Can a Minority Deprive the Majority of Its Basic Rights?

By:  Sam Blumenfeld
10/08/2012
       
Can a Minority Deprive the Majority of Its Basic Rights?

The Constitution does not give the minority the right to deprive the majority of their Constitutional rights, even when it comes to exercise of religion.

President James K. Polk said in his Inaugural Address of March 4, 1845: "One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights. Minorities have a right to appeal to the Constitution as a shield against such oppression.'

What that means is that Christians cannot persecute Jews or deprive them of their right to worship as they please, that Protestants cannot prevent Catholics from saying Mass, or that the followers of Islam cannot prevent an individual Muslim from converting to another religion. But does it also mean that a minority can deny the majority of exercising its God-given rights? According to some judges it does, for a small group of atheists can deprive a majority of Christians in our public schools of exercising their right to religious freedom.

For example, here is what one atheist student was able to achieve in a school in Rhode Island:

A prayer banner that has hung in a Rhode Island high school auditorium since 1963 is coming down. A federal judge ruled in January that the prayer banner at Cranston High School West is unconstitutional. He ordered to have it removed.

Now the school district has decided not to appeal the ruling.

The trouble began with a lawsuit filed on behalf of 16-year-old atheist Jessica Ahlquist, a student at Cranston West. Ahlquist argued that the banner, a gift from the school's first graduating class in 1963, showed the words "Heavenly Father" and "Amen," words she said didn't belong in a public school.

At a contentious meeting ... many Cranston residents made it clear they wanted the school to appeal the ruling. "We need to show them that we can fight for what they believe in, no matter what it takes," one Cranston resident said.

"We have to appeal for the students of Cranston High School West," another resident said. "And we have to appeal for the sake of our own community. God bless you all." But others wanted the school to avoid a costly court fight.

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