Letter to David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times
Once again, I began reading your column in the New York Times agreeing with the stated premise urging the President to consider appointing a justice with a philosophical bent. But then, I ended, once again, objecting to your use of deceptively stated and highly oversimplified "facts" in support of your belief that somehow Christians are persecuted by our legal system's mandate for neutrality regarding religion. This argument simply does not hold up to scrutiny, and particularly not in the examples cited. Here's why:
1. "...a public high school allowed students to write papers about reincarnation, but a student who wrote on 'The Life of Jesus Christ' was given a zero by her teacher."
The case which you cited is considerably more complex. The facts of the case are in the public record and available on the web -- the teacher cited six reasons why she refused to accept the paper, none of which had anything to do with Christianity, per se, but only the definition of this particular project. Furthermore, the judges decision was not based upon personal feelings, but upon legal precedents, specifically, Hazelwood Sch. Dist. v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988), which upheld a school official's decision to censor a story in the school newspaper about pregnancy at the school. To condense this incident to one sentence which supports your premise, is a distortion at best and a thinly disguised manipulation at worst.
2. "Around the country, Marxists could meet in public buildings, but Bible study was impermissible."
In the case of Bridge Mergens vs. The Westside Community School District, the basis of the decision was independent of the religion involved, but was explained as follows:
"What was feared was a loss of the school's ability to prevent any group from demanding 'equal access' to school facilities once the door was opened to a religious group. How does a school keep out Satanists if it allows access to a Christian prayer group? Can a ruling be fashioned to admit 'accepted' religious groups and exclude groups having unpopular beliefs?"
Note that Satanists would NOT be allowed to use the facility denied to the bible study group. Furthermore, it's important to recognize the Marxism, though an easy target, is NOT an organized religion, but rather a philosophy and a political bent. Marxists groups are not granted tax exempt status. Citing this example is like a fifteen year-old saying, "I wasn't allowed to drive the car, but you let him play his heavy metal music!" You're simply objecting that something you don't like was allowed for someone else, while something excluded by prior rules was disallowed for you. Once again, a stretching of the facts at best; unabashed demagoguery at worst.
If there is one thing people of all faiths and political persuasions should hold sacred, it is the truth. I agree that the primary prerequisite for a Supreme Court Justice should be a powerful faculty and qualification. Why can't you build your case without resorting to polemics?
-Jim Stringer / Austin, TX