At cross purposes

Russell
Russell Wangersky
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It has not been the finest of hours. A parent complained to the Eastern School District about the giant cross children had to pass on the way into St. Matthew’s School. The school district said the cross would come down over the summer. All manner of righteous chaos ensued.

Let’s get the first part out of the way quickly.

Any way you slice it, the unknown parent in this case is right — and it’s just as well that they’re unknown, because they have been pilloried in a decidedly unchristian way.

The bile that has been poured out over this issue is nothing short of astounding for the 21st century. The parent has been derided as being a come-from-away, has had phone-in callers on radio shows decide they are Muslim or any host of other religions and, in short, has been demonized. It’s a pretty sad show — and it’s not exactly turning the other cheek.

And then there’s that chimera of chimeras: the “What about our rights?” canard that often comes forward when the majority suddenly doesn’t get its way.

Here are the facts about that: parents and children in a secular system shouldn’t have to face any religious symbolism that represents only one faith — in a secular system, no particular faith should be represented as primary. It’s a simple concept that lawyers for the Eastern School District recognized quickly; faced with a court challenge, they would lose.

But on the flip side, the fact that the cross is to come down is not discrimination against parents who happen to hold a Christian faith.

The absence of a symbol is not a sign of discrimination. If, for argument’s sake, the mystery parent was demanding a new and different religious symbol be placarded on the side of the school, then other cross-supporting parents at St. Matthew’s could argue that their rights to religious freedom were being abridged.

The problem is that there has been a mix of ways that the religious past of many of our public institutions has continued to be recognized. After the province fully took over the eduction system, some symbols vanished. Others didn’t.

Leary’s Brook Junior High was Eugene Vaters Academy when it was part of the Pentecostal system. Eugene Vaters, somewhat ironically, was a Newfoundland Pentecostal leader who not only campaigned for equal funding for Pentecostal schools, but also argued for the value of school amalgamation. (In a 1954 brief, Vaters wrote, “We don’t think we shall find it difficult to work with others in common amalgamated schools, where it is deemed advisable, as we have never desired the Pentecostal schools for its own sake, nor to help bolster our religious standpoint. We believe in freedom with co-operation.” Yep: 1954.)

The Vaters name was dropped.

It was different in other schools. Holy Heart of Mary still boasts a large cross on the front of its auditorium — something that, along with the school’s name, could also be challenged as promoting one specific faith over others.

And it’s not just schools. St. Clare’s Hospital is part of Eastern Health, a non-religious, government-run health-care provider. Yet the newer part of the hospital boasts a huge cross running down one side of the building, and on the older buildings facing LeMarchant Road, a brightly lit rooftop cross faces out towards the harbour, a glowing cross held stoutly in place by reinforcement straps.

And there’s probably no reason why those crosses and names couldn’t remain, if the issue had been dealt with differently.

What could have been done instead of the current cross fuss?

Well, perhaps some clear-cut recognition that our schools — and at least one of our hospitals — have a past, a present and a future. Their pasts may have rested in denominational funding and support, and the symbols that remain could have been marked as exactly that. The cross outside St. Matthew’s, like the cross and the name of Holy Heart of Mary, like the several crosses at St. Clare’s, could have been marked by a plaque or other in-school information explaining the valuable roles of this province’s churches in both education and health care.

Identifying those religious roles as history, explaining why the symbols remain to honour that history, but also explaining that the present is a different place — that might have made an acceptable proactive compromise. And, in the future, as schools move and change, names and symbols would drop off and fade, much the way the more stridently religious teachers from the old denominational system have gradually retired.

Instead, though, the past has  hung on as if it still represented the present.

There was a time to make that kind of decision, to clearly mark the line between now and then.

It’s probably too late.

To make that kind of move now would only look like rearguard action — caught out, it would be trying to justify the status quo, an effort to stuff the genie back into the bottle, for both sides.

With the bad blood up and running, the simple solution won’t work. Fact is, there are those reading this column who got to “the unknown parent in this case is right” and started heating the tar and sharpening the pitchforks for my hide right there and then.

