New Cultural Revolution Courtesy of the People’s Republic of Oakland

November 27, 2004

In another misapplication of the American doctrine of the separation of church and state, a California school district is ushering in a Cultural Revolution a la Mao by censoring founding documents because they contain references to God and religion. A principal in Oakland is requiring the redaction of the Declaration of Independence, diaries of George Washington and writings of John Adams, as well as state constitutions to expunge such references.

The Alliance Defence Fund is suing the school district for this unconstitutional censorship of history, and for good reason. In relation to the district’s actions, the ADF has stated that

[t]he district is simply attempting to cleanse all references to the Christian religion from our nation’s history, and they are singling out Mr. Williams [a school teacher who had handed out the Declaration of Indepence as supplemental reading for his students] for discriminatory treatment. Their actions are unacceptable under both California and federal law.

The reason that this is not only shocking in its leftist audacity but also downright dishearting is that the doctrine of the separation of church and state is indeed a necessary and beneficial doctrine. The separation of church and state stems in large part from Europe’s blood-drenched experience with established churches. But the idea of the separation of church and state was not meant as a vehicle for the political sanitization of history. It seems that even the most devoted ACLU lawyer or other adherent of “Living Constitution” notions of constitutional interpretation should realize this.

This is a serious perversion of the doctrine of the separation of church and state. It is an instance of the state being entirely hostile towards religion, rather than simply neutral as between different religions. It is absurd to think that the Declaration of Independence runs afoul of the First Amendment. Jeff Lindsay’s humor does justice to this ridiculous attempt at censorship. The Constitution in no way prefers atheism to religiosity, neither does it require a cleansing of history to expunge references to religion out of its tomes.

That is why I have compared this with the Cultural Revolution. It is an attempt to rewrite history or to deny its import to the students who are learning about their heritage. It is scary to think that someone would actually want to cleanse historical documents in this manner and deprive students of an accurate depiction of their heritage as Americans. Even if the parents of these children are atheists, it causes reason to stand still for those children to receive a politically sanitized version of history. That many of the founders were religious people is merely a historical fact: it does not imply that the students learning about them need to become religious.