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Secular Humanism is a term frequently thrown around in separation of church and state discussions. What is Secular Humanism and how does it pertain to the Separation issue? Does everyone who uses the term mean the same thing? You can find answers to these questions and more below.
|First, Secular Humanism IS a religion.|
| I do suppose you are going to supply evidence to establish this fact? The first thing you might want to address is the fact that secular and humanism are two separate words. Secular refers to anything non religious. Humanism is defined as "any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, and dignity are taken to be of primary importance, as in moral judgements. Devotion to or study of the humanities." Taking into account the latter definition, even religious schools teach courses that are considered to be part of the humanities.
Next, you will have to address the fact that while there may be some dispute as to which of the two actually coined the phrase first, the phrase "secular humanism" is credited to either Leo Pfeffer or Joseph Blau, then professor emeritus of religion at Columbia University. However neither Leo Pfeffer nor Blau placed the type of meaning you are trying to put to it.
Pfeffer's meaning when he wrote the phrase in his book, Creed in Competition, which was published in 1958 defines it in this manner. "Those unaffiliated with organized religion and concerned with human values."
The late Leo Pfeffer also wrote:
Source of Information:
The "Religion" of Secular Humanism by Leo Pfeffer. Journal of Church and State Vol. 29 Number 3, Autumn 1987: pp 498-500.
First Person :
|I will not post the entire contents of the two Humanist Manifestos, but you can examine them at your leisure. Clearly SH, by its own standards, is a religion, albeit a non-theistic religion.|
|Well, are you able to make a connection between those who call themselves humanists and subscribe to this Humanist Manifesto, agree with it, perhaps wrote it, etc, and those whom you label as secular humanists?|
| The second Humanist Manifesto says:
This quote alone shows the religious quality of SH. The balance of the two documents is equally candid.
|Be that as it may, you have not established any connection between those who wrote those words and secular humanists. I would add the following sites that one can look at for additional information:|
Furthermore, the US Supreme Court has ruled the SH is a religion, so irrespective of our beliefs on the subject, the government has ruled, and as obedient little serfs, we must accept.
In Torcaso v. Watkins, a Maryland Notary Public was reinstated despite his refusal to declare belief in God. The Supreme Court noted that many religions, including Secular Humanism, deny the existence of God.
Torcaso V. Watkins, October 1961, US Supreme Court: Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others."
I don't think you really understand what courts have said about what you are saying.
One has to understand in reading court opinions that footnotes, dicta, reasoning/rationale even is not law, is not the actual decision or "holding" of the court. Only the actual ruling i.e. holding of the court means anything as far as law and being legally binding is concerned.
All the other comments in the opinion can be informative, can be interesting, can maybe be persuasive in future arguments, but it isn't law, it isn't the finding of the court, it isn't binding on anything.
People can say the court said this, or the court said that, but the only thing that the court said that really matters is the actual holding/ruling of that case.
Susan Batte, Esq adds:
The above information appears in a footnote. Whether or not secular humanism was or was not a religion was not the issue in Torcaso. However, the 11th Cir. Court of Appeals in Smith v. Bd. of Comm. of Alabama (1987) held: "The Supreme Court has never established a comprehensive test for determining the "delicate question" of what constitutes a religious belief for purposes of the first amendment, and we need not attempt to do so in this case, for we find that, even assuming that secular humanism is a religion for purposes of the establishment clause, Appellees have failed to prove a violation of the establishment clause through the use in the Alabama public schools of the textbook at issue in this case."
You must not know how to read a court decision, or you would know that a footnote does not constitute any part or parcel of the holding of the court in that decision, it has no legal standing, is not binding on anything. It is like obiter dictum--not part of the holding, not binding, not used as binding precedent for future decisions.
|In other Supreme Court decision Abington School District v. Schempp, 374, US 203, 83 S.Ct. 1560, 10 L.Ed.2d 844 (1963) Justice Clark stated: "[T]he State may not establish a 'religion of secularism' in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus 'preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.' "|
Susan Batte, Esq. says:
|Of course, the quote would make more sense in context: "It is insisted that unless these religious exercises are permitted a ‘religion of secularism' is established in the schools. We agree of course that the State may not establish a "religion of secularism" in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus "preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe." We DO NOT AGREE, however, that this decision in any sense has that effect." (emphasis added)|
|To quote Alan Pfeffer (email@example.com) from 3 Nov, 1993:
In other words, no, it is not correct that secular humanism was ruled a religion by the Court.
