The Chalcedon Foundation
“For as a man thinks, so he is….”
“[P]ublic education is the parochial education for scientific
Joe R. Burnett, an editor of The Humanist1
You’re a Christian; you love your children; you know that the Bible instructs you to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Yet, you send them for their education to an institution from which all vestiges of Christianity were driven out long ago – an institution that is also awash in secular humanist and neo-pagan theologies. That institution, of course, is a government school.2
Do you really believe that government schools are somehow religiously neutral? Can we honestly think that committing our children from their earliest years to the care and nurture of schools dominated by secular humanism and New Age paganism doesn’t harm them spiritually? Do you believe that we are not commanded to give our children an explicitly Christian education? After reading this chapter you will at least know what government schools are doing to our children spiritually.
In a time now culturally far distant, Christmas and Easter holidays were a source of anticipation among schoolchildren and were celebrated with programs and pageants in government schools. In fact, for those old enough to remember, Good Friday also received some official recognition from the government schools, even if it was only the small gesture of ending school early in honor of Good Friday so that children could attend a church service or a showing of “The Greatest Story Ever Told” at the local cinema. Bibles then were not considered contraband, and in most schools organized prayer was included as a normal part of the school day. In sum, while government schools were not Christian schools, the government schools at least seemed tolerant of Christianity.
Today, of course, everything has changed. Prayer long ago was driven from government schools through a series of federal court decisions too well known to bother naming here. But eliminating prayer from government schools was just the beginning. Now Christmas carols are treated as if they are “hate speech.” Christmas pageants are prohibited. “Christmas vacation” must now be referred to as “Winter break,” and “Easter vacation” as “Spring break.”3 Gideons can no longer give away Bibles in government schools. School boards have refused to allow posters bearing the national motto “In God We Trust” for fear of giving offense. Almost incredibly, the ACLU even demanded that a California elementary school take down a sign saying “God Bless America” that the school had put up in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.4 Examples of this sort abound, and they illustrate how much government schools have changed since today’s parents and grandparents attended them.
As troubling as these issues are, they are the least of the problems with the “education” inflicted on Christian children by government schools. In fact, even if the government schools returned today to the accommodation of a few Christian symbols and rituals, they would still be an unfit place for Christian children. Why? Because the government schools by legal necessity are committed to a non-Christian worldview.
Virtually every Christian knows that beginning in the 1940s, and especially in the 1960s and 1970s, the Supreme Court created a new jurisprudence of the First Amendment in which the Court sought to create what it termed a “wall of separation” between church and state. The objective of the Court’s decisions was to eliminate from government schools the core of the Christian culture that characterized American society since its earliest colonial days. The intent was to transform government schools into what the Court considered religiously neutral, secular institutions.
As a result of federal court rulings over the last six decades on the meaning of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, school districts and administrators have struggled with figuring out what they could lawfully say and do regarding religion. In response, professional organizations and school systems have developed guidelines for teaching about religion.
One of these efforts was a report produced by the Americans United Research Foundation (1988) entitled “Religion in the Public School Curriculum: Questions and Answers.” The report suggests the following principles for marking the boundary between teaching about religion, which is Constitutionally permitted, and religious indoctrination, which is not:5
• The school’s approach to religion is academic, not devotional.
• The school strives for student awareness of religions, but does not press for student acceptance of any one religion.
• The school sponsors study about religion, not the practice of religion.
• The school exposes students to a diversity of religious views; it does not impose any particular view.
• The school educates about all religions; it does not promote or denigrate any religion.
• The school informs students about various beliefs; it does not seek to conform students to any particular belief.
In a very general sense, this set of guidelines fairly summarizes a theory of what the federal courts should permit – religious indifference. Mohammed? Zoroaster? Wotan? Christ? Whatever.
More recently, the federal Department of Education adopted regulations regarding accommodation of religious speech in government schools. As described by Brian Jones, a DOE attorney, those regulations do not attempt to move beyond the existing case law concerning religious speech in schools: “What we are trying to do… is bring some clarity to the perceived fuzziness in the law by letting districts know exactly what the courts are saying and standardizing that view.”6
In truth, the regulations are an attempt to rein in the increasingly overt hostility toward Christianity manifested in government schools across the country. Despite not departing from existing law, the Department of Education’s new regulations have drawn criticism from liberal groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State.7 In other words, an attempt to return to mere “indifference” toward Christianity is now viewed as controversial by liberals and, unfortunately, as progress by Christians.
The new regulations notwithstanding, those within the education establishment who are opposed to Christianity will continue to find ways to make government schools a hostile environment for Christian children, teachers, and administrators. You can count on it.
Even though the Department of Education’s regulations may pass Constitutional muster, they scarcely constitute an acceptable approach to the education of Christian children. Nor, as you will see, do they represent what is really happening inside government schools.
Our God is a jealous God. We may not put other gods before Him, and we cannot be double minded in the way we live our lives. As Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” Plainly, an education that attempts to distance itself from a commitment to Christianity, and to treat all religious beliefs as equal, is profoundly anti-Christian.
The Bible repeatedly indicates that children are to receive a Christian education, and parents are responsible for providing it. Parents, for example, are directed to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Moreover, their obligation is not to instruct children in the Word occasionally, but to do so all of the time (Deuteronomy 6:6).8 Yet, today, most Christian parents behave as if there are passages in the Bible instructing them to give the education of their children over to anti-Christian government schools and telling them that exposing their children to Christianity two or three hours a week is sufficient.
