20 Sep PADM 550: Education Policy Assignment For this Discussion, you will interact in a free-flowing discussion of the biblical and constitutional parameters for the policy focus of federal
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Discussion: Education Policy Assignment Instructions
The purpose of the Discussion is to begin to analyze and formulate the “May” of governmental authority to enact policy from a Biblical worldview and Constitutional foundations.
For this Discussion, you will interact in a free-flowing discussion of the biblical and constitutional parameters for the policy focus of federal education policy. The thread should be short and succinct (3-5 sentences at most per topic) Thus, you are to post according to the following guidelines:
· Biblical: One paragraph (3-5 sentences) applying the Biblical principles (section one of the Synthesis Paper Assignment) such as natural law, inalienable rights, sphere sovereignty/covenant, the Sin/Crime distinction and the institutional separation of Church and State to a specific policy. Please remember that simply citing scripture does not constitute a Biblical worldview analysis. You must apply the Biblical principles as discussed in the course.
· Constitutional: One paragraph (3-5 sentences) referencing the enumerated powers, Articles and Amendments from the Constitution which are relevant to the assigned policy area. NOTE: Avoid the use of the General Welfare Clause as a justification for the legislation unless you can definitively demonstrate that the entire U.S. population will benefit from the legislation, or provide significant Supreme Court rulings to support the use of the clause.
· There must be two separate paragraphs. Both paragraphs must focus on the general policy area for the assigned module. For instance, when the course module focuses on criminal justice, the Biblical post must focus on what the Bible says about what government may or may not do in fighting crime. Likewise, the Constitutional post must focus on what the Constitution says about what government may or may not do in fighting crime. Specific examples should be used and cited.
You must use the following sources:
1. the Bible,
2. relevant presentations and articles from Modules/Weeks 1–2 which focus on biblical and constitutional ideas, including the “Biblical Principles of Government” article,
3. the required reading from the assigned module/week, and
4. any additional relevant sources that you would like to use.
CHAPTER 6 MONSMA, STEVE
6: Church and State
“Give to Caesar What Is Caesar’s,
and to God What Is God’s”
(Matthew 22 : 21)
IN 2003 A CONTROVERSY AROSE IN ALABAMA that made headlines nationwide and was the lead story on CNN. The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy S. Moore, installed a two-and-a-half-ton granite monument in the rotunda of the state judicial building with the Ten Commandments carved on it. A United States District Court judge ruled that the monument was an endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. He ordered the monument removed. Moore refused, declaring, “God has chosen this time and this place so we can save our country and save our courts for our children.” Alabama’s judicial ethics panel reacted by removing Judge Moore from office for his refusal to obey a clear court order.1
Another event: In the 1990s in an effort to create a lively exchange of ideas and opinions, the University of Virginia subsidized student publications. It subsidized fifteen different publications, ranging from an environmental publication to Yellow Journal, featuring anti religious tirades. Ronald Rosen berger and several other evangelical students started a publication called Wide Awake, in which they discussed from a clearly Christian perspective a number of current issues, such as war and peace, eating disorders, and homosexuality.
Wide Awake was denied university funding. Why? Because it was a religious publication, and the university had a policy against funding religious student publications. The students took their case to the courts. The lower federal courts sided with the university, but in a razor-thin, five to four decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the evangelical students. The Court stated that the First Amendment’s guarantee of governmental neutrality on matters of religion “is respected, not offended, when the government, following neutral criteria and evenhanded policies, extends benefits to recipients whose ideologies and viewpoints, including religious ones, are broad and diverse.”2
In effect, the Supreme Court ruled that the University of Virginia could fund all legitimate student publications or no student publications; what it could not do is fund the secular ones but not the religious ones. To do so would discriminate against religious viewpoints.
What do these two events teach us about the relationship between church and state? How should we evangelical Christians—who take the Bible seriously and seek to live it out as citizens—react to the Judge Moores and Ronald Rosenbergers of this world? Salute them as heroes of faith? Or condemn them for trying to prop up their faith with governmental support?
This chapter first considers a very basic principle that will help guide us through the church-state maze; it next compares two approaches to religious freedom issues. Then we will be ready to return to Judge Moore and Ronald Rosenberger and the stands they took and look at three other pressing, puzzling church-state issues—ones that prompt clashing opinions by many evangelicals.
