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Humanism as Religion

March 08, 1987

The decision by a federal judge in Mobile, Ala., that secular humanism is a religion and must be banned from school textbooks defies reason and turns logic on its head. Whatever "secular humanism" may be--and no one is exactly sure what it is--it is certainly not a religion in any recognized sense of that word. Ordering textbooks removed from classrooms on these flimsy grounds is inconceivable, yet U.S. District Judge W. Brevard Hand has both conceived it and done it.

Secular humanism turns out to be whatever the plaintiffs in the Alabama case don't agree with. Neutrality on religious matters is not acceptable to them, which is their right, but it is not their right to impose that view on others. They should not be able to simply call anything that they don't like religion and have it thrown out of the schools. No federal judge should have fallen for this. If secular humanism is a religion, what isn't?

Quotations from the offending textbooks show the foolishness of the argument. "The values you have were not given to you at birth," one home-economics text reads. "You have developed them on your own. All the experiences you have had throughout your life have contributed to your set of values. Your future experiences will also affect your values."

Another book reads: "Nothing was 'meant to be.' You are the designer of your life. If you want something, you can plan and work for it. Nothing is easy. But nothing is impossible, either."

This may be a philosophy, but it is no religion. It certainly isn't the "establishment of religion" that the Constitution prohibits. To say that it is is to give words new meanings and to mock the rights that the Constitution does protect.

We trust that Judge Hand's unfortunate and ill-nsidered ruling will be overturned on appeal. His backers hail his ruling as a blow for religious freedom. It is in fact a blow for ignorance.

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