Photo of the Day

So, I’ve really been enjoying viewing previous Smithsonian photo contests after yesterday’s discovery.  One thing that is really cool is that they have an “altered images” category that really shows off some of the amazing things talented people can do to make a photo even more artistic.  Here is the Readers’ Choice Winner from 2009:

Great White Egret

Antonio Soto (Weston, Florida)
Photographed March 2009, South Florida

A simple modification such as blacking out a background can yield dramatic results—as is the case with this photo of an egret. “These birds are magnificent animals,” Soto says, “and I have been photographing them since I was 18 years old.” This is the first Altered Images entry to win the Readers’ Choice award.

School prayer in Florida

Well, the Florida legislature has pretty much just passed a prayer in public school law that is pretty much unconstitutional on its face.  If only those damn liberal judges would realize that kids formally praying to Jesus would solve all of our problems.  Or at least most of them.  The deal:

TALLAHASSEE — After winning the overwhelming approval of the Florida House on Thursday, a bill that would allow student-led prayer in public schools seems all but certain to become law.

The bill’s backers say Gov. Rick Scott has told them he would sign the legislation.

Under the bill, local school districts would be able to vote to allow any student to deliver “inspirational messages” at public-school events. Teachers and other school employees could not take part.

The lopsided 88-27 vote in the House came after an hour of impassioned debate.

Sen. Gary Siplin, an Orlando Democrat who shepherded the proposal, has said the concept of an “inspirational message” is open to interpretation.

And, oh my, do I love the absurd justifications from Republican legislators:

Supporters stressed that participation by students would be optional. Some said the measure would teach tolerance and restore order to classrooms.

“Our students are inundated with sex, gambling and all of the moral decay that’s on our televisions and radios,” said Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach. “It is time that we allowed… students to bring inspirational messages to share with each other.”…

Rep. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat, signed on as a co-sponsor.

“Look at what just happened in Ohio,” said Campbell, referencing a school shooting that left three teenagers dead. “The kids need to have prayer at school.”…

Scott did not publicly say he would sign the bill, but indicated he had no reservations about it. “As you know, I believe in Jesus Christ and I believe individuals should have a right to say a prayer,” he said.

A few points…

1) Seriously?!  Do people really believe that government-sponsored prayer in school will lead to less sex, gambling, and school shootings.  Give me a break.

2) These people clearly don’t understand Constitutional jurisprudence on the issue.  (Presumably, they could understand, but not care, but that’s not what I get from their comments and the way the law was crafted).  It does not matter a whit that participation is voluntary.  The point is not that, but whether government is pushing a particular religious viewpoint– and it is.

3) The very clear controlling precedent here (speaking of course, based on my decades as a Constitutional Lawyer 🙂 ) is Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe.  A key feature of that case was the fact that only students were involved, but Justice Steven’s opinion nicely summed up the key issue:

 It held that these pre-game prayers delivered “on school property, at school-sponsored events, over the school’s public address system, by a speaker representing the student body, under the supervision of school faculty, and pursuant to a school policy that explicitly and implicitly encourages public prayer” are not private, but public speech. “Regardless of the listener’s support for, or objection to, the message, an objective Santa Fe High School student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable pregame prayer as stamped with her school’s seal of approval.”

The Florida law seems very similar to the Texas case involving student prayer leaders at football games.

4) I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… prayer is perfectly legal in school.   The point is that students can pray to whom they want, when they want, so long as it does not interfere with education.  What’s ridiculous is that state legislators think they need to insert themselves into this.  

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