A Basic Principle
What is religious freedom? If asked this question by some TV news crew doing on-the-street interviews, many of us would answer some-thing to the effect that freedom of religion means the ability to worship God as we see fit. And we would not be far off.
Freedom of religion means being able to worship God and follow one’s conscience and beliefs without fear of arrest and repression by the government. At heart, this is what the not-fully-clear words of the First Amendment of the Constitution are about: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Freedom of religion as provided in the First Amendment means being free to worship God as one’s conscience dictates—or to worship no God at all.
Here we need to recall from earlier chapters the biblical principles of justice as the God-given purpose of governments, of solidarity as being a duty all Christians share, and of civil-society organizations as being a part of God’s will for human society.
A government seeking justice for all its citizens will neither try to prevent anyone from worshiping God as one’s conscience dictates, nor try to force anyone to worship God (or gods) in ways contrary to his or her conscience or beliefs. A violation of religious freedom—and thereby of the principle of justice—can take the form of outright governmental coercion, but it is more likely to take the form of gentler practices that give advantages or disadvantages to certain religious beliefs—or to nonreligious, secular belief systems. Perhaps the most basic right of all that is due us is the right to worship God as our conscience demands.
“What our Constitution indispensably protects is the freedom of each of us, be he Jew or Agnostic, Christian or Atheist, Buddhist or Freethinker, to believe or disbelieve, to worship or not worship, to pray or keep silent, according to his own conscience, uncoerced and unrestrained by government.”3
UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT JUSTICE
Solidarity demands that we be concerned with the violation of religious-freedom rights, even when we ourselves are not affected. This will sometimes be harder to do than what we might think. It is easy for us to defend the religious-freedom rights of ourselves and of our fellow Christians. But solidarity with all our neighbors demands that we be as concerned for the religious freedom of our Jewish, Muslim, and unbelieving neighbors as we are for our own. Recall Diet Eman and Hein Seitsma, who in Nazi-occupied Netherlands were willing to put their lives at risk to protect their Jewish neighbors. Hein paid with his life in the Dachau concentration camp. Most of us are asked to do much less. But we ought to speak up if our non-Christian fellow citizens and their religious beliefs and practices are being put at a disadvantage due to our government’s public policies—even as we witness to them of Christ’s love and pray that they too may some day come to accept Christ’s offer of salvation.
The vision of full religious freedom is also in keeping with the God-willed importance of civil society. Remember Abraham Kuyper?Churches, synagogues, and mosques are civil-society institutions that have a God-given sovereignty in their “spheres.” Government should not intrude into the business of religious congregations, either to help or to hinder. That most definitely is not the role of government.
Thus a justice-promoting, solidarity-motivated, civil-society-respecting approach to religious freedom means public policies ought to be evenhanded or neutral toward those of all faiths and of none. That means we as Christians ought not to claim any special privileges or advantages over our neighbors who hold other religious beliefs or none at all. Our solidarity with them demands this. Claiming special advantages would be falling into the Christian-nation trap I first discussed in chapter 1. But evenhanded public policies also mean our non-Christian neighbors ought not to be given any special privileges or advantages over us who are Christians. This principle of evenhandedness is fundamental. One needs to get it right in order to get today’s specific church-state controversies right.
More specific insights, however, are needed. I will soon be discussing such issues as the posting of the Ten Commandments in public places, school prayer, and government-issued vouchers to pay for education at home or in Christian schools. To do so we need to discuss more concrete ideas. Two are especially important. I consider them in the next section.
Church-State Separation versus Evenhandedness
There are those who argue that the way to achieve religious freedom for all, as I have been describing it, is by strictly separating church and state. They say the way to assure that public policies play no favorites among the many religious groups in the United States is to ensure a strict separation between them and the government and its public policies. It is especially important, in this view, that public policies do not use tax dollars to fund religious activities. For government to be evenhanded among the many religious groups, it should treat them all the same—by not encouraging, aiding, or recognizing any of them.
Thus strict separationist groups such as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) oppose nativity scenes at Christmastime and other religious displays on public lands, the reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance, organized prayers or the questioning of evolution in public schools, and government funding of religious schools. They opposed the funding of the evangelical student publication at the University of Virginia and the display of the Ten Commandments mentioned at the beginning of the chapter.
