Friday, February 10, 2012
Separating Politics and Religion | Casey's Last Word
It was a bad week for Newt Gingrich.
On Tuesday he lost his hoped-for position as the sole conservative alternative to Mitt Romney when Rick Santorum won contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.
And on Thursday he lost San Antonio federal Judge Fred Biery as a whipping boy.
Gingrich was going around the country calling Biery an “anti-religious, dictatorial bigot” for an injunction he granted last June ordering Medina Valley school officials not to include an “invocation” and a “benediction” in high school graduation ceremonies.
The order also required school officials to tell students speaking at the graduation that they could bear witness to their religious beliefs, but they could not ask the audience to join them in prayer, turning the official event partly into a religious exercise.
While politicians such as Gingrich and Gov. Rick Perry were playing politics with the ruling, officials from the Medina Valley Independent School District and their lawyers were engaged in mediation with the agnostic family that brought the lawsuit.
The result, approved by Biery Thursday, was a 27-page agreement in which school officials agreed to most of the above, plus more.
They pledged to choose student speakers without regard to their religiosity.
They agreed to remove from school spaces all bible quotes, crosses and other religious symbols.
And they agreed that while student speakers may offer a prayer and ask others to join them, no on-duty school employee or official, or the school band, would stand during that prayer, indicating that it was a personal expression, not that of school officials.
The district also agreed to pay $125,000 to the lawyers for the family that sued.
For his part, Biery had a bit of fun, as he is wont to do, in his final orders approving the settlement.
He noted that the issue was not the right to pray, either “in private as Jesus taught or in large public events as Mohammed instructed.”
He cited the Quran for the latter and, for the former, Mathew’s account of Jesus instructing his followers not to be “like the hypocrites” who pray “to be seen by others,” but to “go into your room, close the door and pray.”
And, in a “personal statement,” he wrote: “To those Christians who have venomously and vomitously (a word he made up) cursed the Court family and threatened bodily harm and assassination: In His name, I forgive you.”
And he said those in the legislative and executive branches who demagogued this case for their own political goals should be ashamed of themselves.
He didn’t name them, but he buried something more than a hint on page four of an appendix in which he gives some interesting historical treatment on the wisdom of separation of church and state.
“While religious institutions bestow many blessings and try to alleviate suffering, those acts of Grace are newtralized by religious Homo sapiens who exhibit an historical and continuing pernicious and pervasive tendency to kill other humans and confiscate the property of those, sometimes even within the same religion, who do not believe as they do.”
Biery mischievously misspelled the word “newtralized” as beginning with n-e-w-t.
We’ll post this and some other documents from the case on our web site.