David Brooks conservative-propaganda-masquerading-as-civil-society-mush threat level is elevated today, i.e., a "yellow" bullshit warning.

D is on about school prayer today, and the trick, you see, will be to lure liberals in with talk about Martin Luther King. As far as I can tell, today's journey into the irrelevant goes something like so: Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, in case you didn't know, were actually quite influenced by religion. That's right, you atheist lefties, Dr. King was a preacher. Stings, don't it? That's where D brings in the kicker:

If you believe that the separation of church and state means that people should not bring their religious values into politics, then, if Chappell is right, you have to say goodbye to the civil rights movement. It would not have succeeded as a secular force. (Chappell is the author of a new book examining the civil rights movement through the lens of religious revival)

Brooks' craftiness for the day is the eliding of "politics" with "culture" with "state coercion". All one and the same, you see. Liberals have a simple choice here, banish religion from the face of the earth, or let the state require religious prayer in school.

But again, says D, we are being too narrowminded about this. Religion helps us to be better people so religion in school would actually be a boon for all of us: The lesson I draw from all this is that prayer should not be permitted in public schools, but maybe theology should be mandatory. Students should be introduced to the prophets, to the Old and New Testaments, to the Koran, to a few of the commentators who argue about these texts.

Hmmm. Mandatory theology. Well, since just about nothing in school is mandatory anymore, I don't know if that's going to happen, but I do seem to remember most high schools having a world religions elective. Or "The Bible as literature." Etc. People don't have a problem with studying and learning from the teachings of the world's religions in school. That's not the issue. But Brooks is predictably evasive about the question, refusing to contend with the fact that required behavior or recitation, outside of the open dialogue of the classroom, is not the same thing, and should be open to constitutional scrutiny.

Classic Brooks. Coopt a liberal sacred cow for the neoconservative cause of the moment, confuse the fine points of the debate to make the opposition look petty and inconsistent, then sweep it all under the rug and wave the banners of "culture" and "tradition" to foist yourself above the particular issue you brought up in the first place. Hmmm, this would be a great evasive maneuver for the White House if school prayer comes up in the campaign. Wonder if they're reading.


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