I doubt that anyone has ever heard of Zachary Hood. Zachary, now eight years old, is in third grade and is a good reader. He went to a public school in New Jersey. When he was in first grade, Zachary’s teacher had a rule that once a student becomes a good enough reader, that student gets to read his favorite story to the class. Zachary had become a good enough reader. He chose a story from his favorite book: the Beginner’s Bible. It was the story of Jacob and Esau, two brothers who become estranged and eventually learned to forgive and reconcile.
There is no mention of God, no divine miracles, no religious suggestion. The story Zachary told was reduced to a fable that taught the lesson of forgiveness.
Did I say that Zachary told that story? I’m mistaken. He wanted to tell that story, but his teacher, principal and several district court judges said he couldn’t. They argued that the story, coming from the Bible, was religious in nature and it could be construed that the teacher was endorsing it if she allowed it to be read. The principal agreed and said the reading of the story could be interpreted as prayer. Two federal judges then agreed with the school and, as a result, our school system has been made safe from an innocuous story that taught a lesson worth learning.
Never mind that the story could have just as easily come from Aesop as the Bible and no one would have been the wiser. Even if the story was religious in nature, preventing Zachary from reading his selection in class is an abridgement of his right to free speech. Students have a right to express their religious convictions in homework, projects, and other works that are their own. These instances, and others like them, are the students’ own creation, even in first grade. Censoring their content is still just as dangerous.
There is a theme here that it is important to stress. As with the right to bear arms, the political left has a knee-jerk reaction whenever it comes to all things religious. Fear, dating back to the days of mandatory school prayer, causes many members of the Left to overreact to any association of religion and public life.
Members of the right do it as well. The National Rifle Association instinctively points to the Second Amendment in opposition to gun control laws. They say it’s unconstitutional and leave it at that. This is what the left is doing. They point to the establishment clause and yell and scream that any relationship between religion and the public sphere is unconstitutional. What both of these groups have failed to realize is that they have let concepts of constitutionality override common sense.
Does one really need an AK-47 or an M-16 in order to take out Bambi? Similarly, can anyone truly believe that allowing Zachary Hood to read a story from the Bible with no mention of God or Christianity is going to endanger the separation of church and state? We owe it to ourselves to think before we run off waving the Bill of Rights in the pursuit of righteousness.
The Constitution presents principles that are designed to protect us from the intrusions of government. However, they cannot protect us from ourselves when we fail to exercise common sense in those principles.