What could be simpler? Or more just? If government is not to show any favoritism to any one religion, government should have as little as possible to do with religion. Strictly separate religion and government and government’s evenhandedness will be assured. But will it?
The problem is that public policies such as this would not be evenhanded between religious groups and activities, on the one hand, and thoroughly secular, nonreligious groups and activities, on the other. An example will help.
Milford is a small town of three thousand residents in central New York State. Stephen and Darleen Fournier, Milford residents, asked permission to start a Good News Club for elementary school children that would meet in the school after normal school hours, as did other social, civic, and recreational groups. Parents would have to give written permission for their children to attend. Meetings would consist of prayer, Bible stories, memorizing Bible verses, and snacks.
The Fourniers were turned down by the school authorities, because their proposed Good News Club meetings were religious in nature. Government, in effect, would be helping to spread religious beliefs. Thus began a long court battle.
The Supreme Court decided in 2001 that the school district was in the wrong and the Good News Club must be allowed to use the school’s facilities. The Court ruled that to do otherwise would be to discriminate against religion. Explaining the Supreme Court’s decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that “there is no logical difference in kind between the invocation of Christianity by the Club and the invocation of teamwork, loyalty, or patriotism by other associations to provide a foundation for their lessons.” 4 Evenhandedness meant that an organization using Christianity to encourage moral development should be treated the same as a secular organization using “teamwork, loyalty, or patriotism” to encourage moral development. To allow the secular organizations to use the school facilities and to deny Christian organizations to do so would discriminate against religion.
If only secular groups may use school facilities, and if in countless other ways public policies may support and recognize only secular organizations and viewpoints, religion and its organizations and view-points would be discriminated against. Government would then no longer be evenhanded or neutral between the religious and the secular but would be tilting in favor of the secular. This is not justice.
Those who urge the strict separationist approach make an unexamined assumption: that if government sponsors no religious references or symbols and supports no religious activities or organizations, then it has created neutral ground where no one’s deepest beliefs are advantaged or disadvantaged. But they could not be more wrong. In today’s world, Christian and other religious world views are competing with thoroughly secular world views. Whether it is called secular humanism, humanism, secularism, or a secular cultural ethos, one is referring to a force in American culture that poses the most formidable competition for the hearts and minds of our neighbors—and of our children.
Thus when, under strict church-state separation, public policies recognize, sponsor, or support nonreligious, secular organizations and their points of view—and not religious ones—government is favoring them over religious organizations and points of view. Government is no longer being neutral or evenhanded. It is clearly supporting one of the sides in the most significant moral, truth-seeking divide in American society today—that between nonreligious, secular world-views and Christian and other religious world views.
There is a better way. It seeks to put legs on the basic principle that just public policies will be evenhanded, or neutral, toward people of all faiths as well as secularists with no religious faith. The equal treatment or neutrality principle argues it is proper for public policies to recognize and support religious organizations, symbols, and practices, as long as it is recognizing and supporting those of the wide variety of religions found in the United States, and as long as it is recognizing and supporting religiously based and secularly based organizations, symbols, and practices alike. In that way religion, including Christianity, is recognized and honored for what it is, but Christianity is not being put into a favored position above other religions or secularism.
“Banishment of religion does not represent neutrality between religion and secularism; conduct of public institutions without any acknowledgment of religion is secularism.”5
—A. JAMES REICHLEY,
POLITICAL SCIENCE SCHOLAR
That is why I believe the University of Virginia had it wrong when it denied funds to the Christian student group while giving them to a wide variety of secular groups. Doing so favored secularism over Christianity, as the Supreme Court rightly found. But Judge Moore, as I will explain shortly, was in the wrong when he tried to display the Ten Commandments in the Alabama judicial building—without any recognition of other religious or secular traditions. Doing so would put Christianity and Judaism, whose traditions include the Ten Commandments, in a favored position over followers of other religions and nonbelievers.
I also believe that the Supreme Court got it right in the case of the Fourniers and the Good News Club. It would not be justice for the school to single out the Good News Club and other religious groups and give them the right to use school classrooms while denying their use to secular groups. If this is so, it is equally unjust for it to single out secular groups and allow them to use school classrooms while denying their use to the Fourniers’ Good News Club and other religious groups. And this is exactly what the Supreme Court decided. Equal treatment is the key. Following this principle is more just than either (1) favoring secular belief systems over Christian and other religious belief systems, as does the strict separationist approach, or (2) favoring Christianity over other religious or secular belief systems, as does the Christian-nation approach.
