Skip to comments.The Buckingham school: No civil liberties allowed
Posted on 09/30/2005 12:22:52 PM PDT by MRMEAN
HARRISBURG — The fourth day of the Dover Panda Trial was dedicated to witnesses who described the deliberative, careful, thoughtful democratic process of the Dover Area School Board's quest to join the revolution to turn the clock back to, oh, the 18th century.
The witnesses described a process that should serve as a model of democracy, a living laboratory in the grand experiment called America, a kind of petri dish in which they grew the bacteria of knowledge that would soon infect the students in their charge.
Had you going there, didn't I?
It wasn't like that at all.
Essentially, the democratic process as practiced by the Dover Area School Board consists of people yelling at each other, insulting their constituency and then approving changes to the biology curriculum without giving the public any explanation, which is how they adopted the now-infamous "intelligent design" curriculum in October 2004.
Who do these guys think they are, the state Legislature?
It would be tempting to say that the Dover Area School Board has been taken over by a bunch of clowns, but I won't, mostly because I don't want to receive angry phone calls and e-mails from clowns offended by the comparison. (I have the utmost respect for the proud tradition of clowning. And besides, I'm scared of clowns.)
Let's consider former school board member Bill Buckingham.
At one meeting, in June 2004, he shared his deepest thoughts about democracy and the First Amendment, concluding, pretty much, that he doesn't really like either one.
He said a bunch of things at that meeting. He called the separation of church and state "a myth," several witnesses have testified. He said the school should teach creationism. At one point, when a teacher politely suggested that it may not be a good idea to teach creationism because of the legal problems that may arise, he snapped, "Where did you get your law degree?"
The teacher, to her credit, did not respond by asking Buckingham where he got his. He doesn't have one, of course, because he apparently has the same regard for education that he has for the First Amendment.
When a former student, a biology major at Penn State, stood before the board and explained the importance of Darwin's theory of evolution, Buckingham called the student a perfect example of a Dover Area High graduate who went off to college and became "brainwashed." Former board member Jeff Brown testified Buckingham, Alan Bonsell and Noel Wenrich joined the fun and "ganged up" on the kid.
Funny. It seems that most school boards like to brag about the number of students they send off to acquire higher education. In Dover, they're ashamed of them.
Buckingham said a bunch of other stuff, as did other board members.
At the next board meeting, a week later, Buckingham led off with an apology, sort of. He apologized if some people were offended by his remarks at the previous meeting.
Then, he proceeded to offend people.
He said, "Nowhere in the Constitution does it call for separation of church and state."
Bill, between you and me, it's called the First Amendment. You can look it up and everything.
And he said, "Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?"
At the same meeting, the Rev. Warren Eshbach, a retired Church of the Brethren minister, provided the voice of reason, saying that the book of Genesis is not a science text, but an expression of faith.
But since he represented the wrong brand of Christianity, he was ignored.
It would be easy to lay all the blame on Buckingham for trying to re-create the Dover public schools as Dover Christian — which is, essentially, what the defense is trying to do.
But other board members were with the program.
Bonsell, for instance. Jeff Brown and his wife, Casey, also a former school board member, described retreats at which board members were given the opportunity to share their pressing concerns with the administration. And Dover had a lot of them. It was working on improving its standardized test scores, which, at one point, were among the lowest in the county. It faced serious fiscal challenges. The high school was in dire need of extensive and expensive renovation.
But No. 1 on Bonsell's list of concerns was teaching creationism and putting the Bible back into public schools.
OK, that's not exactly fair.
He also wanted to discuss requiring kids to wear school uniforms.
Buckingham, though, was the head Bozo of this bunch. Casey Brown said he had objected to a proposed biology textbook because it was "laced with Darwinism."
His specific objections?
A timeline had a photo of Darwin and in the chapter about evolution, it contained a photo of a Darwin finch.
Basically, he objected after looking at the pictures.
So when it came to approving the textbook, Buckingham threw a fit and got some other board members to join him in trying to cut a deal. He had enough votes to block the purchase of the book, and he did. Then, he said if the board agreed to buy "Of Pandas and People" first, he'd release his votes to approve the standard text.
It didn't come to that because now-former board member Angie Yingling came to her senses and changed her vote because, as Casey Brown said, "The kids needed the books."
Oh, the kids.
What do they have to do with any of this?
If you give them books and fancy learning and all, they'll just go off to college and get themselves brainwashed.
Mike Argento, whose column appears Mondays and Thursdays in Living and Sundays in Viewpoints, can be reached at 771-2046 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more Argento columns at ydr.com/mike.
Yep, I just looked it up, and you know, it's right there in black and white: Christianity is illegal.
I never knew it really said that. Thanks for the tip, Mike.
His paraphrase of the matter is essentially correct. The "wall of separation between church and state" is a phrase that is not in the Constitution anywhere. It was first used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter.
The founders had different opinions on the exact, full and complete meaning of what they collectively thought they were achieving with the 1st amendment's prohibition that congress cannot make any "law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".
Jefferson was a leader in getting state constitutions from separating state governments from directly supporting (through taxes) the dominant church in their state (Congregationalists in Massachussetes, Anglicans in Virginia). He railed at Washington and at presidents who followed for invoking God too freqently in speeches and proclamations and for establishing government holidays in concert with religious holidays.
But Jefferson was also a deist and did not share many other religious sentiments with a majority of the founders. He was often depicted in newspapers, editorials and in congress as an example of Godlessness and evil.
So it is very hard to say, historically, that whatever Jefferson meant by his "wall of separation" statement, it was a commonly accepted and agreed on concept of a majority of those who gave us the first amendment. In fact, the bulk of the historical evidence is that Jefferson was in a minority in that sentiment - whatever it meant. And, the best example of that is, the public and lawmaking practices of most of the other founders and their supporters who later became elected government officials. Their actions did not demonstrate that they shared Jefferson's sentiments with regard to a "wall of separation" and they and their ideas were as foundational as were Jeffersons.
The secular humanist advocates have laid claim to the "wall of separation" as a foundational stance, yet their actions against religion in the public space have, for the most part been against practices that have been considered "Constitutional" since the founding. So who is it that is adhereing to the Constitution and who is abrogating it?
If the secular humanists want some strict definition to the meaning of the first amendment's religion clause, then they can work through the democratic process to get such a definition put in the Constitution with a constitutional amendment. Without that, the courts should respect historically accepted expressions of religion in the public space and quit legislating from the bench.
Bugs Bunny was right, WHAT A MAROON.
Thanks. Great article, but as you know, I'm trying to limit the use of the ping list for this trial. One thread per day. (And we've already done two for today.)
And this may very well have been his opinion on the matter. But it is most definitely not was the constitution says, nor what anyone, until recently, intended.
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