But a forward-looking decision years ago could have put this entire dispute on ice forever.

You know what they say about decisions: if you don’t make one, it will go ahead and make itself.

And it might not end up being the best one you could have made.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s

editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Eugene Vaters Academy

Geographic location: Clare, LeMarchant Road

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  • Colin Burke
    June 21, 2013 - 16:54

    I agree that quoting the US Founding Fathers' words is not creative. I myself am at least as creative as that, if not actually far more so, which perhaps enables me to appreciate the creativity of others to a greater degree than the average Philistine usually does. And it seems to me that accepting at face value a statement from the adherents of a religion that no religion was the basis of their drawing up a political constitution, especially if their religion teaches in the first place that religion is largely irrelevant, may well arise from "creating" a supposition, to which many real skeptics have not always laid claim, that those religionists who support Mr. Power's positions are better judges in their own case than are the adherents of religions which do not agree with him.

  • Ed Power
    June 17, 2013 - 09:32

    I'm sorry, Mr. Burke, but how is quoting the Founding Father's own words on religion and the status of religion in the establishment of US being "creative"? Like most believers, you suffer from a form of selective perception - seeing things that are where they are not, and vice versa. In this way, a reference to a generic "Creator" is perceived as proof that that nation is based on the Christian religion, the facts notwithstanding. This perception is now believed as fact, as if the reference mentioned that one particular deity over all others. Absence of evidence becomes proof by it's absence. As to conflating Deism and Atheism, that misperception is entirely your own. I thought my explanation of both terms clear enough. If you are truly confused about the difference between the two, you might refer to the Oxford English Dictionary for the definition of each word. If this isn't clear enough, you should find a Google search quite helpful.

  • Colin Burke
    June 15, 2013 - 11:52

    Sorry, Mr. Power, I thought you were the one conflating Deism and atheism. Sorry. My mistake. I just want to make the point that quoting Deists to prove the irrelevance of religion is itself a bit "creative"; I haven't made much study of religions beyond the one that satisfies myself, but I have an impression that Deism itself holds that God exists but that his existence is largely irrelevant to the working out of the universe.human affairs. If so, the American Founders' attitude to government was much influenced by their own religion, so that it would indeed be true to say that Chrisianity had nothing to do with it, except in being rejected. My error in thinking you tried to equate Deism and atheism as equally in opposition to Christianity was fostered somewhat by my impression that you thought a nation could not be Christian unless the government which the nation established was a Christian government; conflating "nation" and "government" seems to me almost to be consistent with the error of conflating Deism and atheism. Both are consistent with the view that humans are fallible.

  • Ed Power
    June 14, 2013 - 23:37

    I commend you, Mr. Burke, on your creative imagination. I never equated Deism with Atheism, I just stated that the US Founding Fathers were Deists, or were Christians by birth only, much like how I ended up RC. This is confirmed by their own writings, or in the volumes of material that have been written about them over the centuries, David Barton's revisionist pseudo-histories notwithstanding. A Deist, by definition, believes in a creator god, but one that doesn't interfere in the operation or evolution of the Universe(s). Hence the generic "Creator" referenced in the US Constitution. Creator - not God, Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, Ra, Baal or any one of the thousands of other manmade gods. An Atheist, by definition, doesn't believe in the existence of gods. Attempting to conflate the two is not just disingenuous, it's dishonest.

  • Colin Burke
    June 14, 2013 - 12:47

    Equating with Christianity any belief in God, to the point of suggesting Deism is a just another form of atheism, looks to me like accommodating the "facts" to a doctrine not firmly grounded in reason.