How can these perspectives be used to think through and react to the many concrete church-state issues that swirl around us? I cannot begin to consider all of these issues, but let’s together consider three of them.
Three Key Issues
Governmental Displays of the Ten Commandments
There are hundreds of displays of the Ten Commandments in government buildings or the land surrounding them—including the Supreme Court building itself. Many see them as a way to recognize the important role the Ten Commandments have played in the development of law and in Western culture more generally. Similarly nativity scenes or Christmas trees at Christmastime and menorahs at the time of Hanukkah are sometimes erected in public places. Some city and state seals contain religious words or symbols. Ought we to see these as innocent, constitutional ways for government to honor religion and the important role it has played in our history?Or do they favor Christianity, Judaism, or religion generally over secular belief systems? Is government being religiously neutral and evenhanded? Is it being just?
The contentiousness of these questions was dramatically revealed in 2005, when the Supreme Court considered two cases dealing with public displays of the Ten Commandments—and ruled in two five-to-four decisions that one was constitutional and one was not!
The display of the Ten Commandments that was held constitutional consisted of a large stone monument that had stood on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol for forty years. It was held constitutional because there were sixteen other monuments on the capitol grounds: ones honoring everything from Texas pioneer women to the Texas cowboy. The Supreme Court held that this display was constitutional because the Ten Commandments display was only one of many different displays. Religion was not being singled out for special honor or recognition.6
But in a second Ten Commandments case decided by the Supreme Court the very same day, it held the display to be unconstitutional. This case came out of Kentucky and involved a display of a framed copy of the Ten Commandments in a county courthouse. The Ten Commandments were a part of a larger display, labeled “The Foundations of American Law and Government.” Also included were framed copies of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the lyrics of the national anthem, the Mayflower Compact, the national motto (“In God We Trust”), the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, and a picture of the lady of justice. All were roughly the same size.
Complicating the Kentucky case—and, as it turned out, highly significant for the Supreme Court’s decision—was the fact that the Ten Commandments had first been posted alone. Then, under threat of a lawsuit, the county changed the display to include other historical documents with clear religious messages, such as the opening words of the Declaration of Independence and the national motto. The county changed the display to include both religious and non-religious documents, as described above, only after losing on the lower court level.
Here the Supreme Court held that this posting of the Ten Commandments was unconstitutional. The key was that the county had first put up the Ten Commandments alone and later posted other religious documents that are a part of our heritage, and still later it added some nonreligious documents. As a result the Court ruled that the purpose of the county all along had been to favor religious aspects of our heritage and added documents other than the Ten Commandments only as a cover for their real intent.7
The principle the Supreme Court justices were working to apply in both of these cases is clear: Religious documents and symbols such as the Ten Commandments may be displayed in public places, as long as religion is not being elevated to a favored position. I believe the Court was using the right standard.
That is why I believe Judge Moore and his many supporters—including many evangelicals—got it wrong. To single out the Ten Commandments and honor them for their contribution to the development of law favors the Judeo-Christian tradition over other religious and secular streams of thought that have also contributed to the development of our legal traditions.
But that still leaves the question of whether the Supreme Court got it right in applying that standard in the two 2005 cases. I personally believe that when the Kentucky county finally displayed several religious and secular documents that had contributed to the development of law it got it right, and that is what should have governed the Supreme Court’s decision. Others will disagree.
The Kentucky case clearly teaches that when we Christians seek to introduce our faith into the public realm we need to do so thoughtfully and with due respect for those of other faiths and of none. I fear that sometimes we do so unthinkingly and with a Christian-nation mind-set lurking in the background. Then one easily falls into the error the Supreme Court saw in the Kentucky county: seeking to favor Christianity and then later seeking to cover up its true intent. We ought not to rush in and later figure out if we went about it the right way. Taking the latter path is wrong. We are violating, even if in a minor way, the religious freedom of our non-Christian and nonreligious fellow citizens, and we are setting ourselves up to lose our struggle in the courts. Being salt and light in the public-policy arena requires thought and care, as well as the respect due our fellow citizens.
