May 26, 2005

Goodbye Freedom Of Religion

Judge: Parents can’t teach pagan beliefs

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth. […] “There is a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones’ lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school. . . . Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones display little insight into the confusion these divergent belief systems will have upon (the boy) as he ages,” the bureau said in its report.

You read that right. The kid’s parents have been ordered not to teach the child about the family’s religion.

Can’t we cut to the chase and just have these people burned? Oh, sorry for that fallacious slippery slope argument. That could never happen here.

Posted by James at May 26, 2005 4:55 PM
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What if the parents were agnostic or atheist, would the judge have added to the decree that they can't not expose the child to religion?! Would no religion would be just as much of a conflict as a non-mainstream one? Ugh, that belongs on Thing of Ugly.

Posted by: Sharon at May 26, 2005 6:04 PM

I want to say that we don't know all the facts. But the language about attending the parochial school being in conflict with the kid's religion at home makes no sense. You don't have to be Catholic to attend a parochial school, as the dad didn't. I attended a parochial school as a non-Catholic. It really sounds like the judge is an idiot. Judges do, after all, begin as lawyers.

Posted by: Maggie at May 26, 2005 6:18 PM

Lawyers and judges may be our last defense against the plundering of our civil liberties. I think we should single out the nutty ones, of course, but in general we are really going to be relying on these people.

That's why Rebublicans are ramping up the "activist judges" rhetoric lately. They are upset that they can't just completely run away with the game.

More to the subject of the story, no - we don't know all the facts. As usual. But I'll be looking to see if any subsequent stories shed any light that explains why a parent ought not be allowed to educate his child how he sees fit.

I'm baffled here. I hope someone runs across an explanation.

Posted by: James at May 26, 2005 6:24 PM

If the story is as it reads, the ruling can't possibly stand. Judges can't dictate to parents what religion they teach their child unless the religion can be shown to be harmful to the child.

The judge's point that you can't teach Wicca to a kid in parochial school is nonsensical at best. I attended parochial school, and biology was the class right after religion. Adam and Eve at 1, Evolution at 2. And Wicca's going to be too confusing for the kid?

Posted by: Chuck S. at May 26, 2005 6:45 PM

my question is this: If you do not even believe in religion, why would you send your child to a religious school? Especially a catholic one? Your child is bound to be confused, either by your religion or theirs. "Ok, Jr. We don't believe in God, but we are going to send you to a school that talks about Him every day." I think THAT is insanity.

Posted by: at May 27, 2005 8:34 AM

I dunno. Why would you post to a website without following the comment guidelines? (I ask that posters include an email address, even though it is not dipslayed on the site.)

So many unanswered questions in life!

But I'm particularly intrigued by your comment:

If you do not even believe in religion, why would you send your child to a religious school? Especially a catholic one?

First off, I think you meant "Catholic" and not "catholic." Secondly, and more importantly, why do you say especially a Catholic one? Is there something particular about Catholicism that you believe, which you're not mentioning?

In any case, if you can't imagine a reason someone would send their child to parochial school, maybe your imaginer is broken. Perhaps the public schools are particularly bad in that area? Perhaps the parents want the child to learn about different religions to become an informed person. And that's just off the top of my head. But, then again, I have a well-maintained and working imaginer.

Another nit in your post: atheists usually don't capitolize "Him."

Posted by: James at May 27, 2005 8:55 AM

Children go to school for an education. Sometimes the Catholic school offers better academic programs than the public school.

My parents (Catholic) sent me to a Catholic school. As a result, I became an atheist. I wasn't confused at all.

Posted by: Julie at May 27, 2005 8:56 AM

Oh wow. You're harsh. I was just posting my opinion like everyone else. I am not an atheist, that's why I capitalized HIM. I do not have a broken "imaginer" I just was wondering, that's all. If I wanted my child to learn about other religions I would teach them myself, not subject them to an 8 hour daily dose of that religion and all that it entails. Why is it that when people oppose the general opinion they get attacked? I thought your blog was cool until today.

Posted by: Princess Carmen at May 27, 2005 10:36 AM

You should expect your opinion (whether it is "general" or not) to be challenged if you don't know what you're talking about.

For example, what is this "eight hour daily dose of religion" ("and all that it entails," whatever that means)? Have you ever been to a Catholic school? I went to several. The school day was 6 hours long, same as any other school. One period per day (not necessarily every day) was spent on religion. The rest of the day was spent on math, history, science, reading, etc. It's not Catholic Math and Catholic History and Catholic Science, it's the same math, history, and science everyone else gets.

Perhaps you think that students at Catholic schools are immersed in a briny religious solution all day long in hopes that something will be absorbed. That is not the case. Children who are not Catholic and whose parents do not want them to attend religion class or occasional scheduled religious activities (we had Mass once a month) are excused from the religious stuff and take a study period in the library or somewhere else.

