Monday, December 18, 2006

Talk in Class Turns to God, Setting Off Public Debate on Rights

NYT Before David Paszkiewicz got to teach his accelerated 11th-grade history class about the United States Constitution this fall, he was accused of violating it.

While Devid Paszkiewicsz went too far with his prosetlyzing, I don't see that he violated the Constitution, which says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. AFAIK, David Paszkiewicz is a teacher, he is not Congress, and he did not make any law. Also as I understand reading other blogs, he was answering questions, and not introducing this data.
Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific,
They are theories, and he is entitled to his opinion on them. After all the same 1st Amendment provides Congress shall make no law .... abridging the freedom of speech
that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark,
Do you have proof they were not?
and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.
Did he establish a religion, or prohibit anyone's free exercise of their religion.
“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”
I believe he is right. Personally I believe that Jews who follow the covenant God established with them will also be in heaven. John 14:6 says I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me., but do you really think that if someone has a compact with God, that he will not let them through.
The student, Matthew LaClair, said that he felt uncomfortable with Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements
Oh gee, we certainly would not want him to feel uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable about a lot of things. Is anyone interested in a list?
in the first week, and taped eight classes starting Sept. 13 out of fear that officials would not believe the teacher had made the comments.

PZ Myers blogged The story also documents some of the reactions in the community. It's mostly negative…against the student who dared to document the flagrantly illegal actions of the teacher.

Steve M blogged I love the early reaction to the story by commenters at Ann Althouse's ersatz-centrist right-wing blog:
... this smells like a sting. If the story is accurate, how very convenient that the kid just happened to be the son of a secular humanist lawyer. I'd want to know if that's true, and if so, has the father previously litigated issues like this? Is he someone actively hostile to religion? The record is replete of examples where the left uses their children as a battering ram for their political causes: in recent memory, Michael Newdow and Cindy Sheehan spring to mind.... how very convenient that the kid just happened to be the son of a secular humanist lawyer
Yes, I was on board til I got to that little factoid.


Heretik blogged The kid who taped the preacher teacher has his own hell. Matthew LaClair has received a death threat. The kid says he shouldn’t be worried about Supreme Court cases something like this might bring up, “I should be worrying about who I’m going to take to the prom.” Maybe then he could dance with all the children of god, even the Muslim girl, maybe an atheist or an agnostic, before we all head to hell.

8 comments:

KnightErrant said...

"Matthew LaClair has received a death threat."

Nothing speaks more to the blessings of Christianity than threatening to kill heretics and unbelievers.

Don Singleton said...

"Matthew LaClair has received a death threat."

Nothing speaks more to the blessings of Christianity than threatening to kill heretics and unbelievers.


If the death threat really occurred, I denounce anyone that made it, and I hope that the authorities find him promptly, and prosecute him to the full extent of the law. The Quran may endorse such behaviour, but the Holy Bible certainly does not.

Tom Hilton said...

Did he establish a religion, or prohibit anyone's free exercise of their religion.

The answers are yes and sort of, respectively.

David Paszkiewicz is an employee of the government, teaching in a government-funded classroom, to students required by the government to attend. For him to teach his religious beliefs as fact is to give them de facto government sponsorship--and that's exactly what 'establishment' means in a First Amendment context.

And yes, telling a Muslim student she is going to hell is at the very least discouraging her free expression of her religion. Just how free is she to express her religious beliefs when her peers have all been told they damn her to hell? (If some teacher told his students Christians were going to hell, I guarantee you would understand that point.)

Don Singleton said...

Did he establish a religion, or prohibit anyone's free exercise of their religion.

The answers are yes and sort of, respectively.

David Paszkiewicz is an employee of the government, teaching in a government-funded classroom, to students required by the government to attend.


I believe he is an employee of the local governemt. Possibly the city, but probably a school board. The First Amendment restricts Congress. The 14th Amendment extends equal protection to the states, but says nothing about local government.

For him to teach his religious beliefs as fact is to give them de facto government sponsorship--and that's exactly what 'establishment' means in a First Amendment context.

Au Contraire, my good friend. Establishment means exactly what is says, naming one church to be the official church of the nation. At the time of the signing several of the colonies had official state churches, and they did not want the federal government to select one of them and make it the official church for the entire nation.

For an employee of any government agency to make a statement about faith does not establish an official state religion. Bill Clinton was a Baptist, and spoke of his faith. That did not make us all Baptists. GWB is a Methodist, and has spoken of his faith. That does not make us all Methodists.


And yes, telling a Muslim student she is going to hell is at the very least discouraging her free expression of her religion. Just how free is she to express her religious beliefs when her peers have all been told they damn her to hell? (If some teacher told his students Christians were going to hell, I guarantee you would understand that point.)

