The Dec. 14 murder of 26 people in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., shocked the nation. Former presidential candidate and Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee said we have “systematically removed God from our schools” on Fox News and then asked, “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?” The next week, he clarified his comments, saying “I’m not suggesting by any stretch that if we had prayer in schools regularly as we once did that this wouldn’t have happened, because you can’t have that kind of direct cause and effect. But we’ve created an atmosphere in this country where the only time we want to invoke God’s name is after the tragedy.” BJC Executive Director J. Brent Walker responded on Dec. 19 with these words:

By BJC Executive Director J. Brent Walker

At a time of national tragedy, we should all be praying, grieving and supporting those who suffered grievous loss. Then we must have a conversation, even a debate, followed by action to make sure what we saw in Newtown does not happen again or at least lessen the chances.

Thankfully, this past weekend, many pastors and religious leaders across the nation provided leadership that will help see us through. They took to their pulpits to provide guidance and words of hope to members of their congregations — many who came to worship with heavy hearts.

What we do not need, however, is for pundits — like Mike Huckabee no less — using those awful events to score political or journalistic points, especially when what is said is not true.

A statement Dec. 14 by the former presidential candidate and Baptist preacher Huckabee claiming that the murder of 26 students and teachers at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school was caused by the nation’s systematic removal of God from public schools is bad theology and a blatant misstatement of the important constitutional protections afforded to students in the public schools.

It is impossible for anyone to remove Almighty God from anywhere, including the public schools. God is never truant. He was there on Friday morning suffering with those killed and injured, emboldening the many acts of heroism, rejoicing with the lives that were saved.

It is true that state-sponsored religious exercises are not allowed in public schools, and properly so. But religion can be expressed — voluntarily and uncoercively — in dozens of ways by the students and even in the classroom.

In an effort to regain some credibility, Huckabee still maintains that we have “escorted God right out of our culture and marched him off the public square,” and that we only call upon God after a tragedy.

False again. We have no more banned God from our culture and public square than kicked him out of our public schools. And, certainly after a tragedy is a particularly appropriate time to reach out to God for comfort and guidance, but our political culture and day-to-day public rhetoric is replete with references to God far more than in any industrialized country that I know.

We’ll never be able to explain what happened last Friday in Newtown — not politicians, not theologians, not social scientists. But, self-serving, simplistic and simply wrong explanations will not do.

From the January 2013 Report from the Capital. Click here for the next article.