Many people today are content to criticize anonymously, happily hiding behind the veil that the Internet offers. That’s why it’s so remarkable that one Oklahoma student chose to reveal his identity after complaining about Ten Commandments displays in his public high school.
Every single classroom in the Muldrow, Okla., school district has a Commandments plaque on the wall. That didn’t sit well with Gage Pulliam, so he decided to do something about it.
Pulliam contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which informed the district that the religious plaques are a violation of the Constitution and should be removed.
Pulliam initially wanted to complain anonymously, but he chose to reveal his identity recently. Now he tells the “Friendly Atheist” blog that both he and his sister have been victims of verbal harassment and threats.
Pulliam said his goal was never to attack religion or stop anyone from believing what they want.
“I want people to know this isn't me trying to attack religion,” he said. “This is me trying to create an environment for kids where they can feel equal.”
Pulliam is exactly right: removing Ten Commandments plaques from classrooms isn’t an attack on religion; it’s a way to make all students feel welcome regardless of their beliefs about religion. That’s what the United States, and especially the public school system, is supposed to be about.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Some clergy are resorting to the tired (and false) accusation that Pulliam’s protest is another example of discrimination against religion.
“It’s Christianity under attack within our own country,” Josh Moore, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Muldrow, Okla, told Townhall.com. “The irony can’t be missed by anyone who’s lived in this country or grown up in this country.”
Thoughtful Christian clergy, on the other hand, know that church-state separation actually protects religion. The Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, a Baptist minister and senior religion editor for Huffington Post, said displaying the Ten Commandments in classrooms will likely lead untrained school officials to spread misinformation or personal bias.
“If you take the Ten Commandments seriously, you certainly don’t want someone who doesn’t share your beliefs explaining to the classroom what they mean,” he wrote. “That is a privilege reserved for religious leaders who we chose to follow and it is best done in religious establishments – not by some teacher randomly asked about them in a classroom.”
As we’ve said many times, Christianity is not under attack in this country. If you think that it is, then you don’t understand the principles of the Constitution. That document exists to protect the rights of everyone, Christians included. But the Constitution also makes sure the majority can’t suppress minorities.
Even fewer people seem to understand that church-state separation protects religion. As Raushenbush noted, why should some Spanish instructor or math teacher be left to explain to a curious student what “Thou shalt not covet” means? It’s not their job.
There’s a reason not many preachers moonlight as quantum physicists – they devoted their lives to another pursuit. So let’s follow Pulliam’s example and Raushenbush’s words, and leave the humanities and sciences to the school teachers and religion to the clergy.