What happens when public schools cross the line by promoting personal religious views in their classrooms? One Texas parent — a religious studies scholar — explains what happened to her family in this cross-post (with permission) from Scribalishess. Susan M. Pigott is a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at a small, liberal arts university in west Texas. She’s married and has two amazing kids. Her family also includes five cats and two dogs, and her favorite hobbies are writing, photography, and geeky tech gadgets. The views expressed in this post are her own.
I remember driving to Chili’s with my hands clenched on the steering wheel, knuckles turning white. It wasn’t the Abilene traffic (though I could write a blog post about Abilene drivers . . .) No. It was the story that was slowly, painfully unfolding as my son spoke. I was gently (I think) nudging him to reveal more and more about his day in fifth grade at a public elementary school. I was so angry by the time we reached Chili’s that it’s a wonder we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant.
We were heading to Chili’s to meet my husband for dinner. My son’s story began with a shrug and a quiet sentence, “Mr. X said that vegetarianism is wrong.”
“What?” I asked–a bit too stridently. My boy at first hesitated to say more.
“No, tell me. What did he say?” I asked, a little more gently.
“Well,” my son said, “We were reading this book for class. And in the book, this boy has to live in the wilderness for a long time just eating what he could find. And at some point the boy says he really misses hamburgers.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Well, then Mr. X got out his Bible and told us that the Bible says vegetarianism is wrong. He started quoting a bunch of verses about meat and how you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating it and how vegetarians are less healthy than other people.”
“What?” I sort of shrieked. This was when my knuckles turned white. You see, my kids and I are vegetarians. We have been for years. And here was a teacher, a person my son looked up to, telling the class that vegetarianism is wrong. That it’s against the Bible. That it’s unhealthy.
I was beyond furious. I explained to my son that Mr. X was using the Bible incorrectly. That those verses he was quoting weren’t about vegetarianism at all, but about meat sacrificed to idols.
But I could tell he was deeply hurt by what his teacher had said.
By that time we were at Chili’s (yes, you can get vegetarian meals at Chili’s, in case you’re worried about hypocrisy). I was boiling. We sat at our booth, and I asked my son to tell Daddy what he had told me, because I was so livid I couldn’t see straight. My son told his story.
Then he added, “Oh. And he also told us we didn’t come from monkeys and he quoted Genesis 1.”
That was it. I was ready to hunt down Mr. X and teach him a thing or two about the Bible. You don’t mess with a Bible professor’s kid, teaching him crap theology in a public school classroom. Mr. X had no business saying what he said. I could barely stay in the booth.
My husband was also furious. But he was able to ask our son more questions in a calm, even-spirited way that didn’t involve throwing Bibles at Mr. X. We reassured Nathaniel that (a) Mr. X was ignorant about what the Bible actually said about vegetarianism and creation and (b) that Mr. X was wrong to use the Bible in a public school classroom. We also told him that we would talk to Mr. X about this, which clearly made our son uncomfortable. But we agreed that Daddy would speak with Mr. X kindly and that Mommy would not be in attendance because Mommy would probably hit Mr. X over the head with her Hebrew Bible (which is very big and very heavy).
As much as I wanted to speak to Mr. X, I realized that this was probably the best course of action. I really am not able to talk civilly to someone who uses the Bible in this way, especially someone who attacks my child while doing it.
Kelly consulted a lawyer who had spoken on issues of church and state in our university chapel. He explained to her what had happened so he could be sure that this teacher had violated the law. After discussing the issue with her, my husband felt confident about approaching the teacher.
The meeting went well in terms of how the teacher responded to hurting our son. He said that he did not know our son was a vegetarian and that he was not targeting him when he did his anti-vegetarian rant. In fact, my husband said, the teacher had tears in his eyes when he learned he had hurt our son.
However, when confronted with the fact that using his Bible in class was a violation of the first amendment, the teacher was defensive. He refused to acknowledge that he had done anything wrong .
We decided, for the sake of our son and our daughter, that pursuing the matter further would only bring negative attention to them. So, we let it go.
In the spring of that year, I filled out a form for the school that requested feedback from parents. On the form, I complained about the overt Christianity that I saw in the school, both in the teaching and in the Jesus posters plastered on various classroom walls.
