School Prayer Martyrs

Just once, could we please get the media to ask these students who insist that they are being denied their rights to exercise their religion, if they would stand up in front of their own Christian Colleges and demand that they permit an atheist to address their convocations and commencements. Just to show that it really is a principle at stake here.

When that happens, I will cease to be nauseated every time I hear another whiney Christian high school student bitterly complain that his religion is the only religion banned from public schools and it is just so unjust that he can’t express his deepest spiritual beliefs in his valedictory.

As if… as if these Christians really believe that they would be tolerant of other religions if they were in charge. This is the fundamental deceit of these bizarre confrontations: these Christians don’t want freedom of speech or pluralism. They want prayer, and the ten commandments to be obligatory at public schools. But when they complain to the press about their rights being trampled, nobody seems to want to bring that up. They pretend that they have always been tolerant of different religions and cultures, and that they have always had a very high regard for the rights of individuals to hold differing beliefs on major issues. And, by golly, if a student was selected to deliver the valedictory and he chose to say that the influence of religion on public life in the U.S. was pernicious and destructive, then, these Christian students so high on principles of free expression, would stand up for his right to deliver that speech too.

Even moderate Christian Colleges don’t invite feminists or evolutionists to lead official functions. They don’t believe there is any thing to “debate” about abortion or stem cell research. They barely invite Christians of different denominations, let alone Jews or Moslems. But we’re supposed to be outraged when a public high school decides that the rights of non-Christians in the student body or among the tax-paying parents should be respected.

The Banner (official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church) on August 5, carried another story about a poor little oppressed Christian high school student who won’t be permitted to lead his fellow graduates in prayer at his graduation. It’s about time The Banner and all the other Christian periodicals and websites that carry these stories start clarifying whether they really care about free speech— guest editorial by Noam Chomsky, anyone?– or if it just another feel-good pat yourself on the back self-serving tale of contrived repression.