Ken Connor

In public school classrooms across the country, religious liberty is under assault. Last month in Florida, two Christian student leaders at Pace High School were barred from speaking at their graduation ceremony due to fears they might mention their faith in violation of a court order stemming from an anti-religious lawsuit filed by the ACLU. Across the country in California, UCLA administrators grudgingly allowed senior Christina Popa to thank Jesus in her graduation testimony after a widespread public backlash against their initial decision to sanitize any mention of Jesus from her statements (in Colorado, former high school valedictorian Erica Corder wasn't so lucky). In Pennsylvania, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an order banning Donna Kay Busch from reading passages from her son Wesley's favorite book—the Bible—as part of his show-and-tell presentation. And in Texas, the Chairman of the State School Board was recently ousted when the Senate decided that his kooky creationist beliefs constituted a tangible threat to young minds everywhere.

In each instance, these acts of religious censorship are defended as necessary in order preserve the integrity of that infamous mandate: the separation of church and state. Perhaps no other founding idea has been so politicized, so manipulated and twisted to unjust ends. The increasing boldness with which teachers, administrators, and the courts that support them are suppressing students' legitimate expressions of faith reflects the growing predominance of an ideology within the American education system committed to eradicating all traces of traditional religious influence on public life in America. Indeed, if Abraham Lincoln was correct in his suggestion that "the philosophy of the school room in one generation is the philosophy of government in the next," and if this radical element within the public education system has its way, then America's future is grim indeed.

President Lincoln clearly recognized the profound importance of education, and the immense responsibility incumbent upon educators to guide the next generation rightly. The primary goal, at least in Lincoln's day, was a system of schooling which effectively prepared our nation's youth to join society as productive, responsible, virtuous participants. It's nice to imagine that there was a time when it was that simple. Teachers busied themselves with the work of nourishing eager young minds with the fundamental skills necessary to develop into intelligent, capable, thoughtful adults.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.