October 8, 2015

It's terribly shocking, I realize, that Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Steve Doocy are wrong about something; take a deep breath, 'stuff happens.' The topic today is how an Arkansas high school is under fire for a group prayer being led by the students, but over the field's P.A. system.

Ashdown High School in Arkansas has a problem with prayer.

It’s not that a lot of kids want to say them. That’s not an issue. That’s never been an issue. The problem is that everyone in the community seems to have no clue where to draw the line. They thought it was okay for the band director to lead the prayers. It’s not. So the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent them a letter at the behest of someone in the District (as is always the case; they don’t do these things on a whim). That seems to have stopped the band director’s involvement… but there’s still a problem:

While students can pray on their own, when they’re announcing these prayers from the loudspeakers, they’re basically speaking on behalf of the school.

This isn’t some subtle law, either. The Supreme Court of the United States said exactly this in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000). Here’s the Wikipedia summary:
It ruled that a policy permitting student-led, student-initiated prayer at high school football games violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment… The court announced its decision on June 19, holding the policy unconstitutional in a 6–3 decision.

As you would expect, this perspective was not presented at all in the Fight For Faith segment on Fox and Friends. This is a regularly recurring part of the show where they demonstrates how the United States' Christian majority is 'under attack.' The school district Superintendent, Jason Sanders, feels he's done his best to educate the staff to educate and protect them under the law, and since the prayers were led by students, he feels that he's skirted the problem and avoided any legal troubles.

Of course, Mr. Sanders left out that this precedent has already been decided fifteen years ago by the Highest Court in the Land, but, he says, FREEDOM! Freedom of speech over all other tenets of our First Amendment, because speech is always the über-most important of all of our freedoms. School officials believe they are not in clear violation of another, equally important guaranteed freedom listed in our very First Amendment, and in the Fox 'News' echo chamber, we can cast aside reality and live in the protected right-wing bubble. Cherry picking the First Amendment is the same as violating it, but don't tell these folks. They like their football with a side of Jesus, in the Bible Belt.

It was no accident that Doocy misspoke and labeled the organization who filed the complaint The Freedom From Foundation, without anyone correcting his omission of 'Religion.' Doocy did, however, correctly identify the Alliance For Defending Freedom, a Christian, Conservative legal organization that engages in defending the rights of noble Christians who violate the part of the First Amendment that they don't like. The legal aid group has stepped up and volunteered to give free representation in potential legal battles, because they know they are inevitable.

Sanders says this Friday's game will have an even bigger prayer, which Hasselbeck lauds as 'very brave.' The students and faculty are in favor of the public prayer, so of course, the atheists and people of different faiths are demonized for speaking up about a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. It's hard to believe that this School Superintendent doesn't know that he is on the wrong side of a losing argument. However, if he speaks up at Fox and Christians, he will feel vindicated, at least for the time being.

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