Dec 16 2012

No, Mr. Huckabee, It’s Not Because God Has Been Removed From Schools

Yeah, we could have guessed this was coming … the persecuted Christians are using the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut as an opportunity to promote their agenda, claiming that this tragedy happened because God has been removed from public schools.

As reported by Media Matters, Mike Huckabee, answering the question “How could God let this happen?” on FOX News, answered:

“Well, you know, it’s an interesting thing. We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”


Huckabee is, of course, not alone in placing the blame for this senseless massacre of children on the lack of praying in our public schools. As Raw Story reported:

On his radio program on American Family Radio, Brian Fischer blamed the lack of prayer in public schools for the tragic shooting of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Connecticut (another person was killed at a separate crime scene).

“You know the question’s gonna come up, where was God?” he said. “I thought God cared about the little children, God protected the little children. Where was God when all this went down? And here’s the bottom line: God is not gonna go where he’s not wanted. Now we have spent, since 1962, this, we’re 50 years into this now, we have spent 50 years telling God to get lost. Telling God, we do not want you in our schools, we don’t want to pray to you in our schools, we don’t want to pray to you before football games, we don’t want to pray to you at graduation, we don’t want anyone talking about you in a graduation speech.”

“We’ve kicked God out of our public school system,” he went on. “And I think God would say to us, ‘Hey I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve gotta invite me back into your world first. I’m not gonna go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.’”



So, according the “reasoning” of Mike Huckabee and Brian Fischer, incidents of gun violence in schools must have been nonexistent before 1962, since that’s when God was “removed” from schools, right? Wrong. At the end of this post is a list of dozens of school shootings that occurred prior to 1962 — all committed by students, teachers, and others who presumably grew up praying in school. One of these shootings even occurred at a Sunday school — in 1886.

And how do Huckabee and Fischer explain the school shootings that have occurred at Christian schools? When 15-year-old Virginia Beach student Nicholas Elliott shot and killed his teacher in 1988 and then attempted to shoot his classmates, was it because prayer had been removed from his school? Probably not, since that shooting took place at the Atlantic Shores Christian School. Was the 2006 shooting at the West Nickel Mines School in Pennsylvania, in which ten young girls were shot, five of whom died, because the Amish turned their backs on God?

Were school shootings of yesteryear different from those we’re seeing now? Yes, but in a way that makes Mike Huckabee’s claim even less valid. Huckabee went on to say of today’s public school system:

“Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.”


If you look at the list below of pre-1962 school shootings, you’ll notice that in almost all cases that these shootings were not “senseless” acts of violence against strangers who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were murders in which the motives of the perpetrators were obvious — arguments, revenge, jilted lovers, etc. These were murders committed by people who, according to Huckabee, would have prayed in school and learned that they would have to “stand before … a holy God in judgment.” Did learning this in school stop them from killing? Obviously not.

The other difference, of course, is the number of fatalities. No mystery there. The perpetrators of school shootings in the 1800s and early 1900s didn’t have semi-automatic weapons. In the worst cases, the death toll was about five people, not the dozens that recent shooters have been able to kill before anyone even knows what’s happening.

No, Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Fischer, this has nothing to do with prayer in schools. It has everything to do with mentally ill people being able to get their hands on weapons, and particularly semi-automatic weapons.


Pre-1962 school shootings:

November 12, 1840: Charlottesville, Virginia. University of Virginia student Joseph Green Semmes shot law professor John A.G. Davis when Davis attempted to unmask Semmes and another student, both of whom were wearing masks and carrying pistols. Professor Davis died three days later.

November 2, 1853: Louisville, Kentucky. A student, Matthew Ward, bought a self-cocking pistol in the morning, went to school and killed Schoolmaster Mr. Butler for excessively punishing his brother the day before.

June 8, 1867: New York City. At Public School No. 18, a 13 year old lad brought a pistol loaded and capped, without the knowledge of his parents or school-teachers, and shot and injured a classmate.

