Friday, February 27, 2009

Why Is Religion Taboo in U.S. Schools?

We seem to have a problem with religion in our public schools. Of all the things that go on in schools, the one "infraction" that seems to raise the most eyebrows is when religion is involved. Do you think you can read a Bible during free time at school (when other students are listening to who-knows-what on iPods)? Think again. Do you think it is always safe to quietly say grace over your lunch at school? Think again.

This is rather bizarre if you know the history of our country. In earlier days (when the meaning of the First Amendment was surely more clear in memories) schools were not ashamed to teach some of the moral code from the Bible, which Jefferson called, "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man."

John Whitehead, who runs the Rutherford Institute, just published a good overview of the situation. Read his article for more information:

Why Is Religion Taboo in American Schools?


klkatz said...

i don't think anybody would have a problem with a student reading from the bible, or a group of students saying grace before eating lunch... what raises eyebrows would be a teacher leading the prayers, or providing bibles to the students.

I'm currently teaching world history, and I have copies of both the bible and the qu'ran in my class. I can say I didn't reference either of them, but I did encourage the students to glance at them in their free time.

A basic understanding of all of the major religions is essential in understanding world history. Teaching the crusades is meaningless without knowing the difference between christianity and Islam. And Indian history and culture is very dry without an understanding of Hinduism.

What I found to be useful was to introduce all of them as "ethical systems". I used the teachings of Ben Franklin as my ethical system - and would relate Franklin to Sadartha Guatama, or Buddha, as they are both simply men who were looking for a better way of understanding their surroundings.

Good teachers can teach religion.

History Matters said...

I agree with your comment from a logical standpoint. However, the cases I mentioned are real. In this post I mention a couple examples I knew of personally in our local school system. Then there is this example about private faith conversations on a city bus. Or this example about censoring a song sung by a chorus at school. Or this example about censoring a student's own words in her valedictory address (as in turning off her microphone in the middle of her speech).

I created a keyword category for such examples. Just click on Discrimination Examples to see the collection.

None of these examples were based on the Constitution, nor were they required by any court action. They were based on a general misunderstanding of the First Amendment and a complete mis-use of the phrase "separation of church and state."

I think many of the discrimination examples are not due to ill will on the part of school officials or local government officials. It is a genuine misunderstanding. The main purpose of this blog is to help show the original intent of the Founders and to show how we have it almost backwards today.