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Defending the Practice of Religion in Public Schools Essay

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In her article “Beyond the Wall of Separation: Church-State in Public Schools”, Martha McCarthy, a Chancellor Professor and chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, makes it clear that her aim is to inform educators of the legal history and constitutional precedents of the Establishment clause and Free speech Clause of the First Amendment with an attached understanding of how educators should implement these findings. She summarizes and analyzes key Supreme Court rulings over the course of the 20th century as they pertain to religious expression in public schools. She clarifies the usage of both the Establishment Clause and the Free Speech Clause, including recent changes in trends that have been noted in the Supreme Court during the last decade. From the late 1940’s to the 1990’s most Supreme court rulings focused on the Establishment Clause to the increasing exclusion of the Free Speech Clause such that students were increasingly limited in the ways they were allowed to express themselves in school even in a private manner. In recent years, however, it has been noted that forcing students to suppress their religious expression is itself a religious statement and one that denies the role of religion in people’s lives. McCarthy notes that the public schools must take a neutral stand in relation to religion such that they do not defend or deny its role in people’s lives, either directly or indirectly.
McCarthy’s claim is that educators are responsible for ensuring that religious indoctrination sponsored by public servants such as teachers and schools does not occur but at the same time that no teacher or school unduly interferes with student’s rights to practice their fai...


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...of the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, there is a balance demanded between the establishment and Free Speech Clause which is an absolutely irrefutable part of the Constitution and can only be interpreted to a certain extent by any Court. The present balance between these Clauses, as it is currently understood, is the duty of the public school teacher and administrator to uphold but teachers and administrators must be open to changes in the understanding of that balance as more cases shed light on the practices and interpretation of the First Amendment. It is the duty of the public school official, in whatever capacity they find themselves, to keep abreast of these changes so that they can properly execute their duties to both defend the neutrality of the schools and the rights of the students to hold and practice religious beliefs in the course of their daily lives.



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