So, apparently, the law doesn’t matter – by Godless Teen

April 7, 2013 in General, Rebuttal

As many of you know by now, I’ve been dealing with some legal issues relating to the group “Overeaters Anonymous” recently. One of the replies I got to it came from Chris, a theist who I’ve been dealing with on this blog for quite some time now. He sent an email to me titled “Pick your battles”, and I replied to him. Here’s his response, and my breakdown of it:

“This makes me extremely angry.”[the fact that Chris sent me an email describing how I shouldn't be worrying about OA] No, you choose to be extremely angry.  Neither I nor can my email “make” angry.  That is an emotion you allow yourself to have. The question is:  why? Why do you allow yourself to be angry about it? Perhaps it’s how you view me – or at least in part.  I would hazard a guess that if one of your mentors asked the exact same questions, it wouldn’t “make” you angry. But you don’t have to be angry GT. Just as you can allow yourself to be angered by something, you can choose not to be angered. So it comes back to “why?” Why did you choose to be angry?

“Neither I nor my email can ‘make’ angry”. I’m not sure what the point of this comment was, to be quite frank. The wording is just vague, and doesn’t really make sense in the first place. My response would have to be that, no, emails and people do not “make angry”… But that’s because “angry” is a descriptor of someone who is filled with anger. People and words can cause a person to be filled with anger.

Outside of that, I would have to say that I’m not angry, necessarily, out of blind rage (although that might be part of the problem). Rather, I choose to be angry in a constructive way, using my anger to promote something good; in this case, the First Amendment, explicitly stating the separation of church and state. So, Chris, that’s why I choose to be angry (at least, to the extent that that’s something that I can choose): it’s because I can use my anger to be productive and fight for the things that matter.

“Are you [explicit] kidding me? Is it really “worth my time and effort”  to… Make sure the government follows the law? To make sure that my  school follows the very first amendment in the Constitution?  Seriously? What is the law worth if we are not willing to follow it,  and fight for it? That you would ignore the law in a case like this is… Not surprising, but absolutely unjustified.”

First of all, you’re not even sure a law has been broken.  Certainly you want there to be, but it may not have been broken. Then what? Not to argue the law in this case, but have you read the 1st Amendment of which you are speaking?  then you know the gray area in which surrounds the issue of this. Your situation falls within that gray area. Regardless, I’m not here to argue the legality – when you contact the ALCU or other agencies, they will tell you the merits of your case.But I ask again, if they say it’s legal – then what?  Do you accept that? Second, I would accept your indignation at the law being broken if I accepted that you were a champion of ALL laws.  But I would presume you are not.Like many people, you champion the laws that you like and that support your views and probably turn an eye toward the ones that don’t (as far as one can, anyway).Take the 2nd Amendment Rights Arguments going on now.Do you get upset when you Dad speeds?  Well, as you would say “what’s a law worth, if we are not willing to follow it?” I’m sure I can find other examples. Now, if you are going to argue that ANY and ALL laws should be enforced EXACTLY and to the FULLEST extent in which they are written and put forth, then I would accept your being upset that the law has been broken. In this case, it’s about a law YOU want to have been broken specifically and not that the law, generally, is in jeopardy. Ultimately, it’s not a matter of “ignoring” the law in my case, GT – as a matter of interpretation.Now, before you jump to conclusions about my position I will say this:  I agree with you in that the Church and State should be far separated.  I don’t even think that Bibles should be used in court for swearing people in.  I don’t believe that religion should be a litmus test for a public official (as it usually turns out to be).  Actions speak louder than rhetoric of belief – no matter who it comes from.  Example: a politician saying he’s a champion for the people, etc. yet gives very little of his own time or money to help others.Nor am I a fan of AA (or any of its “children”).  I don’t believe the courts should order someone to go to AA – offer a choice of treatment plans which CAN include AA, but not AA alone or mandatory. I believe the AA model of treatment to be faulty.  Ignorant of human behavior, and is a disservice to people in general.However, given all of that.  I do disagree that having OA speak at your school is a violation of the 1st Amendment.  Unless you are saying that a school cannot offer or have ANY spiritual or religion EVER presented in school in ANY capacity?  As that would cut out Christian Colleges from “shopping” at the school for prospective students along with the other colleges.And of all the injustices and laws being broken out there in CO, USA, and in the world, I hardly find this one to be high on my priority list.You do. But perhaps you can understand now how someone can disagree about this gray area. But I’ll leave that to the legal experts.