December 22, 1868: Chattanooga, Tennessee. A boy who refused to be whipped and left school, returned, with his brother and a friend, the next day to seek revenge on his teacher. Not finding the teacher at the school, they continued to his house, where a gun battle rang out, leaving three dead. Only the brother survived.

March 9, 1873: Salisbury, Maryland. After school as Miss Shockley was walking with four small children, she was approached by a Mr. Hall and shot. The Schoolmaster ran out, but she was dead instantly. Hall threw himself under a train that night.

May 24, 1879: Lancaster, New York. As the carriage loaded with female students was pulling out of the school’s stables, Frank Shugart, a telegraph operator, shot and severely injured Mr. Carr, Superintendent of the stables.

July 4, 1886: Charleston, South Carolina. During Sunday school, Emma Connelly shot and killed John Steedley for “circulating slanderous reports” about her, even though her brother publicly whipped him a few days earlier.

June 12, 1887: Cleveland, Tennessee. Will Guess went to the school and fatally shot Miss Irene Fann, his little sister’s teacher, for whipping her the day before.

June 13, 1889: New Brunswick, New Jersey. Charles Crawford, upset over an argument with a school Trustee, went up to the window and fired a pistol into a crowded school room. The bullet lodged in the wall just above the teacher’s head.

April 9, 1891: Newburgh, New York. 70 year old James Foster fired a shotgun at a group of students in the playground of St. Mary’s Parochial School, causing minor injuries to several of the students.

February 26, 1902: Camargo, Illinois. Teacher Fletcher R. Barnett shot and killed another teacher, Eva C. Wiseman, in front of her class at a school near Camargo, Illinois. After shooting at a pupil who came to help Miss Wiseman and wounding himself in a failed suicide attempt he waited in the classroom until a group of farmers came to lynch him. He then ran out of the school building, grabbed a shotgun from one of the farmers and shot himself, before running away and leaping into a well where he finally drowned. The incident was likely sparked by Wiseman’s refusal to marry Barnett.

February 24, 1903: Inman, South Carolina. Edward Foster, a 17-year-old student at Inman High school, was shot and fatally wounded by his teacher Reuben Pitts after he had jerked a rod from Pitts’ hands to resist punishment. According to the teacher, Foster struck the pistol Pitts had drawn to defend himself, thus causing its discharge. Pitts was later acquitted of murder.

October 10, 1906: Cleveland, Ohio. Harry Smith shot and killed 22-year-old teacher Mary Shepard at South Euclid School after she had rejected him. Smith escaped and committed suicide in a barn near his home two hours later.

March 23, 1907: Carmi, Illinois. George Nicholson shot and killed John Kurd at a schoolhouse outside of Carmi, Illinois during a school rehearsal. The motive for the shooting was Kurd making a disparaging remark about Nicholson’s daughter during her recital.

March 11, 1908: Boston, Massachusetts. Elizabeth Bailey Hardee was shot to death by Sarah Chamberlain Weed at the Laurens School, a finishing school in Boston. Weed then turned the gun on herself and committed suicide.

April 15, 1908: Asheville, North Carolina. Dr. C. O. Swinney shot and fatally wounded his 16-year-old daughter Nellie in a reception room at Normal and Collegiate Institute. He then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

February 12, 1909: San Francisco, California. 10-year-old Dorothy Malakanoff was shot and killed by 49-year-old Demetri Tereaschinko as she arrived at her school in San Francisco. Tereaschinko then shot himself in a failed suicide attempt. Tereaschinko was reportedly upset that Malakanoff refused to elope with him.

January 10, 1912: Warrenville, Illinois. Sylvester E. Adams shot and killed teacher Edith Smith after she rejected his advances. Adams then shot and killed himself. The incident took place in a schoolhouse about a mile outside of Warrenville after the students had been dismissed for the day.

March 27, 1919: Lodi Township, Michigan. 19-year-old teacher Irma Casler was shot and killed in her classroom at Rentschler school in Lodi Township, Michigan by Robert Warner, apparently because she had rejected his advances.

