Separation of school and state

Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be a turkey. Somehow that seems more appropriate to me now that I’m older. Especially in light of these stories…

Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School

Maryland Public school says no to thanking God.

The Separation of Church and State is an important principle, the revision of history is not. It's one thing to ensure that public school students are not being indoctrinated into any particular religion, it is another to attempt to remove all evidence of any religion from any public institution altogether. Not only is this impractical it is inadvisable.

A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

...Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."

...In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a California atheist who wanted the words "under God" struck from the Pledge of Allegiance as recited by school children. The appeals court in California had found that the phrase amounted to a violation of church and state separation. reuters

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Young students across the state read stories about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, simulate Mayflower voyages, hold mock feasts and learn about the famous meal that temporarily allied two very different groups.

But what teachers don't mention when they describe the feast is that the Pilgrims not only thanked the Native Americans for their peaceful three-day indulgence, but repeatedly thanked God.

"We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective," said Charles Ridgell, St. Mary's County Public Schools curriculum and instruction director. journalism.umd.edu

My contention is that most of us on this issue are looking at it from the wrong direction. I don't think there is a problem with the 'evils' of religion creeping into the government classroom, I think there's a problem with the evils of government creeping into the classroom. I agree wholeheartedly with the first amendment when it says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Hasn't the government, in ordaining the establishment of public schools and then prohibiting any reference to religion within it, basically subverted the meaning of the first amendment and the separation of church and state? Isn't the first amendment's religion clause meant to preclude the government from imposing its version of morality and moral teachings upon its citizens?

The government has co-opted and monopolized education to such an extent (far more in fact than Microsoft could ever fantasize about) that it can in fact control what is taught to the children of this nation. That thought should scare both the left and the right.

Teaching about a secular Thanksgiving counters the holiday's original premise as stated by George Washington in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation: "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor."

Such omissions also deny the Pilgrims' religious fervor in the celebration of Thanksgiving, as related by Harry Hornblower, an archaeologist who spent years researching the history of the holiday.

According to the Web site Plimoth.org, dedicated to Hornblower's research, the Pilgrims, "fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean." journalism.umd.edu

I don't want children to be forced to say prayers in public school; that would be detrimental to both government and religion. I also don't want history to be scrubbed for the sake of a misguided interpretation of the constitution.

If any mention of god in public schools must not be uttered under any circumstance then it is my contention that public schooling itself must be ruled unconstitutional: because no reasonable interpretation of the founders intent could possibly be seen as endorsing such a result.

Reading the writings of the founding fathers is both humbling and uplifting. The eloquence with which they articulated the principles, which we still argue about today, even in the sometimes archaic english phrases and spelling, can be an inspiration to us all. It would be sad to know that for the sake of supposedly upholding those same principles we had to repress the facts of history and ban some of their writings from public classrooms.

On this issue Thomas Jefferson said it best in what eventually became law in Virginia, a bill establishing freedom of religion as a natural right. One which he starts off by saying God created men's minds free for a reason.

Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds, that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his Supreme will that free it shall remain, by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint:

That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone:

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking, as the only true and infallible, and as such, endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time:

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical:

That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporal rewards which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labour for the instruction of mankind:

That our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than on our opinions in physicks or geometry:

That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the publick confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right:

That it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it: uchicago.edu


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Whatever you're position on this issue I want to wish you and yours the best this Thanksgiving. I am thankful for watchblog and truly value those of you willing to share your opinions and arguments about the issues you care about, even if it is to tell me I'm wrong. As well as everyone willing to read all sides of those arguments.

Today I will thank God for the breath of life, for my wife, and for the lives he has bequeathed into our hands to raise, my three beautiful daughters, and for every blessing he has seen fit to give you and I in this world.

Posted by Eric Simonson at November 25, 2004 3:13 AM