See that guy up there? That's Eddie Walker, principal of Irmo High School in Irmo, South Carolina. He's in the middle of a blow up – and has now offered his resignation – over the Equal Access Act.
The Equal Access Act was passed in 1984 and signed into law by Ronald Reagan:
It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.
So, essentially, it was an equal rights bill, aimed at providing equal access to all groups, regardless of their message. If a school didn't want to have a Christian Alliance, for example, their only recourse would be to not allow any extra-carricular groups at all.
The Equal Access Act was used to protect the rights of students at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1990, a group of students, led by Bridget Mergens tried to start a Bible study club at their school.
The school didn't know what to do, because every club had to have a sponsor, and a sponsored bible study club would imply a state endorsement of Christianity. The obvious dilemma was that to protect some students from a First Amendment violation that would be a de facto endorsement of one religion, they had to violate the First Amendment rights of the other students by denying them the right to practice theirs.
Thus began Westside School District v. Mergens. In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the student's right to assemble and protected their equal access to school facilities. They based this on the Lemon Test, established in Lemon v. Kurtzman, which means that government action must not violate one of three stipulations:
- The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;
- The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
- The government's action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.
If any of those stipulations are not met, the proposed action is considered to be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court found that it did not violate those, reasoning in the decision that “Because the Act on its face grants equal access to both secular and religious speech, we think it clear that the Act's purpose was not to `endorse or disapprove of religion.'''
Now, our boy Eddie Walker is a devout Christian, so one would think that this story would be about starting a Christian group. In this case, though, it is actually a group called the Gay-Straight Alliance, who promote tolerance and dialogue between gay and straight students.
Mr Walker found the formation of the club something he couldn't stomach, and he sent a letter, announcing his resignation as principal of Irmo High School:
On May 14, 2008, I was instructed by email to allow the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Irmo High School. On May 15, 2008 I told Ms. Ann Pilat to allow the formation of this club for the 2008-2009 school year.
Allowing the formation of this club on our campus conflicts with my professional beliefs and religious convictions. I considered resigning this year but reconsidered because to not fulfill my written contract for the 2008-2009 school year would also conflict with my professional beliefs and religious convictions. In my opinion failure to fulfill my contract would constitute a breach of trust with School District Five of Lexington and Richland County, my student heroes, returning Irmo High School employees, and new employees who have chosen to work at Irmo High school for the 2008-2009 school year.
The formation of this club conflicts with my professional beliefs in that we do not have other clubs at Irmo High school based on sexual orientation, sexual preference, or sexual activity. In fact our sex education curriculum is abstinence based. I feel the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Irmo High school implies that students joining the club will have chosen to or will choose to engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or members of both sexes…
…My decision to resign is a personal choice based on my professional beliefs and religious convictions. I have prayed about the decision for a period of time and I have a peace about it. I would ask that you respect my choice as I respect your choice to disagree with me on this issue. I bear no malice towards anyone involved. If the people involved at the district level had chosen not to allow the club to form I am sure the district would have been sued and the current legal opinions and precedents indicate that in all likelihood the district would have lost.
The first thing that strikes me about this letter is that Mr Walker falls into the same trap that many people fall into when discussing homosexuality – it's not about the sex. Well, it's a little about sex, but just like heterosexuality, it is more simply about finding some companionship, finding one's own path to happiness and fufillment.
And a Gay-Straight Alliance isn't about either of those things – it is about love and tolerance and respecting differences. In that end, it is no different than a Christian-Muslim Alliance.
That said, I really have no problem with what Mr Walker is doing. He isn't trying to ram his beliefs down anyone's throat, or using government to force people into his value system. He's just walking away.
I've had arguments with people about other issues – can a pharmacist refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions, even against the will of his employer? Can a worker in the San Diego clerk's office refuse to marry two men?
My answer to these questions has always been, “If you don't like the job description, get another effin job.”
Now that someone is following that advice – no matter how misguided and myopic his opinions – I must respect his choice. After all, isn't that what tolerance is all about?
