The Role of Religion in Elementary & Secondary Education

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Freedom of Religion is a liberty considered by many Americans to be one of the defining aspects of their country, but a line is drawn when one person’s freedom infringes upon another's. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” “With those words, in the First Amendment to the Constitution, the fledgling United States of America became the first nation to place into law the notion that religious beliefs were a private matter for individuals who had the legal right to freedom of conscience, and that no government had the right or authority to dictate what religious opinions people shall or shall not hold.”1 “What schools need is a moment of science”. I laugh at the bumper sticker as I pull into my high school’s parking lot. The controversy of public school prayer has not struck my particular school, but it is still prominent in my mind. For decades, many schools have allowed for a moment of silent prayer in the beginning of the day – a time for reflection or meditation – and some have even led deliberately Christian-oriented prayer services over the PA systems. My school would open each class with a recitation of “Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God”, and then offer prayers to anyone who had intentions. Then again, my school is a private, Catholic organization, and can pray however it wants to. Public schools are another question. Prayer was largely removed from public schools back in 1967 – but the influence still remained, it seems. Nowadays, lobbyists are convinced that freedom of religion also implies freedom from religion, should the individual choose it, and so they are working towards erasing the “under God” from the Pledge of Allegia... ... middle of paper ... ...consisting entirely of a profound natural respect), the purpose of environmental service learning in religion courses becomes lost in somewhat muddled metaphors. Theoretically, this entire debacle could be avoided if biology teachers simply said, “evolution happened. Now, whether or not there was a god behind it depends on your personal preference”. Specific religions, as mandated by the notion of separation of church and state, should not play any role in public education. To compensate, schools should facilitate spiritual, environmental projects to bolster the students’ appreciation for nature without the convoluted religious facet. While Congress can make no law infringing on a citizen’s right to believe, it can limit a religion’s practices, and therefore has every Constitutional right to explicitly forbid the mention of divinity in a public school classroom.

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