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Church and State Reprised
Several of my Facebook friends have been joining the cause Keep God in Schools. Back when I was a pastor, I wrote an article for the church newsletter about the separation of church and state. My view today is very similar to my view then. Separation of church and state is good for the church and good for the state. I would love to discuss this with anyone who disagrees. My first question: Which denomination's understanding of God should be taught in our schools?
For the most part, I do agree with what you’ve said. But, would the separators urge that we remove all evidence of God or the spiritual from anything to do with the political realm?
I think that students should have the right to discuss spiritual things, wear religious symbols and pray privately if they so choose. I don’t think any of this should be regulated by their teachers. I also think that a teacher should have the right to wear small personal religious symbols such as a cross, star of David, etc. on a necklace or earrings. She should have the right to read her Bible during her lunch hour and talk with her co-workers or students about her faith if asked as well.
Now, I know that the following statement will be answered with a resounding no, but shouldn’t this all be under the umbrella of common sense & decency?
I can’t imagine a public school teaching my child religion, no more than I could imagine them giving me a pap smear. It’s not their job. At the same time, there need not be (in my opinion) a total scrubbing of the public school system of anything that resembles the spiritual. It’s unnatural.
We had Bible verse reading in my homeroom when I was in Jr. High - to my horror (I was easily horrified, probably). The thing is, about prayer anyway, is that prayer doesn’t take long, does it? And there are many segments of time in a school day when prayer between one’s self and one’s god is possible and (as before large tests) might be urgently necessary. So the religious child has ample opportunity to avail himself of prayer time as he feels he needs it. If she wanted, a child could pray before each class begins.
Institutionalizing this time, though, I think is a mistake. Christians just aren’t fooling anyone when they try to call it a Moment of Silence. They want everyone doing this at the same time where it can be seen, not privately or personally. That’s apparently a regional thing. While we said a prayer before meals at our house where I came from, we would never appear to do so in a restaurant and our instruction was to say it to ourselves. To this day (in another part of the country) I am disturbed by people who not just bow their heads in silence, but hold hands, pray out loud, or the like. I believe that religion is a personal and private thing and any public prayers amount to ostentation and serve only pride.
Kids would be far better served by a Drop Everything And Read time, which serves as a chilling out period as well as a chance to make reading look less like a chore. A short period where kids could do anything (even quietly) sounds like a opportunity for chaos. At least reading gives them a general direction: you have to be quiet and holding something to read.
I’d also like to see the Christian reaction to a small Aum charm around the teacher’s neck or Statue of Ganesh on the teacher’s desk. They’d have to agree with its right to be there, b-but … it’s an IDOL!
I don’t even know what an Aum charm is, but a charm is different than a statue, don’t you think? Again, I’m just using the rule of common sense here. If I get out a big old crucifix and hang it up in my classroom, is that not different than my personal jewelry? Would I then be required to remove my wedding ring which symbolizes my marriage, something that occurred in a church?
“My first question: [Whose] understanding of God should be taught in our schools?”
Uhhh, ummm, oh. Mine.
Regarding the cases cited on the facebook page, would you (Danny) argue that those teachers should indeed have lost their jobs, if the information provided by the group is true?
Once upon a time a teacher of mine brought in a little skull. He told us it was from a very rare dinosaur. It was like a calico cat only way bigger. So rare in fact that there are no records of it. This particular skull, he told us, was from a baby of that species. We passed the skull around and eventually the teacher asked “are there any questions". None of us had any, so the teacher told us to start thinking.
If there are no records of it then how did he get a skull from it?
Now back on topic yah? What teachers tell kids the kids will tend to believe. If a teacher says “now is the time to thank the invisible man in the sky for your lunch” then kids will see that as part of their education. Same with if the teacher says “now is the time to face face a city in the middle east because that is where the invisible man in the sky once hung out".
Bullshit. Religion has no place in schools. WEARING clothing or jewelry that has religious significance to the student or teacher, to me, is perfectly fine. Hanging religious propaganda on the wall is not! The first case is the person, the second is the institution is why.
God is very VERY real. I thank God every day for a few more minutes of life as I know it, but, that doesn’t mean my God is real to you or that there is in fact a book all about God. There are books about the invisible man in the sky - no doubt! “The Bible” is one of them eh? But it’s all crap unless and until it is a personal and internal thing. At that point in anyone’s life, God is real and amazingly powerful.
But no: the state, acting through the public school system, should not allow or encourage religious crap. At the same time, the state should not attempt to discourage a student or teacher from enjoying the God they sense.
Oh and the teacher stupid enough to say “intelligent design is better than evolution” should have been fired. “Intelligent Design” is a scam. ANY educator who gives ANY credit to that scam needs to be removed from the public education system immediately.
As an aside, I saw the issue of jewelry come up a couple times here, and I’ve heard it pretty frequently in similar conversations. I think it’s worth pointing out the case of Miki Cain from 1998. She was asked by her employer, the University of Missouri Hospital in Columbia, not to wear a piece of cross jewelry to work. The ACLU took up her case, and the court found in favor of the plaintiff. I’m assuming that the institution is considered state affiliated, and therefore the first amendment freedom clause kicked in.
You can read about it here.
BTW, minor correction there, I’m not sure if the suit actually went through trial; the stories I’ve read have all said it was settled in favor of the plaintiff. Either way, that’s in her favor.
Danny, I figured there was more to the story. I am generally leery of “keep God in school” kinds of things b/c if God is in your LIFE and your in the school, then you probably won’t need to yammer on about Him day and night.
AND if you want your kids to get a Christian worldview, then send them to Christian school. That’s a question we are dealing with right now, but we won’t expect public school teachers, nor would we WANT public school teachers to do the job.
I agree with the concept, but it becomes almost impossible to play out. The teacher has value that are derived from his/her belief system. So even if God’s name is never mentioned, children are influenced by each teacher and each religion. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I do think it is a little silly that a teacher can not even bring up the subject for fear of giving offense. We don’t want teachers that have no belief systems, but we don’t want to hear what it is. But as far as class prayer and class participation in a particular religion, I am totally against that, unless it is at a private school, of course.
So I guess I am in agreement with Melanie.
I meant that I agree with the concept of separation of church and state.
I am a Christian and a teacher in a public school. In my experience, adhering to the separation between church and state is nowhere near as difficult or as nerve-inducing as people tend to make out.
In my English classes I talk about a wide variety of subjects that are relevant to my students, including religion. I have no problem leading discussions in which students have the opportunity to talk about and write about their beliefs.
I also bring up issues of morality a lot, especially when we read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Remember that morality doesn’t have to be linked to religion.
Last week I heard that the AP English teacher (who I’m not even sure is Christian or religious) was having her class study Leviticus law, from a historical and literary viewpoint.
What I don’t do is try to influence my students in what they believe. I don’t tell them what my religious beliefs are (if someone asks, I merely say that I’m a Christian and leave it at that), and I don’t, in class, hold up the Bible as truth. I also respect my students’ rights to not discuss their beliefs.
It’s really not very difficult.
I was sent to a Catholic School.
It was a blast. The men in Black would introduce their inevitable religious line no matter what the subject was.
Our class never towed the line, argued the point to the death and always had better stories to tell our mates from the public schools, every time.
Out of all the Brothers, only one encouraged and enjoyed our behavior. The rest wanted us expelled, jailed and excommunicated.
Never had more fun, until I discovered the rich tapestry of litrature, music and art, let alone politics!
Having the Pope on YouTube still doesn’t solve a virgin birth or rising from the dead.
I’m inclined to say let it rip. Put religious fairy tales up against “known knowns” and I’m happy to bet on the winner.