The Controversy Over Religion in Public Schools
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The Controversy Over Religion in Schools
"God help, I'm so lost!" If you listen carefully, this is a common thought that is heard throughout many schools in the nation. Is this thought appropriate? The following statement clearly shows that the law allows students and adults to practice religion, but at the same time be respective of others and their beliefs even if they do believe or if they don't. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, or to petition the government for a redress of grievances." (First Amendment, The Constitution of the United States). Prayer is not normally permitted as a scheduled part of classroom activities, because it would result in the violation of the principle of church-state separation, which has been defined by court interpretations of the 1st Amendment to the U.S, Constitution. The separation principle is extended to Public school as an arm of the government, with an exception which can be permitted if, during the school year, a mixture of prayers, statements, etc are delivered, using material derived from a number of different religions and secular sources. So far, this has never been tried in a school or ruled upon by a court (Religion in Public).
This plainly states that public school teachers, principals, and boards are required to be religiously neutral. They may not promote a particular religion as being superior to any other, and may not promote religion in general as superior to a secular approach to life. They also may not promote secularism in general as superior to a religious approach to life, be antagonistic to religion in general or a particular religious belief, be antagonistic to secularism, and they must neither advance nor inhibit religion (Religion in Public).
Although there are a lot of "don'ts", student-initiated prayer is allowed in various situations and locations in the public school system. For example, it is allowed in school buses, at the flagpole, in after-hours student religious clubs, in the school hallways, in the cafeteria, and in the classroom before or after scheduled classes (Religion in School).
Students are guaranteed the right to pray, as long as it is not disruptive, and it is not promoted during classroom hours. Not only are these permitted, they are actually protected forms of speech under the U.
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Public Schools Controversy Religious Belief Freedom Of Speech Heard Principals U.s. Constitution Superior
S. Constitution (Guide).
"See you at the Flag Pole" was an event that changed history and caused a huge up roar in the disagreement of practicing religion in school. "See you at the Flag Pole" all started on April 6 of 1990, by a group of teenagers in Burleston, Texas. It was assembled for a discipleship retreat. The teenagers went to three schools and prayed around the campus flagpole for their friends and fellow students ("See you at the..."). In June of 1990 at a rally of teenagers in Dallas, Texas, over 20,000 attendees were challenged to organize prayer sessions at their schools, following the Burleston example. This movement went national one year later. After about 70% of the public schools had a prayer service, and continue to (Prayer at...). Although this brought most students together, it was mainly focused on the Christians throughout public schools ("See you at the..."). What about all the other types of religion?
Searching for a solution is anything but an easy task. People's passions are very high when it comes to this subject, especially when brought up in school. It is said to be very difficult to arrange a meeting for religion for resolution. When a meeting is held to discuss certain religion matters, many of the attendees will stick with their beliefs and not budge from their position (Religion in...). One solution, which applies to all beliefs on this issue, would be the moment of silence. The moment of silence is simply a substitute for a prayer. Another solution is separate religious services, which is separate from the graduation ceremony for those students who wish to have strong religious content to their graduation process. This ceremony could be an inter-denominational service, including students and their friends and family from all Christian faith groups. Multiple prayers and secular statements are to recite a prayer from their faith tradition, and allow students with no religious affiliation to read a statement for the occasion (Prayer at...).
Located on the backside of the on-dollar bill it states, "In God We Trust." A statement in which all Americans agree on, since they are so willing to spend and receive the money or the dollar bills. When people are constantly fighting the school district to keep the religion out of the schools but on the other hand ironically are spending money or giving money to the school. These people are being hypocritical because of how willing they are to spend the money which has the words written right on it similar to what they are so strongly fighting against in the school systems.
Everyone has there own beliefs and usually they don't affect others, unless they are practiced in front of others. Religion is just another belief and has been a part of the society since the world was first created. It was one of the first thoughts that man had. In schools there are a lot of other beliefs that aren't fought about as much but are still a big deal, like homosexuality or a certain race. There are also some beliefs that are just allowed, and nothing is said about them. Religion is very similar to other beliefs and many people believe that they should be allowed in schools just as other beliefs are (Faith...). At a public meeting about graduation, a citizen of Rocky Grove PA stated, "This is nothing but the devil working against Christ. I am a red-blooded American. The constitution gives the right to pray anywhere and I shall do it." (Religion in Public). Yes, it does give the right to pray anywhere, but don't other people who don't believe in religion have the right not to be bothered or to practice another certain belief alone?
