Sunday, December 25, 2005

John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly doth protest too much on the 'War on Christmas'

Justice Robert H. Jackson's warning is offered as a backdrop for this post:

The day that this country ceases to be free for irreligion it will cease to be free for religion - except for the sect that can win political power.
Religion, being a very personal thing in our society, can often be a sensitive topic to comment on. That being said, the reader is forewarned that this post will utilize logic in making its public policy argument in support of the Constitution's Establishment Clause.

As a result, the post may question fundamental tenants of a religion, and by indirection some readers' belief. This is done only in the spirit of advancing the separation and ultimately the protection of both church and state.

The argument here is for coexistence and mutual respect of two foundations of our society rather than a commingling, and a dilution of each.

All readers, religous or not, are welcome to comment and argue against the case as long as it is done so within the rules of logic and in the spirit of advancing the debate over government (not private) policy.

John Gibson was recently on C-SPAN's BooK TV discussing his book, 'The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought'. (ed. The show is scheduled to be re-aired today, December 25th, at 4:00 PM Eastern)

Bill O'Reilly has also dedicated a lot of time on his show to this topic.

Gibson's and O'Reilly's 'sky is falling' antics are a bit over done; at least as it relates to government sponsored religous observations and particularly as it applies to public schools.

A case can even be made that to protect Christmas, or any religous faith, those that believe in it must zealously keep it in the private realm of our society and out of government sponsored public education...To be clear, religous faith is religous-based practices of Christmas as opposed to the study of Christmas and religion as a humanitarian or cultural study. (Update: Eugene Robinson argues against using faith to a scientific end in 'A Design That's Anti-Faith'.)

That's not to say that individuals shouldn't be informed by their beliefs, religous or not, in their public and/or private lives. And the humanitarian and charitable works that many contribute to our society when informed by their respective religion is also acknowledged and lauded.

But logic forms the foundation of our public (government sponsored) education system; particularly in the sciences. That same system of logic will defend itself when 'assaulted' (using the 'war' terminology of Messers Gibson and O'Reilly) by faith-based beliefs that seek to undermine the very system of logic-based education that serves us all.

A case in point is the recent Federal decision on teaching Intelligent Design in the Dover public school system. The case logically settled that Intelligent Design was nothing more than religion-sponsored Creationism.

There's a very good reason why religons are characterized as 'faith-based' beliefs. Were they to be 'logic-based' beliefs they would be described as such. As a matter of public policy, our governmental institutions should be logic-based not faith-based.

It should go without saying that faith-based beliefs ask the believer to believe something on 'faith'. Logic-based beliefs...well you get the picture.

Individuals like Gibson and O'Reilly that spout off righteous indignation and claim a 'War on Christmas' by those that seek a clear separation of religion from public education should be careful what they ask for. As shown in Dover, faith-based beliefs don't fair well in logic-based systems.

An insistance that 'Christmas' be allowed to commingle with a logic-based education system opens it's foundational tenants to being questioned by the very logic-based system from which many seek to commingle with.

Public school teachers are not trained or equipped to address logic-based and legitimate questions from children on the 'Holy Trinity' or the virgin-birth of Jesus.

Many devout religous individuals would even argue that they would want a public school teacher to be the very last person to address those 'faith-based' questions. Keep in mind that teachers probably spend more time with our children than ministers and parents combined.

This alone argues for keeping government-sponsored religous practices (Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) out of public schools. To do otherwise, would stifle the natural, logic-based curiosity of our children that would question a religous practice (decorations, pageant and the like).

Who would advocate a 'no critical' or 'no questioning' of religion public school policy? This would be an anti-education policy at its core.

Thus to protect religion from the natural, logic-based questioning of publicly educated children it must be kept away from an instititution that has curiosity and questioning at its very foundation.

Moreover, curiosity and questioning that for some can't be satisfied in the logic-based institution of our public schools can find their 'answers' in the faith-based institutions which are fully protected by the First Amendment of our shared Constitution.

Religons are not only offerred coexistence, but outright protection from believing and non-believing citizens that make up the government. In return, government has every right to ask for a clear, unambigous separation of church and state.

Gibson and O'Reilly can't have it both ways...an invitation to bring religion into public schools and then a 'hands-off' policy when it comes to questioning the 'invited guest' by the established rules of the public school system that would serve as host.

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