Monday, December 18, 2006

A Fool Becomes a "Useful Idiot"

I've exposed the follies of Reasonable agenda-peddlers and well-intentioned seekers. I've satired the self-contradicting dance of those that claim faithfulness to God while peddling Reasonable agitprop--and more.

But what do I do about a Fool so zealous he becomes an unwitting pawn in Reasonable elites' hands?

David Paszkiewicz, A NJ High School Social Studies teacher, proselytized his students in his class. Matthew LaClair, a student of his, recorded Mr. Paszkiewicz's comments.

The NY Times covers the story:
Before David Paszkiewicz got to teach his accelerated 11th-grade history class about the United States Constitution this fall, he was accused of violating it.

Matthew LaClair taped his history teacher talking about God in class.

David Paszkiewicz, a teacher.

Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

The student, Matthew LaClair, said that he felt uncomfortable with Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements in the first week, and taped eight classes starting Sept. 13 out of fear that officials would not believe the teacher had made the comments.

Since Matthew’s complaint, administrators have said they have taken “corrective action” against Mr. Paszkiewicz, 38, who has taught in the district for 14 years and is also a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church. However, they declined to say what the action was, saying it was a personnel matter.

“I think he’s an excellent teacher,” said the school principal, Al Somma. “As far as I know, there have never been any problems in the past.”

Staci Snider, the president of the local teacher’s union, said Mr. Paszkiewicz (pronounced pass-KEV-ich) had been assigned a lawyer from the union, the New Jersey Education Association. Two calls to Mr. Paszkiewicz at school and one to his home were not returned.

This is no case of a teacher exercising the right to religious expression. Mr. Paszkiewicz did more than expound on his own faith as his own perspective. He presented his understanding of his faith as the standard by which God operates in our reality. That standard includes channeling the judgement of Christ for any Mr. Paszkiewicz decided deserved it.

Since when is a Social Studies teacher employed to play prophet?

Some Fools will want to see this case as a typical one in which Reasonable mouth-foamers slam a believer for exercising his right to believe in public. I wonder if those same Fools, particularly if they're Catholic, would respond the same way when they hear him the doctrine of Purgatory.

The public school classroom is no place for an agent of the state to arbitrate the truth claims of their students' religions. Caesar has no right to rule on the veracity of one religion over another, particularly in terms that undermine the dignity of those subject to Caesar's authority. Parents and their families have the right to determine the religious upbringing of their children. They are the first teachers of the faith. A zealous evangelical youth minister does not have the right to deny their authority on public time.

Any Fool that works for the public schools understands Jesus' prescription for civil society: Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. We all signed a contract. We understand that we may offer our perspective as our view, not present it as subject matter when it's not. Theology is not history, even if theological arguments and developments come under historical study. When my students have asked me theological questions, I respond, "That's a great question to ask your families or your religious teachers." If they want my view, I'll offer my perspective--as my perspective, informed by my faith. I refuse to lay it down as the reality they must accept, as though it were a mere maxim of natural science. That's not my role as a public school teacher. Nor should it be.

Master LeClair may have breached his teachers' and classmates trust. He may have violated other students' confidentiality; I'm sure he didn't have their parents' permission to record their children. His parents may be committed secularists. It may all be true. It's still irrelevent.

Mr. Paszkiewicz's ill-conceived preaching in the classroom has made him the secularists' latest bogey-man. He's helped those opposed to religious viewpoints in the public square. He's made himself into their useful idiots.


Even well-meaning breaches of subsidiarity harm us all. Mr. Paszkiewicz's decision to abrogate his teaching office for the aims of his ministry won't just disrupt his life. It shatters the balance of associations that our society desperately needs. People will be less inclined to respect that balance as a result of this.

And that's a loss for us all.