There are a few lines that should never be crossed in a democracy. One of those is the line separating church and state. For very good reasons, our founding fathers (while most of them shared the same basic Christian faith) had seen what happened in Europe when religion and politics got mixed. Heads rolled over the issue, and persecutions of minority religions, i.e. “non-state” religions, had persisted for centuries. Many of the early settlers of America came in order to escape religious persecution. Thus the founding fathers wisely drew a line separating religion and the state, so that government could not discriminate or persecute individuals on the basis of either their religious faith, or their lack thereof. Freedom to worship as we please (or not) is one of America’s cornerstones.
Another line of separation that should never get crossed is the separation of education and politics in the American classroom. This should be sacrosanct, as kids should never be asked to puppet the political views or biases of teachers or administrators. This line, unfortunately, was recently crossed in a New Jersey elementary school, where students sang praises of President Obama and his political goals. While this was part of a Black History Week and may have been no more than a surprisingly naive lapse in judgment, it was never the less startlingly inappropriate. These praise songs conjured memories of innocent kids singing praises to their “dear leader,” be it Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, and sounded an alarm that using kids and the arts for political reasons gives the appearance of indoctrination and has no place in American classrooms.
Watch this video of elementary school children singing and chanting praises to Obama, one of which substituted Obama’s name for Jesus in a familiar religious tune. Whoops, more than one line was crossed in that ditty!
Let’s let kids be kids, teach them music and the arts sans politics, and save the praise songs for historical figures of the more distant past–not a current president–lest politics (or the appearance of it) intrude where it isn’t appropriate.