An interesting evolution.
A letter to the editor in today’s Muleskinner [not online yet] taking issue with the removal of the sod, which ends with:
Muleskinner, April 9, 2009
Voices, page 6
Letters to the Editor
“…Demons and vampires detest crosses, too.”
Vampires? As in Kirsten Dunst?
The letter writer’s exposition reads as if they think that the sod shouldn’t have been removed. I’m not certain if they’re stating that it was a sectarian symbol. Their concluding sentence (above the flip) seems to indicate such.
The Missouri Constitution doesn’t leave any wiggle room:
BILL OF RIGHTS
Public aid for religious purposes–preferences and discriminations on religious grounds.
Section 7. That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such; and that no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship.
Prohibition of public aid for religious purposes and institutions.
Section 8. Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other municipal corporation, shall ever make an appropriation or pay from any public fund whatever, anything in aid of any religious creed, church or sectarian purpose, or to help to support or sustain any private or public school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other institution of learning controlled by any religious creed, church or sectarian denomination whatever; nor shall any grant or donation of personal property or real estate ever be made by the state, or any county, city, town, or other municipal corporation, for any religious creed, church, or sectarian purpose whatever.
The letter writer goes on to complain that a poster in the student union, a painting in the art gallery, and various promotional representations for the Vagina Monologues were prominent on campus, with no protest otherwise.
I’m fairly certain that the Missouri Constitution has no prohibitions about representations of anatomy. The other items (the poster and the painting) are expression on the part of individuals. That’s a First Amendment thing. I’m fairly certain that the painting in question (the letter writer described a distinctly unorthodox image) wasn’t created on the state’s dime. Nevertheless, the difference in all of this is that the state didn’t initiate the singular instance of pseudo-sectarian expression.
People are free to express their individual religious preference. They can buy and wear a t-shirt expressing whatever they believe (On campus! See Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist. 393 U.S. 503 (1969)). They’re free to pray whenever and wherever they want. They could even plan and carry out a demonstration on campus, for instance, gathering enough people to create a human version of the sectarian symbol of their choice. But they won’t. That would be too difficult.
Instead, what they want to do is impose their personal sectarian preference on everyone else with the state’s resources and at the state’s initiation. They are frustrated by this and so they fancy themselves as victims.
Note: Morse v. Frederick (“Bong Hits…”) does place limits on advocating illegal drug use at public school events.