April 2, 1921: Syracuse, New York. Professor Holmes Beckwith shot and killed dean J. Herman Wharton in his office at Syracuse University before committing suicide.

May 22, 1930: Ringe, Minnesota. Margaret Wegman, 20-year-old teacher at the local rural school, was shot and killed in the school by 24-year-old Douglas Petersen.

February 15, 1933: Downey, California. Dr. Vernon Blythe shot and killed his wife Eleanor, as well as his 8-year old son Robert at Gallatin grammar school and committed suicide after firing three more shots at his other son Vernon. His wife, who had been a teacher at the school, had filed for divorce the week before.

September 14, 1934: Gill, Massachusetts. Headmaster Elliott Speer was murdered by a shotgun blast through the window of his study at Northfield Mount Hermon School. The crime was never solved.

March 27, 1935: Medora, North Dakota. Emily Hartl, 24-year-old teacher at the Manlon school northwest of Medora, was shot and killed at the school by 28-year-old Harry McGill, a former suitor.

December 12, 1935: New York City, New York. Victor Koussow, a Russian laboratory worker at the School of Dental and Oral Surgery, shot Prof. Arthur Taylor Rowe, Prof. Paul B. Wiberg, and wounded Dr. William H. Crawford at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, before committing suicide.

April 27, 1936: Lincoln, Nebraska. Prof. John Weller shot and wounded Prof. Harry Kurz in a corridor of the University of Nebraska, apparently because of his impending dismissal at the end of the semester. After shooting Kurz Weller tried to escape, but was surrounded by police on the campus, whereupon he killed himself with a shot in the chest.

June 4, 1936: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Wesley Crow shot and killed his Lehigh University English instructor, C. Wesley Phy. Crow went to Phy’s office and demanded that Mr. Phy change his grade to a passing mark. Crow committed suicide after shooting Phy.

September 24, 1937: Toledo, Ohio. 12-year-old Robert Snyder shot and wounded his principal, June Mapes, in her office at Arlington public school when she declined his request to call a classmate. He then fled the school grounds and shot and wounded himself.

May 6, 1940: South Pasadena, California. After being removed as principal of South Pasadena Junior High School, Verlin Spencer shot six school officials, killing five, before attempting to commit suicide by shooting himself in the stomach.

May 23, 1940: New York City, New York. Infuriated by a grievance, Matthew Gillespie, 62-year-old janitor at the junior school of the Dwight School for Girls, shot and critically wounded Mrs. Marshall Coxe, secretary of the junior school.

July 4, 1940: Valhalla, New York. Angered by the refusal of his daughter, Melba, 15 years old, to leave a boarding school and return to his home, Joseph Moshell, 47, visited the school and shot and killed the girl.

September 12, 1940: Uniontown, Pennsylvania. 29-year-old teacher Carolyn Dellamea was shot to death inside her third grade classroom by 35-year-old William Kuhns. Kuhns then shot himself in the chest in a failed suicide attempt. Kuhns had reportedly been courting Dellamea for over a year but the relationship was ended when Dellamea discovered that Kuhns was already married.

October 2, 1942: New York City, New York. Erwin Goodman, 36-year-old mathematics teacher at William J. Gaynor Junior High School, was shot and killed in the school corridor by a youth.

June 26, 1946: Brooklyn, New York. A 15-year-old schoolboy who balked at turning over his pocket money to a gang of seven youths was shot in the chest at 11:30 A.M. in the basement of the Public School 147 annex of the Brooklyn High School for Automotive Trades.

February 5, 1947: Madill, Oklahoma. 1st grade teacher Jessie Laird, 40-years-old, was shot to death in her classroom, during recess, by her estranged husband, Ellis Laird, 62-years-old. Laird then fatally shot himself.

November 13, 1949: Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State University freshman James Heer grabbed a .45 caliber handgun from the room of a Delta Tau Delta fraternity brother and shot and killed his fraternity brother Jack McKeown, 21, an Ohio State senior.

