Messieurs, Senoras y Senors, Damen und Herren, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is an
honor to join this distinguished Congress to discuss vital questions affecting
the family in the new Millennium. I look forward to greater friendship,
solidarity and mutual co-operation on all the matters that will be explored
here in this historic and gracious Geneva.
We meet in the waning
days of a century marked by unprecedented violence and terror. We may each pray
that this Congress will help to usher in a new era in which human rights are
respected, but in which human rights are clearly understood to be the gifts of
the God who made us and loves us.
As we celebrate the
recent anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, it might be wise for us to
consider what brought about this inhuman symbol of tyranny. Berlin was, of
course, a divided city in the middle of a divided state, and it symbolized a
Konrad Adenauer, the
post-war Chancellor, saw the rise of Nazi Germany as having been made possible
by the surrender of religious principles and beliefs to the idolatry of the
state. He said:For many decades, the German people had suffered from a wrong attitude to the
state, to the power, to the relationship between the individual and the state.
They made an idol of the state and set it upon an altar; the individual’s worth
and dignity had been sacrificed to this idol.[i]
understood the vital teaching of his Catholic Church and he applied to the
problems of restoring his great country to the community of nations. First,
though, he had to restore the sound philosophical basis for governance.
He recognized the
danger posed by materialist philosophy:
Anyone who works for
the centralization of political and economic power in the hands of the state or
of one class…is an enemy of the freedom of the individual and bound to prepare
the way for dictatorship in the minds of his adherents.[ii]
Adenauer did not see the state and the individual as the only actors in the
drama of social life. He certainly knew from his own life experience the
importance of family as a bulwark against the overwhelming power of the state.
It was, after all, Adenauer’s son, an army officer, who rescued him from prison
and sure death at the hands of the Nazis. The future chancellor called his
escape “a miracle of God.”
statesman Edmund Burke gives to us one of the greatest examples of patriotism,
piety and farsightedness. Burke was a friend not only to the people of Britain,
but an advocate for Catholic emancipation in Ireland, an advocate of
conciliation with the American colonies and an ardent defender of the natural
rights of the people of India. This world-renowned statesman clearly knew of
the vital role of family life and its relation to the life of the nation. Burke
understood, as few have understood so well since, how important these “little
should learn to love “the little platoon we belong to in society.” That little
platoon is the “germ of public affections.” We can see in the recent spate of
school shootings in America and elsewhere a failure to learn to love and guard the
little platoons. That hatred of all that is warm, familiar and near can and
does manifest itself as violence directed to others outside the family. Burke
believed that our civic affections begin with the family.
often in today’s world, governments teach contempt for the family. This is
tragically true in many places in the United States. Nowhere is this more the
case than in the vital connection of family life to sexuality, to preparing
children for responsible adulthood, marriage and the perpetuation of family
life. For nearly forty years, it has been the policy of the government of the
United States to use our taxpayer dollars to fund so-called family planning
clinics. Democratic and Republican presidents and Congresses have perpetuated
this policy. These centers seek out minor children with a message of sexual
promiscuity and premarital intimacy. For most parents, this teaching goes
against what they teach in the home. But in the case of sexuality education,
the government actually pays its servants to debauch the youth.
we see attempts not only to fund free-standing clinics which send out these
damaging messages to youth, but also in our country to create so-called health
clinics within government schools that can more aggressively and more directly
spread the message of sexual immorality to the young.
Washington, D.C., pro-family organizations like the Family Research Council
spend their days fighting off such attempts. It is particularly objectionable
that these school-based clinics are often targeted at poor and minority
youth—including many Black, Hispanic and Asian young people. The message in
these instances is doubly damaging: Your government wants you to disobey your
parents’ teaching and your government believes you cannot abstain from
believe that the already deeply divisive question of abortion is exacerbated by
the effort of the federal government to support teenage sexual activity outside
of marriage. So long as the government tells young people it is all right,
millions of parents will be locked in a great struggle with the government of
the country they love. In America, so arrogant have the practitioners of sexual
revolution become that they brazenly demand the power to give contraceptive
devices and sexually suggestive literature to the young without their own
parents’ knowledge or consent. In the Christian community, we refer to these
programs as “the millstone lobby” because of Jesus’ warnings against leading
the young into sin.
had the honor of discussing this with a counselor of the Japanese Embassy
recently. He asked why American religious conservatives were so demanding, why
were we so unwilling to be more accommodating of government programs. When I
told him that a twelve year old boy or girl could be outfitted with
contraception by government agents without first telling the child’s parents,
he was genuinely shocked. Nothing like that would be likely to happen in Japan,
he said, where the family is held in high regard.
