BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, December 30, 2012
12/30/12 at 3:24 AM
Following the killings of 20 school children and six school staff members in Newtown, Conn., Fox News talk show host Mike Huckabee had this observation:
"We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? (W)e've made it a place where we don't want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability - that we're not just going to have to be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. If we don't believe that, then we don't fear that."
The former governor of Arkansas, former Republican presidential hopeful and now conservative TV host just couldn't help himself. He had to drag up the well-worn notion that if we just put God "back" into the schools everything would be just fine. Along with this argument, although he didn't specifically mention it but the implication was clear, was the idea that we need to get prayer returned to the classroom.
Onward Christian soldiers
Here, however, is what some of the soldiers of God simply don't get or refuse to acknowledge: Nobody took God out of the schools. Nobody banned a prayer in school. A student, teacher or principal can pray all they want, as long as they do it in private or with some friends of like beliefs. A student can pray before an algebra test, although I have to tell you it never did me much good. Students or teachers can bow their heads and give thanks before having lunch. To the best of my recollection, some of the school meals I had in my day needed some praying over.
It's easy to blame the violence in Newtown or Columbine or Virginia Tech or any other mass killing on some lack of faith or the lack of having God taught in school. The reason it's easy is because it demands no difficult decisions or even serious thought. Blame it on ignoring religion. There. Simple. God's angry.
The fact is, there is no simple answer.
When I was young, and unfortunately, that gets longer ago than I like to admit, there was no "ban" on official prayer at our school. So, before every football or basketball game one of the town's religious leaders would offer up a public prayer. We had Christmas break (not winter break) and before we left, we had a Christmas program, complete with songs about the birth of the baby Jesus.
In the small town in which I grew up we had a few Jewish families, but I don't recall a rabbi offering a prayer before any football game. I don't recall any songs about Hanukkah during the month of December. In fact, I don't even remember the local Catholic priest offering the prayer. It was a small congregation. There were probably some atheists around, but they didn't advertise it.
Most of the folks where I grew up belonged to either the First Baptist Church or the Methodist Church, the two largest in town. Most of us went to church every Sunday and often on Wednesday night. We went to youth choir practice and brotherhood meetings. We were taught in the Baptist Church that baptism, I mean where they dunk you under the water, was the only way to guarantee that you were going to heaven.
Now, with all that churchifying and praying and all that religious direction that we were getting in a roundabout way in school, I don't know if my generation has turned out any better or worse than any other.
Here's the catch with those who want to "return God to the schools": They want him returned, but only if they dictate the rules by which he returns.
So, when people such as Huckabee say they want prayer and God back in the schools, here's the way they want it: They want their God and their prayer. That would be the Christian father, son and Holy Ghost.
How do you think this might turn out if Muslims called for a morning prayer and a course on the Quran? We all know the answer to that.
No matter how much the Huckabees mislead those willing to be misled, their protestations are wrong. The liberal federal government and Supreme Court did not rid the school of God and prayer. What they said is that there will be no organized prayer by the schools or school officials. You can meet all the friends you want at the flagpole to pray, but you can't make your buddy go along with you. You can say grace over hamburgers in the cafeteria but you can't force anyone else to join. And, you can pray about that algebra test (although I think it's a waste of time) but you cannot expect your classmate to say the same prayer or even pray to the same God.
It is simply un-American to try to intimidate an elementary school student, or any student, into saying your prayer. The majority of kids in our public schools are Christian. Why should a good Christian want to embarrass Jews, Muslims or even atheists by forcing them to be in an obvious minority that opts out of the prayer?
Freedom from religion
The First Amendment not only guarantees every American the right to worship as they wish, but it guarantees that a citizen of the United States doesn't have to have any religion if he or she so chooses.
And, the separation clause makes it very clear that the government cannot force you to worship in any certain way and it will not fund such groups and that includes taxpayer-supported public schools.
Religious people fled to America to escape a government that forced a certain religion upon them and the Founding Fathers made sure that no government in this country would be able to establish a government-sanctioned religion.
So let Mike Huckabee dismiss the deaths of 20 children as some payback from a God upon whom he thinks we have turned our backs.
That's good for his ratings and his audience. But it's ignorant of history and the Constitution. And it certainly is not very Christian of him.
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332
Students and parents head to the flag pole at Jenks Southeast Elementary School at 101st Steet and Yale Avenue in Tulsa to say the "Pledge of Allegiance," pray and read Bible verses during the See You at the Pole event at the school in September. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World file