Students need to understand teachers’ freedom to teach about religion

By Nixie Laremore

Teachers aren’t the only ones who have erroneous thinking about the so-called “separation of church and state;” many students, too, think that classrooms must be “religion-free zones.”      

When I was assigned to substitute-teach a high school American Literature class, the students were reading Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Finally, I would be able to really teach a class and not just babysit in the teacher’s absence! Previously, I taught American Literature and The Scarlet Letter at a Christian school in Pennsylvania. Hawthorne’s compelling portrayals of poisonous hidden guilt and revenge as compared to rejuvenating open confession and forgiveness were still vivid in my mind. Although I was now substituting in public schools, I knew I could and would discuss these overtly religious themes of the book during class. I knew I could because any topic inherent in literature- however controversial- may be objectively discussed. I knew I would because to intentionally NOT discuss such valuable life topics would be a huge disservice to the students and would be rooted only in fear. I wasn’t afraid. Besides, I couldn’t imagine getting any pushback from the students or the faculty. As a substitute, I would be lucky if anyone paid any attention at all to what I said in the classroom.  

After a quick review, I mentioned that Hawthorne’s writings contained many references to the Bible. Specifically, I told the class I wanted to explore the many alleged similarities between Hester in The Scarlet Letter and Queen Esther in the Bible. “First, notice how their names sound similar!  Are there other similarities perhaps Hawthorne wanted us to notice?  Does anyone in the class know the story of Esther from the Bible to help us start comparing the two?” I asked. Immediately, a young man in the middle of the classroom raised his hand. “You do know this is a public school, right? Maybe because you’re a substitute you don’t know this, but I am pretty sure you are not allowed to be talking about the Bible in a public school classroom.”

“Your assumption that talking about the Bible is not allowed in public schools is very common, but it is also very wrong. You are mistaken,” I responded. “The facts are that teachers and students may talk about the Bible in any classroom, especially when the Bible is connected to the study at hand…like in our study of The Scarlet Letter.” Have you checked your facts regarding academic and religious freedom in public schools? Are you confident when teaching about the Bible, or are you silently obeying assumed restrictions? 

Not only is the Bible an appropriate part of the study of literature, but the Bible is also appropriate in the study of art, music, science, government, history, language, and culture. You are free to objectively teach about how the Bible intersects with these disciplines, and in most cases, your state’s academic standards direct you to do so.

Nixie Laremore conducts professional development seminars around the country for Gateways to Better Education .

For more help on this topic visit:

The Free Speech and Academic Freedom of Teachers in Public Schools

Teachers’ Rights on Public School Campuses

FAQ’s Regarding Religious Freedom in Public Schools

Graduation Prayers in Public Schools

Sample Board Policy re: Religious Expression in Public Schools

California State Board to Rewrite History

The California Department of Education is close to approving a politically correct, but historically incorrect, teaching of history for public school children. On July 13 and 14 State Board of Education members will vote to accept or reject recommended changes to the state’s History-Social Science Framework. It is vital that parents, educators, and concerned citizens write letters to the board and attend the board meeting voicing their concerns.

California’s Department of Education publishes content standards and what it calls the “framework.” Think of the framework as the overview or explanation for what topics are important to learn at each grade level. The content standards then provide specific bullet points of what students should learn.

While the content standards will, for now, remain, a committee has drafted recommended changes to the current framework published in 2005. The framework’s writers want the proposed framework to be used by educators when teaching and by textbook publishers when creating new textbooks.

Gateways to Better Education reviewed the proposed changes and wrote a report pointing out problems and recommending improvements. Thirty-three educators, school board members, and professors joined in endorsing Gateways’ recommendations and in urging the State Board of Education to reject the proposed framework because of its historical inaccuracies, censorship, and bias.

SIGN OUR PETITION

Please add your name to our petition which we will present to the California State Board of Education: CLICK HERE

Click on the link to download “Concerns about the Proposed History-Social Science Framework.”

To write letters to each board member, CLICK HERE for their names and addresses.

