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The First Amendment to the Constitution provides for us one of the clearest examples of what our Founding Fathers wanted for this country. And perhaps even more than the First Amendment itself, but the history behind the making of it tells a grand story about our Founders’ values and hopes for their new nation.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and the petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
That collection of rights was deemed by the Founding Fathers to be the most important of all rights that the government is obligated to protect. Each of these rights, furthermore, gets to the heart of what is most central to the development of humanity: “what Justice Jackson termed the ‘sphere of intellect and spirit’”. This sphere is “at or near the heart of what makes us human. The protection of that sphere against unwarranted intrusion represents the most fundamental of all human liberties” (Galston, 2003, p. 127).

Why is it, then, that our public schools are allowed to be the premiere locus for government entanglement in the sphere of intellect and spirit?

The fact that the first priority of the Founding Fathers is preventing any establishment of religion and preventing the prohibition of religious free exercise reveals two things: 1) the Founders were terrified of a government controlled by religion; 2) the Founders wanted religions to flourish because man’s first duty is “to his Creator.”

The truth of the matter is, though, that our Constitution must adapt with the times. Religiosity, secularism, humanism, environmentalism, veganism, etc.—each of these is a manifestation of the intellectual and spiritual realm.

With the promotion of secularism in American institutions, so many life philosophies have sprung from it that take the place of deistic religions. The Constitution must adapt to this phenomenon in our society.

By forcing public schools to adopt a strictly secularist (and by that I mean non-religious) approach to education, we seriously restrict what students can and should learn. Moreover, we limit parents’ freedom to choose what their children should learn in schools.

Increasingly secularized public schools completely belie the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses in the First Amendment, because the government chooses to advance and support a specific intellectual/spiritual matter at the expense of what parents may deem far more important, necessary and preferable.

I strongly believe that the only way to uphold the values of the Founding Fathers is to privatize education and let our institutions reflect and respect the pluralistic nature of this nation. Homogenizing society was never one of the Founders’ values.

 


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