Some evangelicals agree with much of what you say-but they also say that persecution is a "holy" word and should be reserved for truly dangerous situations, not the discrimination American evangelicals sometimes feel. What is your reaction to that criticism?
I think that's a reasonable point--that people could think the title is over the top and sensationalistic. People normally think of persecution as what Christians experienced during the Roman period and what the Jews experienced in the Holocaust.
Or that Christians are experiencing today in Sudan.
Right, and I rarely mention the world persecution in the book. I talk about discrimination. The title was not mine, but I'll stand by it. I chronicle the actions that lead to the first steps of persecution. There are various levels of discrimination and persecution. It's a subject that reasonable people can debate about-the use of the term.
I don't mean to diminish the actual cases of persecution that have occurred in the world in history, and are occurring today. But I do think the kinds of discrimination Christians are being subjected to and the intolerance being demonstrated toward them is a very chilling thing.
I don't think the sky is falling or we've lost all our religious freedom--but I think Christians are being scrubbed away from the public square, Christian religious liberty is being suppressed, and Christians are being impugned by people for whom tolerance is the highest virtue. And these are the first steps that happen in society that eventually gravitate toward persecution. This is an incremental process, and I prove it my book with almost 800 examples. Some are more egregious than others, I will acknowledge. We can disagree about the degree of persecution in different examples, but there is a double-standard being applied to Christians.
People will suppress our religious liberty under the separation of church and state language, while they promote the concept of the state endorsing secular humanist values or those of other major religions. They demand tolerance from everyone, but they are willing to give none toward Christians.
On some level, I can agree with you--yet Christians are such a majority, the dominant culture, maybe they can take it on the chin a little bit and understand what people from minority religions are feeling. What do you think about that?
The very reason this country was founded was to escape religious persecution and seek religious freedom. The framers of the constitution, who were predominantly Christian, incorporated their biblical world view into the constitution. And the first two clauses of the constitution had to do with safeguarding and preserving religious liberty. So they obviously thought it was of paramount importance.
Now, often in the name of preserving separation of church and state, ostensibly to promote religious freedom, they are using the separation argument as a weapon to suppress Christians' religious liberty. You can say this is not a big deal-but it's a very big deal. When a student invokes the name of Christ in a valedictory speech or when a group of students hold an election to choose a student who will go out and give a prayer at a high school football game over the PA system, they are merely exercising their religious liberty.
Every slightest connection between state and religion doesn't constitute an infringement of the Establishment Clause. In the process of trying to be strict and pure on this separation argument, we are thwarting the very cause the Establishment Clause was written for, which was to guarantee religious freedom. You're telling kindergarteners they can't hold hands over their snack table and pray, even when it's voluntary.
But all of those actions are already protected by the Supreme Court.
They protect it, but schools don't follow these cases. That's because of this culture war and the attitude that Christianity is a disease. If a person wears a cross necklace at a county library in some locations, she is told she's violating a dress code. The mere Christian symbol may be offensive to people of other faiths. If we countenance that attitude in this society, we are elevating the right not to be offended to a constitutional right and suppressing the most important liberty we have, which is religious liberty.
What I notice more is that people are simply uncomfortable about the church-state issues because they don't know what is appropriate and what isn't.
I think it's trumped up. I think that's an excuse that the seculars and the anti-religionists use to suppress religious expression by Christians. I don't think people are that uncomfortable. It's like Michael Newdow's daughter. She's a Christian, and he's using her as a prop. Do you think people are upset about the 10 Commandments display? Look at the poll numbers. But the ACLU is going county by county, state by state, throughout the country trying to purge those 10 Commandments displays.
And yet, there is the larger picture--which is that President Bush calls Jesus Christ his favorite philosopher and he gets elected President. And there's the faith-based initiative. There was a big uproar over the remarks of Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin about Muslims, but on the other hand he wasn't fired.
Well why should he have been fired?
