Thursday, September 25, 2008

See You At the Pole? Maybe Not!!

According to the Associate Press, the numerous "See You At the Pole" events happening Sept. 24 nationally will be under the watchful eye of Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The "Pole" events are student initiated and student led. Students gather around the flag pole and pray together. He says he doesn't object to students meeting for this, but says they will be making sure no teachers attend.

This may be an infringement of the teachers' Constitutional rights. According to the Rutherford Institute, speaking about existing Supreme Court interpretations, "Thus, although teachers may attend meetings of student religious groups, teachers should not promote, lead, or actively participate in student religious meetings." I suppose the word "actively" is key. Is silently praying while students pray "active?" Or is that a "passive" moment?

All this is especially interesting in light of the fact that the very phrase that is part of Rev. Lynn's organization, "separation of church and state," uses a quote from Thomas Jefferson. This is the same Thomas Jefferson who was president (small "p") of the Washington, D.C. public schools. He required that the main sources for reading practice and discussion would be the Holy Bible and the Watts Hymnal.

According to the United States Code, the Northwest Ordinance is one of our nation's four foundational documents (see also Four Pillars of Constitutionalism: The Organic Laws of the United States). The Northwest Ordinance says, in part, "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged and established in the Northwest Territory." Congress later required that all territories becoming states must have Constitutions which were "not repugnant to the Northwest Ordinance." So it says there that religion is one necessity for which schools must be established.

Are we to think that the intention of the men who drafted the Northwest Ordinance and of Thomas Jefferson was to prevent teachers from even being seen praying on school grounds? Doubtful.

Associated Press Article

Rutherford Institute - Rights of Public School Teachers

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