Charles Haynes is a scholar at the First Amendment Center. He writes and gets his editorials republished in the Spokesman-Review. His latest appearing on the 15th of April discussed at length various schools “over-reacting” to kids who insist on making crosses as an art project or even as a drawing project. While I can have some sympathies for Mr. Haynes views that not even kids should be denied full first amendment freedoms inclusive of religious expression; I frankly wonder if Mr. Haynes has ever considered that religion as a freedom of expression in the public schools is really about the politics of the religious radical parents who are going to use their kids as a wedge issue against the public schools, teachers and administrations. They do. Because the teacher in the art class wouldn’t allow little Joey an opportunity to submit a drawing of a cross on the hill, I can (as the parent) take Joey out of that school and demand a tax voucher for a private or religious school or even demand that Joey can be home schooled, as a punishment to the public schools for daring to tell Joey what he can not do in a class room.
Has Mr. Haynes ever considered that the public school is in fact a branch of government? It is funded by all taxpayers regardless of religion. It is controlled by state administrators elected by the people. No teacher or principle has as their job description:
- Wiccan priestess
- Druid of any of the three philosophical branches
So why are they called upon to do the jobs that only any of the above have the authority to do? No government run public school to the best of my knowledge has an alter. Of course various universities that had been in operation for hundreds of years do have chapels. But these are places set aside for the student’s use and it would be totally inconsistent with first amendment freedoms to either coerce a student to attend a chapel or deny him access if he doesn’t believe as other students do. But a government run public school is not and was never designed to be a surrogate church.
That same student could make his cross in an art project for his church. Joey could draw a cross on the hill depicting the death of Christ in a church-run art competition. But that is not what the parents are after. They want little Joey to be a political battering ram against the public educational institutions. I’m well aware of how Haynes likes to be fair here. But it is an attempt at “fairness” without taking all facts into consideration.