Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Books that didn't even get a chance to be banned

It's Banned Books Week again: You know, the week where we talk about all of the books religious parents have objected to in schools, but where we ignore the fact that religious books were prevented from making it into schools in the first place?

In fact, I did a search in the "Books Banned and Challenged 2008-2009," for the word "Bible," but it didn't turn up anything.

Funny how that works.

27 comments:

One Brow said...

Can you name one public school that has banned the Bible from it's library? This is just classic Christian persecution complex.

Singring said...

You're right Martin. It's an outrage that the Bible was not banned or challenged at a single school in the USA in 2008 and 2009.

An outrage I say!

I'm with you all the way, martin - let's all petition the state to start banning the Bible from schools!

Thomas said...

You two need to read the criterion for the Banned and Challenged Book Project.

From their website:

"The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights..."

"A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others."

So if the Bible is not allowed to be used in school curricula, it clearly fits in the criteria for being banned or challenged, according to the ALA.

Singring said...

'So if the Bible is not allowed to be used in school curricula'

Where is that the case?

Thomas said...

Actually, I stated that too narrowly, according to the ALA's criterion. It should be the Bible has been removed from school curricula or the library, or if persons or groups have been objecting or attempting to have the Bible removed from school curricula or libraries, then it belongs on the list.

Singring said...

'It should be the Bible has been removed from school curricula or the library, or if persons or groups have been objecting or attempting to have the Bible removed from school curricula or libraries, then it belongs on the list.'

Where is that happening, Thomas?

Thomas said...

A quick and easy google search reveals that

1) the ACLU sued successfully to prevent Bible distribution in classrooms, and the 8th circuit upheld the ban. http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/wireStory?id=3509509

2) in Knox County, Tennessee, a school banned student led Bible studies at recess http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=30265

3) In Florida a school district appears to have effectively banned the distribution of Bibles at public schools during certain times of the year. http://www.californiabusinesslitigation.com/2010/07/bible_ban_lawsuit_in_florida_s.html

Shall I continue, or do you know how to use google?

One Brow said...

Thomas,

Surely not every book that has ever been removed from a shelf for age, being outmoded, or simply in favor of a book by a different author qualifies. In the same way, I'm sure there has probably been some person, some place in america that objected to having The Cat In the Hat in their library, but that does not qualify it for a banned books list.

So, you claim seems to amount to saying that changing the curriculum for First Amendment reasons (in order not to teach religion) is the same as banning a book, even though that same book can be used for other curricular purposes (such as a course on literature). If we accept the definition, would you agree the Koran is a banned book? The Talmud? The Bhagavad-gita? They are under the exact same restrictions. If so, why focus only on the Bible (except as a part of CPC)?

One Brow said...

Thomas,

YOu listed different cases from different years, and not all are relevant to the ALA list. Is there any reason to beleive any religi0ous book belongs in a top 100 list?

Singring said...

'the ACLU sued successfully to prevent Bible distribution in classrooms, and the 8th circuit upheld the ban'

Distributing Bibles is called for where in the curriculum?

'in Knox County, Tennessee, a school banned student led Bible studies at recess'

What has recess got to do with the curriculum?

Religious prozelytizing within state institutions is prohibited by the 1st Amendment. I'm sure you know this, Thomas.

'In Florida a school district appears to have effectively banned the distribution of Bibles at public schools during certain times of the year.'

Again - what has distributing Bibles got to do with the curriculum or the library?

These examples are simply not applicable, Thomas.

Here's an example where the same thing was done with the Qu'ran:

http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=30584

Was that wrong also? Do you support Islamic organisations giving away the Qu'ran at school?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Where does the First Amendment prohibit "religious proselytizing within state institutions"?

Thomas said...

The original comment suggested that the list was restricted to those that were banned from the school library.

"Can you name one public school that has banned the Bible from it's library?"

