A School Shooting and the Ten Commandments

Another school shooting has taken place—this one in Kentucky. Our prayers are with the families of the victims, including two dead 15-year olds and about 18 wounded. Governor Matt Bevin even declared a day of prayer in the wake of the tragedy.

He referenced the “cultural problem” seen in this. Bevin said, “We can’t celebrate death in video games, celebrate death in TV shows, celebrate death in movies, celebrate death in musical lyrics and remove any sense of morality and sense of higher authority and then expect that things like this are not going to happen.” (chicagotribune.com, 1/26/18).

There’s an irony to any school shooting in Kentucky (including that in Paducah in 1997) because it is the same state where, nearly 40 years ago, a display of the Ten Commandments in the classroom was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The words, “thou shalt not kill,” are unconstitutional in a school-setting, says the high court. And we’re shocked when kids actually kill.

In that Supreme Court decision (Stone v. Graham, 1980), they stated: “If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments…it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.”

Heaven forbid schoolchildren be “induced” to obey the Ten Commandments. Meanwhile, the founding fathers are invoked to justify America’s secular wasteland. But the founders would not agree with that view. That includes Thomas Jefferson, who wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802. It is from that letter, taken out of context, that the Supreme Court in 1947 decided that the Establishment Clause supposedly creates “a wall of separation between church and state.”

I once asked historian, Daniel Dreisbach—American University professor, who wrote the 2002 book, “Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State”—about the intention of Jefferson’s letter. He replied, “I think Jefferson saw this wall as a way of protecting the religious liberties of this religious minority group, the Baptists.”

Jefferson did not advocate a God-free public zone. In fact, as president, he religiously attended the weekly Sunday Christian services taking place in the U. S. Capitol building. He even suggested a conservative Presbyterian minister as a potential preacher for a future such service.

The same men who gave us the First Amendment and the Northwest Ordinance were the same men who hired chaplains for the military and for the legislatures.

Another man who did not buy the wall of separation of church and state as being constitutional was the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist. He once declared: “The metaphor of a wall of separation is bad history and worse law. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.” (Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985).

The founders declared that our rights come from the Creator. That’s a religious declaration—in the public square.

When new territories became states, the founders wanted a certain uniformity. So they wrote up and passed the Northwest Ordinance (1787/1789).

Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance addressed education. They wanted to make sure that we had an educated population. So they explained the reason for schools: “Religion, morality, and education being necessary for good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Around the time of American independence, about 99.8% of the population was professing Christians (98.4 % Protestant and 1.4% Catholic. Source: Policy Review, Fall 1988, p. 44).  Therefore, “Religion” and “morality” referred to in the Northwest Ordinance were presumably Christian.

Clearly, the founders did not intend any one denomination to lord it over the others. They did not want any religion to be established by law at the federal level. The Anglican Church is the official Church of England. There would be no official Church of America which could punish dissenters. But that does not mean the founders intended for the public square to be God-free.

In his 1943 book, “The Abolition of Man,” C. S. Lewis spoke of “men without chests.” He said, “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise…We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” The subtitle of his book shows that he had instruction in mind: “Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools.”

In too many public schools, there’s a vacuum of values. Judeo-Christian values (seen in the Ten Commandments) are not allowed. And then we’re surprised when kids kill, steal, and lie?

We’re reaping what we have sown by throwing God out of the schools. Why not let parents decide the best education for their children? The public school monopoly is failing the nation on every front, including the moral one.