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"God in Our Classrooms - Commentary by Joseph C. Phillips"
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Such was our founder’s belief in the preeminence of God that when the First Continental Congress convened in 1774, Massachusetts delegate Thomas Cushing suggested to the assembly that together they pray for divine guidance and protection. The historical events that would forever change the world were preparing to unfold: war loomed on the horizon; the Declaration of Independence would be signed, and a nation “conceived in liberty” would be born. In this moment, men of varied religious beliefs -- Presbyterians, Episcopalians, some Quakers, others Baptists or Congregationalists – were led in prayer by an Episcopal priest in an appeal to the almighty that was described as “extraordinary…filling the bosom of every man present.”
It would not be the last time the founders appealed to the Almighty God.
James Madison acknowledged God’s favor in our founding in Federalist 37 referring to “a finger of that almighty hand, which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.” I dare say that men like Madison and Cushing would not recognize the America of today, filled with politicians afraid to confess their faith or educators fearful of offending the sensibilities of their students with any mention of God.
Math teacher Brad Johnson of Westview High School of the Poway School District in San Diego, California, is a case in point.
In 2007, Westview Principal Dawn Kastner ordered Johnson to remove banners hanging in his classroom because they contained the words “God” and “Creator.” According to media reports the banners, which had hung in his classroom for 25 years, measured approximately 7 feet long by 2 feet wide and carried the phrases: "In God We Trust," "One Nation Under God," "God Bless America," "God Shed His Grace on Thee" and "All Men Are Created Equal, They are Endowed by Their Creator."
Kastner objected to the banners, claiming that they promoted a Judeo-Christian viewpoint and might make some students feel uncomfortable. The school district agreed. Oddly enough neither Kastner nor school district officials were concerned with posters hanging in other classrooms containing Buddhist, Islamic, and Tibetan prayers or those containing anti-religious messages that might make Christians uncomfortable. What remains unclear is why those that preach diversity and tolerance seem incapable of practicing those same virtues when it comes to Christians and the role of Christian faith in our American history.
Kastner and Poway district officials might argue that they are simply enforcing the Constitution’s wall of separation between church and state. The U.S. Constitution, of course, recognizes no such wall. There are roughly 4,500 words in the original unamended document and not one of them was written to imply that God – specifically the God of Abraham – should be hidden from school children.
The Bible – Old and New Testament – was the most common piece of household literature of the time; it was the primary textbook from which children and adults learned reading, writing, and morality. The first American dictionary contains biblical references on just about every page.
Moreover, the founders believed religion and religious teaching to be essential to the maintenance of a free society. The great patriot Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania wrote, “All its [Christian revelation] doctrines and precepts are calculated to promote the happiness of society, and the safety and well being of civil government.” Therefore, reasoned Rush, “the only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.” In short the founders recognized not only the nexus between virtue and happiness, but also virtue and liberty.
We should not be surprised when those that endeavor to erase God from our history also seek to shackle us to the administrative state. Man will “either be governed by a power from within or controlled by a power from without.”
In his farewell address, George Washington said, “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
The founders would find the mushy multi-cultural political correctness of the 21st century to be outrageous.
The first round of the legal battle was won by Johnson. U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez delivered a scathing rebuke to the Poway School District, correctly reasoning that “recognizing that God places prominently in our nation's history does not create an Establishment Clause violation requiring curettage and disinfectant for Johnson's public high school classroom walls. It is a matter of historical fact that our institutions and government actors have in past and present times given place to a supreme God."
Not content to leave well-enough alone, the Poway School District has appealed the decision, which will be heard by the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Heaven help us!
Joseph C. Phillips is the author of "He Talk Like a White Boy" available where ever books are sold.