It is a good thing that our nation’s Founding Fathers did not believe as Thomas Fleming does about dissent (“Loyal Opposition,” Perspective, August), or we would never have achieved our independence. Freedom of speech is the first guarantee listed in our Bill of Rights. And though, like Dr. Fleming, I do not look to the ACLU as my champion (finding myself in disagreement with its anti-Christian positions), even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Concerning the current reinterpretation of the Constitution, Dr. Fleming writes that “a solution to this dilemma cannot profitably be sought in an examination of how free Americans once exercised their liberties in the Old Republic. That Old Republic died before I was born, and there is little that any of us can do to change it.” And again, “At this point, it is futile to expect the government in Washington or in the states to give up their campaign to eradicate the vestiges of the West from American soil, much less to nurture and protect the Christian faith. We are, nonetheless, subject to the rulers of this earth and should not be found wanting in our duties as subjects.”
Apparently having given up, Dr. Fleming appears ready to accept what the Framers would not. They did not see a duty to be a good colonial subject of Great Britain nor to follow its illegal and unjust laws. What we need in this once-great country is not a defeatist conservation of the status quo but a revolution to get back the liberties we have lost. As Thomas Jefferson knew, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
I was puzzled by Thomas Fleming’s assertion that “Christians cannot pray in the schools they pay for with their taxes or pretend that their traditions are equal (much less superior) to [various other religions or cultures].”
I was not aware that Christians or persons of any other faith could be prevented from praying in public schools. The devout of any faith are perfectly free to bow their heads, put their hands together, and address prayers to their deity at numerous times during the school day.
I have to suppose that what Dr. Fleming wants is for public-school authorities to organize prayer events on behalf of one or more favored religions. Whether he expects such events always to reflect the rituals of one favored religion or to be apportioned among the various religions or nonreligions represented in the student body, I know not.
Similarly, the taxes for the support of the public schools are extracted from the adherents of a number of different religions. Should the apportionment of prayer events be made to reflect the relative contributions of those varied adherents, including atheists and agnostics? Should the events be apportioned pro rata among the students or, more justifiably, in proportion to the share of income, sales, property, and other taxes paid by the adherents of each faith to support the public schools of their district? At the very least, this promises to be a serious administrative problem.
I am also not aware that our public schools forbid Christians or anyone else from pretending that their traditions are equal to or superior to others, although I can see where such a prohibition might ward off some schoolyard holy wars.
Dr. Fleming’s religious program for the public schools seems to me better suited to an Islamic theocracy than to a free society.
Dr. Fleming Replies:
There is no fool like an old fool, unless he is the fool that makes a dupe of himself. Over the years, John McClaughry has convinced himself that he could be governor of his state and lead a secessionist movement, while remaining thick as thieves with the Republican establishment in Washington. A man who has never ceased to defend the Islamic terrorists in Kosovo should have better sense than to hurl the insult “Islamic” against Christians who believe, in principle, in defending their own religion. If McClaughry would like to go and experience firsthand the joys of living under Albanian rule, let me be the first to make a contribution to the “John McClaughry Expatriation to Pristina” fund. Better take a copy of our October issue on self-defense.
As usual, McClaughry has missed the point of my essay. Since he knows that I oppose the very existence of public schools and that my standard proposal for dealing with them is to let the neighborhoods decide what sort of religion or nonreligion they want, I do not see how even he can imagine that I am in favor of using the schools to impose my religion. He thinks that inaudible private prayers are sufficient. Of course, there are private prayers that one can say in the mind, and prisoners of conscience may often have nothing but that form of prayer to console themselves with. In robust Christian communities, however, the faithful take part in corporate prayer, and no sane Christian would want his children to be deprived of such an opportunity in those places that form their character. McClaughry’s conception of prayer is like a conception of money that is stripped of all social meaning. Such money would merely be play money that one could not spend. What McClaughry really wants, of course, is a God-free society paid for with the tax dollars of Christians. That is what he means by calling himself a libertarian.
Mr. Angione apparently believes that the Founding Fathers were all like the hooligans who destroyed the private property they stole from honest merchants at the Boston Tea Party. When the nearest thing we had to legitimate governments—though they represented only a minority of opinion—seceded from the British crown, it was quite a different matter.
“You say you want a revolution?” Fine and dandy—but with this caveat. Those who wish to take up arms against the system had better be clear about their motives, their objectives, and the probable consequences of their folly. Blowing off steam in a letter to the editor may be a harmless prank, though, in these days of PATRIOT Acts, I would not be too sure; to involve friends and family in an insurrection, however, could prove very costly. Admittedly, the status quo stinks, but I do not see that suicide is the best response.