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Tempest in a Teapot

February 6, 2014

Opposing Views’ recent story:

Texas Student Makes Christian T-Shirts After Atheists Forced Teacher To Remove Religious Poster

Is an example of what is generally known as a “Tempest in a Teapot.”

The facts are not in doubt– a student complained about a Christian themed poster placed by an instructor, and after being contacted about it, the school took down the offending items.  That’s not at all controversial– the Establishment Clause clearly states that a school or other government agency cannot promote a religion. If there was a controversy, it was that the posters were up in the first place, but that is mitigated by the fact that the school district, unlike some, didn’t decide to get into what was going to be a losing fight.

At that point, a student, on his own initiative, decided to print pro-Christian T-shirts to wear and give to others.

That is also not controversial. In fact, unless the shirts somehow violated a neutral standard, forbidding the student from wearing them or distributing them would itself be a violation of the Establishment Clause. Cameron Franks is a private citizen and so long as he doesn’t violate the school’s code of conduct (which again, must be administered in a religiously neutral fashion), his actions are just that– his actions, showing his faith.

In fact, this can be seen as an example of the wisdom of the Establishment Clause– it is likely that Mr. Franks’ actions were far more personally motivated than posters on walls, which more often than not simply become part of the scenery.  

It is important to note the one thing this article fails to mention– the Establishment Clause is not about preventing Christian (or for that matter, Muslim, Atheist or Pastafarian ) individuals from carrying out their beliefs. It is about preventing the state from mandating what those beliefs may be.  It does not, nor has it ever, impacted the right of an individual to advocate their belief’s on a private or public basis.

 

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