Obama: Religious schools encourage division

posted at 8:41 am on June 20, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama actually made this claim at a speech in Belfast on Monday, but it seems to be gaining traction overnight.  His claim, aimed at both Catholic and Protestant “schools and buildings,” came in prepared remarks rather than an extemporaneous response to a question.  The Scottish Catholic Observer quotes the argument accurately:

The US President has made an alarming call for an end to Catholic education in Northern Ireland in spite of the fact that Archbishop Gerhard Müller told Scots that Catholic education was ‘a critical component of the Church.’

President Barack Obama (above), repeated the oft disproved claim that Catholic education increases division in front of an audience of 2000 young people, including many Catholics, at Belfast’s Waterfront hall when he arrived in the country this morning.

“If towns remain divided—if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden—that too encourages division and discourages cooperation,” the US president said.

The US politician made the unfounded claim despite a top Vatican official spelling out the undeniable good done by Catholic education in a speech in Glasgow on Saturday and in his homily at Mass on Friday.

I’ll quote the passage in its full context:

We need you to get this right.  And what’s more, you set an example for those who seek a peace of their own.  Because beyond these shores, right now, in scattered corners of the world, there are people living in the grip of conflict — ethnic conflict, religious conflict, tribal conflicts — and they know something better is out there.  And they’re groping to find a way to discover how to move beyond the heavy hand of history, to put aside the violence.  They’re studying what you’re doing.  And they’re wondering, perhaps if Northern Ireland can achieve peace, we can, too.  You’re their blueprint to follow.  You’re their proof of what is possible — because hope is contagious.  They’re watching to see what you do next.

Now, some of that is up to your leaders.  As someone who knows firsthand how politics can encourage division and discourage cooperation, I admire the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly all the more for making power-sharing work.  That’s not easy to do.  It requires compromise, and it requires absorbing some pain from your own side.  I applaud them for taking responsibility for law enforcement and for justice, and I commend their effort to “Building a United Community” — important next steps along your transformational journey.

Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it.  If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division.  It discourages cooperation.

Ultimately, peace is just not about politics.  It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the  divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.

Does that make the context any better?  Er … not really.  He’s speaking in terms of Northern Ireland, but pretty explicitly calling for that to be a model for the rest of the world.  His argument makes two very large assumptions, which is that the conflict in Northern Ireland was about religion, and that parochial schools make people inclined to violence.  The first is a gross oversimplification; the conflict in recent times was political, dealing with ethnic conflict and sovereignty issues, with religion used more for tribal identification than a core of the conflict.

The second is just absurd. Catholics and Protestants have thousands of schools in the US, and we don’t have warfare in the streets in the US between the sects.  The issue wasn’t the schools, nor the belief systems of Catholics and Protestants that such schools teach.  However, this makes a handy mechanism to call for the displacement of private education and religious instruction from education, with nothing left except state-controlled schools that indoctrinate children into whatever norms the governing/ruling class deem acceptable.

My friend Father Z wonders whether Obama will make this call truly consistent:

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a foreign visit to a Islamic nation where he told people on his arrival that they shouldn’t have madrasas.  Can you?

Did he when visiting, say, Israel, say “You Jews shouldn’t have synagogue schools and you muslims shouldn’t have mosque schools.”  I can’t remember.  Did he?

I’d guess … no.

Update: The comments came in a speech on Monday, not on Friday.  I’ve fixed it above; thanks to Joel Pollak at Breitbart for the heads-up.

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SauerKraut537, don’t know if you’re still following-but I’ll leave this in case you check back:

The reason it can’t be the Christian god is the same reason it can’t be the Islamic god… There IS no extraordinary evidence. I know you feel your religion has extraordinary evidence to back it up, but it just doesn’t. No more than Islam does…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…” extraordinary or mundane, the proofs of creation and the rights granted to men by the creator were certainly enough for our founders and for numerous intellects that far surpass mine. The Universe has order and structure, from the largest galactic spiral to the smallest sub-atomic particle-an impossible result from a random explosion.

Forget for a moment the idea of a Christian or Islamic or Hindu god. Does God exist? If He does, then somewhere in the stories that men tell, the morality they espouse, the worship they offer, and the deeds they do, GOD is apprehended, as far as men are capable of doing so. The goal from that point becomes to find out where and how God is worshiped. If we believe God exists we can seek no higher knowledge.

