A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.
Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.
My knee jerk reaction was that the school administrators required Mr. Williams to remove the Declaration of Independence merely because it contained the words "God" and "Creator." I lived in the bay area, and such an action would not surprise me.
However, Mr. Williams' lawyer said: "He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote." Discussing the origin of rights is admirable. But I wonder if Mr. Williams' is dressing up a lecture on Christianity as a philosophical discussion of human liberty. I also wonder whether he's covering Hobbs and other secular visions of the state.
If what Williams' lawyer says is true, namely that "[t]he principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity," the principal would be engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. Perhaps worse, the principal would be cheating the children out of the opportunity to learn how religion informed the Founders' understanding of natural rights.
But I would need to see more evidence. Namely, is God part of the totality of learning about civil rights in early America, or is the teacher merely using the Delectation of Independence as a way to talk about God.