A stunning poll released this July Fourth holiday shows only about 58 percent of Americans know which year America declared itself to be free.
Perhaps because we're still fighting to be.
Case in point:
Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit that helps preserve religious freedom, figures that its recent lawsuit settlement with a Florida school district helped win back a dozen constitutional rights for staff and students that had been taken away.
After the ultra-liberal American Civil Liberties Union sued the Santa Rosa County School District, and won a "consent decree" restricting staff and students' voluntary prayer, such as over the noon meal, they were threatened for several years with fines, loss of accrued retirement benefits and even jail.
"As a result of this settlement," the organization said in a press release, "Liberty Counsel's clients who are teachers will now be able to pray at school during their break times, pray during school events in a nonofficial capacity, attend and fully participate in baccalaureate services, have a Bible on their desk, wear religious jewelry, and assign readings from the Bible to students when relevant to nonreligious academic assignments. Students will be allowed to voluntarily pray, submit religious answers in homework, and freely participate in private, after-school religious programs."
There is no freedom from religion in the U.S. Constitution. In fact, our religious liberty is enshrined in the "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment, which forbids Congress "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion.
For a time, prodded into it by the ACLU, the Pensacola-area school district did just that -- in a "consent decree" with the ACLU -- also known as an unconditional surrender.
Among other things, the decree had essentially ordered school officials to tackle any speaker at a school event who intended to offer any mention of God or prayer.
Further, one part of the decree said: "School officials shall not participate in any way in a prayer with students during or in conjunction with instructional periods or a school event. During or in conjunction with a school event, school officials shall not offer a prayer, recite a prayer alongside or with students, bow their heads or otherwise posture in a manner that is likely to be perceived as an endorsement of the prayer."
"Posture in a manner that is likely to be perceived as an endorsement of the prayer"? Good grief! The Gestapo might have been proud of that!
Thanks to Liberty Counsel, after-hours student groups and teacher meetings at Santa Rosa schools are no longer "school events" where prayer is prohibited; disallowed prayer no longer includes silent or individual prayer; and teachers no longer have to censor spiritually based references from students' work.
No, we don't want public schools to proselytize. But we don't give up our constitutional rights by walking onto a school grounds or working for a school district. And the First Amendment is clear that we have a right to exercise our personal religious beliefs.
And God help us -- literally -- if our government starts arresting people for adopting a "posture in a manner that is likely to be perceived as an endorsement" of a prayer.
It's amazing that a couple centuries after throwing off the tyranny of King George, Americans are still having to fight for their religious liberties. How can any government official or any well-trained lawyer believe they have the right to get in the way of you and your God? Do they not teach the First Amendment in law school? Or, following the example of NBC-TV -- which last month edited God out of the Pledge of Allegiance -- are law professors cutting out the free-exercise clause?
Thank God there are people such as those at Liberty Counsel who can have it put back.