National Education Day was signed into law by President Bush and Congress last March 20. At first sight this new holiday looks like the President’s bid to be taken seriously as the “education President.” In fact, educators nationwide celebrated it as a tribute to their profession. But a closer look at the bill indicates that it actually had nothing at all to do with schools or teachers or the state of American education; the words “school,” “teacher,” and “student” are nowhere to be found in the legislation.

Education Day was enacted for a different reason: to honor both the Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, leader of the mystical Lubavitch movement, and the Seven Noahide Laws, which according to the Babylonian Talmud are the minimal moral duties to which mankind is bound. The congressional proclamation states this forthrightly, and bears reprinting: “Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great Nation was founded; Whereas these ethical values and principles have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws; . . . Whereas the Lubavitch movement has fostered and promoted these ethical values and principles throughout the world; Whereas Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, leader of the Lubavitch movement, is universally respected and revered and his eighty-ninth birthday falls on March 26, 1991; Whereas in tribute to this great spiritual leader, ‘the rebbe,’ this, his ninetieth year will be seen as one of ‘education and giving,’ the year in which we turn to education and charity to return the world to the moral and ethical values contained in the Seven Noahide Laws; and Whereas this will be reflected in an international scroll of honor signed by the President of the United States and other heads of state; Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that March 26, 1991, . . . is designated as ‘Education Day, U.S.A.’ The President is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Lubavitchers are the largest and most visible Hasidic group. They proselytize worldwide, operate an impressive network of day schools and publishing houses across the country, and have been astoundingly successful in raising funds for their activities. It is also widely believed that they see their leader, or “rebbe,” as the Messiah, but they have thus far refused to either confirm or deny this. The Seven Noahide Laws are the talmudic designation for the divine demands addressed to Adam and Noah. They prohibit idolatry, blasphemy, bloodshed, sexual sins, theft, eating from a living animal, and contain the injunction to establish a legal system for the observance of the other six laws. Some scholars view them as a link between Judaism and Christianity, as universal norms of ethical conduct and as a means of determining international law and fundamental human rights.

The Lubavitchers’ devotion to their family, faith, and community is admirable, but what is questionable is a federal bill honoring them under the pretext of commemorating American education. The Mosaic Law honored by Christians is forbidden to be taught or even posted in public (i.e., government) schools because of the constitutional separation of church and state, but it seems that the President and Congress, in enacting “Education Day,” have crossed this very line to promote a small Jewish sect that may well believe the Messiah is alive and living in Brooklyn. Lubavitchers also evangelize worldwide, and, according to the commemorative legislation, the U.S. government has agreed to aid them in their efforts by organizing “appropriate ceremonies and activities” and by assigning this special day to “an international scroll of honor,” all in an attempt “to return the world to the moral and ethical values contained in the Seven Noahide Laws.” Is this a violation of the First Amendment, or merely an executive prerogative on behalf of the “New World Order”? President Bush and Lamar Alexander have yet to say.

National holidays and commemorative events are the quickest and most direct way for politicians to court special interest groups and to appease those groups to whom they already owe their political soul. This is why we have the many days and weeks devoted to black and women’s history and to gay and AIDS awareness. But these commemorative events are also the means by which social engineers attempt to mold and manipulate culture. Like Robespierre and the Jacobins who gutted the French calendar and institutionalized commemorations of the God of Reason, the “new Jacobins,” as Claes Ryn has termed them, in Washington today wish to establish a national pantheon of democratic saints whom all Americans will be forced by law to pay homage. Their crowning glory came with the declaration of a national holiday for Martin Luther King.

That this pantheon of saints is to be imposed on us from above—by federal fiat, with the threat of violence if necessary, as in the case of Arizona and Martin Luther King Day—is clear by the deceptive and clandestine way in which “Education Day” was passed in honor of the Rabbi Schneerson. The Jacobin Poupinel said two hundred years ago, “Let us use civic pomp to make the people forget their old displays of superstition,” but the statement could just as well be mistaken for those made today by education bureaucrats like Chester Finn, who several years ago called for the institution of a new civil religion based on patriotic holidays and the birthday of “Dr.” King. If the U.S. Department of Education is to be the National Church, then what better name for a new religious holiday than “Education Day, U.S.A.”