Monday, October 02, 2006

what constitutions allow

From yesterday

To be told that it is easier for creationists to get at children in Britain than the US is as shockingly incongruous as opening a paper and reading that more prisoners are executed in Devon than Texas. Yet British scientists trying to uphold basic intellectual standards are starting to believe just that.

This in reference to the Establishment Clause of the US constitution. No British scientist is actually quoted as believing "just that"; just someone from the British Humanist Association. Nick also undermines himself somewhat by pointing out that the creationist habitat in the UK tends to be the nearest streetcorner. On the other hand, there's this from today’s Washington Post:

With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act - H.R. 2679 - provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.

So the struggle goes on. Now the folks trying to keep ickle baby Jeebus out of America’s schools surely deserve ours and Nick’s support. However, it seems to be just a hook on which to attack European “condescension” with regard to the United States.

But not a topical hook. I thought at first he was going to take a crack at Dawkins, who’s got a new book out and who as an opponent of US foreign policy is a prime candidate for Nick’s shitlist – everyone who opposed the war in Iraq from whatever perspective gets a dig from him, in whatever context presents itself. It’s Nick’s version of original sin.

There’s no material point made here either about the superiority of a written constitution, US style, as opposed to the UK’s more informal procedures. Nor is there anything about the government's rather alarming fondness for having science classes devoted to discussion of why God wants men to have nipples, something which would back his formal argument up. There’s just this promotion of the idea that criticism of the US involves emitting a kind of intellectual flatulence, embarrassing to folk with proper manners.

So, what’s the point then? It seems to me that the most salient news about what the US constitution allows right now is the fact that it apparently allows secret, indefinite detention and torture at the say so of the President. Hard on that, Nick gives us a piece whose main import is to establish the notion that criticism of the United States is unjustified in fact and founded in bad faith. This looks rather like propaganda by misdirection. Nick, you old hack you.

rioja kid


Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Now the folks trying to keep ickle baby Jeebus out of America’s schools surely deserve ours and Nick’s support.

Not sure that they do, actually. At least, some of them don't, some of the time. The other side of the matter is the way in which US schools often react pre-emptively out of fear of ACLU-sponsored legal challenge so as to exclude religion from the classroom when they shouldn't. Example: child brings a religious book in for "show and tell" or nominates a book of the Bible as their favourite bit of literature ... teachers go beserk out of fear of being sued ... kids removed from school in protest, etc etc.

Nick should really thing through the more pathological aspects of US legal secularism before holding it up as an example. Give me the CofE and British fudge and muddle any day rather than some of the nutty US confrontations about people's rights.

10/03/2006 10:47:00 AM  

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