To borrow an excerpt from an email exchange between JT Eberhard and I:

Whoa, ok, admittedly I didn’t read all the steps.  That’s damn sure illegal.  Email me a reminder tomorrow (I’m about to hit the road), and we’ll get the FFRF in on this.

To put this into context: prior to reading the steps of OA in their entirety, he had only seen the steps referring to a “higher power”, which, he states,

…Courts have determined that “a higher power” doesn’t necessarily need to be supernatural.  Your higher power could be your parents or Counterstrike (or alcohol if you’re Christopher Hitchens :P).

Which I agree with. However, the instant that it changed from “higher power” to “God”, the issue wasn’t so much an issue of semantics as it was an issue of violation of the First Amendment; OA explicitly mentioned “God” in a school, and that violates the First Amendment, which, yes, Chris- I have read. Anyways, here’s the relevant part of that text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

In 1947, the case Everson v Board of Education established that the “separation of church and state” clause- that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”- also applied to state governments, meaning that the state could not promote any religion over another (or over no religion at all), whereas the amendment was previously construed to only apply to the federal government. Thus, if my school decides to bring in speakers that talk about God, then one of two things must be true:

1. The school didn’t realize that they were going to be talking about God.

2. The school brought them in knowing that they were going to be talking about God.

The first option is obviously illegal; schools need to know what outside influences they’re bringing into the school, and they are responsible for allowing those influences into the school. The latter… Well, I think we all know that that’s illegal.

Case in point? As JT said- “that’s damn sure illegal”.

Now, as for Chris’ other points- some of them certainly are true, while others aren’t. For one thing, I do support upholding the US law. This includes same-sex marriage; if the law states that gays cannot be married, from a legal standpoint, I am completely in agreement with this. In order for the law to be broken and abolished, one would need to establish practically life-or-death circumstances where it is ok to destroy the body that rules over us and “guarantees” peace to us, because that body is not bringing peace to us, but certain tragedy. So, from one view, I support the law. However, from an ethical view, I do not support the banning of same-sex marriage; it is completely pointless, and it has no value to doing so. I will fight for LGBT rights as long as they are being restrained. However, from an ethical viewpoint, we also have to make sure that we aren’t breaking the law, either, for the aforementioned reasons. So, I would call myself a champion in upholding the law, but not a champion in keeping the law the way it is right now. So, Chris is partially correct in that I don’t support the law itself, but he’s wrong in that I do support upholding the law as long as it is in power, or until it is acceptable to destroy a government for its human rights violations.

I am pleased- although, admittedly, surprised- to see that Chris supports the separation of church and state (or that he says he does, anyways). However, I am not saying that no school can never, under any circumstance, present religion in some form or another. For example, a voluntary before- or after- school Bible study club: I totally support that, and I think that, as long as students voluntarily join the club, and the club itself is not engaging in unethical behavior, that the club should stay. I support kids being able to take out a class from the day so that they can engage in a Bible study class, too, as long as it’s voluntary and doesn’t interfere with their overall education. I also support Christian colleges coming to schools to try and find new members, as long as they aren’t promoting religion while on campus. What I do not support, however, would be if schools banned all colleges but Christian colleges from coming to campuses.

Finally- I agree with you, Chris, that this isn’t a case that’s exactly on the “high-priority” list (assuming that this isn’t happening over many, many more schools than I currently realize). I don’t think that this is quite as much of a problem as, say, Jessica Ahlquist’s case about the prayer banner in her school was. However, the same goes for the school itself, and, as a practitioner of the law that we are all similarly bound to, I believe that there is no reason why they get a free pass on the law. I don’t want this to come down to a court ruling, but if it does, then I think that will be a sign that this case is much more important than either of us realize

“As somebody who has suffered from  mental illness, and has many friends who have also had to fight this
battle, this is absolutely ridiculous. When I see a group like OA come
in, and do… Well, what they did, the only thing that I see in their
efforts is an attempt to target vulnerable students who suffer from
something that they can’t control.”

Well that’s a matter of perspective, possibly. I guess you see that OA cannot have any actual belief that what they are offering can and does help people.  But have you ever gone to an AA meeting?  OA meeting? Have you ever talked to anyone from OA/AA outside of the classroom? or have you just accepted what others on the internet have said and claim? As for something they can’t control?

Well, I don’t see any evidence that OA’s system is anything but, at best, a placebo.

As for “accepting what others on the internet have said and claim”… Actually, for my original post about OA, I got a lot of stuff directly from their website, which, conveniently, has its 12-step program listed out.


I’m not doing this because of some deeply-rooted anger or hatred for OA in me; I’m doing this because it’s just a clear violation of the law, and while that law is still around, I believe that it should be enforced like any other law.

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