Where conservatives sometimes disagree

Published 9:14 am Thursday, May 31, 2018


Randy Weber’s Memorial Day address at Golden Triangle Veteran’s Park this week laid bare the sometimes stark differences between American conservatives and, yes, American conservatives.

The congressman touched on some hot points of social and religious conservativism, making it plain to his audience of about 250 that, if he “were king,” American public schools would have public prayer within the schoolhouse walls as well as corporal punishment and no one would be permitted to burn the American flag — unless they were themselves wrapped inside. That last one was a great laugh line.

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Weber’s fervor and attention to detail — he knew his crowd and occasion, and played to it — made his speech a local triumph. It was worth the trip and the afternoon swelter and we should appreciate his effort on a hot day.

But Weber is not king — we fought a revolution against that stuff, remember? — and that, too, is worthy of applause. We have a system of government based on laws, not monarchial whims or druthers, which puts the people, not the royalty, in charge. Good thing, too.

It’s when you dive into the weeds that many stalwart, philosophical conservatives become uncomfortable with institutionalized school prayer. Do we want the same people who oversee our tax collections and run the Postal Service to take charge, even for a moment, of our children’s religious direction?

Is school prayer a “moment of silence?” OK. Is it a proscribed prayer from our state government? That’s more iffy, especially when students of all faiths and creeds are compelled by the state to attend school and listen.

“Who does not see that the same authority that can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?” The man who asked that question, James Madison, had a point and those who revere the Founding Fathers ought to pay it heed.

Likewise, how much control, if any, over corporal punishment in public school should the state be allowed? What’s permitted? What’s the instrument? Cane? Switch? Strap?

At what age should the practice be discouraged? Ever? Should boys and girls face equal discipline through corporal punishment? Does that make anyone nervous?

What if parents themselves don’t believe in corporal punishment? Should their judgment as parents be overruled by the purported wisdom of the state? If so, is that not an affront to parental rights? Aren’t parents supposed to be primarily responsible for the discipline of their children?

That’s not to say that corporal punishment is always wrong or that unruly children ought not be punished. It is to say that the state should tread lightly when it comes to corporal punishment and superseding parents.

The state should tread lightly, period.