About 85% of Christian children attend government schools, but the message that Christian parents are obligated to provide a Christian education to their children is seldom heard from the pulpit. Can you imagine a similar silence if 85% of a congregation’s parents with school-age children had a “drug problem” or an “adultery problem”? For far too long and for far too many Christian parents and churches this has been an area of spiritual blindness. Regrettably, we have failed to give our children a Christian education because we have been hearers of the word rather than doers of the word (James 1:22-23).
Any Christian who believes that government schools operate on religiously neutral principles is deceived. There is no such thing as metaphysical neutrality. If a society or an institution rejects the Bible’s teaching about the nature of God, man and the universe, then it necessarily accepts, implicitly or explicitly, some other worldview, whether it be the materialist metaphysics of secular humanism, the cosmic humanism of the New Age religions, or something else. Government schools are no exception.
The net result of the last fifty years or so of Supreme Court rulings on the meaning of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution has not been to create a level playing field for different beliefs, but simply to take all vestiges of Christianity out of government schools. Today, secular humanism, New Age mysticism, and other forms of paganism pervade government schools at all levels. The teachers’ unions, such as the NEA, are openly hostile to Christianity and its values, and the curricula of schools of education, from which the overwhelming majority of teachers are drawn, are suffused with a mélange of secular humanist, New Age, and other worldviews. Not surprisingly, textbook publishers accommodate the education establishment’s worldview by providing textbooks that conform to the prevailing anti-Christian perspective of the education establishment.
For at least the better part of a century a version of humanism,9 often termed “secular humanism,” and Christianity have been the two major contending worldviews in America. At the core of secular humanism is a materialist metaphysics. According to that worldview, matter, energy, and the laws of physics are what ultimately exist, and they can explain everything that happens.
The Humanist Manifesto of 1933 was perhaps the first broadly influential and coherent American statement of the tenets of secular humanism.10 The Manifesto’s authors, who included the education theorist John Dewey, explicitly characterized their views as “religious.” As they were quick to point out, however, their “religion” was not traditional. Rather, the authors of the Manifesto simply stated that the Manifesto articulated their philosophical views about “matters of final concern” – e.g., the nature of the universe, what exists, the place of Man in the universe, and so on. Consequently, their project was to set forth a new secular view of reality that they believed would better fit the needs of the age.
What exactly is the worldview of the Humanist Manifesto? Among other things, Dewey and the other authors:11
• Regarded the universe as self-existing and not created.
• Believed that man is a part of nature and that he emerged as a part of a continuous evolutionary process.
• Held an organic view of life and rejected mind/body dualism.
• Rejected as scientifically unacceptable any purported supernatural or cosmic guarantee of human values.
• Were convinced that the time had passed for religious views such as theism and deism.
• Considered the complete realization of human personality to be the purpose of man’s life.
• Advocated establishment of a “socialized and cooperative economic order.”
• Asserted that the purpose and program of humanism is the intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of all associations and institutions for the fulfillment of human life.
The extent of the influence of the Manifesto itself is a matter for scholarly research. What is certain, however, is that the ideas embodied in the Manifesto were tremendously influential. Nowhere did those ideas result in a more radical change than in American education.
The triumph of secular humanism in American schools has not been the result of legislation or popular clamor; it was imposed by the federal courts. As adopted, the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits, among other things, both the establishment of religion and interference in the free exercise of religion by the federal government. It was not a grant of power to Congress or the federal courts authorizing them to involve themselves in state actions touching upon religion. And, indeed, the religion clauses of the First Amendment were not much litigated until after the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education in 1947.
In Everson, the Supreme Court upheld a New Jersey school board resolution directing that all parents whose children must ride public buses to school be reimbursed for the amount of the fares. Everson is typically described as a taxpayer suit in which the plaintiff objected that the reimbursement of bus fare violated the Establishment Clause because some of the parents reimbursed were sending their children to Catholic parochial schools. This much is true. But it should also be pointed out that the plaintiff, Arch Everson, was a member of the New Jersey chapter of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, a nativist organization that had often allied itself with the Klan.12 According to legal historian Philip Hamburger: “In the 1930s, after the decline of the Klan, the Junior Order continued to stand ‘at the portals of our American public school system to guard it from sectarian and foreign influence.’”13 In other words, the Junior Order viewed its role in large part as “protecting” government schools from Catholicism. Not surprisingly, although Arch Everson’s name was on the pleadings, the Junior Order was the real force behind the case.14
Everson reflected a social climate during the decade of the 1940s in which Catholicism continued to be viewed with suspicion by significant parts of American society. As in the past, the nativists were not alone in their hostility towards Catholicism. Many secular liberals were angered by the Catholic Church’s opposition to communism, and many “theologically and politically liberal” Protestants and Jews considered Catholicism “divisive.”15 Further, issues touching on education were undoubtedly points of great sensitivity for American liberals and nativists, whose ability to force children into government schools had been foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s 1925 ruling in Pierce v. Society of Sisters.
While the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the Establishment Clause had been violated, it also for the first time found that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment applied to the states as a result of the adoption of the 14th Amendment.16 In his opinion for the Court, Justice Black, a former Democrat Senator from Alabama appointed to the Court by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also laid down the now well-known doctrine that the purpose of the Establishment Clause is to erect “a wall of separation between church and state.”
