Tara writes about a plank on the Iowa Republican platform that calls for giving evolution and creationism equal time in schools. I’ll let the people on ScienceBlogs rip into “We support the teaching of alternative theories on the origins of life including Darwinian Evolution, Creation Science or Intelligent Design, and that each should be given equal weight in presentation”; I’ll just note that it’s even more egregious than the normal calls for giving science and pseudoscience equal time, since this phrasing lists one science and two pseudosciences.
But another platform plank says, “We believe the displaying of the Ten Commandments, the American Flag and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance should be allowed.” On its own, it’s innocuous. People are free to display any flag they want and any religious monument they want, and recite any pledge they want. The US is free enough that all of these are legal.
In reality, that’s not what the Iowa Republicans want. It’s uncontroversial that people should be allowed to display the Ten Commandments in the US. What is controversial is the appropriation of the word “allowed” to mean “enforced.”
My right to sit on a bench in Central Park and sing drinking songs in a language I’ve created doesn’t extend to a right to do the same in class, or to a right to make other people sing the same songs or use the state’s arm to ostracize them if they don’t speak the said language.
It’s a well-known trend of American conservatism that it tends to view civil liberties it doesn’t use as violations of its own rights. The right to criticize Republican Presidents becomes a left-wing conspiracy to silence conservatives; racial equality becomes a violation of white people’s rights; separation of church and state becomes a violation of Christians’ rights. While it takes a seriously deranged person not to distinguish equal rights from state-sanctioned privileging of one group over another, the political arena is flush with people who make Lewis Carroll’s characters look sane.