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First all the caveats in the world...

Phil Robinson is an asshole and what he said has as little to do with the first amendment as Hostess Ho-Ho has to do with cold fusion.*

(*When -- eventually -- it is discovered that Hostess Ho-Ho's are, in fact, the KEY to cold fusion, I will deny I've ever written these words.)

Further, no one has a right to be on TV and everyone has a right to watch (or NOT watch) whatever the heck they like.

All that out of the way, I'd like to propose two t-shirts, worn by identical twins, on the same day at the same public school in Anywhere USA.

The first t-shirt says...

God is gay.
And the second t-shirt says...
Gay is sin.
My question:

Should either of these students or both of these students or neither student be asked to change their shirt/be sent home?

I ask because I wrestle, honestly, with the fact that these t-shirts are, in my mind, essentially the same.

(And, by the way, being a cultural Heeb, I think both t-shirts are ALSO the same as one that says "God is Jewish" and another that says "Jews are damned.")

They are two shirts which espouse a points of view that challenges (to say the least) the firmly head beliefs of a subset of society and both are likely, depending on where the shirts are worn, to make someone uncomfortable.

And yet... should we... or can we... silence beliefs?

Moreover, isn't is the subverted thought... the festering/silent/unspoken hatred/challenge... that is the truly dangerous one and, if so, shouldn't we welcome people bringing their ideas (even antiquated) into the public square to be debated?

To that end, though I PERSONALLY find nothing at all offensive about the first t-shirt while finding the second t-shirt small minded and bigoted, I say both kids should be asked to change shirts until the final bell and then... well... they can deal with the consequences, good and bad, after the final bell rings.

That said... I put the question out there and look forward to your thoughts.

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Comment Preferences

  •  therefore G*d is sin? /nt (5+ / 0-)

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 01:37:35 PM PST

  •  Public high school (6+ / 0-)

    For public high school I am OK with banning T-shirts with political or religious messages if that is what the school board decides and sets down clear rules. No need to send the kids home just ask them to put the T-shirts on inside out. If the kids are in college, who cares?

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 01:45:07 PM PST

  •  1 says "God is Gay" and 1 says "God is Good" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    Do you send either one home?

    Happy end-of-2013, everyone!

    "'Patriotism' is the last refuge of a scoundrel" - Samuel Johnson, 1775

    preborner: (n.) one who believes that the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth.

    by 1BQ on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 01:49:46 PM PST

    •  I honestly can't see why one would send... (0+ / 0-)

      ...the second one home. As for the first, again, I wrestle.

      •  What about just "God is bad"? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffLieber, kyril

        Why should statements criticizing religion be any more offensive than statements supporting it?

        "God is gay" might just as well be "God is a woman" or "God is Black".  I don't know why any of those should be offensive.

        Anyway, interesting exercise.

      •  They are equivalent to me b/c they promote (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffLieber

        the existence in the real world of what, to me, is a delusional view of how the world works. More to the point, though, is that excessive application of political correctness ends in censorship.

        My point in bringing this up is the same as yours: where do you draw the line on what is acceptable discourse? I draw the line at a different place than you, in that I find both of my statements to be equally objectionable, though not terribly so (I'd probably do the same as you - not send anyone home, but ask the students to cover up until classes are done for the day). In my examples, both shirts express an opinion, just as yours do. The opinions expressed may be controversial, and even offensive to some, and the real question is should individuals have the right to offend others in the name of expressing their personal opinion and/or stimulating debate? And what right do those who are offended have to be, well, not offended?

        I've stayed out of the duck dude controversy b/c I can change the channel. He's of the same ilk as televangelists, and I don't watch them, either. If enough people are offended enough to start a boycott of the show's sponsors and the dude gets canned, hey, it's the free market at work!

        T shirts at a public school are not really equivalent to duck dude. But you asked, I thought about it, and thought I'd weigh in on the discussion. Does my right to offend trump your right to not be offended? By and large, yes. To say otherwise would be to censor me.

        "'Patriotism' is the last refuge of a scoundrel" - Samuel Johnson, 1775

        preborner: (n.) one who believes that the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth.

        by 1BQ on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 02:35:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Whats in the schools rule book ? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 01:57:07 PM PST

  •  'God Doesn't Exist' t-shirt. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    We need identical triplets.


    Caution: The reality in the mirror may be closer than it appears.

    by glb3 on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 02:03:47 PM PST

  •  Really? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber, Kane in CA

    Singling out other people, as a class, and claiming your god disapproves of them is not the same as claiming your god is x.   Nor is claiming a minority position that earns many children a fist in the face the same as claiming the majority opinion behind the fist.

    There is no shining absolute level playing field where shaming the minority is the same as claiming something about your god.  My reaction to the shirts in an educational environment would depend a lot on who was there and why it was being worn.  I'd hope that someone in charge of children would act in the interests of those most in need of protection, not some ideal of free speech or grand policy.

