It’s not that hard to understand where public schools have to draw the line with respect to religion.
Teachers and administrators are not allowed to proselytize during school hours or anytime they’re wearing their “Teacher” or “Coach” hats. They can, however, sponsor a Christian club after school (assuming the school allows clubs for other faiths and no faith as well) and talk about faith in that capacity.
Students can pray or read the Bible in school (provided that it’s not disruptive). They can start a religious extracurricular group if they’d like. They can even run See You At the Pole events (which many students did on Wednesday) outside school hours.
Why so many Christians think all that constitutes persecution is beyond me.
At East Hanover Township Elementary School in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, a parent had a letter handed out in the classroom that said all students were going to participate in the SYATP event during school hours unless parents signed a permission slip against participation.
The superintendent of the district later said the letter was never authorized and SYATP wouldn’t be occurring during the school day. (Instead, it was held 10 minutes before school started.)
Members of American Atheists later protested the event — which was uncalled for after the school had made the appropriate changes — but give the atheists (including the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers) credit for getting this story into the press.
In Wilson County, where the school district lost a lawsuit involving a parent prayer group, a policy requires such events be student-led only, deputy director of schools Mickey Hall said.
“We prayed that the (ACLU) wouldn’t be a hindrance to us, but also that the Board of Education would change their thinking and stop appeasing the ACLU,” said Westmoreland father Scottie Graves.
Kayla Carter, a senior at Westmoreland High, said she was praying for her teachers who couldn’t participate. “I think we all want to take a stand,” she said. “It’s upsetting and it’s not right teachers can’t pray with us.”
Again, it’s amazing the level of ignorance at play here. Teachers can pray. They can even pray with students. But they can’t do it while they’re acting as government agents. They can’t lead a prayer in the classroom or locker room. That’s not discrimination; that’s just good public policy.
At least The Tennessean got a good sound byte from Thaddeus Schwartz of Secular Life:
[Schwartz] supports the right of teachers to express their religion, but he doesn’t think that’s appropriate at school.
“There are so many places and so many opportunities to do these kinds of things, the best policies would be not to use the school grounds and property to do this,” he said.
That’s all it comes down to. Pray at home or at church — no one’s going to stop you. Not any atheist or civil rights group, that’s for sure. And if you have a crazy urge to pray while you teach, go work at a private Christian school.
But don’t waste your time trying to push your faith in a public school. We have the law on our side and nothing gets church/state separation activists more riled up than people proselytizing to children on the public dime.
(via Justin Vacula)