Last week, we discussed the history of the concept of “separation of church and state”. We noted extremely different degrees of religious tolerance in school...
Bringing the Bible Back in Public School-Part 2
Last week, we discussed the history of the concept of “separation of church and state”. We noted extremely different degrees of religious tolerance in school systems. Some public schools consider the Bible as contraband while others are actually distributing them on school grounds.
Similar to last week’s story about the Bartow County, Georgia school district being sued for allowing Bibles to be distributed in their schools, Orange County, Florida is now up against a similar fight.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) states that they are, “Protecting the Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state” as they label themselves “freethinkers” and “atheists”. They believe that the courts have diligently protected students up to now from being exposed to religion in public school and that they will continue to be the watch dog for such practices.
Therefore, when the Orange County school district started to distribute Bibles, the FFRF began to act. Apparently, the Orange County administrators started an “open forum” policy welcoming anyone of any religion to distribute materials.
The FFRF tested the policy by asking if they could hand out literature about atheism.The school denied their request leading to the FFRF lawsuit. To end the lawsuit, the school agreed to abide by their original open forum policy. In response, FFRF invited representatives of the Satanic Temple to hand out informative coloring books. That seems to be the straw that broke the camels back causing the school board to consider closing the forum. The case is ongoing.
On the other side of the spectrum, in 1969 the Supreme Court stated that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate”. Courts have repeatedly held that the First Amendment requires public school officials to show neither favoritism towards nor hostility against religion. Rather, they are required to maintain a neutral stance. Therefore, though public-school officials are forbidden from directing prayer services, they cannot stop a student from voluntarily praying at any time. The same holds true for reading the Bible.
Seemingly, given the repetitive confusion noted in the papers, the Supreme Court rules are not clear to many administrators. Teaching about religion and using the Bible in the classroom are permitted as long as there is no formal religious practice or coercion. The Supreme Court has affirmed that “the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.”
I recently discussed these present blogs with a professional writer from Britain. He emphatically stated that if one is to truly have a proper grasp of English, studying the King James Version of the Bible is a must. As he put it, “It is literature at its best!”
The Bible as literature is seen by many as a historical book of man’s beginnings through the modern era. Additionally, it is the only document we have describing ancient history from 4,000 year B.C.
Bringing the Bible Back in Public School, the question at hand becomes: Can the Bible as literature be taught without affecting religious sensibilities? Can one truly present the Bible without imparting some of their own beliefs? Please share your thoughts.