April 25, 1950: Peru, Nebraska. Dr. William Nicholas, 48, president of Peru State College and Dr. Paul Maxwell, 56, education department head, were shot to death at their desks by Dr. Barney Baker, 54-year-old psychology professor. Baker was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot at his home on campus.

July 22, 1950: New York City, New York. A 16-year-old boy was shot in the wrist and abdomen at the Public School 141 dance during an argument with a former classmate.

March 12, 1951: Union Mills, North Carolina Professor W. E. Sweatt, superintendent and teacher at the Alexander school, was shot to death by students Billy Ray Powell, 16, and Hugh Justice, 19. The assailants had been reprimanded by Sweatt, and they waited for him as he locked his office door.

November 27, 1951: New York City, New York. David Brooks, a 15-year-old student, was fatally shot as fellow-pupils looked on in a grade school.

April 9, 1952: New York City, New York. A 15-year-old boarding-school student shot a dean rather than relinquish pin-up pictures of girls in bathing suits.

July 14, 1952: New York City, New York. Bayard Peakes walked in to the offices of the American Physical Society at Columbia University and shot and killed secretary Eileen Fahey with a .22 caliber pistol. Peakes was reportedly upset that the APS had rejected a pamphlet he had written.

September 3, 1952: in Lawrenceville, Illinois. After 25-year-old Georgine Lyon ended her engagement with Charles Petrach, Petrach shot and killed Lyon in a classroom at Lawrenceville High School where she worked as a librarian.

May 15, 1954: Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Putnam Davis Jr. was shot and killed during a fraternity house carnival at the Phi Delta Theta house at the University of North Carolina. William Joyner and Allen Long were shot and wounded during the exchange of gunfire in their fraternity bedroom. The incident took place after an all-night beer party. Mr. Long reported to the police that, while the three were drinking beer at 7 a.m., Davis pulled out a gun and started shooting with a gun he had obtained from the car of a former roommate.

January 11, 1955: Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. After some of his dorm mates urinated on his mattress Bob Bechtel, a 20-year-old student at Swarthmore College, returned to his dorm with a shotgun and used it to shoot and kill fellow student Holmes Strozier.

May 4, 1956: in Prince George’s County, Maryland. 15-year-old student Billy Prevatte fatally shot one teacher and injured two others at Maryland Park Junior High School in Prince George’s County after he had been reprimanded from the school.

October 20, 1956: New York City, New York. A junior high school student was wounded in the forearm yesterday by another student armed with a home-made weapon at Booker T. Washington Junior High School.

October 2, 1957: New York City, New York. A 16-year old student was shot in the leg yesterday by a 15-year old classmate at a city high school.

March 4, 1958: New York City, New York. A 17-year-old student shot a boy in the Manual Training High School.

May 1, 1958: Massapequa, New York. A 15-year-old high school freshman was shot and killed by a classmate in a washroom of the Massapequa High School.

September 24, 1959: New York City, New York. Twenty-seven men and boys and an arsenal were seized in the Bronx as the police headed off a gang war resulting from the fatal shooting of a teenager Monday at Morris High School.

February 2, 1960: Hartford City, Indiana. Principal Leonard Redden shot and killed two teachers with a shotgun at William Reed Elementary School in Hartford City, Indiana, before fleeing into a remote forest, where he committed suicide.

March 30, 1960: Alice, Texas. Donna Dvorak, 14, brought a .22 target pistol to Dubose Junior High School, and fatally shot Bobby Whitford, 15, in their 9th grade science class. Dvorak believed Whitford posed a threat to one of her girlfriends.

June 7, 1960: Blaine, Minnesota. Lester Betts, a 40-year-old mail-carrier, walked into the office of 33-year-old principal Carson Hammond and shot him to death with a 12-gauge shotgun.

