The fictitious wall was not built over night, and it will not be dismantled over night. This past week, ADF confronted the tangible results of the myth of an impenetrable wall of separation between church and state. We sent out 151 letters to various governmental entities asking them to stop the discrimination against religious people. These governmental entities, whose policies control over 750 public meeting rooms across the country, ban religious uses of their public meeting rooms. So even though these rooms could be used by essentially any group to discuss any topic, they are off limits to Christians to discuss their religious viewpoints.
The most troubling aspect of this is the law in this area is crystal clear, and has been for some time. In 1993, the Supreme Court ruled in Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District, 508 U.S. 384, that a public school cannot prohibit a group from accessing its facilities to talk about Christian views on the family when the school opens its facilities to others to talk about the family from secular perspectives. Your Christian world view does not disqualify you from being a full citizen in America. Legally speaking, the matter was settled. The Supreme Court spoke, and there was no wall!
But just to make sure local governing bodies got it, the Supreme Court reiterated this viewpoint neutrality requirement in 2001 in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98. In this case, the Court said that even when dealing with a Bible club in an elementary school, governing officials cannot discriminate against Christian views when giving access to its public meeting rooms.
So in light of this clearly established law, why is it that so many unconstitutional policies remain on the books? I see two primary reasons. First is ignorance. So many people have bought into the myth of strict separation of church and state, and have heard this lie for so long, that they have come to believe it is a bedrock constitutional principle. They are shocked to learn the phrase “separation of church and state” is no where found in our constitution! When a lawyer tells me that there is an impenetrable wall separating church and state in our constitution, I just hand them a pocket constitution and say, “show me.” They can’t because it’s not there.
Second, there is a faction out there that despises religious people. There can be no appeasing this crowd. They know that there is no wall of separation found in the constitution, but they wish it were there. So they repeat this erroneous constitutional principle over and over and over in hopes that it will stick in peoples’ mind. And unfortunately, the fact that so many bad policies are still on the books is evidence that their plan has worked to a degree.
So these governmental agencies have options in how they will respond to ADF’s letter. Either they can treat this as an opportunity to educate themselves, learn what the constitution really says, and fix their policies.
Or, they can dig in their heels, insist on promoting an anti-religious agenda, and keep on discriminating against Christians. Let’s hope our governmental officials do the right thing and stop the discrimination.
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