Modern Caligula

, Michael P. Tremoglie, Leave a comment

The 1950’s film The Robe is about a Roman nobleman, Marcellus, who is the centurion in charge of the military detail at Christ’s crucifixion. He converts to Christianity after becoming the owner of Jesus’ robe.

Since Christianity is outlawed in the Roman Empire, Marcellus has some problems with his Emperor, Caligula, who does not like Christians at all, let alone among his troops. This results in Marcellus being executed for treason. One could view this as the penalty for violating the ancient Roman version of separation of church and state.

In the modern American academy, however, the penalty is not quite as drastic. Christian students are not executed. They are just suspended.

An Illinois high school student was removed from a student television show December 17, 2003 because he uttered the treacherous and despicable phrase, “Have a safe and happy holiday, and God Bless.” James Lord, the student in question, is a senior at Dupo High School in Dupo, Illinois. He was suspended for one month from the daily news broadcast on the school’s closed-circuit television system after his December 17th program. Lord said the school principal told him that the use of the words “God Bless” was inappropriate—even Caligula would not say that. The suspension was due to expire on February 1.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a public-interest law group, represented the student in his attempt to have his broadcast reinstated. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, said in a press statement, “The action taken by the school district is absolutely unbelievable. To suspend a student from a broadcast because he used the words ‘God Bless’ is clearly a violation of his First Amendment rights. We are working to get the suspension revoked and get the student back on the air as soon as possible. The school district has made a serious mistake and we are hopeful school officials will take immediate action to correct it.”

Unfortunately, many school officials believe the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment requires bowdlerizing religious expression from the public schools. Despite the fact that the Department of Education has said that school officials must be neutral toward religion, schools cannot establish rules that prohibit religious expression. Yet, because of the possibility of a lawsuit, school districts are careful to eliminate any such expression. Such is the power and the glory of the ACLU.

Manifestations of this school district paranoia have led to schools prohibiting football players from praying after touchdowns, coaches from leading the team in prayer before games, entertainers from mentioning God at school proms, and pupils and teachers from wearing items that have religious symbols.

Caligula would be proud of the anti-Christian sentiment.

Lord’s saga does have a happy ending, though. On January 28, Lord and ACLJ attorneys appealed to Dupo school board members, who voted unanimously to reinstate Lord and to allow him to continue broadcasting. They all sanctioned his use of the phrase “God Bless” for future broadcasts.

The liberal intelligentsia are doing more to bowdlerize Christianity than anything that was ever done by Caligula. They are just more refined about it. They consider Christianity every bit as much a threat to American society as Caligula did to ancient Roman society.

What’s more frightening is that the Christophobic modern-day Caligulas of the American academy will be probably be more effective than Caligula ever was.

A Philadelphia police force veteran, Mr. Tremoglie recently served as vice president of the Pennsylvania Association of Scholars.