Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mad Dad Mouthpiece Mumbles

Maybe the lawyer for Mad Dad and his aggrieved chums has been out shoveling snow and chipping ice. Robert Sinsheimer didn't appear to have put that effort into the response to the ACLU amicus brief he wheedled a week's delay for from the U.S. District Court.

Ever eager to serve, the Article 8/MassResistance folk have the nine pager up for your perusal. They also offer the related documents, including the amicus filing.

Sinsheimer is clearly an excitable and emotional guy. He can hardly stay in his chair while others speak. Unfortunately his counter-counter-arguments here fall into did-not/did-too class.

He argues:
  • Separate, new limits for these very young children. Despite the reading materials in questions that mention or allude to marriage equality here where it is legal being at age-appropriate in level, schools should not expose kindergarten and primary kids to mentions of it.
  • Conflicts between parental belief and curricula must lean to the parents, even it that means separating their kids in school as needed. If parents say a concept "offended their faith," the school must accommodate them. (I think that is called theocracy, but so what?)
  • Regardless of the ACLU saying that parents have some rights in school, they really mean that parents have no rights that go over the school threshold. (Don't claim school systems have rights and duties too. Parents rule. Nay nay nay.)
  • It is not enough to say that the parents can exercise their religious upbringing out of school. He briefly states that this is a constitutional privacy right in school.
There wasn't any new in the document. Unfortunately for his arguments, Sinsheimer admitted that his original complaint failed repeatedly in drawing the connections between case law and this matter. For example, he admitted that this does not hinge on First Amendment establishment-of-religion. Instead, he suddenly claims that "That these cases are primarily 'establishment clause' constructions does not detract from their value here. The 'establishment clause' and the 'free exercise clause' are doctrinal cousins."

That just screams pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain. Yet, this is a federal suit, not traffic court.

He also tried some hand waving, apparently to try to erase some of the original case's more absurd demands for remedy. Take the requirement that even spontaneous classroom conversations initiated by classmates should trigger removing the Mad Dad kids. In this document, Sinsheimer writes, "Noting in the complaint is directed at children. The defendants and the ACLU have sought to alter the discussion by suggesting that the plaintiffs wish to chill the rights of other children to talk about their families. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Yet the heart of the complaint and subsequent filings for the plaintiffs is their assertion that the early-reader books in question and any related diversity curricula have evil intent. As Sinsheimer wrote here, "The adult plaintiffs fear that their families' deep, sincere and abiding faith will be eradicated..." Later in the filing, he added, "The defendants' sole motivation is their own political determination that the Plaintiffs' faith should be eradicated, and the place to start this process is with their children."

That kind of crazy speak and mind reading probably deserves a dope slap more than serious consideration. However, Chief Justice Mark L. Wolf loves constitutional issues. Sinsheimer is making increasingly hard to take the arguments seriously.

During the orals last week, Wolf ask whether the complaining parents couldn't and shouldn't show and tell their own morals, and more than counter the school and commonwealth's position that same-sex marriage is the reality in Massachusetts. He said that he'd like to hear from the plaintiffs on these issues, but Sinsheimer has given him no more that a 50% incentive to allow a trial. Even Judge Wolf would need some sense that the plaintiffs' had a shot.

I have no doubt there are topics in addition to same-sex marriage that those parents don't want to discuss with their kids. As a parent of three, I can tell them surely that they and their kids will be much better off discussing moral and other issues rather than ignoring them or pretending all that kids learn will be in Sunday School.

As a judgmental person, I might add that they have an asthenic and sad little faith if it cannot stand up to such weak challenges as hearing that some families have two mommies. If that eradicates their faith, they'd be better off with a stronger one.

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David Parker said...

Again mis-stating our position you write: "Unfortunately for his arguments, Sinsheimer admitted that his original complaint failed repeatedly in drawing the connections between case law and this matter. For example, he admitted that this does not hinge on First Amendment establishment-of-religion."

Wrong again my friend!!! The first amendment does indeed include the "free exercise clause" AND the establishment clause.

The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment has often been interpreted to include two freedoms: the freedom to believe, and the freedom to act. ...


Our references to the establishment clause refers to mountains of previous case law which implicates the relevance of the very young age of the children involved here.

massmarrier said...

Indeed it does include both, but Sinsheimer's rebuttal conflates them, trying to muddle their differences. The rebuttal says as much, and then uses the very weak claim that they are "cousins." Not all that close and certainly no cigar.

David Parker said...


A mere three (3) months ago, a federal district court adopted the ACLU position as
When defining the contours of the religious clauses, the "touchstone for our analysis is
the principle that the 'First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between
religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion.'" Weinbaum v. Las
Cruces Pub. Schs, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83311 (emphasis supplied)
In this case however, the ACLU has forgotten that last clause.