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 02:07:00 PM PST

    •  That's as good an answer as any and yet... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical, theKgirls

      ...in some contexts the FIRST shirt would be "attacking" the minority. Meaning, an Evangelical Christian in Los Angeles/New York would, likely, be the clear minority.

      As for...

      Singling out other people, as a class, and claiming your god disapproves of them is not the same as claiming your god is x.
      ...its that distinction that has the fundies in a bundle. Meaning... once you cross the line to the full and fervent belief in God (as its defined by the far right) then the first t-shirt is as much as an attack on their way of life and you and I believe the first t-shirt is... well... fucked up.
      •  Well (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kane in CA, JeffLieber, kyril

        Hence the context thing -- more responding to the difference than the question of being told to change, especially after a moment's reflection -- there would have to be something else going on, I think.  My folks were educators and I think a good teacher rolls with it until it is disruptive, and knows that everyone takes some grief (but puts  the brakes on when they can).

        And yeah, I got you were going after the "freedom of religion" thing.  But a better example is -- do they have the right to ask someone like myself, whose very body is offense against their beliefs, to cease to exist in civil space, to not set a bad example with my survival, because Jesus (or whatever)?  I have an interest in that answer being "no" -- but nothing I know of history leads me to think my answer will be the one that prevails.  

        ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

        by jessical on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 02:50:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  As we move forward (and I think we ARE... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jessical

          ...moving forward) to a place where America becomes a place where we flip (sooner then later) to gay is just another form of loving being the majority and religious intolerance being the minority it'll be an interesting challenge for those on the right side of history.

    •  That least FIRST T-SHIRT, should be... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical

      ...the SECOND T-SHIRT.

      This is what happens when you blog on egg nog.

  •  Punching up or punching down (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber, Kane in CA, poco

    That's the primary distinction that I think would be relevant.

    Christians are the majority in this country.  They have a definite power base and set the rules in a lot of ways (just look at how many states have banned gay marriage, and how long it has taken to get non-discrimination laws passed even locally).

    LGBT persons are not the majority, and while they have more power and exposure today than in the past (and even have some powerful allies), as a whole, they are definitely not in power.

    To that end, the "god is gay" shirt is "punching up" - an out-of-power group attacking an in-power group - whereas the "gay is sin" shirt is "punching down" - an in-power group attacking an out-of-power group.

    Ethically and morally, we tend to side with the out-of-power groups in order to help balance the power.  If we allow the punching down shirt, we're allowing a marginalized group to be further marginalized.  If we allow the punching up shirt, we're helping to balance out the power differential between the two groups.

    •  Though the punching up/down argument... (0+ / 0-)

      ...depends on how wide or narrow you define community.

      Meaning, as for the country... yes, Christians are a majority, but move to New York... and then Manhattan... and then a liberal school in an affluent part of Manhattan and the majority/minority statuses flip.

      And then... what happens in twenty years when (hopefully) the whole dynamic gets flipped on its head and the LOVE WHO YOU LOVE crowd starts to vastly outnumber the LOVE WHO WE TELL YOU TO LOVE crowd?

  •  Everybody get first amendment rights... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber, kyril

    Except kids.  And that's not right.  Even kids have the right to say something stupid...or profound.  Some say the shirts would be disruptive in a learning environment.  I say that they may be used as teaching materials.  Both would generate learning opportunities and a chance to strengthen debate skills.
    I would also point out that teaching kids to "do as I say, not as I do" is an indelible lesson in hypocrisy.

  •  Having been sent home from a public school to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Orinoco, JeffLieber, kyril

    change my shirt for something far less likely to irritate any significant section of the people around me, I'd say either both or neither.  Sending either home is inviting a real first amendment challenge, given that you say it's a public school.  But you might get around that if you had a fairly strict dress code that bans, for instance, anything written on clothing other than brand names.

    •  And turning our kids into billboards (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffLieber

      for brand names is OK because capitalism! or job creation! or status symbols! or something...

      Oh, I know: because parents would complain they can't buy junior what he's seen advertised on the TV machine and in magazines and heard about from his friends until junior just won't shut up about it.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 02:42:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, my point was that you'd often have to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CJB2012

        tear out embroidery to get rid of a number of brand names.  Not that I'm endorsing wearing brands for the heck of it.

        You've got a valid point, just don't throw it at me.

        •  Sorry, didn't mean to throw it at you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JeffLieber

          but when I was growing up, the brand name was on a little tag sewed into a seam or somewhere. At some point, we forgot how to look for quality and accepted the marketeers insistence that a brand name meant quality, because that brand used to produce quality stuff.

          There really isn't a lick of difference between a Tommy Hilfiger branded long sleeve t-shirt and a no-name long sleeve t-shirt, except the Hilfiger sells for $24 and the no-name is only $8.

          And kids want the Hilfiger shirt because they see other kids wearing Hilfiger shirts. How do they know? The shirts have Hilfiger plastered all over them.  

