AND THE UNRAVELING OF AMERICA CONTINUES
Donna K. Busch filed suit in federal court against the Marple Newton School District in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2004, her son, Wesley, was a kindergartener in the district. Wesley's teacher had invited Busch to her classroom at Culbertson Elementary School as part of a unit of study called "All About Me," in which class members could learn more about one another and therefore facilitate the socialization process. A different student was featured each week. Parents were active participants. One of the activities involved the parent's reading to the class from a favorite book of the featured student. When he was to be featured, Wesley asked his mother to read to the class from the Bible. Busch decided to read verses 1-4 and 14 from Psalm 118. When the moment came, she was prohibited by the principal of the school from doing so. He asserted that it was against the law of separation of church and state.
Bush lost on summary judgment in district court and, on June 2, 2009, lost her appeal in the Third Circuit Court. Speaking through Chief Judge Anthony Scirica, pictured above, the Court maintained, "In this case, the audience is involuntary and very young. Parents of public school kindergarten students may reasonably expect their children will not become captive audiences to an adult's reading of religious texts."
What an insipid statement! The Court treats these sublime verses of Scripture as if children should be protected from them! Can you believe it: that merely reading five benign biblical verses in a public school setting would be outlawed by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia of all places – the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution?
The Declaration is a public affirmation of liberty in which there are four separate references to God. Furthermore, there is not a single sentence in the First Amendment of the Constitution that can reasonably be interpreted as prohibiting Bible-reading in public schools and our other institutions. The words "separation of church and state" are nowhere in the Constitution and were scarcely to be heard in America before the advent of the nineteenth century and, even then, their meaning had nothing to do with the "separation" of religion from public institutions. So pervasive, in fact, was the influence of religion in the life of this country that G. K. Chesterton once remarked that "America is a nation with the soul of a church." The Bible, according to historians such as the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., was a primary factor in the formation of American culture.
So, you may ask, what's going on here? Need I state the obvious? The intelligentsia of this country, composed of university professors, judges, politicians, corporate executives, journalists, and prominent members of the mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish clergy, want to re-invent America. They have bones to pick with American culture the way it is (or was). As cultural relativists, these people believe that it is illegitimate to assert that one culture is superior to another. Truth varies, so who's to say that there are any absolute moral and aesthetic standards? That is, after all, a provincial and retrograde idea! Why not invite millions of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs into this country? Their cultural mores have just as much right to exist here as our own.
It's not that these "broadminded" intellectuals do not admit there's a problem with countless cultures attempting to form a workable community under the same roof. Everyone with at least one brain cell knows that there is. But the prudent way of resolving the problem, they think, is to secularize the public square. Then, no one's faith will be offensive to his neighbor. That is one of the leading reasons why public prayer and Bible-reading have been expunged from our schools. Such activities are opposed to the spirit of secularism, liberalism, and multiculturalism.
Of course, not one of these innovators cares to mention the fact that religion and society are, as Emile Durkheim teaches us, two sides of the very same coin. Religion is the bedrock of culture and, without a public faith, there can be no community. That is precisely why countries which have been multicultural have erupted in war and bloodshed.
So, again, what's going on in the Third Circuit Court? It's nothing more nor less than a continuation of the war on traditional American culture and its values. It's one more attempt to rid America of its cultural treasures.
This cultural unraveling of America is reflected in the corruption and paralysis of our political institutions, the bankruptcy of our economy, the transactional challenges we frequently encounter when we telephone a company for technical support or seek to buy a hamburger at a fast food franchise, the growing mediocrity of our educational system, and the gradual demise of mainline Protestant Christianity. Why do you imagine that the spirit of togetherness following the events of 9-11 was so fleeting?
It is long past the time for Americans to act. This fact does not, however, mean that a million citizens converging upon Washington, D.C. with concrete demands would not stir up some dust. It would. I say, "Better late than never." Let's do it!
June 5, 2009