I received a call from the principal. He was concerned about my comments and wondered what had provoked them. I explained that I had seen posters proclaiming things like “Jesus Loves You” in classrooms, and I also told him about the “We didn’t come from monkeys” lecture by my son’s teacher. His reply was, “I’d rather have our teachers teaching the Bible than Darwinism, wouldn’t you?” I was dismayed. The rest of the conversation went downhill from there .
Fortunately, our son’s experience in fifth grade was an isolated incident, as far as I know. In fact, we have been very happy with most of our children’s teachers and feel that they are getting an excellent education in the Abilene public schools.
But, recently numerous stories reveal how often creationism is being taught in publicly-funded schools in Texas, Louisiana, and other southern states (see, for example this article mapping where creationism is taught). In fact, in one recent egregious case, a Buddhist student was taunted and belittled publicly by his teacher and had to transfer to another school because he wasn’t a Christian. Fortunately, that case was successfully dealt with by the ACLU (see a summary here).
When I remember our son’s experience, I still get angry. He got over it. I did not. I am still incensed to think that a public school teacher felt he had the right to use his Bible in class to rail against vegetarianism and science. I am angry that neither he nor the principal saw a problem with using the Bible in the classroom in this manner, even though it was against the law.
And I think that this is one reason why, when students get to college they lose their faith. They’re being taught creationism in church and in school, but when they go to college (even Christian colleges), all of the sudden they are confronted with reality. Their biology teachers don’t teach creationism and, if they’re at most Christian universities, neither do their Bible professors .
But when I go to work, every semester I am faced with students who have been taught that it’s either the Bible or science—you have to choose. And every semester, I take them through the Genesis cosmology and show them what “literal” really means (see my post on“Reading Genesis 1 ‘Literally’”). And every semester I have students who confess to me that they believe their churches lied to them. They feel betrayed by the literal teachings that fall apart under scrutiny. And I do my best to tell them that it doesn’t have to be either/or—that they can believe the Bible and use their minds, too. That science and faith don’t have to be at odds with one another. That it’s okay to accept scientific evidence and believe in God.
Some of them come through this crisis with renewed faith and a healthy understanding of both the Bible and science. Others (fortunately the minority), are crushed. They either lose their faith entirely or retreat into a completely literalist fundamentalism and leave the university for places that teach what they want to believe.
As a teacher myself, I know how much power I wield. I know that I can build up or tear down. My desire is to help my students become better readers of the Bible. My desire is to help them through these crises of faith that inevitably arise. I have no desire to hurt or to destroy.
But then I think of my son’s fifth grade teacher and his views of the Bible. He expressed those views to impressionable youngsters who often idolize their teachers; and he expressed them as inviolable truth. Whether intentionally or not, he hurt my son that day, wielding his Bible as a weapon.
One reason separation of church and state exists is to insure that the deeply personal subject of religion is taught to our children in church (or synagogue or Muslim community center) where it belongs. When public servants violate that sacred trust, they do real harm, as my son and I learned the hard way.
1. This teacher quit a few years later and is no longer teaching.
2. The principal retired a few years later.
3. Many Christian universities do not teach creationism; however, there are some well-known ones that do, including Liberty University and Bob Jones University.
30 thoughts on “The Day My Son Was Taught 'Bible' in a Public School”
I so hope our grandchildren are never exposed to “bible teachings” at their schools. They are not there to learn religion, they are there to learn science, maths and the like.
That’s lovely, except what does one do when, as is often the case, it is the child who proselytizes, and not the teacher? Most creationists and religious zealots know they shouldn’t preach religion in public school, so they train their children to do it in their behalf. How does one counter this except with that kind of conversation?
Hey my kids 3rd grade teacher told her ‘air was not made of matter, because you can’t see it.’
I’ve noticed more and more they are taking religious rules a little loose. Not to mention that the ‘Good News Club’ or now known as ‘Kids Rock’ have infiltrated the school. My daughters bully happens to be the daughter of one of the local ‘Kids Rock Club’
West has already been punished…Principal should take a hint…
Susan, I very much appreciate your post as I am the step father of the Buddhist child you reference in your story. Your feelings that you described on the way to Chili’s were dead on.
