An Inside Look at How Christian Teachers Are Learning to Legally Proselytize in the Classroom

The Washington Post‘s Emma Brown has a really interesting article about a Christian organization training public school teachers on how to express their faith while on the clock.

Obviously, they’re not telling them to proselytize in class, since that’s illegal, but the Christian Educators Association International shows them how to promote Jesus in subtle ways that won’t get them in trouble:

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During weekend-long seminars in hotel conference rooms, the group teaches teachers that they have a right to pray with colleagues during breaks or at lunchtime. They may lead before- and after-school religious clubs for students. They can honestly answer students’ questions about their beliefs, and they may even pray with students outside work hours.

Teachers are told it’s okay to keep a Bible on their desk and teach about it in class, so long as it fits within the curriculum. And they are urged to witness for Jesus by acting in a godly manner, in part so that others might be provoked to wonder — and ask — why they have so much kindness and compassion.

Again, it’s all technically legal, though you can see how it could get out of hand very quickly. Fitting the Bible “within the curriculum” is very subjective — how, exactly, would that work in science or math classes? (Maybe addition symbols go from + to †…)

And what would happen if a non-Christian ever dared to do the same thing?

“What this really amounts to is a privileging of the majority,” said Katherine Stewart, a journalist whose questions about Christianity in her children’s public school led her to write a 2012 book, “The Good News Club,” about evangelical Christians’ efforts to reach students in school. “If a Wiccan, Muslim, or Satanist public school teacher were to try to put their sacred texts on their desk… they would likely be shut down.”

Remember: There are schools right now where parents get pissed off when their kids learn about the basics of Islam because they consider it a form of proselytizing. But teachers talking about the Bible when they deem it appropriate? Totally cool.

The Christian Educators Association International has already been in legal trouble before because teachers crossed the line. It doesn’t look like much has changed.

Green sat in on a portion of the training and explained what took place over the course of a weekend. One part really stood out:

From Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, they discuss not only the ins and outs of the First Amendment, but also how to confront the challenges they face as Christian teachers. They talk about how to communicate more openly and how to build relationships with colleagues and students. They sing together, and they pray.

Whatever challenges they face as Christian teachers, I promise you they’re nothing compared to the challenges faced by openly gay, atheist, Muslim, etc. teachers. Especially in the South. That’s not to say Christians have no problems — this isn’t a game of who gets victimized more — only that their problems are of a completely different nature.

Christian teachers, in this context, think it’s a challenge to express their faith openly in the classroom.

Non-Christian teachers, in many areas, risk getting fired or demoted simply because of what they believe (or don’t). Even when they don’t talk about it. Just ask Neil Carter.

Christians have to make up wildly inaccurate stories about the persecution of godly teachers because it happens so rarely.

No one’s making movies about atheist teachers who have been forced to keep their mouths shut because of the Christian majorities in their communities.

Having a group dedicated to helping Christian teachers promote their faith in the classroom makes as much sense as training cheerleaders on how to be popular. It’s completely unnecessary because it’s not a real problem.

The only thing Christian teachers should be doing is helping students learn the material and making the classroom a welcome place for everyone. If they think pushing their faith is vital to those goals, they’re in the wrong line of work.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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