The subtlety of Justice Black’s ruling was lost for a time on the supporters of the plaintiff in Everson. Indeed, there was a keen sense of betrayal. Black, after all, had been a member of the Klan who “had long before sworn, under the light of flaming crosses, to preserve ‘the sacred constitutional rights’ of ‘free public schools’ and ‘separation of church and state.’ Subsequently, he had administered this oath to thousands of others in similar ceremonies.…”17 Jim Esdale, a Grand Dragon of the Klan and Klan colleague of Black, had also noted that “Hugo could make the best anti-Catholic speech you ever heard.”18 Of course, when his Klan membership was discovered shortly after his confirmation to the Supreme Court, Black distanced himself from the Klan.19
Even though Black had ostensibly retired his sheets by the time he reached the Supreme Court, he continued to feed his Klan-period views of the Catholic Church by reading the “respectable” anti-Catholic writings of the secular humanist and liberal, Paul Blanshard.20 Thus, it’s not surprising that having written an opinion ruling in favor of a state expenditure that indirectly benefited Catholic schools Justice Black was, at least initially, excoriated by liberals and nativists alike.21
Black, however, knew what he was about. As noted by Philip Hamburger: “in a conversation with a clerk, he [Black] alluded to it [the Everson ruling] as a Pyrrhic victory.” This also, in time, was appreciated by at least some supporters of an expansive view of the “separation of church and state.”22 For example, Joseph Martin Dawson, a liberal Baptist leader and supporter of Everson’s suit against the New Jersey school board, ultimately declared, “[W]e had lost the battle, but won the war.”23
It is at least somewhat ironic that an unreconstructed ex-Klansman wrote the opinion in what has proved to be the most important case in Establishment Clause jurisprudence, and that Everson was effectively served up to the Supreme Court by an organization that shared the views of the Klan on the issue at stake in that case.24 We must wonder, too, if the members of the Supreme Court who have subsequently elaborated on the “separation” principle in Everson have really understood the origins of the jurisprudence they have been applying.25
As a practical matter, Everson made the federal courts the arbiter of what the states could and could not do in the area of religion. Never mind that for the roughly eighty years following the adoption of the 14th Amendment no federal court had claimed or noticed that it had this power. Never mind, also, that a few years after the adoption of the 14th Amendment the Congress rejected a proposed Constitutional amendment known as the Blaine Amendment, which had as its express purpose the application of the religion clauses to the states.26
Whatever the reasons given by the Supreme Court for its actions in Everson, the truth of the matter is that the Court simply decided that it was time for the federal courts to force the transformation of American culture and its institutions – including the government schools. What kind of transformation? A transformation in which Justice Black’s “wall of separation” language was to be interpreted eventually as requiring the elimination all traces of a Christian worldview from government schools and, more generally, the public policies of the federal government and the states. In effect, Everson made the thorough secularization of government schools a mission of the federal courts. It also placed a powerful weapon in the hands of the enemies of Christianity.
Until the 1970s the public policy battles fought by Christians involving education predominantly concerned religious symbols and observances in schools, aid to religious schools, and the teaching of evolution. Christians lost these battles decisively. The Supreme Court long ago outlawed prayer and other forms of religious observance in government schools. Similarly, the Supreme Court has prohibited aid to religious schools except under very limited circumstances. Darwinian evolution is now well-entrenched dogma in most government schools. In fact, Darwin’s theory of evolution even enjoys a measure of legal protection against competition as a result of a 1987 Supreme Court decision holding that Louisiana could not mandate the teaching of creationism alongside evolution because creationism, the court claimed, is essentially a religious doctrine.
In another example of the evolution wars, the Kansas State Board of Education in 1999 removed most of the references to Darwin’s theory of evolution from the state’s educational standards.27 This had the practical effect of leaving Kansas school districts free to set their own curriculum standards for the teaching of evolution and also assured that evolution would not be tested on new statewide science tests. No district was prohibited from teaching evolution, and no district was required to teach any competing theory. Yet even this modest victory was short lived. Two years later, a new school board restored the theory of evolution to the state standards, in effect returning the theory of evolution to its monopoly position within Kansas government schools.28
Thus, while Christians have divergent views on matters of origins and creation, it is a measure of the influence of secular humanism in government schools that the education establishment brooks no opposition to the theory of evolution.
In 1973, having enjoyed more success in transforming American culture and education than they could have imagined in 1933, humanists restated and reaffirmed their gospel in the Humanist Manifesto II. The Humanist Manifesto II reiterated the same anti-Christian themes of the original Manifesto. But it also discarded the rhetoric of religion contained in the original Manifesto and focused far more explicitly on social and moral issues than its predecessor. Its devotees were instructed, for example, that abortion should be legal, nationalism should be rejected, war is obsolete, the earth must be considered a single ecosystem, and “moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need and interest.”29
The publication of the Humanist Manifesto II coincided roughly with the high tide of secular humanism’s influence within government schools. Beginning in the 1970s, however, new forms of religious humanism based on various neo-pagan, environmental, spiritualist, and other occult beliefs (often loosely labeled as the New Age movement) started infiltrating government schools. In essence, much of the New Age movement incorporates the “transpersonal psychology” that grew out of the work of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow in the 1960s, along with various forms of eastern mysticism and the occult. One handbook on cults explicitly describes the New Age movement this way:
The central vision of the New Age is one of radical mystical transformation on an individual level. It involves an awakening to such new realities as a discovery of psychic abilities, the experience of physical or psychological healing, the emergence of new potentials within oneself… the acceptance of a new picture of the universe. The essence of the New Age is the imposition of that personal vision onto society and the world. Thus, the New Age is ultimately a vision of the world transformed, a heaven on earth, a society in which the problems of today are overcome and a new existence emerges.30
New Age spirituality denies the existence of our transcendent God. Instead, it often preaches a kind of pantheism (all is god) or panentheism (all is becoming god).
Over the last thirty years the influence of the New Age movement has perhaps eclipsed secular humanism as the primary agent of anti-Christian influence within government schools. A few examples will illustrate what is going on.
