Monday, July 23, 2007


Paying the Price for Freedom

Peter Irons, an expert in the Establishment clause and author of God on Trial: Dispatches from America's Religious Battlefields, recently had an interesting (to say the least) exchange with David DeWolf, John West and the peripatetic Casey Luskin of the Discovery institute in and out of the pages of the Montana Law Review. He now has an article in the less rarefied confines of USA Today.

While Irons mentions the present confused state of Establishment clause jurisprudence and the uncertainty for its future under the Roberts Court, the real focus is on the price people pay when they legally challenge expressions of locally dominant religious traditions. The most striking case:

Debbie Mason had long been active as a volunteer in the school attended by three of her daughters in Santa Fe, Texas. But she quickly became an outsider after she challenged the football game prayers in the town's high school stadium. Debbie endured ostracism, even threats of drive-by shootings. One of her daughters, Jenni, left church in tears one Sunday morning after a school board member denounced her family from the pulpit.
Prayers and threats of drive-by shootings would seem to be incongruous notions but not, apparently, to some believers.

"It's easy to be a majority," Debbie said. "It is so hard to be a minority — one person, or two or three people who speak out and say, 'Wait a minute, there's something wrong here.' Don't you sit there and tell me I have to be part of the majority."
Religious freedom also seems alien to some people ... or will until they discover that they too no longer have it.

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