Among all the hypocrisies of the libertarian wing of the North Carolina Party of Greed, their hypocrisy around protecting young people from being monetized by commercial interests or proselytized by religious interests is most damning. Carrying the banner of free-market fundamentalism, they believe businesses should be free to exploit children with no restrictions - and that it's just fine to reallocate tax dollars into "faith-based" initiatives like religious charter schools. "What's the problem?" they ask. The marketplace will eventually work things out and the best ideas will win in the end.
For my part, the line between church and state is both broad and bright. Though I am personally a regular church-goer and student of all things religious, I strongly object to any instance in which government sanctions, embraces or endorses any aspect of religious practice. Institutional prayer in public meetings, schools, courts, and other government-funded activities should be strictly forbidden - as Jesus specifically recommended.
Which is why this story in the N&O has me so infuriated.
An Enloe High School social studies teacher appears to want to invite back to his class a Christian evangelist who recently denounced Islam at the school.
The evangelist, Kamil Solomon, opened students' minds to "see more light," said an e-mail message apparently from teacher Robert Escamilla that Solomon posted on his Web site this weekend. Escamilla invited Solomon to several of his social studies classes Feb. 16, and Solomon asked students to embrace Christianity and distributed pamphlets denouncing Islam. Parents who saw the pamphlets were outraged, and constitutional lawyers said the visit violated the First Amendment, which courts have ruled prohibits promoting religion in public schools.
The message posted on Solomon's Web site Friday for less than 24 hours said, "Thank you so much for coming and speaking so effectively to our students, helping them to open their minds and see more light. I think we should be able to get you back again."
The seven-sentence posting ends, "May God continue to richly bless you and to powerfully use you to give Him much glory." It is signed "your brother and friend in Christ, Robert."
Also on the Web site was a message that apparently came from Enloe teacher Marian Johnson, whom Escamilla identified as his department's chairwoman. It began, "Hello all" and defended Solomon's visit: "It is our responsibility as educators to give our students the tools by which to evaluate, question and research issues they may encounter."
Contacted Monday, Escamilla would not confirm that he had written the posting. He only said he was asked not to speak about the incident with reporters. Johnson could not be reached for comment.
I'll bet Escamilla is trying to dodge public scrutiny. He and the principal who participated in this stupidity should be reprimanded and put on probation. They can believe anything they want personally, of course, but when they start using their positions to further erode the separation of church and state, they are stepping over the line.
Imagine if a teacher had invited a devout Muslim into Enloe High School to evangelize about Mohamed and encourage students to convert. The theocrats would be up in arms, as well they should, and the teacher would be fired.