Christianity is under attack! The sense of Christian victimhood has been ramping up in recent months. While conservative Christian intimidation by the rising acceptance of gay marriage has been more in the spotlight, a recent case of Ten Commandments plaques in an Oklahoma public school system has become a new rallying point.
Every classroom in the Muldrow, Oklahoma district has a plaque with the Ten Commandments affixed to the wall. Recently an atheist student named Gage Pulliam contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who then wrote a letter to the district demanding that the plaques be taken down and warning that they represent a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Pulliam, who originally wanted to remain anonymous and has now revealed his identity, told Patheos that he and his sister have now faced verbal harassment and been threatened with violence. He explains that his intention is not to attack Christianity as local pastors and Christian students have insisted, instead Gage says:
"I want people to know this isn't me trying to attack religion. This is me trying to create an environment for kids where they can feel equal."
That seems fair. And he is, of course, completely right that the plaques should be taken down. The establishment clause of the First Amendment is clear in this case.
Posting The Ten Commandments in a public enterprise such as public schools or courtrooms does establish a religious privilege for Christianity (and maybe Judaism... but not really) -- especially when unaccompanied by similar central texts from other religious and humanist traditions.
But even more compelling to me, as an ordained minister and practicing Christian, is the religious argument for why it is so important not to have the Ten Commandments plaques. It was, after all, a religious argument that made the case for the establishment clause in the first place.
Congress should make no law respecting an establishment of religion because if they do it takes the interpretation of religious texts and guidance on the religious life out of the hands of religious leaders and into the hands of the government. The establishment clause was at least as concerned with the protection of religion as of government.
Every religious person should object to having the Ten Commandments in schools because you are allowing other people -- people over whom you have no control -- the responsibility of interpreting said commandments.
If you take the Ten Commandments seriously, you certainly don't want someone who doesn't share your beliefs explaining to the classroom what they mean. That is a privilege reserved for religious leaders who we chose to follow and it is best done in religious establishments -- not by some teacher randomly asked about them in a classroom.
Imagine this scenario: A new student sees the plaque, and, unfamiliar with their origin, asks the teacher where the Ten Commandments come from, who they were meant for, and what the intention was for those who received them. This is a fair question for the hopefully inquisitive, intelligent minds that our schools are meant to cultivate.
Well, what if the teacher is a pinko commie or right wing fundamentalist (pick your boogey man) or maybe is trained to teach math or Spanish and just has no idea?
Everyone knows that if you ask two people what a verse of scripture means you are going to get at least three opinions. So, next thing that that happens is that the student goes to his church and tells the minister that the teacher said this about the Ten Commandments and that minister is wrong about the Ten Commandments because their teacher at school told them x, y, and z.
Then it becomes not enough to have plaques of the Ten Commandments in school, but you also need a person who is 'ok' to interpret them -- but that person does not exist -- or will only be chosen by a majority who has power and can inflict their view on the minority. And hence the establishment clause -- specifically created so that there would be no 'one' way to be religious, or not religious, in America.
Those who want to teach about the value of the Ten Commandments definitely should! They should just do it in their house of worship where they can truly be most effective in explaining what they believe are their origins and meanings for today's world.
Christianity isn't under attack. As Mr Pulliam so eloquently explained, the removal of the Ten Commandments is about equality so that everyone might feel welcome in a public classroom.
Christianity is expected to take its position as part of the circle of faiths and non-faiths that make up the fabric of American society. This is good for Christians, and it is good for everyone else.
Click through the slideshow to see most and least Christian cities in the United States: