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23 February 2009

Taxes and Religion in Schools

By Ari

Reposted: Mike Adams is irritated that a teacher at Los Angeles City College called a student a "fascist bastard" for promoting religion in a class presentation. And Adams has picked an easy target; the teacher's behavior is inexcusable. However, the target is so easy that Adams neglects to put more serious issues in his cross-hairs.

Adams writes, "In November, Jonathan Lopez attempted to give his informative speech on God and the ways he has seen God act miraculously in his life and in the lives of others. In the middle of that speech, Lopez spoke of God and morality and read the dictionary definition of marriage. He also read two verses from the Bible."

Curiously, Adams neglects to mention what the two Bible verses were, but it's clear where this was headed. The teacher, Adams relates, is a supporter of gay marriage.

The teacher, John Matteson, left a note with the student: "prostyelsyszing [sic] is inappropriate in a public school."

You could make a pretty good case that any teacher who refers to students "fascist bastards" -- as this teacher apparently did twice -- should be fired. What a jerk. Yet Adams fails to seriously explore matters of free speech in the context of tax-funded institutions.

Adams equates the teacher's conduct with censorship with a "chilling effect on First Amendment expression." (I would be interested to learn whether Adams is similarly committed to overturning censorship of pornography and unsavory language.)

The basic issue, then, is whether the student has a Constitutionally protected right of free speech to rail against homosexuals in a tax-funded classroom. The only possible answer is that no answer is possible. Forcing others to fund religiously motivated attacks on homosexuals violates their rights of free speech -- people have the right not to fund speech they find offensive. But excluding such speech violates the rights of the student and his supporters, who also pay (or will pay) taxes. Forced wealth transfers for the propagation of ideas inherently violates people's rights.

The only solution that consistently upholds people's right of free speech -- along with their rights of property -- is to stop the forced wealth transfers. But Adams, along with practically all conservatives, show no interest in that. Instead, many conservatives look to increase tax funding of "faith-based initiatives" and the like.

On a free market, should schools allow speeches, in speech class, of a religious or bigoted nature? I think so. However, a school that allows attacks on homosexuals is going to have a hard time banning racist speeches. My sense is that the student should be able to meet the assignment according to his own judgment, and if he's an idiot, he will earn a reputation as such. Teachers obviously can grade down for lack of cogent argument. Surely there are lines that no school would like to cross, such as neo-Nazi marches on campus. But these are tricky issues best left to the boards and leaders of private institutions.

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