COlumbine High School
On the morning of April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold approach Columbine High School, in Jefferson County, Colorado. Armed with one 10-shot Hi-Point model 995 carbine rifle, one Intratec AB-10 (TEC-9) pistol, two Savage 12-gauge shotguns, and as many as ninety-five explosive devices, Harris and Klebold enter the school near the cafeteria. Upon doing so, they are met with the words that God commanded unto Moses on Mount Sinai: Thou Shall Not Kill. Harris and Klebold tremble in fear and shame for what they have come to accomplish. Dropping their weapons, the boys fall to their knees, bow their heads in penance, and pray to God for forgiveness.
Instead of that scenario the boys fired off an estimated 900 rounds into the bodies of their fellow classmates, teachers, and, eventually, themselves; it is doubtful that the killers knew their bullets would also become ammunition for the Christian Right's own agenda. But the seemingly unchecked anathema of school violence is now a selling point in the Christian Right's campaign to legislate morality, and the killing at Columbine is exhibit A. As ridiculous as it sounds to some that Harris and Klebold would suddenly abandon such murderous thoughts, many members of the Christian Right believe that the power of the Word is so inescapable and forceful that even the most vile intentions can be instantly quelled by one glance at the Ten Commandments.
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay would be the first to install a copy of the Ten Commandments in our local schools. He himself believes that the Word would have felled Harris and Klebold: "'I got an e-mail this morning that said it all. A student writes, 'Dear God: Why didn't you stop the shootings at Columbine?' And God answers, 'Dear student: I would have, but I wasn't allowed in school'" (christianity.about.com). The logical assumption to make is that having God in school (in the form of the Ten Commandments) would have prevented Columbine. That is quite a substantial claim, but it only shows the magnitude of faith that some Christians place in the Word.
In 1999, an attempt to pass a law mandating the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools (not coincidentally attached to a gun-control bill) failed for reasons stated by People for the American Way on their website:
First, posting the Ten Commandments is a solution in search of a non-existent problem. Religious Right rhetoric notwithstanding, religion and prayer have not been banned from public schools; in fact the First Amendment protects students' rights to pray, discuss religious views and read religious texts in school. Second, posting the Ten Commandments would violate the First Amendment by requiring schools to favor one religion over another; the Supreme Court ruled so in 1980.
What is at stake here is not a student's right to practice religion in school-that right is already guaranteed; rather, the Christian Right wants to be seen as doing something...