Judge Rules in Favor of the Weak Minded

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Recently, a judge here in Texas ruled that three local school districts couldn’t let the graduating seniors vote on whether to have a prayer at their graduation. Most legal experts expect this ruling to be thrown out as the Supreme Court’s pretty much already ruled on this.

The suit was brought (as usual) by a minority who thinks the Constitution guarantees them a right to not be offended. The judge agreed, ruling that we shouldn’t have freedom of speech if someone else doesn’t want us to.

OK, all that aside, doesn’t this bug some atheists that these six parents and one ex-student have asked the court to support their own inability to think? Now, atheists, don’t imply that I am saying you are unable to think. Far from it. Those of you I know are thinkers.

But what was the lawsuit about? Someone wanted to pray at graduation and someone else didn’t want to hear that prayer. How long is a graduation prayer? Under three minutes most of the time and, usually, less than a minute.

So these parents are saying that their kids are so weak-minded they can’t do one of the following for three minutes: a] sit in respectful silence; b] hum a song softly; c] chuckle at a good joke; d] draw a picture of the principal with donkey ears on the back of the program.

See, the real issue is what might be said in that prayer. The people who brought the lawsuit are apparently worried that their children are so weak-minded as to be swayed into changing their whole belief system based on one prayer. (And have you heard the prayers at graduation? They’re usually pretty innocuous and many even fail to specify a belief system or a god.)

I have kids and they, in life, will often be subjected to talks, lectures, songs, whatever, that are at variance with our family’s beliefs—to one degree or another. That’s the way life is … or should be. Rulings like this are an attempt to stop us all from being offended and the only way that can happen is if we all stop thinking.

Here’s what I encourage my kids to do: listen. Take notes if necessary. Then think about what you heard. Think about questions you’ll ask the speaker if you ever get a chance. Think about mistakes or falsehoods that might have been said. Think about things which might have been said which are accurate. Do such things contradict your beliefs or do they support them or are they true but essentially unrelated to the topic?

I admit that sometimes I wish I could shield my children from everything I don’t like, but I can’t (short of moving to some valley that’s off the map and has no roads, telephones, etc.), so I work to prepare them for what they’ll face and equipping them to respond. Sometimes we turn the TV (or the stereo or the computer) off because there’s something on there I don’t think they are prepared to face, but then we talk about it because I know one day they’re going to run across that stuff and I won’t be there to help them. I want them to know how to stand up to it on their own. I want them to be able to think.

There are things in this life that it scares me when I think of my children facing, but nothing so much as the prospect that when such moments come my children wouldn’t be able to think their way through them because they had been taught not to.

Sam White is an author, a minister, and the creator of the comic strip “Tuttle’s” and the comic book series “Burt & the I.L.S.”.