Many evangelical Christians in America simply cannot shake the conclusion in their minds that the First Amendment Establishment Clause is downright hostile toward Christianity.
This is a story which repeats itself over and over again: If it’s not about Ten Commandment displays in courtrooms, it’s about Christian nativity scenes on courthouse lawns.
If the government and its agents are required to exercise in the course if their duties strict neutrality in matters of religion and prohibited from promoting Christianity over other religions or non-religion, they call it hostility toward Christianity.
They describe it as a war on Christianity
If a public school teacher, for example, is advised by her superintendent not to proselytize Christianity to the captive audience of children in her classroom, well that means to them that she is being denied her First Amendment Freedom of Speech rights.
Neutrality equals hostility in the mind of the evangelical Christian. They do not understand much less accept the Establishment Clause. They hate it with every fiber of their being. They fervently believe that they have the right to use our government to spread the Christian gospel.
The latest chapter in this saga is about Joelle Silver, a veteran a New York State public school teacher, devout Christian, and advisor to the school’s Bible Study club, whose been unlawfully decorating her classroom with biblical inspirational verses as a shrine to Christianity.
Now she’s filing a civil rights lawsuit against her school district after she was forced against her will by the superintendent to remove all religious content from her classroom — including a prayer request box, and this quote from former President Ronald Reagan:
“If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”
She claims her freedoms of speech rights have been violated. In short, she and her lawyer actually believe that she has the right to proselytize Christianity to a captive audience of students in a public school.
Robert Muise, co-founder of the American Freedom Law Center and Silver’s attorney, says he’s never seen such an egregious example of religious hostility in a public school. “It’s like they’re treating those posters and inspirational sticky notes like it’s some sort of pornography … I find that offensive.”
Muise claims that the sole reason they are attacking his client is because she is a devout Christian. “When they launched the investigation, they literally went through her classroom with a fine-tooth comb and removed anything that had anything to do with Christianity,” he whined. “I’ve never seen anything like that. Ms. Silver does not cease being a Christian nor does she shed her constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”
He added that the district also forbade his client from any form of communication with students “that would conflict with your duty to show complete neutrality toward religion and to refrain from promoting religion or entangling yourself in religious matters.”
“Our nation was founded to promote religious liberty,” AFLC co-founder David Yerushalmi said. “Yet, for years our public schools have been bastions of religious hostility.”
But this public school teacher and her lawyers conveniently forget that, when she is in her classroom teaching students, she is exercising government speech, not private speech.
She is an agent of the government, she represents the government to her students, and government agents are required under the First Amendment Establishment Clause to maintain neutrality in matters pertaining to religion while performing their official duties.
Why is that simple concept so difficult for intelligent people to understand?
Neutrality does not equate to hostility.
And just because a former President has uttered a religious statement does not mean that a public school teacher is at liberty to display it prominently on her classroom wall.
If she were at liberty to do so under the First Amendment, then nothing should prevent an atheist teacher from displaying this famous quote from our nation’s founding father and former President, Thomas Jefferson:
“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
That’s right. Our third President, Thomas Jefferson, was certain that the supposed divinity of Jesus Christ is a myth.
What about this masterful gem from another of our nation’s founding fathers and former President, John Adams?
"The question before the human race is, whether the God of Nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?"
Perhaps this famous line from another founding father, James Madison:
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
Should these famous quotes be taught to public school children?
I seriously doubt that Ms. Silvers and her lawyers would agree with that, because if these quotes were fair game, then we really would have government hostility toward Christianity.