The morning announcements at Sabold Elementary School in Pennsylvania used to include the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the phrase “God Bless America.” Why? Who knows. But there was no good reason to do it. It was obviously just another way to push God into the public schools.
In March, the Freedom From Religion Foundation asked them to stop saying that phrase. (Among their reasons, the phrase originates from a Christian prayer.) And very quickly, the school complied. It was the right thing to do. That should have been the end of the story.
But conservatives have been furious over the change. They’re arguing that the act of religious neutrality is somehow anti-Christian, and that all students should be subject to praise for the Christian God every school day.
During a segment on FOX & Friends a few days ago, attorney Jeremy Dys of the conservative legal group First Liberty took a different approach to explaining why the phrase should stay: He invoked 9/11.
After co-host Ainsley Earhardt said all students should be forced to listen to Christian prayers in school because of all the mass shootings — a ridiculous, if not unexpected, thing for her to say — Dys took it even further. First he said anyone who receives a letter from FFRF should ignore it. (Which is awful advice.) Then he offered a different kind of justification for keeping the prayer in place:
… if they are so upset about the phrase “God bless America,” is the school district there in Pennsylvania that is frankly not too far away from where those flights went down on 9/11, are they then going to get rid of, like, the dollar bills that have “in God we trust” on them? Are they going to start punishing teachers for saying “God bless you” to students that sneeze in the hallway? This is absurd and it should be treated as absurd.
There you have it. If you’re in the vicinity of where a plane crashed on 9/11, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause shouldn’t apply to you. It’s Christian supremacy inside that radius, and the Constitution everywhere else.
(For the record, the courts have consistently ruled that “Under God” in the Pledge and “In God We Trust” on the money are not promoting Christianity. I think they’re wrong, but that’s why the slippery slope Dys is creating doesn’t even exist. Not surprising. The people at First Liberty are used to believing in things that don’t exist. And literally no one has ever seriously sued over someone saying “Bless you” after a sneeze.)
By the way, I was curious how far this elementary school was from the site of the 9/11 crash since Dys said it was “not too far away.” Not that it would make a difference, legally, but were we talking a mile away or a few miles away?
Turns out the distance from the school to Shanksville is 227 miles away! That’s 3.5-hours by car without traffic. They’re not even kind of close!
Distance has nothing to do with it. The brilliant legal mind at First Liberty just wanted to invoke 9/11 out of nowhere to make a shitty case for why little kids should have to listen to a Christian prayer during morning announcements. That’s the quality of logic you should always expect from conservative legal groups. They’re great at whipping up the emotions of ignorant people and awful at winning arguments in front of intelligent judges.
(via Media Matters. Thanks to Brian for the link)