While I didn’t feel that it was pertinent to open a theological debate in my post or lawsuit, I also have more than a “Sunday School” limit to my biblical and theological background and get very frustrated by poor or outright incorrect information passed on as “gospel.” My first inkling of a problem occurred within the first day or so when my daughter and step son came home from school, informing me that “A.D.” meant “After Dead.” When I explained the actual meaning “Anno Domini” and that is latin for “year of our Lord”, they actually argued that their teacher couldn’t be wrong. Currently, two of my very short fuse pet peeves after this year are calling anyone “stupid” and bad or poor biblical inferences. I am ok with different theological beliefs and interpretations. My problem is with dogmatic opinions without a solid basis or understanding.
This sort of thing goes on in public schools all over Texas in minor ways. I substituted in Midland and Ector County [Odessa] ISDs and some teachers had little icons of Christianity such as crosses on their desks and crosses on necklaces, or plastic devices on their desks that said “Jesus Loves You.” In general, the biology teachers did not use the word “evolution” but used “adaptation” or simply “change over time.” Others did not teach the subject at all. I know that the Midland Science Supervisor, a person known to me to be a Creationist, told the district’s biology teachers to save the topic of evolution to the end of the semester when almost invariably end of year activities (mandatory testing, rallies, etc.) left little to no time to cover the last topics, in this case evolution. The rationale was that the state Biology TAKS exam omitted evolution questions so it didn’t matter if students missed it.
I’m sure this stuff went on in school districts all over the state. When I visited with biology teachers, they told me this happened. Published scientific studies of the problem have revealed that a very high percentage of teachers in the South (including Texas) do not teach evolution and even teach Creationism.
However, I admit that claiming that Genesis in the Bible taught that vegetarianism is wrong is a new one for me. That’s just bizarre. Scientists like me who actively opposed Creationism used to joke that it was fortunate that the Bible did not speak against the notion that the continents moved or plate tectonics would suffer the same fate as evolution. As far as I know the Bible does not opposed the concept of climate change (global warming) but that topic is avoided in Texas schools for a different reason. We should consider ourselves fortunate in the South that the Bible fails to attribute viral and bacterial infections to some other cause, or speaks against the concepts of metabolism, respiration, blood circulation, etc., so that students may believe in them. It’s funny, though, that the Bible presents characters as positive role models favored by God who engage in polygamy, concubinage, slavery, subordination of women, stoning of women for adultery, genocide, and murderous religious warfare. Why are these acts generally condemned today when the Bible obviously promotes and approves them? I detect some hypocrisy here.
There are still many religious people around that reject the ‘germ theory’ of sickness. Plate tectonics could only pass as ‘god separating water and land’ with them or as a side effect of Noah’s flood. And if you think slavery, subordination of women, stoning of women for adultery, genocide, and murderous religious warfare have gone out of fashion with significant parts of the religious right, you have not paid attention. Calls for or apology of that are a standard fare.
I am so sorry this has happened to your son and to your family. I have felt intimidated throughout my school education when we read the BIBLE everyday in Homeroom. I always picked the OLD TESTAMENT to read from as I worried about my Jewish friends. I was not at that time aware of any other religious or Atheists at that point. As a trained evolutionary Biologist, I never had a problem in Texas, but have in Louisiana and at a few college courses (unexpected professors in science who were teaching creationism in science classes)> We all wonder about some of our restrictive laws about speech in public school, but it is because of incidents such as yours that we are in a catch 22. I wish your story had appeared on the front page of newspapers. It is unconscionable that public education has become a political and religious war zone. I agree with everything you said, people do not have to choose between religion and science. I always made that clear to my students. When discussing religion in class it was always done in a historical context associated with science and problems that arose in either discipline. I wish teachers/counselors/principals/administrator’s understood that so that our children can get the BEST EDUCATION possible.
The public school system I grew up in many years ago was recently sued by the ACLU for assorted Christian fundamentalist religious violations, which allegedly included allowing a Pastor of Youth from a local Southern Baptist megachurch to come in and pal around with students in the school cafeteria during lunch hours. I wrote the following letter to the school system, and they took my advice:
August 31, 2011
Sumner County Board of Education
695 East Main Street
Gallatin, TN 37066
Dear Mr. Phillips:
Welcome to Gallatin and Sumner County. Because you are new to the area, you would not be expected to know me. However, I will tell you this. My family goes back more than 200 years in Sumner County, and we are one of the most famous and genealogically well documented families in the county. After growing up in Gallatin and graduating from Gallatin Senior High School in 1971, I went off to college at Austin Peay State University for two years and then on to The University of Tennessee (Knoxville) for an undergraduate degree with highest honors (3.89 GPA) and a graduate degree (3.96 GPA). For the past 27 years, I have worked as a scientist in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. We live in Oak Ridge now and our family is active in Kern United Methodist Church, the second largest United Methodist congregation in Oak Ridge. I credit the Sumner County Schools with preparing me for academic success in college. However, I am concerned about an article that I read recently in my local newspaper. It said that the Tennessee ACLU had filed a lawsuit against the Sumner Country Schools for violation of the rights of nine students with regard to the establishment clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In addition, I read the specific charges leveled against the school system in the actual brief filed with the U.S. District Court. I would like to offer some comments on this suit. I realize that you cannot respond to this message for legal reasons, but I would like for you to read my comments carefully and take them seriously.
