Recently, I was struck by reports that graduating seniors from Christian high schools in California are having difficulty getting accepted by some University of California system affiliates because some of their high school courses are deemed to be biased in favor of Christianity. According to the journal First Things, one university said that “religion and ethics courses are acceptable as long as they do not include among their primary goals the personal religious growth of their students”. Previously I have mentioned new Air Force Academy regulations that ban anything that might be perceived as favoring “the idea of religion over non-religion”. These anecdotes occur to me as directly analogous to the prevailing attitude among our elite institutions that references to and symbols of our nation’s religious founding and heritage—“in God we trust”, “under God”, the Ten Commandments, the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence (“endowed by our Creator”, etc.)—are acceptable as long as they are merely manifestations of “ceremonial deism” and do not in any way represent beliefs genuinely held.
In response to this growing phenomenon, I submit an excerpt from remarks made by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict: “Even a secular state may—indeed must—find its support in the formative roots from which it grew; it may and must acknowledge the foundational values without which it would not have come to be, and without which it cannot survive. Upon an abstract, an ahistorical reason, a state cannot endure.” As I have said before, on some things we cannot be neutral.