Sunday, January 25, 2015

Religion in Public Education

Image retrieved  from CNS News which can be access here
CNS News reported on January 21st that Orange County (Fla) Public School System canceled the annual distribution of bibles on National Freedom of Religion Day. According to the news article Christian groups and the Florida Family Policy Council were prohibited from distributing bibles because that encouraged atheist and satanic groups to obtain the permission to distribute literature as well. According to the CNS article, which you be can accessed here, the Orange County System allowed bibles to be placed in common areas in schools were students had access to them if they pleased. Freedom from Religion Foundation  sued to have all religious materials banned from public schools however the court ruled against their claims. Therefore, Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a sue last year claiming an equal right to distribute literature in schools which was accepted by the court. For this year’s distribution, a satanic group entered a request to distribute literature, which resulted in Orange County cancelling all distributions and instead revising their current policy of acceptable literature in schools.

                This situation is a clear example of why it is necessary to maintain a separation between church and state. Public schools are property of the state therefore, this educational system should aim to have secular education, one that does not involve religion.  This public school system has become a battlefield for religious and non-religious organizations instead of a safe environment for children.  

                In 1971 a man named Alto Lemon sued Pennsylvania schools’ superintendent, David Kurtzman, under the claims that Kurtzman had violated his First Constitutional Amendment. Lemon argued that Pennsylvania’s reimbursement to religious schools for secular education was a violation of his First Amendment because the state was using tax payer’s money to fund religion. The Court ruled in an 8 to 0 decision that this was a violation of the First Amendment. In Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) the court concluded that there was excessive entanglement between church and state. Furthermore, the court made three points, first the state could only be involved if there was a secular purpose, second the state should neither promote nor inhibit religion and lastly that there should not be an entanglement between state and church.

 Orange County, however, is in violation of the decision made by the Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). By allowing the distribution of bibles in schools the state of Florida is permitting entanglement with the church. Additionally, the state established a religion in schools by allowing the distributions of only bibles, thus promoting Christianity. The state was not inclusive of other religions that were not Christianity. In fact, I am surprised that parents did not take it upon themselves to sue the school district for coercive religious literature.

Secondly, the refusal to remove the distribution of religious literature despite the fact that the Freedom from Religion Foundation had sued against it, was an example of religious inequality. The only place where a bible should be allowed, along with other religious literature, is in the library. Refusing to prohibit the distribution of bibles gives other religious organization the right to distribute their literature, thus neutralizing the institution. This was an inadequate decision, which endangers the secular education children should be receiving in schools.

                Schools should be an unbiased environment were children are free to express themselves and not be constantly harassed by religious affairs. Many would argue that Orange County is a predominately Christian district, therefore, making it acceptable to distribute bibles. However, I believe that this is an example of how the majority deprives the rights of non-Christians to freely go to school without any religious affiliations. Furthermore, if parents want their children to learn about their specific religious believes then, they should enroll their kids to private institutions where that religion is taught. If parents cannot afford these expenses, then they should take it upon themselves to teach their children their religion.

                Religion should be taught at home not in schools. Public schools are meant to be a safe ground for children. Orange County has exposed their children to numerous people approaching them to distribute literature about their religious belief. There is a compelling state interest in this case to remove all religious text from school in order to ensure the safety of the students. Note, this does not mean that I am against religion, it just means that religion should not be involved in public education. 


Emily C. said...

I agree with the author that the distribution of Bibles should be prohibited unless distribution of all religious texts is permitted. Allowing only Bibles to be distributed promotes Christianity, and could be argued as establishment of Christianity because it is occurring in a public school system. I completely support the presence of Bibles in the library that are available on a voluntary basis. This allows students to freely practice their religion without imposing it on other students like the distribution of Bibles would.

Trevor Tomlinson said...

I agree with you that allowing only distribution of Bibles certainly violates the first amendment and is an establishment of Christianity in a public school. The refusal to remove the distribution of bibles despite the Freedom From Religion disapproval and court action is an example of how neutrality is not reached in policy. The majority is protected more than the minority, as soon as Satanist groups asked to be involved in the distribution of literature the process was shut down immediately. This shows how people and policy are not truly neutral between religion but favor that which the majority finds to be acceptable and right. No sort of religious literature should be distributed or shoved in the faces of children in a public school.

Peter M said...

I agree with the author that distribution of religious literature should not be limited to bible, but I believe the main issue lies in defining what qualifies as being religious. I believe that there are some types of religious activities that clearly unacceptable in our society such as child sacrifice. It is reasonable for the Orange County Public School System to want to impose some boundaries for what can be distributed in schools. I believe allowing religious literature in schools with reasonable boundaries should not qualify as establishing religion.

brian regan said...

The Orange County School system should not have been allowed to cancel the literature distribution after a satanic group entered. If they are going to distribute any religious literature at all, as they did with the Bible, it should be open to all religious groups after that with no boundaries. Distributing Bibles only and then canceling the program once another religion enters is a breach in First Amendment rights because it proves there was a conscious effort to push Christianity onto these public school kids without allowing any other options. If it were up to me, separation of church and state would mean that no religious literature can be distributed in public schools but rather religious literature of any kind can be found in the library if a public school student is seeking it.

Will P. said...

I agree with the author in that the distribution of the bible in a public school setting should be prohibited. This is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. Furthermore, when there is any mingling of the two, no matter how minor, this opens a potential floodgate for further more radical religions or organizations to impose their influence. A school should be a place strictly for learning, and religion has no place in that setting. I agree with the author that the private education of religion is acceptable, and is a free choice to be made. However, religion should not breach the walls of a public school, funded by the government.

Nneoma I. said...

I agree with your position on this case. The school had clear bias on which views they wanted their students to be exposed to. If the school planned to educate their students about religious diversity through "Religious Freedom Day", they should allow any type of religious association to participate. Only distributing Bibles at a public school event promotes Christianity amongst the students, which is a clear violation of separation of church and state. It also strips these children of their ability to make their own conscious decisions on religious preference. I believe that the school should either include none, or include all.