The Pesky ACLU

The ACLU can be a frustrating bunch, confounding both sides of the political aisle in its quest for constitutional equality; and it is quite likely our Founding Fathers would be pleased. After all, who liked a good rhubarb – intellectual or otherwise – better than Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and company?

The American Civil Liberties Union will, for example, align itself with the opposition on things like voter ID laws, much to the consternation of political conservatives. On the other hand, they will also stand up to defend the rights of a group like the Ku Klux Klan to hold a public rally, which makes liberals tear out their hair. And if both sides are never 100 percent happy, then they must be doing something right.

The issue of school prayer is a touchy one, to put it mildly, particularly here in the South. Communities have generally accepted standards, traditions and values that they would like to see reflected in their public education system. But matters of faith are so personal, and with our changing demographics, so diversified, singularity is elusive.

Make no mistake about it, people should be – and are – able to express their faith publicly, even in schools, and that includes prayer. The ACLU has, in fact, defended the rights of children to pray in schools. But the ACLU says, and federal courts have agreed, that that expression must come from the bottom up, and not the top down. A public school is funded by taxpayer dollars, and public money cannot be used to inflict any particular faith, or lack thereof, on anyone.

The Fairfield County School District may not be forcing children to attend evangelical pep rallies, as was the case in Chesterfield County, but it is common knowledge that the school board – perhaps the single most criticized public body in the entire county – opens each and every meeting with a prayer. And they are going to have some explaining to do the ACLU, if not the federal court system, before long because of it. When there is so much distrust of the government – federal or local – on so many basic issues, should they be trusted, then, to properly administer religion? If our local school board cannot be counted on to properly follow their own policies regarding something as simple as an overnight field trip, do we really want them putting their hands on our faith?

The bottom line is this: Should children be allowed to pray in school? You bet. And they are. But should the government – be it the federal government or a local school board – tell anyone how to pray, when to pray or to whom they should pray?

The ACLU says no, and the federal courts tend to agree.

Our school board has a pretty bad track record when it comes to setting fire to great piles of taxpayer dollars in order to fight unwinnable battles. Let’s hope the ACLU’s Religious Freedom Goes to School campaign doesn’t turn into one of those battles.

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