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
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
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
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.