Secular Termites Eating Our Traditional Foundations
By: Robert E. Meyer
In my local newspaper, several editorial letters have been written expressing support for those on the Kimberly, Wisconsin Board of Education, who are also members of a local group, the Positive Youth Development Foundation.
The accolades are in response to the foundation’s decision to financially sponsor a fashion program that encourages modesty in the dress of young women.
The group putting on the show has an interest in promoting religious values in culture. That association had the predictable effect of bringing out the usual social termites to examine carefully the relationship between the Board of Education and the aforementioned foundation.
We have had interlopers like Annie Gaylor, from the Christian suppression organization, the Madison, Wisconsin based Freedom From Religion Foundation, plying their specialty of First Amendment ambulance chasing.
The FFRF bills itself as a vanguard of religious freedom. Religious freedom for who? Such descriptions border on the perversion of language exceeding the imagination of 19th century writer and logician Lewis Carroll, in his work Through the Looking Glass (words mean exactly what I want them to mean, nothing more, nothing less).
There have also been some recent editorial letters in the same paper advocating public policy that eschews any religious foundations, but instead favors some coupling of secular ethics with “reason.”
Ironically, this incident provides a perfect example of where that thinking leads us. We have meddling from the outside by inquisitors so bent to eradicate any whiff of religious affiliations, that they the could care less about the harmonious community ethic in Kimberly, Wisconsin, much less anywhere else. The blitzkrieg efforts to secularize every corridor of the American public, ultimately frustrates an attempt to teach young women the virtues of modest dress. Where is the “reason” in that end?
That is one case for my vehement opposition to secular humanism. If one points unfavorably to a checkered history of religious tyranny, it only seems that we have exchanged that blemish for an impending secular tyranny.
It is not hard to imagine a day where secularists protest saying, “You can attend your house of worship on the weekend and pray in your closet, so how can you complain about shrinking religious freedoms?”
One letter writer wondered how all this fuss had anything to do with the language of the First Amendment, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Why more people don’t point this out, is to me, the eighth wonder of the world.
In examining this issue, we must consider the contemporary legal foundations for justifying this sort of apparent distortion. The most important legal principle is the so-called “Lemon Test.”
The purpose of the Lemon test is to determine when a law has the effect of establishing religion. The test has served as the foundation for many of the Court’s post-1971 establishment clause rulings. As articulated by the late Chief Justice Burger, the test has three parts:
First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster “an excessive government entanglement with religion.
While I disagree that this formula is necessary, based on the historical understanding of what the First Amendment requires, it is still difficult to see how Kimberly’s Board of Education violated any of the three requirements.
It should be obvious that the school board has made no law or regulation. Neither is there any effort to balance the requirements of avoiding establishment with the Free Exercise clause.
A second problem is that the ambiguous phrase, “Wall of separation of church and state,” has been used as a proxy for what the First Amendment means. That phrase was lifted from the context of a private letter, written more than a decade after the Constitution was drafted.
The Late Chief Justice William Rehnquist offered his appraisal of that phrase in a 1985 dissenting opinion.
“But the greatest injury of the “wall” notion is its mischievous diversion of judges from the actual intentions of the drafters of the Bill of Rights… No amount of repetition of historical errors in judicial opinions can make the errors true. The ‘wall of separation between church and State’ is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.”
It must be noted that the whole posture of our Bill of Rights is to protect people from government tyranny, not to reserve the court system as a legal club to circumvent religious expression.
The anti-religion groups usually don’t win because of better legal arguments, but because they are never challenged. School administrators fear the cost of lawsuits, so they capitulate unnecessarily.
My personal advice is that school officials across the nation should become familiar with, and utilize, the services of religious freedom law associations, such as Liberty Counsel, the Alliance Defense Fund, and others who will defend them pro bono.
I have had positive personal experiences with some of these organizations.