          And then the little angels then proceed to bully the kids with the no-name shirts because they are 'poor' and 'can't afford good clothes.'

          Sorry. I'll get off my soap box now.

          Sorry.

          "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

          by Orinoco on Wed Dec 25, 2013 at 06:57:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Put one (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, JeffLieber

    on the front, and the other on the back.

    That would be a worthwhile T-shirt.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 02:36:11 PM PST

  •  IANAL. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    But your rights are limited as a student, and they're even more limited when you're an employee.

    Until the Supreme Court rules differently (at least in terms of the laws they've settled in the last 30 years, and they can start by reversing Citizen's United) discussions about what you can wear (as a student) and what you can say (as an employee) are moot.

  •  "God is gay" disparages no one. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    "Gay is sin" targets gays for opprobrium.

    Dick Cheney 2/14/10: "I was a big supporter of waterboarding"

    by Bob Love on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 03:06:20 PM PST

  •  If it is allowed for a student (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    to wear a visible religious symbol, the wearing of either of these students ought to be allowed as well.  If one can express a positive opinion about the almighty, then one should be able to express a negative opinion about him (or her or it) as well.

    -5.13,-5.64; GOP thinking: A 13 year path to citizenship is too easy, and a 5 minute background check is too burdensome. -- 1audreyrenee

    by gizmo59 on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 03:10:34 PM PST

  •  I'm against both plus against "Led Zeppelin" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    I hate t-shirts with slogans or pictures, especially in schools. Let's get back to uniforms and smacking kids with rulers! Ok, maybe that's too much...I mean the rulers bit and probably uniforms too.

    I'm against these t-shirts purely from a fashion viewpoint. They bug me.

    As for the message thing, they are statements and therefore are open to rebuttal. If the discussion gets in the way of education then the students shouldn't be wearing whatever it is.

    Dear NSA: I am only joking.

    by Shahryar on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 03:17:20 PM PST

  •  I'd go with neither (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    unless the school bans all writing and images on clothing, in which case obviously both.

    Kids have a First Amendment right to freedom of speech. If their public school, which they are legally required to attend, wishes to restrict that right, it should only do so by regulating the "time, place, and manner" of speech - not its content.

    The problem with a ban on political and religious messages, as with any content-based restriction, is that it's subject to interpretation and bias. We may be able to agree that "God is Gay" is political. But what about "WWJD"? "Recycle"? "Abstinence"? "Planned Parenthood"?

    How about a quote from the "I Have a Dream" speech? Or a shirt honoring Alan Turing? Nelson Mandela? Ayn Rand? Charles Darwin?

    Or how about a shirt with the Constitution printed on it? What about just the Bill of Rights? Or just the First Amendment? The Fourth? The Second?

    What about a shirt depicting the human family tree? The equations of general relativity? The distances of various astronomical objects in light-years? Pangaea? A graph of CO2 versus global surface temperature?

    Almost everything worth saying (and a lot of things that aren't) is political in some way. Even brand names on clothing are political. A ban on political and religious speech is just an excuse for the people in charge to ban anything they don't personally like.

    "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

    by kyril on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 03:42:08 PM PST

    •  Totally agree... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril

      ...and then you get to "Gay Is Sin," which to those who BELIEVE is simply a statement of fact... like the sun rises in the East... and yet it is ALSO hate speech... or something approaching hate speech.

      So, respecting and believing everything you've written... what do you do with the kid who shows up with that message?

      •  I really don't think it's hate speech (0+ / 0-)

        or even approaching it. You managed to pick a particularly innocuous anti-gay slogan; outside of the Christian paradigm it's basically meaningless, and inside of the Christian paradigm it basically translates to "Gay is Human".

        That said, I'll grant that there does exist hate speech which doesn't include blatant slurs or violent language. What to do about it?

        I'd say fight it with education. Make a conscious effort to include gay history just as we've been working on including black history and women's history. Talk about current events and encourage students to draw parallels with the civil rights movement. Assign readings of anti-gay-marriage pieces side by side with anti-miscegenation pieces. Perform pieces by gay musicians and composers and actors and playwrights. Even in math and science classes, you can talk about Alan Turing.

        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

        by kyril on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 06:01:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'd get my kid a t-shirt that says: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    God, I wish they'd shut up!

    "Bob Johnson doesn't have special privileges, because really, why would I entrust that guy with ANYTHING?" - kos, November 9, 2013

    by Bob Johnson on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 03:53:08 PM PST

  •  I think you have made an excellent point for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffLieber

    schools to require uniforms, and or make rules against wearing clothing with insignia other than the manufactures logo (which are sadly unavoidable these days).

    It is one thing for students in controlled abstract discussions to discuss a theoretical issue like the one you propose, it is another for them to personally state something that controversial in an in your face way where the norms for controlled "argument" don't set standards of expression and where physical acts are not at all acceptable.

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