Thanks to JohnTodd for the tip.Tweet
Latest posts by RS Davis (see all)
- Blacks and California’s Prop 8 - November 14, 2008
- A Big Victory for the LP in North Carolina - November 7, 2008
- A Tale of Two Cities - October 30, 2008
- A Sad Excuse for a Law Professor - October 28, 2008
- Barr Gets Smacked Down Again! - October 24, 2008
- Who Could Have Predicted This? - October 22, 2008
- Open Source Government? - October 19, 2008
- A Culture of Death? - October 16, 2008
- I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watchin Me… - October 15, 2008
- Cobb County Police Get a New Toy - October 13, 2008
- Oil Markets Get Limber - October 10, 2008
- 3rd Parties Get No Respect - October 9, 2008
- The Sex Offender Registry - October 9, 2008
- A Racial Catch 22 - October 8, 2008
- The Thinker, The Creation of Adam, and Sonic the Hedgehog - October 6, 2008
- When Sgt. Fido is Wrong - October 3, 2008
- Obama/Barr ’08 - September 30, 2008
- Tempest in a Teapot - September 29, 2008
- Why Bob Barr Is Right - September 26, 2008
- Barr Gets Smacked Down - September 25, 2008
- Goldwater’s Heir? - September 23, 2008
- Barr Finally Fights For Texas - September 19, 2008
- Scientology – Silencing Critics for Decades - September 9, 2008
- Free Katie - September 3, 2008
- Barr Fights for Texas - September 2, 2008
- In the UK, Every Window is a Rear Window - September 1, 2008
- Can’t We All Just Get Along?? - August 29, 2008
- Do You Really Need a License to Arrange Furniture? - August 29, 2008
- Is Wesley Snipes the New CEO of NewEgg.com? - August 27, 2008
- The UK’s War on Unpleasant Children - August 25, 2008
- Torture by Proxy: The Case of Maher Arar - August 19, 2008
- Did Scientology Kill Isaac Hayes? - August 11, 2008
- GOP Saves Big Oil from Windfall Profits Tax - June 11, 2008
- Highway Robbery - June 10, 2008
- rEVOLution Interview with Dr Eric Schansberg - June 6, 2008
- Welcome to the Police State - June 5, 2008
- Time Doesn’t Make You Innocent - June 4, 2008
- Drunk Driving Hysteria and the Neo-Prohibitionists - June 2, 2008
- Progress for New Zealand’s Sex Workers - May 30, 2008
- New York Recognizes Gay Marriage (For Now) - May 29, 2008
- Is Samuel Adams Spinning in His Grave? - May 28, 2008
- Pragmatism or Purity? - May 27, 2008
- Eddie Walker Walks - May 23, 2008
- It’s a Cult Cult Cult Cult Cult Cult Cult Cult Cult Cult Cult - May 22, 2008
- The Case of Mehdi Kazemi - May 21, 2008
- Say it Ain’t So, Joe… - May 20, 2008
- RPR: MO Caucus Coup Update - May 20, 2008
- The Invisible Genocide - May 16, 2008
- The Postal Robber Barons - May 15, 2008
- A Speed Bump on the Road to Paulville - May 14, 2008
- Another Innocent Victim of the Drug War - May 13, 2008
- GOVERNMENT: Putting the cart before the horse for 232 years - May 12, 2008
- RPR: rEVOLution interview – Dan Druck - May 12, 2008
- Islamic Religious Freedom in the Western World - May 9, 2008
- Conyers Questions the War on Sick People - May 8, 2008
- RPR: Want to Move to Ron Paulville? - May 7, 2008
- So the UK is as Messed Up as We Are - May 7, 2008
- The Rise and Fall of the Religious Right - May 6, 2008
- Bureaucracy vs The Market - May 5, 2008
- Gay Holocaust Victims Get Their Due - May 2, 2008
- The World Goes Topsy-Turvy for One Marijuana Researcher - May 1, 2008
- FDA Follies - May 1, 2008
- Two Incredible Men - April 30, 2008
- Wait – A Water Heater Installer is Not a Drug Expert? - April 29, 2008
- BREAKING NEWS: Hell Freezes Over! - April 28, 2008
- RPR: A Call to Arms for Ron Paul Supporters! - April 26, 2008
- I Hope You Didn’t “Always Bet On Black…” - April 26, 2008