Skip to comments.Freedom of Religion is its Own Enemy
Posted on 06/01/2005 9:24:53 AM PDT by Fester Chugabrew
It's a common claim of libertarians, liberals, atheists and skeptics that religious conservatives use the public schools to promote creationism. I believe that claim is incorrect. The truth is that libertarians, liberals, atheists and skeptics use the public schools to promote atheism. Public schools are bad of course, and all schools should be private. But if there are going to be public schools anyway, they should be for all people, for evolutionists and creationists, for atheists and theists. Public schools should teach both evolution and creationism, and students should be given the choice which of those courses they want to take. It's the libertarians, liberals, atheists and skeptics that want to take away people's free choice, in the name of religious freedom, so as to make sure that everybody is forced to learn scientific truth and nobody gets exposed to pseudo-scientific heresy. That idea is based on a mistaken view of what separation between Church and State means.
Separation between Church and State means, or at least should mean, that government will not takes sides promoting one religion over the other. Or religion over nonreligion. Or nonreligion over religion. Forbidding creationism in public schools is itself an attack on the separation between Church and State. It means the the State promotes education the way atheists want it and hampers eduction the way theists want it. My opponents will counter that public schools do not promote atheism. They're supposedly neutral and teach only science, while they teach neither atheism nor theism. Nonsense. What a school teaches is never neutral and can never be neutral. Every choice a school makes on what courses to give and how is a value jugdement on what is good. Therefore, the conflicts public schools create about what to teach can never be solved. They're inherent in the very idea of a public school and can only be solved by privatizing all public schools. The best public schools can do for now is cater to as many needs as possible, especially needs carried by large proportions of students. Not doing that, for example by teaching evolution and not creationism, is not a neutral choice.
If one interprets the Separation between Church and State more strictly, so as to mean government must not even have any indirect connection to religion, then one might indeed argue that public schools should not teach creationism. (One might then even be able to argue that people on welfare should be forbidden to spend their welfare money on religious goods or services.) But such a strict interpretation would be unfair as long as there is no Separation between School and State. For if there is this kind of a separation between Church and State, while there is no general separation between School and State, religious education is put at a severe disadvantage to any kind of other education. Why should all schools of thought about what kind of education is appropriate get a say in the public school system, except if there is a religious connection? Separation between School and State is a great idea, which would depolitisize education, via privatization. But a very strictly interpreted separation between Church and State is simply not possible or desirable, as long as government controls public schools. If they control public schools they should try to cater equally to all education needs and education philosophies, whether they be scientific, atheist, religious, or whatever.
In this regard it's the religious right that stands on the side of freedom of religion and free scientific inquiry. They fully respect the rights of atheists to teach evolution in public schools, even though they think it incorrect. Their opponents, on the other hand, do no respect the rights of theist to teach creationism in public schools, because they think it incorrect. It may be that strictly speaking evolution is not atheism while creationism is theism. That doesn't remove the unfairness of the public schools in that they do teach what many atheist want taught (evolution) while they do not teach what many theist want taught (creationism). One might argue that the principle involved is that public schools should teach science and that therefore evolution is an appropriate subject to teach while creationism is not. There are two problems with that view:
1. Many creationists believe creationism is scientific.
2. It's not true that public schools only teach science.
As to 1, I agree that creationism is bad science, or nonscience, while evolution is good science. But it's not appropriate for government to make judgements about what is science or not science. For government to do that is a violation of well established principes of free scientific inquiry. The fact that evolution is true and creationism is false is besides the point. Government shouldn't decide what scientific truth is and tell people what to do or learn based on that judgement. Using government power against religious scientism is just as bad as when the Church used force against Galileo's secular science, and this is so for the same reasons. Therefore, the most neutral position to take is that everything should be taught in public schools if there is a big enough demand for it being taught.
As to 2. Most people think public schools should teach certain things other than science, such as physical education, moral education, sexual conduct, political ideas, social skills. Therefore one may not disallow the teaching of creationism on the grounds that it's not science, even putting aside the fact that not everybody agrees creationism isn't science. The same argument would disallow many things that are currently being taught in public schools. If we single out religion as something nonscientific that cannot be taught, while say political correctness can be taught, then we are using the first amendment in a way opposite to how it was intended. Instead of protecting religion now it's being used as a bias against religion.
Creationism is just one of many subjects that could be taught by public schools. And if that's what many people want taught, it should be taught, at least as an optional subject. Allowing creationism taught does not require any law which would respect an establishment of religion nor does it prohibit the free exercise of religion, and so there's no first amendment conflict. Quite the opposite. Taxing people to pay for public schools, and then forbidding them to teach religion, limits people's funds and options for exercising religion. Precisely a law forbidding creationism in public schools prohibits to some extent, or at least hampers, the free exercise of religion.
