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The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 10, December 1996/January 1997

From the Editor

To whom it may concern:
Grant us unity in separation

So, is this Separation Alliance a Christian outfit, or not?

Many of our most ardent members are Christian, with evangelical Protestants and conservative Roman Catholics particularly conspicuous. And this year's Separation conference in Washington, D.C., had an unmistakable religious flavor, from the lineup of speakers and selection of topics, to the books displayed for sale, to the tenor of hallway conversations.

If you were a "minority" attendee at SepCon'96 ? a non-Christian, a non-theist, or someone for whom religious considerations simply do not top your reasons to support Separation ? you may have had concerns about this. (For the record, let me note that we did have a session on "Why Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, & Atheists Need Separation.")

Marshall Fritz believes that because of their influence, Christian clergy and theologians should be prime targets for our recruiting efforts at this time. I agree, and I support the general decision to emphasize religious themes and speakers at SepCon'96. The significance of that is: I am not myself a Christian.

I reveal this in order to underscore the fact that the Alliance is indeed inclusive. Marshall is as devoted a Christian as I've ever known, and yet he applied no religious test when he invited me to become editor of The Education Liberator. (For the curious, I was reared to be a Southern Baptist, but it didn't take. Eventually I joined a Unitarian Universalist church, but left over political differences. A joke UUs sometimes tell on themselves is that they believe in, at most, one God. I would say that this still fairly well characterizes my own theological position.)

The question is, can we work together long enough to win the battle for Separation? Not only do I believe we can, but I think the battle is not winnable otherwise. Heck, I'll even allow my SepCon banquet meal to be blessed, if that's what it takes! (See Marshall's column on this, page 6.)

I think of us all as passengers on a doomed ship called State Education, some forced aboard against our will ? others volunteered but have reconsidered ? and all regularly extorted to pay for a passage we don't like.

Among the passengers are some libertarians. Recognizing the fundamental wrongness of coerced cruises ? even when the cabins are nice and the food plentiful ? they are the first to "separate" from the ship by jumping overboard and swimming to shore.

Meanwhile, life on board ship starts to deteriorate. The crew seems less and less competent, even as the ship veers crazily between rocks, icebergs and other dangers. The passengers start fighting among themselves as to how to save the ship.

In the midst of the turmoil, the captain hands down rules forbidding Bible reading and praying; indeed, he seems hostile to any expression of religious faith. Now the Christians start grabbing life preservers, leaping over the rails, and paddling to shore.

Sooner or later it won't just be libertarians and Christians. As the holes in the ship widen, as it takes on water faster than anyone can pump it back out, we'll see people of all philosophical and religious persuasions crowding into the lifeboats and rowing toward Separation.

Those of us already on the Separation shore have two tasks. One is to begin building our own vessels to take us where we want to go educationally. Ours is the movement that will launch a thousand ships, and we'll each be free to sail on the one that seems best for us. No need to force everyone else to buy a ticket on my family's particular cruise!

The other task, though, requires unity. As the S. S. State Education begins to founder, we need to be shouting to the folks still on board to stop bailing, to stop trying to choose a new captain or steer a new course, and to just abandon ship. For that we need a strong, concerted voice, and it doesn't matter if the fellow on my right is a Christian and the guy on my left an atheist. What matters is that we be heard.

So, pray for "Separation unity." Or visualize it, affirm it, or whatever works for you. And mainly, let's keep working toward our goal ? together.

Steve Smith

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