TRUTH MAY BE ABSOLUTE BUT OUR UNDERSTANDING CAN ONLY BE TANGENTIAL. HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO OUR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH? READ ON, THE AN APPELLATE COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF PRAYER IN GRADUATION SPEECH
By DAN VALENTI
In our discussion of Truth, we said we would continue to pursue it as the highest goal of anyone who writes, speaks, or teaches. That being said, we must admit to only one definitive statement about Truth. On this good earth, it can only be perceived and known from a relative perspective.
We are time-bound, space-bound creatures with limited life spans and incomplete knowledge — always, incomplete — and therefore must either ingest or quest. Those who ingest prefer to let others do their thinking for them. They readily accept the “isms” of the Left and the Right, of dogmatism, of Official Pronouncements, and the like without serious question (if queries come up at all).
The ‘Objective Dimension’ Exists, Whether You Call It ‘God’ or Something Else
It does not take religious or even spiritual belief to accept the premise that our world, solar system, and universe has an Objective state. It exists (and please, no philosophical asides here) in some way, and therefore, we not only can but must assume an Objective dimension to It. That dimension of description — the equations of the elusive Unified Field Theory notwithstanding — forever exist beyond our abilities with thought, perception, and expression.
We believe that there is an Objective, Ultimate State of Reality known as Truth. If It is sentient, and there is more reason to believe so than not, then we “know” it as God. We cannot, however, comprehend the omniscience, the omnipresence, and the omnipotence from our relative perspectives. That’s why a healthy precept is: “Question everything.” The Truth, or even the reasonable facsimiles we can and do perceive as human beings, will withstand the strongest examination. What’s not true eventually collapses under serious scrutiny.
Keep this in mind the next time someone tries to lay a dogmatic “truth” on you in an inflexible way that allows not room for doubt. Whether is a person using religion as a justification to blow up a building or a local politician twisting numbers into numeric lemonade to justify tax hikes, a responsibility to the Truth demands that we do not initially accept the claims. In fact, doubt is the prerequisite of faith.
You Can’t Have ‘Faith’ without Doubt
We don’t have to have faith that the shirt I’m wearing at this moment is yellow. We know this to be true (lower case “t” to put a gag over those who would want to quibble about the subjective nature of color perception). I do have to have faith in the assertion that “there is a God,” that is, if we am to do anything but engage in the even (and ever) more foolish proposition of rejecting the claim outright. Doubt means “You’re not sure” but you would allow the possibility. Then one investigates. You gather evidence. You talk to people. You read. You examine what you tell yourself in your darkest fears and in your lightest joys. If you do this, your answer will come. Be humble enough, however, to know The Answer will never arrive — only your conviction stemming from your own particular and peculiar vantage point.
All of this is preamble to working in the law. On this good earth, human beings needs laws to coexist in communities. Something lives inside of us — Eddie Poe called it “The Imp of the Perverse;” the Catholic Church calls it Original Sin — that compels us to the bad (violence and mayhem), to the mistakes (cheating on a test and speeding), to the self-injurious (smoking or drinking to excess and rampant indulgence). North Street has posted speed limits. Penalties exist for not paying taxes. If you kill someone and get caught, you will be prosecuted and jailed. If people were perfect, we wouldn’t need laws.
We aren’t. Therefore, we do.
If the Law Didn’t Exist, We Would Have to Invent It … Which We Did
The law exists also to protect We The People in this so-called democracy (yeah, it’s a republic; we know that). No greater example is the First Amendment to the Constitution, where our representative on the national level established our inalienable right. One of those is freedom of the press. Another is free speech.
Those who follow The Planet and this website know the high esteem with which we hold freedom of speech. True, we have had commentators who want to abuse that expression by bringing in the lowest common denominators of idiocy and ignorance, and The Planet has had to regulate that to prevent another Topix. Nonetheless, we continue to champion “To The People, Their Voice.”
Recently, a case occurred in San Antonio, Texas, involving free speech. Here is an account:
High School Valedictorian Files Intervention Into Lawsuit on Appeal to Pray at Graduation;
Federal Judge Banned Prayer, Religious References at San Antonio-Area Graduation
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 2, 2011 — Today, Liberty Institute filed an emergency motion for intervention and request for relief from temporary restraining order on behalf of the Medina Valley High School valedictorian who is being censored from praying during her commencement speech on June 4. The school district, supported by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, just filed an emergency appeal at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The judge’s ruling banning prayer and religious references violates Angela Hildenbrand’s constitutional right to freely express her religious beliefs,” said Erin Leu, attorney at Liberty Institute. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly called for an end to religious viewpoint discrimination, and attempts to censor Ms. Hildenbrand’s speech solely for religious references are unconstitutional and without legal basis.”
Angela Hildenbrand, valedictorian of Medina Valley High School, planned to offer a prayer and say the words “Lord,” “in Jesus’ name,” and “amen” during her speech at the graduation ceremony, but federal district judge Fred Biery’s temporary restraining order issued yesterday not only disallows the school’s “invocation” and “benediction,” but bans prayer at the ceremony, regardless of whether it is student-led.
The lawsuit against Medina Valley Independent School District was filed last week by an agnostic couple represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State whose son threatened not to attend his graduation if there was a prayer. The judge ruled in favor of the agnostic family, and said that students may present their own beliefs but cannot call for prayer or deliver a message that could be understood as a prayer. He amended his ruling this morning, which still bans Ms. Hildenbrand’s prayer in her speech.
“During my speech, I had hoped to use prayer to encourage my fellow graduates to trust God’s plan for their lives, but because of the judge’s ruling, I won’t be allowed to do so,” said Angela Hildenbrand, valedictorian of Medina Valley High School’s class of 2011. “I am horrified that after all that I have learned about the freedom of speech and religion in our country, I would be asked to remove a reference to my faith. I pray that the 5th Circuit Court will overturn this judge’s ruling and allow me to freely express my religious viewpoint at my high school graduation this Saturday.”
The young woman is not asking the school to endorse what she does. She’s only asking to be allowed to use words that describe her religious beliefs. She’s not asking for an endorsement by the school, a point with which the appeals court agrees. This ruling came down this morning:
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 3, 2011 — The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just overturned federal district judge Fred Biery’s ruling banning prayer at Medina Valley High School’s graduation tomorrow night. Liberty Institute, which represented the class valedictorian Angela Hildenbrand, released the following statement:
“This is a complete victory for religious freedom and for Angela,” said Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO of Liberty Institute. “We are thrilled that she will be able to give her prayer without censorship in her valedictorian speech tomorrow night. No citizen has the right to ask the government to bind and gag the free speech of another citizen.”
The Planet agrees with the court. This is an important protection of a person’s First Amendment rights.
A REMINDER — THE PITTSFIELD COLONIALS ARE BACK IN ACTION AT WAHCONAH PARK, TOMORROW FOR A 10:30 A.M. SCHOOL DAY START. CHECK IT OUT AND SEE HOW LOUD BELOVED WAHCONAH PARK CAN GET.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL