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Author Topic: "Discipling the Kids"  (Read 2271 times)

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Offline DarklingAlice

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #25 on: March 22, 2012, 06:41:24 AM »
I think that whether the use of the building constitutes government support of religion hinges around whether a religious group using the facilities is treated differently than any other group. I am currently not sure we have that data on hand, and am uncomfortably making a blind assumption here.

There are certain clear cut cases of bias: allowing the religious group to use it for free when they charge secular groups, allowing a religious group of one faith but not another, allowing religious instruction during the school day and thus on government time, etc. that, to me, would invalidate the school's necessary claim of impartiality. But, in the absence of evidence of that, I don't think that we can say it is inherently wrong for the school to offer its facilities to this or any group.

Offline vtboy

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #26 on: March 22, 2012, 08:58:19 AM »
I think that whether the use of the building constitutes government support of religion hinges around whether a religious group using the facilities is treated differently than any other group. I am currently not sure we have that data on hand, and am uncomfortably making a blind assumption here.

There are certain clear cut cases of bias: allowing the religious group to use it for free when they charge secular groups, allowing a religious group of one faith but not another, allowing religious instruction during the school day and thus on government time, etc. that, to me, would invalidate the school's necessary claim of impartiality. But, in the absence of evidence of that, I don't think that we can say it is inherently wrong for the school to offer its facilities to this or any group.

One of the problems which flow from permitting use of public facilities by any religious group is that similar applications by less "acceptable" groups would necessarily force upon government the sort of ideologically or theologically based choices to which I alluded in my last post. Should government let everyone in, including jihadists, polygamous religious communes, and members of the Aryan Brotherhood? Should it give its blessing to some of these and not to others?

If there is some neutral decisional rule which might be applied, I fail to see it. Is not simplest and fairest course, and teh one least fraught with Constitutional baggage, to require believers to make their own way in the world without public succor?

Offline BitterSweet

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #27 on: March 22, 2012, 09:40:10 AM »
Should government let everyone in, including jihadists, polygamous religious communes, and members of the Aryan Brotherhood? Should it give its blessing to some of these and not to others?

It's relatively simple to state you don't allow groups that espouse violence, discrimination or hatred to other groups - or support illegal activities, which would mean all your examples above would not be allowed to meet.  So, a muslim group could meet but not one that advocates voilence, a mormon group could meet but not one that advocates polyamory etc.  However, it also means that 'socially acceptable' groups like the Boy Scouts, several Christian religious groups could not meet as the Boy Scouts discriminate against gay men, many evangelical religious groups also do and so on.  I the cases I've seen, rather than admit that the Boy Scouts etc advocate bigotry, they just ban all groups so they don't have to pick and chose against popular organizations.

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Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #28 on: March 22, 2012, 09:53:09 AM »
a mormon group could meet but not one that advocates polyamory etc. 

OT - Polyamory and polygamy (especially FLDS polygamy) are not the same thing.


Offline vtboy

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #29 on: March 22, 2012, 12:22:21 PM »
Should government let everyone in, including jihadists, polygamous religious communes, and members of the Aryan Brotherhood? Should it give its blessing to some of these and not to others?

It's relatively simple to state you don't allow groups that espouse violence, discrimination or hatred to other groups - or support illegal activities, which would mean all your examples above would not be allowed to meet.  So, a muslim group could meet but not one that advocates voilence, a mormon group could meet but not one that advocates polyamory etc.  However, it also means that 'socially acceptable' groups like the Boy Scouts, several Christian religious groups could not meet as the Boy Scouts discriminate against gay men, many evangelical religious groups also do and so on.  I the cases I've seen, rather than admit that the Boy Scouts etc advocate bigotry, they just ban all groups so they don't have to pick and chose against popular organizations.

Perhaps not so simple. Discriminating among religious groups on the "acceptability" of what they advocate gets us very quickly into deep Constitutional quicksand. Here the operative principles are found in the Constitution's guarantees of freedom of speech and equal protection of law, as well as in the Establishment Clause.

One thing forbidden the government under First Amendment jurisprudence in almost all contexts is the making of content-based distinctions between speech it will allow and speech it won't allow under similar circumstances. Thus, once school premises are opened to the Sunday school teacher peddling seemingly innocuous Bible stories, what lawful basis can there be for denying access, for example, to clerics or religious teachers who would call for holy war, ethnic cleansing, or punishment of homosexuals and abortionists (assuming, of course, they are only preaching and not conspiring)?

Even less extreme ideologies would pose problems. For example, should town elders be permitted to open school doors to churches that embrace homosexuals, but close them to congregations that would "cure" gays with prayer? May they favor churches that permit contraception over those those that don't? Should they be permitted to extend privileges to clerics who preach for  good stewardship of the earth, but deny the same privileges to those who urge that environmental regulation is the work of the devil?

