Should Religious Beliefs Of Any Kind Have A Place In The Classroom?

The American legal system can be pretty confusing. The amendments of the Constitution are constantly being interpreted, misinterpreted, and reinterpreted; it’s all to easy not completely grasp what something means means or we take another statement out of context. Recently, the question of the separation of church in states in connection to school has returned to the forefront of public consciousness.

More specifically, everyone is concerned with defining religion’s role in state funded public schools. As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) explains, students have the right to practice their religion freely at public schools, but cannot be made to feel as though their school sanctions any one particular belief in favor of one another. Isn’t that why there’s so much controversy surrounding the Pledge of Allegiance  and the “under god” line?

The fight for equal representation of all faith or non-faith based systems in public schools is on in Kentucky.  After the Casey County School district allowed bibles to be distributed to its three elementary schools, an Atheist group, called the Freethinkers, challenged in order to be allowed to have their own literature distributed as well. They’re not forcing children to read any of the literature, but simply providing it in case they’re curious.

As expected, some parents were outraged by this development. They were fine with the bibles being distributed, but were adamantly opposed to the distribution of atheist literature. In spite of the outrage, Carmen Foster, whose children attend one of the schools in question, offered a fair assessment of how to approach a situation that at first was unsettling enough to make her consider keeping her kids home from school saying, “I work hard everyday of my life as a mother to teach my kids what we believe. If I don’t have enough confidence to send them out in the world, then how strong am I with what I am teaching them?”

Her reasoning is fair, but it still leaves the question of how do we go about managing school and religion? We equip our students with bibles and atheist literature while also editing the Pledge of Allegiance so as to accommodate those who don’t believe in the Christian god. Should it then follow that we give our students equal access to the Quran, the Torah, and scriptures of all faiths?  If we want what is truly fair and just then why limit our youth to certain texts that could very well be enlightening to them?

The imposition of religion into school throughout various ways is an ongoing instance throughout America. In Texas, House Bill No. 1287, made it mandatory that an elective course that taught biblical literature and history offered at all public schools.  The schools have the option of teaching other texts, but they must teach the bible regardless. Similarly to the issue in Kentucky, a Florida public school county had afreethought and atheist literature available on the National Day of Prayer.

Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, explained the motivation for providing students with freethought literature. “Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Schools don’t need to allow these distributions, but as long as they do, we will distribute our own nonreligious materials,” he said.

Keep in mind that a complete education is the goal. As painfully cliche as it sounds, knowledge is power; if we want to arm American students with the best education possible then it should be well-rounded, not limited to strictly Christian or atheist texts. The goal should be to make them well aware of it all and quit being biased towards one or another until they can decide on their own. Unless we can agree on that, the debate will continue to rage about where the bounds on religious involvement in school begins and ends.

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