So I spent a slacktacular day relaxing and watching crappy TV on my couch yesterday and I ended up watching a repeat of The O'Reilly Factor from Friday in which Bill was addressing the French government approving the draft of a bill that would prevent Muslim women from wearing hijabs in public. He almost seemed to approve of the bill in the face of a theoretical suicide bomber using a veil during an attack in France (I do not and I agree with his rather intelligent guest British political commentator Imogen Lloyd Webber in opposing it by saying that "the minute you start discriminating is the minute you start radicalizing" and that "You can't let one radical destroy or let us compromise our core democratic values") but during the course of his discussion about religious rights and freedom of expression with Webber I heard him say something that didn't sound quite right to me:
WEBBER: As far as the French go, and I think we should be very worried about it, because it's going to affect all of us in the West, and I think French have made a massive mistake by doing it. The French is a very secular society. So for instance in 2004, they banned all religious symbols in schools, including crucifixes. The crucifixes and head scarves. Now, that's not a very British or a very American thing to do. I cannot see any American going with that.That last line caught my ear for two reasons: 1) I know how much O'Reilly likes to just make up stuff about people he doesn't like and that he really doesn't like the ACLU and 2) it didn't sound like something the ACLU would do. Despite the efforts of O'Reilly and many others on the political right to paint that organization as a group of crazed, ideological left-wing zealots the ACLU, while obviously a liberal organization, is mostly just a bunch of lawyers and lobbyists who care about and help others fight for personal rights and civil liberties. I myself may not always agree with them or their stance on certain issues but for the most part I think they do good work, so I was pretty sure that they wouldn't try to get the wearing of crucifixes banned in American public schools and guess what? They hadn't.
O'REILLY: We can't have crucifixes in our public schools here.
WEBBER: But wearing crucifixes to school--
O'REILLY: Yes, they tried. The ACLU tried, but they -- that was a freedom of expression issue.
After using the Google to search high and low across the vast expanse of the Interwebs I wasn't able to locate one anecdote or article that could verify O'Reilly's claim on this count. I did however find two interesting things pertaining to this issue. The first is this article from a couple of years ago about an Oregon high school that actually did ban students from wearing crucifixes:
Never did Jaime Salazar imagine that wearing a rosarylike crucifix to school would provoke a national stir.
Now as a staunch advocate for free speech rights I of course think that the school was wrong to do this but guess who else did too? That's right, the ACLU:
But when the 14-year-old and his 16-year-old friend Marco Castro were suspended recently for refusing to remove the religious beads because they were “gang-related,” it thrust Oregon into the headlines and has triggered questions over the evolving role of rosaries in religion, fashion and street gangs.
So not only did O'Reilly just completely make up a story about the ACLU that never happened, but the story he made up is the exact opposite of what actually did happen here in reality. Tall, loud and stupid is no way to go through life, Bill. The other entertaining tidbit I came across was the concluding line from this delightfully ironic post about the exact same story I just quoted above on a right-wing political blog called Moonbattery.com (for those not in the know, in the political blogosphere people on the right call supposed crazies on the left "moonbats" and people on the left call supposed crazies on the right "wingnuts"):
David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon says educators should proceed with caution. Their intentions may be valid, but they run the risk of violating students’ rights, he said.
“When it comes to restricting any form of expression, school officials have a pretty high bar to cross,” he said. “They better have very specific evidence that’s more than just a hunch.”
The smart gangs will adopt the star and crescent as a symbol. No educrats could ban that without risking the wrath of the ACLU.This website gets more hits than mine on several orders of magnitude every day. This is why Bill O'Reilly has the highest ratings of any show on cable news, it's why Sarah Palin almost found herself a heartbeat away from the presidency and it's why a certain segment of Wingnuttia will always be impervious to arguments couched in logic or sanity.