Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Elizabeth City Daily Advance of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. As you probably know, Elizabeth City hosts the annual North Carolina Potato Festival.
The letter’s title is Bible played key role in US history. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. As we usually do, we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. Okay, here we go:
Is it a good idea to teach the Bible in public schools? My answer is a resounding yes and here’s why:
Before presenting the letter-writer’s reasons, we should tell that we chose this letter because it supports a bill currently pending in the North Carolina legislature that would offer elective bible classes in the state’s public schools. Presumably that would include Noah’s Ark and all the rest. See North Carolina’s Bible Class Bill. We just checked, and the bill is still sitting in committee. Okay, back to the letter:
There is no question about the importance of the Bible and its influence in American history. Where — may I ask — did the founding fathers of this nation get their founding principles — especially the principle of individual liberty — from? From the “benevolent” king George III?
Uh, no. It wasn’t from King George — or the bible. We thought everyone knew that the principles of the Revolution came from the Enlightenment. Let’s read on:
From the mind of man? No, they got their inspiration as well as the founding principles from the Bible, thus, this book is indisputable in our nation’s founding and its history.
Aaaargh!! As we have often said (see Is America a “Christian Nation”?):
Hamilton and Madison, who explained the Constitution clause-by-clause in the Federalist Papers, did so totally without scriptural references. That’s because there was no scriptural basis for concepts like a decentralized federal republic, a two-house legislature, limited government with enumerated powers, representation based on population, checks and balances, prohibiting religious qualifications for holding office, allowing secular oaths, and providing that a man-made Constitution was the supreme law of the land.
The letter continues:
School children were even taught their ABCs from the Bible. That in itself is a “Bible study,” is it not?
Uh, no, it’s not bible study — it’s alphabet study. If the kiddies learned their ABCs with a text that says “A is for apple,” would that be the study of botany? Here’s more:
Senate Bill 138 is good for education because it allows schools to teach the Bible as history without being religious at all.
Uh huh — “without being religious at all.” Moving along:
No legislative body is making a law here establishing an “official” state religion. The purpose of the “establishment clause” in the U.S. Constitution was to ensure that there would be no official state religion — that’s it. The founding fathers had certainly enough of an official state religion with the Church of England.
Well, originally the states could have their own established churches, and many did; but they had all disestablished their churches by the 1840s. We should point out a provision of the North Carolina Constitution, which says, in ARTICLE I, DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, Section 13:
Religious liberty. All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.
We don’t know how North Carolina courts interpret that, but we assume that the public schools would be considered a “human authority,” so they have no business teaching the bible at the expense of the state. Aside from that, the US Supreme Court has been applying the First Amendment to the states, so we don’t see much of an issue here. Another excerpt from today’s letter:
Furthermore, it was never the intention of our founding fathers to exclude God from the workings of government. As a matter of fact, church services were even held in federal government buildings. For example, Patrick Henry’s famous “give me liberty” speech was given in a church. You can teach that in schools because it’s a historical fact.
Even so, that tells us nothing about the authority of the state to teach — and implicitly endorse — the bible. Would the letter-writer be equally enthusiastic if the state were to teach the Koran in the public schools? Here’s the letter’s final paragraph:
Clearly I see battle lines being drawn here. The war is over the input in the hearts and minds of our children — thus our future. To me, it is a contest of believing the truth of our nation’s founding principles and prosperity or believing a bunch of hogwash that a lot of what modern history revisionists are conjuring up. It is not the light that fears the darkness. It is the other way around.
Okay, the battle lines are being drawn. It’s the truth vs. hogwash. Or is it really evolution vs. creationism? We’ll just have to watch and see how things work out.
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