The other night, I turned on one of the more conservative 24-hour news channels. A well-known commentator stood at a blackboard and drew a picture of the Washington Monument with a piece of white chalk. While he drew, he spoke disparagingly of the separation of church and state as a “fictional wall that progressives built.” This bothered me. A lot.
I stand in front of a real blackboard everyday. Every now and then, someone is sent in to replace it with a green chalkboard or a white board to be used with dry erase markers. I send them away. My blackboard is black, not green. The slate may be cracked, but it is real slate and I like to think it came from the mountains of Virginia. I also like to think of the other teachers who have stood on the very same spot, in front of the very same blackboard, since 1911. The blackboard stays. I’ve worked hard to protect it.
There is a line I stand on everyday. It is the line that separates church and state. I have and will continue to work hard to protect that, too. My faith is very important to me, but I know that faith is to be kindled in the heart and home… and not called into question in a public schoolroom.
December brings the line of church and state into sharp focus. As we share December traditions, there is a part of me that would love to teach my children to sing Away in the Manger. There is a part of me that would love to describe the way the straw shone like gold under a silent starry Bethlehem night. But I know that my children don’t need the Christmas story from me. My children need the message that my faith holds in common with all major faiths. It is a message of tolerance, respect, hope, kindness, responsibility, and love. The line I stand on every day is not a “fictional wall that progressives built.” It is a line that protects the rights of all. That’s sacred, too.