||CHRISTIANITY AND CIVILIZATION
How can one have compulsory education and the separation of
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
in the early 1960’s. In a book published in the same year as Messianic Character,
Here are the roots of the dilemma posed by the acceptance of
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
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”
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.
What is the proper argument? Simple: there is no neutrality,
there is no neutrality, the present legal foundation of government-financed
education is a fraud. Conclusion: close every government-financed
taxes to the tax-
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
But the fundamentalists instinctively shy away from such a view.
Because they see where it necessarily leads: to a theocracy in
which no public
funds can be appropriated for anti-Christian activities, or to
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. 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
28. Sidney E Mead,
The Lively Experiment The
Shaping of Christianity in America (New York:
Harper & Row, 1963), pp. 67-68.