Category Archives: Religious Liberty

Crossing The Line

A teacher in New Jersey is in trouble for talking about God in history class:

KEARNY, N.J. — Before David Paszkiewicz got to teach his accelerated 11th-grade history class about the United States Constitution this fall, he was accused of violating it.

Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

The first question I’d ask here, is why did this teacher even think it was appropriate to start talking about evolution, the Big Ban, dinosaurs, Noah’s Ark, and who’s going to heaven in a history class to begin with ? At the very least, he was deviating extremely far from the lesson plan he should’ve been following. At worst, he was preaching to these kids in a way, as a teacher in a public school, he really has no business doing.

More interesting to me, though, is the reaction of some of the teacher’s supporters:

Greice Coelho, who took Mr. Paszkiewicz’s class and is a member of his youth group, said in a letter to The Observer, the local weekly newspaper, that Matthew was “ignoring the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gives every citizen the freedom of religion.”

Sorry, but Mr. Paskiewicz has the right to believe in whatever religion he chooses. What he doesn’t have the right to do is spout off like a Sunday preacher in the middle of history class.

“We Need” Doesn’t Obligate The Government

Over on my War On Christmas Blog post I wrote at the Unrepentant Individual (where I advocate a satirical War On Christmas Blog), I’ve gotten some interesting comments and trackbacks. One trackback came from a Help Save Christmas, a blog that I’m still unsure whether it’s satirical or not. Another was from a definitely-satirical War On Christmas blog. My suggestion to start one was not entirely original, it seems.

But one comment just arrived that I thought needed a response:

I agree with that – We need a national mid-winter, Non-Secular Holiday.

Below is my annual holiday rant – Happy Holidays

Consider this – After Rome took over Christianity it was natural that one of the most important Roman feast days would evolve into the most important Christian holiday – December 25th.

Just four day before is the Winter Solstice, Dec 21st. In the northern hemisphere the shortest day and longest night of the year. This is an occasion that has been celebrated since prehistoric times. It is a marker on the Celestial Calendar that is shared by all of us on this Earth.

Why not shake out this holiday into two days – Separate the religious from the Secular – The 25th will be the religious day of observance, Christians would celebrate it as they like, free from the diluting influences us infidels – and, of course, it would continue to be called Christmas.

December 21st could be the day of celebration for everyone. This has always been known as Yule or Yuletide – it is an ancient name for the season.

We need is a National Holiday for all of us at this time of the year.

You know what, I’ve got absolutely nothing against celebrating Yuletide. But why do we need a National Holiday? If you’re going to wait around for our Congressmen to do something likely to piss off the 85% Christian population, you’re going to be worm food by the time it happens.

Why not just start celebrating it yourself, with your friends. Maybe start an online movement to celebrate Yuletide. Get this thing off the ground yourself. Don’t wait for the government to “create” a holiday that you say has been celebrated since prehistoric times. Don’t act as if you can’t celebrate Yuletide unless the government makes it a holiday, just start doing it.

Christmas didn’t become a Federal Holiday in America until 1870. You may have an uphill battle to get Yuletide declared a holiday by the government, BUT THAT DOESN’T STOP YOU FROM CELEBRATING IT.

Seattle-Tacoma Airport Removes Christmas Trees

I’m not one to fall into the whole “war on Christmas” meme we see repeated this time each year, but this story just strikes me as ridiculous:

SEATAC, Wash. — All nine Christmas trees have been removed from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport instead of adding a giant Jewish menorah to the holiday display as a rabbi had requested.

Maintenance workers boxed up the trees during the graveyard shift early Saturday, when airport bosses believed few people would notice.

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, who made his request weeks ago, said he was appalled by the decision. He had hired a lawyer and threatened to sue if the Port of Seattle didn’t add the menorah next to the trees, which had been festooned with red ribbons and bows.

“Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season,” said Bogomilsky, who works in Seattle at the regional headquarters for Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish education foundation.

Repeat after me folks. Putting a Christmas tree up is NOT an endorsement of religion.

Update 12/12/06: The Christmas Trees have returned to SeaTac.

Silencing The Church Bells

Fresh off its efforts to efforts to “protect” the homeless, Fairfax County, Virginia is now seeking to silence church bells just in time for Christmas:

Fairfax County officials have issued a ringing non-endorsement of the bells at St. John Neumann’s in Reston, ruling that they must toll within the limits of the county’s noise ordinance or not at all.

The Board of Supervisors asked the zoning staff this year to see whether the law could be amended to accommodate the church, whose bells ring at a volume slightly higher than the 55-decibel maximum permitted in residential areas.