|One might argue that even if it is a religion, that it does not affect children in school. This argument presupposes that schools do not teach Secular Humanism.|
Taking the accepted dictionary definitions of the words being tossed around, any subject that is taught in any school that does not include religion in some form or fashion is therefore secular. Even a private religious school should they teach a subject, any subject, and did not wrap it in some form of religious presentation could be rightfully blamed of teaching secularism. Any school, including private religious schools that taught any subject that is generally considered to be a part of the "humanities" and taught it without wrapping it up in religion could be rightfully blamed of teaching secular humanities..
You are trying to say that RELIGION = RELIGION, BUT NON - RELIGION = RELIGION AS WELL. Teaching religion is teaching religion, but not teaching religion is also teaching a religion, the religion of non-religion.
Now has the IRS given the religion of "secular humanism" a tax exempt status as a religion? I don't think so. What other evidence do you have to offer?
One of the supporters of this point of view demanded that we show one textbook that teaches SH. It is quite impossible to do so because the teachings are subtle and accepted (by dint of decades of indoctrination) by the majority to be considered "religion".
Neither of these failings disproves the accusation.
Smoke screen! You can speak for this so-called majority?
Here is your problem:
(1) By your own admission you acknowledge that you can't produce any textbooks that teach secular humanism.
(2) You either did not understand what you were reading when you read about the court decisions you cited or you did understand that these court decisions did not support your claims
(3) You have combined several so called "groups" ( secular humanists and humanists) without supplying any evidence that actually links them together as being one and the same, and then uses some vague quotes from a book by one of these groups as some form of evidence to support your claims. But you offer no proof that the various "groups" all subscribe to quotes.
(4) At least some of the claims you are making in regards to this "secular humanism" and the public schools system can also be made about private schools in general and that includes private religious schools in some instances. Any school system you could ever devise would also be "guilty" of teaching this mysterious "religion" in at least some instances. (i.e., the mysterious religion of "not teaching religion in classes since it was not really part of the subject material")
I don't see where you have really proven that "secular humanism" is a religion.
Paul Kurtz wrote in the CSH Electronic Newsletter, Wed. March 2, 2001: [CSH is the Council for Secular Humanism]
Regarding the specific issue of the book calling Secular Humanism a "religion", I'd like to offer a radical suggestion, and many of you will probably disagree but it is only a suggestion.
First of all, the fear of taking Secular Humanism out of the schools, IMO, is unwarranted because Secular Humanism is not being taught in the first place. For instance, I have never heard of a public school teacher who has ever said to students, "you know that an action is morally wrong if it hurts someone, and if it hurts no one then its not wrong". There are enough non-Secular Humanists who are evolutionists that attacks on evolution based on its relationship to Secular Humanism just aren't going to wash except among staunch creationists. They might try to argue that not teaching God means teaching Secular Humanism, but that would be silly since Buddhism and Ethical Culture require no god belief and no one tries to argue the schools are teaching Buddhism, or Ethical Culture.
Second, I think we (not just Secular Humanists) could do ourselves a lot of good legally by tossing out our dictionaries in favor of the I.R.S. definition of religion as stated here:
There is no requirement for belief in gods or any other supernatural thing, no requirement to use faith as an epistomology, and no requirement to worship anything. All that is required is that you have a set of ethical or moral beliefs (you can even write your own) that are just as important to you as God is to Christians. If Fundamentalists insist on hammering in the idea that freedom of religion does not include freedom from religion, then perhaps we are better off taking advantage of the much broader IRS definition of "religion".
|by Richard T. Foltin of American Jewish Committee, Washington, D.C.|
This article is a response to the Right's claim that public schools promote secular humanism and, in doing so, inhibit the practice of Christianity.
One claim made by the radical "religious right" is that the public school curriculum promotes a religion called "secular humanism" and, in so doing, ostensibly inhibits the practice of Christianity. Alternatively, the claim is made that "secular humanism," if not a religion in and of itself, constitutes an anti-religious point of view.