Let me be clear that I don't think it's good that schools teach creationism, intelligent design, or other pseudoscience such as astrology, withchraft, ESP, etc. If I were to create or fund or support a school, I would argue against it doing those things. So it's not that I think it's appropriate for schools to teach falsehoods and pseudoscience. My point is that it is not for me to judge what is appropriate or not for other people. When I own my own private school, it's my own business to make those judgements. But when it's a public school, the school should serve the purposes of everybody. Not only should it serve the purposes of both those in favour of pseudoscience and those in favour of science. But, more importantly, it should recognize that not everybody will agree on what is science and what is pseudoscience. In a free society everybody is allowed to make his own judgement on that. For goverment to make that judgement for people is authoritarian. Therefore, governments should not forbid subjects being tought based on the fact that they are pseudoscience. If you give government the power to forbid something because it's pseudoscience, then they are bound also to forbid something genuinely scientific and true at some point, on the arguement that it is pseudoscience. We are all fallible, and so is the government. Power given to government to protect us against illness, unhapiness and bad ideas, even with the best of intentions, will eventually turn against us and control us.
The state is used to supply education the way atheists want it, while it cannot be used to supply education the way theists want it, but they do pay part of the taxes. The reason this is done is not because atheists value religious freedom. I'm not saying atheists don't value religious freedom. I assume they do, I'm saying that's not the reason they control the public schools in this manner. Atheists do this for the same reason that in Islamic states all education is religious. They do it because they want to force people to live wholesome lives and do and learn what is good for them. Science is good, religion is bad, ergo people must learn science and the teaching of religion must be made difficult. Every group uses state power to enforce their way of life on others. This will be so as long as there is a state. Only the theists are more honest about it. These conflicts can never be solved except by privatization of schools. But as long as there are public schools any special restrictions on any kind of teaching, whether such teachings are defended on religious, scientific, cultural or moral grounds, is inappropriate and in conflict with the spirit of the first amendment. I'm an atheist, by the way.
I happen to agree that, as long as there are public schools, it is necessary to allow a certain amount of freedom in those areas where world views tend to collide. In a perfect world public education would not be necessary.
Well, if you wanted to do away with public schools, forcing them to teach whatever lunacy any freak wants taught would be one way to destroy them.
The government makes decisions all the time about what's good science and what's pseudoscience. The FDA does it; NIH and CDC do it, the NTSB does it. Now, maybe when the Libertarian millennium comes, the gummint will get out of the business of certifying drugs as safe and effective, coordinating the control of epidemics, investigating airplane crashes, etc. But while they're doing all those things, there is no inconsistency in their deciding what subjects are science and what are b.s..
Thomas Jefferson was a liberal? BWAHAHAHA!
> Public schools should teach both evolution and creationism, and students should be given the choice which of those courses they want to take.
Yeah! And public schools should teach both the heliocentric AND hollow Earth theories! And they should teach both the "Islamic whackos flying jetliners" AND "Angry thumb of God" theories behind the collapse of the WTC! And they should teach both the "germ" theory of disease AND the "out of balance humours" theory of disease! And they should teach both the "cause and effect" theory of reality AND the "Astrology and oujii boards" theory of reality!
The article is a steaming pile from the very start.
Doesn't it seem to be true by definition, that if there is no state religion, then religion and the state are separate?
If people want this, then yes. That's the point. Government is now in the business of deciding what we should and should not be taught. While you apparently have no problem with this as long as it agrees with your own beliefs, if government decides in the future that hollow earth theory should be taught and heliocentric theory should not be taught, then it would be within its rights to do so. Don't like it? Tough. You'll still be required to pay for it and your children (if you have any) would still be required to learn it, assuming you couldn't afford a private school.
> If people want this, then yes.
No. If it's scientifically *valid* then yes.
Contrary to popular opinion, the term separation of church and state is found nowhere in the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or any other founding document of this nation. Yet for decades, some organizations and individuals have spread the myth that the words separation of church and state are found in the U.S. Constitution. Because of this misinformation, the ACLU and its allies have used this phrase to persuade public officials to silence religious expression.
It's was a liberal Supreme Court Justice in 1947 who erected the separation of church and state based on eight words taken out of context from an obscure letter written by Jefferson to a Baptist Association over a minor issue. On this flimsy pretext the liberal Supreme Court at the time changed the meaning of the first amendment, from protecting the church from the government, to protecting the government from the church.
"Doesn't it seem to be true by definition, that if there is no state religion, then religion and the state are separate?"
If "the state" were comprised of soulless robots, yes. However, people make up our government. People whose morals and ideas of wright and wrong more often than not stem from religion.
