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This month, two remarkable situations unfolded that pushed the rewriting of American history, the unquestionable Christian links with America’s past and debate over religion in the public arena a notch higher. The decision of a school district in Cupertino, Calif. to ban use of excerpts from the Declaration of Independence and other historical American documents in the curriculum of a classroom teacher has caused an uproar. The issue is over the references to words such as “God” and “our Creator” in those founding documents. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the School District of South Orange and Maplewood is banning Christmas carols-including instrumental Christmas music. School District Superintendent Peter Horoschak claims that the district is trying to avoid complaints from people offended by the songs. “If you’re familiar with the tune, you know the words,” he said. Apparently, it never occurred to him that the policy prohibiting such music might be offensive to the 96% of Americans who do celebrate Christmas. In the court of law, organizations with the mindset of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)-and individuals influenced by them-have consistently used the argument of the separation of church and state as a valid reason to push both Christmas and the Declaration of Independence (along with other historical documents and memoirs) farther and farther out of the public square. However, the phrase “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in the Constitution, and neither facts nor history will support the radical meaning often assigned to the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The conundrum occurring here is much broader than a simple, misused phrase. The question is whether the modern U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution to imply an absolute ban on religious expression on public property and at public events. Let’s put this one to rest: The answer is no. Even when the Supreme Court stopped state-required Bible reading in the public schools in School District of Abington Township v. Schempp (1963), it concluded that the Bible could still be used in public schools for study with regard to its literary and historic value. It reaffirmed this conclusion in Stone v. Graham (1980), even while ordering the Ten Commandments off the school walls. The court recognized an obviously valuable context for using the Christian scriptures-so prominent in the thoughts of the American founding fathers and numerous other cultures throughout the world-in a public school curriculum. If the court in these “separationist” decisions concluded that use of the Bible itself is constitutional in context, then certainly the phrase “our Creator” in the Declaration of Independence and the writings of George Washington, John Adams and William Penn are protected by the historical contexts in which they appear and arise in the study of American history. Likewise, Christmas carols certainly fit into the context of traditional seasonal celebrations in the public schools. Stoking imaginary fires In spite of this, the fruit of the ACLU’s approach to such things has taken on the likeness of a fire extinguisher: Wherever references of Christianity are found in public, the immediate knee-jerk reaction is to blow forth a lawsuit and turn on the sirens, crying that such expressions violate the “separation of church and state,” all the while hoping that no one will realize that no blaze existed prior to the arson they perpetrated. Drawing attention to such firebugs is a primary purpose of the Alliance Defense Fund’s Christmas Project and other efforts by Alliance Defense Fund and allied lawyers to protect religious liberty. The Constitution does not support the suppression of religious expression in a public forum, but instead protects such expression. Indeed, the high court under its current composition of justices has never ruled contrary to that bedrock principle, so indisputably essential to the people who founded this country. And even if it did, the court would simply be dead wrong. The ultimate question involves the motives of the lemming mentality fed by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and others, whose pervasive disinformation and threats of costly litigation have so vastly influenced school principals and a host of other public officials. Since such groups choose to ignore constitutional intent as well as relevant Supreme Court decisions, it is reasonable to question the legal basis upon which they are pushing their radical agenda. What we can say with certainty is that no such basis exists in American law. Alan Sears is president and chief executive officer of the Alliance Defense Fund.

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