Another obvious, but important reason why the religion controversy should be allowed in public schools is the awareness and courtesy of other students and teachers. When someone prays quietly and doesn't preach, it really doesn't affect anyone. No one knows if someone is praying or not right next to him or her (Guide...). A graduating student at Penn State Erie, Brian Kitchen, states, "I'm not interested in hearing a prayer said because I believe that it infringes on my right not to pray." (Religion in School Debate). A very similar statement made by Ryan Bowers, also from Penn State, states "People who don't believe in prayer at graduation should keep their opinion to themselves and not bother people who believe in it." (Religion in School Debate). This is a very strong opinion felt by many other Americans. Keeping your feelings to yourself and not promoting any feelings toward other people solves many of the religion problems fought about today. All people want is their privacy, when it comes to the topic of religion (Religion in School).
When religion is often brought up, it is hard to understand and feel both sides are correct. After hearing over and over both sides of the constant argument of if religion should be promoted in schools, it is best that the school boards crack down on specific prayer rules. Allowing religion in school is a must, but when promoting to other people, who also have a right that don't believe in God, it should be stopped. Currently the school systems have decided to allow religion at certain times when not bothering other students who do not concern religion. The way it is now shouldn't change because it gives both sides the rights in which they are enabled to.
"Faith, religion, and prayer." Legal Issues. 21 Oct. 2003
A widely discussed and highly controversial issue throughout all of the United States is whether or not religion should be taught in public schools. Senator Phillip A. Hart from Michigan said, “I’m a Catholic and I hope a devout one, but I think that the public school classroom is no place for me to try and impose my world formula for prayer on children who don’t share it, and for that very reason, I don’t want my children in a public school classroom to be exposed to someone else’s religion or formula.” Hart is stating that he believes everyone should have freedom to have his own beliefs. Other people’s religious views should not be forced upon others, especially children. People like this do not agree with those who believe that religion should be allowed in schools for various reasons. For example, many people who do believe religion should be taught in public schools argue that they have the “freedom of speech” granted to them by the First Amendment. But does this mean that one can go out into a public place and speak out anything he wants? This is where the fine line is drawn between religious and state matters. Religion should not overflow into the government funded education. Religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because more controversy would be present if religion was permitted, many public school officials do not know enough about other religions beside their own, and lastly, teaching children about every religion is simply impossible. These three points all lead to the conclusion that allowing religion to be taught in public schools will only create even more problems and issues than were present before.
Another reason why religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools is because many school officials and teachers do not know enough about other religions besides their own. The article “Getting Religion Right in Public School” written by Charles C. Haynes states, “Despite the recent increase in study about religion in schools, many Americans still have little or no knowledge about religions other than their own—and even that knowledge is often thin” (9). This is a problem because if public schools did decide to allow religion to be taught, the teachers and officials would have to be taught about all of the various religions first before they would be able to teach their students. This does not mean that teachers in public schools do not know of or about other religions besides their own, but it is merely impossible to really know and understand every religion present in America, just as Haynes has presented. This excerpt clearly defines why allowing religion in public schools brings about the problem of teachers being ignorant of many religions. This alone should make people think twice before allowing their children to attend a public school which allows religion to be taught. Also, another issue is that each teacher will probably only be well versed in his own religion. Mona M. Abo-Zena writes in her article “Faith from the Fringes,” “Teachers have tremendous power to validate or deny, to recognize and illuminate or ignore any sensitive topic in a classroom” (17). This statement demonstrates how having teachers with different personal religious views and convictions can affect the children they teach. This is not how religion should be taught. Whenever someone is given power, he can either use this for better or for worse, and in the case of allowing religion to be taught in public schools by uninformed teachers, this power will be used in a negative way. It may even lead to the issue of each teacher putting emphasis or even sometimes leaving out certain parts of a religion because of personal preference. This would lead to issues such as offending families of children by making some students feel of more importance. Many children in public schools are bullied for reasons such as clothing, grades, and popularity, so what is going to keep others from learning of one minority’s religion and using it against them? The way a teacher portrays each religion may have a negative connotation, so it does not seem right that public schools should create an environment where even a child’s religion is mocked. Thomas Hutton’s article “Teaching and the Bible,” “…it’s easy to do badly” (39) referring to the teaching of religion. Teaching religion is not as simple as some may perceive it to be. Religion is often a tender subject for some people, which means that when teaching about religion, one must be sensitive to others. However, this cannot be guaranteed by all of the teachers in a public school system. All in all, because the teachers in public schools have so much power and can use this to, not intentionally, but negatively affect the children, public schools should not be allowed to teach about religion.