My question is the opposite of yours. If our government is of, by and for the people, how can religion be totally left out of government and that government still be truly representative of the people? I don't see how it can.
Yes, I know that. The claim was that the phrase 'separation of church and state' had been coined by some liberal. It wasn't; it was first used (as far as we know) by Thomas Jefferson in 1801.
Yet for decades, some organizations and individuals have spread the myth that the words separation of church and state are found in the U.S. Constitution.
You can document this, of course?
What's so funny about that? TJ most certainly *was* a 'liberal', in the true sense of the word. Today's 'Rats, MSM, academia, and entertainment types are *not* 'liberals'. They're LEFTISTS.
The only thing I can easily document is the result of this flawed interpretation of our Constitution.
In 1962-63 there was an incredible jump in violent crime, increasing over 650%. There was also a dramatic drop in SAT scores, sending a once steady 965-980 national average through the floor, dropping for over fifteen years, finally ending at 890. Child abuse shot through the roof; from being unknown to involving nearly five percent of the population, and decades later, it is still on its tremendous rise. In `72, less than 2 percent of the 12-25 year old population had tried cocaine. In `82, nearly one third of them had. There are myriad other examples.
Why such an incredible drop in national morality?
In the court case Engle v. Vitale(1962), school prayer was removed. The Supreme Court stated that that "Prayer in its public school system breaches the constitutional wall of separation between Church and State". Then, in 1963, in the court case Abington v. Schempp, Bible reading was prohibited: "[N]o state law or school board may require that passages from the Bible be read or that the Lords Prayer be recited in the public schools of a State at the beginning of each school day." Later rulings went further, disallowing any form of Bible reading, prayer, or overt Christian activity [including the religious celebration of Christmas. Some have gone so far as to forbid the giving of "religious" Christmas cards. Now you know why you get all those "Seasons Greetings" cards.] In the case Stone v Graham(1980), the Ten Commandments were prohibited from appearing in public schools, because, "If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the school children to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey the commandments...this...is not permissible...". Of course not. Would anyone in their right mind permit persons to "not kill", or "not steal"? This is our Supreme Court passing these laws [Ironically, in the Supreme Court, where this ruling was made, an engraving of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments is inscribed on the wall]. If we are to accept Proverbs 1:7, we must conclude that these 9 men in black robes were fools, despising wisdom and discipline.
But the question that must be asked is why Christians allow this to happen. It is not because the constitution requires this folly, far from it. Our founding fathers had absolutely no intent of separating morality and religion from government.
For example, In 1777, congress passed a resolution that the first Thursday of May was to be dedicated to prayer for God to forgive them of any sins they as a country may have committed, and to help them in the war they were to fight with Britain. The First Amendment clearly states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Does this mean that any religious aspect should be struck from the government? No, it simply means that the actions of any religious establishment (such as a church, synagogue, religious organization, etc) cannot be controlled or legislated - unless those actions are contrary to law [such as human sacrifice]. It also means that Congress can not establish a national religion, such as England did with the Church of England. But an important distinction must be made between religion as we know it, and religion as the founders knew it. It is quite clear that when the founders spoke of religion, they meant Christianity. Noah Webster, a founder, said quite bluntly, "No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian Religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people." Many founders made similar statements.
Our nation is in trouble. As Washington said in his presidential speech, "The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected upon a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained."
OK; in the old fashioned sense, of course he was. But an old-fashioned liberal is a conservative.
OK, so you wrote something you can't back up. You should avoid doing that.
Just go to any public space and ask anyone at random where the statement "seperation of church and state is found"
I bet you 90% + of them will say the Constitution.
Ask them where Washington, DC is on a map and 50% will get it wrong. Ask them to spell at a third grade level and 50% of them won't be able to do that either. Asking the "public" anything at all is simply a waste of time when Sturgeon's Law applies so well.
Science is good, religion is bad, ergo people must learn science and the teaching of religion must be made difficult.
Every group uses state power to enforce their way of life on others. This will be so as long as there is a state. Only the theists are more honest about it.
A very clear presentation of the argument.
Separation of Church and State: A First Amendment PrimerThe bold type statements are perfect examples of what was stated. It is implied that the phrase is in the Constitution.
Separation: Good for Government, Good for Religion
The right to freedom of religion is so central to American democracy that it was enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution along with other fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
In order to guarantee an atmosphere of absolute religious liberty, this country's founders also mandated the strict separation of church and state. Largely because of this prohibition against government regulation or endorsement of religion, diverse faiths have flourished and thrived in America since the founding of the republic.
Indeed, James Madison, the father of the United States Constitution, once observed that "the [religious] devotion of the people has been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state."