With the ACLU, ‘American’ Comes First

February 20, 2007

Watch out, folks. The national gag reflex is about to be tested once again.

The ludicrous saga of David Paszkiewicz, the Preachin’ Teacher of Kearny High School, is poised to enter the same right-wing fantasy realm where Iraq is a budding wonderland of freshly painted schools, Hillary Clinton is plotting to turn all Americans into lesbian abortionists, and Terri Schiavo would even now be water-skiing off the Florida Keys if she hadn’t been murdered by euthanasia-crazed liberals.

Yesterday’s announcement that the American Civil Liberties Union and the People For the American Way Foundation are gearing up to take legal action against the Kearny Board of Education is sure to send the Bill O’Reilly types into orbit. The fact that the school board appears to have ducked its civic obligation to the students and citizens of Kearny will scarcely matter – not when there’s another chance to denounce the ACLU. Every golden oldie in the American conservative jukebox is going to be played over and over. God is being banished from our schools! Our tax dollars are being wasted on frivolous lawsuits. Liberals are using the courts to brainwash our children into hell! Secular humanists gonna git your mama!

The problem here is that when presented with incontrovertible evidence that a teacher was going way over the line by preaching Christianist nonsense in the classroom, the board went into full CYA mode and took several measures that effectively painted a red circle around Matthew LaClair, the teenager who blew the whistle on the Preachin’ Teach. They’re still doing it:

“It is unfortunate that public dollars will be spent in defending our school district when this matter is already being addressed through dialogue and action,” ed board President Bernadette McDonald is quoted as saying in the statement.

The district, she said, has already retained Edwin H. Stier, a former director of the state Division of Criminal Justice, to conduct an independent investigation into student Matthew LaClair’s “claims” that a Kearny High School history teacher/Baptist minister crossed the line between church and state in class.

There, you see? This whole thing could be dealt with nicely if only that kid would stop making waves. Well, let him go on making waves. The kid has guts. He’s going to need them, too, because once the radio ranters and cable clowns go to work on this story, Matthew LaClair is going to have trouble recognizing himself or his cause in the distorted picture that will be broadcast around the country.

What he should always keep in mind is that he is standing up for American values. Real American values. Forget the bilge about God being chased out of schools and the public square. A secular country is a place where religious values of every stripe can flourish. These religious hysterics are determined to forget that the separation of church and state was a matter of utmost practicality, that it stopped a developing crisis in which some freshly minted states immediately started arresting and fining members of other Christian sects they didn’t like. We don’t need an America in which a religious wacko can tell a student in the middle of a class that she’s going to hell.

That’s why we need groups like the ACLU so desperately.

Every time some blowhard starts sounding off about the ACLU, ask him this: The ACLU works to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Which of those documents do you have a problem with? The ACLU represents the rights of the individual against abuses of power by the state and other authorities. Since when did that stop being a conservative cause?

The first word represented in the ACLU’s acronym is “American,” and a big part of what that word stands for is also what’s at stake in this situation.



21 Responses to “With the ACLU, ‘American’ Comes First”

  1. I’m a nice, religious, Churchgoing Catholic boy who prefers receiving his religion in the pews, not in the classroom. As the spouse of a public school teacher, I have seen religious prostelyzation in public schools and have alerted administrators, only to have the issue go nowhere. Hats off to this kid for not giving up, even though his position may not be the popular one. Imagine the outcry from the Right if the teacher was telling his class they were going to hell because they were non-Muslim infidels.

  2. Django Says:

    Paszkiewicz’s proselyzation was so over-the-top that the conservative Rutherford Institute, which has been active in defending the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools and has a broad view of how much religion is permissible, had to admit that he crossed the line.

    In our own blue state backyard, no less.

  3. Señor Bozo Says:

    It’s worth mentioning that, if you’re inclined to give to support the ACLU in this kind of work, donations should be made to the ACLU FOUNDATION as opposed to the ACLU. Best of all, since the Foundation is not engaged in political lobbying, deductions to the Foundation are tax deductible! For more info, see: http://www.aclu.org/acluf.html

  4. Forrest R. Prince Says:

    “Every golden oldie in the American conservative jukebox is going to be played over and over. God is being banished from our schools!”

    I sez: You can’t banish what was never there in the first place. Preaching, bible reading, mandatory prayer, yes. God, no.

    “Our tax dollars are being wasted on frivolous lawsuits.”

