The Marketplace of Ideas

Apparently the Downey School System doesn't know a good thing when it has it. There is a donnybrook brewing because a fellow decided to take his $400 advertising space on the outfield wall of the Downey High School and print the Ten Commandments on it. Rather than take advantage of this, the folks in Downey are taking him to court.

The trip to court is frivolous. The school would no more endorse the Commandments by allowing them to appear in a paid advertisement than they endorse Coca-cola. No reasonable person could mistake a listing of Christian tenets on an outfield wall for a school policy; unreasonable people can be handled by a disclaimer.

There are always those who see infractions of the Church/State boundary where there are none; occasional false alarms are the price of diligence on that wall, and I am happy that it is well patrolled. But religious messages should not be banned simply because they are religious. If a private citizen wants to present his views, foot the bill for it, and in so doing finance part of a baseball team, I believe he is within his rights. No one is telling Coke not to express their views, or attributing them to the school.

The real crime is that the Downey High School is missing an intellectual and economic windfall. They should just let the Commandments go up, and right next to them put up their own advertisement for space on next year's wall at double the current rates.

Imagine next year's outfield: quotes from the Koran, the Bible, the Freedom From Religion Coalition, and the Psychic Friends' Network. The halftime personality test from the Scientologists. The seventh inning stretch and James Randi paranormal debunking. Competing advertisements from the Roswell believers and the Air Force. Or from the DEA and NORML. Descartes and Aquinas. Ideas, concepts, and points of view vying for the attention of growing minds!

And the School gets the profits from this little marketplace of ideas. It would beat the hell out of the Cola Wars.

This page written and maintained by Ted Faber (
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