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Winter 2000
David Barton - 12/2000

God, Government and the Preservation of Life

Protecting innocent life is a key and recurring theme in the Bible. Life is God-given; He formed us, made us, and breathed life into us. Therefore, He gave clear commands both on preserving innocent life and on punishing those who take it (See, for example, Exodus 23:7, Deuteronomy 27:25 &21:8-9 & 19:10, Proverbs 6:16-17, 2 Kings 24:4, Psalm 10:2,8, et al.) Since God is the author of life, and since He alone holds the keys of death (see 1 Samuel 2:6), He – not man – is to determine when life is to end.

The first occasion is for the cause of civil justice (e.g., Deuteronomy 19:11-13, Numbers 35:16-27, 2 Samuel 4:11, etc.). The shedding of blood in such cases is not the shedding of innocent blood. The second justifiable cause is general military conflict (e.g., Numbers 32:27, 2 Chronicles 32:8, 1 Samuel 4:1). The third cause is in defense of one’s life, family, or property (e.g., Nehemiah 4:13-14 & 20-21, Zechariah 9:8, 2 Samuel 10:12). In these three situations, the taking of life is not viewed by God as the shedding of innocent blood.

Similarly, Jewish scholars point out that the prohibition in the Sixth Commandment is not against killing but rather is against murder. That is, they assert that the proper translation from the Hebrew is not “Thou shalt not kill,” but rather “Thou shalt not murder.” Murder is the taking of innocent life, while killing may not be (e.g., the three Biblically justified examples given above).

This preservation of innocent life was viewed by our Founding Fathers as one of the chief purposes of civil government. As Thomas Jefferson explained, “the care of human life. . .is the fist and only legitimate object of good government.” And the Declaration of Independence similarly declared: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men . . .are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life. . . .[And] that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.”

Consequently, the Founders established numerous laws to protect innocent life – laws prohibiting murder, suicide (which the Founders termed “self-murder”), assisted suicide, abortion, and infanticide. Yet, in protecting life, the Founders understood that respect for innocent life would dwindle if the influence of religion were reduced in the nation. As President George Washington warned: “Where is the security . . . for life if the sense of religious obligation desert?”

It is not surprising, then, that with the concerted efforts over the past three decades to diminish the effects of religion in the nation, there has been a corresponding decrease in respect for and protection of innocent life. For example, in the abortion arena, since even those on the pro-abortion side concede that a partial-birth abortion takes the life of a baby capable of living on its own outside its mother’s womb, then even pro-abortion forces cannot deny that a partial-birth abortion is the shedding of innocent blood. Pro-lifers, however, have long argued that all abortions shed innocent blood.

Some researchers now argue that abortions are good for society. For example, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Chicago recently released the results of a study concluding that “Falling crime rates in the 1990s may be a direct positive result of Roe v. Wade. The study suggests that since a disproportionate number of poor, minority, and teenage mothers – whose homes produce statistically more young adult criminals – aborted their children right after the Supreme Court gave the nod in 1973, large numbers of would-be criminals were killed before they could rape, murder, or steal” (World magazine).

While such ludicrous logic is used to excuse the shedding of innocent blood inside the womb, it seems that there is now a move to justify the shedding of innocent blood outside the womb.

An advocate of this position is Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton. In the mid 1970s, Singer founded the radical group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) on the presumption that the life of a person is not necessarily more valuable that the life of an animal; he also has run for office as a candidate for the Green Party. However, it was not these beliefs or activities which have resulted in the latest outcries against him.

He was recently made a tenured professor of bioethics at Princeton’s Center for Human Values. This appointment enraged many because of his views on human life, documented in his book Practical Ethics, include the view that parents should be allowed to kill a severely disabled infant in order to increase the family’s happiness. Singer argues that children less than a month old have no human consciousness; therefore, it is acceptable to kill them. He asserts, ”Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all.”

So, first was the argument that a baby inside the womb was not a person; now we find that a baby outside the womb also is not a person! And this guy is a professor of bioethics at the Center for Human Values? What kind of “ethics” is this? And what “human values” is he teaching?

Perhaps the most sobering aspect of Singer and his views is the influence that he can have on his students. As Jesus wisely observed in Luke 6:40, every student, when he is fully instructed, will be like his teacher.

The conclusions reached by academicians at Princeton, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and at other schools confirm what Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration. Long ago correctly observed, “Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”

Interestingly, a warning by John Quincy Adams also accurately describes where America now finds itself:

Three points of doctrine . . . form the foundation of all morality. The first is the existence of a God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is a future state of rewards and punishments. Suppose it possible for a man to disbelieve [any] of these articles of faith and that man will have no conscience, he will have no other law than that of the tiger or the shark.

