Christian nationalism a threat

I am an officer and board member for an organization called Mid-Ohio Valley Atheists and Humanists. We at MOVAH have in the past couple of years partnered with Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on issues involving outside religious groups in public schools and more recently on an issue where a public school coach lead a prayer on a chartered bus in transit to a public school athletic event. In both cases, the Superintendent’s Office for Wood County Schools responded responsibly, professionally and in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.

We appreciate this timely and appropriate response from the Superintendent very much. We also are asking that the Superintendent’s Office and Wood County Board of Education develop a policy for outside groups in public schools, particularly religious groups, in keeping with settled law regarding church/state separation under the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

Christian nationalism is a growing threat to our Republic. In our state legislature, the House of Delegates Education Committee is on its third reading as I write this of legislation entitled The West Virginia Student Religious Liberties Act (HB4069), which could go as far as allowing students in public schools to be given credit for incorrect answers on assignments because of their religious affiliation and allowing religious students to proselytize to others on instructional time. Here locally, I have been a plaintiff in an FFRF lawsuit against the City of Parkersburg for over a year because the Parkersburg City Council is unconstitutionally leading a uniquely Christian prayer invocation at the beginning of its public meetings. At the national level, efforts persist to repeal the Johnson Amendment, codified U.S. tax law which prohibits churches and other types of non-profits from engaging in partisan politics. It’s out of control.

Our nation is a secular constitutional democratic republic. Our government at all levels must remain secular in order to protect both freedom of and from religion. As a religiously pluralistic society we must understand that everyone’s rights must be protected and freedoms upheld, which includes people of all faiths and no faith at all. I know many feel that this is a Christian nation, but that is not true. A great read on this subject is Andrew Seidel’s “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American.” This book is available at the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library. I understand that “In God We Trust” has been printed on our currency since the 1950s, but our nation’s motto since the beginning has been and must remain “E Pluribus Unum,” “Out of many, One.”

Eric Engle