Charles C. Haynes of the First Amendment Center poses a good question in the following essay:
While American soldiers fight to establish a secular democracy abroad, many Americans want to create a Christian nation at home.
Consider the findings of ‘State of the First Amendment 2007’ a national survey released this week by the First Amendment Center. Significant numbers of Americans express support for government sponsorship of the majority religion, especially in public schools:
58% want teacher-led prayers in schools.
43% endorse school holiday programs that are entirely Christian and devotional.
50% would allow public school teachers to teach the Bible as a ‘factual text’ in history classes.
Despite the fact that all of the above are unconstitutional under current law, many people see nothing wrong and much right with school officials privileging or even endorsing the Christian faith.
Transpose the location (or substitute another religion) and the result would surely be very different. Would Americans support the creation of an Iraqi state where the majority Shiites imposed their prayers, religious celebrations, and scriptures on all Iraqi schoolchildren? Not likely.
On the contrary, we send young Americans to fight for an Iraq where people of all faiths will be protected from state-imposed religion. Why? Because we understand that (however quixotic the quest) only a secular democracy in Iraq with no established faith will guarantee religious freedom and end sectarian strife. [full text]