March 24, 2006

Deep, Abiding Stupidity

I meant to cover this yesterday, but both Captain Ed and Dementee beat me to the draw (which is sort of like getting scooped by both Fulton Sheen and Dog the Bounty Hunter): the city of Saint Paul's "Human Rights" komissar commissioner Tyrone Terrell ordered a banner with the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs, as well as other Easter-oriented employee decorations, removed from City Hall and all other city property.

This from a city whose school system routinely teaches about "native american spirituality" and Buddhism (although all references to Christianity and Judaism are carefully excised), and which devotes uncounted money to hold an annual "Saint Patrick's Day" parade (and doesn't apparently know that eggs and bunnies are artifacts of pagan, not Christian, observances).

For the benefit of Kathy Lantry and Tyrone Terrell, here is the relevant section of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That's it.

A banner observing the existance of a season (to say nothing of artifacts posted by employees in their own workspaces and at their own expense) is not "establishing religion". It is acknowledging a holiday which people in the city celebrate.

Terrell's apparent justification for the action - that people might be offended - is ludicrous. If they're offended, then let's offend them; our society (and the "Human Rights" Mr. Terrell is supposed to commission) depend in their entirety on people being able to confront differences in things like religion, get past whatever offense they might feel, and learn to co-exist. Period. If one of my (many) Moslem co-workers put up, I dunno, an Eid banner (?), or started praying in the aisle between me and the bathroom, assuming the demonstration isn't disruptive or ostentatious, then if I am offended it is both my problem and something for me to get beyond. Nothing more.

The inmates are running the asylum.

Posted by Mitch at March 24, 2006 12:32 PM | TrackBack

The City of SAINT PAUL has a lot more then a pagan Easter Bunny to worry about if it wants to not offend non-Christians. Should it start by changing it's name to Stalingrad?

Posted by: Derp at March 24, 2006 01:29 PM

Quick, someone make sure Jay Benanav doesn't hear that!

Posted by: Gar at March 24, 2006 01:43 PM

Retraction... Make that Wellstonigrad.

Posted by: Derp at March 24, 2006 02:06 PM

Leningrad. More romantic. On the other hand, Stalin had a handicap, so maybe Stalingrad would be okay. More inclusive. Stalin didn't discriminate. But Wellstonia has a nice ring to it. Think of it. The Easter bunny was Wellstoned today in Wellstonia by well-stoned Wellstonians. Pretty snappy.

Posted by: Eracus at March 24, 2006 02:27 PM

The ironic thing is that I'm offended. As a non-Christian, the pagan bunny stuff is the only part of Easter I celebrate.

If it had been a cross or something, that might be understandable. But the bunny? That's like banning Christmas trees. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Posted by: Jeff Fecke at March 24, 2006 02:35 PM

As a former Saint Paul Human Rights Commissioner, I can tell you that Tyrone Terrill is a power to himself, answerable to no one. Not the Mayor. Not the City Council. Not the Human Rights Commission. Under our city government's law, he can only be removed by the mayor IF the mayor has five of the seven votes of the city council.

Because of his lack of accountability, Tyrone is free to do this goofy stuff. This current escapade reminds me of another of his stunts just a few years back when, on his own initiative and not as a result of an investigation by his agency, he filed a "director's charge" against the Pioner Press. His contention was that one of its editorial cartoons was a human rights violation. Even the liberals on the Human Rights Commission were upset with this. Fortunately, his "director's charge" was laughed out of town, and Terrill dropped the idea.

Perhaps as equally troubling, Terrill spends a good deal of time over in Minneapolis. For example, back in 2001, he was spotted by a Strib photographer waiving an election sign for Sharon "Mumbles" Belton. During the middle of the work day! Put it another way, he does uthis sort of thing on the city's (and our) dime.

However, the more I think about, perhaps I shouldn't be outraged that Terrill is putting time on the job over in Minneapolis. We should encourage him to spend more time there and less in Saint Paul.

Posted by: Jack Bauer at March 24, 2006 02:39 PM

Tyrone Terrill's other notable contribution during the cartoon episode, which arose during the Clem Haskins/Jan Ganglehoff Gopher basketball academic scandal and involved a cartoon comparing black Gopher basketball players to persons residing on a "plantation," was to suggest that editorial cartoons first be submitted to his office for approval.

In other words, the city's civil rights watchdog is so lacking in understanding of basic matters of First Amendment law that he proposed a blatant prior restraint on protected speech. That the man is still employed should embarrass every single resident of the city of St. Paul.

Posted by: ck at March 24, 2006 03:05 PM



The "plantation" cartoon is the one that I was referring to, but I could not remember the subject matter. I appreciate you jogging my memory!

Posted by: Jack Bauer at March 24, 2006 03:14 PM

Congress is NOT the St.Paul City Council.

Posted by: Mark N. at March 24, 2006 03:52 PM

Mark N,

The United States Supreme Court has routinely held that the First Amendment applies to units of local governments.

Posted by: Jack Bauer at March 24, 2006 04:11 PM

And Tyrone Terrell is neither.

