Bill Murchison

Was the United States organized as a "Christian nation"? That's a claim I'm not sure you can get away with. You can say, with total accuracy, that Christianity informed and inspired the whole of the civilization to which the founders belonged. Which seems to me the claim that really is at stake here. No Texas school board member contends the founders intended to "establish" Christianity as the state religion: Merely that they accepted Christianity's assumptions, in greater (Washington) or lesser (Jefferson) degree -- viewed them as reflective of truth about human origins and destiny. From this a second contention follows: Students need reminding, in greater or lesser degree, that the founders prayed. (And, yes, they did pray!)

Why? What goes on? Chiefly, the working out of trends that set in during the early 1960s: growing secularism, growing depreciation of religion's -- any religion's -- importance in shaping motives and actions and consequences. The U.S. Supreme Court's often hostile rulings on school prayer and religious symbols in public places reflect a growing view, chiefly on the political and social left, that people who want God can look for Him in church and leave everyone else alone.

OK, interesting. Can we talk about that approach to civic life? Evidently not. As with abortion, the Supreme Court governmentalizes the discussion. A theological matter becomes, in our democracy, a power question. The State Board of Education in Texas takes up the question at precisely the level -- the political one -- to which the Supreme Court invited us all half a century ago.

My fellow New York Times readers don't appreciate my fellow Texans getting in their faces. Too bad. The secularists started this whole needless foofaraw. Let them, if they care to, pray for an end to it.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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