Imagine asking your child some evening what he learned in school and having him respond: “Nothing much. We made images of a Hindu god, Ganesha, and learned that when we remove a plant from the garden or cut down a tree we should pray to Mother Earth to ask her permission. Oh, have you seen this really neat card game with demons and vampires that help me learn math? We get to cast spells and sacrifice people and everything!” Actually, for some of the parents of Bedford Central School District in New York the curriculum included all that and more.
In the late 1990s some parents became concerned about what was being taught in the Bedford Central School District schools when they discovered that their children were playing a card game called “Magic: The Gathering” as part of school-sanctioned extracurricular activities.31 In the game, players compete by accumulating “mana,” which is characterized as “power that comes from the earth.” The game also involved casting spells and ritualistic human sacrifice. Moreover, the imagery on the cards was troubling. One card, for example, depicted a frightened woman with a hand holding her head down and a large knife at her throat. Another card showed a man with a knife about to be driven into his heart and was inscribed with the words “Sacrifice one of your creatures to add to your mana pool a number of black mana equal to that creature’s casting cost.” Further inquiry by the parents uncovered pagan “Earth Day” rituals and other strange practices within the Bedford schools.
As a result of their investigation, these parents filed a lawsuit alleging practices within the school district that in their totality involved “the promotion of Satanism and occultism, pagan religions and a New Age Spirituality.” Those practices included, among other things:32
• Teachers playing an audio-tape in class called “Listening to Nature” that used a background of forest and ocean sounds to present prayers and invocations reflecting North American Indian animist religious beliefs, such as the following Taos Indian creed: “The Mother of us all is the Earth. The Father is the Sun. The Grandfather is the Creator who bathed us with his mind and gave life to all things. The Brother is the beasts and trees. The Sister is that with wings. We are children of the earth and do it no harm in any way, nor do we offend the Sun by not greeting it at dawn. We praise our Grandfather for his creation. We share the same breath together, the beasts, the trees, the birds and the man.”
• An Earth Day ceremony involved the “erection of symbolic structures equal to an altar, and a chorus of drums playing throughout the presentations” and the presentation of gifts to the earth.
• A teacher during the Earth Day ceremony taught that “[w]e came from the earth, we are part of the earth, and we are all involved in this cycle. One day we will become [dead] and then we’ll go back to the earth.”
• Students were taught how to pray to “Mother Earth.”
• A student newspaper reported that teachers urged students to deify the earth and do something that would make Mother Earth smile.
• Teachers had children make “worry dolls,” told the children that the dolls had supernatural powers to relieve worry, and taught the children how to use them.
• Teachers had children read about and make images of “Ganesha,” an elephant-headed god regarded by Hindus as the personification of the material universe.
The two-week trial included a parade of colorful witnesses including a yogi-numerologist known as the “Yoga Guy,” a psychic-telepath, and a mineralogist known as the “Rock Hound.”
Two and one-half months after the trial, U.S. District Judge Charles Brieant ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on three of their allegations. The judge noted particularly that some of the aspects of the Earth Day celebrations were “truly bizarre” and had many of the attributes of the worship ceremonies of organized religions. Consequently, Judge Brieant ordered, among other things, that the school district: (1) prevent school sponsorship of earth worship, nature worship, or North American Indian animism, (2) remove worry dolls from the schools and refrain from suggesting that tangible objects have supernatural powers, and (3) prohibit directing students to make graven images or likenesses of gods or religious symbols.
On appeal, however, a panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed all of Judge Brieant’s findings for the plaintiffs.33 Although most of the reversals were based on technical grounds, the Court of Appeals, incredibly, found that the Earth Day ceremonies did not violate the Establishment Clause.
Most Christian parents have no idea how far the New Age and related movements have penetrated into government school practices and curricula. Before looking at this issue more broadly, let’s consider some examples similar to the Bedford Central School District case.
The Jefferson 21st Century Institute, a tax exempt organization that promotes the separation of church and state, recently reported on New Age practices in Utah, a state not known for having much in common culturally with New York:34
• Uintah and Duchense School Districts. Third graders were sent to an Earth Day ceremony “that included prayers by a Ute elder and the Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish in which trees were blessed and Mother Earth was praised.” The ceremony also included devotional statements instructing the children that the earth and trees are sacred.
• Grand County and Salt Lake City School Districts. In the Grand County School District students attended an assembly in which robed Tibetan tantric Buddhist Monks “chanted prayers and danced in front of an altar with smoking incense, a picture of their religious leader, the Dalai Lama, and a large mural of their temple.” The same monks were in a Salt Lake City school during school hours for three days performing a mandala construction ceremony in which the monks constructed a sand painting in the form of a circle dedicated to a Buddhist deity. The ceremony, which required several days, began with chants and prayers and ended when the sand painting was destroyed and the earth and its inhabitants reconsecrated by pouring the sand from the mandala into a stream.
• Park City School District. The same group of Tibetan Buddhist monks performed their “mandala ceremony” for six full days during school hours in Park City High School. At some point during the ceremony students were dancing in a conga line behind a Buddhist monk.
• San Juan County School District. First graders were taken on field trips by a local environmental group, a Forest Service Ranger, and an Americorp volunteer. During the field trip “the children were told to wrap their arms around a tree, smell it, and feel its spirit.”
• Various other Utah school districts have allowed “philosophical” schools or associations to teach children “‘traditional’ Scandinavian or other ‘eco-philosophies’ which declare nature, land, trees, and the earth are sacred and subject to worship.”
• Many Utah schools have illegally sponsored Native American and Gaia religions. For example, many schools use a fourth grade text that declares, “The Earth is Our Mother,” “in wilderness is salvation,” “animals know best,” and other religious principles. Innumerable schools have been decorated with posters espousing similar devotionals.