American public schools, religious children have been forced to submit to
vulgar talk by sex instructors and to explicit models that offend all norms of
modesty. For a religious child—Muslim, Mormon, Christian or Jew—to be subjected
to actual demonstrations of how a condom is applied is a gross violation of
only on questions of family life and human sexuality do millions of Americans
take sharp issue with government education policy in the United States.
Aristotle said that education is intended to prepare the young to live the good
life. But, since men disagree about what constitutes the good life, men will
dispute about education. For all those of us who reject the materialist
philosophy, dogmatic instruction about the origins of the universe, especially
when taught under the auspices of the state, create serious problems of
materialist philosophy is perhaps best expressed by the views of the late Lord
Bertrand Russell of Great Britain. One of this century’s truly brilliant
mathematicians, Lord Russell nonetheless scandalized many in his country and
abroad with his atheist declarations. He believed that all that exists is “the
result of an accidental collocation of atoms” and that “all the noonday
brightness of human achievement is destined for extinction in the vast death of
the Universe.” Such a nihilistic philosophy, we believers know, cannot help but
have profound and disastrous consequences for the moral code of any society
that embraces its hopeless message. It should not surprise to us, therefore,
that Lord Russell urged the United States to wage a pre-emptive nuclear war
against the Soviet Union in the years before the Kremlin obtained atomic
weapons. Once the USSR had obtained nuclear weapons and the means to retaliate
against the West, Russell turned on his heels and said he would crawl on his
knees to Moscow to beg for peace.
thank God that Lord Russell’s ignoble advice was not followed by Britain or by
anyone else. But his materialist philosophy surely has a corrosive effect on
national honor and public morality wherever it is applied. In the United
States, we do not seek to force our religious ideas of life's origins on
resisting schoolchildren, but many of us want the growing evidence for intelligent
design of the universe to be presented fairly to all. And we urge government
honestly to teach students why the controversy over origins exists and why it
matters which view is taken.
the United States, we have no crown jewels. Our gold reserves are not on public
display. But our national archives are open to all. When our national capital
was invaded during the War of 1812, many soldiers ran away and let the White
House, the Capitol building and the Library of Congress be put to the torch.
But men and women risked their lives to save the Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution. Simple parchment. Ink on sheepskin. Our founding
document, the Declaration of Independence, asserts not only that all humans are
made equal, but that we are endowed by our Creator with our inalienable
rights—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This statement of moral and
political philosophy is not a mere expression of antiquated opinion held by a
number of white men who are now all dead. It was intended to apply to all
mankind and to be the highest expression of our national creed. It was to that
opening paragraph that Lincoln returned in his Gettysburg Address. Lincoln
believed that America was a nation “so conceived and so dedicated.” When it was
suggested recently that schoolchildren should be able to recite the
Declaration’s key passage, a feminist group in New Jersey denounced the idea:
they did not want young students to learn that the right to life is included in
their nation's founding document.
militance and arrogance with which secular forces demand that the children of
believers be indoctrinated into a materialist worldview in government schools
is nothing less than stunning. Nearly sixty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court
took up the question of whether the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a minority
sect, might be compelled by law to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance to
the American flag. The Supreme Court in 1943 said that the state had no such
power. The decision was widely hailed—as it should have been—as a victory for
freedom of belief. Mr. Justice Jackson, who would later win distinction in
Europe as a prosecutor at the Nuremburg Tribunals, gave the famous opinion of
the court in the case of West Virginia v. Barnette.