SBE Meeting Date: July 13-14

Time: The SBE meeting begins at 8:30am. Sign ups to make public comment begins at 8am.

Location: State Board of Education, Room 1101, 1430 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

SBE meeting agenda will be posted online on June 30. For details, visit: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/index.asp

Including a Christian Worldview in the Classroom

Students will not seek to preserve what they do not cherish, and they will not cherish what they do not understand. Sadly, in too many cases American students are not given the kind of education that inspires them to cherish America’s Christian heritage.

It is vital that each generation re-fill its tank with the cultural fuel necessary to keep running. The current generation is running on the fuel put in the tank so long ago by previous generations that they think no fuel is necessary. Students grow up taking for granted that their cultural “car” is running and have no idea that it requires a continual re-filling of the tank. Even worse, many of their teachers think they cannot re-fuel the tank and some even think it is a bad idea to re-fuel it at all.

Glasses-with-BibleAcademic Viewpoint Bias

The exclusion of a Christian worldview from the curriculum is not just limited to lessons on the history of Christianity. There is the often-unnoticed problem of excluding a Christian worldview from an academic topic. A worldview is the way in which you look at the world, not merely the bits of information you learn about the world. Regarding history textbooks for example, in his book, Religion and American Education, Warren Nord points out: “More important than the particular religious topics discussed or not discussed, and the relative amount of space they receive, is the worldview within which the historian works.”

He illustrates this by referencing a textbook account of the Hebrews from their Egyptian enslavement to the divided kingdom. All the names and dates are correct, as is the order of events. The problem Nord draws attention to is that the textbook left out “what is most important to the scriptural version: the role of God in shaping history. The meaning of the story is completely lost in the textbook; it becomes, in effect, a different story.”

Nord shows that this is a problem across the curriculum. For instance, economics is taught with the assumption that there is only a secular way to think about money. The topic of economics involves our beliefs about human nature, materialism, consumerism, social values, and charity. Yet, typically, students are taught that economic decisions only involve cost-benefit analysis, supply and demand, and fulfillment of personal gratification.

Home economics is another academic subject which Nord points out is most often taught as though secularism is the only perspective worth learning. After reviewing eight home economics textbooks, he writes:

“Each follows the same pattern, beginning with one or several chapters defining human nature, values, and decision making before moving on to discussions of dating, marriage, abortion, child rearing, the family, and what I take to be more traditional home economics fare. Needless to say, religion has had a great deal to say about such things, though one would never guess it from reading these books. …None of the books even hints that there are religious conceptions of human nature, values, or decision making that may differ in significant ways from the views presented.” 

In most science classes, of course, evolution reigns as the only view worth studying. But there are other worldview issues at stake. Nord points out that science classes approach life from a particular perspective and lead students to assume that the scientific perspective explains all that is real. He states, “In spite of the reservations of some scientists, science is typically taught as fully adequate to explain nature.” He points out, however, that science looks only at causes, not purposes; and that its version of reality has no place for God’s intervention.

Science has affected the way history and social studies are taught in that life is seen as merely the result of cause and effect. With such an approach moral demands are not made from an eternal God. There is no Storyteller behind the story of history. Religion may be fine for some, it is thought, but it is only the manifestation of mankind’s need for fulfillment. Everything, including the yearning of our souls, can be explained naturally.

Public schools should not proselytize and this is not a call for public schools to act like Christian schools. However, there are other explanations of reality besides a purely secular worldview. Because the Bible has, in fact, impacted the way our society looks at nature, life, human relationships, history, economics, decision making, the family, government, our concepts of human rights, and other topics addressed across the curriculum, it is academically legitimate to teach about the influence of a Christian worldview.

 

 

 

Students defy the ACLU and say “God bless America”

Glenview ElementaryThe ACLU has called for an end to a New Jersey elementary school’s tradition, since 9/11, of having students say “God bless America” after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, claiming it is unconstitutional.