October 17, 1961: Denver, Colorado. Tennyson Beard, 14, got into an argument with William Hachmeister, 15, at Morey Junior High School. During the argument Beard pulled out a .38 caliber revolver and shot at Hachmeister, wounding him. A stray bullet also struck Deborah Faith Humphrey, 14, who died from her gunshot wound.


Skip to comment form

  1. 1

    The majority of these are men shooting women who refused to do as the men asked. There’s a separate essay right there.

  2. 2
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Mass shootings generally seem to be perpetrated by men of the dominant ethnic group, and primarily target women and members of ethnic minorities. In the States, for instance, it’s white men every time, and they’re shooting at women, girls, and people of color primarily.

  3. 3

    Mr Huckabee might also want to explain the relatively low number of school shootings in godless northwest Europe.

  4. 4

    God has been removed from public schools in most of Australia for decades now, where are our mass shootings, don’t we get any? Why does God get upset when USA schools go secular, yet ignore British and Australian schools when they have already made that leap of faith away from God. Sounds a bit like God is entirely irrational and dumb to us here! Seems much more like a gun control issue rather than a Godlessness issue. Aye M8z!

  5. 5
    Argle Bargle

    What Huckabee and Fischer are saying is their god didn’t stop the Newton shooting because his ass wasn’t kissed enough.

  6. 6

    It is still unclear why the shooter attacked this school. There is no reason to think it was particularly godless. It was just handy and an easy target. What Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Fischer are doing is what religion has always done. They are trying to make sense out of the senseless. Their explanations contain no more insight than those of the bronze age priests of old. It is far past time when their empty words should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

  7. 7

    Want to bet how well the Supreme Court decision was being followed at the University of Texas in 1966 at the time of the tower shootings?

  8. 8

    Don’t forget that the worst mass killing of schoolchildren (38 elementary aged kids, two teachers, four other adults and himself) in the U.S. was a bombing and related killings in rural Bath township Michigan in 1927. The mass murderer was a kind of early Tea Party-like nut upset by his property taxes being raised to build the school.

  9. 9

    There was also the Bath School Disaster: wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_School_disaster.

    In 1927, the school board treasurer blew up the Bath School in MIchigan, killing 38 elementary school children and six adults. And I’ll be bound that every one of them prayed in school every day for the Christian God’s blessing and protection.

  10. 10

    goidaym8 “Why does God get upset when USA schools go secular, yet ignore British and Australian schools when they have already made that leap of faith away from God.”
    Because America.

    I’m glad I could help clear that up.

  11. 11
    George Schmitt

    The Right Reverend Huckabee shows his hard hearted hatred for non-followers. Saying that it was the schools fault for what happened because they didn’t follow Huck’s religious nonsense is cruel and unusual punishment for the survivors of this tragedy. Huckabee sould be ashamed of himself and apologize.

  12. 12

    That horrible apologist/excusist, Hank Hanegraaff, has often said on his radio show that the massacre of the Cainanites was a good thing because god knew their children were going to grow up as bad people and therefore go to hell. Therefore, by killing every last one of them, god did a very honourable and gracious thing. I wonder if hh and other apologists will say this to the parents of the slain children today. Would they say the same thing if their own children were involved?

    These people are dispicable. What is wrong with them?

  13. 13
    Pierce R. Butler

    Quite possibly, many such events received no news coverage.

    Several years back, here in Gainesville, Florida, a pair of playwrights created a stage presentation based on letters to the editor of the local newspaper. Doing their research, they found some letters regarding a school shooting by a student (in the ’20s or ’30s, as I recall) in a nearby city – but could not find any articles on this event in the paper’s archives.

    I doubt this was the only occasion on which editors decided that preventing embarrassment and preserving civic pride mattered more than journalistic thoroughness.

  14. 14

    Draken: “Mr Huckabee might also want to explain the relatively low number of school shootings in godless northwest Europe”

    I’m pretty sure there’s still prayer in schools in many European countries. Certainly was at my UK school, though that was 20 years ago for me. It’s the irony that much of N W Europe is pretty Godless, while still having official religions and prayer in schools.