Littleton: The Aftermath

Certainly, no one has forgotten Littleton. The memories and the pictures are still vivid. Songs have been written memorializing the lives lost, and unfortunately, the tragedy even has been politicized, with some members of the U.S. Senate using the massacre as a smokescreen for further gun control. Yet, amid all of the highly publicized responses to Littleton, one has been completely ignored – that of the Colorado State Board of Education.

Only six weeks after Littleton, the State Board issued a remarkable, brutally honest, analysis. We thought you might be interested in the unanimous conclusions they reached:

What is to be Done: Searching for Meaning in Our Tragedy

“In the aftermath of the most terrible day in Colorado education, when the pain and grief of those who have suffered loss is beyond what words can express, all of us are asking questions: ‘Why? How did this happen? What can we do to keep it from happening again?’ . . . “As we seek the why behind this infamous event, we must find answers beyond the easy and obvious. How weapons become used for outlaw purposes is assuredly a relevant issue, yet our society’s real problem is how human behavior sinks to utter depraved indifference to the sanctity of life. As our country promotes academic literacy, we must promote moral literacy as well, and it is not our children, but adults who are ultimately responsible for that. . . .As a Board we believe. . . . that failing to act shall make us all accomplice in such future tragedies as may engulf our schools. . . .
“Accordingly, we make the following recommendations for renewing the unity and strength of purpose that has historically bonded our schools, our homes, and our society.

1. In Our Schools

“While our schools are at once the mold and the mirror of the democratic society they serve,
they are not democracies themselves. Schools are founded and controlled by adults for the benefit of children. . . .[We] must begin with a decisive rollback of those harmful precedents that have so undermined the confidence and successful exercise of legitimate adult authority upon which every good school depends. . . . [We] must remember, respect, and unashamedly take pride in the fact that our schools, like our country, found their origin and draw their strength from the faith-based morality that is at the heart of our national character.
“Today our schools have become so fearful of affirming one religion or one value over another that they have banished them all. In doing so they have abdicated their historic role in the moral formation of youth and thereby alienated themselves from our people’s deep spiritual sensibilities. To leave this disconnection between society and its schools un-addressed is an open invitation to further divisiveness and decline. . . .

2. In Our Homes

“We routinely preach about cooperation between home and school, yet too often our actions tell
a different story. Too often, we undermine rather than support the values and authority of parents. . . . If we are to ask parents to use their authority to support those educating their children, then educators must use their authority to support the work and values of parents. . . .

3. In Our Society

“The connection between murder in our schools and elements of the mass culture is now beyond dispute. . . . If a utility poured sewage into our streets, an outraged public would not tolerate it. Should those responsible for the stream of moral sewage entering our homes and communities be any less accountable? If we deem it proper to boycott, withhold public investments, and otherwise impose an economic penalty on companies for their labor practices, environmental policies, countries in which they operate, how could we fail to move at least as aggressively against those who create, promote, and distribute media and other products for which there is not imaginable justification.

“In closing we should be reminded that throughout our history our people have demonstrated a remarkable capacity for moral courage and self-renewal in times of great danger and challenge. Perhaps across the ages we can hear the timeless words of Abraham Lincoln, and, applying them to our own circumstance renew his pledge ‘that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.’

“With history as our judge, let us go forward together with a strong and active faith.”

Religious Liberties Under Attack – Again!

Recent months have been marked by an amazing array of challenges against religious expressions, both private and public. For example:

· In Boise, Idaho, atheists are suing to remove a 60-foot cross towering of the city – a cross owned not by the government, but by the Idaho Jaycees, on land owned not by the government, but by the Jaycees! Nearly 10,000 citizens rallied at the State House to support the cross and the Jaycees have refused to back down. Their president declared, “This is our cross and I [will] take this all the way to the Supreme Court!”

· In Scottsboro, Indiana, the ACLU is planning to sue the school district for posing its 11-point code of conduct in schools. Those “common precepts” include, “Respect authority,” “honor your parents and family members,” “Save sex for marriage,” “Trust in God,” etc. The school board has refused to back down.

· In Augusta, Kansas, the ACLU opposed the school board’s policy of allowing students to lead classmates in prayer over the school intercom. The school board backed down.