  • Ed Power
    June 13, 2013 - 23:54

    Grisha: I really suggest that you study a little more US History, particularly the discussions held before, during and after the Constitution was drafted. Jefferson, and most of the other Founding Fathers were religiously ambivilent, or Deists at best. Their extensive writings on these matters prove that religion, any type of religion, was not a defining factor behind the concept of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The fact that the US is not a Christian nation, or founded as a Christian nation, was stressed in Artice 11 of the Treaty of Tripoil (1797), where it states that "the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion..." It really is hard to state it much clearer than that. That treaty was drafted during Founding Father George Washington's second term as President and ratified early in Founding Father John Adams term as President. It should also be noted that Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was Adams Vice- President when this treaty was signed. Your first three Presidents, all involved in treaty that states clearly, before the entire world, that the "US is not, in any sense, founded upon the Christian religion". As to your straw man argument claim, you opened the door when you started making claims about "Gods Law and Natural Law", I just pointed out the many secular law codes that humans have written, some of which predate the Ten Commandments, and one of which - Sumerian Code - is likely the one that the Hebrew clerics used as a model for their own, which would make that Hebrew one somewhat less that Divine or Godly. Cheers.

  • grisha
    June 13, 2013 - 11:10

    Ed: There comes a point when the rational person must realize he is wasting time. This is the last missive you will hear from me on this topic. You really stepped in it this time. If you want to trade Jeffersonian quotes try these: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." --Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776. ME 1:29, Papers 1:315 "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?" --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVIII, 1782. ME 2:227. While Jefferson’s religious views were somewhat unconventional they existed nonetheless. Jefferson praised Jesus as being the world’s greatest philosopher. He rewrote the New Testament leaving out the miracles which he did not believe actually occurred, was the God parent the child of a dear friend who named his child after TJ, he established the first state funded university in the US, the U of Virginia (the others, Ed, being established by religious institutions including your vaunted Harvard) and established as one its first three courses of study one of theology, I could go on but there is probably no purpose to be served. In response to your query, my BA is from Rice University in Houston, Texas which certainly qualifies it as a rigorous and demanding study and not a religious, or state for that matter, institution being purely private. I received a JD from St. Mary’s U in San Antonio, Texas and a law license in 1974. My point was simply to illustrate that I am not a religious fanatic in fact was an avowed atheist when I left Rice. I dutifully attended the Lutheran Church with my wife and noted the quiet good these people do and their general demeanor. That religion is more historically based than most and while often as boring as chalk dust there is absolutely no holy rolling. I was confirmed about 10 years ago. My law practice from the beginning involved a lot of negotiations with people on transactions and dealing with the personal interests of folks and their employ of any logic, including logical fallacies, to achieve their ends. From time to time I review material on logical fallacies of which there is lots of good on the internet. It is sort of like a football player may run or lift weights. I noted your straw man/arguing off the point that I previously pointed out to you. In your latest missive you personally attack me by insinuating that I am a Tea Party advocate or Liberty University graduate. That has nothing to do with anything, much less, your position other than you don’t really have one and fall back on these sorts of diversions to salvage whatever. It is a really stupid thing to do particularly if you know nothing about the other participant whom you are insulting. Like TJ, my religious views are my own and I do not impose them on anyone. Note Colin Burke’s latest missive for a good approach with which I heartily agree. My point, for the very last time, is that you don’t saw off the limb you are on or throw the baby out with the bath water or whatever. You do not leave personal freedom in the hands of mere humans, not matter how smart, based solely on logic and reason. That will ultimately be manipulated by power. I will paraphrase Antonin Scalia, a US Supreme Court justice, discussing the Bill of Rights – these are things that are set aside and “you can’t touch these.” Why? Because they come from God directly to each person. Maybe you want to pull the legs out from under our most dear human birthrights and protections in the pursuit of narcissistic self-realization but I don’t.

  • Colin Burke
    June 13, 2013 - 09:30

    Mr. Smith, I do not admit there is no proof that God exists, only that there seems to be none that you rightly grasp, since apparently you are dogmatically a materialist. Likewise, perhaps, I have seen no really philosophical proof -- the kind of proof I would accept -- that there is no God: that some "gods" do not exist does not establish that none could, any more than disbelief in mythical unicorns and centaurs establishes the non-existence of rhinoceri and horse-riders. An excellent example of your sort of "reasoning" is your calling Judaism false on the ground that circumsion is only a physical assault, when that opinion itself rests on the assumption that Judaism is false, or perhaps on the view that physical harm and moral wrong are essentially the same thing. But if I cannot prove there is a God and you cannot prove there is none, I guess we both have to fall back upon a really progressive, modern, and liberating "freedom of choice," perhaps?