These claims have served as the basis for challenges to certain textbooks and portions of curriculum as prohibited establishment of religion. (By virtue of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, schools may neither endorse nor derogate any religion.) But, as is discussed below, the putative "secular humanist" religion, at least as that term is used by the religious right, signifies nothing more (or less) than the failure of the public schools to teach a particular form of Christianity.
In one notable instance in which this issue was raised, Judge Brevard Hand, a federal district judge sitting in Alabama, stated in 1983, in a subsequently-reversed decision, that:
"[Case law deals generally with removing the teachings of the Christian ethic from the scholastic effort but totally ignores the teaching of the secular humanistic ethic.... [T]he curriculum in the public schools of Mobile County is rife with efforts at teaching or encouraging secular humanism - all without opposition from any other ethic to such an extent that it becomes a brainwashing effort. If this Court is compelled to purge "God is great, God is good, we thank him for our daily food" from the classroom, then this Court must also purge from the classroom those things that serve to teach that salvation is through one's self rather than through a deity."(1)
Thus, for Judge Hand the public schools are defined as disseminators of "secular humanism", because they are not allowed to teach patently religious points of view.
Insofar as the radical right is asking that public schools remove from the curriculum all teachings or textbooks that are inconsistent with their religious views, and replace those texts with books that are consistent with such views, they are seeking a result that is, in and of itself, antithetical to the First Amendment's prohibition of the establishment of religion. As a federal appeals judge has stated:
"It is apparent that [those who]... deem that which is "secular" in orientation to be anti-religious... are not dealing in the same linguistic currency as the Supreme Court's establishment decisions. If the establishment clause is to have any meaning, distinctions must be drawn to recognize not simply "religious" and "anti-religious," but "non-religious" government activity as... Therefore, [one]... cannot succeed in demonstrating a violation of the establishment laws by showing that the school authorities are somehow advancing "secular" goals."(2)
The arguments asserted by the radical right would, then, read all meaning out of the First Amendment. They would treat all texts and all school subjects as either pro-theistic religion or as a promotion of the "religion" (or "anti-religion") of "secular humanism." Implicitly, this analysis is based on the premise that the state cannot be neutral toward religion because all thought is religious religion having been implicitly defined as anything anyone thinks is important.
Part of the problem is that the radical right has taken a term referring to an actual philosophical perspective (a perspective that may or may not properly be deemed a "religion") for constitutional purposes and applied it to the actions of school officials in a fashion that is wholly inappropriate. "Secular humanism" is a world view that is premised on the non-existence of a Deity and which embraces reason as the sole appropriate response to the universe. There is simply no evidence that educators are "secular humanists" seeking to proselytize through the public schools, The argument that educators are proponents of that viewpoint relies on the obfuscation of the differences between the particular school of thought known as "secular humanism" and the more general concept of "humanism."
As one school board stated in response to a challenge to its curriculum:
"In the broadest sense a "humanist" is quite literally anyone who is interested in the study of humanities: the artistic, cultural, philosophical, and social achievements of human history. As such, humanism is the deepest stream of philosophical, scientific, literary, artistic, and moral thought in Western Civilization and is basic to the entire tradition of learning. A humanist is one who is dedicated to the achievement of the highest possible human potential. Humanism in this sense is not necessarily inconsistent with religion, theistic or non-theistic; indeed, throughout history there have been many "Christian Humanists."
The school board went on to note that "by blurring the distinction between humanism and Secular Humanism, [those challenging the school curriculum]... can quite literally take any proposition with which they disagree and put a 'humanist' label on it.... [T]hey rely on the... the ambiguity and malleability of the term `humanism' to contribute to their dualistic social outlook, under which everything is either traditionally religious or part of the 'religion' of 'humanism.'"
In sum, the assertion that textbooks and educators are advocates of "secular humanism" is premised on the interchangeable and inappropriate use of the terms "humanism" and "secular humanism." The acceptance of this assertion would, in the end, lead to the dismantling of the entire system of public education, because it would then be impossible for school boards to decide to promote any values or even to convey any information without being subject to attack from some religious group or another.
(1) Jaffree v. Board of School Com'rs of Mobile County, 1983
(2) Engle v. Vitale, 1962; Abington Township School District v. Schempp, 1963.
Source of Information:
How to Win: A Practical Guide for Defeating the Radical Right in Your Community Copyright 1994 by Radical Right Task Force. Permission is granted to reproduce this publication in whole or in part. All other rights reserved.