Many of today’s Christians lament how religion (by which they mean their religion) has been stripped from the public school curriculum. They yearn for the days when the Bible was as much a part of learning as the three Rs. But thanks to godless liberals, that’s no longer the case. The results are as sad as they are predictable. Just one example: biblically conservative teens are one of the most sexually promiscuous groups among their believing peers. Who knew children of Christian evangelicals were so dependent on the public school teachers to imbue them with the proper morals? But I digress…
We all know there were sound legal and constitutional arguments for keeping religion in the home and church. But that’s all foolishness to God, say militant Christians. Yet, there were very practical reasons too, which unfortunately have been either overlooked or quietly swept under the rug. One of them relates to a tragic and deadly incident in Pennsylvania some 160 years ago known as the “Philadelphia Bible Riots”.
I’ll leave it to you to read the full story, but here are the essentials: In the 1840s, Philadelphia public schools were dominated by Protestants. Bible-reading, KJV-style, took place every morning. This didn’t sit well, to say the least, with the growing number of Irish Catholic immigrants, who took theological direction from Rome and from a different bible. Mix the traditional Christian brotherly love between the two sects, add a dash of demagoguery, bake in the fires of burning homes and buildings, and what do you get? Ten persons dead, twenty wounded, and $5.8 million in property damage (in current dollars).
Rob Boston, author of the article linked above, arrives at some very important lessons from the riots. Here are a couple:
[R]eligion is taken so seriously that when people believe that their religious rights are being violated, they are capable of responding in ways that shock.
Isn’t that the truth! What is it about religion that sometimes relieves one of all civilized behavior?
[D]espite the claims that state-sponsored religion in public schools would be a unifying factor, history shows that it is a divisive one that quickly causes people to take sides.
One of the beneficial consequences of the separation of church and state in this country is inter- and intra-faith peaceful co-existence, which has traditionally been the exception rather than the rule throughout the world. It’s ironic that some of those who most strongly advocate for a religious presence in the schools would probably now be arguing against it had the principle not been enforced. Even more ironic is that it’s secularists who may actually be responsible for preserving the skins of Christians who so frequently revile them.