  • Ed Power
    June 12, 2013 - 14:49

    Once again, Grisha, your veer off into the realm of religious mythology. It doesn't matter, really, what Sir Edward Coke thought the Hebrew God said or did. What matters is that scholars, thinkers, philosophers, jurists and, yes, clerics of all religious stripes have been working on our law codes since humans started gathering in tribal groups, towns and cities. To state that the US Constitution and Bill of Rights are based on the Bible is the stuff of Tea Party fantasies and David Barton pseudo-history books. It certainly isn't supported by the words of your Founding Fathers, which is why the only references to religion are the First Amendment which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" and Article VI prohibiting religious tests as a requirement to hold public office. Perhaps you aren't familiar with the words of John Adams, "The Government of the United States is in not in any sense founded on the Christian religion", or Thomas Jefferson, "The Christian God is a being of terrific character - cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust." Or Jefferson again, " In every country and every age the priest has been hostile to liberty .He is always in alliance with the despot...they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind and therefore the safer engine for their purpose". Hardly the words of men who would create a system of laws based upon the Bible or gospels of St. Paul. Out of curiousity, from which "one of the best the best universities in the US did you earn your law degree? Harvard? Yale? Or Liberty University?

  • grisha
    June 12, 2013 - 10:51

    Maybe I should have said groveling. Great straw man agreement. Really not my focus. Maybe good for yours. As to the Ten Commandments, they are nonetheless real and employed no matter what their actual situation or creation. They represent the formation of law for at least the US. We use them for that whether or not in stone, papyrus, sky writing or whatever. I will try to bring the discussion to a more recent and relevant time with a quote that says it better than I could. "Sir Edward Coke was the preeminent jurist of his time. Coke's preeminence extended across the ocean: ‘For the American revolutionary leaders, 'law' meant Sir Edward Coke's custom and right reason.’ Coke's discussion of natural law: "The law of nature is that which God at the time of creation of the nature of man infused into his heart, for his preservation and direction. The U.S. Constitution rests on a common law foundation and the common law, in turn, rests on a classical natural law foundation." The Natural Law to which Coke references St, Paul the Apostle among others, is the basis of the US Constitution and most notably the Bill of Rights and the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence of the US. I am sorry to have to be culture bound in this instance and as such make no pronouncements for your own locale. That could be my folly. I simply felt, without real study, that your traditions were fairly similar to ours since the origin was. My point is that, and I will try to go slow, Natural Law is derived in large part from religious teachings, religious figures and scholars that respected these. A cross is not simply a Christian spiritual expression but also an expression and the derivation of humanity and human dignity that we have incorporated into our legal system. It could have been derived from other sources except that it wasn't. Bad people can pervert ANY system. To focus on their perversions is folly when there are many more good and important things that were derived from the same source. I really must get to work.

  • Doug Smith
    June 12, 2013 - 10:19

    Mr. Burke, yes anyone who believes in a god is in error. There is no proof of any such entity and you don’t know of any proof either; all you have is a faith there is one. Faith doesn’t prove anything. The onus for proof of a god’s existence is on the person making the claim not on those that are sceptical. Actually, there is a kind of proof that a god doesn’t exist, in that over history so many gods were claimed to exist that we are all now in agreement they were figments of the imagination and have relegated them to the scrap heap of stupid ideas. So what makes your claimed god any different than those that have gone before? Simply put Mr. Burke, if you make a statement but can’t prove it there is no reason for me or anyone else to believe you. Now isn’t that logical and reasonable? Doug Smith, Grand Falls-Windsor

