Thursday, October 01, 2009

Getting God Into Our Schools

This has been an issue for virtually my entire life. And I'm tired of it.

A quick review - in 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the subject of school prayer in Abington Township School District v. Schempp . This was actually the SECOND case dealing with the issue (the first was Engel v. Vitale). Schempp very clearly states that teachers and administrators can neither promote nor disparage religion. This means they can't lead a prayer, recommend a prayer to be used or tell students they can't or shouldn't pray. That's it. The rulings were made to maintain a clear division between state (the school) and religion, a view consistent with the Supreme Court's long standing interpretation of the Constitution. The ruling was specific in noting that there was NO intent to bar the discussion of religion as a historical force. In fact Justice Tom Clark wrote:
“It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization … . Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

And since then virtually no one has bothered to pay attention to what the Court was actually saying or trying to do.

I see on Facebook the latest "backlash" attempt. A group dedicated to putting "God Back in School". Different versions of this have been floating around for decades.

So here's my two cents:

I don't know whose God it is that's being kept out of school but it ain't mine. There are no nine men and/or women in the history of the world who can block my God from going where he will. If your God can be barred from any where by a court decision might I suggest you follow a pretty puny God.

There is now and always has been a lot of praying going on in school. Some of it is quite pious and some of it is just panic. In my time I did a bit of both. Today there is plenty of praying going on in groups led by students. They can get together during lunch time or before or after school and pray and read the Bible or whatever they feel called to do. All perfectly legal and above board. The Supreme Court does not now, nor did it ever have a problem with this. Those are the clear and simple facts.

What this is really about are people who want to see religion (more specifically their idea of religion) institutionalized in our culture. They want to do that by getting their understanding imprinted on all children as soon as possible. Apparently they don't trust the children's parents to raise their children properly or their churches to instruct them properly in religious matters. They want the school to do it.

And that's stupid for a whole raft of reasons.

If my child doesn't have God in her life when she walks through the school doors how is saying some generic prayer at the start of classes going to help? If she DOES have God in her life then what value is there in a generic prayer that she's required to say/hear? I want the schools to spend their time doing what they need to do - teaching math, history, science, language, literature, music, art and the like. I want parents to teach their children morality and faith. I want the church to model what a faith based community looks like and acts like because that will encourage our young people to want to join one. Rather than have someone else's faith forced them.

So to the well meaning people who are passing around this latest version of "Getting God Back into School" I say this: Take another look at what the Court actually said and what you actually believe. Can your God REALLY be kept out of school? Is school prayer really the most important issue facing our families, our youth and our faith?

I've done my analysis on the subject and I'm not wasting any more time on it. God is where God needs to be. Always and everywhere. I've got more important things to worry about.


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