A RECENT statement by President Trump that he favors having the Bible taught in public schools prompted a lively discussion on Facebook the other day.
Some thought it was a good idea; others didn’t.
A few wanted to “return” the teaching of the Bible to public schools. I’m not sure where they grew up, but the Bible was never taught in any public school I attended. Until the Supreme Court made its ruling in 1962, we did recite The Lord’s Prayer every morning, but that was the extent of our public school religious training.
People—our president included— make wide-ranging generic statements and often have no idea what they’re saying.
“We should teach the Bible in public schools.”
Okay, which Bible? The Hebrew bible? The Catholic bible? The Protestant Bible? Do we add the Book of Mormon?
Older Americans would prefer the King James version. The younger generation would probably want a revised edition.
Who would decide? Well, the government, of course. Public schools are government schools paid for by tax dollars. And all taxpayers are not Southern or evangelicals, the two groups that push hardest for teaching the Bible in public schools.
If the members of the school board in your district were predominantly Jewish, they might order that the Hebrew Bible be taught. A School Board with a majority of Catholics might opt for that denomination’s bible, which includes books not in the protestant Bible.
Suppose the neighborhood was predominantly Muslim? The government could determine that the Koran should be taught in that district’s public schools.
In other words, if we get the government involved, there is no telling where the “teaching the Bible in public schools” might end up. The Baptists might suddenly find Buddhism being taught to their children.
And that’s what the framers of the Constitution understood when they opted for the separation of church and state. They had seen the Church of England shoved down their throats and they wanted Americans to have the freedom to worship as they pleased. America would have no official religion, not Catholic or Episcopalian or Methodist or Baptist.
And if Jews and Buddhists wanted to worship in their own way, well, that was alright, too. We are a nation built on freedom of religion.
Yes, the pilgrims and Puritans taught religion in their schools, but they were church schools, not public schools. Today, many denominations still have their own schools that teach religion and that is how it should be. Leave the religious teachings to religious entities.
That’s exactly what one teacher who took part in our discussion said. Leave the religious teachings to churches and parents. That’s their responsibility.
Parents these days want to shift every aspect of child-rearing onto schools. How many times have I heard a mother tell an unruly child, “I can’t wait until you go to school so they can teach you how to behave!”
We want the public schools to teach behavior, manners and now religion.
But if the schools punish students for bad manners or behavior, teachers get sued. And if the schools teach the “wrong” religion? Well, let’s not even go there. Don’t today’s parents feel they have any responsibilities?
When you start mixing religion and government, you start treading on dangerous ground. If churches start telling government how to run public schools, then government might start telling churches how to run their services.
As for prayer in schools, any student can pray all he wants. The school just cannot designate a prayer to be recited by all. If it did, it might choose a Muslim or Buddhist prayer and then all hell would break loose in the Bible Belt.
I agree with my teacher friend. Leave the religious teachings to the churches and the parents and let the public schools deal with reading and writing.
The separation of church and state is a good thing. Let’s keep it that way.