· In Kentucky, the ACLU has sued three counties for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from their school and courthouse walls. The counties and communities are not backing down. As one county official declared, “It is going to take the big man in the black robe to tell me to take them down. And when he does, he can come and take them down himself.”

· In California, the ACLU has sued the Val Verde School District for posting copies of the Ten Commandments in the school administrative offices. The school district backed down.

· In York, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Sybil Peachlum has been sued for having a sign in her front yard declaring that “Jesus is Alive.” She has been ordered to remove the sign, but has refused, even though it may cost her $100 a day in fines.

· In Baldwinsville, New York, kindergarten Antonio Peck was instructed to draw a picture of “how to save the earth.” Antonio’s response was, “The only way we can save the earth is Jesus,” and so he included Jesus on his drawing. School officials refused to display his handiwork amid the 80 other posters. The school has been taken to federal court.

· In Littleton, Colorado, parents of the slain students were asked to create square tiles to be installed in the school hallways as a memorial to those students. The school, however, refused to install several of the tiles because of their religious nature. One tile said, “There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked,” and another, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The school has refused to back down. The parents have sued.

· In Downey, California, a school sold ads for advertising signs around the outfield of a baseball diamond, but it voided one sale after the customer chose to place the Ten Commandments on the sign he had purchased. The customer took the school to court, demanding that they honor their contract with him. He lost.

· In Harrisburg, Illinois, the ACLU is opposing the posting of the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, and the Bill of Rights in the offices of four principals. The schools are not backing down, and the community is rallying behind them.

· In Medford, New Jersey, Zachary Hood was allowed by his first-grade teacher to read a story of his own choosing as a reward for having demonstrated good reading skills. When Zachary chose to read the Bible story of Jacob and Esau, the teacher refused to honor her word. Zachary’s parents sued, and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Zachary did not have a right to choose that story.

· In Harlan, Kentucky, the school has posted copies of the Ten Commandments in every classroom. The ACLU has sued, but the school board refused to back down. As one explained, “I’ve never known a Kentuckian to run from a good fight!”

It is a tragedy that such fundamental activities of free-speech and religious expression have now come under the scrutiny of federal judges. Nevertheless, while it may seem distressing that there are so many lawsuits involving Christina belief and behavior, the good news is that so much religious expression is occurring that the intolerant anti-religious bigots have not shortage of activities to challenge! In fact, if the ACLU and others have made it their life-goal to fight citizen religious expressions, may they never run out of work!

The Ten Commandments: Up by Popular Demand!

A controversy is underway in Adams County, Ohio, (a rural county east of Cincinnati) over the presence of the Ten Commandments at four of the county’s schools. The controversy is not all that unusual – it involves the regular cast of characters and the typical plot:

1. Citizens want to display the Ten Commandments near a school.

2. The ACLU says that it violates the Constitution to honor faith in public.

3. The citizens keep the displays.

4. The ACLU sues.

Nothing surprising so far. However, what is noteworthy about this case is the remarkably strong and unified response of nearly all the citizens in the county (not to mention those from neighboring counties as well).

Here’s the background.

Two-and-a-half years ago, four new schools were built in Adams County. The County Ministerial Association paid to place a monument of the Ten Commandments near the American flag in front of each school.

A county resident with no children in the school sued, wanting the monuments replaced by monuments with a phallic symbol.

Facing this lawsuit, the community rallied to let the school board know that there was support to fight the suit. At the first meeting, over 600 attended (in a building that only seared 300). Interestingly, one county resident reported, “The event was a picture of small-town America at its best – a grass patriotic rally, part revival. It was one of the most deeply moving experiences of my life.”

As the second community meeting, some 1,600 citizens attended and a petition was presented tot he school board with over 7,000 signatures – all in favor of defending the monuments. Not one single dissenting voice was heard at any of the public meetings!

But how to pay for the legal defense? Community leaders came up with a plan. Make yard signs of the Ten Commandments and sell them for $2.00, with the proceeds going to the Ten Commandments Legal Defense Fun. Ten thousand yard signs were ordered – and quickly sold. Then another ten thousand, then another, then another, etc.

Interestingly, the ACLU’s attempt to remove four copies of the Ten Commandments displayed in public has now resulted in over 50,000 copies of the Ten Commandments being displayed in public – and that number is expected to top 100,000! Kudos to the citizens of Adams County for standing up to the anti-religious extremists!

(If you want to get copies of these Ten Commandments yard signs, or if you want to contribute to the Defense Fund, contact Adams County for the Ten Commandments, P.O. Box 520, Peebles, OH 45660, 1-888-474-4679.)

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