Q/A With Michael Medved: The Left vs. Public Education
Best-selling author Michael Medved is one of the five most listened-to radio talk show hosts in America, and features Alliance Defense Fund attorneys every Thursday during the "First Amendment File" segment of his nationally-syndicated program, The Michael Medved Show. We spoke with him recently from his studios in Seattle.
What concerns you about attitudes toward people of faith in our culture today?
A legitimate concern for people to talk about in a constitutional republic is protecting the rights of minorities. But that means you also have to protect the rights of the majority. People of faith represent a clear majority in the culture, but because so many of the gatekeepers in academia and the media are people who themselves have contempt for religious faith, there has been a very concerted – and increasingly strident – attempt to marginalize all questions of religious belief.
Why are so many public schools and universities now so antagonistic to religious freedom?
The new hostility is really not so new. It goes back to the 19th century, and the origins of Darwinism, and to this belief that somehow what education meant was not deepening your knowledge of God’s world and God’s law – which was the traditional way the founders saw education in this country – but being educated out of "religious superstition."
How would you describe the agenda of the Left when it comes to public education?
I think that the Left would describe the agenda as educating people in decency, values, tolerance. But part of the problem here is that, given the fact that most of the hard-core Left in the United States is secular, they treat their political/cultural outlook as a substitute for religious faith. So, if you depart from that "faith," you’re not just wrong – you’re a dangerous heretic.
What that perspective creates is a situation where, even to question the indoctrination of children in viewpoints that we would identify with the hard Left, becomes – for them – to question, or to challenge, or to resist, a simple and universal decency.
Do you see a deliberate effort to remove faith from the public square, or just ignorance about the protections of the First Amendment?
Part of the debate here is, which side is the aggressor? To understand what the other side is up to, it is important to recognize that they believe that we are the aggressors, and that somehow we are trying to alter this wonderful, constitutional, God-free and religion-free paradise by introducing the serpent of religious messages into public education.
They don’t realize that there is nothing that even the most conservative religious believers want for our public schools or for the public square generally that would not have been normal in Eisenhower’s America. Nobody wants to establish an official religion or impose faith on anybody. Unless you believe that we lived under a theocracy under Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, these charges about the theocratic leanings of religious believers are clearly bogus and deeply misleading.
Is there a worst case scenario, if the Left progresses with its agenda unchallenged?
The real worst case here is driving religious believers in big numbers out of the public schools. And for people who care about the future of public education, that’s a disaster. Because it means that some of the kids who are most promising and most constructive will be driven out of a public education system that desperately needs more such children, not fewer.
Is there something conservatives need to be communicating about this issue that we’re not?
One of the things we need to get across is that conservatives recognize that not all public schools are broken. There are very good public schools, and very often some of the more successful schools will make accommodations and will be welcoming to people of faith.
"There has been a very concerted – and increasingly strident – attempt to marginalize all questions of religious belief."
But we also need to communicate more effectively the true nature of what the First Amendment says and doesn’t say. It never promises a religion-free society. At the very most, you can say that the First Amendment guarantees a secular government. But that secular government – for its very survival – presupposes the continued existence of a deeply religious nation.
What impact do you see ADF having in the battle for religious freedom in schools?
The great thing about the Alliance Defense Fund is that it provides a large organization of unfailingly articulate and effective litigators and attorneys, so ADF is able to fight very successfully – and very educationally – on many different fronts at once. And at the same time, they help to provide encouragement for people who would otherwise feel overwhelmed, outnumbered, and isolated. It’s a blessing for all Americans that ADF is there.