The First Amendment states the following:
“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.”
The Sumner County Board of Education, Director of Schools, other school administrators, and teachers in the Sumner County Schools are paid government officials. If the religious activity alleged by the ACLU actually took place in some of your schools, it is clear to me that the teachers and administrators who allowed it and/or encouraged it were attempting to establish a particular religious viewpoint as the official religion of the Sumner County Schools. In my opinion, this is clearly and unequivocally a violation of the First Amendment rights of the students and parents who asked the ACLU to file this suit. In addition, it was a slap in the face of every student and parent in Sumner County who does not hold precisely to the particular religious viewpoint or conviction that was being taught via these activities.
Why is it important to avoid such activities in our public schools? In the 13 British colonies that existed prior to 1776, colonial history clearly records the fact that government-based church officials killed, tortured, and otherwise persecuted their fellow Christians because of differing religious beliefs. This sad but true history was heavily on the mind of Thomas Jefferson when he wrote from Paris, France, to the framers of the constitution and asked them to consider adding 10 more amendments to the new constitution to specify the rights of the American people. Historical records make it clear that the framers of the constitution wrote the First Amendment specifically to establish a wall to separate government from religion in the United States. The American government was to be totally neutral with regard to religion, neither officially supporting it nor officially denouncing it. In other words, government was going to stay out of the religion business and let religion be a matter left solely to the American people, their families, and the houses of worship that they establish and support voluntarily with their contributions. How many times do we hear it in other contexts today? We hear it from Republican conservatives all of the time. I bet you know the words by heart, “I want the government to keep its nose out of my private business!” These alleged activities in your school system were nothing less than an official attempt to inject the nose of county government into the private religious business of the students, parents, and religious institutions of Sumner County.
I am a believing Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, followed by a full-dunk baptism. I walk with him daily, and He walks daily with me. However, I am also a strong supporter of the separation of religion and government, as were the Baptists in this country for several hundred years prior to 1979. In this day and time, more so than at any other time in our history, I believe it is important to keep government separated from religion—and more especially to prevent government from promoting or otherwise supporting one particular religious viewpoint over others.
As a parent, you have most likely never paid a surprise visit to a large and well-respected private preschool program where a teacher from India was teaching her pupils the tenets of the Hindu religion without your knowledge. Much to my surprise, I did make such a visit one day when my son was a regular member of her class, and I was disturbed by what I encountered. Our country has many more immigrant families now than ever before. If we drop the wall that separates religion and government in this country, there will be absolutely nothing left to legally prevent this sort of unwanted religious intrusion in our public schools. There will be nothing left to protect Christians, members of other religions, or people with no religion. In recent months, we have heard a lot in Middle Tennessee about the dangers of Sharia Law and missionary Islam coming to our shores. I feel that most of this has been misplaced public hysteria. However, mark my word, if you lower the First Amendment wall that separates religion and government in this country, you will pave a golden road from missionary Islam to the captive ears of your children in the public schools, and there will be absolutely nothing you can do about it because the only real protection you had will be gone.