Which turned out to be false for several reasons: a book need not actually be banned, and it may be banned from a school's curriculum as well. But the lack of a quick fact check there is apparently not a deterrent.

Then I pointed out several cases where the use of Bibles in classrooms (and at recess) are banned. In fact, a ten second Google search shows that Bible distribution within the classroom by the Gideons is banned within the 7th Circuit Court's jurisdiction. These sorts of cases come up all the time actually. The 10th circuit supported the prohibition of a teacher from placing religious texts in the classroom library, and from reading the texts themselves before class.

There has actually been widespread controversy about curriculum that include the Bible, and whether the courts will choose to allow them is unclear. For example: http://www.aclufl.org/legislature_courts/legal_department/briefs_complaints/leedecision.cfm

In any case, my point was that you misrepresented the standard for the banned and challenged books program. As to the empirical question, I don't much care whether it's enough to get on the top 100 list. To deny that people frequently challenge the presence and use of Bibles (or other religious texts) in classrooms is silly, given the amount of litigation that's resulted.

Singring said...

'Where does the First Amendment prohibit "religious proselytizing within state institutions"?'

I should elaborate:

Any religious proselytizing that favours any kind of religious position over any other (atheism is included in this) that is endorsed or funded by the state is not permitted. Of course its doesn;t state that literaloly in the 1st - but you know perfectly well that this is how the law has been applied, from teh Supreme Court on down.

You may seem to recall the well-publicised circus that happened at the Washington state capitol, when they allowed a Christian Christmas display on their grounds. They had to allow all other religious sects, groups and organisations put up signs, too. The next year, they decided to let it be altogether, rather wisely.

So - if any styudent group uses school facilities for proselytising or does so on school time - then that would be not permissible under the 1st.

It has nothing to do with 'banning the Bible' or any such nonsense.

Can you give me any example where the Bible has been taken or has been attempted to be taken from a curriculum or library? Anywhere? That's the standard the ALA has laid out as Thomas has so elegantly shown us.

P.S.: If I were you I'd be very happy about the state of affair sin the US. In Europe, we do have Christian education in schools and it is one of the major factors that turns people off religion for good over here.

Singring said...

'To deny that people frequently challenge the presence and use of Bibles (or other religious texts) in classrooms is silly, given the amount of litigation that's resulted.'

The distribution of Bibles on school grounds has nothing to do with the CURRUCULUM or the LIBRARY, Martin.

Would you support the right of Islamic groups to distribute the Qu'ran in school campuses?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

The First Amendment says NOTHING about the prohibition of proselytizing in schools. You're not elaborating on what you said, your statement was mistaken. And just because a court says that is what it says, that doesn't change what it in fact says.

Singring said...

'The First Amendment says NOTHING about the prohibition of proselytizing in schools.'

1st Amendment:

'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.'

When state-owned buildings or property are used to support one religion, for example by allowing them to preach there, that falls under the 1st Amendment. It's as clear as day, which is exactly why courts have ruled in that way.

But hey - go ahead and allow preachers into schools. Allow Muslims and Krishnas and Scientologists into your schools to indoctrinate kids, great idea! That can only be good news for Europeans. The more you sink into the morass of religious dogma, the easier for us to trounce the US in education, like we are already doing at the moment.

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2010-09-23-science-education_N.htm?csp=34news

Thomas said...

Singring,

As you no doubt know, the First Amendment limits Congress from establishing a religion, not state governments. As education is regarded as a state issue that the federal government does not have regulatory power over, the First Amendment itself doesn't come into play in the way you think it does.

You seem to not realize that the purpose of the establishment clause was to protect the established state religions that many of the state had at the time of the ratification of the Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" -- this protected, for example, Massachusetts from any law of Congress that would impair its state religion.

So the text and purpose of the First Amendment itself actually supports the reverse of your position. If Kentucky schools decided to officially teach Baptist dogma and the federal government attempted to prohibit this, the First Amendment is designed to prevent the federal government from doing so.