Posted by: Julie at May 27, 2005 11:02 AM

I also attended a Catholic school because the public schools in my town were atrocious, and the other option was an all-girl's school or boarding school, and I wanted neither. We also had study periods rather than mass, but I did attend religion class.

I pity the child whose parents are so afraid of other ideas that they feel they must teach them at home. Let the kid make up his or her own mind.

Finally, if a blog isn't "cool" because people disagree with you, it's you who isn't cool. Grow up.

Posted by: Maggie at May 27, 2005 11:25 AM

You said in your first post that sending your child to a parochial school if you don't follow that religion is insanity. People here have already said that they were not religious and yet they attended Catholic school.

When you saw fit to call their behavior (and their parents behavior) "insanity," I thought that was the level on which you wanted to have a conversation. If you didn't want that sort of a conversation why did you "go there?"

Do you want to express your harsh opinion without facing criticism? Do you prefer not to have your opinion challenged, even when you're calling people insane? That's not the way it works.

How do you expect people to react when you label a segment of the population "insane?" This is your chance to enlighten me.

You are not being criticised for disagreeing, you are being criticised for the quality of the ideas you are expressing and the way you chose to express them. And that's all.

Here's what would be cool: if you have now learned that there are reasons that a non-Catholic person would want to attend a Catholic school, reasons that you couldn't imagine before. It would be cool if you have learned that these people are not insane. And it would be cool if you said so.

Barring that, since this is a discussion, it would be cool if, instead of acting defensive that your insults were poorly received, you actually backed up your claim that these people are insane (or even wrong). I assure you, we would all prefer to hear you back up your argument rather than punish me by telling me that my blog isn't cool.

Believe me when I tell you, you have helped to set the tone of this discussion. Now, be cool and maybe we can make something useful out of this mess, rather than leaving in a huff.

Posted by: James at May 27, 2005 12:26 PM

I have to disagree that judges are our last defense against the plundering of our civil liberties. If you believe that, we've already lost. Because *we* are our last defense, but so few things are actually won with people power today that folks don't even know how to begin to defend their freedom, nevermind fight for something better.

As far as the courts go, they have pretty much sucked historically. They generally trail far behind the people and even less undemocratic institutions like congress in defending our rights.

See: for a quick overview on that.

Posted by: David Grenier at May 27, 2005 12:27 PM

I should have been more clear - I meant that they are our last defense in this government. Thanks for pointing that out.

Posted by: James at May 27, 2005 12:29 PM

Sorry to post again, it's just this idea of child confusion that bothers me. I get the impression that the judge in this case believes children are capable of absorbing only information that is presented as absolutes.

I am careful not to present information to my own children in this way. I'm always surprised when I hear parents tell their children something as if it were the only answer. My ears perk up and I'm a little fascinated to hear what they have to say. I always wonder how they can be so sure!

I was never taught that way. I don't think children are taught that way in public school any more, at least not from what I've seen of my childrens' education. When a teacher does present something that way, they usually come home and tell me. I can tell they're looking to see if I challenge it, because they are automatically a little suspicious. That's the way children, and all people, should be. Suspicious of anything that is presented as an absolute.

I imagine that this child is not confused at all. Children are willing to accept quite a lot, such as "this is what my grandmother believes, but it is not what my parents believe, and neither is exactly what I believe."

People do not give children enough credit.

Posted by: Maggie at May 27, 2005 12:41 PM
my question is this: If you do not even believe in religion, why would you send your child to a religious school? Especially a catholic one?

For any number of reasons. Parochial schools are privately funded and as a result tend to have access to better materials and pay teachers a better wage. I am a Humanist Atheist, and I am very glad I went to Catholic High School, it allowed me to learn about Catholic and Christian doctrine first hand (which is good to know, even if you are not a Catholic or a Christian), and I feel I got a very good education there.

Why do you say "especially a Catholic one"? What's the diff? Would a Muslim private school for the child of atheists be a 'better' choice somehow? What about a Baptist private school?

Your child is bound to be confused, either by your religion or theirs.

Oh fiddle-faddle. Kids aren't that stupid. My daughter is EIGHT years old. She is able to accurately describe her parent's beliefs (atheistic) and the beliefs of her cousins and other relatives (christian). She's not confused at all.

I tell her what I believe and tell her she has her whole life to decide what she believes. While she lives in my house she'll be raised as an atheist. When she gets out into the world, and is old enough to start making those decisions for herself, she can look into nearly any religion she wants.

Heck when I went to parochial school, one of the courses I took was called "Religions of the World". It was a social studies course where I learned about Islam, Judaism, and various and sundry different religions, another one each week. Do you think this confused me? I don't.

Surely you recognize that the road to tolerance begins with understanding. If I don't attempt to learn anything about the groups to which I do not belong, I am more likely to think of them as "those wackos". Exposure to different ideas and cultures is a *good* thing, not a bad thing.

"Ok, Jr. We don't believe in God, but we are going to send you to a school that talks about Him every day." I think THAT is insanity.

