As soon as I heard about Friday’s horrific school shootings in Newtown, Conn., I knew it would only be a matter of time before some Religious Right extremist blamed it on the lack of mandatory prayer in public schools.
It didn’t take long. First out of the crazy box was former Arkansas governor and erstwhile presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools," Huckabee said during an appearance on the Fox News Channel. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”
He added, “We’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability -- that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. If we don't believe that, then we don’t fear that.”
Not to be left out of the Nitwit Sweepstakes, the always-offensive Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association quickly chimed in with this gem: “You know the question’s gonna come up, where was God? I thought God cared about the little children, God protected the little children. Where was God when all this went down? And here’s the bottom line: God is not gonna go where he’s not wanted.”
Fischer continued, “Now we have spent, since 1962 – this, we’re 50 years into this now – we have spent 50 years telling God to get lost, telling God, we do not want you in our schools, we don’t want to pray to you in our schools, we don’t want to pray to you before football games, we don’t want to pray to you at graduation, we don’t want anyone talking about you in a graduation speech. We’ve kicked God out of our public school system. And I think God would say to us, ‘Hey I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve gotta invite me back into your world first. I’m not gonna go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.’”
People sometimes ask me why Americans United is so adamant about keeping organized, school-sponsored forms of prayer and religious worship out of public education. On occasion I encounter those who assert, “What’s the harm in a little prayer or talk about God? Isn’t it good for kids?”
Huckabee and Fischer are walking examples of the harm. Remember, as soon as we start talking about official prayer in public schools, we also start talking about which religion, what prayer and whose God. The God that gets talked about or promoted in your school could easily be the God that is worshipped by people like Huckabee and Fischer.
Personally, I have no use for the God of the Religious Right – and I don’t think I’m alone there. The God of the Religious Right allows 20 children and six adults to die in a school because he’s in a snit over his alleged expulsion from public education.
The God of the Religious Right is mean, petty, vindictive and not very ethical. The God of the Religious Right is all hate and retribution, with no love and acceptance. The God of the Religious Right, in my opinion, is not worthy of our worship.
This is America, and supporters of the Religious Right are free to worship that God. Members of that movement are free to approach that God in fear – never joy – as is their wont. But let’s be clear: They want to use our public schools, a taxpayer-supported institution that serves children of many faiths and philosophies, to push that God on your children, mine and everyone else’s. They have no right to do that.
The good news is that millions of Americans reject the God of the Religious Right. They reject a God based on fear, division, violence and retribution. The God that many Americans worship is so far removed from the God of the Religious Right that we can’t paper over the difference by pretending it’s a minor theological tiff and that, at the end of the day, most Americans worship the same deity.
No. The entity Huckabee, Fischer and their allies tremble before and beseech is so alien to most of the devoutly religious people I know that they would not even recognize it as God.
(Millions of Americans also know that in the wake of a tragedy like this, the proper response is words that offer comfort, not divisive displays of ignorance.)
So let us make no mistake: When Huckabee, Fischer and their allies speak of bringing church and state closer together or removing a few bricks from the church-state wall to allow “a little religion” into our schools, this is the God they would set loose. This is the God they would preference by law. This is the God they would force you to support. This is the God they would foist onto your children.
If this isn’t your God, or if you’re one of the many Americans who recognize no God, you must speak out against offensive Religious Right foghorns like Huckabee and Fischer. You must challenge those who exploit sorrow for political gain.
And you need to stand up for the one thing that keeps the God of the Religious Right from becoming the government’s favorite: the wall of separation between church and state.