Tuesday, January 02, 2007


American Hero

That would be Matt LaClair, who at 16 years of age has put most of his elders to shame.
Nat Hentoff has a nice article in the Village Voice on this young man who, at a time when most Americans have forgotten Ben Franklin's warning about trading liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, stood up to a popular teacher who was abusing his position.

Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, a columnist and a litigator in national-security cases, said in an October 18 interview with MSNBC that history will ask this generation of Americans — who "are strangely silent in this national yawn as our rights evaporate" — "Where were you?"

Matthew LaClair will be able to answer that question proudly, although at present he is a pariah among many of his fellow students at Kearny High — and on his computer, there are curses from outraged Americans around the country. He has even received a death threat.

What could have Matt done to deserve such an outpouring of hate? This teacher, who was also a youth pastor at a local church, while on the public payroll not only used class time to proselytize his students ... did not merely mislead his students by telling them that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific ... but actually told them that the doors of heaven are closed to nonbelievers in Jesus and that a Muslim girl known to all his students would go to hell. Matt made him stop.
And don't think that this is a story out of some small town in Mississippi. Matt lives in Kearny, New Jersey, just 10 miles west of one of the most sophisticated cities in the world but about a century away.
James Madison, architect of the Bill of Rights, recognized that it was ultimately a "parchment barrier" against tyranny. It is only as strong as the people who take its meaning to heart. I, for one, feel somewhat better for having Matt on its side.
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