If there is any fixed
star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or
petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion,
or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their
faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they
do not now occur to us.
today that sound constitutional doctrine is being undermined in government
schools throughout our great country. Officials high and petty do prescribe
what shall be orthodox opinion on a whole host of subjects in the curriculum of
the schools and in the administration of the schools.
addition to the previously cited cases—the teaching of sexuality education and
the indoctrination into a materialist worldview—American schools today are being
force-marched along the path of intellectual, political and religious
conformity by federal laws which mandate the setting up of educational “goals”
and “standards.” In the guise of achieving a higher level of learning for our
young people, the federal government has in effect set up a Ministry of Truth
to regiment the teaching of American History, English language, Mathematics,
Science and other subjects.
American History standards established five years ago by a government-funded
coalition of professors and high school history teachers were disastrous.
Columnist George Will thought they might be better titled “anti-American
standards mentioned former Sen. Joe McCarthy 19 times, included references to
the racist Ku Klux Klan 17 times and laid heavy emphasis on America’s perceived
misdeeds, both foreign and domestic. To the standards committee, America is a
place where injustice and oppression have been a way of life since Columbus.
Education Secretary Bill Bennett challenged that dark and grim view. Apply the
“Open Gates Test,” Bennett says. Just announce that for one weekend a year, all
the border checkpoints will be opened up to allow free entry or exit from the
mainland U.S. Try this just one year, he said, and see which way the traffic
do not expect American History to be censored. We do not think injustices like
slavery or segregation should be de-emphasized. Neither do we think evidences
of religious bigotry—against Catholics or Mormons, against Muslims or
Jews—should be dismissed. We want to see a more frank discussion of where
abortion, infanticide and euthanasia can lead us.
we do expect that the picture should be a whole one. If the left-leaning
history standards committee had been charged with the painting a portrait of
Oliver Cromwell, it would not have produced a portrait “warts and all.”
Instead, they would have given us Cromwell’s warts—and that’s all.
example, the very significant presidency of George Washington and the meeting
of the First U.S. Congress were completely omitted. So were the figures of Paul
Revere, who cried “the British are coming, the British are coming!” throughout
his famous ride in 1775. Gen. Robert E. Lee, the brilliant military leader of
the Southern Confederate army in the U.S. Civil War was likewise unmentioned.
Dr. Jonas Salk, famed discoverer of the polio vaccine was censored out. Very
significantly, the history standards committee emphasized Soviet gains in space
in the 1960s, covered the tragic Shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986, but
completely omitted any mention of the U.S. landing on the Moon! That’s correct,
they promised us the Moon, but they missed it!
question is not whether the history standards committee has done a good job
producing standards for what every American student should learn about his
country’s past. The question is not even whether a private organization like
Family Research Council can produce a better study of American history. The
real question is how can a free people allow their government to dictate to
them what they shall know and what they shall think? Thomas Jefferson said that
“it is in the manners and spirit of the people that a republic is preserved in
United States is hardly the only country where such conflicts are being played
out. Our neighbor to the north—Canada—is involved in a similar great debate
over national identity and the historic past. George Parkin Grant, the
distinguished Canadian philosopher, showed how closely connected the nation’s
history and its future are connected:
“…a nation does not
remain a nation only because it has roots in the past. Memory is never enough
to guarantee that a nation can articulate itself in the present. There must a
thrust of intention into the future. When the nation is the intimate neighbour
of a dynamic empire, this necessity is even more obvious.”[iii]
For millions of religious believers in America, our reaction
to the culture of Hollywood and Madison Avenue and to the government education
policy of Washington, D.C. is not so unlike that of Canadians resisting the
loss of their identity. We are aware that to the wider world, in the countries
you call home, America is too often represented by these things.
But we hope this Congress will afford an opportunity for
delegates from around the world to meet and work with Americans who believe in
God, who honor marriage and who defend family life.
I am happy to report positive movement in education in the
United States. Recently, Congress approved legislation we call “Straight A’s.”
