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Friday, January 18, 2008

Candy Canes for Jesus

posted by on January 18 at 0:27 AM

The Meaning of the Candy Cane

Hard candy: Reminds us that Jesus is like a “rock,” strong and dependable.
The color Red: Is for God’s love that sent Jesus to give his life for us on the cross.
The Stripes: Remind us of Jesus’ suffering–his crown of thorns, the wounds in his hands and feet; and the cross on which he died.
Peppermint Flavor: Is like the gift of spices from the wise men.
White Candy: Stands for Jesus as the holy, sinless Son of God.
Cane: Is like a staff used by shepherds in caring for sheep. Jesus leads us and watches over us when we Trust him.

An incredibly interesting case was decided by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals this week.

Just the summary of the basic facts in Section 1 of the decision (follow the link above and read it!) is like some sad Raymond Carver story with lines like: “If Joel still wished to sell the candy canes with the card, he could do so after school in the parking lot.”

It’s about a 5th grader in Saginaw, Michigan who sets out to sell candy canes with a religious note attached explaining why candy canes symbolize Christianity. (Peppermint Flavor: Is like the gift of spices from the wise men.)

Adding the explanatory note was the boy’s dad’s idea. The boy was attempting to sell the candy canes as part of school exercise (that only involved play money) that directed the young students to come up with and market a product and compete for sales at a market bazaar in the gymnasium.

Little Joel Curry—whose “business partner,” classmate Siddarth Reddy, was put off by the product proclaiming, “nobody wants to hear about Jesus”—was ultimately prohibited from selling the product.

His parents, furious, sued the school claiming that Joel’s first amendment rights were violated.

Of course, the opinion involves Tinker and Hazelwood—two landmark Supreme Court decisions on student speech that I’m preoccupied with.

The court (unjustly, I think) ruled against the boy and his parents because they said—according to the Hazelwood Standard—a school can suspend the right to free speech in the context of a school-sponsored program (like a mock bazaar) if the administration’s decision is based on “pedagogical concerns.”

The school felt that Joel’s message offended some students and therefore it disrupted the educational program. The Court sided with the school.

The Court’s decision shows exactly why the Hazelwood standard is bad news. One could just as easily argue that Joel’s “offensive” product was good for the lesson plan. His poor sales and failing business could have served as some kind of lesson about how marketplaces work. The fact that the school banished his Christian candy canes proves that the “pedagogical” standard is arbitrary and subjective—hardly a fair standard for something as serious as determining free speech rights.

(Footnote: Hazelwood is typically used by conservative courts and school administrators to encompass all school activities whether they are literally pedagogical moments like the mock bazaar or not—and so administrators have broad latitude to suppress speech throughout the school day on the vague premise that it disrupts the educational setting.

The much fairer Tinker standard, displaced by Hazelwood, had presented censors with a tougher standard that says the speech in question must actually disrupt the school day as opposed to the subjective “pedagogical” purpose of the school day.)

RSS icon Comments


Everyone knows that candy canes remind people of Moses.

Or was it Mohammed.

Well, it was one of those guys ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 18, 2008 12:33 AM

Agreed that this is a stupid decision--for one thing, no reason to needlessly give these War on Christmas folks useful fodder on an issue that isn't in any way a state establishment of religion or whatnot!

One detail--the kid's dad did not write that little thing unless he's more powerful than I'd tend to give him credit for--it was all around my high school in Ohio almost ten years ago. Of course, back then they were giving the candy away for free. ;)

Posted by sara | January 18, 2008 1:44 AM

The previous Sara is quite correct. The weird religious attribution of the candy cane has been around for ages- I recall being incredibly disturbed and intrigued when reading it ten to fifteen years ago during junior high or high school. The particularly detailed account I read not only said that the red stripes were meant to represent the blood of Christ, but that the exact number of stripes was meant to correspond to the number of wounds he received from soldier's lances while on the cross. Later, I would read an account of the eating of the ortolan on this very slog and find the same feelings of confusion, revulsion and insidious curiosity.

Of course, all of this Jesus-candy business is horse shit.

Posted by Sara (a different one) | January 18, 2008 2:23 AM

josh, you are the wonkiest wonk in wonkdom. why is that so hot?

Posted by sari | January 18, 2008 3:32 AM

Yeah, this candy cane = Jesus' suffering bit is something I recall from my youth in Indiana. And that was, like, 20 years ago. Oh, and dogwood trees represent Jesus somehow, too. I forget the story behind that one.

Posted by Michigan Matt | January 18, 2008 5:53 AM

"The explanatory note was conceived and written by the boy’s dad." um, if the kid didn't write them, *whose* first amendment rights were violated here? You following me on this?

Dads shouldn't talk through their kids' mouths.

