Religion and Public Education

November 18th, 2009

By Harvey Grund

The Cheatham County, Tennessee School District is being sued by four students who are protesting the District’s position that allows, and apparently encourages, religious activities in the district’s schools. According to an article in the Tennessean:

The lawsuit alleges: a planned prayer took place at graduation last spring; the Gideons International were allowed to speak to classes and distribute Bibles; a cross hangs in a classroom; and a history teacher taught that the United States is a “Christian nation” and decried the separation of church and state. The suit asks the court to stop the activities.

Now this may seem like a frivolous lawsuit to some — to those of you who believe that your own religious beliefs have no borders and should have no limits, as well as those of you who argue that no one forced the kids to pray at the graduation or accept the Bibles or look at the cross on the wall, and you would be right — well, at least partially right. But when we come to that situation where students in a classroom, some of whom may not know better, have to listen to a Christian Evangelistic version of U.S. History and an abstraction of the Constitution, we’ve reached an unquestionable limit and have begun to corrupt the educational process.

The broader picture is: The United States is not a “Christian nation;” it is a nation based not on religion but on morality, a basic morality that forms the basis of civilization as we understand it and practice it — a morality that exists apart from any religion — a morality that is, by law, the basis of even the most ardent atheist’s behavior.

I realize, of course, that it’s human nature to want to share a good thing, and religious people believe that they have not only a good thing to share — they feel that it is their duty to share it. I wish they would also realize that there are many people in this world who have their own “good things” going in their lives (their own religions and/or their own non-religious or quasi-religious belief systems) and that Christian (or other) evangelism is not only an intrusion into these other people’s lives, it is an insult to their intelligence and their choice of lifestyle.

(This article was also posted at My View from the Center.)


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6 Responses to “Religion and Public Education”



  1. larry |

    Harvey
    It’s always religion. I’m a Christian, so what?
    I was yesterday, today and tomorrow. What you are or are not isn’t really my concern. Sorry but that’s how it is with me. I figure that Heaven and getting there is at least 50 percent in my favor. We all are bound to die. We all become worm food. If thats the end and our reward is a hole in the ground so be it. If I’m lucky I will indeed enter Heaven. Look’s to me like I might actually get there from here.
    I am a little agitated that all of my work that contained reference to Christianity has been rejected but you are allowed to vilify Christians as much as you like. Dual standard or what?

    Does this mean there will be no Christmas this year?


  2. Harvey |

    Larry,

    Don’t go paranoid! If you read carefully I make the point that my problem is not with Christians or people of any other religion; my problem is with the “pushers” — the religion pushers who have no respect for anyone elses beliefs (or lack of beliefs). The problem that “set me off” in the article I quoted is the fact that a teacher made references that misrepresented our history (the Christian Nation reference) and our Constitution (nowhere in the Constitution does it call for a “separation of Church and State”).

    One point of confusion, you say: “all of my work that contained reference to Christianity has been rejected” — rejected by who?


  3. Brianna |

    Larry – the article wasn’t about vilifying Christians, it was about telling them to keep their hands off. Christians can teach whatever they want about their faith… in private schools, where every child attending is attending by choice (either theirs, or their parents). Since we have no choice about attending public schools, however, religion (of all stripes, not just Christianity) should have the decency to keep their beliefs out of the classroom.


  4. larry |

    Harvey, Brianna
    I’m not really taking either of you to task on the subject of religion. My point was that freedom of speech cuts both ways. Not everyone thats a Christian is also a Gomer or trailer trash redneck.
    I enjoy reading your pieces and your replies.
    Keep it up.


  5. Tom |

    I competely agree, Harvey. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. For the most part, the religious beliefs of children are what their parents want. Children born to Christians, of whatever stripe, are raised in that faith. Same with other forms of religious belief or, for that matter, no belief at all. If parents want their children to be educated within a specific belief system, they are free to pay for them to go to religious schools. However, children who attend public, government-run schools should not receive religious instruction of any kind.

    This is a serious constitutional issue. The Establishment Clause was intended to prevent a majority religious group from imposing its beliefs on others. When a school board (which is government) and/or teachers promote a specific form of religion in public schools, they’re violating the rights of both children and their parents, not to mention spending taxpayer money for a prohibited purpose.

    This is also why there should be no taxpayer-funded vouchers for schools that have mandatory religious qualifications for students or forced religious study.


  6. Brianna |

    “My point was that freedom of speech cuts both ways.”

    Freedom of speech means that you, as a private individual, are allowed to say whatever you want. It doesn’t mean that other private individuals have to provide you with a venue in which to say it.


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