An atheist group forced a public school to remove a portrait of Jesus Christ from campus, claiming it was an “egregious violation of the First Amendment.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said they were pleased the Chanute, Kansas, school district acted quickly to remove the painting of Jesus which had hung in the town’s middle school since at least the 1950s.

“I conferred with legal counsel and both of them told me to be in compliance with state and federal law that we had to have it removed,” said Chanute Public Schools Superintendent Richard Proffitt.

The atheist group targeted the school district after a “local community member” complained.

“[He was] afraid to bring it up themselves so [he] came to us,” said Ryan Jayne, law clerk for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “In areas that are predominantly Christian, the backlash that non-Christians receive when they speak out against government endorsement of religion can be very severe.”

But Jesus was a historical figure who’s crucifixion and baptism has commanded almost universal assent by historians, and if the atheists are arguing that the mere portrait of the historic man is an “endorsement of religion,” doesn’t that mean the removal of that portrait is an attack on religious expression?

When did freedom for religious expression as championed by the First Amendment transform into freedom from religious expression?

And isn’t there something inherently wrong with forcing Christians – or anybody for that matter – to pay taxes for public schools which routinely suppress their beliefs? In fact, atheists can make the same argument and they routinely do.

The thing is, Christians and atheists are constantly battling each other for influence over public education, but if we were to remove the government from education – a separation of school and state – there wouldn’t be a conflict in the first place.

“The greater the sphere of public as opposed to private education, the greater the scope and intensity of conflict in social life,” Austrian economist Murray Rothbard wrote. “For if one [government] agency is going to make the decision: sex education or no, traditional or progressive, integrated or segregated, etc., then it becomes particularly important to gain control of the government and to prevent one’s adversaries from taking power themselves.”

“Hence, in education as well as in all other activities, the more that government decisions replace private decision-making, the more various groups will be at each others’ throats in a desperate race to see to it that the one and only decision in each vital area goes its own way.”

Rothbard continues:

If education were strictly private, then each and every group of parents could and would patronize its own kind of school. A host of diverse schools would spring up to meet the varied structure of educational demands by parents and children. Some schools would be traditional, others progressive. Schools would range through the full traditional/progressive scale; some schools would experiment with egalitarian and gradeless education, others would stress the rigorous learning of subjects and competitive grading; some schools would be secular, others would emphasize various religious creeds; some schools would be libertarian and stress the virtues of free enterprise, others would preach various kinds of socialism.

In other words, a free-market system of education would give parents more options over their children’s schooling and it would likely be cheaper than the current, taxpayer-funded school system.

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