Lastly, religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because teaching various children about many different religions is simply hard to do well. To start, it is not very likely that every religion can be taught to every child. This is very unreasonable, yet if it is not done this way then many people may become offended. Just think about how much time it would take to thoroughly teach about one religion along with the beliefs and rituals. In the book “Religion and Education” published by Bonnie Szumski, it is written, “… the goal of having ‘objective’ or ‘balanced’ teaching in respect to religion, and specifically the Bible, would be difficult if not almost impossible in the current social climate” (51). This means that nowadays it is very unrealistic to think that when public schools try and teach about religions they will interpret and know everything about each religion in order to do it justice. Now this is not a problem for private schools because many are focused on one religion. Yet for a public school, many different religions are present. Therefore, if the public schools wish to teach religion, then every religion must be taught. However, schools do not have the time to teach about various religions. Public schools will not be able to provide enough of a balanced religious atmosphere for religious minorities. In Mona M. Abo-Zena’s article “Faith from the Fringes.” She writes, “Religious minorities may alternately feel proud, unique, unwelcomed, ashamed, or targeted in public schools” (15). Clearly this would be a major issue if religion was allowed to be taught in public schools. Diminishing students for their beliefs should not be what the public schools system is all about. Those who are religious minorities are people who have religions that are not as well known or as widely practiced as others in America. Even though this may not be a large people group, they are still people and have the right as American citizens to receive respect towards their religious beliefs. Therefore, religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because teaching about every religion well in public schools is simply impossible.
While the point that allowing religion to be taught in public schools will lead to too many controversies and arguments is a valid point, many people argue that this should not keep children from broadening their minds by learning about different religions. In the article “Getting Religion Right in Public Schools,” Charles C. Haynes writes, “Public schools can (and should) teach about religion, where appropriate, as part of a complete education” (13). When one first looks at this statement it seems to sound as well as look logically correct. But the downfall is the phrase “complete education.” What defines “complete education” in public schools? This is where the problem lies. There is no way that public schools will be able to find a clear and precise definition for a “complete education”. Since there is no way to find a definition that everyone would agree on, this would create conflict and start arguments. This clearly shows why the point prior is valid. Public schools should not allow religion to be taught because it will lead to too many controversies as well as arguments.
Although it is true that religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because there is not enough time or resources to do so, some people believe that these should not be restricting factors when it comes to religion. An excerpt from the book “Religion and Education” states, “For example, the late Justice William Brennan, in a concurring opinion in Abington v. Schempp, stated that, ‘it would be impossible to teach meaningfully many subjects in the social sciences or the humanities without some mention of religion.’” (43). When a student broadens his knowledge of other religions, this will overflow into his knowledge in other classes. This is a very valid point, but, there is still the issue of being able to teach about every religion well in a restricted amount of time. In order not to offend any students in the school, without singling them out, it is necessary to address every religion and what the beliefs and practices are. But this is simply impossible because this is time consuming as well as simply hard to do well. Often times school curriculums will make assumptions about certain religions and people that may not be true. In Thomas Hutton’s article “Teaching and the Bible,” he writes, “Bible instruction in public schools sometimes has made assumptions about religion and student that are inconsistent with a neutral, academic approach” (40). This quote fully supports the idea that when teaching religion, false assumptions are often made. This however is not beneficial to the school or the students, therefore leading to issues. This is why it is better for everyone, teachers as well as students, that religion is not allowed to be taught because it would only cut the time of other important classes as well as be hard to do well as to not offend any students.