Many Christian denominations in this country are ideologically and doctrinally farther apart now than they have ever been in American history. This is particularly true with regard to the mainline Christian denominations, Christian fundamentalist denominations, conservative Evangelical denominations, and Pentecostal denominations. For example, many Pentecostal churches believe that women should serve as pastors in their churches. Conservative Southern Baptist churches are roundly opposed to it. Christian fundamentalist churches believe in a literal translation of the Bible, and they also believe that the authorized King James Version is the only true Bible acceptable to God. The United Methodist Church strongly disagrees with these two positions. I wish these were the only examples of theological differences, but there are many others. Moreover, in recent years, these differences have been greatly accentuated by the fusion of hotly contested and highly polarizing political passions in some sectors of the Christian faith. Fifty years ago, if you had a religious difference with a neighbor, it was merely a live and let live difference. Today that same difference often counts a person as being an “Enemy of God.” And we all know about that from European history and the history of many other nations around the world: “The enemies of God must be destroyed.” Religion in the public schools might have worked, however illegally, in the years prior to 1963. In my opinion, the theological differences and the associated political passions are now too intense for that to ever be possible again. At best, it is a recipe for perpetual social conflict. At worst, it is a recipe for a shooting religious civil war like the one just concluded in Northern Ireland.
Bringing this down to the personal level, I really do not want a Southern Baptist public school teacher pumping the tenets of her particular brand of Christianity into the heads of my United Methodist children in science or history class. If a pastor from a conservative evangelical church wants to come into the school cafeteria and proselytize my children over a chili dog, I would really prefer to have the school principal stop him at the front door and keep him away from my children. His mere presence there is saying, in effect, “The religious teachings your kids are getting down at your church are wrong, and I am here in your school today to correct some of that.” In all honesty, what gives you or any other school administrator/teacher the right to interfere in this way with the religious education my children get down at our church? Government schools need to get their noses out of the religious business of parents, families, and churches because they do not belong there. The First Amendment exists to protect all of us from such unwanted intrusions.
We are seeing these unwanted intrusions in our public schools for a reason, and it is not just to save our children from the infernal regions. Christian fundamentalist churches and some conservative evangelical churches in this country are dying a slow death. In recent years, for the first time in history, baptism statistics have been down in the Southern Baptist convention. According to a recent statistic put out by a Christian fundamentalist group, 88 percent of the children raised in their churches leave the denomination of their youth at age 18 and never come back to it for the rest of their lives. Many of these churches are becoming unpopular with the public. Scientific surveys show that people are repelled by the traditions and doctrines in these churches. In fact, a friend of mine, a former Southern Baptist pastor in Oklahoma, tells me that such highly conservative churches have begun disguising themselves in hopes of acquiring new members by stealth. In 1965, they would have called themselves the Separate Missionary Baptist Church, a dead giveaway to the “bad news” gospel that waits inside. Today they have taken on cunning, soft-mask names such as Faith Assurance Church to lure in people that might otherwise avoid them.
Back in the 1980s, I was a member of a large conservative church here in Oak Ridge. I would go door-to-door with a friend of mine on Wednesday night. Some people would talk with us, but others would just slam the door in our faces, and a few actually cussed at us from their doorways as we walked up the street. Clearly, we had a message people did not want to hear, but it was not the gospel message of Jesus Christ that they were rejecting. After all, if you will remember, great multitudes were attracted magnetically to Jesus and his words—and many people followed him wherever he went. No multitudes followed us—in fact—no one followed us. After an honest personal evaluation and a lot of deep library research, I finally concluded that these people were actually rejecting the traditional, “man-made” church culture of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism—not Jesus and his message of love and hope.
As an acquaintance of mine at a Christian college program in Oregon has said, many of these churches and their members feel as if they themselves are about to be “aborted” in the course of American life. They feel weak and marginalized. They feel as if the things they value are no longer appreciated or valued in American society at large—and that these conservative values are being eroded with each passing day. They perhaps wonder why the Holy Spirit has allowed this ever-increasing marginalization to occur. With nowhere else to turn, they have tried desperately to grab political power and fuse their religious beliefs with government at all levels in hopes that the worldly power and authority of government institutions might take over (where the Holy Spirit had failed them) and be used to promote their beliefs and set them back on the high 1800s religious pedestal from which they had fallen so long ago.
