Alright, America. I think it’s clear we need to prepare ourselves for a new round of “Let’s Bring God Back Into the Classroom,” brought to us by Christians who don’t know how to stop while they’re ahead.
If you regularly follow news stories challenging the separation of church and state, you know the law is on our side. Christians can’t really win this battle, and they shouldn’t want to. And yes, I’m going to sound like a broken record. Students have all the freedom they need to spread the word of God throughout their schools. They can pray openly, form Christian clubs, and even pass out Bibles. But these activities cannot be endorsed by any school official; meaning all staff must remain on the sidelines.
This isn’t a threat to Christianity. Coaches and teachers may believe it’s ridiculous to have to step aside and remain neutral on matters of faith, but it’s an all or nothing situation. The law will never allow public schools to officially endorse a single religion. The moment a decision is made to let one teacher or coach promote Christianity, we have opened the door to allow all teachers and coaches the right to promote any spiritual belief.
So that fear many of you conservative Christians have about things like Islam and atheism being taught in your schools? That could only become an actual legal possibility as a result of you and your persecution complex. Why? Because you’re the only ones fighting for it. Time and time again Christians get themselves worked up over imaginary attacks, and suddenly a prayer mob forms and starts making all sorts of self-destructive demands.
Today I want to take you to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where an uproar is being made over some prayers for an injured player at a Football game. I chose this story because of the outrage expressed by Matt Walsh. And if you read this blog regularly, you know how I love to call Matt out on his bullshit.
In another time and place I might have loved Matt Walsh. I can’t say he doesn’t inspire me. His recent post “If you find it easy to be a Christian, you probably aren’t one” is well-written and spot-on for someone who believes in all that nonsense. And sometimes he is clever enough to make me laugh out loud. But I disagree with him on almost everything. Last week he posted this on his Facebook wall, in reference to the story out of Chattanooga:
“A hatred for the God they pretend not to believe in.” (I never get enough of that.)
Those damn militant, maniacal atheists. Who could possibly have a problem with a community coming together in prayer over an injured player? But if it seems as though the FFRF is making too much out of nothing, perhaps we should look a little closer at the situation before deciding which side is actually making mountains out of mole hills.
Another article had this to say:
A Wisconsin Freedom from Religion group has filed a complaint about Central and East Ridge High players joining together on the football field to pray for an injured player in a game last Sept. 9.
Attorney Rebecca S. Markert of the Freedom from Religion Foundation said in a letter to County School Board Attorney Scott Bennett said that “public school coaches must refrain not only from leading players in prayer but also in participating in students’ prayers.”
She said the group recently learned of the “post-game prayer circle” and asked county school officials “to remind athletic directors and coaches in this district to refrain from leading their teams in prayer or participating in team prayer circles initiated by players.”
Attorney Markert said there is a video of the prayer circle that was posted on the Facebook page of Stump on Sports.
She said the video shows an adult in a Central shirt leading everyone in prayer.
The attorney said, “While it is laudable for students and coaches to express concern over an injured player, coaches may not use an injury as an opportunity to engage students in a religious exercise.”
It is important to understand how these things play out. First, someone at that Football game has to make a complaint to the FFRF. Which they did. If the FFRF finds any violation, they will simply send a letter to the school, reminding them of the law and how to remain compliant. That’s it. A reminder letter, advising the administration to review guidelines with coaches in an effort to avoid future complaints.
The school responded to the FFRF by letting them know it was a local resident in the community who led the prayer. But if coaches or teachers joined in, that’s still a violation. The school district has since agreed to “provide additional training to its employees on the application of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in public schools.” Because that is how this always ends.
I know what you’re thinking. Is it really that big of a deal? Of course the Christian teachers and coaches would want to join in the prayer, and who can blame them? We all get it. But there was a complaint made, and it was a violation. The FFRF sent a letter, because that’s what they do in response to valid complaints; and unless the school decides to be dramatic and start having public coach-led prayers as some kind of protest—that’s all that is going to happen.
Why should anyone be upset about such an insignificant chain of events? One of Matt’s commenters had this familiar bit of wisdom to offer:
Attack? They came after a high school? “Students all over the county came together at their schools and prayed and praised in large numbers. It was AMAZING.”
And yet, no letters were sent. No lawsuits filed. Why? Because atheists aren’t actually out to get you, lady. If Christians are so worried about keeping God in schools, why not do this all the time? It’s perfectly legal. This kind of “revival” proves that students have always possessed the right to pray and publicly worship God without anyone attempting to stop them. Apparently they just can’t be bothered to exercise that right on a regular basis. One might even say it’s easier to not regularly promote their faith so publicly.
(I wonder what Matt thinks about Christians who take the easy road…?)
So when they do show up, what exactly are they battling for? They are demanding the right to have school endorsement of their particular religion. They want coaches and teachers to be free to promote their faith, because they find no threat in a Christian bias in the classroom. And the children who don’t believe in Christianity need that influence most of all. Right?
This is where Christians need to be reminded of what I mentioned earlier: The law will never allow public schools to officially endorse a single religion. The moment a decision is made to let one teacher or coach promote Christianity, we have opened the door to allow all teachers and coaches the right to promote any spiritual belief.
Something tells me that Christians like Matt Walsh and his followers will be the first ones asking for letters and lawsuits when a coach leads their kid in a different type of prayer. What about when they get their first glimpse of what it really means to give science teachers freedom to discuss their support or opposition to creation? Or when the attractive, popular teacher turns out to be an outspoken atheist.
If you enjoy watching this kind of thing backfire on Christians, I recommend you start following The Satanic Temple in the news. For those of you unfamiliar with the group, they are in no way followers of Satan. They are advocates of all issues surrounding church/state separation, and employ this type of strategy to show Christians what their “fighting back” will win them. Just ask any elementary school which must now offer both “The Good News Club” and “The After School Satan Club.” But don’t worry; “After School Satan” does not believe Satan is real, and offers subjects related to science and rational thinking.
I urge Christians to think harder before jumping on the “we need God back in our classrooms” bandwagon too quickly. Recognize the difference between the freedom of students, and the freedom of those put in a position of influence and authority over those students. Be careful what you wish for. There are a million legal ways for churches and parents to inspire their children to keep God in the classroom without infringing upon the rights of others, or putting anyone in a position of being pressured by authority to conform to one particular belief.
Wouldn’t their time be better spent focused on those ideas? Once again, Matt Walsh is sending the wrong message.