Singring said...

Then why isn't Baptist or at least Christian dogma being taught in Kentucky schools? I'm sure it would have popular support.

Oh - that's right...

...because every court on the Federal level will see it as a violation of the 1st Amendment!

It is rather bizarre to find myself as a European having to defend liberties enshrined in the US constitution against an American.

In all honesty I really wish the US would do away with the 1st. First of all it would let theocrats run rampant for a decade or so, further destroying the educational system in the US (more good news for Europe and China), have religious fanatics of all stripes at each others necks as to who will be allowed do teach what doctrine in school (I bet you'd love to have Imams giving lessons on Shariah law in Kentucky classrooms - or what about Scientologists?) and ultimately, after all the dust has settled and denominations have fallen by the wayside, it would leave you with a religious blend so dull and mainstream it will turn off any kids who encounter it at school (precisely what has been happening in Europe for hundreds of years).

So count me in as an advocate in favour of tearing down the 1st! Yay for theocracy in the USA!

Thomas said...

Singring,

Instead of being hysterical and apocalyptic, perhaps you should calmly and carefully re-read the establishment clause, and perhaps read some of the scholarship concerning it. (I would suggest 39 DePaul L. Rev. 1191.)

If you simply want to say that teaching Christian dogma in schools would be disallowed by the federal rules, I'll grant that for the sake of argument. The important question is whether the federal courts are right in their construction of the Establishment Clause, or whether they are substituting extra-constitutional political views for the text and history of the Establishment clause. I submit it is the latter.

You want to make the First Amendment say "Neither the Federal nor any State government shall establish a religion, or prefer one religion over another." Not only is that not what it says, in many ways that is contrary to its purpose. The establishment clause applies to "Congress" only, not to the states. And if the purpose of the clause is primarily to prevent Congress from establishing a national religion, it would have said "Congress shall not establish a religion." But instead it says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The only reason it would be written this way would be if there are already religious establishments, and the Framers wished to prevent Congress from passing laws concerning them. And if we look at the history, we see that is precisely the purpose of the clause. Thus there can't be any national establishment of religion according to the First Amenment, because it would impair the (at the time) existing state religions.

So if you're going to claim an authority for your position, the First Amendment would not be it. Try again.

Martin Cothran said...

Who need religious fanatics to destroy our education system when the teachers' unions are doing such a fine job of it now?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Okay, so I read the actual text of the quote you gave of the 1st amendment. The thing is it doesn't say in any sense what you say it says. Is this just an incantation you all use or do you have an actual argument from the text?

Singring said...

'Instead of being hysterical and apocalyptic'

LOL! You do love hyperbole, Thomas.

'The important question is whether the federal courts are right in their construction of the Establishment Clause, or whether they are substituting extra-constitutional political views for the text and history of the Establishment clause. I submit it is the latter.'

I respect that view. I really do. There is very little to back it up (I'm sure you are familiar with what the majority of the founding fathers thought of religion, especially organised religion), but it can be argued.

As I said before, Thomas, I'm all for doing away with the US doing away with the 1st.

The simple fact of the matter is that the case history is absolutely clear: Any teaching of religious dogma in schools will be struck down on the federal level. You know that perfectly well.

The 1st applies to the states (as all amendments in the bill of rights do) because with the passage of the 14th amendment, all US citizens were protected by federal laws, including the 1st. So if your school in Kentucky passes a law or does anything else to aid in the establishemnt of one particular religion, you can sue. And if the state court decides against you, you can appeal on the federal level. Those are the facts, Thomas.

Martin: See my response to Thomas above as to why you are wrong.

Both of you:

As I said before, I'm in full favour of the USA doing away with the 1st, because it would be the greatest favour you could be doing the economies of the rest of the world. I also would derive tremendous entertainment from the religious bickering that would break out in the wake of such a decision. To an atheist, there is nothing as entertaining as watching Catholics, Baptists, Mormons and all the other thousands of denominationd duke it out amongst themselves.