Interestingly, the performances of the Tibetan Buddhist monks in Utah were part of a 100-city tour in which the monks performed devotional rituals in government schools around the country.
Other government schools have adopted, or have considered adopting, the Waldorf curriculum, which is based on the rather peculiar New Age doctrines of Rudolph Steiner, a 19th century German.35 Some of the more colorful aspects of the Waldorf method received public attention when two school districts in California that had set up “Waldorf” schools were sued by an organization known as People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools.
The lawsuit revealed that one of the school districts used a manual called The Waldorf Teacher’s Survival Guide to train teachers in Waldorf teaching methods.36 An examination of the manual made it clear that Waldorf schooling had its roots in Steiner’s theology, which is known as “Anthroposophy.” Anthroposophy regards Lucifer as the god of light, and his nemesis is Ahriman, the god of darkness. According to Steiner, Christ came to earth as a sun god to balance the forces of light and darkness. These teachings are reflected in The Waldorf Teacher’s Survival Guide:
Most of that which contributes to our work as teachers, preparation work, artistic work, even meditative work, is under the guardianship of Lucifer. We can become great teachers under his supervision, for he is responsible for much that has blossomed in the unfolding of the civilization and culture in the past.
Anthroposophy also includes some very unusual views concerning race (e.g., it associates intelligence with blondness), medicine (e.g., it views illness as primarily the result of a disturbance of a “vital essence”), and evolution (e.g., animals are believed to be by-products of human development).38
The organization that brought the California lawsuit also discovered that school teachers in the Waldorf government schools had been instructed by Anthroposophist trainers from the Rudolph Steiner College to use zodiac signs to categorize children.39 But it gets even stranger. One parent reviewed the course of study for Waldorf teachers at the Rudolph Steiner College and was stunned to find that it was, in her view, a religious institution:
When I read what the course of study was for Waldorf teachers, I realized right away that it was a religious seminary. There’s no core academic classes in the entire teacher training program.… The required text for the first year includes occult science, and the spiritual hierarchies, spiritual guidance of man…I mean, where’s the phonics? [Emphasis added.] 40
When questioned about how the exotic doctrines of Anthroposophy get applied in the classroom, Waldorf teachers usually say something along the lines of “Just because Steiner had some odd views, it doesn’t mean we can’t use his insights” or “Even though we may be trained in Anthroposophy, we don’t teach it in the classroom.” Waldorf practice, however, doesn’t seem to bear this out.
One intrepid Texas reporter, for instance, ventured into the precincts of a newly opened suburban Waldorf private kindergarten.41 There he found a “TV and computer blackout” based on the Waldorf belief that the dark spirit “Ahriman” lives inside the boxes; gnome dolls in the classroom representing the Anthroposophical belief that there are elemental beings that care for the air, soil, and water; and staff who will tell you that illnesses later in life can be traced to early reading.42
Gnomes are important to Waldorf. Think of the gnomes as playing the role of Charlie McCarthy to the teachers’ Edgar Bergen. Waldorf teachers “ask” the gnomes questions to teach children the Waldorf way of thinking about things. In addition, the gnomes provide a kind of deniability: the teachers don’t teach Anthroposophy, the gnomes do.
The reporter also observed parts of the Waldorf liturgy. Before meals, for example, the children recite the Waldorf version of “grace”: “Earth, who gives to us this food, sun who makes it ripe and good. Dear sun, dear earth, by you we live, our loving thanks to you we give.”43 Later, during “music and movement” time, the children walked around a candle chanting in a “spirit recital of mother earth.”44
Yet, the Waldorf program is widely considered nonsectarian and has been spreading in government schools primarily through the charter school movement.45
Every school day across America, thousands of children bring home permission slips for mom or dad to sign so that they can participate in some inoffensively described government school sponsored activity or program. So, imagine the surprise of a Michigan mother who decided to attend the first day of an “environmental” program called “Earthkeepers” with her fourth grade daughter only to discover that Earthkeepers was much more like a three-day introduction to Wicca and Deep Ecology46 than a program about environmental science.
Wicca is a pagan religion associated with witchcraft, while Deep Ecology is an environmentalist philosophy associated with eco-terrorism that many think has its roots in Wicca. The first principle of Wicca is that “We are all connected – people, plants, and animals.” Similarly, Deep Ecologists believe that we are all part of the earth. Deep Ecologists also believe that the population of the earth must be substantially reduced and are supporters of abortion and euthanasia. Significantly, the Earthkeepers curriculum was written by a noted Deep Ecologist, Steve Van Matre, who is also the author of a book, Earth Education. In Earth Education Van Matre explicitly states that earth education should be about inculcating all of the message of Deep Ecology.
So, what does all of this look like when translated into a program targeted at nine-year-olds that allegedly teaches children about the environment? The children begin the Earthkeepers program by forming a circle and joining themselves at the elbows. Next, they are taken into the laboratory of a mysterious “wizard” named “E.M.” The laboratory, it turns out, is a dark, candle lit garage decorated with herbs and plants on the wall. Eventually the children are told that “E.M.” stands for “energy and materials,” “my experience,” and “Me.”
Part of the Earthkeepers program is devoted to telling children how “specks” – which in Earthkeepers’ terminology turn out to be water, soil, air, and energy from the sun – form “trails,” i.e., are involved in the transformation of things into other things. The children were also told to choose “magic spots” where they would “reflect” on nature. In addition, the children were instructed to chant in unison the concepts behind the four “keys” of Earthkeepers: “All living things are connected. Getting in touch with the earth is a good feeling. Your actions on the earth make a difference. Helping others improve their relationship with the earth is an urgent task.” In all of this the children are helped by Earthkeeper teachers who wear medallions that on one side resemble an astrological chart.
