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Does Facebook hold power over courts?

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CRANSTON, R.I. –  A Rhode Island public school district committee on Thursday voted not to appeal a federal court decision ordering the removal of a prayer banner displayed in a high school in a lawsuit brought on behalf of a 16-year-old atheist.

The Cranston School Committee voted 5-2 at a public hearing to discuss the suit involving Jessica Ahlquist, a junior at Cranston High School West.

“This decision protects the rights of all students and will allow the school district to get back to the business of education.” – The Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union

I ask, how does the supposed right of one student protect, in any way, the rights of all students? Simple, the rights of the majority of students who wanted to keep the banner simply do not matter to the ACLU.

I think that the board would love to appeal the decision. But such articles in the local Providence Journal make it difficult to even think of an appeal.

There is no doubt that monetary considerations have forced the school to forfiet an attempt at appeal, and considering the hostility toward religious expression federal judges have shown over the last 25 years, they would probably go bankrupt fighting this horrible decision by a judge on behalf of a confused and arrogant 16 year old girl.

It is no secret that the ACLU has deep pockets. “Volunteer” lawyers working with the ACLU have an opportunity to make a name for themselves, without having to spend any real money or worry about making any.

But, I have to ask myself, how much did Facebook factor in this judges ruling and in the decision not to appeal?  This is a question that can only be examined in theory, as we will likely never know, but Facebook, or rather its users, has considerable social influence. But is it always justifiable influence?

Lets look at this.

First of all, Facebook, as far as I know, has been neutral in the whole thing.

It would seem that this teenage girl was smart enough to start a Facebook campaign to have this banner removed.  The page garnered, at least in the beginning, thousands of “Likes” more than a later page devoted to keeping the prayer in the school.

As I have argued before, Social Media is the way that more and more people are communicating.  This is most especially true with teens and young adults. It is almost second nature to them to put something up on Facebook, Twitter or a blog without even thinking about it.

All of the news outlets that I follow made certain to mention the number of “Likes” at least once in their coverage period. This may well have prompted people of older, more mature natures to “Not Like” the page, but it was not enough to topple the “Likes”

Who is it that most likely clicked the “Like” button? 

I’m going to go with the answer: teenagers.

They have the widest demographic on Facebook, and insanely numbers of “friends”. When one posts a “Like” it is broadcast to all of your friends. If you have 700 friends (not an unlikely number) that gives you 700 possible “Likes”. It pretty much grows exponentially from there.

It is also a worldwide social network. Many people, no matter what their opinion on US policy, simply would have no voice in it were it not for social media. While what a person in Belize thinks of  situation in America might be interesting,  it holds no real power to change or affect it. They could not come to the US and vote. They have no rights.

Facebook also wants its users to be of a certain age, but they do not check up on it.  There are probably thousands of  “underage” Facebook users. Frankly, this dimminishes the idea that Facebook is any kind of a think-tank and I don’t argue it is.  This does need to be taken into consideration when we think of the power of Facebook opinions.

Many teens are well versed in their religious beliefs, but it is fair to say that thay lack considerable experience in their faith. Experience evolves thoughts and passions.

Teens are, on the whole, more passionate than the average adult about issues. Passion is not always wisdom, but it is at least something!  We adults could do well to have such drive.

That said, it’s not too hard to make a teenage atheist as, right now, it is cool to be one.  If it were considered cool, to be a Marxist, it would be a very simple matter to convince them to become one.

They tend to follow whatever trend their friends do or to follow the opposite of what their parents do.  This is a no-brainer statement.

So my base question here is this: Is Facebook a legitimate guage of public opinion?

Probably not as much as people will think.  The key here is the word legitimate

Teens have much to say on many topics and many are well informed. But please take into consideration, teens have no right to vote, and as such, no right to sign petitions on civic matters.

Facebook has become a vehicle for ad hoc petitions in the form of a simple button.  It requires no serious thought or consideration.  If you like the picture of the kitten playing a harp, you click “like”.  It is more an emotional than cognitive reaction.

Clicking a “like” is too easy.  The media should know that, and they do, that is why all of their online articles also have a “Like” button.  They also know that they can sway more public opinion on Facebook than they can in any op-ed article in print.

It is for these very  reasons stated above that I argue that Facebook has no legitimate place in forming public opinion, but sadly, it does. 

Actually, this is nothing new for anyone to read…. but I felt much better ranting about it.

Perhaps someone with real passion about the prayer banner will start a “donation” page on Facebook to help fund an appeal.  

Unfortunately, this will garner little support because most of us do not put our money where our “Like” buttons are.  

Consider punching the “Like” or “Post”  or “Share” button at the bottom of my page as well.



Author: icelmcreek

Ordained in 2001 and currently serving the parishes of Immaculate Conception, Elm Creek, NE and her missions, Holy Rosary in Overton, NE and St. John Capistran in Amherst, NE.

I'd love to hear what you nthink about this`!

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