September 2020

Mozert v. Hawkins County Public Schools (The Tale of the Troubling Textbook) - Part Two

Mozert BoxWhile I’m still skeptical about the degree to which short stories in a middle school primer truly pushed little people into worshipping horse gods, this second list has the significant benefit of not sounding completely insane. Maybe it WAS possible that the touchy-feely, one-gluten-free-world mojo so popular with academic types in the late 1970s had infiltrated the editorial choices of those most in a position to influence tiny brains.

At what point have we raced well past “everyone is different” and ended up lost somewhere between “meat is murder” and “vote Bernie or we all perish”?

Mozert v. Hawkins County Public Schools (The Tale of the Troubling Textbook) - Part One

Most “wall of separation” cases related to public education involve questions of “establishment.” When Ms. Magdalene puts up Christmas decorations in her classroom, that violates the Establishment Clause. Inviting local clergy to open graduation ceremonies with a brief prayer is a no-no because it’s “establishment.” Requiring equal time for Creationism when it’s time for the chapter on Evolution? You guessed it – that’s “establishment” as well.

From time to time, however, a case will work its way through the system asserting the opposite. In these “free exercise” cases, the claim is that the state – in this case, manifested as the public school system – has hindered personal expressions of religious belief or behavior without sufficient cause. The “sufficient cause” part is important because the state has the right to place some limits on how faith is manifested when there’s a good reason. (Human sacrifice, for example, is a “no-no” even if your gods demand placation.) Government entities must demonstrate that they have a good reason for their restrictions, however. And, if there are less-restrictive ways to accomplish those goals, they have to try those first.