But James P. Zook, director of Fairfax’s Department of Planning and Zoning, recently told the board in a memo that creating an exception for church bells could be constitutionally problematic, leaving the county open to court challenge.

“Localities cannot enact different standards for noise emanating from a place of worship,” Zook said. If Fairfax did that, he said, the new rules would have to apply to “all other types of bells, chimes or carillons.” Zook noted, however, that at least two other cities, Morgantown, W.Va., and Seattle, did make exceptions for church bells.

St. John’s, a Catholic church in south Reston, installed a $50,000 electronic bell system in 2004 as part of a major expansion. When the bells began ringing, in three-minute bursts — three times on weekdays, once on Saturdays and before each of five Sunday Masses, starting at 7:30 a.m. — neighbors complained.

Of course they did.

The GOP Must Move To The Center and Lose Limited Government Voters

In yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, former New Jersey governor and EPA head Christine Todd Witman had an interesting column:

Moderate Republicans paid a heavy price in the GOP’s loss of control of Congress.

After the 2004 election, pundits were predicting the dawn of a generation of Republican dominance. Karl Rove was being hailed as the “architect” of this coming era. His strategy of solidifying the hard-right base of the GOP by feeding them a steady diet of extreme positions on social issues that would, in turn, motivate them to flock to the polls was credited with securing President Bush’s reelection and retaining control of Congress.

This month, the limits of that strategy became clear. In more than a dozen House districts in which moderate Republicans had long succeeded, voters apparently decided they were no longer willing to empower the hard-right of the GOP by electing moderates who would contribute to a Republican majority.

Actually, Rove’s strategy did more than just turn moderates and independents against the GOP, it kept fiscal conservatives and libertarians home on election day. The Religious Right has no interest in shrinking the welfare state, they merely want to make sure the money goes to their churches, abstinance programs, persecuting homosexuals, censoring the media, and teaching religion in government schools. But back to Governor Whitman’s column.

I believe, however, that within the results of this year’s electoral defeats are the seeds of future Republican victories, but only if those seeds are planted in the center of the political landscape.

President Bush has to lead the Republican Party back toward its traditional, philosophical roots of respect for and belief in the individual, fiscal responsibility, pragmatic and realistic foreign policy, and real environmental stewardship.

The million dollar question is what does she mean by “lead the Republican Party back toward its traditional, philosophical roots of respect for and belief in the individual, fiscal responsibility, pragmatic and realistic foreign policy, and real environmental stewardship”? Fortunately, Governor Whitman has both a record and an organizaton she runs to examine.

From the It’s My Party Too website:

IMP-PAC is an umbrella organization that provides a place for moderate Republicans to reach out to one another and support those who believe in basic Republican principles such as:

Recognizing that tax cuts not only leave money in the pockets of those who earned it, but, when combined with restrained spending and balanced budget, help to stimulate the economy;

Supporting an engaged foreign policy and a strong national defense;

Continuing the Party’s recognition that government does have a role to play in protecting our environment; and

Respecting the individual as evidenced by limiting government interference in their lives.

Okay, rhetorically at least, classical liberals and libertarians can do business with the moderates. Now let’s see if the results back up the rhetoric.

Recognizing that tax cuts not only leave money in the pockets of those who earned it, but, when combined with restrained spending and balanced budget, help to stimulate the economy

Governor Whitman’s record in New Jersey is that of a tax cutter, on this point, so far so good. Furthermore, the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership’s page on deficit reduction contains nothing that a libertarian or a classical liberal can object to. However, when you look on their past accomplishments page, you’ll find quite a lot of objectionable proposals such as Federally funded terrorism insurance and support for the Davis-Bacon wage controls and Federal funding of stem cell research.

Supporting an engaged foreign policy and a strong national defense

What do they mean by supporting an engaged foreign policy? I found nothing on foreign policy from Governor Whitman or the Republican Main Street Partnership.

Continuing the Party’s recognition that government does have a role to play in protecting our environment;

Government involvement in the environment usually means less property rights and more regulation with questionable benefits.

Respecting the individual as evidenced by limiting government interference in their lives

By this, they usually mean only in regards to abortion. It was the great moderate Republican, Nelson Rockefeller that gave us the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws that gave us life sentences for drug possession.

Rhetorically, moderate Republicans talk a good game, when you actually look at them, you’ll find they’re no allies of limited-government supporters and instead are merely another branch of big government conservatism.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

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