What if public schools were mandated to teach Islamic creation in science class?
Conservative Christians intent on passing 'stealth creationism' bills are dangerously blurring the line between religion and state. If government endorses their religion, the door is open for teaching any belief – whether atheist or Islamic – in public schools.
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It is on behalf of this deeply American idea, one that has served us so well for so long, that I hope conservative Christians can be persuaded to abandon their creationism bills and campaigns to reinstitute school prayer. They should realize that not only are those pursuits an attack on American ideals, but that supporting those American ideals, rather than crusading for preferential treatment, is very much in their own interest.Skip to next paragraph
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The tyranny of the majority: how tables can turn
While Christian sects have always collectively made up the majority of the population, key parts of the American system were designed precisely to keep this type of majority from tyrannizing minority groups. The English conservative thinker Edmund Burke wrote that "the tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny." Christian political activists often hold up their faith's majority status to dismiss the rights of others. But to see the pernicious nature of this line of thought, we need only to imagine a massive influx of Muslims that suddenly made Christians a fractional minority. Under different circumstances, Christians would be clamoring to keep the state and the courts free of religious bias.
In some parts of the country, this won't be mere thought-experiment much longer. Christians are likely to remain in the majority for many decades, but American demographics are changing rapidly. People who identify as nonreligious are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country, and the US Muslim population is expected to double in the next 20 years. It is realistic to imagine that, in some communities, either of these minorities could become the new majority.
What if local representatives suddenly decided that public schools should teach the Islamic creation story in science class? Or that, in addition to evolution, students should be informed they are fools for believing in a Creator? In response to the outcry from the new Christian minority, they could fairly ask, "How do you suddenly have a problem with biased education? And what do you mean we can't ban Christian principles from the courts? Haven't you been trying to do that to us for decades?"
Fortunately, most attempts to Christianize the state never make it very far. Most of the creationism bills were dead on arrival, and not a single sharia ban has been allowed to stand. But over the past year, crusades against mosques and sharia have been loud and bellicose, while a not-insignificant number of Christians happily teach their religious views in public schools. I desperately long for a country where Christians respect not only believers of other faiths, but the unique American ideals that allow us all to live together in peace.
David Sessions is the founding editor of Patrol. His writing has appeared in Slate, New York, Politics Daily, and others. He currently works for The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter. His column, "Sessions on American Culture," is published on alternate Wednesdays at Patheos.com, where this piece first appeared.