2004 will mark the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that struck down segregation in America’s public education system. Since states were ordered to move with all deliberate speed, it spawned all manner of remedies and led some authorities in local and state government to say they never would budge — understandable signs of those times. Today, though, lawful segregation no longer is the issue, but America’s great divide remains as deep and as wide as it was in 1954.
In schools, Christmas break is now winter break, and Easter break is now spring break. School prayer is a no-no. Displays representing Christianity — whether creches and crosses, or scrolls of the Ten Commandments and the 23rd Psalm — are forbidden. And the Pledge of Allegiance? We profess to be one nation and indivisible, but under who’s authority?
We can’t put up a Christmas tree without offending or without someone yelling, “Separation of church and state.” Some Christians have even taken to asking, “Shouldn’t we have moss for Muhammad?”
We have taken Christ out of Christmas and taken to writing Christmas as Xmas.
The sanitized versions of holy days are slowing overwhelming the soul of America.
“Nothing gives me more pleasure than saying God bless to atheists,” a mentor of mine recently said.
Give that man a hearty “Amen.”
But it’s not just atheists. Lots of people who say they are of one religion or another appear to have ulterior motives that are cultivating and sustaining this anti-Christian movement — a culture war, interesting enough, that polls just don’t seem to capture.
For example, a Gallup survey released a week ago said 61 percent of Americans consider religion “very important in their own lives” and that nearly two-thirds are a member of a church or synagogue. Also, respondents who identified themselves as Republicans were among the most spiritually inclined (67 percent), compared with Democrats (63 percent) and independents (54 percent).
Our houses of faith runneth over with worshipers. In Washington, there are far more Maryland and Virginia license plates on Sundays than there are legal parking spaces. D.C. officials have taken to reconfiguring the white lines on the black pavement just to accommodate those worshipers. Police simply ignore the illegally parked faithful flocks — a sign, perhaps, that even they understand that the worshipers are paying homage to higher authority rather than the gods of parking enforcement.
What does any of this have to with the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision? Far more than you think. “Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
Who’s talking? Thomas Jefferson, staunch champion of universal education? Martin Luther King Jr., dreamer of a utopian America? George W. Bush, espouser of education as the new civil right?
That was Chief Justice Earl Warren, on Brown.
Have we made any progress? Do parents have any more choices today than they did prior to Brown?
Education is still compulsory, but while blacks are no longer forced into racially segregated schools circa 1954, schools in many urban districts are still segregated. (New York City has even added a new twist, by segregating school children based on sexual proclivities.)
Irony of ironies is that the very people who applauded the Brown decision are the same ones who now stand united to condemn the grandchildren of Brown beneficiaries to schools that are as separate and unequal as those in 1954.
The Christian segregationists are now touting school choice, while the doubting Thomases are urging maintenance of the status quo, with poor and uneducated children as their secular pawns.
Conservatives in Congress know who is winning this battle over the soul of the republic — 50 years after the Brown decision. Instead of marching onward, as Christian soldiers do, they abandoned the school-choice bill and headed for home to celebrate Xmas.