In the beginning, the Michigan mother, who is also a cancer surgeon, was mainly concerned about the program’s lack of scientific content and use of unscientific terms such as “specks.” As she investigated further, she found that Earthkeepers had numerous obvious parallels with Wicca and ties to Deep Ecology. When she raised her concerns about these parallels she was told that they were just coincidences:
They are doing things that are very much like things in pagan religions and telling us it doesn’t mean anything.… Is it just a coincidence that E.M.’s lab looks like a Witches Cove, coincidence that the specks taught in Earthkeepers are the same as the elements of witchcraft [air, earth, fire, and water], coincidence that the magic spots are similar to pagan meditation, coincidence that the medallion with the symbol has the same shape as the astrological chart?47
But this doesn’t exhaust the “coincidences.” Was it also a coincidence that the circles the children were gathered into were also similar to the circles practitioners of Wicca form to “contain energy flow”? Was it coincidence that the first key concept of Earthkeepers that the children chanted in unison in a dark candle lit room is also a first principle of Wicca? Was it a coincidence that the “E.M.” concept as used in Earthkeepers seemed to represent, as the Michigan mother concluded, the principle from Deep Ecology and Wicca that everything on earth, including people, is connected? Finally, was it a coincidence that all of these coincidences just happen to be part of a curriculum written by a Deep Ecologist?
By the way, Earthkeepers is used not only in Michigan, but also in 30 other states and in some foreign countries.
Far from being isolated events, the incidents described above are a reflection of American primary and secondary schools being awash in non-Christian worldviews. These are most commonly found in transpersonal and humanistic curricula. Humanistic education typically involves training children in values clarification and emphasizes the importance of developing self-esteem.48 Humanistic approaches to education may also involve hypnosis or other psychotherapeutic techniques. Unlike humanistic education, which tends to have a secular focus, transpersonal education is just New Age religion in drag. It is, therefore, more obviously essentially religious. Moreover, because humanistic and transpersonal approaches to education are not mutually exclusive, they often show up in combination.
While “humanistic education” and “transpersonal education” may not be familiar terms, if a school-age child has ever told you “What’s right for you is not necessarily right for me,” the odds are that he’s been through a humanistic values clarification curriculum teaching situational ethics in at least one of the schools he has attended. Similarly, if you have heard terms such as “guided imagery,” “centering,” “inner guides,” “left/right brain equilibrium,” “visualization,” or “human potential” from a child or anyone else connected with a primary or secondary school, or if you have seen them in a student’s handouts or textbooks, you are seeing evidence of the presence of transpersonal education in your schools. But even if you haven’t seen or heard any of these things, you should not assume that they are not in your public schools because, as we will see below, concealing what is going on from parents has been an accepted tactic among transpersonal and humanistic educators for years.
In their important and wide-ranging study of the influence of humanistic and transpersonal curricula in schools, John Ankerberg, John Weldon, and Craig Branch observed in 1993:
It can be demonstrated that there are many educators and curriculum developers who are either personally involved in the New Age perspective or have accepted the practices, techniques, and theories without knowledge of their source…. It can be demonstrated that the adoption of New Age/occultic ideology and practices is not just sporadic and random… these beliefs tend to enter through counseling; self-esteem, stress reduction, health, and gifted programs; creative writing classes; some global education courses; and some literature curricula….The usual form these programs take is in deep breathing relaxation or progressive relaxation exercises, guided imagery, and visualization. These are sometimes associated with inappropriate and ineffective value-free or affective learning programs. [Emphasis added.]49
Moreover, the authors of the study found that these curricula are based on Eastern and other mystical traditions:
The techniques and the presuppositions on which such programs are based are intrinsic to Eastern and other mystical religious traditions and practices (such as Hinduism and meditation). Further, they are frequently synonymous with the techniques of hypnosis and trance induction. Unfortunately, often these techniques are disguised to project a secular appearance. [Emphasis added.]50
Obviously, there is plenty of religion in government schools. It’s just not Christianity.
The practical insight of Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it” – has been well understood by “progressive” educators who have been busily re-making government schools and children in their own image. In one of John Dewey’s earlier writings, “My Pedagogic Creed,”51 Dewey recognizes that if you systematically change what goes on in classrooms you can reshape children and, ultimately, society. His goal, of course, was to use government schools to reshape society in ways agreeable to the progressives of his era. Those who today dominate the education establishment – the devotees of humanistic psychology, the New Agers, and the secular humanists – also understand that the classroom is the key to cultural supremacy, and they have not been shy about saying so.
Writing in The Humanist magazine, John Dunphy, a much-quoted figure from the humanist movement, urged:
[T]he battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classrooms by teachers who correctly perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity ….These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and new – the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith…. [Emphasis added.]52
Marilyn Ferguson, a prominent New Age guru, makes the same point in her highly influential book, The Aquarian Conspiracy:
You can only have a new society… if you change the education of the younger generation…. Of the Aquarian Conspirators surveyed, more were involved in education than in any other single category of work. They were the teachers, administrators, policy makers, educational psychologists…. Only a new perspective can generate a new curriculum…. [Emphasis added.]53
So, what is the “new perspective” that Ferguson’s “Aquarian Conspirators” are looking to inject into the classroom? According to Ferguson, the perspective of the Aquarian Conspiracy is:
[A] constellation of techniques and concepts sometimes called transpersonal education. The name derives from a branch of psychology that focuses on the transcendent capabilities of human beings…. [T]he deliberate use of consciousness expanding techniques in education, only recently well under way, is new in mass schooling…. Altered states of consciousness are taken seriously: “centering” exercises, meditation, relaxation, and fantasy are used to keep the intuitive pathways open. These are techniques to encourage this awareness: deep breathing, relaxation, yoga movement, biofeedback….54
These influences are widespread in government schools. By the early 1990s just one of the many curricula based on the use of “transpersonal” techniques, “Pumsy,” was used in 40% of the nation’s elementary schools.55
Of course, parents often object if they understand what is actually happening in government schools. This has led, on occasion, to lawsuits and legislation56 in attempts to restrict the use of curricula based on transpersonal and humanistic theories of education. So, if you are a highly trained education professional trying to remake society in your own image, and parents and the law are getting in the way, what are you going to do?
