Thursday, May 10, 2007

Religion in the Public Schools

Since we talked about separation of church and state last Sunday evening, you may be interested in this just released report on "Religion in the Public Schools" by the Pew Forum. It provides some legal history on this issue.

Here are a couple of my thoughts:
1. From a biblical perspective, everyone has a religion. Everyone acts according to his religion. What is taught in public schools (and in every other school) always directly incorporates or else presupposes a particular religious perspective. It cannot be any other way, and this is the elephant in the room in this whole debate. This whole issue in our society is skewed from the outset by the false idea that a person or a school or any institution can be religiously neutral.
2. In my opinion, the Supreme Court made a serious mistake back in the '40's when it began to use the 14th Amendment to override the 1st Amendment. This mistake has not been corrected; rather, it has been furthered by subsequent Supreme Court decisions.
3. Currently, there is great confusion in this whole issue. A couple years ago John Baker wrote, "The contradictory decisions of the Supreme Court on the Establishment of Religion Clause render the area inchoate if not incoherent" (The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 304). Because of this confusion, it is imperative that Christians think biblically in this area. I do not expect clear guidance to come from either political conservatives or political liberals.
4. Core beliefs are revealed through actions as much as through words. This applies to the federal government as much as to individuals. The government wants to maintain a position, or at least an appearance, of neutrality while engaging in patently non-neutral activities like education. The federal action on education actually reveals its true stance toward religion far more than its confused pronouncements do. Thus, I believe it is fairly clear that the government rejects Christianity as it is revealed to us in the Word of God. The government is more than willing to keep Christianity around as a useful political tool, provided that Christianity behaves like a good little pet that makes no claims to normative, public truth. But at its heart Christianity does make claims to normative, public truth. To reject these is to reject Christianity. Therefore, I believe two things are clear: 1) The public school system does embrace religion, and 2) that religion is not Christianity.

I close with this quotation from Martin Luther: "I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.... I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth."

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