I imagine most people have fairly strong views about which of these churches they would allow into the school and which they would not. Unfortunately, though, freedom of speech is a little like Einstein's Theory of Relativity -- there is no favored position in its universe.   

I am generally hesitant to offer slippery slope arguments, but when it comes to speech/religion/equal protection issues, I think the concern is real -- all the more reason for a tall and unyielding wall between what is Caesar's and what is God's.   
« Last Edit: March 22, 2012, 01:25:59 PM by vtboy »

Offline Caela

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #30 on: March 22, 2012, 04:33:48 PM »
Just my 0.02$ worth but why is any adult-run religious organization being allowed space in a public school? As I mentioned before, once the students themselves are old enough to be running their own organizations I have no problems. We had more than one in my High School and there were students who found them beneficial, particularly if they didn't share their parents faith. It gave them a means to touch base with other peers who believed the same things they did, giving them support that they might not have gotten otherwise. BUT these were student run organizations not adults coming in talking to little kids. These were teens old enough to make their own choices, not being sent to listen to something they aren't yet old enough to decide if they believe or not.

In an elementary school, I'd rather see such time and space used for things like a low cost daycare so kids don't have to go home to empty houses when their parents are working, tutoring sessions, extra-curricular sports programs etc than religious teaching of any sort. At that age, leave the religion (or lack thereof if that's the choice) to the parents to teach.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #31 on: March 22, 2012, 09:50:03 PM »
One of the problems which flow from permitting use of public facilities by any religious group is that similar applications by less "acceptable" groups would necessarily force upon government the sort of ideologically or theologically based choices to which I alluded in my last post. Should government let everyone in, including jihadists, polygamous religious communes, and members of the Aryan Brotherhood? Should it give its blessing to some of these and not to others?

Yes. If they are all paying customers and as long as they are held to reasonable standards of conduct that are uniformly applied to all tenants. Hell, I'm okay with holding a support and therapy group for registered sex offenders after hours at a public elementary school as long as they are held to reasonable standards of conduct that are uniformly applied to all tenants (not that any of these examples are necessarily a good idea <_< just that it is not inherently a violation).

One of the things you seem to be conflating is the idea of "letting them use space" and "giving blessing/endorsing". I went to a private, evangelical, Christian highschool that rented classroom space at a Masorti Jewish Synagogue. From Monday-Friday we used the facilities that they used for Hebrew School because no one was using them during weekdays and they thought the idea of leaving them stand empty was a waste. Does this mean that they were all secretly Christians? Space is just space and real estate isn't a magic blessing. It's like how school zone laws only apply on school days and based around school hours. The legal status changes during the designated time when the space is acting as a school.

The questions of interest to me is if either the sex offenders or the religious organizations are deliberately choosing to use governmental space with an eye towards breaking those reasonable standards of conduct and exploiting the location or if the religious organizations are receiving preferential treatment. Either of which would break the social contract I just outlined.

Offline vtboy

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #32 on: March 23, 2012, 03:40:03 AM »
Yes. If they are all paying customers and as long as they are held to reasonable standards of conduct that are uniformly applied to all tenants. Hell, I'm okay with holding a support and therapy group for registered sex offenders after hours at a public elementary school as long as they are held to reasonable standards of conduct that are uniformly applied to all tenants (not that any of these examples are necessarily a good idea <_< just that it is not inherently a violation).

One of the things you seem to be conflating is the idea of "letting them use space" and "giving blessing/endorsing". I went to a private, evangelical, Christian highschool that rented classroom space at a Masorti Jewish Synagogue. From Monday-Friday we used the facilities that they used for Hebrew School because no one was using them during weekdays and they thought the idea of leaving them stand empty was a waste. Does this mean that they were all secretly Christians? Space is just space and real estate isn't a magic blessing. It's like how school zone laws only apply on school days and based around school hours. The legal status changes during the designated time when the space is acting as a school.

The questions of interest to me is if either the sex offenders or the religious organizations are deliberately choosing to use governmental space with an eye towards breaking those reasonable standards of conduct and exploiting the location or if the religious organizations are receiving preferential treatment. Either of which would break the social contract I just outlined.

Well, you have certainly articulated a neutral decisional rule which, if faithfully (bad word in this context) applied, would avoid much of the mischief I have mentioned. The question for me is, would it be so applied? In a nation in which large portions of the citizenry believe the federal government was founded on "Christian principles" (notwithstanding the Establishment clause), crusade to return prayer to the schools, and militate for the inclusion of creationism in the science curriculum, I suspect that both absolute neutrality and true separation of a school's public functions from after-hours religious use will be honored most frequently in their breach.

The news article about the Passadena school district with which this thread began is illustrative. There, school authorities permitted an evangelical group to put up a banner on school property advertising its "discipling" program. Fliers for the program were distributed during school hours, either  by or with the cooperation of school personnel. The school apparently even provided parental permission slips. The program's instructor was one of the school's teachers, presumably an authority figure to the kids. The program was targeted at the captive market of children who attended the school, an especially vulnerable group, as noted by the quoted parent, when it comes to making fine distinctions between what is school-sponsored and what is not.

