The term crusade has taken on a certain irony in recent years, as zealous atheists have organized legal challenges against expressions of religion in the public square. Historically, the constitutional separation of church and state was never interpreted to prevent individuals or groups from expressing their beliefs in public forums. But that hasn’t stopped activist judges from inventing restrictive interpretations that the framers clearly never intended.
A recent example comes from Mississippi, where a high school band was prevented from taking the field at a halftime show where they planned to perform the Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The Rankin County School District had previously approved the performance, but changed their minds in light of recent court rulings. Fans protested the development by singing the hymn in place of the band during halftime.
From IJ Review:
In 2013, a Northwest Rankin High School student and the American Humanist Association sued the school district for a series of assemblies that were deemed to be “pro-Christian.”
They included a church-goer speaking of Jesus Christ, though the school maintained that the events were organized by students.
Thus, U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves permanently banned the school from “including prayer or religious sermons in any school-sponsored event.”
The prevailing argument in the debate over how church/state separation is implemented denies religious people their freedom of expression. The taxpayers of the Rankin County School District, presumably Christian by a vast majority, somehow lose their ability to express themselves when their money is spent by government. That’s perverse.
It shouldn’t be difficult to distinguish between religious curriculum and voluntary religious expression. A band performing a hymn does not encroach upon anyone’s rights. So long as individuals express their beliefs, and not the institution in an official capacity, atheist taxpayers have nothing to complain about. By contrast, religious taxpayers do have a complaint when told by the state that they can’t speak their mind or sing from their heart.