Sunday, October 31, 2010

This week, apparently, has been MBORW

This must be Misunderstand the Bill of Rights Week. At the risk of going against some wildly popular received ideas, let me state that the First Amendment does NOT guarantee the right to say bigoted things on the air and not get fired by NPR. Unless, of course, you don't work for them in the first place. Nor does it forbid newspapers from listing the religious preferences of candidates. Those are two things the First Amendment does not do.

Oh, and it also does not ban "religious symbols" in public. Nor require people of faith to keep our silly, Bronze Age superstitions out of "your" Constitution and public schools.

So, does that mean I'm allowed to inject those things into "your" democracy? Not at all. But I don't have any such power to begin with, do I? What would be the point of a document which bans me from, say, teaching a creation myth as science? "Lee is not allowed to teach creation myths as if they were science." Nope--noplace in the F.A. does this appear.

But guess what does appear? Two simple words: "Congress shall...." Congress, meaning the government. Ahhhhhhhh. Now we see. It's the government that's required to maintain neutrality regarding faith. It's the government that's not allowed to either promote or impede faith. Which, of course, means that public schools shouldn't be teaching religion as science, for one. Why? Because that would 1) shoot the neutrality principle to Heck, and 2) it wouldn't be very science-friendly.

Now, I suppose that, when someone tells me I have to keep "my" religion out of "their" Constitution, etc., I can reply, "No, it's the government that isn't allowed to promote or get in the way of religion--and, last time I checked, I'm not the government." I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure it'll go over really well.

Why do I bring up points so blatantly, comically obvious? Because we have a folk First Amendment floating around, and it sometimes seems as if more people read IT than the actual document. With the Internet in our midst to speed up and virtually perfect the spread of misinformation, the situation is made that much more toxic. The Internet, of course, is that place where Bill-told-me-so-and-so trumps such boring alternatives as studying up on a topic by using a reliable, expert source. Sooooo Establishment.

The triumph of the folk First Amendment over the one written by our founders is not a trend to cheer, needless to say. It may help answer the question of why we, as Americans, think nothing of assisting the wealthy in pulling the handle on our basic rights--after all, if we don't even know what our basic rights consist of, how will we even notice their absence?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010