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Friday, August 15, 2008

Fighting for Freedom from Reality

In a ruling certain not to rock the legal and educational worlds, a federal court in Los Angeles ruled yesterday that you can't force universities to pretend that BS is true. In terms of common sense, the ruling -- Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns et al -- wasn't much of a stumper. But there are people who think you get to choose what's true for you -- as if the universe were a series of multiple choice questions with no wrong answers -- and those people aren't pleased.

The perpetually panic-stricken WorldNetDaily kicks things off by completely misrepresenting just about every fact in the case:

Arguments were heard today in a federal district court case to determine whether a state university system can dictate that private Christian schools in the state teach their college prep courses from exclusively secular, Bible- and God-free textbooks.

As WND reported earlier, the University of California system adopted a policy last year that basic science, history, and literature textbooks by major Christian book publishers wouldn't qualify for core admissions requirements because of the inclusion of Christian perspectives.

Robert Tyler, who is representing Calvary Chapel Christian School and five students in the case against the University of California, told WND that the university's discriminatory policy creates an ultimatum for Christian schools. "If you want courses to be approved in private education, so your students are qualified to attend (UC) institutions, you must teach from a secular point of view," he said.

This is typical of the strategy of whiny victimhood that the religious right has been reduced to these days. The truth is that the textbooks in question managed to accomplish the seemingly oxymoronic task of teaching ignorance.

"And what did they teach in these science classes at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, one of the schools that sued?" asks Karin Klein for the LA Times. "Well, one textbook in the class, published by Bob Jones University Press, informs youngsters that the earth is about 10,000 years old. The other textbook, "Biology: God's Living Creation," includes a lesson on how dinosaurs walked the earth with people, and might have faced extinction via flood. You know, THE flood."

I'm not sure what the reasoning of the plaintiffs was here. You get turned down for admission to a college because the high school your parents sent you to made you ignorant. If you win the case, you go on to college, where you flunk out of everything because your high school turned you into an ignoramus. At that point, post-secondary education becomes nothing more than a waste of money.

Of course, the strategy of the religious right was to sue their point of view into being true. Step one; get accepted to the University of California. Step two; sue every time you failed to get a passing grade. Step three; all the creationist horsecrap you believe magically becomes true... or something.

Basically, the Association of Christian Schools International argued that UC was violating the First Amendment. And that argument is pretty insane. To go back to the WND piece, attorney for the nutjobs Robert Tyler said, "We believe that UC's discrimination is clearly unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment, because UC is attempting to secularize Christian schools."

Yeah, you've got that backwards. You guys are trying to Christianize secular schools. What you're trying to do is create a separate legal truth all your own, where everyone has to pretend that all the crap you believe is real. Having failed to get your laughable BS past the scientific community, who in turn stand in the way of teaching it in public schools, you try to sue your way into education, as if some judge can just declare creationism true and force the universe to rearrange itself to conform to your new "science."

"The UC is intent upon defending some 'right' to discriminate unlawfully," Tyler said, as if calling a lie a lie amounted to some sort of inexcusable injustice. Colleges exist to educate, not to promote some religious mumbo jumbo that some weird cultists wish was true.

It's not just creationism that is the problem here, either. The textbooks also include history books that assume that God controls everything and explains things in terms of divine intervention.

San Francisco Chronicle:

For example, in Friday's ruling, [U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles] upheld the university's rejection of a history course called Christianity's Influence on America. According to a UC professor on the course review committee, the primary text, published by Bob Jones University, "instructs that the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events" and evaluates historical figures based on their religious motivations.

Again, using this "information" as the basis for college history courses would be a guaranteed fail. And, again, that failure to pass would've been followed by another lawsuit. The people who freak out the most over "activist judges" are praying for judicial activism to somehow make all the crap they believe magically true. God, apparently, loves even the hypocrite.

With this decision, we're supposed to believe that the legal system has sadly abandoned us to the unrelenting oppression of reality. A universe who's laws cannot be appealed will be allowed to stand unchallenged and no waving of a holy book will be allowed to change it. Religious freedom suffers when reality can't be forced by law to conform to our beliefs. Truth, that unchallenged tyrant, will not be overthrown by the forces of biblical ignorance -- a result which, somehow, is supposed to make us less free.

The truth is that you can believe whatever the hell you want to believe. What you don't get to do is force everyone to pretend that whatever the hell it is that you believe is true. That doesn't make you less free, it just makes everyone equally free. Truth may be an undemocratic tyrant, but it's the only one that can never be dethroned.


1 comment:

Mark said...

I'm glad you wrote about this issue. I missed it completely. Parts of it would also lend itself to good political satire. Indeed, I was laughing aloud by the time I finished the phrase "THE flood."

By coincidence, I also blogged about education today, but from a different angle. There is a new policy in Dallas that wants to decouple student actions from consequences. Now I'm wondering if there is any kind of connection between the underlying educational assumptions in these two cases. Maybe not, but something to think about.

By the way, I came across that story because of Ender, who I quote in it. Ender also once offered the following gem on twitter: "all science = theory = obviously NOT true since it’s ‘just’ a theory and not a fact." She was talking about global warming skepticism, but her statement relates to the phenomenon you describe as well.