Earlier this month, Friendly Atheist featured a story about several public elementary schools in North Carolina that are teaching Bible classes — and about the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s insistence that the school district puts a stop to that.
I just read the remarkable take on that situation over at Christian News. The publication first lays out the facts fairly. But then, three-fourths of the way into the article, author Heather Clark veers into this:
The first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in colonial schools for at least one hundred years. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
We can probably all be in favor of proper behavior (whatever that term means). Having public schools teach little kids about “sin” and “salvation,” not so much.
In 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed “The Old Deluder Satan Act,” which required that children be taught to read so they could learn to read the Bible.
“In being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, … and that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors, it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof, that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read,” it read in part.
If Christian News tacked on those passages as even a sliver as a defense of what transpired in North Carolina, the effort falls flat. In the mid-1600s, there was no United States, no federal judiciary, and no constitution (much less one sporting an Establishment Clause).
If something was the norm 350 years ago, 35 years ago, or last year, that doesn’t mean it’s legal — or a good idea. The folks at Christian News might want to look up why the good ol’ appeal to tradition is a logical fallacy that ought to be excluded from any argument worth making.
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