Perceptions from an Interview by Daniel T. Zanoza
Shortly after atheist Rob Sherman obtained a court order which excluded his daughter's high school from observing the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act, I interviewed the Buffalo Grove, Illinois resident and came away with some troubling conclusions about what motivates the man.
Recently, the Illinois General Assembly passed SB1463 that would require public school teachers to enforce a moment of silence before each school day begins. Technically, the bill amends the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act to require (instead of allow) a teacher to observe a brief period of silence at the opening of every school day [http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/95/SB/09500SB1463.htm]. The moment of silence will be mandatory, but students would be allowed to observe the period in any manner they wish under the new law.
Sherman, who takes great pride in the notoriety he has received in his attempts to remove references to faith from the public square, found a liberal, activist judge who believed the legislation violated the U.S. Constitution. What were the grounds cited in the judge's ruling? Amazingly, children would be forced to choose between non-denominational prayer and a moment of reflection. Forcing young people to make such a decision violates the U.S. Constitution, according to the U.S. Supreme Court case, titled Wallace v. Jaffree.
Of course the ruling is ridiculous because it prohibits students from an opportunity to make a choice and most reasonable people would agree with this premise. But Sherman justified his actions and the court's subsequent ruling for an additional reason. Sherman told me if students are allowed to observe a moment of silence before each school day, it would take away from his daughter's Constitutional right to be educated. Yes, that's what he said--even though the Illinois State Board of Education has yet to lay down the guidelines for how long the moment of silence would be and it could be as short as 30 seconds. Sherman expected me to believe this was a good enough reason to dismiss the overwhelming will of Illinois residents which was enacted through their legislators.
In essence, Sherman did not care if elected representatives of the people overruled Governor Rod Blagojevich's veto of the bill by a staggering margin. And Sherman does not care if a vast majority of Americans feel a moment of silence, reflection or prayer would make good sense.
Indeed, even though the law would permit Sherman's daughter to use the allotted time to daydream about her boyfriend or girlfriend (as the case may be), think about the clothes she will wear for the next school day or--heaven forbid--ponder whether there is a Supreme Being, the new edict would clearly have hurt no one. However, maybe in Sherman's mind, he does not want his daughter or any other student to ponder such deep matters.
Whatever the case, the sad thing about it all is that a single individual can quash the will of so many people and what's even sadder is the fact he is willing to use his daughter to do so.
During my interview with Sherman, I quickly learned the former protégé of noted atheist, the late Madelyn Murray O'Hair, was acting on motivations which had nothing to do with the Constitution or the violation of his daughter's civil rights. "I've had over 100 articles and columns written about me regarding this issue," said Sherman with a prideful boast. It suddenly became obvious Sherman does what he does for publicity and self-notoriety. Period.
Sherman went on to discuss how he was in great demand by members of the media and this seemed to give him great joy. "So this is all about you?" I asked. At first Sherman denied the premise of the question. But, as the interview closed, once again, I put forth the same query and Sherman responded in the affirmative by saying, "I guess so."
It suddenly became frighteningly clear. Sherman was--and is--willing to put himself above the welfare of not only our nation, but his daughter as well. It is said Sherman's daughter is a subject of substantial ridicule at her school. Yet most troubling is the fact a bright young woman is being manipulated by a man who is seeking to fill the empty spaces within his life through celebrity and Sherman does so even though he is not sure of the cause he champions, in my opinion.
I asked Sherman if he thought there was a God. "I don't know whether there is a god or not," he replied. I then inquired as to whether Sherman leads his family to share his atheistic beliefs. "Of course I do. That's my responsibility as a parent," Sherman responded. His answer made me shudder because it was evident the man was filling an emotional need at the expense of his loved ones. At that moment, my opinion of Sherman changed. Where I once saw him as a political enemy, I know see the man as a forlorn figure, willing to do practically anything to fill the vacancy within his heart.
I am a person of faith. Like our Founding Fathers, I too believe there is a Creator who gave us the rights we cherish so deeply as Americans. Therefore, I have decided to take another approach towards individuals, like Sherman, who are willing to be intolerant for self-serving reasons. Those of us who are driven by faith might use the tools we have been given by God to combat the desires of prideful men. Maybe prayer for Mr. Sherman and his family might be what the doctor ordered. It certainly would be consistent with Christian doctrine.
Certainly Sherman and individuals including the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair have hurt our nation via their actions. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1962, titled Engel v. Vitale, which removed prayer from public schools, our society has coarsened to an astonishing degree. Where once running in the hall and chewing gum in class were the most prevalent problems with behavior among young people, today teen-age pregnancy, violence and a general moral decay have swept across our nation like a plague of Biblical proportions. Pornography fills the minds of young people to the point of addiction. Drugs and alcoholism have snuffed out countless lives which were laid at the altar of concepts like values clarification and moral relativism. In 21st century America, the FBI reports, at any given time, over 30 serial killers wander the back roads and highways of our nation, looking for just one more victim. Combine these societal ills with the tragedy of child abuse and it can be safely said America has been led down a path strewn with destruction.
No, we cannot lay all the blame for these corruptions of our culture at the feet of individuals like Sherman. The fact these ills may have been caused, in part, by the actions of such people is burden enough for them to bear. However, understanding what motivates them may help us all come up with positive solutions in the effort to bring sanity back to a society which is still worth saving.