School district officials were intimidated by the threat of legal action and have decided to no longer initiate the tradition. However, to their credit students at the school continue to say it.

Having students say the words “God bless America” as a patriotic expression is rooted in America’s heritage and civic culture. Imagine if the students were taught to recite the preamble to the New Jersey Constitution:

“We, the people of the State of New Jersey, [are] grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy…”

Glenview Elementary School principal, Sam Sassano, stood up for students’ right to say “God bless America.” He explained, “I recognize everyone’s Freedom of Speech right. Many parents have expressed that they want their child to continue to state ‘God bless America.’ I do not feel I have the authority to forbid this and have assured parents that is their right.”

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would be proud of the students. In a recent speech he gave in Louisiana, Associated Press reported:

He told the audience at Archbishop Rummel High School that there is “no place” in the country’s constitutional traditions for the idea that the state must be neutral between religion and its absence.

“To tell you the truth there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition. Where did that come from?” he said. “To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another but can’t favor religion over non-religion?”

The news of students exercising their right of free speech — especially regarding what some consider too religious — is timely. The President will soon be proclaiming January 16 as Religious Freedom Day (as every President has since 1993). I recommend school leaders and educators use the occasion to teach students a civics lesson about their religious freedom at school.

You can help your local schools do that by simply recommending they show students a 3-minute video produced by the Buncombe County (North Carolina) School District. With the help of students, teachers, and the Campbell-Shatley Law Firm, Buncombe County Schools produced The Three R’s of Religion in Schools. It explains the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines on students’ and teachers’ religious freedom.

The Three Rs Video Image

 

A Gift for Teacher

Christmas Santa Full body (facing left)A Christmas tale by Eric Buehrer

‘Twas the night before Christmas and the kids were all in bed. Mom, a teacher at the local elementary school, went downstairs to finish wrapping gifts under the big pine tree the family got from Mr. Cheever’s Christmas tree lot. Just as she finished putting the last red bow on the last red box, she heard the scrape, scrape, scraping of something in the chimney. No sooner had she turned around when down the chimney came Santa with a bound.

“Oh,” he said with surprise. “I’m usually pretty good at not being seen.” Then he laughed a big, round laugh and put down his bag.

“Let’s see,” he muttered to himself as he pulled out a list of what to place under the tree. “Oh, yes.” He cleared his throat. “You’ve all been very good this year. Especially you…even with Tommy Wigglebottom in your class. You’ve been a wonderful teacher!”

“Thank you,” she said as he pulled brightly colored presents from his bag.

Quick as a flash, he was done with his deed. He looked at his list for one last read. Then he made a “har-umph” sound to himself and got a puzzled look on his face. “There is one more thing…”

“Yes?” said the teacher.

“Why haven’t I heard any singing at school?” Santa asked with a sorrowful look.

“Singing? Why, we’ve been singing. Haven’t you heard the children’s rendition of Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells? I know it’s a long way to the North Pole but I would think you have some way of tuning this sort of thing in.”

“I mean Christmas carols,” said Santa. “Where are the carols?”

Christmas Choir 01 (Hi Contrast)“Oh, I loved to sing carols when I was a child in school. But, we can’t sing those now,” she said as she shook her head. “I teach in a public school.” She was surprised that Santa didn’t already know this since he knew about Tommy Wigglebottom.

“Of course you are in the public schools. But Christmas is Christmas no matter where you are. And if you’re concerned about the law, well, have no fear. Don’t you know about the Federal Appeals Court ruling in Florey v. Sioux Falls School District? It ruled that the school district’s policy is fine and students may sing religious Christmas carols!”

The teacher had never heard this before and was quite surprised. “What about the separation of church and state?”

“It doesn’t apply,” said Santa. “The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that singing Christmas carols does not violate the Constitution if the purpose is the ‘advancement of the student’s knowledge of society’s cultural and religious heritage.’ I just wish I could hear them singing real Christmas songs.

“And while I’m thinking about it, why haven’t you told the children the real Christmas story?” he asked.

