Philo Judaeus advises against sortition

Philo Judaeus was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria, in the Roman province of Egypt, in the first century BC and first century AD. The following passages are taken from Philo’s A Treatise on Those Special Laws Which Are Contained Under and Have Reference to the Eighth and Ninth, and Tenth Commandments.. In them he repeats the competence argument against sortition which Xenophon attributes to Socrates. Philo adds an argument against sortition and in favor of elections from Biblical authority.

XXIX. (151) Some persons have contended that all magistracies ought to have the officers appointed to them by lot; which however is a mode of proceeding not advantageous for the multitude, for the casting of lots shows good fortune, but not virtue; at all events many unworthy persons have often obtained office by such means, men whom, if a good man had the supreme authority, he would not permit to be reckoned even among his subjects: Continue reading

School Prayer by Random Selection

Here’s a case of random selection that I don’t believe has been discussed before. An American school held prayers at its graduation ceremonies. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State objected to this, claiming that the school was endorsing a religious perspective in doing so. It appears that the school had been permitting the student who opened the ceremony to decide whether or not to open with a prayer, but since this student was selected by majority vote (in a west Texas school district), this always led to a vote for some pro-prayer Christian. (Insert remarks about the tyranny of the majority here.) So now the school district will randomly select the student to open the graduation ceremony. The student can still make a personal decision to open with a prayer if s/he wishes. Presumably, the fact that the student choice is random means that the school district cannot be accused of endorsing the religious perspective of the prayer.

ECISD Removes Official Prayer From Graduation Ceremony After Lawsuit Threat

ODESSA – The Ector County Independent School District confirmed to CBS 7 that the Invocation and Benediction will now say “opening and closing” after concerns from American United for the Separation of Church & State.

The District says that the students who lead the opening and closing ceremony will now be randomly chosen and can choose to lead those ceremonies as they wish, including adding the traditional prayers if they so choose.

“The references to Invocation and Benediction give the impression the school or the school district are endorsing religion, which is not allowed. Those references will be changed and student speakers will be randomly drawn, according to policy FNA (Local) page 3 of 4, to give the Opening and Closing remarks at graduation,” Spokesperson Mike Adkins said in a release.

The senior class will no longer vote on whether or not to have prayer during the ceremony because that vote will not be permissible.