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Comments by MEM

Go to: Comer loses appeal

MEM's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by MEM

Comment 12 by noimspartacus :

I wonder if Ms Comer is using the wrong part of the 1st Amendment to make her case. Does it not violate her free speech rights to have an opinion on the TEA's neutrality policy? . . . I However, I don't think the TEA, a government entity, is excluded from the purview of 1st Amendment's free speech clause. Any lawyers on this board care to chime in?

Hi noimspartacus - very good catch. As a US attorney, albeit not one who specializes in constitutional law, I can offer the following observations. The appeals court raised the exact same point that you did in their opinion in the footnote on page 12, and agrees that government employees have a 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. In the words of the court:

"As a public employee, Comer’s “speech is protected by the First Amendment when [her] interests . . . ‘as a citizen commenting upon matters of public concern’ outweigh the interests of the state ‘as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the services it performs through its employees.’” Charles, 522 F.3d at 512 (quoting Williams v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 480 F.3d 689, 692 (5th Cir. 2007)). Comer, however, has raised no free speech claims, and consequently, we decline the occasion to surmise her chances of succeeding on claims she has not raised."

Reading a bit into this footnote, the court seems to be asking Comer's attorney's why this issue was not raised on appeal. In the US court system, judges will not raise and decide issues for the litigants, that's the job of their attorneys. (Perhaps because Comer was not acting in the capacity of a private citizen, but rather sent out her emails as a government employee - although this is speculation on my part.)

The appeal court found that as an employee of TEA, Cormer should not have been expressing her opinions on any subject matter that could be part of the school curriculum, whether or not it was religious. Again in the words of the court:

"The fact that Comer and other TEA employees cannot speak out for or against possible subjects to be included in the curriculum—whether the considered subjects relate to the study of mathematics, Islamic art, creationism, chemistry, or the history of the Christian Crusades—their silence does not primarily advance religion, but rather, serves to preserve TEA’s administrative role in facilitating the curriculum review process for the Board. "

Not really knowing very much about the case, I'm not giving my own opinion on the court's decision, only trying to explain the reasoning of the judges. (Although it is a bit interesting that their examples included Islamic art and Christian crusades.) If you want read the court's opinion in whole, it is one of the links above, entitled "Court filing" (although a title "Court opinion" seems more appropriate.)

Thu, 08 Jul 2010 02:05:34 UTC | #487213

Go to: UPDATED 1/1/10: Last minute offer! A HUGE Thank You! The last day of our fundraising drive

MEM's Avatar Jump to comment 75 by MEM

What the hell, $150 extra for the 150th anniversary. Thanks for the great website and keep up the good work!

Thu, 31 Dec 2009 21:39:00 UTC | #427243

Go to: 'The Greatest Show on Earth' debuts at #1 on the Sunday Times Bestseller List!

MEM's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by MEM

Congratulations! The number one spot is fantastic news!

Gives me a renewed sense of hope in the fight against the forces of ignorance and deceit.

It is interesting the the adjective "strident" is being used to modify the term academic. Perhaps this is an improvement to the term strident atheist.

Nevertheless, strident is an unfair media slur against vocal nonbelievers. Kind of reminds me of America when black civil rights advocates were, and by some still, termed uppity.

How about a more fair and positive term such as "passionate?"

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 20:32:00 UTC | #396706

Go to: Extract from Chapter One of The Greatest Show on Earth

MEM's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by MEM

I'm on board with the Holocaust denier analogy. Comparing evolution deniers to Holocaust deniers is an emotionally loaded attention getter that will start people thinking. We do not allow Holocaust deniers equal time in an educational forum because, at a fundamental level, their story is one of lies and deception. Likewise, the lead evolution deniers use lies and deception to push their own political agenda. Decent and thoughtful people should be outraged by any such forms of dishonesty and manipulation.

The arguments by evolution deniers for equal time should not provoke sympathetic feelings for fairness but rather disgust at their deceptions, in the same way that most people feel disgust about Holocaust deniers.

It is also noteworthy that there are likely disproportionately very few atheist Holocaust deniers, but rather fringe Christians or perhaps not-so-fringe Muslims.

Mon, 24 Aug 2009 23:11:00 UTC | #391294

Go to: Flying rabbis fight swine flu

MEM's Avatar Jump to comment 134 by MEM

When I see this, I am less inclined to believe there can ever be peace over there. It looks like pure delusions and madness.

Thu, 13 Aug 2009 23:13:00 UTC | #387891

Go to: Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining

MEM's Avatar Jump to comment 150 by MEM

First she writes:

In his online "Atheist Manifesto," Harris writes that "no person, whatever his or her qualifications, can seek public office in the United States without pretending to be certain that ... God exists." The evidence? Antique clauses in the constitutions of six -- count 'em -- states barring atheists from office

Then she writes, apparently without irony:

The perennial atheist litigant Michael Newdow sued (unsuccessfully) to bar President Obama from uttering the words "so help me God" when he took his oath of office.

A requirement of saying an oath to God before becoming the President of the US can also be viewed as another official bar to an atheist assuming that office. I wonder how many political offices in the US require such an oath.

Also, further evidence to support Harris' statement above would be how many openly atheist politicians are elected to office, and that fact that according to polls, many American will simply not vote for an atheist.

Sun, 14 Jun 2009 05:32:00 UTC | #370322