It may be that there are serious, thoughtful, and informed school boards in some communities (in my experience, a rarity) capable of applying the rule you urge without giving frank offense to one or another Constitutional principle or even creating an impression of state endorsement. But, the Passadena approach certainly falls far short of that ideal, and I fear that it, or something very much like it, will prove the modus operandi in many school districts. I am only strengthened in this conviction by the not unreasonable assumption that advocates for discipling children and similar programs -- the same people who rue the day school prayer was banned by the Supreme Court -- are indeed seeking state sponsorship of their beliefs.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 03:51:22 AM by vtboy »

Offline DeMalachine

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #33 on: March 23, 2012, 05:08:30 PM »
Well, you have certainly articulated a neutral decisional rule which, if faithfully (bad word in this context) applied, would avoid much of the mischief I have mentioned. The question for me is, would it be so applied? In a nation in which large portions of the citizenry believe the federal government was founded on "Christian principles" (notwithstanding the Establishment clause), crusade to return prayer to the schools, and militate for the inclusion of creationism in the science curriculum, I suspect that both absolute neutrality and true separation of a school's public functions from after-hours religious use will be honored most frequently in their breach.

(my bolding)

You know, this leads me to wonder if there might be an agenda outside simply using the school space because it might be accessible. If this is the kind of Christian group which holds considerable antipathy towards such things as the age of the earth and evolution, might they not feel that a message along the lines of 'the earth is 6000 years old and there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark' would be more easily impressed upon a child who may think that because he or she learned it in school (never mind that it might be outside learning hours - I'm sure it must still seem enough like schooltime to a kid) then it must be true?

Downright sinister, if that is indeed the case.

Offline DariusTopic starter

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #34 on: March 23, 2012, 11:35:06 PM »
Downright sinister, if that is indeed the case.

Here is a LInk  that talks a bit about one parent's experience with the Good News Club. I personally see this as a way to 'win the hearts and minds' of impressionable kids. Parents need to be aware of what is going on at their kids' schools, but it sounds like this group does not play by those rules, and uses the threat of litigation as part of their arsenal to get their agenda out in front of the kids.

I still think no good can come from this being available in schools.

Offline DariusTopic starter

Re: "Discipling the Kids"
« Reply #35 on: March 24, 2012, 12:18:56 AM »
I’m not going to take the time to lay out all of Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. But a brief synopsis is that most people go through 4 stages:

1.  How do I avoid punishment? Or “I do good because I might get punished for doing bad.”
2.  What’s in it for me? Or, “I do good because I will be rewarded.”
3. What does society expect of me?  Or, “I do good because I fit in that way.”
4. What does the Law expect of me? Or, “ I do good because it is the best way to keep a functioning Society.

Why this idea of “Discipling” kids strikes me as very ominous, is that it takes advantage of the stage of moral reasoning that kids are in. The punishment is derived from God's word. When someone becomes a lesson leader for these groups they sign a pledge to adhere to the group’s lesson plans.

This group keeps their lesson plans secretive, and in several recorded cases has refused to allow parents to see them. In other accounts, when parents have started to ask questions, they are no longer allowed into the classrooms. Granted I only have empirical evidence of these claims. But they are repeated from several parts of the country in different local news papers. They do teach kids to recruit other kids. They give them interesting toys and direct them to play with those items where other kids can see them and ask questions, and they are told to encourage those kids to join up so they can have the toys. In several cases, teachers are handing out fliers to children and encouraging them to join. They advertise in school announcements. These things give every appearance to a child that they are approved of by the school.

There are parents who have joined up solely to gain access to the training materials. Some of the lessons being taught are that:
1.   No matter how much good the kids do, they will always be dirty in the eyes of god.
2.   They deserve ‘infinite punishment’.
3.   They deserve death and punishment in hell unless they accept their version of the savior.
4.   They teach total obedience to the scripture.

It appears that they are using every tool available to recruit kids in what they call the 4/14 window, because they know that habits ingrained in children throughout that age are more likely to stick with them throughout their lfe.

Right-wing-crazies like to talk about a “New World Order”, this group holds classroom meetings in 3400 schools in America. They open new groups every week in schools in communities here. This is a recruitment tool for them, and there is something in the back of my brain that just screams that this is sinister, and needs opposition. I a not a parent, and I never will be. I am an uncle to seven kids, and those kids are precious to me. I worry about their futures, and the idea that fundamentalists are trying to create a theocracy by instilling their beliefs in those kids while they are at those early stages of development, the idea that this group is using fear and marketing persuasion techniques on these kids, is troubling beyond what I have words to express.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 12:23:25 AM by Darius »