Ignorance and Distortion in Rhode Island: Prayer Banner

2 minutes, 13 seconds Read

I’ve been following the controversy surrounding what is quite a clear cut-and-dry case in Rhode Island regarding separation of church and state. A public high school has a prayer banner on its wall that should be taken down because endorsement of religion should be kept out of public schools. The words “Heavenly Father” and “Amen” denote a very clear endorsement of religion! The responses of the community at large in this Rhode Island case and the nativity controversy I was involved in are very similar; the same distortions and levels of ignorance are displayed. The “arguments” from the “pro-prayer banner” people are simply horrible.

Here’s a video from a Rhode Island FOX station distorting the issues:
Comments at 0:28 begin the distortions. Throughout this discussion, newscasters focus on the word “offended.” Offense, whether real or contrived, is not the issue here and is not the basis for a complaint about violation of the separation of church and state. The complaint here is that the school is endorsing a religion by displaying a prayer banner. Let’s focus on the real issue here.
0:40 contains a fallacious appeal to tradition. So what if the banner was up for a long time? If the banner were up for 40 years, 4 years, or 4 days, this would not make the banner any more or less legitimate. The banner is a violation regardless of how long it has been up.

1:15 Don’t like it, don’t look at it! Missing the point…and a really bad argument. If a sign were at the school saying “All Christians are inferior human beings who are deluded and worship imaginary gods. Scientology is the real deal,” Christians (or anyone else) certainly would see the huge flaw in this non-argument. The issue is not about people looking at a sign, liking the sign, or disliking the sign; the issue is whether or not the sign is a violation.

1:50 focus on offensive although it really has nothing to do with the real argument

2:09 another appeal to tradition

2:22 The city is hurting financially…so what? It’s obviously going to lose if it goes to court, but the school wants to go to court anyway. Claiming that the school is poor doesn’t matter at all. This is a veiled fallacious appeal to emotion.

2:50 Non-sequitur. The commentator asks why parents would allow their child to be public about this. Who cares? This isn’t relevant to the argument.

3:35 The majority want the prayer there. So what? It doesn’t matter what the majority wants because the constitution trumps mob rule. If everyone suddenly wanted to own slaves, this wouldn’t suddenly legalize or legitimize slavery.

5:12 features a poll that is not dealing with the central issue at all.

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