Like the rest of America, I know you as the courageous Foothill High School valedictorian with the 4.7 GPA whose commencement speech mentioning God was cut short when school officials turned off your microphone.
You don't know me. I am an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, author, and radio talk show host. I live in Seattle and head an organization called Toward Tradition which defends the Judeo-Christian values that I consider vital for our nation's survival.
We applaud people like you who stand up for Judeo-Christian values and we denounce people like Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. Along with his organization, he tries to strip out Judeo Christian values from America, presumably because he considers them to be primitive obstacles to progress.
Mr. Lichtenstein encouraged the school officials to censor you because your speech 'promoted' religion. It is really weird. My Jewish ancestors stood at the foot of Mount Sinai three thousand years ago doing exactly what you are accused of doing--promoting religion. It used to be considered a good thing for Jews to do. Nowadays we must mostly count on fervent Christians like you to promote religion. May God bless you.
You should be proud to have been viewed as such a menace that primitive censoring tactics were resorted to by educational bureaucrats. You should also be proud that you conducted yourself with such dignity that hundreds of your fellow graduates and their families jeered long and loud at the petty tyranny of the school officials.
The last time my microphone went dead, it was not deliberate. It as just a technical hitch, but it was pretty unpleasant. Last February I was speaking to a packed Altel Arena in downtown Little Rock, with Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee. The microphone was out only for a few moments but it was most disconcerting. I can only imagine what you felt when you realized what had happened to you. I am sure it wasn't fun but I am equally sure that you will look back on that moment as one of the most educational instants of all the years you spent at Foothill High School.
Why do I say your microphone going dead was a great educational instant? Because it taught you that the single most important sculptor of people's world views is how they relate to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If they recoil in horror from the God of the Bible, they become capable of the very acts they condemn in others--such as censorship. Having eliminated the ultimate source of morality, they set about dismantling Judeo-Christian values, aiming to convert every vice into a virtue and every virtue into a vice.
Maybe you ought to thank school officials for pulling the plug on your sound system. In so doing, they taught you and everyone else that their world view is a belief system just as surely as is yours. Yours is the Biblical faith of Christianity. Mine is the Biblical faith of Judaism. Theirs is the anti-Biblical faith of secular fundamentalism. Mentioning God nine times in your speech was heresy to them. We must admit that in an only-to-be -admired emulation of medieval fundamentalism, they knew they had to shut you up.
When it was pointed out that the set of regulations that Clark County School Board adopted in 2003 explicitly allowed for religious expression by student speakers at graduations, they had a telling response: your speech crossed over into the realm of 'preaching.'
One can only imagine how enthusiastically the educrats would have praised your speech had you instead preached in favor of some of the activities that Las Vegas routinely advertises for the purpose of attracting the dissolute to the degrading. It would have been fine for you to have promoted almost anything in your speech other than religion.
A canyon cuts through our culture. It does not separate blacks from whites; neither does it separate rich from poor or men from women. It certainly does not separate Jews from Christians. It does, however, separate those who view Judeo-Christian values as tribal vestiges that obstruct our march to Utopia from those of us who see those Judeo-Christian values as vital for America's survival. There are blacks and whites on both sides just as there are rich and poor on both sides. Of course there are Jews on both sides too. I am so pleased that you are on my side. With the many young Americans, both Jewish and Christian, who are deeply devoted to God's Biblical blueprint for society, Mr. Lichtenstein and the ACLU don't stand a chance of forcing their beliefs down our throats.
Good luck at Biola University next year and always remember why they turned off your microphone.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin
Rabbi Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox Rabbi in Seattle, and President of "Toward Tradition." "Toward Tradition" is America's leading bridge-builder between Jewish and Christian communities; spanning the divide between Christians and Jews by sculpting ancient solutions to modern problems.
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