How can one have compulsory education and the separation of church and state, if education is by nature religious? This was the issue which Rushdoony dealt with in The Messianic Character of American Education, and so did Sidney E. Mead, a prominent church historian in the early 1960’s. In a book published in the same year as Messianic Character, Mead wrote:  

Here are the roots of the dilemma posed by the acceptance of the practice of separation of church and state on the one hand, and the general acceptance of compulsory public education sponsored by the state on the other. Here is the nub of the matter that is all too often completely overlooked. It was very clearly stated by J. L. Diman in the North American Review for January, 1876. If it is true, he said,  

that the temporal and spiritual authorities occupy two wholly distinct provinces, and that to one of these civil government should be exclusively shut up . . it would be difficult to make out a logical defense of our present system of public education. If, on the contrary, it be the right and duty of the state to enforce support of public education. . . [upon all citizens], then our current theory respecting the nature and functions of the state stands in need of considerable revision.

Diman’s point is based upon the recognition that of necessity the state in its public-education system is and always has been teaching religion. It does so because the well-being of the nation and the state demands this foundation of shared beliefs. In other words, the public schools in the United States took over one of the basic responsibilities that traditionally was always assumed by an established church. In this sense the public-school system of the United States is its established church. But the situation in American is such that none of the many religious sects can admit without jeopardizing its existence that the religion taught in the schools (or taught by any other sect for that matter) is “true” in the sense that it can legitimately claim supreme allegiance. This serves to accentuate the dichotomy between the religion of the nation inculcated by the state through the public schools, and the religion of the denominations taught in the free churches.
    In this context one can understand why it is that the religion of many Americans is democracy — why their real faith is the “democratic faith” — the religion of the public schools. Such under- standing enables one to see religious freedom and separation of church and state in a new light.[28]

What is the proper argument? Simple: there is no neutrality, and since there is no neutrality, the present legal foundation of government-financed education is a fraud. Conclusion: close every government-financed school, tomorrow. Refund the taxes to the tax- payers. Let the taxpayers seek out their own schools for their children, at their expense (or from privately financed scholarships or other donations). No more fraud. No more institutions built on the myth of neutrality.  

But the fundamentalists instinctively shy away from such a view. Why? Because they see where it necessarily leads: to a theocracy in which no public funds can be appropriated for anti-Christian activities, or to anarchy, where there are no public funds to appropriate. It must lead to Gods civil government or no civil government. In short, it leads either to Rushdoony or Rothbard.[27] Most fundamentalists have never heard of either man, but they instinctively recognize where the abandonment of the myth of neutrality could lead them.  


27. Murray N. Rothbard, Power and Market Government  and the Economy (Menlo Park, California: Institute for Humane Studies, 1970). Rothbard is the chief economist in the anarcho-capitalist movement. 

28. Sidney E Mead, The Lively Experiment The Shaping of Christianity in America (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), pp. 67-68.