Christmas Nativity (hi contrast)“You mean about the baby Jesus?” the teacher asked in disbelief.

“Is there another Christmas story that I’m not aware of?” Santa said with an impatient twitch of his mustache.

“But, we can’t promote religion in the public school,” she retorted.

“Who’s promoting?” said Santa. “You’re teaching about your culture. May I remind you of the Florey case in which the Court ruled that as long as education about the religious holiday is ‘presented in a prudent and objective manner and as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage,’ it is permitted.”

By now the teacher was quite confused. She had never heard this before. She always assumed that recognizing the religious aspects of Christmas at school was off limits.

“We can’t even call Christmas by its name. We have to call it ‘Winter Break,’” she said with regret in her voice.

“A tragedy of modern times,” Santa said with a sigh. “And it’s not even consistent with other public practices. The Supreme Court acknowledged in Lynch v. Donnelly that ‘Executive Orders and other official announcements of Presidents and of the Congress have proclaimed both Christmas and Thanksgiving National Holidays in religious terms. And, by Acts of Congress, it has long been the practice that federal employees are released from duties on these National Holidays, while being paid from the same public revenues that provide the compensation of the Chaplain of the Senate and the House and military services. Thus, it is clear that Government has long recognized—indeed it has subsidized— holidays with religious significance.’ ”

Santa added, “The Lynch case dealt with the public display of a nativity scene, which the Court said didn’t violate the Constitution. And, in its ruling the justices actually assumed public school children are singing traditional Christmas carols. The Court wrote, “To forbid the use of this one passive symbol while hymns and carols are sung and played in public places including schools, and while Congress and state legislatures open public sessions with prayers, would be an overreaction contrary to this Nation’s history and this Court’s holdings.” (emphasis added)

“How is it that you know so much about United States law?” asked the astonished teacher.

Christmas Santa Head (hi contrast)“I’ve been around a long time,” he replied. “And I’m saddened to see so many children think that Christmas is just about getting video games and toys. For that matter, it’s not just about ‘Love’ either. It’s about the baby Jesus as a gift from God. When I give gifts it is only to remind people of The Gift from God to all of us. I guess I just want kids to turn off the TV and look up from their smart phones long enough to realize that there are deeper things in life—things that we carry with us from generation to generation. We have a culture with deep roots and I want to give children a little depth…then they can go back to the TV if they must.” Santa scooped up his bag, and then added, “I guess I’ve given you the best gift I possibly could. I’ve given you freedom.”

“What do you mean?” the teacher asked.

“For years you’ve lived under the burden of self-imposed censorship about Christmas. You placed a gag order over your own mouth. Now you can be free from that! You can give to your students what you had as a child in school.” He turned and started up the chimney. With a jolly chuckle, he said as he went, “Like the baby Jesus said when he grew up, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’”

 

President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation Misses the Mark

President Obama has issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation for 2015. If his proclamation was our only instruction about Thanksgiving, we would think it is just about “generosity and partnership” rooted in the cooperation between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. He does make a brief mention of George Washington’s reference to God in his proclamation, and he reminds us that Lincoln called on Americans to “‘commend to [God’s] tender care’ those most affected by the violence of the time – widows and orphans…”

Unfortunately, he refocuses Thanksgiving to be a time of “lifting one another up, enjoying time with those around us, and appreciating all that we have” – including “cheering on our favorite sports teams.” He confuses what people do on the holiday with why we, as a nation, have the holiday.

To be reminded of what Thanksgiving is about, we can look to Thanksgiving proclamations from previous presidents. This isn’t about political sides. Both Democrats and Republicans have historically maintained a proper focus for Thanksgiving. 

In his 1977 proclamation Jimmy Carter reminded the nation:

“Upon learning of the American victory at Saratoga in 1777, Samuel Adams composed the first National Thanksgiving proclamation, and the Continental Congress called upon the governors of every state to designate a day when all Americans could join together and express their gratitude for God’s providence ‘with united hearts.’ By their actions they extended a revered regional custom into a national tradition.”

