According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the word persecution is defined as “afflicting constantly so as to injure or distress, as for reasons of religion, race, etc.” When this word is mentioned, most individuals create a similar image in their minds. One might picture a distant foreign country living in fear of their government. This common image has occurred in one’s mind as a result of the influence received from America’s society. However, it is not the only picture of persecution in the real world today.
In America today, citizens have the right to choose their religion. Participation in a religion is not looked upon as a crime requiring punishment. The diversity of the Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim religions are all celebrated throughout the country’s education system. However, the Christian religion is not. Time and time again, Christians are silenced here in America’s schools. What is worse is while this religion is forced to back down, others are lifted up. These facts prove that there is Christian persecution in American education.
Colonial America was founded by followers of Christ. In their new nation, these religious people were free to worship their God without fear of persecution. They based every aspect of their lives on their Christianity. This includes education. In America’s early schools, the Bible was used as the main text book. Even schools that are still around today were built on the primary purpose of educating the American people on the truth of the Bible. In 1636, John Harvard established Harvard College to “raise up a class of learned men for the Christian ministry.” Even founding father George Washington believed in the education of Christianity. He once said, “The future of this nation depends on the Christian training of our youth. It is impossible to govern without the Bible.”
Today, prayer to God, even if done privately, is considered completely unacceptable in the public school system. A fourth grader at Waring Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri was taught by his parents to pray before every meal. The young student, Raymond Raines, was seen by a teacher silently bowing his head in prayer at the lunch table. The teacher singled him out in front of all of the other students by ordering him to the principles office immediately. She proceeded to tell young Raymond that prayer was forbidden in school and he was not to do it again. In reality, the separation of church and state does not include the outlawing of private prayer. It only implies that the state education system cannot promote one religion over another. According to the constitution, Raymond had done nothing wrong.
Not even in the event of a national crisis is the Christian safe from unjust persecution. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Breen Elementary School in Rocklin, California placed the message “God Bless America” on the school marquee. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accused the school of committing a “clear violation of the California and the United States constitutions, as well as the California Education Code.” They believed that this phrase divided the students on religious terms and offended some students of other faiths. However, the California Supreme Court has declared that the phrase “God Bless America” is a traditional and non-religious, patriotic phrase. The only people that were offended by this school’s patriotic action had to have been looking for a fight. The minority should not hold the right to abolish the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
At Columbine High School, school officials gave students and their families an opportunity to honor those killed during the 1999 massacre. They were allowed to paint tiles with personal images and words that would be displayed in the school hallways. Some families chose to mourn their dead with Christian symbols, verses, and messages. This shocked the administration. They removed about ninety tiles from the display because they contained such potentially offensive phrases such as “God is Love”, and “4/20/99 Jesus Wept”. How could the school officials not expect such a response? Even more puzzling, who on earth would be offended by such a touching memorial in honor of their fellow classmates? It is not as if the non-Christian students had to accept every word the families chose to display in memory of their loved ones.
“Christaphobia” has become increasingly ridiculous. Christian expression is being treated as profanity. In May 1995, Samuel B. Kent, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas, displayed this paranoid attitude. He decreed that any student as much as uttering the word “Jesus” would be arrested and incarcerated for six months. Even kindergarten students that believe in Christ aren’t safe. In Vermont, a young kindergartner was forbidden to tell her classmates that God is not dead. The teacher explained to her that such talk “was not allowed at school.” Teachers themselves are subject to ridicule. At a Denver elementary school, a teacher was ordered to remove his personal Bible from his desk, even though he never read from it to his students. It seems no one is safe from this country’s unbelievably strict rules against the Christian religion.
Taking Christ out of a once Christian oriented system doesn’t seem to be good enough for the American government today. The secular portion of the United States is taking over the education system in almost every way possible. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Pioneer High School celebrated “2002 Diversity Week.” This week was founded in 2002 as a way to show its tolerance. Of the activities included throughout the week, the biggest was an all- school assembly with student speeches and panel discussions on various topics. One of these topics was “Homosexuality and Religion.” Student Betsy Hansen submitted a speech. However, the school administration altered her speech. All critical remarks on homosexuality were taken out, and she was forbidden to express her Roman Catholic view on homosexuality during the panel discussion. The administration said her “negative” message would “water down” the “positive” religious message they were trying to convey. So much for total tolerance.
Around Christmas time, an elementary school in Pleasantville, Pennsylvania held a school performance. However, this was not a typical Christmas pageant. The performance was entitled “Bizarre Bazaar”, and it featured the school’s third, fourth, and fifth graders portraying dramatic recreations of Aztec human sacrifice. One parent, Keith Klinger, said he was “very disappointed that those in charge . . . didn’t see anything wrong with this type of production, especially around Christmas.” Apparently public schools view the Christmas holiday as more controversial than human sacrifice being displayed by such young, impressionable students.
Another form of spiritual influence in schools is “death education”. A former student of Columbine High, Tara Becker, told of her exposure to death education while in the school. According to Jayne Schindler, “Tara explained that the subject of death was . . . made to look glamorous, that living was hard and that reincarnation would solve their problems.” Tara also explained a “suicide talking day” held throughout the entire school following the death of a classmate. Teachers instructed students to write their own obituaries and suicide notes. “We talked about what we wanted to look like in our caskets.” It sounds like the government has bigger problems to worry about in the educational system than whether the phrase “one nation under God” offends someone.
In 1999, Temple University was to have the play Corpus Christi staged on campus. Corpus Christi is blasphemous and makes fun of Christianity. In the play, Jesus is portrayed as a homosexual. Student and Christian Michael Marcavage set out to protest. Instead of a protest, Marcavage decided to hold a play of his own on campus. It was to be called Final Destiny and show people “who the real Jesus is.” Corpus Christi proceeded without protest by the administration. However they reneged on its promise for Final Destiny to be performed on a campus stage. Marcavage even offered to pay for the event, but he was still denied permission. On November 2, 1999, Temple’s vice president William Bergman called Marcavage to his office and told him his decision to not permit the showing of his play on campus. The student left in disgust, and went into the bathroom to splash water onto his face. Marcavage says that Bergman followed him and physically forced him into his office. Bergman then pushed the student into a chair, and called the police. Marcavage said he wanted to leave and headed toward the door. Bergman tripped him and forced him onto a couch. University police arrived, hand cuffed Marcavage, and took him to the Emergency Crisis Center at the hospital. He was released three hours later when psychiatrists could find nothing wrong with him. When Marcavage filed a lawsuit against Bergman in December of 2000, the university fabricated a story to discredit him. They stated that Bergman found him mentally unstable after leaving his office. Marcavage’s attorney, Michael Fahling said “How utterly chilling it is that something like this could happen at a major university by top-level officials.” Timothy Duggan , president of the school’s Campus Crusade for Christ chapter said “The reason this had to become an issue is because of the rebellion of the university to the Christian point of view.”
Hopefully these incidents will open up the public’s eyes. Maybe now the world will begin to view persecution in a different way. It is not an imaginary issue. It is reality. Persecution is occurring on precious American soil at this very moment. It can not be ignored. The world must put an end to this sick injustice before it spreads as a disease. As David Limbaugh wrote in his book Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity, “Unless we do something about it, it’s going to get worse, seriously worse.”