  • Ed Power
    June 12, 2013 - 08:41

    Grisha. I am so sorry to "quibble" again, but there is no historical proof of any "Ten Commandments", other than the writings of Hebrew fabulists - who also gave us Talking Snakes and Talking Burning Bushes, I might point out - but there is a surviving copy of Hammurabi's Code at The Louvre in Paris. I realize that this code, written 4000 years ago may not meet your standards when it comes to Human Rights and Natural Law, but neither does the Hebrew code, which allowed the enslavement of other human beings and treated women as second class citizens. Still, Hammurabi's Code did establish a code of behaviour for marriage, divorce, paternity, inheritance and other "Natural" matters. So did the later Law codes I mentioned. The Greek ones, unfortunately, were written on wood and didn't survive the many many sackings, lootings and burnings that Athens - and Greece itself - suffered down through the ages. They did survive, however, in the writings of contemparaneous scholars and through the Roman Laws which copied and enhanced them. Where, by the way, are these Ten Commandments, burned into stone by God Himself, and which should have survived like Hammurabi's Code? Oh, yes, they disappeared, along with the Ark of the Covenant, and will be revealed unto us at some date in the future, likely when Jesus returns, etc, etc. Unfortunately, Grisha, your whole argument is based upon a myth. It presupposes the existence of the Hebrew god, then uses that presupposition as the "proof" of that gods existence and that all that follows - Genesis, Exodus, Ten Commandments, etc. - is true. Hardly a logical argument. Again, I hate to "quibble" but it is quite likely that the Hebrew Law Code is based upon the Law Codes of the dominant cultures and nations form that area and time, which would be the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu (2200 BCE) or Hammurabi's Code from a few centuries later. This would support many of the various dates attributed to the mythical - in that they came directly from God - Ten Commandments, which range from the 14th century BCE to the sixth century BCE. The Ten Commandments, therefore, are hardly Divine, but are an early attempt by the Hebrew tribes to encode a basic set of laws. I will give those Hebrew priests credit for attempting to simplify the laws. It wasn't a bad effort, even if it was far from complete. I hope this was sufficiently "on point" for you.

  • Colin Burke
    June 11, 2013 - 19:21

    Mr. Smith, it seems you believe that anyone who accepts the tenets of any religion is of necessity a helpless thrall to error. I should like you, as chief among our experts in rational argument, to set forth your premises and state your conclusion so we can see how that conclusion logically follows from these. Or, if you can't do that, give us, if you please, some other example in which any conclusion follows logically from any premises you choose to set forth: enable us to follow your chain of reasoning. Your conclusion that no normal man would choose to be a celibate priest seems to me to follow from the premise that no normal man can reasonably believe in a revealed religon. That looks to me like the fallacy of first assuming what you set out to establish. Perhaps I mistake your line of thought, though, so if I do, please show me wherein my error lies. And do it calmly, please, if that is feasible.

  • grisha
    June 11, 2013 - 13:15

    I really do not intend to go much further into this as I will hopefully be occupied with more financial rewarding pursuits. I will end with this: Ed: I was not addressing civil law, my reference was basic human rights from the natural law as elucidated by Coke, Blackstone and others. I do not spend a lot of time keeping up with this as I have sometimes busy days on other things and this is, as you may know, wildly complicated. I am not too familiar with the Code of Hammurabi other than it existed and pre-dated the Ten Commandments and probably did not play too much into the origin of our legal tradition and certainly not basic human rights. The Ten Commandments pre-dates everything else you mentioned and is as much a code as any of the rest you have cited even if simpler and more to the point. My simple point is that God given rights are superior to and trump the codes and systems that are purely man-made. We have the natural law to thank for somewhere to look for relief when political/governmental institutions of prejudiced, opinionated, self-interested, greedy, distorted men create systems to impose on the innate rights of human beings. Natural law derives its existence from Judeo/Christian roots. I agree that there are plenty of other sources for and input into the civil legal system. However, before we lose perspective and slam a cross that is displayed somewhere we object to we should (1) recognize the contributions to our own individual freedom derived from Judeo/Christian thought and tradition and (2) not selectively incorporate modern pop viewpoints as the basis for taking offence at someone else’s view the world. You might get the vapors. If you are addressing my stuff I would appreciate it if you would stay on point and not quibble.

