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Atheists and Graduation

June 15, 1986

Atheism has fallen on hard times, indeed. A little more than 50 years ago you could enjoy the splendid theater of a Scopes trial with asinine William Jennings Bryan bellowing that thou shalt not own a monkey as thy grandmother: the atheists occupying the intellectual high ground. Alas, poor Clarence J. Darrow.

Now James E. Brodhead, bless him (if he'll permit the liberty), has made it out the Age of Faith all right, but somehow skipped the Age of Reason. Let's just run through his arguments expressed in The Times.

The Constitution guarantees freedom OF religion. Agreed. No argument there. By extension, it therefore guarantees the freedom to practice NO religion if you like. Still OK. Then, says Brodhead in a rush of extrapolation that would leave Mae West dizzy, you also get freedom FROM religion, which means nobody can practice or even refer to----religion--in any public place on any public occasion.

Being myself a Catholic, of a sly and Jesuitical disposition, instead of a fundamentalist, I'm willing to make an offer: I'll support a ban on all public expression of religion, if Brodhead will agree to the same interpretation of the constitutional guarantees of free speech. It works like this: since you have freedom OF speech, logically you must also have the freedom NOT to speak. Therefore it follows that in order to have freedom FROM speech, nobody may be allowed to say anything at all in public places or on public occasions.

Deal?

DIANE de AVALLE-ARCE

Santa Ynez

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