Thumbs Down for Ashcroft


Roger Ebert takes time off from movie reviewing and snack bar raiding so he can absolutely go off on the Bush administration's take on public prayer and AG John Ashcroft especially.

Ebert identifies two kinds of prayer, the "vertical" and the "horizontal." The former is good, the latter is bad. Suitably brief theology from the man who reduced movie reviews to digit flexing.

And while not an airtight argument, you gotta hand it to a guy so sure of himself he can write of the Bushies:

Their faith is like Dial soap: Now that they use it, they wish everyone would. I grew up in an America where people of good breeding did not impose their religious convictions upon those they did not know very well. Now those manners have been discarded.

Ouch. Not even worth renting then?

NEXT: The Frog in the Mirror

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  1. Actually, Ebert’s vertical vs. horizontal distinction reminds me quite a bit of classical, pre-Religious Right Southern Baptist thought. Before the ’70s, Baptists took seriously the meaning of Jesus’ admonition to pray in closets rather than in public.

  2. This is yet another problem stemming from government administering education.

    Prayer allowed/forbidden, either way the state is trampling on sacred freedom of religion rights.

    Why Ebert decided to weigh in on this issue, and why now, who the hell knows.

  3. This is yet another problem stemming from government administering education. Prayer allowed/forbidden, either way the state is trampling on sacred freedom of religion rights.

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with public education. Prayer is not forbidden in public schools, and never has been. Students can pray whenever they want to, and do. There just isn’t time set aside for them to do so.

    The same standard applies to most of public life. For example, when I walk down the sidewalk to get some lunch, I can speak or pray as I wish. There just isn’t a special section of the sidewalk with a sign next to it saying “you may not speak while using this section of the sidewalk, except to pray”.

  4. Ebert’s points about the Pledge are generally good ones, but it’s absurd for him to try to blame Bush and Ashcroft for the whole mess. Democrats and Republicans alike have been falling all over themselves in a contest to see who can condemn the 9th Circuit the loudest.

    If Gore had won the election, he (and his attorney general) would be issuing the same condemnations that Bush and Ashcroft are. But Ebert wouldn’t be writing about it; his track record indicates that he only feels Republican violations of rights are worth the trouble of putting pen to paper.

  5. While I happen to agree with Ebert about the pledge issue, the guy does obviously have his panties in a bunch about Bush and the Republicans — just look at how he turned a review of a stupid Civil War movie (Gods and Generals, see into a swipe at Trent Lott while neglecting to mention the former Klansman Democratic Senator who is ACTUALLY IN THAT MOVIE.

    But then, pointing out Byrd’s cameo wouldn’t fit in with his visceral thumbs up Democrats, thumbs down Republicans bias. Oops.

  6. Dan,
    You are correct in what you say. However, many parents feel very strongly that there should be time set aside for prayer. Even that their children should be led in prayer IN SCHOOL. To deny them this is to interfere with the practicing of their religion or at least in the manner they wish to raise their children.

  7. Sorry, Warren, but there’s no interference with the practice of religion involved here — parents are still free to send their children to a school which does have prayer and that says the pledge every day if they want. There are plenty of religious schools out there that they could go to.

    The problem is that they want the public schools to take on a religious function, thus forcing other people to pay for their child’s religious indoctrination while forcing the children of parents who do not wish their kids to be indoctrinated in that way into a public show of prayer.

    Perhaps the problem is that the schools are public: if parents took responsibility for the education of their children and didn’t try and fob it off on the taxpayers they could pick any school they wanted to teach any way they wished.

  8. But if Byrd were a Republican (or a Libertarian, for that matter), the left would say, “Well, he didn’t really MEAN he was sorry.” Where’s the difference here? Byrd’s a Dem.

  9. Puh-leeze, Sir Real. My willingness to forgive Mr. Byrd his previous affiliations (as if my forgiveness mattered or as if you have any idea as to if I hold a grudge) has nada to do with Mr. Ebert’s obvious partisanship.

    The point remains that Ebert used a film review as the occasion to take a gratuitous swipe at a Republican who had nothing to do with that movie while not even mentioning a Democrat with an embarassing past who actually appeared in it (something Byrd did this century, by the way, and that he’s rather proud of).

    Had Byrd been a Republican, don’t you think Ebert would have been showing a similar lack of forgiveness?

  10. One popular myth is that in today’s schools, children are not ALLOWED to pray. Actually, it just isn’t an institutionalized, enforced practice. A child can prayer all he or she wants, it’s not like they’re going to be sent to the pricipal’s office.

  11. And the prayer-based society idea that Ebert uses to link Bush with the nation’s enemies isn’t too off-base. What’s always made me think back fondly to the Cold War was the fact that although the Soviets were idealist zealots, that wasn’t half as frightening as a leader believing he was chosen by God to defeat his enemies and could not fail. Sound like anyone?

  12. “but it’s absurd for him to try to blame Bush and Ashcroft for the whole mess”

    True, but they are the ones in the position of authority who can do something about it, and don’t. What’s the point of bitching about people who don’t have authority?

  13. I would just point out that the Ex-Klanmen Robert Byrd has refered to his brief (months) membership in the Klan as “the greatest mistake of my life”, whereas the most Strom had to say about his opposition to anti-LYNCHING laws was to the effect that “times have changed”.

    Byrd has never lied about his involvement, and never tried to excuse it. Appearently his constituents and the rest of America has forgiven him his indiscretions. Perhaps you will too someday.

  14. Christians (especially professed “Bible-believing Christians”) that want prayer in public schools confuse me. Jesus declared private prayer better than public prayer. Perhaps someone can read Matthew 6:5-6 (included below) and explain the apparent contradiction between Jesus’ words and this “Christian” position?

    “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

    But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
    Matthew: 6:5-6

  15. EMAIL:

    DATE: 12/10/2003 05:31:45
    Self-imposed ignorance should disgust everyone.

  16. EMAIL:
    DATE: 12/20/2003 09:39:52
    No cause is so right that one cannot find a fool following it.

  17. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/09/2004 02:21:50
    Man is the missing link between apes and human beings.

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