  • Doug Smith
    June 11, 2013 - 12:54

    Grisha, first I must say how very disappointing it is that you would with so much disdain dismiss Abdul’s worthy comments by claiming he is from cuckoo land. Now I could just as easily say your comments (rife with errors) don’t deserve the time of day it takes to read them because you are a snob of the first order but I won’t. Those “disjointed factoids” as you call them were true and in answer to your request for examples of someone being a slave to religion. So your attempt to dismiss the truth of my answers by referring to them as “disjointed factoids” does not negate their reality. Your feeble attempt to counter my assertion of people being slaves to religion by asking when was the last time someone was put in prison for leaving the Catholic Church is so weak in that it has nothing to do with the argument. You lost all credibility when you stated that Colin Burke has focus and comprehension. Mr. Burke has in previous writings demonstrated just the opposite. For example. His recent offering where he flies off on a tangent about indoctrinating children in industrial capitalism. Totally unrelated to the topic under consideration. Grisha, to be taken seriously you need to be consistent. You can’t say, “ I simply do not object to what others may think is appropriate. If I disagree I let it pass.” Well no you don’t. You are taking issue with what others have written and even insulted a contributor. Shame on you. Finally, your statement that “anyone who completely denies the existence of god has to believe that he knows all there is to know about everything now and in the future.” Nothing could be further from the truth. All atheist claim is that there is no objective or scientific proof that a god exists. No one is claiming they know everything. Finally, your claim that you don’t have inflexible definite opinions on any topic is not true. You say you believe in god. Is that not inflexible? Doug Smith, Grand Falls-Windsor

  • Doug Smith
    June 11, 2013 - 11:06

    Mr. Burke, I see you still have not opened your mind to reality, which, unfortunately for you results in fallacious reasoning . For example, your assertion that having a law degree (Grisha) is stronger evidence of the ability to reason than the opponents is totally wrong. The mere fact of having a law degree proves nothing in regard to an argument. The stronger ability to reason is only manifest in the argument itself under consideration . Your other claim that Christians are better able to tolerate the accusations of atheistic secularism ( which I believe to be true) than vice versa only goes to prove that Christians are slaves of religion. Doug Smith, Grand Falls-Windsor

  • Ed Power
    June 11, 2013 - 11:02

    Grisha: The idea that the Ten Commandments is the basis for all laws that govern "human behaviour" is religious fiction. They certainly didn't govern human behavior outside the Judeo-Christian world. The first written code of laws is not the Ten Commandments, it is the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, which was written around 1790 BCE. In the 7th century BCE (622-620 BCE) the Athenian lawmaker Draco created a code of laws to govern civil and criminal behaviour. Since the penalty for breaching most of these laws was death, his name has become synonymous with harsh punishment, with any such measures being called "Draconian". In the early 6th century BCE, the Athenian constitution created by Solon revised or abolished the earlier laws of Draco. The early Roman Republic (5th century BCE) was governed by the Law of the Twelve Tables, which were based on the laws in use in Greek cities in southern Italy. The laws of the later Roman Empire (Classical Era) continued to be applied in many parts of Europe until the early 19th century, when nations began to draft their own constitutions and legal codes. None of these legal codes, dating back nearly 4000 years, were based on the Ten Commandments of Hebrew mythology.

