Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Comprimise?! I think not!

Well, it looks like the BS of caving to 'religious privilege' has made it to my neck of the woods... There is a place called Antietam Recreation, that Washington County public schools takes students to for field trips. While the outdoor activities and such are nice, there's a huge problem that the company is rather secretive about on the field trip activity forms. The form reads as such:
SCHEDULE
9:15-9:30am: Arrival
9:30-11:20am: Open Activities/pool is open(boys only)
11:20-11:40am: Lunch: All other activities closed; a show will be presented
11:40-1:30pm: Open Activities/pool is open(girls only)
 1:30pm: Prepare for departure

Open activities include swimming, boat slide, cable ride, carousel swing ride, dunking booth, horse rides, canoeing, kayaking, moon bounce, burma bridge, barge, giant rope swing, petting zoo, tennis, badminton, volleyball, basketball, game room and snack shop.
That actually sounds like pretty good fun, but I've emboldened the important bit of the itinerary. The
'show' presented at lunch is where we find the problem, as it was nothing short of a proselytizing session all about God and Jesus. For a public school field trip, this is quite inexcusable! Once this news came out, the school board initially made the correct call, and stated that they would no longer be taking students there unless they changed their program for the 20 minute lunch portion. So the Constitution is upheld, great news, end of story right? Well...

Supposedly both sides have reached a compromise that would green-light Antietam Recreation for Washington County public school field trips. So what was this 'compromise'? Here you go...
They have reached the compromise that if students feel uncomfortable with the spiritual message, then they can go outside to the petting zoo or go horseback riding instead.
 Really?!? That is not a compromise at all! So let me get this straight... if anyone is 'uncomfortable' with being proselytized to during lunch, they have to option to forgo lunch? Oh how kind of them. Even removing the lunch issue, we have to realize that allowing children to leave during the show isn't really as much of an easy option as it's presented. There's also the issue of peer pressure. Any child leaving because of the proselytizing is almost asking to be picked on/proselytized to by the most deeply religious students and possibly teachers. But even after all that, the unconstitutionality of it all really is the biggest issue of all.

That fact was missing on those that were complaining about the initial canceling of the field trips. Many felt that the trips were called off because some were offended by the message. That was not the case. I couldn't care less if anyone was offended. I don't personally agree with the message Antietam Recreation was presenting during lunch, and agree that the trips shouldn't be canceled just due to offense. I do agree with the trips being canceled due to them being illegal though.

Others are claiming that calls to cancel the trips are examples of 'liberal intolerance', or 'Christian discrimination'. Again, they are quite wrong. If the camp was presenting a Muslim message, I have no doubts that Christians would be up in arms. Yet they somehow don't see that they are doing exactly what they would be upset about a different religion for doing. However, our reasoning is far different than the Christian's 'reasoning' would be. They would be against a Muslim message because it is Muslim, and/or because it's different from what they believe. That is actually intolerance/discrimination. But when I call for the ceasing of field trips to this place due to the message they're presenting, it's not because it's Christian. I'd feel the same if it was a Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Mormon  message. And that's not because of intolerance, but because of the Constitutional legality of the matter.

Mary Rotz (who's family founded Antietam Recreation) is just as clueless. She's was quoted as saying that, "We want to encourage that message: God is important and it's what our country was founded upon, it's our heritage". Incorrect! The United States was not founded on Christianity. Just take a look at the Treaty of Tripoli, which was drafted under the end of the presidency of George Washington and signed by president John Adams. It reads:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion...
 That's pretty clear that the United States was not founded upon Christianity. Furthermore, the First Amendment of the US Constitution says: 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
That really is the root of the issue. Thomas Jefferson's famous wall of separation between church and state.The First Amendment's establishment clause is the one being tested here. Here we have a public school using it's funding to take children to a place that is knowingly proselytizing in favor of Christianity. This makes it a government recognition of Christianity over other faiths (and lack thereof). If a publicly funded school is using it's funds to take students to Antietam Recreation, it makes no difference whether they have the option to not take part if they want. The fact is that they are still distributing the message to a (captive) audience of students during their lunch, whilst receiving public funding to do just that, makes field trips to Antietam Recreation a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Considering the facts and the law, the supposed comprise is no compromise at all, and does nothing to solve the problem that is Antietam Recreation. Should they omit their religious show from the schedule, the problem would be solved. However, they choose to act like they are above the law. Sadly, Washington County public schools looks set to let them get away with it. I really hope I'm wrong, and that the Constitution will be vindicated one way or another.

-Brain Hulk

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