On a recent broadcast of the show FlashPoint, televangelist Kenneth Copeland told host Greg Stephens that the school shootings that occur in the United States can be blamed entirely on the 1963 Supreme Court decision that removed mandatory Christian prayer from public schools.
COPELAND: … The devil has assignments. If you want to know what’s happening in schools, go back to schools…
STEPHENS: Okay, so when did the devil get a geographic assignment to kill children in schools?
COPELAND: The devil used one atheist woman. One who had one son. One demon-possessed woman by the name of Madalyn [Murray] O’Hair. And her son and Supreme Court people that didn’t have… what it took to stand up against her. And because of that one woman, today, we don’t have bibles in school. We can’t pray in schools anymore. The devil used that woman to open… to cripple our schools and open the door to the schools. And now the devil’s going in there and killing children in schools.
I didn’t realize there was a worse response to school shootings than “thoughts and prayers,” but there you go.
Everything Copeland just uttered is pure bullshit, but because this particular right-wing talking point gets repeated all the time, it’s helpful to point out the obvious errors.
Copeland is referring to Abington School District v. Schempp, the 1963 Supreme Court decision that ended school-sponsored Bible readings in public schools. “School-sponsored” is an important distinction to make because all it means is that Christianity can’t be treated like a school’s official religion. Which makes sense because people of all faiths and no faith attend public school, and it’s absurd to pretend Christianity represents everybody.
That also means students who want to read the Bible in school on their own time are perfectly free to do so. And teachers who want to pray to Jesus on their own time are perfectly free to do so. And teachers who want to reference the Bible for academic reasons, like dissecting a verse for an English class or discussing how the Garden of Eden is referenced in classical literature are not going to face a lawsuit. Hell, they can even teach the Bible as literature as long as it’s done objectively.
On the flip side, it’s not like atheism is the official religion of public schools either. No teacher is demanding that kids say, “There is no God!” God’s Not Dead is not a documentary.
Later in the segment, Stephens even suggests the teaching of evolution is to blame for violence because one particular shooter wore a shirt that read “Natural Selection” on it. But as anyone who actually understands evolution could tell you, “survival of the fittest” isn’t a justification for anything, much less murder; it’s an explanation. It’s a description. To pretend otherwise is to admit you don’t get the theory. The phrase isn’t even a Darwin original.
Anyway, no one has ever stopped Christians from praying in school, just as no one has ever banned the Bible in it. Conservatives who claim otherwise are either very ignorant or just lying to you.
In the case of Kenneth Copeland, it may be both.
Blaming that 1963 decision for the school shooting problem makes as much sense as blaming the Civil Rights Act. Which I’m sure conservatives would love to do if they thought they could get away with it.
The accusation doesn’t even make sense though.
There was no spike in school shootings in the decades following those Supreme Court decisions. Not until Columbine, really, did we start to see these horrific mass shootings by kids who just wanted to unleash their rage and had access to weapons to make it happen. That was 1999, by the way, more than three decades after the prayer decision.
There is no reason to believe that the lack of forced prayer in school—or, while we’re at it, mental illness or video games or social media—should be blamed for a uniquely American problem. Other nations don’t have forced Christianity in school. They also struggle with mental illness and have access to games and websites and yet mass shootings in those countries are incredibly rare. The common denominator in all the massacres we see in our country is the weapon. (Often, the same kind.) Furthermore, even places overrun with prayer, like churches, aren’t immune from gun violence.
Want to reduce mass shootings? Put more obstacles in the way for gun owners. Especially people who want weapons that can kill several people in seconds. Raise the legal age to own one. Make owners go through a certain amount of training. Register the weapons the way we register cars. There are many more possible answers to the problem, but conservatives are hell-bent on fighting every single one of them because they love semi-automatic weapons more than children. Dead kids are a price Republicans will gladly pay to continue their violent hobbies. The NRA always takes precedence over the PTA.
Forcing children to worship the same God as Kenneth Copeland will not solve a damn thing. If anything, it’ll just create new problems. Telling non-Christian students they need to bow down to the Christian God, or putting Ten Commandments posters in schools, or forcing schools to display “In God We Trust” like they’re currently doing in Texas, will not stop massacres, because God has nothing to do with the problem.
Elsewhere in the segment, Copeland also blames pornography, transgender people, and abortion for society’s problems. He’s just grasping at straws.
It’s disgusting, really, to hear Copeland use serious tragedies like school shootings as a way to inject his personal religious views onto other people. It’s not enough that he preaches nonsense to his followers; he wants to shove it in kids’ faces too. Hasn’t he done enough damage to our society?
(via Right Wing Watch. Portions of this article were published earlier)