    I sez: But it’s ok to waste tax dollars on frivolous wars, like Iraq, where over 3,000 of our military men and women have been killed, for no good reason? (Disclaimer: I’m a U.S. Navy veteran).

    “Liberals are using the courts to brainwash our children into hell!”

    I sez: See xtian fundamentalism for definition of brainwashing.

    “Secular humanists gonna git your mama!”

    I sez: Catholic priests have proven track record of “gittin” your children. (Disclaimer: I’m a card-carrying secular humanist; member American Humanist Association, certified/ordained Humanist Celebrant).

  5. Batocchio Says:

    It never ceases to amuse and amaze me how hostile O’Reilly’s crowd is to the ACLU. They bloviate about their own patriotism, and the lack of it in others, yet simultaneously oppose the Bill of Rights and due process.

  6. KO Says:

    Thank you for this rational defense of the ACLU. The ACLU needs a good PR campaign to raise awareness about the fantastic work it has done and continues to do to defend the fundamental rights of American citizens. The crazy-eyed right wingers who howl about it non-stop wouldn’t have the right to go on and on the way they do if it wasn’t for the ACLU, which protects everyone’s rights regardless of the prevailing political climate.

  7. Peter Says:

    You neglected to mention what was, for me, the best part of the charade. The board’s FIRST action, upon hearing of this outrage, was to BAN tape recorders in classes. That’s right; the problem is that we got caught so we can fix the problem by making sure we don’t get caught again.

    I am *so* glad I can laugh about this kind of shite – else I’d cry my brains out.

    Loved your intro, by the way, just loved it.

  8. Stupid Git Says:

    “…the American Civil Liberties Union asked a state appellate court if it could join in conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh’s fight to keep prosecutors from unsealing his medical records.”

    “The ACLU stepped in on behalf of Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal, arguing that he should not be compelled to testify and then be prosecuted based on what he said. His conviction ultimately was overturned.”

    “The ACLU also filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the conservative televangelist, in his fight to strike down a provision in the Virginia Constitution banning religious organizations from incorporating.”

    “The group has also represented anti-abortion demonstrators in challenges to restrictions creating so-called buffer-zones around clinics that perform abortions.”

    Why do they hate the ACLU?

  9. Hi there,

    I’ve been trying to offer myself as a living sacrifice to the ACLU for two years. I continue to be ignored. I offer myself up as a voice for true principles of Liberty. As an alumni of the 101st Airborne Division, I thought for sure that somebody would have taken notice by now and provided the boost that it takes in order to make a difference in this crazed world. But I continue to build upon my project, awaiting the day when I’ll be given some sort of acknowledgement from those who I consider to be my teachers.

    Where are the voices of the hippie generation during this F’d up war? Where is the counter culture that existed during Vietnam? I am the earliest version of this thing called Gen X, and I feel abandoned. My teachers were hippies, but they have all disappeared into the woodwork. Too much meditation has quieted the rhetoric. Maybe it was only cool to stand up for peace and love while high on psychedelic drugs…if so, bring back the dope. Wake up these hippies, and tell them that Drill Sergeant Dharma needs a little help from his friends.



  10. sbgypsy Says:


    The idea that the generation that opposed Vietnam, marched for Civil Rights and women’s rights is abandoning the progressive movement the anti-war movement the civil rights movement the feminista movement is a

    Republican talking point.

    Don’t fall for it. We marched in 2002 2003 2004 and on and on, but were penned up away from the press and not talked about in the media unless it was with ridicule. We have redoubled our efforts now that the dems have taken congress and perhaps might pass something that is good for the country for a change.

  11. NoOneYouKnow Says:

    Go ACLU!

  12. “The ACLU needs a good PR campaign to raise awareness about the fantastic work it has done and continues to do to defend the fundamental rights of American citizens. The crazy-eyed right wingers who howl about it non-stop wouldn’t have the right to go on and on the way they do if it wasn’t for the ACLU, which protects everyone’s rights regardless of the prevailing political climate”

    Ditto. The liberty of all Americans is seriously imperilled by the actions of this administration.

  13. abu ameerah Says:

    …but FOX Noise told me that the ACLU supports terrorism…lol

  14. […] With the ACLU, ‘American’ Comes First With the ACLU, ‘American’ Comes First […]

  15. Mark Says:

    I find it funny how those who complain the loudest about hatred are those who seem to be filled with it.

    Almost every response is similar in tone to your post. They reek of disdain, hatred, and arrogance.

    How come no one pointed out how often the ACLU attacks religion? or works to undermine the US? Oh yea! that would mean admitting it’s not “American”-centric.

