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Religious Liberty Stops at the Schoolhouse Door

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

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.

In today's classroom, however, the story is very different. Modern sensitivities decry the presumptuous suggestion that productivity, responsibility, and virtue are legitimate universal measures by which to evaluate a good citizen. The goals of education in today's postmodern, multicultural, post-religious, globally-oriented society have evolved past these antiquated ideals. Hence the rise in influence of the radical ideology mentioned earlier. Too many teachers today enter the classroom with an agenda far more ambitious than the simple desire to instill a love of learning; these teachers go into the education business to proselytize a religion. This religion is comprehensive in its scope. It will not tolerate dissent because it cannot withstand scrutiny. Ironically, the State is its staunchest advocate and most ardent defender.

This state-sponsored religion teaches the theory of evolution as an indisputable fact, singling out and eliminating from its ranks proponents of intelligent design theory?or, heaven forbid, actual Creationists?with Puritanical zeal. This religion mandates the normalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered lifestyles with no regard for parental consent while singling out traditionalists as ignorant bigots in need of reprogramming. Thus the classroom, once a forum for critical thought, analysis, and debate that allowed for many competing points of view, is now used to transform raw human material into homogenous batches of progressive, enlightened, politically correct, intellectually timid, and spiritually vacant progeny, ready to shape tomorrow's world.

We need not look far to see what happens when a rogue individual or group breaks ranks to speak out against this secular orthodoxy. It's happening all around us in ways large and small, and these acts of censorship will only get worse if our society continues in its attitude of complacency and apathy. Parents must ask themselves if they are really willing to stand idly by while their children are exploited as pawns in a campaign to render the Judeo-Christian worldview and all its precepts obsolete. They must ask themselves if they are comfortable exposing their unwitting offspring to this disordered agenda.

If the answer to these questions is "no," then the time for complacency must end and parents must stand up against the monolithic institution more commonly known as the U.S. Department of Education. Public schools, after all, exist to serve the people, but like most creatures of government they have been co-opted by a relatively small yet highly influential lobby of radicals that seeks to control the flow of information in order to secure its desired ends. As parents, we must educate ourselves about what is being taught in our classrooms. When our children are persecuted for expressing their constitutionally-protected religious beliefs in the public square, we must be ready to stand up for what's right despite the daunting odds. We must make our stand now before this new religion amasses so many converts that we find ourselves outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and ultimately, irrelevant.

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