Although the President will surely veto it, this new approach to education
would send money back to local communities and, with it, the authority to make
vital education decisions closer to the schools, closer to the teachers and
students and their parents. We are very hopeful about this new direction in
education legislation. For thirty years, virtually all education legislation
has concentrated power and resources in Washington. Now, at long last, we can
see the tide turning.
I can also report on a fast-growing trend: home schooling.
Although I will leave details of this exciting movement to the distinguished
representatives of the home schooling movement, I want to emphasize what home
schooling means to the constitutional and political structure of the country.
Nearly seventy-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court
protected the rights of parents not to send their children to government
schools. The state of Oregon had attempted to abolish religious schools by
requiring all children to attend public institutions. In Pierce v. Society of
Sisters (1925), the Court majority said:
The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who
nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty,
to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.[iv]
This wise ruling is being violated every day, in spirit if
not in fact. Yet, it continues to give strength and inspiration of the parents
of more than a million American school children. Home schooling is a burgeoning
movement because it recognizes the role of godly parents and their desire for
safe, effective and free schools. In our country, critics often complain that
home schooled children will not be socialized. We often counter by saying the
home schooled kids will be civilized.
Over one hundred years ago, historian Frederick Jackson
Turner remarked upon the closing of the American frontier how much we owed to
that remarkable fact. Because the open frontier made it possible for people to
leave the East Coast behind and “light out for the territories,” the mere
existence of a frontier imparted a democratic character to American
institutions and social life, Jackson contended.
I believe that the home schoolers are the pioneers of
freedom in America and the world. The mere existence of home schooling in a
community improves all education. Private and religious schools are forced by
the home schooling alternative to be more attentive to parents. Public
authorities, whether by wise choice or by court order, assume a much more
reasonable and limited role when dealing with home schoolers. And once a state
recognizes the rights of parents to educate their own children at home, the
state automatically assumes a less domineering relationship with all parents.
America was based, as a constitutional system, on the idea
of limited government. The first limitation on government—anywhere—is religious
liberty. Religious liberty is essential not just for the freedom to worship
God, but to keep government itself from becoming an idol. Just as Konrad
Adenauer said. That is why I say today to all the delegates here that we must
fight against religious persecution anywhere in the world.
As Edmund Burke said
it: “We know, and, what is better, we feel inwardly, that religion is the basis
of civil society, and the source of all good, and of all comfort.” The country
that enjoys religious liberty will be much more likely to be able to mount
effective resistance to the baleful influences of pornography, violent
entertainment, alcohol and drug abuse.
The second great limitation on government is the recognition
of the constitutional rights of parents. Steven Arons of the University of
Massachusetts recognizes that when the state claims the right to compel belief,
it not only violates the rights of minor children, it also violates the
chartered rights of the parents.
A third great limitation on the power of government is an
educated citizenry. James Madison said “that people who would be free and
ignorant want what never was and never can be.” Home schoolers are proving
every day that children educated by their parents are more than a match
intellectually as well as spiritually for children regimented in government
Too often in the past, it was the secularists who attended
the international meetings. They have a vision of the world, one world,
re-shaped in their image. I proudly recognize instead the religious-based
worldview of Russia’s great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He called upon his beloved
Motherland for “repentence and self-limitation.” His vision of a world of
nations in which each historic home represented a different facet of God’s
creative powers in human flesh is a deeply appealing one for me. For here, each
nation can bring its own distinctive cultural, political and spiritual gifts to
the human family.
I pray that this conference will move us toward that vision.
And, as George Washington, citing Holy Scripture, wrote to the Hebrew
Congregation at Newport, Rhode Island: “This government gives to bigotry no
sanction, to persecution no assistance and `Let each sit under his own vine and
fig tree and let there be none to make him afraid’.”
[i] Quoted in Shattan, Joseph, Architects of Victory: Six Heroes of the
Cold War, Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. 96.
[iii] Grant, George Parkin, Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism,
and Stewart Limited, Toronto, 1965, p. 12.
[iv] Quoted in
Ball, William Bentley, Mere Creatures of
the State? Education, Religion and the
Courts. A View from the Courtroom, Crisis Books, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1994,