Matt Lauer Aghast at Bill O'Reilly Wanting Schools to Teach Historical Life of Jesus

In an interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer fretted over the Killing Jesus author wanting the historical life of Christ to be taught in schools: "[In] public schools these days, you go sit in one of those classes and you're surrounded by kids of four or five, six different faiths. Why should they sit there and listen to the story of Jesus Christ?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

O'Reilly replied: "If they are American children, because that's what forged the Constitution. And if they don't like it, that's too bad." Lauer worried: "How do you protect, though? How do you draw the line and the balance between someone who would go into a classroom, a teacher, and teach the historical story, as opposed to imposing religious beliefs?...Who enforces that?"

The exchange began with Lauer promoting O'Reilly's latest book, The Last Days of Jesus, and observing: "Your timing's really good on this....There seems to be a lot of attention being paid to religion now. A hunger for it. What's driving it?" O'Reilly responded: "Well, I think people are fed up with secularism because it's really – it gets just to be too much."

Moments later, Lauer pressed: "You say people are fed up with secularism. You feel that the story of the life and the death of Jesus Christ are essential to understanding our very country. And you want this story taught in public schools. Make your case for me."

O'Reilly explained: "Okay, kids, if they live in a secular home and go to public school, don't know anything about Jesus....Our constitution was forged on Judeo-Christian philosophy and tradition."

Lauer pushed back: "Alright, but does that mean we teach the story of Jesus in public schools? I grew up in a secular home." O'Reilly interjected: "And look what happened to you!"

Lauer continued: "I went to New York public schools, so I didn't get it there. But I found a way to fill the void in other ways in my life." O'Reilly declared: "You shouldn't have to go seek it, it's part of our history and it's a part of our heritage. People – kids need to know what Judeo-Christian tradition is. Because that's what all of our laws are based on, that's what the country's philosophy is based on."


Here is a portion of the April 10 exchange:

7:41 AM ET

MATT LAUER: And we're back now, 7:41, with Bill O'Reilly. His latest book, The Last Days of Jesus, is a special illustrated edition of his New York Times best-seller Killing Jesus. Bill, of course, is the host of The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News. He also happens to be a former high school history teacher. Bill, good to see you as always.

BILL O'REILLY: Thanks for having me in, Matt.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "The Last Days of Jesus"; Bill O'Reilly On the Role of Faith in Culture]

LAUER: Your timing's really good on this. I mean, you know, you look at Noah at the box office, you look at The Bible on cable, there are a couple of other religious-based movies in the pipeline, set to be released. There seems to be a lot of attention being paid to religion now. A hunger for it. What's driving it?

O'REILLY: Well, I think people are fed up with secularism because it's really – it gets just to be too much. But Killing Jesus and The Last Days of Jesus is not a religious book. It's all history.

LAUER: You says it's from the historical perspective.

O'REILLY: All history. You know, we don't-

LAUER: But how do you separate the two?

O'REILLY: I'll tell you, we don't even use the word "Christ." Because once you use the word "Christ," that connotes messiah, alright? So it's not in either book. We're basically saying, "Look, this is the most famous man who ever lived. The most famous human being who ever lived. Here's what happened to him and why." And politics – there's a lot of politics surrounding it. So that's what we do, and been very successful.   

LAUER: You say people are fed up with secularism. You feel that the story of the life and the death of Jesus Christ are essential to understanding our very country. And you want this story taught in public schools. Make your case for me.

O'REILLY: Okay, kids, if they live in a secular home and go to public school, don't know anything about Jesus. In fact, the only time they hear the word "Jesus" is when somebody's yelling at them, "Jesus!" Okay? So they don't know anything. Our constitution was forged on Judeo-Christian philosophy and tradition. If you don't believe that, go to the Supreme Court. What's outside of the Supreme Court? Moses holding the Ten Commandments, a sculpture.

LAUER: Alright, but does that mean we teach the story of Jesus in public schools?
O'REILLY: You teach-  

LAUER: I grew up in a secular home.

O'REILLY: And look what happened to you!

LAUER: I went to New York public schools, so I didn't get it there. But I found a way to fill the void in other ways in my life.

O'REILLY: You shouldn't have to go seek it, it's part of our history and it's a part of our heritage. People – kids need to know what Judeo-Christian tradition is. Because that's what all of our laws are based on, that's what the country's philosophy is based on.  

LAUER: But it's very difficult, Bill, to separate the historical side of the story...

O'REILLY: I did it.

LAUER: ...from a religious side of the story.

O'REILLY: I did it.

LAUER: And one of the things that's interesting about public schools these days, you go sit in one of those classes and you're surrounded by kids of four or five, six different faiths. Why should they sit there and listen to the story of Jesus Christ?

O'REILLY: If they are American children, because that's what forged the Constitution. And if they don't like it, that's too bad.

LAUER: How do you protect, though? How do you draw the line and the balance between someone who would go into a classroom, a teacher, and teach the historical story, as opposed to imposing religious beliefs?

O'REILLY: No proselytizing. I mean, teachers have to be professionals.

LAUER: Who enforces that?

O'REILLY: I think the principals do. I mean, teachers have to be professionals. I mean, any history teacher is open to interpretation, you've got a lot of history teachers badmouthing their country and teaching that America's an evil nation. It's no proselytizing, here are the facts. And that's why I wrote the books.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC