"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom" Albert Einstein

"A dame who knows the ropes isn't likely to get tied up." Mae West

Monday, August 24, 2009

Friendly vs. nasty in (non)religious war

There is an interesting war of words going on between an atheist blogger, who also happens to be a teacher, and the Illinois Family Institute.

The blogger is a geometry teacher at a suburban Chicago school and the Illinois Family Institute has started an "outing" process against the teacher because of his public commentary of his non-classroom views posted on his blog.

Here's a good place to start reading about the fuss. Then link to the teacher's response here. Then the Insitute's response here, and finally the teacher's latest response.


Crockhead said...

Very interesting. You don't say how you come out on the issues, although I think I know, given your libertarian leanings. But are there limits? What if the teacher had a website advertising his abilities as a male stripper? (A friend of mine taught at a school whose principal was a male stripper, although he didn't advertise it.) Or what if the teacher posed for Playboy? Should teachers be permitted complete freedom of expression, as long as they don't bring it into the classroom? I don't know.

Memphis said...

I can't do it. I've just taken on Men's Health magazine and the fun has only just begun. Also, I have a feeling I am too stressed to fully enjoy this battle you've discovered. So I'm going to laugh at the cartoon and and read the previous post, pretending the battle you've mentioned isn't here.

Catch Her in the Wry said...

crock: If you believe in separation of church and state, it isn't a problem. He's not talking about religion/non-religion in the class.

You sited examples of behavior, not necessarily expression of beliefs. I have no problem with teachers doing those things unless there is a behavior standard set forth in their employment contracts.

memphis: I hope you'll take time later to read the links. They both argue their points intelligently.

Crockhead said...

Oh, you're too smart for me. You're right, of course. Even so,isn't there a line where only speech by an elementary teacher isn't protected? What if he advocates that children should go to porn sites on the internet?

Catch Her in the Wry said...

If it is said outside the classroom who cares. Again, unless their contract calls for a certain standard of behavior (including speech), then it would be a contract violation, subject to termination. The teacher could go to another school that doesn't have that standard or the teacher can choose to change his behavior to retain his job.

I know teachers who are living with someone outside of marriage vows, but they are not harassed or fired for their behavior or speeches against that institution. I don't see any difference between that and the atheist's position. Is the Illinois Family Insitute going after those teachers too?

Crockhead said...

Catcher, after I conceded you're smarter than I am, you start talking in circles. I thought we weren't talking about behavior -- just speech. Teachers living with someone outside of marriage vows is behavior.

But what about Illinois Family Institute's right of free speech? (I can't believe I'm defending those guys.) Shouldn't they have the right to tell parents about a teacher's publicly-expressed position on anything, including God?

I guess the real issue here isn't what the IFI is saying about the teacher, but what the school board is going to do about it. I would guess the school board would be in deep trouble if it tried to fire the teacher for being an atheist and having a website about it. Having a website on which someone else posts about polyamory would probably still be protected speech. But there must be some limit on a teacher's speech. For example, having a website with instructions on how to build a bomb probably wouldn't be protected.

Catch Her in the Wry said...

IFI has a right to free speech and they are exercising it by sending emails to parents and school board members. I would concur that the school board probably would not fire the teacher for his atheist views.

My point about teachers living with someone outside of marriage is behavioral, but I also said that they would not be fired if they were ranting (speaking) against the insitution of marriage, i.e. in a blog. I think the IFI should probably be harassing those teachers also, if they (the IFI) are consistent in their religious beliefs.

So, my response to your question regarding a limit is, there should be no limit. No employee should be fired for their views outside the classroom unless they are violating terms of their employment contract which they agreed to abide by at hiring.

If the IFI wants to make parents aware of the teacher's views, they can do so. They may, however, not be credible because they may not be acting consistently with their religious family values.

Memphis said...

Even though I said I wasn't going to get involved, I do want to mention one thing here. Many, many people have been fired from various jobs in the United States for creating blogs or other websites that said things their employer didn't like. Whether that should or shouldn't be legal, it apparently is happening and has been upheld so far.

As to whether I think it should be allowed, I'm a Libertarian, too, and I think expressions of opinion or beliefs, including websites or blogs, made outside of the workplace should not be permitted to be used as a reason for termination unless, as you said, the employee agreed to such restrictions as a condition of employment.