Expelling the Founders

In the aftermath of the recent election, certain disappointed voters have voiced fear of an impending "theocracy" -- a takeover of government by "fundamentalists" and "extreme right-wing Christians." That fear, of course, is wholly unfounded, but news from Cupertino, California, raises the opposite concern. Steven Williams teaches fifth grade at Stevens Creek School in this Silicon Valley city. Part of the curriculum is American history, but Williams has been prohibited by the school's principal, Patricia Vidmar, from using any historic materials mentioning God. That includes the Declaration of Independence which refers to "Nature's God," "Creator," "Divine Providence," and "Supreme Judge of the World." Mr. Williams has sued the school, claiming religious discrimination and violation of free-speech rights. News reports indicate he is a Christian. One lawyer familiar with the case stated, "the district has chosen to censor men such as George Washington and documents like the Declaration of Independence. [Its] actions conflict with American beliefs and are completely unconstitutional." According to various news sources, the principal started her crackdown on Williams last May by requiring him to submit all lesson plans and handouts for her approval. He claims she systematically rejected any statements by American founders that mentioned God or religion. Included in the ban, according to Williams, "are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams's diary, Samuel Adams's 'The Rights of the Colonists,' and William Penn's 'The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania.'" Williams's attorney, Terry Thompson, notes that "Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country. . . . He hands out a lot of material, and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote." The suit asserts that Principal Vidmar did not subject any other teacher to pre-screening of lessons. So far the district has neither denied nor confirmed the allegations, but it hardly seems likely that Williams would make all this up. For decades crusaders for secularization, aided by sympathetic courts, have worked diligently to remove all traces of religion from America's public schools, even engaging in revisionism -- rewriting history books. Secularists view the public school as their exclusive domain where no child should be exposed to a religious idea. Such a view is just censorship of Christians. There's nothing neutral about these acts of discrimination. They prescribe secularism as official doctrine. And frankly, it makes me mad. When I went into the Marine Corps, I was ready to give my life for a country that, in the words of the Declaration, believes that "all men are created equal" and "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Words that for millions of Americans through the centuries have been worth dying for are certainly worth teaching to our young people. For further reading and information: Please help support the ministry of BreakPoint and the Wilberforce Forum for the renewal of culture. Call 1-877-322-5527 to make a year-end donation today. Get your friends, family members, neighbors, and church leaders a gift subscription to BreakPoint WorldView magazine, where they read about the latest news and trends from a Christian perspective. Call 1-877-322-5527. Read the Declaration of Independence. Dan Whitcomb, "Declaration of Independence banned at Bay-area school," San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 November 2004. "School Bars Declaration of Independence," Smoking Gun, 24 November 2004. Dean E. Murphy, "God, American History, and a Fifth-Grade Class," New York Times, 4 December 2004. (Free registration required; $2.95 if archived.) Dr. Daniel L. Dreisbach, "A Godless Constitution?BreakPoint Online, April 2000. BreakPoint Commentary No. 030710, "Wall of Separation: Text and Context." See the "Worldview for Parents" page "America's Religious Roots." For college students: Call 1-877-322-5527 for FIRE's Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus. This thorough guide explains how the legal and moral arguments for religious liberty apply differentially on public and private campuses. For other guides by FIRE, visit their website.


Chuck Colson


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