Last month, New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills affirmed that children in the Empire State do have a right to sing "God Bless America" in public schools. The ruling came as a result of a complaint from a Westchester County atheist who, according to The New York Daily News, "didn't want her 9-year-old son pressured into singing a song that implores God."
Although this decision got nowhere near the publicity as last year's Ninth Circuit Court ruling removing the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, I mention it for a variety of reasons. If we are going to have government schools, I would rather that they not restrict the religious liberties of parents and teachers. However, as long as we have government schools, we will have an endless stream of frivolous complaints, lawsuits, court decisions and rights violations that are entirely unnecessary.
Why are they unnecessary? Because a state role in education has no basis in either the Bible or our Founding documents. (State education is a policy prescription of the Communist Manifesto.) Christians have become just like secular liberals in asking politicians, judges and other public officials to solve all their problems. They just never seem to get it. They never achieve religious freedom and an end to so much of the harassment they experience because they look to all the wrong people and institutions.
Eight years ago, Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed exulted about how Christians finally had "a place at the table" in Washington, DC. Since when are Christians merely another special interest group--similar to the Teamsters' Union or the asparagus farmers--groveling for crumbs from their exalted imperial majesty in Washington? The Bible tells us that Jesus' "Kingdom is not of this earth." (John 18:36) Why, then, do we persist in looking to the kingdoms of man rather than the Kingdom of God in order to safeguard our God-given liberties?
Jody McCloud is principal of Roane County High School, in Kingston, at the eastern tip of Tennessee. In September 2000, she delivered a speech before a football game, which she opened by criticizing a Supreme Court decision forbidding prayers at such events. She went on to outline how she is allowed to use school facilities to promote all manner of perversion and godlessness. She was on a pretty good roll until she made the following statement:
"Nevertheless, as a school principal, I frequently ask staff and students to abide by rules with which they do not necessarily agree. For me to do otherwise would be inconsistent at best, and at worst, hypocritical. I suffer from that affliction enough unintentionally. I certainly do not need to add an intentional transgression.
"For this reason, I shall 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's,' and refrain from praying at this time."
Where did Madame Principal get the idea that education is Caesar's? She did not get it from the United States Constitution or from the Bible. If anywhere, she got it from growing up in a culture that has grown accustomed to the state as some sort of omnicompetent benefactor. She had been lied to so many times about education being a duty of the state that she had stopped questioning this presupposition. Millions of Christians across America have been similarly deceived.
If we only looked where God wants us to look for the answers to life's challenges, we would have far more peace and quiet in our society. The Romans did all kinds of nasty things to God's people, but they never herded them into imperial schools. The Bible places the duty of education on parents (Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4) and never mentions a state role in this area. The Ninth Amendment to our Constitution guarantees the God-given right to educate one's children as one sees fit, without having to kiss the feet of some petty state functionary in order to obtain permission.
If Christians only lived by God's Word and the Constitution, some would home school and some would educate their children in places like the Resurrection Baptist School and Mary Immaculata School. Jewish parents would be free to educate their kids at B'Nai Brith School; Mormon parents would be free to educate their kids at Joseph Smith School; Muslim parents would be free to educate their kids at Allah Akbar School. Atheists and agnostics could educate their kids at The Whitney Houston School ("Where the Children are the Future") or The Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young School ("Where They Teach Your Children Well").
There would be none of this incessant caterwauling about one faction imposing its will on another. Christians would not be wasting time and energy fighting with atheists and vice versa. All these inane court decisions about prayers and pledges would be null and void. The web would not be full of petitions to the president to lift the ban on school prayer. Condoms, sex ed, evolution, dress codes, etc., would not be federal issues.
At that football game in Kingston, Tennessee, Ms. McCloud did encourage the fans and players to pray, and pray they did. "As far as I know, that's not against the law--yet," she said.
And she should have prayed along with them. When man's law runs contrary to God's law, we are to obey God's law. (Acts 4:19, 5:29) Thoreau and others have called this idea civil disobedience. American Christians praise their brothers and sisters in places like Sudan, China and India who defy secular authorities in order to practice their Christian faith. The early Christians were subject to endless harassment and persecution for worshipping an Authority higher than that of Rome. Several of Paul's Epistles were written in Roman prisons. We need to start defying the authorities in America here and now, lest we embark on a bobsled ride into totalitarianism.
Jesus was crucified by people who had "no king but Caesar." (John 19:15) We Christians must answer to a Higher Authority than Caesar. We must look to Him rather than to secular law and tradition when facing the challenges posed by life and society. The temporal and eternal benefits are many. Will we ever just get it?