American atheists are a litigious bunch. They constitute a minuscule share of the American population—roughly 1%, according to most polls. Yet with the help of liberal judges and secular elites, they’ve spent the last few decades on a series of often successful courtroom crusades to eliminate all public recognition of Christianity.
Three current cases highlight the extremes to which antireligion radicals will go to cleanse faith from the public square. They also remind us why their ultimate goal of a religion-free society is as hopeless as their doctrine.
In New York, a group called American Atheists is suing the National September 11 Memorial and Museum over its intention to include what has become known as the Ground Zero Cross in a display at the museum. Workers found the 17-foot-tall cross-shaped beams two days after the 9-11 attacks.
But the cross, the group alleges, subjects nonbelievers to injury “in consequence of having a religious tradition not their own imposed upon them.”
Late last month the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the board of commissioners in Forsyth County, N.C., violated the establishment clause of the Constitution by starting its meetings with prayers, “endorsing Christianity to the exclusion of other faiths.”
And in California recently, the Air Force suspended a course taught by chaplains for more than two decades because the material includes passages from the Bible. The course, “Christian Just War Theory,” taught at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, quoted Old and New Testament scripture in teaching students when it is morally justified to go to war.
This prompted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to file a complaint on behalf of 31 missile launch officers who had taken the course. The class was ended the same day the complaint was filed.
“In an effort to serve all faiths, we try to introduce none in our briefings and our lectures,” David Smith, a spokesman for the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, told “Fox News Radio” about the decision to suspend the class. He claimed that including the Bible verses was an “inappropriate approach” in a “pluralistic society.”
Air Force officials are now reviewing the class material to determine whether to revise the material or simply end the class. But Just War Theory, which provides the criteria a conflict must meet in order to be morally justified, has roots in both Roman philosophy and Catholic teachings.
To exclude Christianity’s contributions to Just War Theory would be like talking about modern terrorism without discussing Islam. Of course, that’s already standard practice in public settings across the country.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of teaching the Bible. In its 1963 ruling in Abington vs. Schempp, the court ruled against state-sponsored devotional reading of the Bible. But it supported a secular reading of the Bible, stating, “It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as a part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”
Even irascible atheist Richard Dawkins concedes, “You can’t appreciate English literature unless you are to some extent steeped in the … Bible.”
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, applauded the Air Force’s decision, saying, “Everyone in the military takes an oath to support and defend, protect and preserve this United States Constitution, which absolutely separates church and state.”
But the First Amendment prohibits the making of any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” The phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution.
Yet the myth endures. Which explains the uproar over the Day of Prayer event held Saturday in Houston by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the American Family Association. Atheist groups sued to stop the event, but a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit because no public money was used.
In the North Carolina board of commissioners case, a dissenting judge noted that though Christian prayers were offered, the commission allowed individuals of any faith to offer prayers and invocations, and that a significant share of the prayers offered were not specific to Christianity.
In the end, no matter how many frivolous lawsuits atheists file, they cannot change the essential character of this country. America was founded on the conviction that all men are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. America remains a deeply religious nation.
When America was attacked on 9/11, we didn’t turn to the ACLU or American Atheists for guidance. True to our national motto, “In God We Trust,” we turned to God. We prayed for the victims in the twin towers and the first responders who rushed in.
We prayed for the men and women at the Pentagon and for the heroes on Flight 93. Members of Congress joined hands on the steps of the Capitol to sing, “God Bless America.” In the days that followed, American churches and synagogues were full.
The atheists and their liberal allies are wrong. In their version of America, we would have to ban the Declaration of Independence from our schools and sandblast the tombstones of countless graves at our national cemeteries.
It is wholly appropriate for faith to remain prominent in American life—whether in the teaching of Christianity’s contributions to military ethics or in the recognition that faith was instrumental in helping to heal America after 9/11.
To suggest otherwise dishonors our heritage as well as the men and women of faith who have sacrificed so much to defend our freedom.