    You also neglected to mention all the times the ACLU DID NOT step in. To refresh your memory they were cases that would have meant supporting their enemies. Enemies being: Christians, gun owners, the Boy Scouts, and many others.

    Pointing out narrow amicus briefs; shows how desperate the left is, in the defense of the in-defensible ACLU.

    Anyone want to guess the number of times the ACLU has worked to defend the 2d amendment?

    I could say that everyone here listened to “Air America” and then received their talking points from NPR, but I think more of you than you of me.

  16. Jordan Says:

    These comments I have read about your article are by far some of the most ignorance, non-thinking, attempts at ‘intelligent’ dialogue that I have ever read. In fact, they are merely a mirror of your owned twisted article! I won’t expound upon the “merits” of the ACLU, but I will say, with great sadness and a heavy heart, that if this nation ever gets to a point where the type of twisted reasoning that you present is part of the cultural mainstream, then it will become just another second-rate power such as most are in Western Europe today.

  17. Steven Hart Says:

    How can you tell when a winger knows he has lost an argument? He starts accusing the winner in the debate of being hateful and filled with arrogance. As graceful in defeat as you are in victory, eh guys?

    Actually, Jordan, your idol George W. Bush has put us well along the road to being a second-rate power. We can only hope that this second-ratedness includes the decent healthcare and higher standard of living seen in Western Europe, rather than the Third World standards embodied in the conservative dream.

    As for the rest of your comments — and Mark’s — I refer you to my comment about the golden oldies waiting to be played in the conservative jukebox . Sounds like you two have plenty of quarters.

  18. Actually, the ACLU does not stand for the written constitution. It stands for a document that exists in their own imagination. Would someone tell me where in the Constitution we are prevented from owning guns, where this provision of “seperation of church and state” is. Do you know where they got that concept from? They got it from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in which he referred to that phrase. Only he was saying that government should not regulate religion, not this, keep religion out of government stuff we’re hearing today.

    A broken clock is right twice a day, so don’t point to one or two evidences of the ACLU standing up for conservatives and somehow claiming that to be a good evidence for their being “impartial.” Everybody knows they are no more impartial than Rush Limbaugh is. This is the thing that bugs me about liberals. Their viewpoint is supposedly “tolerant” and “impartial” while anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint is “biased” and “bigoted.”

  19. Paul LaClair Says:

    The concept of separation of church and state comes from the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which contains an establishment clause forbidding laws respecting the establishment of religion, and a clause forbidding restrictions on religious liberty. Originally this applied only to Congress, but when the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, the equal protection clause contained therein extended these protections of religious freedom to acts of the states and their agencies, including the public schools and their employees. It makes perfect sense, because religion is one area where equal protection of the laws has been very difficult to achieve historically. Quite often a religious majority has persecuted the minority, which is exactly what the Framers wanted to prevent. Not surprisingly, it is the bigots and hypocrites within our culture’s dominant religious group who see nothing wrong with allowing others to be turned into second-class citizens.

    The mere fact that the Constitution does not use the words that Jefferson later used to describe their meaning does not mean the concept is not in the Constitution. It is. I don’t believe the Bible uses the words “hell” or “trinity” either, but I don’t see that stopping Christians from using both the words and the concepts.

    The concept is extraordinarily simple: The government has no business meddling in religion. The right of religious worship belongs to the individual, not to the state. Let each individual worship as he or she sees fit without government support or hindrance. That means that public school teachers may not preach their religious views in class, because in class they are on the public payroll, they represent the state, and their word carries the weight of their authority. If they want to preach their religions, they are free to do it on their own time, but on while they are supposed to be teaching the curriculum. Why isn’t that the best rule?

  20. Your response goes to illustrate that liberals really do take things and stretch them. The Constitution says that Congress shall make no law establishing a religion. Did you know that congressmen routinely hold prayer meetings in the Capitol building? Are they in violation of the constitution. And is humanism a religious viewpoint? Because that’s what teachers teach in public schools. Humanism is a religion, my friend. It is the worship of man.

    The Bible does use the word “hell.” Fifty-four times, actually. See here: http://blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/words.pl?word=hell

    That argument really doesn’t apply, anyways, because what the constitution says does not even remotely resemble the “seperation of church and state.” The trinity is a word to describe what the Bible calls God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in one.

    How do I allow others to be turned into second-class citizens? Because I witness to them and lead them to a belief that you don’t agree with? Does that make me a second-class citizen?

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