  15. 15

    I have to wonder, though: why is it that Huckabee and Fisher aren’t claiming that their god allowed the killings to punish America for not initiating effective gun control?

  16. 16

    Memo to Mike Huckabee: Just because a lot of us no longer buy your narrow bigoted stone aged god and the simplistic deluded authoritarian belief system that goes along with it, doesn’t in any way shape or form make us immoral, it makes you an embarrassment. Try reading a book outside your tribe for a change, some of us actually think for ourselves.

    All I can say to you and your kind: go fuck yourself!

  17. 17

    It has everything to do with mentally ill people being able to get their hands on weapons

    Is it necessary to repeat this meme? Do you have substantial evidence that everyone on your list was mentally ill?

    Just in the comments on this thread, we have these observations:

    The majority of these are men shooting women who refused to do as the men asked.

    Mass shootings generally seem to be perpetrated by men of the dominant ethnic group, and primarily target women and members of ethnic minorities.

    The mass murderer was a kind of early Tea Party-like nut upset by his property taxes being raised to build the school.

    It seems rather clear that other factors might be involved in these shootings than mental illness. As someone who suffers from such, could you perhaps consider your words a bit more carefully in future? I don’t own a gun, nor do I plan to buy one, but the rush to blame mental health issues is almost enough to make me want to get an NRA membership*.

    The vast, vast majority of people who suffer from mental illness DO. NOT. SHOOT. CHILDREN. This isn’t even a correlation error, the r2 value is in the 10^-3 range. This is just WRONG.

    *Would never happen. Used for emphasis only.

  18. 18

    Looks to me like the biggest difference between the pre- and post-1962 shootings is the body count. So, maybe the problem is not the lack of Gawd in the schools but a ready access to weaponry suited for mass killings.

  19. 19
    Chris Rodda

    PatrickG @ 17 …

    I think you misunderstood what I meant and took what I said to mean the exact opposite of what I was saying. I meant that we’ve seen RECENT shootings that have been the result of mentally ill people getting their hands on weapons, and that this was NOT the case with the shootings in the list where the perpetrators had a clear motive.

    And of course I’m not saying that all mentally ill people kill children!

    I think you need to go back and reread my post.

  20. 20

    @ Chris Rodda:

    My apologies for misreading you. I need a big sign taped to my monitor that says “Do not post at 1am, you’re tired and cognitive skills may be lower than normal.”

    In retrospect, it didn’t help that I’d just come out of a facebook discussion with a friend who was firmly convinced that the answer to all our problems was not, for instance, more heavily regulating assault rifles, but to make gun ownership contingent on screening entire households for “mental illness”. So yeah, I think I can easily identify the source of my reading comprehension fail.

    My apologies again.

  21. 21
    Mike Morrison

    “We’ve kicked God out of our public school system,” he went on. “And I think God would say to us, ‘Hey I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve gotta invite me back into your world first. I’m not gonna go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.’”

    And I would say:

    So THAT’S why you support American military intervention in countries where we are not wanted? Isn’t this rather…you know…hypocritical? On the one hand, “I am Super Christian! God needs to be in school, otherwise, he will not protect us because he is not wanted! I am Christian. Hear me ROAR!” On the other hand: “We need to be in Iraq, even though we are clearly not wanted!”


  22. 22
    Mike Morrison

    There was also a school shooting at a school I formerly attended in 7th and 8th grade. Both of my cousins were there. Bishop Neuman High School cafeteria in WIlliamsport, PA. A girl shot a gun, the bullet ricocheted off the floor, and caught another girl in the shoulder. This, at a Catholic school!

    But ya know. Amish and Catholics are not “real Christians,” so I suppose neither of those incidents count….

  23. 23
    Mike Morrison

    BAH! I forgot to mention, and perhaps you could have included it: A black church blown up by white supremacists. Young choir girls were there and lost their lives. One of the most famous incidents of white-on-black violence in the 20th century.

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