  • grisha
    June 11, 2013 - 10:24

    Gee, I never thought anything I would write would draw this much attention. With regard to Abdul, the self-styled heretic, there is no use addressing as he is straight from cloud and cuckoo land. Doug indicates more of the run of the mill “modern” thinker throwing off the chains of “oppression” using disjointed factoids randomly sprinkled over the traditional atmosphere. I will simply ask when the last time in our societies that anyone was put in prison for leaving the Catholic Church? Colin seems to indicate someone who thinks and draws reasonable conclusions from the best facts he can get. I disagree with him but would listen as he seems to have focus and comprehension. As they say, reasonable minds can differ. Whether there are crosses or not is simply not that big an issue to me. I do not need culture to reflect every opinion of mine. I simply do not object to what others may think is appropriate. If I disagree I let it pass. No one seemed to address any of the human rights/natural law points so I won’t re-iterate. I also realize that any institution can be perverted by imperfect, sociopathic humans. It is interesting when I was watching C-Spann this past Sunday that there was a speaker, Robert Lombardo, a native of Chicago, former Chicago cop and currently a professor of sociology at Loyola. His book “Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia” is about crime around that area. He talked about his upbringing and going to Catholic schools. The discipline was severe and he laughed about it (I know about this from some of my cousins who went to Catholic schools). He stated that the most significant reason for the current high incidence of violence and murder in the City of Chicago was the absence of Catholic schools. Finally, anyone who completely denies the existence of God has to believe that he knows all there is to know about everything now and in the future. As I grow older I am constantly amazed and fascinated by all of the modern marvels that are exposed/discovered and wonder how much more there is to know. This has taught me to be careful about carrying definite, inflexible opinions on any topic.

  • Colin Burke
    June 11, 2013 - 06:20

    Gaining a law degree seems to me to be stronger evidence of the ability to reason than Grisha's opponents have so far been able to muster. Also, it seems to me that Christians,if only because they are more sure of their position, are better able to tolerate the discrimination, prejudice and intolerance which atheistic secularism breeds than the latter is able to bear with the faults of the religious: for example, doesn't even this at least sound more tolerant than Mr. Smith's expression of his own attitude? I myself, however, would say "Remove the crosses from the government's schools," because keeping them is sheer hypocrisy on the part of a government which indoctrinates children in industrial capitalism far more than it educates them about anything and "teaches reading without teaching reasoning."

  • Doug Smith
    June 10, 2013 - 16:41

    Grisha, yes I can and will explain to you, when in recent history someone was a slave to religion. In your comments you mentioned Judaism a lot so let me begin there. Now we all agree no right thinking person would willingly stand for their child being physically assaulted. However, that is what Jews do to young boys of the Jewish faith. Circumcision is performed on all young Jewish males. No matter how you look at it, it is a barbarous and horrific event but the parents are slaves of their religion so they go along with it. I have spoken to some young men who underwent this torture and they confirm the pain is excruciating. Turning to the Catholic religion, a few years ago Calgary Bishop Fred Henry spoke out against females in grades six and nine receiving the vaccine Gardasil, that protects against four types of cervical cancer. Many of Alberta’s Catholic boards voted in favour of Bishop Henry’s ban. Why? Bishop Henry stated, “… offering this vaccine, … would tacitly condone premarital sexual activity.” So all those agreeing with the Bishop are willing to put the girls lives at risk for religion. Are they not slaves to religion since parents are supposed to protect their children no matter what some religious nut-case says. Another example are the Catholic priest themselves who are forced for the rest of their lives to give up the opportunity to get married and have sexual relations with a woman. The only way a normal man could do this would be by becoming a slave to their religion. Grisha, by detailing your formal education and admitting you are a practicing Lutheran you also are a slave to religion. Since there is no scientific or objective proof of a God you must therefore have closed your mind to independent critical thinking on the matter of religion and opted for being a slave of religion, whether you realize it or not. Doug Smith, Grand Falls-Windsor

