Yesterday, I took the day off to attend a special end-of-the-year event at my son's school: He and other members of his fifth-grade class wrote and illustrated stories, which they bound in books and read aloud to visiting parents.
As I surveyed the classroom full of eager students and proud parents, I couldn't help but be struck by the diversity. All races were represented, and several kids mentioned being born in other countries.
I'd guess there was a lot of religious diversity there, too. I suspect we had many varieties of Christians in that room, along with Jews, non-believers, Muslims and probably others.
It was a stark example of why we don't preach religion in public schools. Aside from the fact that government is not supposed to sponsor worship, mandating daily prayer or reading from religious texts would be a serious violation of parental rights. It would allow an arm of the government – the public schools – to meddle in a relationship that rightly belongs to parents and their children.
This may sound like a conservative point of view – because it is. So why are so many conservatives unable to grasp it?
Consider Ken Connor, former president of the Family Research Council and now chairman of something called the Center for a Just Society in Washington, D.C.
Connor recently penned a whiny column for The Christian Post making the same arguments we've been hearing for the past 30 years about how the public schools are hostile to religion because they won't let fundamentalist Christians try to convert children.
Connor argues that public schools are teaching their own form of religion because evolution is taught in science classes and kids are taught to respect the rights of students who happen to be gay.
"Thus the classroom, once a forum for critical thought, analysis, and debate that allowed for many competing points of view, is now used to transform raw human material into homogenous batches of progressive, enlightened, politically correct, intellectually timid, and spiritually vacant progeny, ready to shape tomorrow's world," Connor writes.
It's hard to respond to something this nonsensical, but let me try. For starters, if Connor believes public schools are "intellectually timid," he should have been around this year as my daughter, who just finished ninth grade, grappled with her physics homework.
It's especially amusing to hear charges of anti-intellectualism coming from a guy who rejects all of modern biology and believes the Grand Canyon was created by a really heavy rainstorm.
No matter how much evidence piles up, Connor won't accept evolution because his narrow reading of the Bible tells him not to. Never mind that evolution is backed by overwhelming evidence and is considered the guiding principle of modern biology.
Ken, evolution is not a religion; we teach it because we don't want our kids to be ignorant of this.
As for gay rights, my experience is that most schools have anti-bullying policies that are applied across the board. Those who engage in harassment are looking at detention or suspension.
Connor and his gang have churches all over America that throw open their doors every Sunday. But that's not enough for them. Many people choose not to go to those churches, after all, so Connor & Co. want to preach their religion to a captive audience in the public schools.
It's insufferably arrogant. What Connor is essentially saying is that he knows better than you about the proper way to structure the religious lives of your own children.
No thanks, Ken. There are plenty of fundamentalist churches in my town. If my wife and I want to expose our kids to that perspective, we know where to find it. We are well aware of what you're offering and aren't interested. We won't stand for your forcing fundamentalism on our children through the public schools.
Parental rights is a conservative position – and I'm sticking with it.