Moreover, many in their ranks hope to eventually use the authority and police power of government to impose their dominion on the lesser human members of God’s creation who have committed the abominable sin of disagreeing with their narrow-minded theology and politics. Many of them, referred to formally as Christian Reconstructionists or Dominionists, are actively seeking to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and our American form of government, just as the Soviet communists tried to do during the Cold War. In opposition to the truth held by most American historians, they have created a classic “big lie” mythology that the United States was founded officially as a “Christian nation.” They are using this big lie as the basis for eventually establishing a religious dictatorship to rule our country with an iron hand, just as the Islamic mullahs do in Iran. I know this sounds like a nonsensical conspiracy theory, but it is not. The movement’s principles and plans are clearly set forth in the prolific writings of their most famous leaders, such as Rousas Rushdoony, a now deceased Presbyterian minister who attended the School of Divinity at Princeton University. Most Christians do not realize this, but Christian Reconstructionists now have a deep influence on the Christian homeschool movement and the educational materials they provide to teaching parents. Christian Reconstructionism, Dominion Theology, and Theonomy are not Christian. In fact, they are heresies against the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and their ideas and influences should be rejected by all Christians. If you see anyone in the universal church using the term “Christian nation,” you are listening to a person who is either a committed Christian Reconstructionist or someone who has fallen into the ideological snare of this heresy unawares.
With so much at stake, many Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches need children to replenish their ranks, and they see an alliance with public school administrators and teachers as a way to achieve some measure of security and promote their traditions. After all, a captive child in a public school classroom cannot slam the door in their face. Better still, mom and dad cannot be there at school to see what these so-called “religious ambassadors” are doing with their children—what ideas they are pumping into their heads while mommy and daddy are not looking. But you have to remember that this is not really about the children. In the end, it is really about using a government institution and our children as tools to save a floundering religious tradition that is in trouble and desperate to assure its safety and continued existence. I think wise old Benjamin Franklin said it best in the following quote:
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
—Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Richard Price. October 9, 1790.
Mr. Phillips, the Sumner County Schools are going to lose this court case brought by the ACLU. There is no doubt whatsoever about it. If you go to any privately practicing attorney in Sumner County, they will tell you this straight up. This case is no different from numerous others just like it that have ended in disaster for other public school systems around the nation. In the end, it will cost the taxpayers of Sumner County about $1.2 million of hard-earned money that could have been spent on educating their children. That kind of waste is unconscionable in these hard economic times.
The Sumner County Schools are not a church, the sink in the chemistry lab is not a baptismal font, and their mission is not to save a scared and dying Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical religious tradition. Therefore, I would urge you and the Sumner County Schools to settle this suit out of court for a low dollar figure while you still can and cease from the alleged school religious activities that led to this suit.
Charles, your letter puts so many considerations into a well written and logical progression. Would you mind if I were to cite your letter? In all or in part?
All across Texas, I would urge Christians who are not fundamentalists or conservative evangelicals to rise up against “fundie” meddling with your children in the public schools. They have no right to mess around with the religious upbringing you have done with your children in your home and in your church. What your children believe and how they read their Bibles is none of their business. None whatsoever!!!
This sort of religious nonsense in our public schools will only stop when outraged American Christians FORCE IT TO STOP. The Religious Right in Texas and their minions in fundie and conservative evangelical churches have made gross unkindness and outright nastiness with other Christians into a way of life. The time has come for a massive Christian backlash to shout down these people and their nonsense. If the sort of religious nonsense in the above main post is going on in your Texas public school and frightening your Christian child,write a letter similar to mine below to your School Superintendent and School Board. Tell them the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church & State exist for a good reason and that you have no qualms about using their lawyers if the nonsense does not stop. If it keeps on—use them.
I am a duly ordained diaconal minister in the Methodist church. I also design role-playing games. Several years ago, some kids who helped test my games reported that they were denounced before the school as “satanists” because they played these games. The teacher involved was described as the one “who teaches Young Life.” Actually, he taught shop, they never knew that this fundamentalist extra-curricular activity was not a legitimate part of the curriculum.
Both parents of one of these kids were law enforcement professionals and they investigated the incident in that manner. They substantiated the kids’ story. I wrote about the incident in a letter to a big city newspaper that occasionally covered our town. and they published it. The school board denied it, and at the end of the school year, the offending teacher got a merit increase in pay.
There was also a tradition, tacitly (at least) encouraged by the school, to physically force kids to attend the last meeting of Young Life each school year, on grounds that school will be out before any action could be taken against the bullies.
I must admit I have not been able to confirm or deny that this custom continues today, but it surely did a couple decades ago, and tradition is considered important in the public school system.
heart-wrenching article and encouraging comments. No wonder why I love this group.
Wow! The best articulation of this issue I have ever read!!
