By Jeff Scott of Liberal
A response is necessary to Larry Phillip’s recent pontification about the need to “return” to teaching religious values in school. First, let me make two things clear. I am a Christian and the grandson of a man who was a Congregationalist minister for 65 years.
About 17 percent of our founding fathers were Congregationalists. And I agree with Mr. Phillips that the interference with students’ free exercise of religion in school occurs too often and goes beyond the Constitution.
But that’s where agreement ends. Let’s start with omissions and misrepresentations in his argument. First, on what would he have blamed social problems before the creation of public schools? And when did the responsibility for teaching religious/moral values transfer from parents to schools? I’ve watched parents walk out of church and go rent their children the most vile movies and games. Is that the fault of schools?
Anybody who studies history objectively and scientifically knows for every quote by a founding father “in support” of religion, one can find a quote in which he appears to “not support” religion. Thomas Paine, one of the original revolutionaries believed in God, but not in any church. Jefferson rewrote the Bible with the resurrection and miracles removed. These are but a couple of examples. They also believed deeply in science and never denied science when it seemed to conflict with their beliefs.
Also, I would ask if he’s ever been in a situation where a religion of which he was not a member was forced upon him? I have. For a short period I attended elementary school in Dallas where we were forced to pray in school where they made no apologies for their open racism. I attended high school in Utah where there was a Mormon stake adjoining nearly every high school in the state. It’s easy to say we should force religion into school when it’s your religion that will be taught.
But let’s get to the crux of the argument. Which religious values would be taught? Obviously Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc. wouldn’t be chosen because it’s clear Mr. Phillips means Christianity.
But what version of Christianity? Catholicism, with its 7 more books of the Bible? Or Mormonism with its use of the Book of Mormon? What Christian values do we choose given that denominations frequently differ on Biblical interpretation?
Do we teach the Quaker value of near universal opposition to war? Should we teach what Jesus said in Matthew that “if someone takes your coat, give them also your cloak (not shoot them because they’re taking your stuff)? Should we teach the lesson of the Samaritan, who not only didn’t ask if the injured man had health insurance, but also paid for his care? Should we teach that Jesus never linked faith with any economic system? Or shall we teach what Jesus did when he said “if you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven?” Or should we teach that Jesus never mixed faith and politics? Given that I haven’t seen many of these values in Mr. Phillips editorials, I doubt that these are the Christian values he wants taught in the schools.
Despite his assertions to the contrary as a self-professed “expert” on the Constitution, he is not the final word on the Constitution. The Supreme Court is. And their decisions have always been controversial because they arise out of lawsuits, which are adversarial encounters. It’s very first meaningful case, Marbury v. Madison, created quite a furor.
I think my children would be better served by me teaching them religious values rather than the schools. And given his editorial history, I don’t want somebody who shares Mr. Phillips religious (political?) views teaching my children those religious values.