Imagine this church-state scenario

542401b Woman Praying W Rosary Beads PostersOK, here's the plan. Clearly, there is ugly anti-Catholic prejudice left in American life, especially in terms of bias against the most devout and traditional forms of the faith. So what would happen if public educators floated a plan to have all students learn more about this important world religion by practicing this faith during their school days?

The teacher could stand at the front of the classroom and, all together, as part of a taxpayer-funded class activity, with the teacher grading students on their participation, everyone present would learn how to say the following:

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.

All of the students -- Protestants, Muslims, Mormons, Jews, Hindus, you name it -- could learn about fasting, memorizing Bible passages, making the sign of the Cross and saying confession (maybe they could do that on a field trip). Wouldn't this be great for promoting interfaith understanding in this tense age? I'm sure there wouldn't be protests about this from strict church-state separationists, secularists, fundamentalist Protestants and others. Right? It would be an educational exercise. That's the ticket.

Well, maybe a few people would be upset. But it seems that this kind of interfaith education is kosher these days. After all, click here and read this story from the San Francisco Chronicle about a U.S. Supreme Court non-decision:

The court, without comment, left intact a ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last November in favor of the Byron Union School District in eastern Contra Costa. The suit challenged the content of a seventh-grade history course at Excelsior Middle School in Byron in the fall of 2001. The teacher, using an instructional guide, told students they would adopt roles as Muslims for three weeks to help them learn what Muslims believe.

She encouraged them to use Muslim names, recited prayers in class, had them memorize and recite a passage from the Quran and made them give up something for a day, such as television or candy, to simulate fasting during the month of Ramadan.

What's my point? We really don't need to debate the ruling itself or the wisdom of the program.

What I found interesting is that the newspaper editors didn't seem to realize what would have happened, say in Northern California, if anyone had attempted to mandate a similar program for Orthodox Judaism, Evangelical Protestantism, Catholicism, etc.

Would the newspaper have considered that a threatening violation of the DMZ between church and state? Or what if a charismatic, Pentecostal Christian educator worked up some taxpayer-funded class activities based on learning how to speak in tongues, evangelism, the laying on of hands for healing, watching Pat Robertson videos, handling snakes ...

What would the ACLU think of that? What would the editors think of that? Just asking.

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