Public schools are supposed to be a place where all religions are welcomed but when people who do not want to be outspoken about their beliefs are forced to, then this will only cause conflict. In the book “Religion and Education” published by Bonnie Szumski, it is written when discussing the issue of prayer in public schools, “Who gets to choose the prayer? What happens to those students who find the prayers offensive or against their own religious beliefs? What happens to those who do not–for whatever reason–wish to take part in prayer?” (36). Students already are insecure about their popularity, grades, and clothing at school so why make it even harder for a student to be himself in an environment that was created to help him? This should not be the main goal of public schools. If issues will be created by allowing religion to be taught in public schools, then the risk is too high. Many students are already insecure about what they believe and some do not even know what they do believe yet. Public schools do not need to try and force all of this knowledge about other religions in their brains when many do not even know what to believe. The main point is that religion should be for the church and home, not for the public school system. Indeed, religion is a major part of America, but there should be a fine line between church and state and this is where this line should be drawn: between religion and education.
To begin, religion should not be allowed to be taught in public schools because too many controversies would be present; therefore, more arguments would start. The word religion means, “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects” (dictionary.com). “To be taught religion” means to learn about each religion and its beliefs and faiths in order to understand it or to believe what the specific religion teaches or believes. Nowadays in society any kind of disagreement can and often does start an argument. The public school, however, is no place for more disputes to be made over religion. There are already arguments present in the public schools without religion being discussed. In the article “Getting Religion Right in Public Schools” written by Charles C. Haynes, Haynes writes, “A cursory glance at the daily headlines reminds us that religious differences are at the heart of many of the world’s most violent conflicts. And, in the United States, rapidly expanding religious diversity presents daunting new challenges for building one nation out of many faiths and cultures in the 21st century” (9). In this excerpt Haynes is trying to reveal that many of the roots of our country’s problems are the religious controversies in our nation. If the public school system does decide to allow religions to be taught, then it will only create more problems. There is no way to get around it. The more one teaches about religion, the more people will argue about what is true and what is not true. The teachers cannot force a student to think a certain way or believe in a certain religion, but the student must think for himself and decide what to believe and what not to believe. The First Amendment of Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” There are many interpretations of the First Amendment. Because of the various interpretations of this amendment, it would be hard for all of the public school systems to answer the questions: to what extent should religion be taught if it is allowed to be taught? Does giving the people the freedom of religion and speech mean that religion should not be allowed to be taught? Or does this mean that to a certain point religion should be allowed to be taught? These are the types of questions that lead to many disagreements as well as arguments. Mona M. Abo-Zena writes in her article titled “Faith from the Fringes,” “Religious diversities prompt a range of student interactions and reactions” (16). Abo-Zena, when stating that religious diversities prompt a range of interactions, means that these interactions and reactions can be productive but, they can also be destructive. It all depends on each situation. But, there is no need to put children at the risk of having to defend their faith in front of others who do not believe the same as they might. Children should not be forced into arguments that they themselves cannot control. All of this to say that allowing religion to be taught in public schools would only lead to more controversies over religion and the start of many arguments that could have been avoided.
Abo-Zena, Mona M. “Faith from the Fringes: Religious minorities in school.” Phi Delta Kappan 93.4 (2011). 15-19. 12 February 2013. http://www.avl.lib.al.us/resources/display_resources.phpHaynes, Charles C. “Getting Religion Right in Public Schools.” Phi Delta Kappan 93.4 (2011). 8-14. 12 February 2013. http://www.avl.lib.al.us/resources/display_resources.phpHead, Tom. Religion and Education. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Hutton, Thomas. Teaching and the Bible.” American School Board Journal195.6 (2008). 38-41. 12 February 2013.http://www.avl.lib.al.us/resources/display_resources.php