A threat by an Alabama school to discipline an 11-year-old girl for wearing a cross necklace shows why you can’t trust government schools to protect religious freedom, the Libertarian Party said today.
“Students go to school to learn — but what kind of lesson do they learn when the government says that wearing a cross is a crime?” asked Steve Dasbach, the party’s national director. “It seems the lesson of the day in Alabama is Religious Intolerance 101.”
Earlier this month, attorneys for Kandice Smith, a sixth-grader at Curry Middle School in Walker County, Alabama, filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn what they called an “unconstitutional” dress code.
In August, the school banned cross necklaces as part of its new dress code — claiming they are “gang symbols.” School officials threatened to discipline Smith if she didn’t hide the cross under her clothes.
But Smith’s attorneys argue the policy “violates the free speech and free exercise rights [of Smith] by denying her the ability to express her faith through the visible wearing of the necklace.” The lawsuit also charges that the school “demonstrates a hostility toward religion.”
Dasbach said Libertarians agree — but have a better solution.
“Any dress code that bans a popular Christian symbol is clearly unconstitutional, and we’re confident the court will agree. But changing this particular school’s dress code isn’t the answer,” he said.
“After all, if Kandice Smith wins, the problem will be solved at Curry Middle School. But it doesn’t change the fact that thousands of government school districts all across the country have the power to implement a similar anti-Christian ban tomorrow.
“And it doesn’t change the fact that government schools routinely teach values and beliefs that many Christians find abhorrent — while forcing them to pay taxes to subsidize those schools. That’s why this lawsuit won’t solve the real problem.”
So what will?
“Most Christians support a separation of church and state because they understand that government should not come between people’s relationship with their God,” said Dasbach. “What Libertarians understand is that we need a separation of school and state for the same reason: To protect children like Kandice Smith from the kind of religious intolerance she is experiencing at a government school.”
That’s why the underlying problem will only be solved when America starts moving toward a system where children are educated in free-market, religious, or voluntary community schools — not tax-funded government schools, he said.
“In a free-market system — where people aren’t forced to subsidize costly, failing government schools — parents would be able to send their children to schools that teach their values, and respect their beliefs,” said Dasbach. “In a free-market system, Kandice Smith’s parents wouldn’t be forced to send her to a school that makes wearing a cross a crime.”
The idea of moving away from government-run schools and towards private alternatives can be somewhat unsettling for many Christians, Dasbach acknowledged.
“But remember this: Jesus Christ was sentenced to death by his government,” he said. “So, do you want to blindly trust our government to educate your children properly — especially after what it’s done to Kandice Smith?”