A high school student in Tennessee is claiming that she was suspended because she said “bless you” when one of her classmates sneezed. After Kendra Turner uttered those words, her teacher confronted her, saying she had broken class rules.
Turner fought back saying, “It’s all right to defend God and it’s our constitutional right, because we have a freedom of religion and freedom of speech.” Turner ended up in the administrator’s office where she finished out the rest of the class with an in-school suspension.
Many students claim that the teacher was demeaning towards the religious views of others, even including the term “bless you” as one of her banned phrases in class.
The first thing that came to my mind when reading about this was that it happened in Tennessee, where religion is still common. I was expecting something like this to happen in California.
It is good that the student stood up for herself and her beliefs, although I do believe she got it wrong in citing freedom of speech and freedom of religion. She is far from alone in making this mistake.
Property Rights and Government
The 1st Amendment is cited a bit too often. It does not grant you any rights. It says that “Congress shall make no law…” Ironically, for someone who is deeply religious, she shouldn’t be citing the Constitution for her rights. She should be saying that her rights come from God.
But this isn’t really a matter of freedom of speech or freedom of religion. It is a property rights issue. And the problem here is the lack of property rights. More specifically, the problem is government schools.
If this young lady really wants to cite the Constitution, she should really cite the 9th and 10th Amendments. They basically say that the Constitution is a document of enumerated powers. Any powers not listed in the Constitution should be left to the states or the people.
The federal government continually violates the Constitution, including with its funding of education. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that Congress has the power to fund education or get itself involved in any way.
But even if the government schools were just funded by the state and local governments, it would not change the fact that this is a property rights issue. Because of the existence of government schools, these things become political. They become political battles.
Can anyone imagine this happening in a private school? First, most schools are quite forthright in what they will promote and tolerate. Most parents know if religion will be taught. But it is hard to picture a private school coming down on a student for saying “bless you”. If it did happen, then the parents and child could make a choice on whether to keep paying for that school or to find somewhere else.
The battles occur because of the use of taxpayer funds. Those who have strong religious beliefs do not want their tax money going towards an institution that is hostile to their beliefs. Meanwhile, there are some people who are not only not religious, but they are against others who are. They do not want their tax money going somewhere that will preach any religion, or even allow it spoken.
These are political battles. They are battles over the power of who gets to determine how tax money is spent. We usually don’t hear of a third side, which is that maybe tax money shouldn’t be spent in the first place. The religious parents can choose a religious school. Others can choose a school that doesn’t teach religion, or even tolerate any mention of it.
When you take the tax money out of the scenario and put in property rights, then there are no longer any political battles. Customers (the parents and children) can do business with whomever they want. They can choose any company (the school owners). There is no need for fighting. We don’t have to fight over whether the grocery stores should sell Coke or Pepsi. You can choose to buy either, or both, or none of the above.
In conclusion, as long as government schools exist, then there will be ridiculous situations occurring such as this one in Tennessee. There will continue to be political battles and there will continue to be ridiculous teachers who can’t stand to hear anything related to religion that might offend them.