I wonder if I’ll find a horse head in my blog in the morning.

March 6th, 2006

I don’t like to disagree with Charlie Sykes ‚Äì AKA the “blogfather.”

(It makes me twitch.)

But I think he was a little off with his assessment of today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial about resident assistants at UW leading bible studies on the campus.

On the whole, viagra generic seek I agree with the conlusions of both Charlie and the Journal Sentinel: RAs should be able to lead bible studies on their own time.

Where I part ways with Mr. Sykes is when he lists the rights enumerated in the First Amendment and appends rights that are NOT protected:

There’s a right to free speech. There is no right not to be offended.
There is freedom of the press. There is no right not to hear or read ideas you don’t like.
There is a right to worship. There is no right not to be around people who worship.
There is a right of assembly. There is no right to feel coerced by the assembly of others.

I think Charlie gave short thrift to the the very beginning of the First Amendment where it says, buy viagra “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

It’s the one part of the amendment where a “no” right is mentioned.

I think that can be reasonably read as protecting a person’s right not to worship (and by extension a right not to be forced to be around people who are worshipping).

If the university (a government entity) had ordered its RAs to teach Christian bible groups, I think it would have been a violation of the establishment clause.

Because that was not the case, I believe there was no problem.

But I think Charlie was a little too forceful in his statement.

I’m off now to sleep with the fishes.

Entry Filed under: Philosophy,Politics

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jenna  |  March 6th, 2006 at 10:01 pm

    Whoa! Are you kidding me? You honestly believe that someone has a right to tell everyone around him or her not to worship? C’mon. These RAs were not forcing students to participate in Bible studies. It is not part of their first amendment rights to prevent everyone else from worshiping around them.

    Give me one example when someone was “forced” to be around other people worshiping.

  • 2. Administrator  |  March 6th, 2006 at 10:22 pm

    I tthink you’re misunderstanding me, Jenna. I didn’t say anyone has a right to tell anyone else not to worship.

    I also said I had no problem with what those RAs were doing.

    My issue is that I think Charlie was overstating his case when he said “there is no right not to be around people who worship.”

    Imagine that an RA called a mandatory floor meeting and then used a portion of the meeting to pray. Even if he excused people at the meeting from praying with him, I suspect the courts would consider behavior like that a violation of the establishment clause. In other words, even though they weren’t be being FORCED to worship, being forced to be surrounded by worshippers would almost certainly breach the establishment threshold.

    Is that clearer? Or still problematic?

  • 3. Jenna  |  March 7th, 2006 at 12:02 am

    If a RA would call a meeting, and then say that a portion of the meeting was NOT mandatory and would be set aside for prayer, and all those who were uncomfortable or did not wish to particpate can leave, and they did so, that is absolutely NOT a breach of the establishment clause.

    I’m sorry, but your (or someone’s) right not to worship does NOT override my right TO worship. Ever.

    This does not happen, but if an RA would FORCE dorm dweller to attend prayer sessions or Bible studies, that would be problematic.

  • 4. steveegg  |  March 7th, 2006 at 7:45 am

    Where would you like this Clydesdale head? :-)

    You and just about everybody else are looking at the wrong Constitution; the federal 1st Amendment is properly applied only to Congress (and by extension of other portions of the Constitution, to the rest of federal government). What you want to look at is the Wisconsin Constitution, specifically Section 18 –

    The right of every person to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any person be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, without consent; nor shall any control of, or interference with, the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship; nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious societies, or religious or theological seminaries.

    There is no limitation to a particular branch of government, or indeed, governent at all with respect to the right to worship or not worship. Indeed, the right to worship is mentioned prior to the right to not be compelled to worship.

    Since worship is an active, rather than a passive, activity, merely being around a bunch of worshippers does not fall into “coercion”, at least to my non-legally-trained mind.

  • 5. Administrator  |  March 7th, 2006 at 10:08 am

    First to Jenna…

    I think you’re overreacting. (Possibly because you know I’m an agnostic, so you suspect hostility towards religion.)

    I agree with everything you said.

    If there was a mandatory meeting, but you were excused from being present during the actual worship portions, that would certainly pass muster.

    But, like you said, “if an RA would FORCE a dorm dweller to attend prayer sessions or Bible studies, that would be problematic.”

    That was EXACTLY my original point. According to Charlie’s statement that “There is no right not to be around people who worship,” there would be nothing wrong with that situation. But I think the establishment clause would clearly prohibit that behavior. And that would look an awful lot like a right not to be around people who worship to me.

    And again, NOTHING I said ever stated (or I think implied) that anyone should or could be stopped from worshipping.

    My disagreement with Charlie (and maybe you) is that I think there is a “right” NOT to worship (and by extension not to be surrounded by worshippers) that is protected by the establishment clause.

    (And I don’t mean that we should stop saying Merry Christmas. Or take “In God We Trust” off the money. The mere presence of a religion is not a violation of the establishment clause.

    I’m not a closet member of the ACLU.)

    But I agree with the paper’s thinking (if not their exact language) that a coercive religious environment created by public employees at a public institution would be in violation of the First Amendment.

    I would guess that my definition of “coercion” would have a much higher threshold then they would use (to me it would have to be mandatory), but I agree with the principal that the First Amendment protects people from having other people’s religion forced upon them.)

    Are we all clear now?

    Believers worshipping=good.

    Non-believers free not to worship=good.

    Neither being a pain in the ass to the other=very good.

  • 6. Administrator  |  March 7th, 2006 at 10:15 am


    I think you actually made my point.

    What does “nor shall any person be compelled to attend” mean if it’s not a right not to be forced to be among worshippers?

    It doesn’t say “not compelled to actually worship.” It says “not to attend.”

  • 7. steveegg  |  March 7th, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    It also says “compelled”. Merely offering the opportunity to worship does not qualify as such, even if a RA were making the offer and even if the RA were leading said worship.

  • 8. Administrator  |  March 7th, 2006 at 8:16 pm


    And that’s why I have no problem with what the RA was actually doing.

    My point was always a theoretical one.

  • 9. From Where I Sit » &hellip  |  March 7th, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    […] The seperation of Church and State. […]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.