Friday, March 13, 2009

Judge Says Too Much Religion Makes Home School Unacceptable

Long ago on this blog I posted about the Northwest Ordinance, one of our four foundational documents according to the U.S. Code. This was approved by the same Congress who passed the First Amendment (and the Establishment Clause). The Ordinance says in part (boldface mine), “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged and established in the Northwest Territory.” (You can see it here.)

Also some time ago I posted how Thomas Jefferson, the man who is quoted when "separation of church and state" is invoked, was once president of the Washington, D.C. public school system. Jefferson approved as the main sources of reading the Watts Hymnal and the Holy Bible. (Read the post here.)

But now we have an interesting news tidbit. Granted there are some complications because of a divorce, but basically a judge says that home-schooled kids must go back to public school because of one aspect of the home school curriculum. The judge says the "lessons ... have a religious slant, which ... was the root of the problem." Never mind that the kids, 10, 11, and 12 years old, test 3 years above their grade level.

In this case, the father objects to the mother's emphasis on religion. Certainly it is important to consider both parents' wishes, but usually when children are thriving in an environment, that is a reason to leave things as they are unless the environment is generally objectionable.

Here are some questions that arise in my mind.

  • If the kids had been going to a non-religious private school and the father thought they needed to be in public school, would the judge have agreed?
  • If a father objected to a custodial mother's choice of church, would the judge then say she has to change churches?
How much latitude should a judge have in a country that guarantees freedom of religion? The purpose of the First Amendment was to keep the government from establishing a national religion and to keep it from interfering in religious belief/practice. Would the Founding Fathers who wrote the First Amendment have approved of a judge who agrees that it could be considered bad to teach religion as part of a home school environment? The judge could only please one parent in this case. He decided to please the non-custodial parent because, I assume, he agreed that too much religion is not good for kids. He is sending them to an environment that has been stripped of religion (by other judges).

That's my opinion. What do you think? (Respectful comments are welcome)

The story I refer to is here:
Judge Orders Home Schoolers into Public Classrooms

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