God ‘banned from schools’ is false
I cannot let go unchallenged a comment by Larry Ensey in the March 28 Free Press (Letters). I will not comment on his gun views. But, to say “we kicked prayer out of school… Bible reading… Ten Commandments… and Christianity.” This is a false statement, and I can prove it.
The truth is, the 1962 Engle v. Vitale court case only said that schools and teachers cannot force students to pray or do religious activities. Students can still voluntarily pray anytime they want to that will not disrupt the classroom, wear religious clothing, read their Bible in school, express their religion in artwork, homework, oral assignments and in many other ways.
In 1995, President Clinton called on the attorney general and the secretary of education to pull together all the Supreme Court rulings and federal laws about religion in public schools. They came up with an easy-to-read brochure for teachers, administrators and parents, explaining what you can and cannot do.
The brochure is titled, “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.”
Today that brochure lives on the U.S. Department of Education website. Read the whole document at: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
You have two parts here, that anyone should be able to understand. The first part is “establishing religion.” That is, the government, and by extension, schools and teachers, cannot establish or force students to pray or do religious exercises, or believe a religious doctrine. Of any religion.
How would you like to have a Muslim teacher force your kids to read the Koran or pray Muslim prayers?
The second part is the “free exercise” clause. That is, the government, or schools, cannot prevent a student from expressing his or her free exercise of religion, as long as it does not disrupt the classroom or normal school activities.
The key to understanding all this is whether a religious act is originated by a student or the school. It’s that simple. Anyone can understand that.
As a Christian teacher in a public school for 38 years, I can say you walk a fine but clear line. You can teach about religion and Christianity in art, history, literature, music etc., as long as you are not forcing students to believe it, but learn lessons from it.
And, he makes it sound like only after 1962 did all kinds of crime begin happening. Do you think there was no crime before 1962? Really?
This “religion kicked out of schools” phrase pops up again and again. It comes from national televangelists, radio preachers or even your local preacher. And, as I have proven, it is false.
I really wish people would stop saying something that is so clearly untrue. If these religious authorities don’t know the law, they should. If they know the law and say this anyway, it’s an intentional lie, just to scare and anger their listeners.
And again, the key to understanding all this is whether a religious act is originated by a student or the school. It’s that simple. Oh, yea, one more thing. God never left America. You can’t kick him out of anywhere.
Brian D. Stucky