Inspired By Ohio’s Religious Study Bill for Pupils, I Made an Education Plan For My Daughters

I’m going to keep both my daughters, 8 and 10, home from school two mornings each week. On those mornings, I’m going to educate them on core ideas and values that my wife and I share, and then we’ll demand that the school provide the children full academic credit for the things they learned while they weren’t at school with the rest of the students. It’s our right, you see? Here’s what we’ll do:

On Tuesday mornings, I’ll be teaching my girls all about alternative medicine, because I want them to become well-versed in the art of magnet-healing and aromatherapy.

On Thursday mornings, my wife will teach the kids cleromancy (the casting of bones) — and her favorite, dowsing.

That’s our plan. Do you like it?

I ask because members of the Ohio House of Representatives are considering a bipartisan bill that will let public high schools give students time off for religious instruction. These students, despite missing as much as a fifth of the regular curriculum, will receive credit toward graduation for religious lessons taken during school hours but outside of school.

It’s a loophole thought up by terribly oppressed creative Christians after the Supreme Court ruled, in McCollum v. Board of Education, that a state’s mandatory education system may not be used to aid in the teaching of religious doctrine, and that it’s illegal to use tax-supported school buildings for such a purpose.

So parents and schools had to think of something, and lo and behold, they did! Schools — public schools — began accommodating the wishes of pious parents by allowing children to take religious instruction in non-public buildings during regular school time. Parents’ homes will do nicely, and for group lessons, something as simple as a converted (ha!) bus parked just outside the school can serve as a classroom.  The Supreme Court, in Zorach v. Clauson, ruled 6-3 that that’s no problem. “The public schools do no more than accommodate their schedules to a program of outside religious instruction,” the Court said.

Of course, for the religious students, that means substantially less time learning English, math, geography, and so on. Consider it a small sacrifice to please the Lord.

Cincinnati.com says that if the Ohio bill becomes law, the state will join only South Carolina in offering school credit for outside religious classes. (Wikipedia, on the other hand, claims it’s happening pretty widely in Utah and New York too, and that nationwide, these so-called “released-time programs” involve some 250,000 students.)

I don’t happen to live in any of those states, but if I did, you wouldn’t want to discriminate against my deeply held beliefs in dowsing and cleromancy, would you?

And please don’t say that those things aren’t like religion. They are widely referred to as divination, which clearly has the root divine in it. We’re talking about truths revealed by supernatural forces here. Don’t you dare mock and dismiss what I believe in my heart.

If worst comes to worst, and the authorities cruelly insist that my family’s profound beliefs are in fact not the equivalent of religion, we’re going to have to go to plan B. We’ll still take our girls out of school two mornings a week, but we’ll teach them the tenets of our religious faith. My wife practices Winti and I am a committed follower of Urglaawe.

Our Muslim neighbors, meanwhile, are excited about the opportunity to religiously instruct their children during schooltime, too, and will teach them, per the Koran, to strive for a world where Sharia is the standard of justice.

The Wiccan couple across the street is also on board, but I don’t really know what they’ll teach their kids. Probably some poppycock. Between you and me, those guys are weirdos.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.


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