Storm troopers of the American Civil Liberties Union have chalked up their latest victory in their ongoing campaign to stamp out any hint of religion in American public life.
Under threat of an ACLU-initiated lawsuit, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to remove a small cross from the seal of the State of California because of its alleged unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity.
Contrary to ACLU claims, these actions make our country less rather than more free.
This is of more than academic interest to me. The ACLU has invaded my home turf. The headquarters of my organization, the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), is in Los Angeles. But, more importantly, the ACLU is invading my turf in an ideological battle for the hearts, minds and souls of African-Americans in deeply damaged inner-city communities that CURE works to help rehabilitate.
ACLU has my folks targeted. From the ACLU Web site: "We work also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men and transgendered people; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor. If the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled."
My constituency is the poor, particularly the African-American poor, and I have a far different sense of what this community's problems and needs are than does the ACLU.
It is instructive, for instance, to scan through the groups that ACLU has lumped together under its umbrella of the oppressed. Freedom means nothing if one does not believe that, at the individual level, people have some kind of free choice. However, apparently for the scholars at the ACLU, there is no distinction in the role that personal choice plays regarding one's race, criminal behavior, sexual lifestyle, physical disabilities or economic status.
I started CURE 10 years ago as result of my personal experience with the welfare state and my conviction that its politics and programs destroy the very communities they claim to help. After seven years on welfare, I saw how the politics of entitlement and victimization destroy human dignity and initiative and produce slaves on a government welfare plantation rather than free, responsible human beings. My personal experience, along with data showing the damage that 40 years of welfare state politics has produced in America's inner-cities, paints a convincing picture that the welfare state/ACLU worldview produces anything but freedom and free men and women.
The truth of the matter is that the ACLU crusade against religion is a crusade against the core religious and moral values that have essentially been the software of the success of American freedom. The smokescreen under which this operation takes place is an illusion that for every religious symbol purged, we produce a more neutral and fair country. This is anything but true. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the purge of one value amounts to its replacement with another. In this case, traditional values of right, wrong and personal responsibility are displaced by relativism, materialism and, ultimately, the product of both of these, nihilism.
The civil-rights movement was defined by religion and moral passion. It was led by a black Christian pastor who never could have weathered the storm of daily death threats without being driven by a deep personal faith. His most famous speech, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, was laced with references to God and faith and a coming together of God's children.
As the civil-rights movement became politicized by ACLU-type liberals, values and personal responsibility were displaced by victimization politics. The result has been a social catastrophe in the African-American community. Thanks again to ACLU-type liberals, public schools that black children are forced to attend have purged all traditional values from education and, as a result, children have no clue why they are there and what the point is in education. These children are already most likely severely disadvantaged by coming from broken homes, also the product of the political purge of traditional values.
We now pay tribute to a great American president, Ronald Reagan, who inspired our nation with the vision of Puritan leader John Winthrop of a "city on a hill." Traditional values are woven into the fabric of America. African-Americans have paid a dear price for unfortunate moments in American history when they were not viewed as part of that fabric.
Let's not confuse a free and tolerant society with one with no moral underpinnings. Those moral underpinnings make it all possible.
(Star Parker is president of CURE, the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education ( www.urbancure.org ). She is author of "Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What You Can Do About It.")