Some people, especially religious folks, and more particularly evangelical Christians, just can’t seem to understand that public schools are instruments of the government and public school teachers are government agents.
In the United States of America, unlike most other nations, the government and its agents are not supposed to promote religion to their captive audience of students, including Christianity. That doesn’t seem to sit well with those government agents who love the First Amendment Freedom of Speech clause but hate the First Amendment Establishment Clause.
They just can’t help trying to evangelize their pupils every chance they get. Again and again they deliberately violate the Establishment Clause in public schools and attempt to justify it by claiming the right to free speech. They know the rules but they violate them anyway and then wonder why it sometimes backfires on them. Sometimes they don’t get away with it.
A longtime substitute teacher in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, found that out the hard way. He’s been fired for violating school policy prohibiting the distribution of religious literature on school grounds and proselytizing his Christianity to students. He discussed Bible verses with a kid and gave him a Bible.
Now if this guy, Walter Tutka, the teacher, were an atheist who proselytized atheism to a student and gave him atheist literature, no one would be complaining about it, least of all any right minded atheist. He would have been booted out the schoolhouse door so quickly he’d have had no time even to clean out his desk.
But Walter Tutka is an evangelical Christian; more specifically a member of Gideon’s International – a ministry known for providing Bibles to school children across the world. Time and time again the U.S. courts have told the Gideon’s that they are not allowed to proselytize and hand out Bibles in public schools. It’s unconstitutional. But time and time again they’ve been doing it anyway and complaining bitterly when caught.
This guy knew he was violating the rules. His Christian supporters know he was violating the rules. They actually think, though, that he has a God given right to violate the rules and that firing him amounted to hostility towards religion. “It’s unfortunate the Phillipsburg School District chose the path of religious hostility and intolerance against a retired man serving his community…,” Hiram Sasser, director of litigation at Liberty Institute, whined.
The school board said Joe Imhof, a close friend of Tutka, was basically telling God to “go to hell… Just because this guy gave a student a pocket New Testament on his lunch hour – that’s enough to throw you out of school… They have said tonight, ‘God, we don’t want you in this school.’
“It is so awful,” said Tutka’s pastor, Chris Hussey. “I’ve never seen something so absurd in my life.” Hussey said the incident should serve as a stark reminder to Christians that there is a war on the culture. “Christianity is under attack in America,” he cried. “It seems our government officials are afraid of Muslims and yet they capitulate to them and any other religious group. But when it comes to Christians – they are completely intolerant of Christians.”
No, I’m afraid that this has nothing to do with any hostility against religion or Christianity or Gideon Bible thumpers like teacher Walter Tutka. The School District has not told God to go to hell or that He is not wanted at the school. There is no war on Christianity nor is that religion under attack anywhere except in that angry pastor’s fertile imagination.
It’s just another rare case in which a government public School District finally had the guts to stand up to the unreasonable demands of the Christian religious fundamentalists and enforce the First Amendment Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.
After all, public school teachers are government agents.