The bricks story is even more absurd than that…

Sometimes a facepalm is the best first reaction.

Sometimes a facepalm is the best first reaction.

I just realized something about the eeeevil Bible bricks story I posted earlier today. I did some quick math (a skill I learned in school in lieu of learning to spot un-nice-ness and how to put on a condom) and realized that the offending bricks would have been “just another brick in the [walkway]” in a literal sense, but also figuratively in the most post-modern Pink Floyd sense possible.

Let’s crunch some numbers.

The fundraiser raised $45,000. The 4×8-inch bricks went for $100 while the 8×8-inch bricks went for $250. If every single brick were sold at the $100 level, that means the five offending bricks would have had 445 other printed bricks accompanying them [45,000 ÷ 100 = 450]. If every other brick except those five were the $250 level then there would have been 178 8×8-inch bricks [(45,000 - 500) ÷ 250 = 178].

So those five offensive bricks would have been drowned out by anywhere from 178 to 450 other bricks with messages.

Now, look at it another way: Those five offensive bricks, all the 4×8-inch variety, cover an area of 160 square inches [4 x 8 x 5 = 160], which is less than one brick more than a square foot (144 sq. in.). If every single other brick was the 4×8-inch variety, those five bricks would have been in a sea of message bricks 1,200 square feet in area [(4 x 8 x 450) ÷ 12 = 1,200], meaning they would occupy 1.1 percent of the total space [(160 ÷ (4 x 8 x 450)) x 100 = 1.1] . If all but those five were sold at the 8×8-inch size, the total space would be nearly 963 square feet [(160 + (8 x 8 x 178)) ÷ 12 = 962.6667], meaning the five bricks would take up a slightly larger, but still teeny 1.3 percent of the total display [(160 ÷ (160 + (8 x  8 x 178))) x 100 = 1.3].

Either way you slice it, that ain’t much. But they opted to give up $45,000 rather than allow a few Bible verses in that mass of messages.

(And if you’re wondering, no, I wouldn’t have a problem with inoffensive lines from the Koran or other religious text being included as well.)

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12 thoughts on “The bricks story is even more absurd than that…

  1. Gordon says:

    Another thing to think about, though it’s somewhat off-topic. This has become a tempest in a teapot because “only” 1.3% of bricks were deemed “offensive” – they were refused entry based on legal precedent that overt religious displays cannot be endorsed, even if it’s implied, in a secular government-sponsored place. Yet, when the homosexual community, which is “only” about 3-5% of the population, would like the secular government to recognize marriages (or civil unions, if you prefer), the Catholic community (and many other Christian ones) deems this offensive and tries to refuse them entry. Each case is a ridiculous example of zero tolerance, and each case is a ridiculous example of refusing to respect the boundary between Church and state. The Church has no business denying secular rights to groups of people it disagrees with, nor does the state have business automatically sticking its head in the ground in fear when any mention of a religion comes up.

  2. Gordon says:

    I disagree with both sides on here. Some of the verses are indeed proselytizing – The Psalm 68 and Romans 8 bricks do indeed assert the power of the Christian God over all others. The inclusion of the Bible verses reinforce this… but it’s silly to automatically dismiss them. The school could have worked with the donors to come to a compromise, to maybe include some of the sayings in a way that would please everyone? It would have certainly been better than refusing them, then shutting down the program, and would have been more prudent than the donors filing a lawsuit of all things!

  3. Kathy says:

    Our Constitution guarantees freedom OF religion…not freedom FROM religion…as well as freedom of speech. Why do a few in the minority have a right to censor what anyone else can say?

  4. Phil says:

    You said that the bricks didn’t aggressively proselytize, but I think that really depends on how you interpret the quotation:

    “Tell everyone about God’s power.”

    Further, your initial description of the events that occurred is misleading. The school had a fundraiser, and allowed individuals sponsoring bricks to select text that would be printed on each brick. Two women chose Bible verses for the text, and the school decided that these bricks didn’t meet the criteria for the walkways of the school.

    Presumably, at this point the school offered to give these two women their money back for these particular bricks. Instead, the two Christian women filed a court complaint against the school.

    Only after the two Christian women chose to file a complaint against the school did the school decide to abandon the fundraiser.

    1. Joe M says:

      Phil. I don’t see how the point about being offered a refund before the complaint was filed changes anything or leads to a different conclusion. They probably talked to a lawyer at some point and learned that they could not discriminate against the language since the opportunity was offered to anyone (regardless of race, gender, age or religion). The bottom line remains that they chose to eliminate the program rather than allow the bricks to be included along with a multitude of other voices from the public.

    2. Tom Crowe says:

      Phil — Aggressive proselytization and Interpretation? Well, the brick just sits there as, at most, 1.3% of a massive sea of messages. They’re not neon blinking signs. It isn’t like it forces pamphlets into your hand and knocks on your door every other day. Nor do they tell you what you are or aren’t allowed to say in public based on a differing vision of religion in the public square. So no, there is no way in which they are aggressive proselytizing, regardless of what one of them says, but especially when that one says something that Muslims and even Hindus could agree with, as well as the vast majority of Americans who are believers, even if not adherents to a particular religion. ———— Didn’t meet the criteria? Was that because the bricks were offensive? Or because the school district maintained criteria that would not have stood up in court? If the latter, and they knew it, then they ought to have changed their criteria to be in line with the law and accepted the bricks. If they thought they were justified in their criteria then they should have flat-out refused the bricks and let the women take it to court.

  5. dallas says:

    on the other hand, are you aware of the h**ters issue in St.Louis?

  6. Brian Westley says:

    ” I wouldn’t have a problem with inoffensive lines”

    That’s kind of the problem, though. Is “Allah Akbar” offensive? How about “There is no god but Allah?”

    Is “You Can Be Good Without God” offensive? A lot of signs saying nothing more than atheists can be good people, or even that atheists merely exist have been called offensive by other people and in some cases refused as advertisements (which has lead to lawsuits).

    1. Joe M says:

      Brian Westley. By that line of reasoning, we must banish all use of language from public entirely since anything could be offensive to someone. — I believe that legal precedence has been established for what constitutes “offensive” to the general public long ago. The term is commonly used to filter input in many places and ways without creating the interpretation problem you describe.

      1. Brian Westley says:

        Here’s where “You Can Be Good Without God” was considered offensive and refused advertising space:

        http://atheism.about.com/b/2009/02/10/you-can-be-good-without-god-offensive-to-christians.htm

        Here’s where a city bus company refused atheist ads that said “Are you good without God? Millions are.” without a huge damage deposit (not required of other advertisers) because they thought it was so offensive that people would damage the buses that had the ads:

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/10/us-atheist-ads-idUSTRE7594E720110610

        Here’s one where “You can be good without god” was turned down and required a lawsuit to get the ads to run:

        http://inatheistbus.org/2009/07/27/campaign-prevails-against-bt-in-free-speech-lawsuit/

        So I can’t agree that there’s a standard of what’s “offensive.”

        1. Joe M says:

          Your first example is from Canada where they have national laws against offending people. The other two examples involve private businesses. — Anecdotal cases where someone objects to some language being judged as offensive does not demonstrate that filtering language for its offensiveness is not feasible or common.

          1. Brian Westley says:

            Both of the US cases involve buses owned by the city, making the advertising on them public, not privately owned (even though it’s farmed out to private businesses, they are acting as agents of the city).

            In any case, all three cases support my point that there IS no standard of what’s “offensive”

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