I have heard Christian pastors that said that other Christians were going to hell if they did not adopt what his particular church teaches. I still feel my ticket Home will be honored.

Muslims say that Christians and Jews will go to hell. I have no objection to their saying that.

I have an objection to them killing anyone that does not convert to their faith

Jack's Shack said...

A teacher has no place telling students that if they do not believe as he does they are going to hell.

Don Singleton said...

A teacher has no place telling students that if they do not believe as he does they are going to hell.

If you are talking about it being in the lesson plan, and it is not a religion course or Sunday School, I would agree with you.

There is some evidence, however, that these statements by the teacher are in resonse to questions posed by some students, and if he is asked what he believes, it seems reasonable for him to answer the question.

Tom Hilton said...

The First Amendment restricts Congress. The 14th Amendment extends equal protection to the states, but says nothing about local government.

That isn't how the Supreme Court has interpreted it over the last 60 years.

For an employee of any government agency to make a statement about faith does not establish an official state religion. Bill Clinton was a Baptist, and spoke of his faith. That did not make us all Baptists. GWB is a Methodist, and has spoken of his faith. That does not make us all Methodists.

Not relevant. The remarks of Clinton and Bush are understood to be their individual views; were any president to attempt to represent their individual beliefs as the official position of the government, that would certainly be crossing the line. (In fact, Bush has arguably crossed that line by incorporating sectarian propaganda in government publications on topics such as family planning.)

A teacher in a classroom is (rightly) held to a different standard, because in most cases our educational system is based on a model in which teachers impart knowledge to students. This guy was presenting his religious beliefs not as an individual opinion but as fact--was, in effect, teaching (as distinguished from merely expressing) his narrowly sectarian beliefs.

There is some evidence, however, that these statements by the teacher are in resonse to questions posed by some students, and if he is asked what he believes, it seems reasonable for him to answer the question.

I'm not sure what evidence you have for this, but the article pretty clearly says that LaClair didn't start asking his questions (while taping) until Paszkiewicz had already done a fair amount of proselytizing.

It's also worth noting (from an earlier article in the Jersey Journal, link expired unfortunately) that when LaClair went to the principal with his complaint, Paszkiewicz denied saying what LaClair claimed he said--until LaClair played the tape. Paszkiewicz didn't just use classroom time for his own sectarian purposes--he lied about doing it. How anyone can think this guy is anything other than complete scum (whatever their religious beliefs) is beyond me.

Don Singleton said...

The First Amendment restricts Congress. The 14th Amendment extends equal protection to the states, but says nothing about local government.

That isn't how the Supreme Court has interpreted it over the last 60 years.


I think they went too far in interpreting something Jefferson wrote in a letter to a church assuring them that the Feds would not discriminate against them, but that is beside the point.

For an employee of any government agency to make a statement about faith does not establish an official state religion. Bill Clinton was a Baptist, and spoke of his faith. That did not make us all Baptists. GWB is a Methodist, and has spoken of his faith. That does not make us all Methodists.

Not relevant. The remarks of Clinton and Bush are understood to be their individual views;


As are what a teacher answers when a child asks him a question.

were any president to attempt to represent their individual beliefs as the official position of the government, that would certainly be crossing the line. (In fact, Bush has arguably crossed that line by incorporating sectarian propaganda in government publications on topics such as family planning.)

A teacher in a classroom is (rightly) held to a different standard, because in most cases our educational system is based on a model in which teachers impart knowledge to students.


That may have been the case when we went to school. Now they are just expected to fill their minds with secular humanistic crap.

This guy was presenting his religious beliefs not as an individual opinion but as fact--was, in effect, teaching (as distinguished from merely expressing) his narrowly sectarian beliefs.

Can you prove that? Was it in his lesson plan?

There is some evidence, however, that these statements by the teacher are in resonse to questions posed by some students, and if he is asked what he believes, it seems reasonable for him to answer the question.

I'm not sure what evidence you have for this, but the article pretty clearly says that LaClair didn't start asking his questions (while taping) until Paszkiewicz had already done a fair amount of proselytizing.


You just admitted that LeClair was asking questions. Can you prove that the objectionable things were a part of the prequestion proselytizing, and not answers to the questions.

It's also worth noting (from an earlier article in the Jersey Journal, link expired unfortunately) that when LaClair went to the principal with his complaint, Paszkiewicz denied saying what LaClair claimed he said--until LaClair played the tape. Paszkiewicz didn't just use classroom time for his own sectarian purposes--he lied about doing it. How anyone can think this guy is anything other than complete scum (whatever their religious beliefs) is beyond me.

If he was proselytizing to the degree of the quotes, without them being answers to questions from the students, he was wrong, but I would not say he was scum.