Censorship by Design: Criminalization of Child Evangelism (Part 2)
The unmistakably Protestant character of America’s early public schools has all but vanished, and efforts to resurrect Bible literacy in the public square are met with increasingly vehement opposition primarily driven by atheists. In their defense, naysayers are quick to play “the separation” card.
Constitutional Mandate to Separate
Whereas the Establishment Clause of our First Amendment does not require a complete separation of church and state, investigative journalist Katherine Stewart insists, “Everyone benefits from maintaining religion and government separate.”
Stewart may not like it, but our Constitution ensures believers a platform from which to proclaim their message (U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit, 1992). The nation’s institutions presuppose a Supreme Being; hence, courts find no constitutional requirement for government to be hostile to religion, nor may it throw its weight against efforts to widen the scope of religious influence (Zorach v. Clausen, 1952). The Court mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance; and it forbids hostility toward any (Lynch v. Donnelly, 1985; Repeated in Wallace v. Jafree, 1985).
Tracing “the Big Lie”
Stewart bemoans erosion of her version of church-state separation: By somehow forcing the schools to subsidize and promote their religion, the Good News Clubs violate principles of the Establishment Clause of our First Amendment. Not so. Stewart may be surprised to learn that church-state separation is found, not in the U.S. Constitution, but rather in Article 124 of the Constitution of the United Soviet Socialist Republic (1922-1991).“ In truth, repeated misspeak of "separation of church and state” is but a propaganda technique (German, Große Lüge, meaning “a big lie”) employed by Adolf Hitter. You know how it goes: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
Rightly understood, the Bill of Rights does not tell citizens what they may do, but rather it delineates what government may not do. George Washington was adamant, “If I could entertain the slightest apprehension that the Constitution … might possibly endanger … religious rights … I would never have placed my signature to it.” In his Farewell Address, the father of our nation maintained, “Do not anyone claim to be a true American if they ever attempt to remove religion from politics.” No “impregnable wall” exists.
Accordingly, chief architect of the Constitution, James Madison, declared religion to be “the basis and foundation of Government.” To the Virginia Convention (12 July 1788) he proclaimed, “There is not a shadow of a right in the federal government to intermeddle with religion.” Word crafter of the First Amendment, Fisher Ames fought tirelessly for prominence of the Bible within America’s public schools. In his words, “Its morals are pure, its examples are captivating and noble … the Bible will justly remain the standard of language as well as of faith.”
Judge Brevard Hand quoted from 19th century US Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, who clarified the original meaning of the First Amendment. Its real objective, he explained, is “not to countenance … much less to advance [Islam], or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations] and to prevent any national ecclesiastical patronage of the national government” (Jaffree v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County, 1983).
In a letter to Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson made clear that any presumed “wall of separation” was not to protect the state from the church, but rather to protect freedom of religion and its free exercise. If not Katherine Stewart, our Founding Father, the Constitution itself, its chief architect, president of the Constitutional Convention, word crafter of the First Amendment, and the Supreme Court all champion free-speech rights for Christian organizations as Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Never Again! Right?
In having authored Good News Clubs: The Christian Right’s Stealth Attack on America’s Children, Katherine Stewart self-identifies as an expert, yet while freely censoring Child Evangelism Fellowship, she has yet to approach its top-level leaders for clarification. Had she done so, Stewart could not possibly include CEF in some vast, Right-wing conspiracy of political operatives.
Fact is, Stewart’s hostility toward faith-based expression is no new phenomenon. Where else were carols and Nativity plays banned from schools? You guessed it. Nazi Germany. Recall Patrick Henry’s warning, “It is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains; … a vitiated state of morals and a corrupted public conscience are incompatible with freedom.”
CEF’s Attempt at “Hijacking the Law”
In America, our public rituals, ceremonies, and laws all reference God; none shun Him. Nonetheless, Stewart fears stealth efforts by Child Evangelism Fellowship to hijack the law when, in fact, CEF’s clear statement of mission omits partisan politicking altogether. A Bible-centered organization composed of born-again believers, CEF evangelizes boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, disciples them in the Word of God, and establishes them in local churches. There’s no need to establish a Bible-based legal system, as secularists fear; that, we already have.
- Magna Carta (1215)
The most significant early influence on the massive historical process leading to constitutional law, the Magna Carta (1215) first guaranteed freedom for the English Church. Our first written laws, the 1620 Mayflower Compact served as foundation for the U.S. Constitution, written more than 150 later.
- Mayflower Compact (1620)
Composed by consensus of settlers arriving at New Plymouth, our nation’s basic system of government grew out of this Compact. Signers promised “all due submission and obedience” to “just and equall Lawes, ordinances, Acts, constitutions and offices.” Key to their undertaking was being “in the Presence of God and one of another” expressly “for the glorie of God and advancemente of ye Christian faith.”
- Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law (1765-1769)
For well over a century after 1776, Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law was the recognized authority. Sir William Blackstone established that man’s subjection to “the laws of his Creator” – i.e., the law of nature, or the “eternal, immutable law of good and evil” – are “found only in the Holy Scriptures.” Furthermore, all human laws, he insisted, depend on the “law of nature” and “the law of [Divine] revelation”; “the preservation of Christianity as a national religion is abstracted from its own intrinsic truth.”
What’s more, not Child Evangelism Fellowship, but “all affronts to Christianity, or endeavors to depreciate its efficacy, in those who have once professed it, are highly deserving of censure.” Government must secure and protect religious rights, not take them away, nor discourage religious expression.
America’s first Supreme Court Chief Justice and co-author of The Federalist Papers, John Jay underscored duty, privilege, and interest of what he characterized as “our Christian nation” – that being, “to select and prefer Christians for their rulers” (12 October 1816).
- Daniel Webster
One of the highest-regarded courtroom lawyers of his era, Daniel Webster treasured the Bible as “a book of all others for lawyers, as well as divines.” “The only foundation for useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion.” Indeed, Webster added, “Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary.”
When asked the question, “What is the greatest thought that ever passed through your mind?” Daniel Webster responded, “my accountability to God.” These are not the words of an avowed secularist: “If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be. If God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy. If the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will. If the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end.”
Stewart reports that a 2001 Supreme Court decision allowing thousands of Good News Clubs to proliferate in public schools is turning them into rent-free, tax-subsidized churches. Wittingly or not, after-school Good News Clubs perpetuate dastardly dictates of Christian Nationalism, driving for sectarian education. Division, she warns, is an intended byproduct. What Stewart conveniently overlooks is inconvenient truth that, throughout decades, the Supreme Court has never once outlawed teaching about religion or even referencing God in public education.
More to follow in Part 3.