I was a product of the Chattanooga Public Schools in the ’50’s and early ’60’s. Once a week a local “Bible Teacher” would spend an hour with kids starting in the 4th grade. Total and complete proselytinf of the kids. Completely unacceptable and illegal.
The activity was finally challenged in Federal Court in the late ’60’s and the school system was enjoined from continuing to allow it.
I have a question, do you, who wrote this, believe in Jesus? If so why wouldn’t you want posters that were so awesomely placed in this school. I do believe vegetarian is biblical. I see no where in the Bible that hints toward us from monkeys. AND GENESIS 1:1 In the beginning GOD created the heavens and the Earth. Huh? The Earth wasn’t already there.
Jason: It’s good that you and all other Americans have the freedom to believe and practice our religious faith (if any) as we choose. We strongly support this fundamental freedom. But public schools have no business teaching particular religious beliefs as truth. Doing so puts government in the position of choosing whose religious beliefs to promote over all others. That threatens religious freedom.
ya, I hear ya. but if I had to choose, I would want people to be saved through CHRIST, who may not hear the Gospel at home. so why not educate teachers so they can get some facts right. I mean let’s face it, at this point , since we have taking GOD out of our schools, we have had more school violence than ever, and it’s not getting any better.
God has not been taken out of schools. And the last thing we need is public schools teaching the Gospel to anyone. It’s not their job to do that, much less to decide whose religious beliefs to teach.
no, it may not be there job, but they could offer different religious opportunities to PLEASE different backgrounds. keeping it in the home and in the church? how does your religion reach the lost? At this rate it won’t be long before we will lose our right for public religious display, because you don’t want to offend anyone.
It isn’t the job of public schools — government — “to reach the lost.” That’s the job of clergy, congregations and other religious folk. I marvel at folks who think government schools are a good place to evangelize. Seems to me that the last thing people of faith would want is government schools involved in promoting religion. Moreover, this isn’t about avoiding offense to some people. It’s about the Constitution. Your views and my views about the Bible and what Jesus Christ taught might be very different. Which views should the government teach? Finally, the best way to protect the right of public religious display is to keep government and religion separate. The Founders of this nation realized that.
Jason, it is NOT the job of the government to
“reach” or allow teachers and outsiders visiting the public schools to “reach” any student with a religious message. Christianity evangelizes. Islam evangelizes. Judaism does NOT. Hinduism does NOT. Buddhism does NOT. Shinto and Tao do NOT evangelize. It is NOT the job of the government or any of its taxpayer supported entities to allow its facilities to be used for free to evangelize any religion or even belief in a God or gods. I certainly do not send money to Washington or Austin or my local school district, HISD, to pay them to in any way whatsoever, force, encourage, or even allow staff or faculty to encourage belief in either a Supreme Being or Jesus, or any other religious belief. Voluntary prayer quietly by Christian or any other students is legal and fine in a public school as long as it does not infringe on other students. Involuntary prayer, on the other hand, required by teachers or other school employees, is illegal under the 1963 Supreme Court ruling, and for good reason. I was forced to stand in front of my elementary school classes in Tennessee in the 1950’s and read from the Christian New Testament and to lead “The Lord’s Prayer” on numerous occasions. I had no say in the matter. The Federal District Court for Southeastern Tennessee put a stop to it some time after 1966.
Wow. I didn’t mean it to be the JOB of the teachers and government, but as being a Christian I think it’s awesome there was a JESUS poster in the school. I’m sorry you were so offended by the vegetarian comment that the teacher made, and he was obviously truly sorry.. and then you still complained. You must feel good about yourself. . That makes me love forgiveness even more. PRAYING FOR YOU ALL, GOD BLESS.
No public school should allow a picture of Jesus, Moses holding the “ten commandments”, Buddha, or any other religious symbol to be posted on its premise. Doing so is a state expression supporting religious belief. Why would you think posting a picture of Jesus in a public, tax-supported school would be “awsesome”? In my mind it is because you are a practicing Christian and committed to the “spreading of th Gospel of Jesus Grist as Lord and Saviour.” You have the right to personally do that in our society. Of course being aggressive about it with some people will offend them. I grew up in a very fundamentalist small southern city and my from childhood were very devout Christians. One daughter, as a teen-ager, tried very hard to convert me to Christianity and it was very offensive at one point. She would not take no for an answer. Today she remains single at age 61, is extremely active in evangelistic circles and I have only seen her twice in ten years. We are cordial and she has matured emotionally and understands it is NOT appropriate to bring g up the subject with me if that co4diality is to be maintained. She met her requirement to spread the Gospel to me years ago. There is a time and a place for everything.
