(The Tennessean) How does God fit in at school?

Middle Tennesseans and their children are at the center of the emotional national debate about separation between religion and public school life.

For most of American history, God was welcome in the public schools. The same is true today for many school systems across the Nashville area, where open prayer is held on school grounds, sports teams pray before games and high school graduations are routinely held in churches.

But objections from families and national civil liberties groups find Middle Tennessee at the center of the litigious argument over separating public schools and church.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Education, Religion & Culture

6 comments on “(The Tennessean) How does God fit in at school?

  1. Hakkatan says:

    State and local governments in many ways count on religious-based charities, like soup kitchens, food pantries, and so on, to help them help the poor. Indeed, an argument could be made that the Judeo-Christian perspective lies at the basis of organized charity, for many non-Christian cultures had no aid to the poor except giving to beggars before they began dealing with Christians.

    So – they should think – if Christians will open their hearts to others, why does it make sense to forbid them to express their faith and nurture their faith in other ways? Christians see life a whole, not as compartments – and so we express our faith not only by helping at homeless shelters but by thanking God at major life events such as graduations.

    There is a joke about a mother complaining to God about how dangerous schools have become – and the Lord replies, “I’d like to help, but they locked me out years ago.”

  2. Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    I always argue, just to irritate people, that a government that explicitly refuses to acknowledge even the existence of God or religion, is in fact endorsing atheism, which is a religion in itself. The rabid separation of church and state crowd never have a good come back to that one.

  3. NoVA Scout says:

    I continue to be baffled by why Christians would want the government messing around with something as important as religion. I have not been generally impressed with the impact that government has on the delivery of services in any sector, and tend to believe its activities should be as limited as necessary to ensure the common defense and general welfare. The idea of civil servants dispensing religion in any form strikes me as an immediate danger to the spiritual realm and one that all people of faith should find abhorrent.

    There are no restrictions against my or your praying in school (I used to do it all the time, sometimes for what I now realize were very unacceptable reasons). The only restrictions are against government leadership in prayer and religious activity.

  4. Hakkatan says:

    By forbidding any expression of religious faith by students, or by student-chosen adults, the government IS “messing around with something as important as religion.” It is saying that faith is unimportant, too dangerous, or to repulsive to have a place in people’s lives. The First Amendment guarantees that we have the right to express our faith; rulings like this forbid such expression.

    There is a difference between civil servants being agents of the state in acting on behalf of a particular religion and private citizens, such as students, expressing gratitude to God and seeking his blessing at a major life event. Apart from military chaplains (who have a long-established role with many safeguards), I do not want the government trying to DO religion, but neither do I want government actively quashing religious conviction and expression.

    By refusing to permit any religious expression, the government is endorsing atheism, which is itself a religious commitment.

  5. NoVA Scout says:

    I doubt that there ever has been any effort by the courts or the government to “forbid any expression of religious faith by students . . .” If that has happened, it is of course tyrannical and extra-constitutional. There have been, however, a lot of muddled decisions in the courts and, perhaps more frequently, by local school boards and administrators trying to navigate through what seems a confusing landscape created by federal jurisprudence in this area. The simplistic, but legally correct, bright line is that there is absolutely no limitation on religious expression in US schools. The only limitation is directed at government employees or student leaders demanding, leading, exhorting, inviting prayer or religious observance by the general school population. This is quite different than individual religious reflection or prayer. It puts the imprimatur of the government on the activity. A test to determine whether religious activity at a government school offends the Constitution is to ask yourself if the challenged activity were Muslim or Hindu or Fill-in-the-Blank, and your children attended the school, would you be uneasy or offended about the activity. If so the same kind of thing reflecting Christian sentiments is probably also on the far side of the line constitutionally.

    I have a child graduating next week. We will, of course, thank God for this event and there is nothing that inhibits us from doing so.

  6. Hakkatan says:

    I should have been more clear: a valedictorian should be able to say something about the role of God in his or her life in the valedictory address, and acknowledge the reality that faith played in the classmembers lives.

    If I were in (say) Detroit, where there is high Muslim population, I would say that the Muslim class members have a right to give an expression of thanks to Allah. I would not be cheering for what they said – but it is proper to allow an expression of religious faith in a graduation ceremony. The government cannot force us to compartmentalize our lives.

    Yes, school officials, speaking as school officials at official functions, are not to urge participation in religion or urge conversion – but that is not the same as a student acknowledging a larger dimension to life than just the organization of the school and the dedication of the teachers.