Religions Place in the School
Growing up in the South it is not uncommon to hear people praying while you are at school. It isn’t uncommon to hear teachers mentioning God or the bible or anything else that might be related to Christianity. Hell, even most Friday nights in the Fall you can hear a voice being broadcast over a loudspeaker giving thanks to God in front of a crowd of maybe a couple hundred people. But why has this become the norm? Is this just the way things are going to be from now on? As someone who doesn’t share the same beliefs as the majority of the people living in the South (that’s as much detail as I really care to go into) I’ve always had a problem with going to school and having to hear teachers and other faculty talking about their religion. Having to listen to prayers at sporting events (even now at Clemson) was always uncomfortable. After not saying anything all the years I was in school I feel that I am now confident enough to say that religion has no place in Americas public schools.
In his book Does God Belong in Public Schools? talks about many schools (primarily in the South) engaging in practices with the “forbidden aim to advance religion” but man if it doesn’t seem like some of the teachers around the country are trying to advance their religion (p. 94). If you don’t believe me then we can go ahead and start with our next door neighbors in Georgia. In October of 2015 two teachers at Swainsboro Primary School led prayer with their classes before lunch and then when several parents complained the teachers made sure to call out their children and force them to sit outside the classroom while they continued to pray. If that wasn’t enough, Travis Gettys (2015) writes “first-grade teacher Katherine Brights told that same boy that he shouldn’t listen to his mother because she was “a bad person for not believing in God.” Are you kidding me? There is no reason for first grade teachers to try an indoctrinate their students to the point of telling them their mother is a BAD PERSON just because of her lack of beliefs.
Incidents similar to this are all too common and each one just like the one before it always seems to be attempting to advance Christianity or discriminate against students who don’t share their beliefs. Another example would be a student in California who when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance chose to omit the phrase “under god” had his grades lowered until he was failing. When asked about the incident, Derek Giardina (2014) stated “I feel like the backlash that we’ve felt from this makes it less about the grade and less about us in particular, but more about the cultural and the social ramifications of having your own ideas and your own thoughts and thinking for yourself.” and that is exactly what happens when these teachers and administrators bring the church to school with them. A student should never be singled out or penalized because of their beliefs or their parents beliefs but until religion is fully removed from public schools it seems like we are just going to continue to have this problem.
I just don’t see a scenario where a teacher or administrator is praying or talking about their beliefs that doesn’t constitute advancing that religion. Students who do not share the staff members beliefs feel uncomfortable and are often afraid to speak up due to the repercussions that they have seen other students in their situation face. If you are a teacher or administrator who is Christian or a member of any other religion that’s fine, I’m not going to hold that against you. But don’t bring it into your workplace. Try and think about the people around you who might not share your beliefs and keep them at home where they belong.
Kent Greenawalt, Does God Belong in Public Schools? Princeton Univ. Press, 2005.
Gettys, T. (2015, October 07). Georgia school pays up after teacher tells first-grader his mom is ‘bad’ because she doesn’t believe in God. Retrieved June 04, 2016, from http://www.rawstory.com/2015/10/georgia-school-pays-up-after-teacher-tells-first-grader-his-mom-is-bad-because-she-doesnt-believe-in-god/
Langley, M. (2014, November 07). Omitting ‘under God’ costs teens. Retrieved June 04, 2016, from http://m.goldenstatenewspapers.com/tracy_press/news/omitting-under-god-costs-teens/article_21524e4c-663c-11e4–8ddb-e31221b8dd7a.html?mode=jqm