“Keep it subtle, keep it quiet, or the parents will really get upset.”57
The basic tactic for smuggling New Age religious concepts and practices into classrooms is to deceive parents simply by changing terminology. As Dick Sutphen, a prominent New Ager, has written:
One of the biggest advantages we have as New Agers is, once the occult, metaphysical and New Age terminology is removed, we have concepts and techniques that are very acceptable to the general public. So we can change the names and demonstrate the power. In so doing, we open the New Age door to millions who would not be receptive.58
Consequently, New Age educators will introduce children to “imaginary guides” rather than “spirit guides,” “centering” or “relaxation” rather than meditation or hypnosis, and so on. Nevertheless, the techniques and objectives remain the same.
This sort of deliberate deception is not something invented by Sutphen. In the late 1960s nuns belonging to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary invited Carl Rogers, the father of the humanistic psychology and the human potential movements, to apply his theories to their religious community using “encounter groups” in a two-year experiment.59 The result was the destruction of the order. When Rogers and his team later met to review the tragic consequences of the application of their theories and whether they would undertake a similar project in the future, the consensus was that they wouldn’t, or at least they would not use the term “encounter groups.” 60 In fact, Rogers cynically quipped: “I’d change the name just as fast as needed to keep ahead of the critics.”61
Changing the name to stay ahead of critics is exactly how so many failed educational theories manage to cheat a well-deserved death. It is also exactly how many New Age and other theologies manage to infiltrate and survive in government schools.
Occasionally, the promoters of Eastern religions and the occult get caught doing this and are stopped. For example, in the 1970s certain schools in New Jersey introduced the “Science of Creative Intelligence” into their curricula. The Science of Creative Intelligence, it turned out, was just a repackaged version of a Hindu religious practice known more widely as Transcendental Meditation. In a lawsuit brought to enjoin the teaching of the Science of Creative Intelligence in New Jersey schools on Establishment Clause grounds, the plaintiffs were able to expose the sham and obtain an injunction.62 Unfortunately, New Age practices that have been successfully objected to often reappear in new guises.63 Moreover, the Bedford Central School District case demonstrates that some federal judges on important courts are willing to ignore the blatantly religious nature of New Age curricula.64
Legal positivists used to quip cynically that the Constitution means what the cop-on-the-beat says it means. That is not a widely held view today. But if you are wondering how our government “educators” seem to wink at the presence of all of the non-Christian religions in government schools today, you need to understand that for many of those in charge of government schools the “wall of separation” is really a “wall of separation” between the Christian church and the state.
A 1995 incident in an Ohio high school involving a class assignment illustrates what the “wall of separation” actually means in the minds of many government school educators.65 An English teacher assigned sophomores the task of writing and signing a contract with the Devil, Satan, Lucifer, a genie, a witch, or a warlock. The contract was to specify what the students wanted from Satan, for example, and three things they were willing to give up in return.
When some parents questioned the appropriateness of the assignment, the teacher told the parents that she recognized that the assignment might be sensitive, and that was why she gave students several options concerning with whom to make the contract. After the parents pointed out that all of the choices were demonic, the discussion moved to the high school principal.
The principal defended the teacher as having merely made a mistake. When the principal was asked, however, what he would do if the assignment had been to write a contract with God, Christ, Jesus, the Lord, the Savior, or the Holy Spirit, he immediately responded that it wouldn’t be permitted because of the separation of church and state. Ultimately, the school board apologized on behalf of the school district and repudiated what the teacher had done.
The point here is not so much the inappropriateness of the assignment, although having children sign their “contracts” certainly raises questions regarding the teacher’s judgment. Instead, what is illuminating is the response of the principal. While he evidently saw no Establishment Clause issue in what the teacher had done, his immediate reaction to the parents’ hypothetical assignment was that it would violate the separation of church and state. Obviously, what Everson meant to him was simply that Christianity must be kept out of the high school. This is the sort of mentality that accounts for school administrators banning Christmas carols while at the same time permitting earth worship ceremonies in school.
The Brookfield School District in Ohio was sued for violating the First Amendment rights of a Christian middle schooler.66 Phillip M. Vaccaro, a 14-year-old described as “educationally challenged,” was given an assignment to write an essay about someone who has influenced his life. Because Vaccaro had used his faith to overcome many of his problems in school, he wrote about Jesus Christ. His teacher, however, advised him that Jesus was not a real person and told Vaccaro to chose someone else. When Vaccaro’s mother contacted school administrators about the unusual historical views of her son’s teacher, the school officials backed the teacher. It’s also rumored, by the way, that Brookfield school district officials may announce any day that Julius Caesar, Saul of Tarsus, and Abraham Lincoln were not real persons. Stay tuned.
