THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 168, April 8, 2002
Does The First Amendment Require Atheism?
by Charles Novins, Esq.
Special to TLE
The Ten Commandments are back in the news again, as one town quickly agrees to remove their display, then reverses course and pathetically argues that the wall holding the display deserves protection. In the meantime, the ACLU argues that the Constitution requires....drapes. As an attorney, I can tell you that although this whole thing appears idiotic, you can rest assured that it most certainly is.
Why does it matter if the government posts a copy of the Ten Commandments? Anyone considered this lately?
Is it because the First Amendment prohibits it? Well, yes, legally. But why should the First Amendment do such a thing?
Seems like almost a dumb question, right? Just look at Afghanistan; do we need any further evidence of how government and religion must be kept separate?
Yet there is an apparent repudiation of religion. Is America atheist? Of course not. But if government refuses to support any given religion, isn't this a repudiation of ALL religion? And isn't that atheism?
The key to this is an understanding of what government properly is. Take national defense. Whom should the government defend? Catholics? Jews? Atheists? Druids?
The answer, of course, is All Of Them. But this doesn't seem to suggest that the government is atheist, does it?
That's because defending the nation is an almost quintessential government function. If you are going to accept even the basic idea of freedom of religion, it's no leap to assume that all religions have a right to defend against attack. Same for non-religionists, too, and none of this is even an implied support of atheism, nor of any opposing religion.
Most people born and educated in the last 70 years or so also think that education is a proper and ordinary government function. But looked at from the point of view of church and state, it becomes clear that it isn't.
Is it possible to teach children without crossing the church-state line, as it is possible to defend everyone equally from foreign invasion? Even a brief consideration clearly shows it isn't.
A public school system cannot, in fact, be religious-neutral. That's why the public school system has had to become, in essence, atheist.
Religionists have long decried this, and people of good will have noted the complaint, but simply raised their hands in frustration thinking there was no other alternative. Then came the spectacle of courts making decisions they were neither equipped nor authorized to make. Moment of silence? What if I want to talk? Solomon's legacy scrapes bottom.
Problems like "prayer in public schools" will never be properly resolved, because the problem isn't prayer, the problem is public schooling. I'm telling you this, and I'm an atheist.
It's simple, actually. It is a gross and monstrous violation to require a religious parent to contribute money and support to an atheist school. And it is equally monstrous for an atheist to be forced to contribute to a school promoting religion. And the reasoning extends effortlessly to differing religions; the atheist/religionist axis is just the easiest to see.
All of this leaves aside the financial, educational, and cultural disaster that the public schools have been. That disaster's been documented (many, many times, but you can look at www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-298es.html for a typical example), but it needn't be; Morality alone demands their end.
This message, however, seems too abstract for most, and it appears that only the sheer volume of wrecked lives, especially in the inner- cities, is finally winning the day in the inevitable demise of this utterly immoral institution. The "vouchers" solution is the desperate attempt of people to hold on to their failed moral choices while attempting to reduce the damage they invariably caused.
Sometimes in armed conflicts, it is the destruction of the children that brings combatants finally to their senses. So it will be for as long as the disasterous myth of public education holds sway.
And it is this - the fact that destruction must make the case, rather than reason - that is public schooling's most harmful legacy, and its most obvious and direct failure.
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People have asked us to present the whole JPFO argument in one place. We have done it. Available now in an easy-reading format and a handy size, the new book is entitled Death by Gun Control: The Human Cost of Victim Disarmament.
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