And Carter called on “all Americans to gather on that day with their families and neighbors in their homes and in their houses of worship to give thanks for the blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon us.”

In contrast, President Obama has asked Americans to “express our gratitude by welcoming others to our celebrations and recognize those who volunteer today to ensure a dinner is possible for those who might have gone without.” To be fair, he did ask us to “give thanks for all we have received this past year” but was careful not to offend anyone by suggesting to whom we should direct that thanks.

In his 1996 proclamation, Bill Clinton did not mince words when he reminded Americans what the Day is for and to whom we should direct our thankfulness:

“Let us now, this Thanksgiving Day, reawaken ourselves and our neighbors and our communities to the genius of our founders in daring to build the world’s first constitutional democracy on the foundation of trust and thanks to God. Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community.”

However, when it comes to the most inspiring Thanksgiving proclamation, my personal favorite is Ronald Reagan’s 1985 proclamation in which he reminded Americans:

“…this treasured custom derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage. ‘Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks,’ the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the ‘wondrous works’ of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers….Let us thank God for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for the joy of this very festival we celebrate in His name.”

All I can say to that is, “Amen.”

Resources:

2015 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Excerpts from Past President’s Thanksgiving Proclamations

All Thanksgiving Proclamations from 1778 to 2012

When to Remove Your Child from an Activity at School

As the new school year begins, you may be concerned about books, topics, or activities your child might encounter in class. If you face such a concern this school how do you know if you should remove your child from something in class? Here are five questions you can ask yourself when thinking about opting your child out of a lesson at school. 

1. Is the activity truly that bad?

A very upset mother once called me concerning what her daughter was being told to read in class. The book was about Native American spiritual beliefs. The mother had already gone to the superintendent of the school district and told him to have the book removed or she would see to his dismissal.

I asked her three questions. First, in what course was the book used? Second, how old was her daughter? Third, had the mother read the book? To my astonishment, she answered that the book was used in an elective course on mythology; her daughter was a senior in high school; and, no, the mother had never read the book, but she felt the cover looked spooky. Obviously, she was overreacting. I explained how, since the daughter was certainly old enough, she could use the book as a teaching tool to discuss their family’s religious faith in comparison to Native American spiritual beliefs. I pointed out that this could actually be an opportunity from God to strengthen the girl’s faith, not an invitation from Satan to abandon it.

There are times when an educator may expose children to an inappropriate subject or handle a legitimate topic so poorly that you feel the need to remove your child from it. You know your child better than anyone and will need to make that decision. My advice is to get as much information as you can before making your decision.

2. How emphatically will it be taught?

You need to determine how strongly the teacher will promote a particular value. It is good to learn about the ideas and beliefs of others. However, sometimes a teacher’s opinion is taught as the proper way to think when, in fact, it is in conflict with your family’s beliefs. This is when action might be taken. However, your action might be to teach your child discernment rather than remove him from having to listen to the teacher.

For example, after visiting with our daughter’s health teacher, Kim and I realized the teacher would be briefly talking about abortion and we had a hunch she was pro-abortion. However, from our conversation, we also felt that the teacher would not push her values on students. We talked about this with our daughter-predicting that the topic would come up and asking her to watch for it. It became somewhat of a game for her as she came home each day to report what was said in class. Rather than shield her from the topic, we prepared her to be discerning.

3. Will the lesson last a long time?

If the subject in question is addressed only briefly, it may not be a concern to you. Find out how long your child will be exposed to it.

4. Is it having a demonstrated effect on my child?

Does your child seem upset? Has he changed what he believes about a subject that you consider a core value of your family? List actual behaviors, attitudes, or beliefs you think might be linked to a particular classroom lesson, or that you fear my arise because of a lesson that will be taught.

Is it possible that your fears of what may happen due to the program are exaggerated? Certainly, young children may be affected more by something than older, more independent children. It may be helpful to share your concerns with your spouse or a friend to see if they also see a potential problem. 