Ouch! So if I send my child to a religious school because I believe the education will be better there even though I am an atheist, that makes me insane? That's a very unkind thing to say. I find this remark insulting.

Listen, when I went to catholic highschool back in the 1980's, many of the students were not Catholic. Some of them weren't Christians. While there they were required to learn Catholic doctrine, but there was no attempt to convert them. I respected that, and I imagine they did too. I don't think they were debilitated by being presented with different ideas.

Give us a little more credit, please.

If I wanted my child to learn about other religions I would teach them myself, not subject them to an 8 hour daily dose of that religion and all that it entails.

I think you're confusing parochial school (and apparently Catholic school particularly) with seminary school.

95% of my Catholic School education was nonreligious. There was a morning prayer which I was not required to say, occasional masses on holy days which I was not required to participate in other than being present, and 1 period a day spent on religion. The rest was all biology, history, english, math, whatever, and these courses were not taught with a "Catholic" spin. "Jesus" didn't show up in my history course. My religion teacher had a lot to say about abortion. My biology teacher said something VERY different.

As I said earlier, I had "Adam and Eve" at 1 PM and "Evolution" at 2 PM. I was able to handle the dichotomy in viewpoints and I think most children can too.

I take it you think otherwise and I'm curious as to why that is?

Posted by: Chuck S. at May 27, 2005 2:12 PM

I have no idea whether Carmen will come back and post again, but I wanted to mention that she and I have had amicable, off-blog communications regarding this thread and she doesn't actually think anyone here is insane.

If she does return maybe you less hotheaded people than myself can discuss the specifics of giving children more than one point of view to chew on.

Posted by: James at May 27, 2005 5:44 PM

my question is this: If you do not even believe in religion, why would you send your child to a religious school? Especially a catholic one? Your child is bound to be confused, either by your religion or theirs. "Ok, Jr. We don't believe in God, but we are going to send you to a school that talks about Him every day." I think THAT is insanity.
#5 Posted by: at May 27, 2005 08:34 AM

I feel the need to comment on this if I may. I was raised a basic christian, though my parents & thier families were all raised & still believe in catholosism. I was first sent to public schools, but where I was, the schools were so below-standard I was taken out & sent to various private schools because, despite thier religious teachings, they also had higher standards for NON-religious teachings (for example math, history, writing, etc).

I personally, despite my upbringing, never really felt comfortable with christianity or the way I whitnessed other "christians" acting, both towards each other & non-christians. My parents allowed me full relious freedom as long as it was not illegal or harmful to myself or others, & for that I thank them. I was never confused by the differences in my school's & parents' opinions.

I have noticed more & more how christianity is the basis of this country, & trying to remove it, despite the said freedom of religion & seperation of church & state, is like trying to remove a tree by plucking leaves, one at a time. That's not to say nothing should be done, but picking off a few people here & there does not do much, the tree is still there, roots still firmly planted in the ground.
This case, & the judge's words especially disgust me. I am not a wiccan, but I am of a similar belief system that is hardly mainstream, & if I should ever have a child & I'm forbidden to expose him to my beliefs because they are different, I would be highly upset, just as the Jonses' are. Please forgive me if I misspelled that.
Too many people in power have been abusing that power, & it's very difficult if you are not some branch of christianity. Even those fight amongst themselves. Is there no tolorance for others?

Posted by: Melody at May 27, 2005 8:47 PM

Dear readers of this blog:

Sometimes I open my mouth and my foot gets lodged in there all the way up to my knee. Then I get mad when people tell me "hey, your foot is in your mouth choking you". I apologize for my rude comments and only hope that you will forgive me.



Posted by: Princess Carmen at May 27, 2005 9:00 PM

Something else to keep in mind regarding this story:


It is quite possible for a person to follow a syncretistic religion -- a faith involving elements from two or more religions.

Posted by: James at May 27, 2005 10:16 PM

Hey, Carmen. Sorry about the "grow up" comment. I spent my day in a hurry and I shouldn't post in a hurry! I'm the queen of odor-eater-breath myself. ;-)


Posted by: Maggie at May 27, 2005 10:19 PM
I apologize for my rude comments and only hope that you will forgive me.
Oh that's okay... we *are* a feisty bunch. In casual conversation it's usually better to give the benefit of the doubt, but it's easy to forget to do so when you're riled. ;-)

Thanks for coming back, though. I love Aces Full, it's got a lot to offer, I hope you stick around.

Posted by: Chuck S. at May 27, 2005 10:56 PM

I've got tooth marks all over my legs for the same reason. Stuff that would never be a big deal in a face-to-face talk can mushroom and grow out of proportion when it's in writing!

Posted by: Julie at May 28, 2005 12:10 PM

Yeah, Carmen. Don't leave just cuz some of us threw a hissy. :) In general, people here pounce upon harshness with harsher hashness, even when the original harshness was uninitentional. This medium makes it hard to tell when someone is being really harsh versus colloquially harsh.

Posted by: briwei at May 28, 2005 3:50 PM

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