What would Jesus ban?

This is the sort of thing which (as far as I'm concerned, at least) amounts to a form of religious indoctrination in the schools.

MADISON, Wis. -- A Tomah High School student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his art teacher censored his drawing because it featured a cross and a biblical reference.
Here's the drawing in question:


The lawsuit alleges other students were allowed to draw "demonic" images and asks a judge to declare a class policy prohibiting religion in art unconstitutional.

"We hear so much today about tolerance," said David Cortman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group representing the student. "But where is the tolerance for religious beliefs? The whole purpose of art is to reflect your own personal experience. To tell a student his religious beliefs can legally be censored sends the wrong message."

Tomah School District Business Manager Greg Gaarder said the district hadn't seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

According to the lawsuit, the student's art teacher asked his class in February to draw landscapes. The student, a senior identified in the lawsuit by the initials A.P., added a cross and the words "John 3:16 A sign of love" in his drawing.

His teacher, Julie Millin, asked him to remove the reference to the Bible, saying students were making remarks about it. He refused, and she gave him a zero on the project.

Millin showed the student a policy for the class that prohibited any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs in artwork. The lawsuit claims Millin told the boy he had signed away his constitutional rights when he signed the policy at the beginning of the semester.

The boy tore the policy up in front of Millin, who kicked him out of class. Later that day, assistant principal Cale Jackson told the boy his religious expression infringed on other students' rights.

Jackson told the boy, his stepfather and his pastor at a meeting a week later that religious expression could be legally censored in class assignments. Millin stated at the meeting the cross in the drawing also infringed on other students' rights.

This is a public school, and the state is not supposed to take positions on religion. It would be one thing had the school told students that they must depict or display images of the cross, but here a student acted on his own, and in a constitutionally protected manner. There seems to be a crazy idea floating around that freedom of speech does not apply to religious speech, as if that is somehow not protected or else is worthy of only a lesser standard of protection, like, say, cigarette advertising.

What's hard to tell from this report is whether the school, by forbidding "religious beliefs in artwork," prohibits all crosses, and all religious symbols per se, or whether it only forbid their depiction if they reflected the artist's belief. In other words, would they allow "Piss Christ" images or Mohammad cartoons, but forbid art reflecting actual beliefs in Christ or Muhammad? If they are censoring all images regardless of belief, then I suppose the school might be able to argue that it did not discriminate based on religion, but I still think it's a stretch.

By prohibiting "violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs" the school suggests that religious beliefs deserve to be singled out for social opprobrium -- as if they're all in the same immoral category. Yet religious beliefs (including atheism) amount to opinions about the unknown. Why should opinions about the unknown be treated differently than political opinions? And why should a swastika or hammer and sickle be allowed, but not a cross? I think the school is taking the position that religion is something to be ashamed of, and if that isn't indoctrination, I can't imagine what is.

I'm wondering why the lamebrains didn't think to ban "drug related" images along with everything else.

Which means that while the following Jesus image would be banned, it would not be because of the marijuana leaf.


As the link explains, there are people who seriously believe that Jesus may have used and/or supplied marijuana.

Whether that is a religious belief or a scholarly belief, I am not sure. Either way, it seems about as worthy of artistic expression as a lot of things that pass for art these days. But it too would be banned in Tomah.

Before anyone starts laughing too loudly about the marijuana Jesus, remember that cannabis was in fact used in the holy annointing oil mentioned repeatedly in the Bible, and that a number of scholars believe it possible that Jesus's biblical healing involved cannabis. (Take that, ye Satanic DEA!)


Well, things could be worse.

At least they're not banning pig pictures.

posted by Eric on 04.03.08 at 06:22 PM


As a lifelong agnostic once atheist, I grew up when religious references were much more common in schools than they are today. I did not consider my liberties threatened by religious references in public schools: rather they showed me how the majority lived.

I took an AP Humanities course my senior year in high school which was in effect a Comparative Religion course. I believe that one assignment in our Humanities Art section was to draw some sort of mandala, some sort of pictorial representation of our religious views, of our views of the universe.

The ACLU people have gone way too far, in my opinion. To compare violence and blood w religious beliefs!

A Jewish acquaintance who is an elementary school librarian informed me that when she found out that her Hispanic students thought that Xmas was only about Santa Claus, that she proceeded to inform them about the religious significance of Xmas: as Christ's birthday. Would that have been forbidden in Wisconsin?

She told me about the time her schoolteacher mother taught her NY suburb class a hymn. An angry parent set up a meeting with the principal: "I don't want my kid learning any Jewish music." The principal asked the school teacher to sing the hymn she taught the children. "Kyrie Eleison..." The principal broke out laughing; a Roman Catholic hymn was hardly Jewish!

Gringo   ·  April 3, 2008 7:00 PM

"remember that cannabis was in fact used in the holy annointing oil mentioned repeatedly in the Bible."

It is not a generally accepted fact that cannabis was an ingredient in anointing oil described in the Bible. The Bible says that anointing oil contained "calamus", which some people say was really cannabis, but that is only a possibility, and an unlikely one at that. There is certainly no evidence that Jesus used marijuana. Frankly, this all sounds like wishful thinking by potheads.

chocolatier   ·  April 3, 2008 7:53 PM

There are many sites which claim "calamus" is a later mistranslation. Interestingly, calamus is considered a stimulant, an aphrodesiac, and a hallucinogen, and it is banned in the United States:


The word calamus derives from Greek mythology:

The calamus has long been a symbol of male love. The name is associated with a Greek myth: Kalamos, a son of the river-god Maeander, who loved Karpos, the son of Zephyrus and Chloris. When Karpos drowned, Kalamos was transformed into a reed, whose rustling in the wind was interpreted as a sigh of lamentation.
The biblical word seems more like cannabis than calamus, although it is a very complicated issue:


Calamus also figures in Whitman's Leaves of Grass:


While wishful thinking by potheads does not concern me (I'm not a pothead), I think there are certainly legitimate issues of free speech and freedom of religion involved here.

Eric Scheie   ·  April 3, 2008 11:19 PM

I have a Madison public elementary school art teacher telling her students that "Jesus Christ" is a bad word and that "you can't say those words in school".

annonymous   ·  April 4, 2008 11:34 AM

According to Ezekiel 27:19, kaneh bosem (whatever it was) had to be imported. Cannabis, on the other hand, is a weed that will grow anywhere. In the absence of legal restrictions, there is no need to import it.

I suppose the next claim will be that the Bible commands us to listen to rags since shmata is a continuation of sh'ma...

Joseph Hertzlinger   ·  April 6, 2008 2:37 AM

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