5. Can I teach my child to be discerning in this situation?

Webster’s dictionary defines the word discern as meaning to perceive something hidden or obscure and to perceive differences. Depending on the topic and the age of your child, you can help him be discerning rather than simply accept what is taught in class. To teach your child discernment, you will need to teach him what to look for.

In college, I took an astronomy course that met in a planetarium because part of the course involved learning to observe the constellations. The instructor would display the stars on the ceiling and point out various constellations. Only by knowing what to look for could we see a pattern of stars emerge from the night sky filled with little dots of light. Once I knew what to look for, spotting a constellation became easier. 

Being concerned about what your child might be exposed to is natural and healthy. But overreacting isn’t productive for your child’s development or for your relationship with your child’s teacher. You may find it helpful to use the decision grid below:

5 Key Questions Not at All Very Little Somewhat Very Much
  1. Is the activity or lesson truly that bad?
  2. How emphatically is it taught?
  3. Will the lesson last a long time?
  4. Is it having an effect on my child?
  5. Can I teach my child discernment?

 

Back-to-School Tips

Six Things Every Public School Parent Needs to Do

With the new school year beginning, here are some tips to help parents and their children in the months ahead. . . . 

1. Inform your children of their freedom of religious expression at school.

Your children can express their faith in their homework and share about their faith with classmates. For a list of their religious liberties, click here. 

2. Teach your children discernment.

Help your children learn to think critically about what they are learning instead of merely absorbing it. Predict what they may learn and pre-teach your perspective on the topic. You can do this by reading their textbooks and talking to them about any questions you may have about the author’s bias. This will help them become active listeners and discerning thinkers. Over dinner, ask them if they detected any bias in how the topic was taught that day. 

READ FOUR MORE TIPS: CLICK HERE.

 

Public School Educators Go to Mosque

Mohamed Omar, former Lebanon Valley Mosque president and former teacher's aid in the Lebanon School District, speaks to Lebanon School District staff at the Lebanon Valley Mosque on Monday, June 8, 2015. Staff members of the Lebanon School District visited the mosque to learn more about Islam. Jeremy Long -- Lebanon Daily News

Mohamed Omar, former Lebanon Valley Mosque president and former teacher’s aid in the Lebanon School District, speaks to Lebanon School District staff at the Lebanon Valley Mosque on Monday, June 8, 2015. Staff members of the Lebanon School District visited the mosque to learn more about Islam. Jeremy Long — Lebanon Daily News

The Lebanon School District in Pennsylvania made news this month because during a work day fifty of its staff attended a local mosque to learn about Islam, eat Middle Eastern food, and watch local Muslims pray. (As far as I could tell, none of the educators joined in the prayer.) I understand the outrage over the double standard—as in, “Being in a religious service doesn’t violate church-state boundaries if it is a religion other than Christianity; it just promotes cultural understanding.”

I realize that it is unlikely that school officials will now designate work days for school staff to spend time at worship services in a Catholic church, a Lutheran church, a Baptist church, and the other 53 Christian denominations in Pennsylvania to promote cultural understanding.

However, rather than pile with on more of the how-dare-schools-reach-out-to-Muslims theme, I suggest we give the school district some credit for at least engaging a portion (albeit a minor, minor, minor portion) of the faith community. (In the Lebanon School District, Muslims make up 1.8% of the student population, and statewide, Muslims are 0.6% of the population.)

We can look at it as the starting point for a larger and, frankly, more important conversation. We need to help school officials around the country understand that religion can be a very positive force in students’ lives. And while they might feel more comfortable and multicultural in starting with minority religious faiths, they need to see that local churches can be tremendous allies in helping produce what school officials are measured by most: academic success.

We all want our students to be successful academically and behaviorally. Research has shown that religion has a positive effect on these goals. Religion is not some arbitrary addition to academics; it is an important part of academic growth.