But there is another issue. Even when we as evangelicals are careful to push for displays of the Ten Commandments or other religious texts or symbols on public land in such a way that no one’s religious freedom is harmed, is it worth going to all the work and effort to do so? Here equally sincere and thoughtful Christians may disagree. Some will argue that it is right and proper—and honoring to God—for our government to recognize the role Christianity has played and continues to play on our nation. To strip the public square of all Christian symbols is to imply that Christianity is of no consequence and our Christian heritage of no significance. Meanwhile, all sorts of secular symbols and events are recognized in the public square. The message being sent—subtly and by default, but nonetheless powerfully—is that religion generally, and Christianity in particular, is of no real consequence in history or today’s world. This, these Christians argue, is factually inaccurate and puts our Christian faith at a disadvantage.
But other Christians have asked another question: Given the continuing poverty in our nation, millions of AIDS orphans in Africa, vicious Christian persecution around the world, the threat of terrorist attacks, and other dire needs at home and overseas, ought we evangelicals spend our time and efforts working to place and defend religious symbols in public places? Ought that to be our top priority?These people would argue that they are glad William Wilberforce and his fellow evangelicals two hundred years ago spent every effort to stop the slave trade and promote more humane policies toward India, not to erect a cross in Hyde Park!
“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.” This is a prayer that the New York school authorities had written to be used at the beginning of school days. In 1962 the Supreme Court held it to be an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state. A year later it found that reading from the Bible and reciting the Lord’s Prayer were equally unconstitutional.
These two decisions unleashed a firestorm of criticism that continues. Many evangelical Christians still feel that school prayer is a defining issue. It came to symbolize a broader secularization process in our public schools.
Most evangelical Christians have taken one of three potential positions on school prayer. Some have opposed and others supported each of these positions. There is no one “Christian” position. One of these positions is to work hard to reinstate spoken, teacher-led school prayers. This is usually what is favored by those who argue in favor of “school prayer.” But many Christians see problems with this position.
First, they argue, it favors prayer and therefore religious belief over nonreligious, secular beliefs. In practice most prayer probably would be Christian in a very general, broad sense. Those who oppose such prayers believe it is unjust to impose on the children of nonbelievers and of minority religions prayers that are even vaguely Christian. Second, those who oppose spoken, teacher-led prayers in public schools suggest that those Christians who favor them probably assume that, given the religious makeup of their community, the prayers would be “broadly Christian.” But what if they lived in, for example, an overwhelmingly Muslim school district—and any public school prayers were likely to be offered to Allah while facing Mecca. It is argued that their enthusiasm for school prayer would suddenly take a nose dive! Yet this is the position into which Christian prayers put our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, pagan, or unbelieving neighbors.
I personally believe that the biblical principles I presented earlier in this book argue against spoken, teacher-led prayers in the public schools. They would not be just because all people would not be treated equally. The children of nonbelievers and members of minority religions would be put at a disadvantage. The welfare of us as Christians, not the common good, would be advanced—except, of course, in schools where the children from Christian families are in the minority, and then they would be put at a disadvantage, which is also wrong. Our solidarity with our neighbors who are not Christian argues against subjecting their children to organized prayers. And our respect for the family as a God-instituted aspect of civil society means we should respect the religious faiths of those families that are not Christian.
However, I also recognize that those who disagree with me on this position have a legitimate, defensible position. Those who argue in favor of spoken, teacher-led prayers in public schools point out that these would be voluntary prayers. Any parents who did not want their children to take part in these prayers could ask that their children be excused from class for the brief prayer time. No one would be forced to pray, and those who wish to take part in the prayer could do so. But would the children excused from class during the prayers by that very act be put in a difficult position, labeled as being “different” by their classmates and perhaps subjected to teasing? Some have argued yes. Others claim such fears are exaggerated.
Here, as will often be the case in the seven chapters that apply the basic biblical principles, there will be disagreements among equally sincere Christians. That is OK. The truly important thing is that they have carefully thought through their position, are seeking to test and apply biblical principles, and are voicing their positions with civility, acknowledging that their position is not the only legitimate one for a Christian to hold. What is not OK is to disagree based on unconcern, unbiblical notions, and unexamined assumptions—and to claim to hold the only possible position a sincere Christian should take.
There is a second possible answer to the issue of school prayer:setting aside a time at the beginning of the school day for silent prayer or reflection. As with the first option, this also has its supporters and detractors. Under this option each student could pray in his or her own way, and non believing students can simply quietly ref
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