In all honesty, as a European who has experienced several years of state religious education that did nothing but strengthen my atheism:
the 1st amendment is the best thing that ever happened to religion in the US. If I were you, I'd do everything to protect it. The moment you allow children to be indoctrinated in school, you will lose them. I hope you do that. Expose people to religion. Educate them about religion. That turns them into atheists faster than anything - as the recent Pew study showed in stark detail.

Thomas said...

"The 1st applies to the states (as all amendments in the bill of rights do) because with the passage of the 14th amendment, all US citizens were protected by federal laws, including the 1st."

Actually, the Supreme Court has rejected total incorporation. The doctrine it has selected instead is selective incorporation, where provisions are incorporated on a case-by-case basis. But the constitutionality of this is suspect--perhaps you could show me where in Amend. XIV anything at all is said about incorporation.

But even if you could demonstrate that incorporation has a constitutional basis, it doesn't follow that the establishment clause should be incorporated. Incorporation, to the extent that it exists, only covers individual liberties. But the establishment clause isn't an individual liberty, it's the liberty of a state to establish a religion without federal intervention (which is precisely what the federal courts are now doing). As Professor Lietzau says: "The only "right" embodied in [the establishment] clause would be the right to have one's state free to establish a religion...The clause is a specific prohibition on the federal government which does not parallel an individual right, but a state right. The individual right involved, namely religious liberty, is 'protected' by the clause only through its ability to prevent federal frustration of local legislative competence in religious matters. A court injunction against state action is exactly the frustration the establishment clause attempted to preclude."

Singring: "The simple fact of the matter is that the case history is absolutely clear: Any teaching of religious dogma in schools will be struck down on the federal level."

And again, this is false. Some schools do teach religious dogma--including private Christian schools how receive federal funding. The law in this area is quite uneven--I believe the naval academy still has a mandatory prayer time for its students. Further, outside of the context of schools, the federal government actually supports an extensive system of chaplains. Even school prayer cases at local schools are largely judged on a case by case basis.

So, to sum up:

1) the incorporation doctrine in general has a very weak Constitutional basis

2) even if the incorporation doctrine were stronger than the Supreme Court has construed it to be, the establishment clause would not be incorporated, because the right belongs to the states, not to individuals, and

3) even if the right were an individual right, it does not ban all government support of religion, even in schools.

Singring said...

'1) the incorporation doctrine in general has a very weak Constitutional basis'

That's your interpretation and you're entitled to it. A good number of constitutional lawyers would disagree I'm sure. The majority of court cases seem to indicate that jurisdiction thinks that incorporation has a rather strong constitutional basis.

'2) even if the incorporation doctrine were stronger than the Supreme Court has construed it to be, the establishment clause would not be incorporated, because the right belongs to the states, not to individuals'

False. The 1st clearly pertains to individuals as well as it covers freedom of religion, an individual right. Therefore, any individual is also protected from the establishment of any religion as endorsed by the state. This is precisely why any taxpayer with standing can sue against state or federal government supporting any one religion over another.

Which brings me to:

'3) even if the right were an individual right, it does not ban all government support of religion, even in schools.'

It certainly doesn't. What it DOES do however, is require that IF a school were to allow the teaching or preaching of any one faith it would have to spend equal time and resources on every other religion imaginable in order to avoid the problem of favouring one religion over another. With thousands of Christian denominations alone, that is a sheer logistical impossibility.

Thomas said...

You seem to not like thinking through legal arguments for yourself, instead being satisfied that some judge got it right without even examining the argument. That would be fine, I suppose, if you had not been making legal arguments yourself.

But you're still missing the basic legal issue. The freedom of religious exercise clause is distinct from the establishment clause (that's why they are two clauses), and was recognized as a fundamental individual right at the time the Constitution was ratified (it was part of all the state constitutions) and when the 14th amendment was ratified.

