Thursday, January 12, 2012

One Final Post--First Amendment!!

Well, we're getting closer and closer to the end of the semester (sniff...!), but first (no pun intended!) we're gonna tackle one more tricky topic, the First Amendment--specifically the Establishment Clause and the issue of "church & state" and how--as Mr. Mueller told you all last week--that issue gets even trickier when dealing with the setting of a public school.

You read an excerpt from "The Nine" that described some cases from the 1990s and early 2000s dealing with 'religion in the public square' and we discussed those in class earlier this week, but for these blog comments we're going to look at some much more recent instances of controversy arising around religion in schools--is it about Government Establishment of Religion or is it about Free Speech?

Click Here for a New York Times article that describes many recent cases in which students, teachers, or administrators have been criticized for to some degree bringing religious activities into the public school setting. In some cases they wound up being punished for it; in others they simply stopped doing whatever they were doing and as a result faced no tangible consequence.  After reading the article, consider the following questions:
  • Of all the situations described in the article, which one did you find the MOST troubling? Or put another way, which one struck you as the most obviously unconstitutional? Why?
  • Of all the situations described in the article, which one did you find the LEAST troubling (which would you consider the 'safest' in terms of its constitutionality)? Why?
  • What were some similarities or connections you noticed between any of the situations described in the article and any of the discussions we've had in class, either with me or from the day Mr. Mueller was there?
In addition to reading that article, I'd also like you to watch a few short video clips before posting your comments.  First, Click Here to watch a segment from Fox News about a Texas elementary school in which students were prohibited from passing out candy canes at a holiday party because there were notes attached to the candy canes that had religious messages on them.
  • I realize you don't have all the background or context and you're basing it just on having watched this short video, but what was your take on this situation? Do you think the school did the right thing?
  • Which of the two guests on the show did you think made the stronger argument? Why?
The last story deals with something that happened--also in Texas--just last year. The valedictorian at a high school near San Antonio wanted to include a short prayer in her graduation speech and say "Amen" at the end. The family of an agnostic student objected and filed suit to prevent her from including this religious content in her speech. At first a judge ruled in favor of the agnostic student, but on the day of the graduation the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and ruled in favor of the valedictorian, so she was able to give the speech she wanted to. Click Here to watch a short CNN interview with the agnostic student who objected as well as his mother, and Click Here to watch a short interview with the valedictorian and her lawyer.
  • What was your take on this situation?  Did you find yourself agreeing more with Ms. Hildenbrand (the valedictorian) or with the Schultz family (who filed the original suit)? Why?
  • If the Class of 2012 valedictorian at CHS wanted to include a prayer in his/her speech this June at your graduation, would you have a problem with it? Why/why not?
Remember, TWO comments per student. The first one is for you to answer all the bullet point questions above about the NY Times article and the videos, and the second comment is for you to agree/disagree with something one of your classmates has posted.  As long as your comments are posted by the end of the day on which you take your final (Tuesday for 1st period, Wednesday for 4th), you're good.  Thanks for a FANTASTIC semester, I can't wait to read your comments, and I hope you stay interested in these issues and all things relating to government and politics long after you finish our class!

Silvy :)