Ohio does not, of course, have a corner on anti-Christian zeal in the heartland. Evidently concerned that there might be an outbreak of reading among students in the district, a Wayland, Michigan, school superintendent ordered Gideons International to stop its annual practice of handing out Bibles to 5th graders.67 Not to be outdone by Michiganders, a school district in Davenport, Iowa, banned students from giving away Bibles and passing out church-event fliers on school grounds even when classes were not in session.68 According to one student who was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the school district over the incident, “It’s pretty bizarre how we have to go and pull teeth to do this…. They told us we couldn’t do it because it was religious.”69
Anti-Christian animus also thrives in government schools in the “Bible Belt.” Many districts refuse to allow ministers to have lunch with students or meet with them on campus. In 2004, for example, Kentucky’s Bullitt County School Board banned ministers from their campuses.70 The ministers were not praying or evangelizing during their lunch-time visits, but were instead just talking about problems and giving advice to students whom they knew.71 The only explanation from the school administration was that the visits were against district policy. This sort of “policy” is not that unusual in school districts from Texas to Georgia. Not surprisingly, these same school districts that are terrified that some adult might mention the name of Jesus on campus often allow purveyors of earth-worship and other religions access to students through “environmental,” “diversity,” or “safe schools” programs and curricula.
Now that Christians with children in government schools have become desensitized to “Christmas vacation” being replaced by “Winter break” or “Winter vacation” and Christmas carols being banished, courageous anti-Christians are moving on to the next frontier – banning the word “Christmas” entirely. For example, in Colorado, the Ayatollahs of the ACLU threatened to sue a school if any reference to Christmas was made during the 2003 “holiday program.”72 The ACLU also insisted that singing “Jingle Bells” be banned, evidently confusing it with a song of invitation or an altar call.
Also in the vanguard of the movement to protect children against the horrors of hearing the word “Christmas” is a principal in an elementary school in Sacramento, California, who met with three first-grade teachers to instruct them that the spoken or written use of the word “Christmas” in school was now prohibited.73
Of the three teachers in the meeting, one disagreed with the ban, but was willing to go along with it, and a second thought the ban was just fine. The third, a twenty-four year education veteran, was of a different mind: “People need to stand up to all these wackos. It’s nuts.”74 Nuts? Yes, but don’t expect many of our highly trained education professionals to get out of their chairs to do something about it – or many Christian parents, for that matter.
By the way, a junior high school principal in Abington, Pennsylvania, seems to be contesting the Sacramento principal for the honor of having the most avant-garde anti-Christian position. When a mother questioned the principal’s refusal to allow her honor student son to wear a pro-life t-shirt at school, the principal told her that “the shirt and the message were the equivalent of a swastika being displayed on the shirt.”75 The principal’s position, however, proved a bit too advanced, at least for the moment, and the school district relented when faced with a lawsuit.
Where do government schools find these principals? Try your local university’s school of education. But that is a story for Chapter 5.
No trifle seems to escape the gaze of the anti-Christian zealots in government schools. Several high school students in Massachusetts were suspended from school for giving other students candy canes with a Christian message just before Christmas.76 In Reno, Nevada, high school students were allowed to distribute Christmas candy canes with the message “Jesus Loves You” only after the school was threatened with a lawsuit. In Oregon, the Gresham-Barlow school district was sued over prohibiting a six-year-old from handing out Christmas cards because the cards mentioned Jesus.77
In a similar attempt by school officials to prevent Christian students from privately sharing their faith, a Pennsylvania school prohibited a student from giving away pencils bearing the message “Jesus loves the little children.” Of course, handing out condoms is probably just okey-dokey in these schools.
Christian teachers and counselors are not immune from the anti-Christian jihad being waged in government schools. In North Carolina, for example, a high school dropout prevention counselor was suspended while she was investigated for allegedly giving a student religious advice.78 The counselor, Beth Pinto, had been approached by a student fighting homosexual urges, and the student asked what the Bible taught about homosexuality. Mrs. Pinto responded by sharing some relevant passages from Scripture. Evidently, a third party overheard the conversation and told an administrator, which resulted in Pinto’s suspension and the investigation. Although Mrs. Pinto was eventually reinstated, the district officials took the opportunity to warn school employees that they must not commit the high crime and misdemeanor of giving students “religious advice.” In a similar display of intolerance, public education officials in Pennsylvania suspended a teachers’s aide for one year without pay for wearing a one and one-quarter inch cross pendant on a necklace.79
As should be evident, we are long past the point where the controversy in government schools is over Bible reading or prayer. Now the anti-Christian bigots are attempting to intimidate Christians into complete, cowering silence by using even the slightest pretexts to harass them. Answering a student’s question, wearing “inappropriate”jewelry, and gift giving among children is the new line in the sand being drawn by those who control government schools. And if you don’t like it, they will do what they can to make your life miserable.
Some highly publicized incidents involving religions other than Christianity drive home the extent to which government school officials tend to understand the “wall of separation” as nothing more than a tool for separating Christianity from schools. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Chancellor of New York City’s government school system publicly announced that New York schools would set aside special classrooms where Muslim students could pray during school through the month of Ramadan.80 In fact, the Chancellor’s policy of allowing Muslims to assemble and worship publicly in schools had been quietly in place for some time.81
Evidently, the Chancellor decided to go public with the policy as a gesture of reassurance to Muslims in New York schools in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. When the Catholic League praised the policy and asked that the same level of accommodation be shown Christians, the Chancellor immediately reversed his decision.82 Thus, in the end it appears that reassuring Muslim students was less important to the Chancellor than keeping Christianity out of New York schools.
The principal of a Flushing, New York, magnet school was even more blatant in her anti-Christian bias.83 Prior to Christmas 2001, the principal issued a memo to teachers urging them to bring to school religious symbols representing the Muslim, Kwanzaa,84 and Jewish religions. Although the memo didn’t mention Christianity, someone put up a Christmas tree in the school. The