Walter Kehowski feels a lot more like celebrating the Fourth of July, now that Thanksgiving is finally behind him.
As a math professor, Mr. Kehowski has a pretty keen instinct for things that don’t add up – including a tendency among many of his fellow citizens to divide their celebrations of freedom from any appreciation of the One Who gave us that freedom in the first place. His eye for irony has multiplied his enemies … and very nearly subtracted him from his job.
Kehowski teaches at a community college in Glendale, Arizona. Last fall, on the day before Thanksgiving, he decided, in the spirit of the holiday, to e-mail the other teachers in his district a copy of President George Washington’s brief “Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of 1789.”
Kehowski admits he used a district e-mail service designated for messages that “support education, research, scholarly communication, administration, and other (district) business.” He knew of orders not to use it for sending “unwanted solicitations or information.”
But, after receiving e-mails from fellow teachers on everything from the health benefits of bananas to the need for goats in Uganda to quotes for Women’s History Month, Kehowski figured the perimeters of “scholarly communication” were being interpreted pretty broadly, somewhere up the line.
Besides, his e-mail contained no editorial comments, no mini-sermons: just the undiluted text of President Washington’s proclamation to the nation. Almost immediately, though, five of his district colleagues filed harassment charges against Kehowski, citing outrage at his "hostile” and "derogatory” message. Kehowski soon found himself on administrative leave, and on notice that his job would be terminated.
The violent reaction came as a shock. All he’d done, literally, was post a public paper of our first and most respected President. What was so “hostile” and “derogatory” about that?
Maybe Washington’s first sentence, in which the so-called “Father of his Country” suggests that:
“…It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…”
“Duty” is not a popular word these days – especially when it comes to God. To “acknowledge” a Higher Power is one thing; to “obey” a Higher Authority is something else, altogether.
Kehowski didn’t preach any of that in his e-mail. He just quoted Washington. Can you imagine the kind of trouble our first President would have gotten into, if he’d stood on Kehowski’s campus to read his proclamation personally? Kehowski’s peers would have had him impeached.
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor in the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.