We're reaping the whirlwind

May 25, 1999|By James R. Edwards Jr.

SPRINGFIELD, Va. -- The phenomenon of school shootings stems predictably from the moral vacuum wrought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other anti-religionists of the Madalyn Murray O'Hair variety. What did they expect to happen when they pushed America down the slippery slope of eradicating Judeo-Christian expression from the public square?

The Founding Fathers established a government that embraced liberty and law. At the center stood individual self-control. And clearly, the Founders understood that religion and the moral education of the Bible would be necessary to cultivate that self-control.

Robert Winthrop, who served as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, set forth the choices: "Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet."

Church and state

The anti-religionists have upset the balance. They have removed the fulcrum, throwing liberty to license. They did this in the name of "separation of church and state."

Virulent anti-religionists ended the long-standing practice of prayer and Bible reading in public schools. Their victory was secured in the landmark Engel vs. Vitale Supreme Court decision.

But is it establishing religion merely to recognize the historical importance of the Bible, and to permit its presence in school?

Is it establishing religion to teach that America was founded on many of the same principles found in the Ten Commandments? Is it establishing religion to quote the Founders themselves?

Historical facts

No teacher has to believe Jesus Christ is Messiah or try to get students to accept it, either. That would be a breach of the establishment clause. But conveying historical fact, the significance of the Bible in our history, and the role the Founders perceived for derived virtue amounts to establishment only in the eyes of the most rabid anti-religionists.

In the wake of the school shootings, it baffles the mind how it would be harmful to inform students that the Bible teaches that human life has inherent worth because each individual is created in the image of God. Eradicating that previously common understanding has devalued society's view of the worth of human life.

A lack of values

And in light of the country's faltering cultural vital signs, it bears asking whether exposing schoolchildren to the commandment not to commit murder really risks injuring their psyches.

James R. Edwards Jr. is a Lincoln Fellow in constitutional government with the Claremont Institute.

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