, and no person (including immortal corporations) could pass on their wealth to their children (who have done nothing to deserve it) I could really sign up for pure free markets, but until there's some kind of answer for those sorts of problems, sign me up for a liberal, not a libertarian. (Oh, and re authoritarian, I read that mostly as a fetish about liberalism's restriction on certain pre-existing property rights, without any concern as to where that property came from -- Wounded Knee, anyone?)

And as far as the "position of privilege", well, as far as people who certainly echo the pure free-market line, there's Milton Friedman, the Reagan-era economic team, the University of Chicago, the Heritage Foundation, AEI, the Club for Growth, all of whom pay at least lip service to the pure free market. Those people seem fairly influential to me.

Like I said, I've seen a lot of the arguments advanced in favor of these positions, and maybe what I've seen is imperfect, or I misunderstood them. So, I'm educating myself, but with a very skeptical eye, and I do look forward to your comments.

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