Posted by Toby | January 18, 2008 6:57 AM

Don't like this court decision. The kid should be able to proselytize his religion, and the other kids should be able to call him a brainwashed goon. Everybody's free speech rights are protected.

Posted by Greg | January 18, 2008 7:06 AM

Have you suddenly found Jesus or something? Sorry, dude, but I really don't think Jesus - or any other bullshit religion, belongs in schools. How would you feel if the kid was out there proselytizing for Scientology? According to your logic, he should have a right to do that too.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | January 18, 2008 7:08 AM

I have heard that before as the explaination of the candy cane. That is why I do not eat them.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | January 18, 2008 7:24 AM

Hard Candy is a prison euphamism for being murdered.

"We're gonna give that vato some hard candy".

Who wants a candy cane?

Posted by Cheyanne | January 18, 2008 8:47 AM

Is that a Juggalo Mansion?

Posted by Violent J's Mom | January 18, 2008 8:49 AM

I always thought the candy cane was a nod to the symbolism of the barber pole...

...which you might not want to read before breakfast.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 18, 2008 9:03 AM

@8 - Sure, if the kid wanted to proselytizing for Scientology, he should have the right to do that. And all the other kids should have the right to call him crazy for it. Seriously, dude, there shouldn't be anything wrong with simply expressing either religious preference or lack thereof, so long as no one is actually harmed.

Posted by Hernandez | January 18, 2008 9:28 AM

@8: There is a tangible, important difference between the promotion of a religion by a student and the promotion of religion by officials like teachers or administrators. Please make sure you understand this difference before you get involved in the discussion.

Posted by Greg | January 18, 2008 9:54 AM

@14, my apologies - I'm only a dumbass lawyer who's obviously incapable of comprehending subtle distinctions like that. Having said that, I still don't think that ANY religion has ANY place in a public school, regardless of who's doing it. And it would appear that the Supremes see it that way as well.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | January 18, 2008 10:21 AM

Don't forget that in the recent "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case, the Supreme Court majority cited the general pedogogical opposition to drug use in ruling against the student. But, IIRC, Justice Alito (!) voiced concerns that that was too vague a standard, and could be used to suppress legitimate protected speech.

Posted by asdf | January 18, 2008 11:15 AM

@15: Really? You honestly believe that? You believe that a student shouldn't be able to hold and express their own religious opinion while at school? That mindset will only serve to martyr religious students and make them cling that much harder to their ideology. Yes, a student should be able to proselytize for Scientology, or Satanism, or the fucking Flying Spaghetti Monster. And a student should be able to hand out candy canes with an inane Jesus-related explanation on them. Not a teacher, a student. Denying that student the right to use Jesus candy canes in the scope of a project would be the same as denying the GSA at Mount Si the right to hang their Day of Silence posters. It's the same small-mindedness and oppression of an idea that you don't like simply because you don't like it. I know a lot of lawyers - thankfully they all understand that the law must be applied equally, for everyone, and not just for the causes we champion.

Posted by Aislinn | January 18, 2008 11:22 AM

@15. hmmm... the supremes saw it as disruptive to the lesson, not as religion, mr or ms lawyer.

or do you really think there should be absolutely NO mention of religion in schools at all? can't talk to your friends about it? can't make fun of it? no cross necklaces? no taking the lord's name in vain?

Posted by infrequent | January 18, 2008 11:25 AM

His religion is suger coated BS. That's exactly what he's handing out to people who probably should not be eating candy if they don't want cavities. The school nutritionist should be screaming more than anyone else. What's next COKE CANS FOR JESUS? :p

Posted by matrisseM | January 18, 2008 12:24 PM

Remember, the Great Spaghetti Monster didn't die for your sins, and He invented the Candy Cane to memorialize that non-decision of his.

The red is for pirates, the white for the bones of pirate fish, and the mint reminds us that we will never look like him, even with extensive plastic surgery.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 18, 2008 1:00 PM

If the kid had been forcing his classmates to read the note, I could understand this decision.

BUT he wasn't even distributing them to everyone - he was selling them. The kids had the right to not buy his candy canes at all, and those that did choose to buy one had the right to ignore the note entirely.

Posted by MK | January 18, 2008 6:18 PM

I've done that before. Only we used the "history of candy canes" to talk about it...they were originally used to keep kids quiet in a living nativity play.

I can't understand what kind of crappy Christian sells their candy canes, though. That's like the Gideons taking tips when they pass out bibles.

Posted by Mr. Joshua | January 18, 2008 10:42 PM
Posted by Greg | January 19, 2008 10:54 AM

Mmmm, these candy canes are Sacrelicious...

Posted by Keith | January 21, 2008 1:50 PM

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