The majority of the people in this country are at least nominally Christian so of course Christianity has large success, but there is also a militant highly vocal minority that is getting its way. I mean, the argument that a majority can't be subjected to discrimination is a specious argument. What about women? They were the majority and they didn't have the right to vote. And it's happening with gay rights. A loud minority is changing the underlying value structure we've had in place for hundreds of years. But again, I don't have to speculate about whether Christians can be discriminated against and have their rights suppressed-I've documented it in my book.
For example, do you think a majority of parents would really approve of the kinds of things that are going on in public schools-the radical promotion of secular humanist ideas, the self-esteem movement, death education, the excising of Christian references in our school texts, and comprehensive sex education which often omits the abstinence argument and evidence about the failure rate of condoms for HIV transmission and pregnancy? Do you think parents--if they had a clue that history was being revised to satisfy the worldview of the humanists and to transform their kids--they would be pleased?
On page 65 of my book I talk about Charles Potter, who founded the first humanist society in New York and wrote that humanism and public education are natural allies. He said: We have the kids in public schools 5 days a week, so what can the theistic Sunday schools, who only have them one day a week, do to compete with our inculcation of humanist values?
Can you clarify what should be allowed and what is, in practice, not being allowed in public schools?
I don't think the Constitution forbids all endorsements of religion. The very first Congress of the United States passed the First Amendment, which included the Establishment Clause. The day after that, they declared a national day of prayer and thanksgiving. They had to have known what they were doing. They allocated funds, for the printing of Bibles for educating Indians in Christianity. They had officially paid chaplains from the very beginning. So there was never any attempt to completely divorce church and state.
But now we're in a pluralistic society. If you want to talk about whether it's advisable policy to try to be neutral on values, I think that's a reasonable argument. We don't want the state to affirmatively endorse any religion, including the Christian religion. I can live with that. Because I don't trust public educators to teach Christian theology anyway. The framers never intended for public education to be this expansive and this much under the control of the federal bureaucracy. The first common schools in this country were founded explicitly for the instruction in Christianity. I can live with neutral values, but I don't know if it's possible, in the real world, to be completely devoid of values. The 10 Commandments have secular worth and historical significance as well as being a sacred Christian text.
. This is one of the dilemmas I had in the book. I can accept in theory that we strive to be values-neutral in society, but secular humanists should not be able to promote their nonsense, either.
Why do you think the public schools are doing so poorly academically? It's because they are focusing too much on social transformation and indoctrination and not the basics. Where could the ideas of values-based education and fuzzy math and invented spelling come from? That stuff is too cock-eyed not to be born of some quasi-religious philosophical ideas. No matter how much money you pour into schools, you're not going to change them as long as the underlying philosophy is centered around these ideas.
In your perfect world, then, how would the schools be set up?
Christians ought to be allowed to speak, to express their opinion. And let me be consistent. If a Muslim valedictorian wanted to say that the reason he or she did so well is because of faith in Allah, I would not be opposed to that, as a constitutional manner.
You sound like President Bush, because that's what he says.
Well, but I don't go as far as he does. I'm not going to praise the Muslim faith. We Christians don't want a theocracy, but we want an equal seat at the table of religious freedom.
And we don't lose all the battles, that's for sure. I'm not an alarmist. I do not say we've lost all our religious liberty, and I document some that we win. But there is still this irrepressible force driven by the secularists who are determined to marginalize Christianity. I'm not advocating anarchy or revolution or even civil disobedience.
But the other side is organized, and there is an intent to change the predominant value system of the culture. It's a scary thing, because it's not accident we're the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world because we have Judeo-Christian roots.
Do we have Abrahamic roots? President Bush now talks about church, synagogue and mosque-so can we add Islam to that group?
Only if you want to revise history. Islam had nothing to do with the founding of this country, that I know of. The principles that founded this country were Judeo-Christian.
Were they Judeo?
Yes, they were Old Testament. The idea that man was created in God's image is the principal biblical precept that gives rise to the notion that we have inalienable rights. We are entitled to rights because of God, and no government should be able to take them away. When you have a secular foundation, you don't have any way to sustain religious freedom, ultimately.