On what basis was the conclusion arrived at, that “it” (“He”, to me) couldn’t be the Christian God?
listens2glenn on June 21, 2013 at 11:16 AM

On the basis that I finally saw the “evidence” for the Christian god in the same light that you see the “evidence” for the Islamic god not being legitimate, in the same light that you see the “evidence” for the Hindu gods not being legitimate.
SauerKraut537 on June 21, 2013 at 12:01 PM

As glenn responds-you don’t know under what light of evidence he rejects all other religions. Just because you declare that there is “no extraordinary evidence” does not make it so. The light under which you examine evidence may be too dim to see what is evident to someone else, or vice-versa. After all-perfectly reasonable people disagree vehemently about many things outside of religion. That they may also disagree about religion does not automatically make one or both unreasonable.

If someone were to live their life literally by the word of the bible, they would be put in jail in no time.

If you think a couple of verses from Exodus and Leviticus encapsulate the whole of Christian theology, you have done a disservice not only to any serious Christian you know, but also to your own enlightenment-regardless of whether you accept any religious belief or not.

For me, the gist of all this is that you could paint a better self-portrait than currently on display in these threads by refraining from a simple accusation like “Religion does nothing but divide us.” (emphasis mine.)
Any thing that people might take sides over will cause divisions. Sometimes this serves to separate those who wish to live in peace from those who wish to destroy. At other times it only serves to separate into 2 (or more) camps those who wish to destroy each other, which gets to the heart of all religions-the redemption of men from their evil ways.

questionmark on June 23, 2013 at 4:00 PM

The reason it can’t be the Christian god is the same reason it can’t be the Islamic god… There IS no extraordinary evidence. I know you feel your religion has extraordinary evidence to back it up, but it just doesn’t. No more than Islam does…

The “evidence” is all anecdotal in nature.

SauerKraut537 on June 22, 2013 at 12:07 AM

So … Genesis (the whole thing, not just the first couple of chapters) is not an “extraordinary anecdote?”

The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism.

SauerKraut537 on June 22, 2013 at 12:07 AM

What ? ! ? !

If someone were to live their life literally by the word of the bible, they would be put in jail in no time.

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. (Exodus 22:18)

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)

SauerKraut537 on June 22, 2013 at 12:07 AM

Severe penalties for sin that were ordained before the death and resurrection of Jesus have no place in the daily Christian walk of life.

“But,”, they say, “why can’t you let people believe what they want to believe?”

“Believing” in commiting homicide is not as bad as carrying out the act.
If that’s not what you meant, then you you’ll have to expound on it.

While religious faith is the one species of human ignorance that will not admit of even the possibility of correction, it is still sheltered from criticism in every corner of our culture.

SauerKraut537 on June 22, 2013 at 12:07 AM

“Correction”, meaning what?
Christians are people, and as such will never be immune from correction.
But the word “correction” as you used it is too general and vague.

Even before the ‘Counter-Culture Revolution’ (late ’60s, early ’70s), Christianity has had criticism from within this country.

It has had no end of criticism since.

Just what do you call “sheltered”?

listens2glenn on June 23, 2013 at 9:36 PM

Obama: Religious schools encourage division

Why has prayer been outlawed in U.s. Schools while special prayer rooms & prayer rugs have been mandated for some public schools?
— while not a perfect comparison, that is pretty much like arming Mexican Drug Cartels while attempting to strip law-abiding U.s. citizens of their Constitutional Right to bear arms.

It is disturbing how the President calls for tolerance & praises the religion of Islam, a religion that calls for either the conversion of all people to Islam or their deaths, and the condemnation of the religios faith on which this nation was founded.
As pointed out, perhaps the President’s goal – like that of Islam – is to eliminate the ‘division’ through the mandatory unification / conversion of the entire world to the Islamic faith.

If Obama is going to tyranically eliminate prayer, for example, from schools then you do so completely across the board. It is not the job nor within the power of the President & Federal government to dictate what religion’s prayers are allowed in chool & what religions’ prayers are not. it is not their role nor within their power to pass judgement upon & target any specific religions. “It is not…” – actually, that should read “It SHOULD NOT”; however, this President has blown past so many of those Constitutional & Legal roadblocks so far that it is obvious that he has betrayed our Founding Fathers, the constitution, the Rule of Law, & the American People in favor of his own agenda.

easyt65 on June 24, 2013 at 9:12 AM