The defendants have chosen to brazenly use tiny children’s psyches to promote ideology over
faith. As the ACLU well knows, this conduct clearly violates the First Amendment.

David Parker said...

The plaintiffs
cite numerous cases to support the proposition that age should be treated as an important factor.
See Plaintiff’s Brief, p. 20-21, citing Sherman v. Cmty. Consol. Sch. Dist. 21, 8 F.3d 1160, 1164
(1993), Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 616 (1971). It bears repeating that the Third Circuit
in a “free exercise” case has recognized that:
“Introducing a child to sensitive topics before a parent might have done so
herself can complicate and even undermine parental authority.” C.N. v.Ridgewood Bd. of Educ., 430 F.3d 159, 185 (3rd Cir. 2005)

David Parker said...

You write--Indeed it does include both, but Sinsheimer's rebuttal conflates them, trying to muddle their differences. The rebuttal says as much, and then uses the very weak claim that they are "cousins."

In fact, they are doctrinal cousins and are commonly referred to as such in legal circles. It is to conflate, but not to confuse, that combining the religious clauses into one amendment relegates them as independent but concomitant doctrine. My friend, there is no confusion, nor muddling, nor mumbling on this side of the issue.

massmarrier said...

I'm sure we'll all be fascinated to see how C.J. Wolf will come down on a clear effort to attempt to control the state from a religious perspective, against a less clear claim that the Lexington curriculum prevents free exercise. His questions at the hearing strongly suggested that he thinks the plaintiffs are free to show and teach their children what they wish, hence freely exercising their religion. Whether he dismisses or goes to trial, that undertone should remain.

David Parker said...

Controlling state actions from a secular perspective does not trump providing direction from a religious perspective either; That's the point!!!

It is my fundamental right and sacred duty to guide my children and, at the very least, monitor state actors making incusions into my young trusting child's mind.

While it may be somewhat interesting to hear C.J. Wolf's secular opinion, it does not bind my will, beliefs, or actions. Legality is NOT morality. And a small child does not discern this difference, but I do, and school administrators are exploiting this to manipulate children. My young childen's psyches will not be a battleground for ideological/cultural/spiritual conflicts while held captive in our public schools. That you can claim to be a parent, and can not understand this, is beyond my comprehension - we as adults can agree to disagree, but my children are off limits in this.

“Admittedly, parental rights do not end at the schoolhouse door...” Town of
Lexington Reply memorandum, p. 13.
The allegations are well grounded and well pled and cannot be dismissed.

I thank you for your honor in letting me post - I respect this. Thank you.

David Parker said...

Incidentally, I must comment on your past assertion:
"From this left-wing perspective, I think that the plaintiffs would do well to avoid letting such irrational sorts as the parents testify."

You vastly underestimate the plaintiff parents; your opinions on us are your perogative. I can testify that I am not generally irrational, but I am somewhat biased on this opinion;-) When I have been underestimated, I have always successfully used this to my advantage, and you would do better to change your position on this. But then again, if you believe I am irrational, why listen to me. Cheers.

Ryan said...

I look forward to the day that Mad Dad goes away. A few minutes of fame and a blurb on The View really feeds the ego, I guess. Crusades may seem all romantic, but throughout history have proven to be almost always insanity upon those who were doing the crusading.

Let's face it: in Massachusetts, everyone is equal - whether Mad Dad approves or otherwise. Because of that, it's in a schools best interest - nay, their duty - to reflect those same values. Since they can't discriminate, they can't ignore the fact that gay people exist too. They face a choice: do they turn gayness into a taboo and only mention it in passing after kids have already had their minds set, when they're much more difficult to be open-minded. Or, do we teach kids that sometimes people of the same sex can be attracted to one another as they grow older and that, legally, there's nothing wrong with that.

Coming from the perspective of a young, gay man, I pick the latter. There were many years where I thought being gay was "wrong" and "bad" and tried to fight a part of me that just, no matter what I could ever do, would never go away. It wasn't healthy and led to a lot of fear and depression at times. If I had teachers saying all along what it was and that there was nothing wrong with it, maybe that just wouldn't have been the case? My 12 year old self would have been much better off with public support and more discussion of the issue at an even younger age.

massmarrier said...

I certainly agree, Ryan. Yet, after following this and related conflicts, I fear there is no middle ground. These pseudo-crusaders will almost certainly push and push and push until they lose.

The underlying conflict in this case is largely one of control. The authoritarian personalities and those just manipulating them politically have said repeatedly in various ways that they intend to bend the school, school system and the state to their will.

That's where your allusions to what just won't happen come in. What they demand butts against far too much culture, law and case law. Yet, they butt and butt.