Recently we noted the blatant double standard exhibited by religious-right groups in the case of Albemarle County, Virginia schools’ “backpack mail” program: Last year, Liberty Counsel told the school that if it distributed secular materials by giving them to students to take home, it had to allow religious materials as well. The school complied. But when a summer camp for “atheists, freethinkers, [and] humanists” used the “backpack mail” program, Rick Scarborough’s Vision America pounced, directing its supporters to flood the school superintendent’s e-mail account and eventually causing the school to drop “backpack mail” altogether.
Scarborough declared a “major victory” for Vision America, but lamented that the victory was only partial: He would prefer that the school reject material from atheists while continuing to distribute material from Christian programs. Scarborough explained:
People for the American Way says we’re hypocrites who want to establish a different standard for Christians and atheists.
Hypocrites, no. Different standards? Yes. Again, the court said the district didn’t have unbridled discretion, not that it shouldn’t exercise any discretion.
Why should a fringe minority have the same status as Christians? This country was not established by secular humanists. The Declaration of Independence appeals to the “Creator” and the “Supreme Judge of the World” — not to Buddha or Mohammad or Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
Christians constitute 90% of the American people. The people whose taxes pay for the Albemarle County School System are overwhelmingly Christian.
While we didn’t actually call Vision America hypocritical, it’s easy to jump to that conclusion. After all, religious-right groups argue for increased access to public schools for evangelism on the principle of “viewpoint neutrality,” but when it comes to a viewpoint Vision America doesn’t like, the principle disappears.
Perhaps what Scarborough means when he alleges a “War on Christians” is any policy that gives other faiths equal protection under the law. It’s clear that Scarborough’s goal is to have the government discriminate in favor of Christianity, and against people with any other religious viewpoint. His indignant and chilling question – “Why should a fringe minority have the same status as Christians?” – is about as clear an argument for the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections as you’ll ever hear.
(For the record, Mr. Scarborough – the quotation you attribute to this blog is actually from The Hook, a weekly newspaper in Charlottesville.)