The establishment clause was not an individual right, but a delegation of power between the federal and state government. The federal government delegated to states the power to establish religions, and many states did just this. Even though the states recognized a right to the freedom of religious, they did not view this as being incompatible with having established religions. Even at the time the 14th amendment was passed, it was manifestly not viewed as banning the states from establishing religions. In fact, just after the 14th amendment was passed, the Blaine Amendment, which would have prohibited states from establishing religions, was proposed and didn't even come close to passing. In other words, an attempt to amend the Constitution to prevent states from establishing religions was made at the time of the 14th Amendment, but it failed. Certainly at the time of the 14th Amendment, no-one thought of the establishment clause as a fundamental, individual right.

Interpreting a delegation of powers as a fundamental individual right incorporated in the 14th amendment is absurd. The constitution delegates the regulation of schools (save what the feds can do through the spending clause) to states. If we follow your logic, that means that citizens had a right to be free from the federal government setting up schools, and now this right is extended to the states. Viola! The whole public school system is unconstitutional.

So why was the establishment clause extended to the states? It was an example of judges imposing their private political views as though they were legislators, despite the fact that there's no legal foundation for it. As I said in the beginning, the establishment clause applies to citizens not because of any legal basis, but because of the political views of judges.

Singring said...

1.) Are you honestly trying to tell me that because an amendment was proposed and voted down almost one hundred years after the 1st Amendment was passed and 20 years after the 14th somehow tells us what the intention behind the 1st and 14th Amendments were?

I would submit that it just tells us what the positions of the house and senate were like at the time.

2.) Are you trying to tell me that for the past 150 years, ever since incorporation based on the 14th began, all those supereme court decisions, federal court decisions ect. were all just the result of political judges?

Seriously?

That's some conspiracy theory you've got going there, Thomas. I suggest you contact judge John E Jones III who ruled against ID in Dover because it was religious. He's certainly no liberal pansy, but he thought the 1st was grounds to ban ID.

The simple fact is that judges from the conservative fringe to the liberal fringe have ruled that the 1st applies to the states.

If they are all wrong is another question and you may have some sound arguments in your favour (like I said - do us atheists in Europe a favour and get rid of the 1st altogether), but to imply that its all a vast political conspiracy is just right wing fantasy, Thomas.

Thomas said...

Singring,

It's a conspiracy theory to say that judges have been known to make decisions for political rather than legal reasons? You are incredibly out of touch. One doesn't need a formal legal education (as I have) to know that. Read Citizens United and tell me judges don't make political decisions.

As to the first point: if it were the case that those who passed the Fourteenth Amendment thought they were extending the establishment clause to the state (which, as I pointed out, makes no sense as the establishment clause delegates power between the states and the federal government), then the Blaine Amendment would have been redundant. Why spend the time and money to pass an amendment to the Constitution that has already been taken care of by another amendment? And why would no-one have brought up the fact that the amendment is redundant? The only reasonable explanation is that the generation that voted for the 14th Amendment (which was about about 8 years before the Blaine Amendment, not 20 as you said) did not understand the 14th amendment to do what the Blaine Amendment did.

"Are you honestly trying to tell me that because an amendment was proposed and voted down almost one hundred years after the 1st Amendment was passed and 20 years after the 14th somehow tells us what the intention behind the 1st and 14th Amendments were?"

And here we come full circle. I'm telling you the first thing to look at is the text of both amendments (which you don't want to do) or the history surrounding the amendments (which you likewise don't want to do). Neither the texts themselves support your position (in fact, they support the exact opposite), nor does the history (which likewise supports the opposite opinion).

Your argument that the amendments support your position rests on one thing: that judges have construed them to mean that. But the judges are manifestly wrong, and many of the current members of the Supreme Court have expressed an openness to revisiting the incorporation of the establishment clause. Even those who support incorporation, like Brennan, have expressed an uneasiness with the legal basis.