Hands Off Government

by Linda Bowles

What are religious people to do when the Supreme Court, the court of last resort, enforces the legally puritanical view that religious speech in government schools, at graduation ceremonies, and even at high school football games is a clear and present danger to the Constitution? When personal freedoms are being violated by the Supreme Court itself, to whom can one address an appeal?

The First Amendment is a "Hands Off!" amendment. It tells the Congress to make "no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of ... " That is the complete instruction given by the Founders on the subject of religion. Note that nowhere in the Constitution is to be found the phrase, "separation of church and state."

Since the congress has not proposed, contemplated or passed any law establishing a state religion, what is the Supreme Court ruling on? For over 150 years after the Constitution was ratified, children prayed in schools and teachers were not terrified of using the word "God" in the classroom. At no time did religious freedom in schools put America in any danger of becoming a theocracy, nor was the singing of a Christmas carol considered to constitute such a danger.

Spare me legal sophistry. It is all too clear that the original words of the First Amendment, and much of the rest of the Constitution, have been lost in a vast legal jungle, overgrown with judicial prejudices and heavily thicketed with bad precedents. Jurists and politicians no longer go back to the original document for guidance but rather to the last lawyerly violation of it.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist denounced the anti-religious bias of the majority ruling which recently struck down pre-game prayers at high school football games. In a minority opinion, he wrote, "Even more disturbing than its holding is the tone of the court's opinion; it bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life."

This judicial bristling reveals that personal prejudices on the Supreme Court mirror those which infect the liberally driven mainstream culture. To the surprise and shock of the entire religious community, people of faith are no longer held in high esteem. They are tolerated only so long as they stay in their place and keep their mouths shut.

We have arrived at a time in America when God is viewed as a moral nag, that is to say, the Ultimate Parent, against whom childish man is in rebellion. In other words, religion stands between many Americans and what they want to do and be. As a nation, we are running from eternal truths in desperate fear that they may overtake us.

John Dewey is widely considered one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. He was widely read and his theories about the role of religion in the classroom had a significant impact on the progressive movement in American education.

In an essay, "The Religion vs. The Religious," Dewey argued that a belief in the supernatural (his code word for God) was an "encumbrance" from which we should liberate ourselves. He advocated that traditional religion be replaced by humanism, which holds that man is alpha and omega, completely sufficient within himself, in no need of a "higher power."

While those who teach humanism in government schools insist that it is merely a secular philosophy, Dewey himself, in his "Humanist Manifesto I," describes it as "a philosophical, religious and moral point of view."

Humanism is the companion of utopianism, the belief in man's ability to achieve a perfect social order. While Christians believe that the key to man's salvation occurred two thousand years ago, humanists have faith that man's salvation lies just over the horizon in a utopian world.

One of the more frequent arguments used to prohibit the presence of religious symbols and speech in government schools is that the students there are captive and as such, must not be forced to see or hear religious messages with which they do not agree or find offensive.

The belief that government schools are neutral on morality and religion is extraordinarily naive. Once it becomes clear that government schools indoctrinate captive students in the tenets and dogma of humanism to the exclusion of all other religions, it also becomes clear that the government itself is in the business of establishing a state-run, religious monopoly.

It is time for the total privatization of schools and the building of a wall of separation between state and education.

Originally Published on Tuesday, June 27th, 2000
1997-2000 Creators Syndicate, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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11 jul 2000