On the other hand, my wife and I went to my 20 year high school reunion. My wife is from Texas. My hometown is in Tennessee. I was extremely uncomfortable and she was appalled when high school friends of mine spent all evening attempting to evangelize us because we are Jews. It was extremely offensive to us that after spending time and money and traveling over 800 mile to attend the reunion, to be treated like that. My fiftieth is coming up next year. My wife will not go and I also have serious reservations about doing so.
Religion must be kept OUT of government facilities. Out of good sense and for the sake of respect for others, evangelizing in places by students in elementary and secondary schools should not take place, even though legal, out of sheer common courtesy and decency and respect for others. Student HAVE to be in school and in essence cannot make a personal choice to avoid it. Furthetmore, very young children do not know how to handle it and their being evangeliz may be against the wishes of their parents.
Seeing a picture of Jesus posted on the wall of a public school implies that it is there as part of an effort to bring Christianity to those who attend or visit the school.
Again, there is a time and place for everything. A public school is NOT the place for presentation of Christianity or any other religion except from an academic, historical perspective unrelated to teaching belief with the purpose of creating new believers.
I don’t know how to make this any clearer to you. What has been going on is offensive to Gindus, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and others who are Americans, and use the public schools.
I am blown away. looking at your web site would have one think that you are all for religion. But, keeping JESUS all hush, hush, don’t let anyone hear the GOOD NEWS, is not fighting for our rights, but more against. sorry if other religions are offended.
Your claim of our convictions held sacred? where is yours? OH was this a world peace site? Ill move to a different site, I feel sorry for others’ who stumble on to a site that fights for religion to be kept in home.
Jason: You want government to evangelize. We don’t. That’s a job for people of faith, who have the freesom to take it on. But if that’s so hard to understand, then perhaps you’re right to move on.
My website? My two websites are technical a d business websites. There is no reference whatsoever to religion on my websites and I have NOT referenced them here. I don’t know what you are talking about.
Oh, and by the way. There is a difference between a public place and a government facility. A public school is a government facility. NRG Stadium in Houston is a public facility owned by the government but if it is available and you want to rent it for a church event including Christian prayer, be my guest. It has been done and is perfectly legal and constitutional. Nobody’s arguing about that. And if you want to rent a public school auditorium after school hours for a church service, have at it. Just as long as the s hool does not promote it to the students.
If you want to drive onto the football stadium parking lot or down the public street with a statue of Jesus on top of your car,be my guest. Just be sure it isn’t too tall to go under overpasses!
The Separation of Church and State under the establishment clause in the US Constitution only prohibits the government from promoting religion or exercising it freely. The government stays out of religion by law. That means taxpayer money cannot be involved in promoting religion. Ever. Any religion.
It isn’t taxpayer money when a church rents a public school auditorium or public stadium.
You may think it shouldn’t be that way but it is. Our Constitution and it’s Framers said so. And an amendment to change that will NEVER pass or be ratified. Furthermore, our Constitution prohibits considering one’s religious beliefs or non-believers for a candidate for public office. Being a Christian and flaunting that fact implies that people who are NOT Christian are not fit to hold public office. That violates the spirit of the US Constitution. Literally requiring a candidate to be a Christian or even a believer in a higher power is flat out illegal. You might not like it, but that’s the law and one of many things that makes us different from Iran.
What is this, Jason’s blog? Most of my ministry has been with atheists and nones, trying to convince them that not all Christians want to take over their minds and force them, legally or illegally, to have the same narrow views against freedom that Jason and his ilk do. You can’t tell them anything because all they have seen are Jasons claiming to be Christians, but working to carry the name only. “Not all who say, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom, but those who do the will of God.” You are not helping my ministry, which is not to tell, but to show.
We live in the rural south (Tenn.) and have had similar problems with the public schools fostering a christian atmosphere. We are agnostic (not lost) and had not taught our children to worship a god nor Jesus. The school gave bibles to my child’s 5th grade, gives homework with bible verses on it, a teacher told my child’s class that Jesus was perfect and walked on water (these are a few examples, there are more). These teachers are teaching our children that they can pick and choose the laws they wish to follow, a slippery slope for the future of our society!