JP brought up the following questions in regards to religion in school: “How and when should we talk about ideas that are important to us – especially ideas that are controversial? Who can talk to whom? Where can these conversations take place?”
When can a student talk about religion? In our school district, a student’s right to get up in front of the entire student body and talk about god and the bible are protected. We are reminded every single school year when the district sends a hard copy notice to our homes, telling us that kids are permitted to talk about god under HB 3678, the Religious Viewpoint Antidiscrimination Act. Would that courtesy be extended to atheists or Muslims? Highly. Doubtful.
Let me just remind you that a student can already talk about god around school whenever and to whomever he/she wants. HB 3678, passed in 2007, allows students to talk about their religion publicly, whether that is during morning announcements or at an assembly or at graduation. It’s like giving the religious free advertising during the Super Bowl. Why is this necessary? Why is one (already dominant) group given so much power and privilege over the rest?
HB 3678 also “protects” (read: enables and entitles) students in other ways, too: in “religious express in class assignments,” and “freedom to organize religious groups and activities.” In a state that claims it does not want government in our lives, Texas sure passes a lot of bills
to limit . the rights of women and to promote special rights for certain individuals, except when those individuals are corporations
Having been the minority voice in a predominantly Christian society, nonbelievers are used to hearing about everyone elses’ gods. And, for the most part, we’re pretty tolerant, so I’m not really too worried about the Christian kids at the moment.
But as secularism takes hold and makes religion less fashionable, how do we protect the rights of those who want to continue to integrate religion and god into their lives 24/7/365? We do, after all, want to be fair.
Naturally, there should be a zero tolerance policy for bullying anyone for their beliefs, whether that person believes in god, allah, satan or nothing. But we don’t need–and should not have– legislation and school rules to protect the rights of students to discuss religion en masse to their peers. The simplest solution is just to keep religion in the churches that we, as a society, have provided for those folks who believe. Otherwise, why have special places to worship?
Let’s step back and consider these ideas: How would Baptists feel about an atheist attending their church and giving a speech about why belief in god is bad for society? I bet that idea would not be welcome. Now imagine how we feel when we have to sit through a god commercial before a graduation ceremony. Or this: How would the religious feel about an atheist kid giving a 15-minute speech before a football game on why he thinks god is a myth? Uncomfortable, right? This is how it feels to be a nonbeliever in a believer’s world. We are held hostage, forced to passively participate in the rites and rituals of those who believe in the existence of something we do not.
There’s also another way to look at this. One girl loves Jesus. Another loves Ryan. We would not expect the student who loves Ryan to proclaim her love for him at a student assembly–that’s her personal relationship, and there’s no need to make it public. Same for Jesus. So it seems to me the most fair way to keep the halls clear of conflict is just to keep our very personal, very subjective views to ourselves, unless, of course, students just want to discuss their love interests among friends.
There should be no place for evangelizing at school, and for kids who don’t believe, they should not be allowed to pick on religion. It’s fair to expect god to stay inside the hearts and minds of those who believe, and it’s also fair to expect skepticism about other’s beliefs be kept inside the minds of those who don’t.
One exception: Every school should offer a dedicated religion course, which would teach all religions and world views as objectively as possible. Yet even there, respect should always rule.
Now it’s your turn. How and when do you think religion should be allowed in our public schools?