  • grisha
    June 10, 2013 - 10:19

    You guys should put down the rhetoric and open the thought paths. I am forced to endure the constant and mindless repetition of progressive bullet points repeated without any of the application of the very logic and reason that they claim to possess. I am curious, maybe Doug Smith can explain to me when in recent history anyone was a “slave to any religion” at least of the denominations we are used to around this area. The first code of human behavior that gave our civilization some workable rules to live with was the Ten Commandments. The origin of the basic human rights we enjoy today and the value of the individuals was the Natural Law which were laws from God. If you don’t believe me ask Coke and Blackstone. I believe you guys share that tradition with us. As I recall history, the first and foremost proponents of basic human, individual rights were Judaism and Christianity. Prior to that time I believe the state owned everything, even the lives of its “citizens”. The maintenance of a cross or Star of David is symbolic of this part of our Christian and Judaic heritage as well as the spiritual. This should not be lost in the fog of mindless and random application of progressive snobbery. Along with logic and reason there should be attention to history and tradition. In case you are wondering, I am a practicing Lutheran but not particularly religious. I have a degree from one of the best universities in the US, a law degree and license. I believe strongly in the theory of evolution as advocated by the academics and the value of scientific inquiry. I do, however, respect the lessons of history and the efforts of religious Christian and Judaic organizations to civilize an inhuman and unprincipled world managed solely by the unfettered application of “reason”. The fact that there are some who would abuse any principle does not make me lose my faith in tradition and history.

    • Abdul Saieed
      June 10, 2013 - 12:49

      Thank you so much for bring civilisation to the rest of us heretics. And congratulations on having a degree from one of the best universities in the U.S. You are obviously very proud of yourself. It is very clear from your writing that you don't allow yourself to be fettered by reason. Nevertheless maybe you should learn some of this history you say that you respect so much.

  • Doug Smith
    June 08, 2013 - 09:40

    The facts are, religion, religious names and religious symbols should have no place in the schools of this province. We want our children educated not indoctrinated. Religion is discriminatory, breeds prejudice of the worst sort and promotes intolerance of others. There is no excuse for anyone in this day and age to be a slave of any religion. We want citizens who are forward and critical thinkers not individuals harbouring dangerous outmoded beliefs that only lead to a willingness to foster evil ideas and practices. Doug Smith, Grand Falls-Windsor

  • crista
    June 08, 2013 - 08:33

    reading your article,interesting article it tells you so much in your own words of what really goes on and what has gone on,and you ask your self why the only thing gets done and what gets done???? some one wrote what is wrong with society well you are explaining it in last part of your article your charter and freedoms your rights and when you have no rights to voice, and all they are doing is what????now you are in to your 18,669 reasons????and the article you wrote about those 18,669 reasons and then ask your self what do you call faith???? and what do you call christian????now look at the dispute that could have been put on ice forever???? and then look at the decision you did not make???? and the ones that were made and the ones that are still being done????

  • Harvey
    June 08, 2013 - 08:29

    Mr. Wangersky the parent whom you say has been demonized, brought that upon his/herself.Why is it' that she/ he has taken the route to remain anonymous? Others would not have been blame d had he/she the guts to come forward with identification.The parent who wants a bigger schoolyard for the French school gave his name. Your editorial,to many, steeps you in your own bile. ,

  • Herb Morrison
    June 08, 2013 - 07:45

    Speaking from the standpoint of a Christian, I support the School Boards decision to remoce the cross. Given that the educational system has been removed from the control of Christian Churches for some time now, the removal of the cross is appropriate. I comment the parent who raised the issue,for having the backbone to do so.Whether or not some Christians like or accept it as a fact, the the reality that we live in a Society where the power and influence that the Christian Church once wielded has waned. To those Christians who fear that the waning of the power and influence of the Christian Church within contemporary Society, signals the demise of Christianity, I suggest to you, brothers and sisters in Christ, that you keep in mind that it is the God is interested, first and foremost, in establishing a personal relationship, through Christ, our Saviour and Lord, by the Power of the Holy Spirit; with each individual person on earthit is your personal our the Christian Faith is based on earth. If Christian Churches of any Tradition were to fade into oblivion tomorrow, as long as there is one Believer left standing, God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will, through utilization of the aforementioned "last Christian left standing," to make both God's will and God's word known to people of the earth. According to my Bible, people, not only buildings are the Temple of the Lord. Well said Mr. Wangersky