Studies indicate the positive influence of religion in students’ lives. For instance, Dr. Willem Jeynes of California State University, Long Beach, in his research (involving 4,458 students) on “The Effects of Religious Commitment on the Academic Achievement of Urban and Other Children” found:

“The results indicate that religiously committed urban children performed better on most academic measures than their less religious counterparts, even with controlling for socioeconomic status, race, and gender.”

The journal, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, in 2007 published a study involving over 7,500 children. The study, entitled the “Relationship Between Family Religious Behaviors and Child Well-being Among Third-grade Children,” concluded:

“…family attendance at religious [or] spiritual programs was significantly correlated with improved child health, vocabulary, reading, math, and social skills.”

The religious orientation of students is beneficial to schools in their quest for academic success and they should not merely tolerate it; they should engage it. Unfortunately, because of educators’ misunderstanding of the “separation of church and state,” they do the exact opposite. Thinking they must make their classrooms religion-free zones, they ignore and even ban from the classroom what research shows us is an important learning asset for students – their religious faith.

In Lebanon, PA, just like almost every other school district in America, the majority of religious students in public schools are Christians. Since there is a connection between a students’ religious involvement and academic success, educators need to get much better at publicly welcoming and affirming Christian students’ religious thinking in class.  

When Johnny expresses a religious perspective about a topic in class, rather than shut him up and bark the mantra “separation of church and state,” his teacher needs to realize Johnny is, to use education jargon, connecting life to learning. When Sally says that her opinion about an issue in the news is based on her religious convictions, the teacher should welcome the fact that she is linking her culture to real-world application. And when Miguel writes about his dependence on God for facing trials, the teacher should affirm his social-emotional development. 

I don’t think the educators in Lebanon, PA, were motivated by the idea of promoting Islam, but were simply motivated by a desire to create a more welcoming, understanding, and responsive learning environment for their Muslim students. Now we just need to help them, and many of their colleagues across the country, do the same for the Christian students in their schools.

 

 

We were shocked by what the pastor said

Kim and I were recently at a pastors’ conference in Washington, DC, to talk to them about the important role they play in helping their local public schools become faith-friendly. 

One pastor told us of an all-too-common incident in the life of one of the children in his church. An elementary school teacher told the student she couldn’t write about Jesus. There was nothing particularly shocking about this. We hear stories all the time about teachers who mistakenly think their classrooms have to be “religion-free zones.”

What shocked us was what the pastor said next.

“Everyone in our church assumed the teacher was right,” he explained. “We didn’t know any different.”

He was delighted to learn that the teacher was wrong — that the child does, indeed, have freedom of religious expression at school. He was thrilled to receive Gateways’ Free to Speak pamphlet quoting the U.S. Department of Education regarding students’ religious liberties. And we also counseled him on how to approach the teacher in a positive way.

This conversation is a good example of just how important it is that our churches understand the truth about religious and academic freedom regarding the Bible and Christianity in public schools.

That is why I urge you to bring Gateways’ seminars for educators and parents to your area. On a Saturday morning, we will present “Faith, Freedom & Public Schools” to teachers and school leaders. That same weekend we will also present our seminar for parents, Keeping Their Faith in Public Schools: How to help your children graduate with their faith and values intact.

Help the Schools in Your Community

At the educators’ seminar teachers and school leaders will learn what the law REALLY says about including the Bible and Christianity in their classrooms. They’ll also learn specific strategies to teach about these topics appropriately and within state and federal guidelines. In my experience, teachers’ jaws drop as they realize how misinformed they have been. They are delighted to learn specific ways to teach about the importance of America’s Christian heritage.

At the parent seminar parents will learn about their children’s religious freedoms, the five criteria for knowing if they should remove their child from a classroom activity, how to talk to a teacher about a concern, and how to teach their children to be discerning about what they are learning.  

To find out more about bringing the seminars to your community, call (800) 929-1163 or email info@gtbe.org.

RESOURCES ————————————————–

Information about the seminar “Faith, Freedom & Public Schools”

Current schedule and location of events