Posted by: Derp at March 24, 2006 04:12 PM

True enough, Jack Bauer. But I think Mark N. was simply reminding us that the Saint Paul City Council and the U.S. Congress are two different institutions in separate locations. One is located in Minnesota - Saint Paul, Minnesota, to be precise. The other is in Washington, D.C. Too often we lose sight of this fact.

Posted by: angryclown at March 24, 2006 04:46 PM

And again - quick, someone get to Jay Benanav befgore he figures it out!

Posted by: Gar at March 24, 2006 04:55 PM

Angry and Derp,

True enough, Terrill is not the City Council or the Congress of the United States. That would be a demotion for him, given the amount of power sans accountability that he currently wields.

Heck, at least the members of Congress and the members of the City Council are accountable to the voters.

Terrill is accountable to no one.

Please, Angry and Derp or anyone out there, challenge me on that point. I welcome the debate.

Jack Bauer

(Hoping that unlike e-democracy (also known as the DFL playpen) there is not a two-post limit to the Comments.)

Posted by: Jack Bauer at March 24, 2006 05:06 PM

No arguments from me. As far as I'm can tell it's just a different head on the same beast. The Head of the KGB, The Politburo, take your pick. Both wield their power in Wellstonia in different ways.

Posted by: Derp at March 24, 2006 05:58 PM

Okay, as a deeply conservative, dyed-in-the-wool Republican atheist, I gotta chime in here.

This is one of the rulings that appears so dense on the surface, but makes sense, and preserves what the Constitution values.

If I, as an atheist, or someone else who's a muslim or . .. whatever . . . walks in to the offices of our . . . no, MY . . . government, and sees these things, the first thought or feeling is "I am not one of them."

Government offices should not have such an atmosphere. It should be as comfortable to me as to anyone else who enters. Want to "offend people" to teach how our society is built on "diversity"? Do it on your own dime, not mine. Unless you're willing to offend all - and I mean put up icons to all beliefs, including atheism - it has no place in my government office. Push your views on your own time and real estate.

Joining government employ should mean that you agree to leave all of that personal religious crap at home. It's not "your desk", or "your office". It's mine, and it's Sy's, and it's Abdul's, and . . . whoever else's who pays for the government, and is affected by the government. And you have no right to make me feel, as I approach MY government, that I have an initial hurdle to overcome that Christians don't need to worry about, or even that MY government, as embodied by it's hired workers, puts one viewpoint first.

In a private home? Sure. In a store? Sure. In a private office? Sure.

In a government building? Nope.

Posted by: bobby_b at March 25, 2006 12:53 AM

I hope they've weeded out all those offensive Piglet posters and plushies too. The ones that offend Muslims. And they damn well better stop serving bacon and ham sandwiches in the commisary.

AC, thanks for the geography refresher. I can't wait for your civics unit.

Posted by: Kermit at March 25, 2006 08:57 AM

Bobby B,

Should Terrill rename Saint Paul while he's at it, so as to not offend your sensibilities that you are not "one of them"?

Posted by: Derp at March 25, 2006 10:16 AM

Interestingly, a Kwanzaa display was permitted to stay up during the month of February, in the West Building.

Not because we're promoting any particular religion, but because the local unit of government has decided that Kwanzaa is not a religion, it's merely a cultural celebration unique to Americans of African descent.

And a cultural display is not a religion, you see.

Now that the local government has decided it can rule on what is and is not a religion for purposes of decorating government offices, I'm wondering if we can start putting up statues of Saints Patrick and Columba as a cultural celebration unique to Americans of Irish descent?

Or posters of Joan of Arc and Saint Bernadette, as a cultural celebration unique to Americans of French descent?

Hey, maybe Angry Clown could put a display to Saint Julian the Hospitaller - patron saint of clowns - as a cultural celebration unique to . . .

The best part of it all? The Easter Bunny was outside City Hall this morning carrying a sign that said "Bring back the Easter Bunny."


Posted by: nathan bissonette at March 27, 2006 08:51 AM

Some French dude said: "The best part of it all? The Easter Bunny was outside City Hall this morning carrying a sign that said 'Bring back the Easter Bunny.'"

I think they should get rid of the Easter Bunny anyway, in favor of a more holiday-appropriate mascot. Like maybe a dead guy nailed to a cross.

Posted by: angryclown at March 27, 2006 10:33 AM

We could nail you to a cross...angryclown...of course you would probably like that.

Posted by: Greg at March 27, 2006 12:19 PM

Bobby B,

As an atheist, could you tell me what religion has the large pink bunny as an icon?

As a somewhat fallen Christian, I don't know what religion it is that has the large pink bunny as an icon, or sacrement. I know it has never been a central part of any Eastern sermon that I have heard.

My understanding is that the large pink bunny is a secular, cultural celebration. Much like the small green sprite (fairy?) on March 17.

Posted by: Loren at March 27, 2006 01:02 PM

Actually, AC, you ought to stop by City Hall. They have a 36-foot tall, 60-ton statue of an Indian god holding a 10-foot-long pipe.

Whenever I read your comments, I imagine you with a 10-foot-long crack pipe.

It explains a lot.


Posted by: nathan bissonette at March 27, 2006 01:50 PM

The Easter Bunny is out, but Indian gods are okay.

Posted by: nathan.bissonette at March 27, 2006 01:58 PM
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