God, natural rights, religious freedom — all great topics, but NOT for public school classrooms, right? Wrong. You can talk about these things in public schools.
Here’s a thought: nearly everyone in America lives in a state that officially acknowledges God.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken a look at your own state’s constitution, you’re probably in one of the 45 of our 50 states that officially recognize that (1) there is a God, and (2) that they are thankful to Him for their freedom.
Take California, for instance—you know, that state currently trying to remove Christian groups from its university campuses? Well, its constitution begins, “We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.”
And most states use similar language. For instance, Florida’s constitution calls its people to be “grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty,” as does Michigan “for the blessings of freedom.”
My own state, Colorado, begins its constitution “with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.”
In fact, only five states don’t express gratitude toward God: Oregon, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.
Every other state—in its foundational document—echoes what the Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence: that all people are given unalienable rights by their Creator.
Eric Buehrer, president of Gateways to Better Education, points out that these are not sentimental nods to God. America’s freedom and all of our individual liberties are based on and secured by the idea that our freedom comes from God. Governments do not grant freedoms, they are to recognize them and secure them.
This is exactly the point that lies at the heart of the battle we are seeing over religious freedom in this country. If government thinks that it grants our rights, then it can revoke them at will (or establish new rights out of thin air that override the old ones).
Eric Metaxas talked about this on BreakPoint earlier this year during the much publicized dust-up between Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and CNN host Chris Cuomo.
During the live on-air discussion on same-sex marriage and religious liberty, Moore said that “Our rights, contained in the Bill of Rights, do not come from the Constitution. They come from God. That’s clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence.”
Cuomo then responded, “Our rights do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.”
Sadly, not too many citizens can even recognize Cuomo’s tragic and dangerous misunderstanding of natural rights. Nor should that surprise us, since our culture increasingly seeks to push God out of our schools and even out of public life altogether.
All of this is why Buehrer and Gateways to Better Education are committed to seeing this trend reversed, starting with our public school students.
Buehrer points out, for example, that state academic standards expect students to learn about their constitutions as a civics lesson, as they should. What a perfect opportunity, then, to teach students that their state constitution reflects the Founders’ conviction about God-given freedom.
And so, Gateways to Better Education conducts seminars for public school educators entitled “Faith, Freedom & Public Schools.” It helps educators understand that they can teach about the Christian influence in America’s heritage. Believe it or not, public school teachers can teach about the Bible and Christianity’s influence on history, culture, and values, helping students connect the dots from America’s Founding Fathers to their own state’s founding fathers, and to the Pledge of Allegiance they recite every day in class when they say “one nation under God.”
As Chuck Colson said, “Public schools have a huge influence on developing the next generation of Americans . . . What Eric and Gateways are doing to equip parents and teachers is absolutely vital.”
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint.