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Religion in the American Public School

Throughout history, religion has impacted the lives of millions whether at school, work, with friends, or by some tragedy. Religion can change the way people view their existence. Religion also plays a big role in the infiltration of values into the loves of many young people today. In a recent pole printed in the USA Weekend Paper, “34% of respondents [said] Religion plays a powerful role in their everyday lives. ” These student respondents “cited religion as the second-strongest influence in their lives outranked only by parents.

Religion also surpassed the world-renounced media as an influence in their lives (Lerman. 1). Many outsider views have changed negatively since the enlightenment (McConnell, 10) however, the fact still stands that religion is one of the most powerful influences on a person’s decisions throughout whether it is an actual religion or the lack thereof. The Supreme Court even states that “it is legitimate for the public schools to inculcate values” and most values of present day society are often based on religious beliefs.

Inculcating religion into the lives of students in the public school is not only both historically and presently permissible but also beneficial to the three main areas of a school system. Through many Supreme Court cases, decisions, and official statements, the United States Government has made it clear that study about religion is constitutional (Haynes 2). 3 main cases have explicitly shown the acceptability of religion in school. There have been many statements made Supreme Court Justices and the current president himself stating the permissibility of having religion taught in school.

Guidelines have also been written and carried out for the use of religion in the public school system (Guidelines: U. S. Department of Education, 2) One of these cases includes the Good News Club, a Christian-based youth program, vs. Milford Central Schools case. Despite the fact that this case didn’t rule in favor of religion, it was a ground post for many other court cases for holding religious based clubs on school grounds. The club was refused the right to hold meetings at the Milford Central Middle School while other clubs could. The state court ruled against the club and an appeal was filed.

Rev. Stephen D. Fournier of 10 years from the Milford Center Community Bible Church said it was discrimination by the school. A federal trial judge threw out the appeal. However, on a case of another Good News Club the 8th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994, ruled in favor of the club, therefore showing its permissibility (Associated Press, 1). A battle amongst the Kentucky General Assembly and other States in America has shown the admissibility of religion throughout the public school.

This debate is over the issue of displaying the Ten Commandments in the public school. years ago, when this issue was brought up to Kentucky General Assembly, their ruling ended the Supreme Court ruling to not allow the Ten Commandments in public schools. Along with Kentucky, two states, Indiana and South Dakota made it law that the Ten Commandments were allowed to be put up in public schools and 11 others also made actions toward allowing it (Copeland, 1). Another court case on Everson vs. Board of Education showed the admissibility of religion in public schools. In it the Supreme Court stressed that the constitution protects not only the people that believe in God but also those who do not.

They are therefore stating that as long as religion is kept on a voluntary basis in public places, it is constitutional and allowed ( ). There are also many government officials and organizations that support religion in school. Many statements have been made by Supreme Court Justices, the current United States President and other organizations. For example, for the Abington vs. Schempp case Associate Justice Tom Clark of the Supreme Court wrote: [I]t might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.

It might well be said that the bible is worthy of study for its literary and historical qualities (Haynes, 2). Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens also made the statement: ” Nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this court prohibits any public school student from voluntary praying at any time before, during or after the school day (Muro, 2). ‘ ” Many religious groups including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association suggest that a higher “emphasis” be placed on religion comparatively (Spiro 7).

The National Center for history in the schools encourages teaching religion (Haynes,3). The current United States President George W. Bush stated, “I support the constitutionally guaranteed right of all students to express their faith freely and participate in voluntary student-led prayer (Muro, 1). ” This was stated after the Supreme Court told Texas public schools can not have student-led prayer at football games (Muro,1). Through these statements one can see, there are three main areas of religious activity in the school system that many people would benefit from.

Through each one come certain characteristics that make them both beneficial and permissible as stated by the United States Government. These three main areas are religion in the classroom, or religious teaching, religion in extracurricular activities, and religion in the everyday atmosphere and activities of the school. The first main area is religious teaching in the classroom setting which is constitutional by means of the First Amendment. It is well stated by Associate Justice Tom Clark saying, “… one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion… (Haynes, 2).

It was acknowledged in A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools, “Most state standards in the social studies require or recommend teaching about religion (Haynes, 3). ” This is also stated earlier in the guide saying, “Schools demonstrate fairness when they ensure that curriculum includes study about religion, where appropriate, as an important part of a complete education (Haynes, 1). These statements are consequently showing how religion in the classroom in constitutional and permissible by all stretch of the meaning. Religious teaching is also beneficial to all students in the classroom setting.

This was well stated by the above guide for teachers declaring, that religion and the Bible contributes to the culture of historical nations and is therefore vital to understanding the study of history (Haynes, 2). ” Religion gives students a different perspective on historical events, et cetera. The Bible gives incite to the influences of religion on particular culture in history through art, music, literature, and social studies. Many of the United States’ Laws are also based on religious views, therefore religion would allow students the religious basis for laws (Glenn, 5).

Religion has also played a big role in the history of extracurricular activities especially that of sports. Many times before sports games, particularly football games, players and their coaches have said a prayer for their game (Keeping, 2). However, the Supreme Court has said this was unconstitutional even if it was student led (Muro, 1) and many people are continuing to do so despite the Supreme Court ruling (Keeping, 2). As stated earlier, even president George Bush believes in student-led voluntary prayer.

Religious clubs such as the Good News Club give students the choice to participate in activities that support their value systems. Religion also plays a part in the everyday workings of the school. For example, Students recite the pledge of allegiance everyday which includes the line, “one nation, under God,” which is of obvious religious nature. There are also announcements of religious activities and holidays which would make students of all religions feel welcome in the school and even those who are not of any religion at all because they can see how all religions are affecting the workings of the school.

Religion can obviously have a immense influence on the thoughts of people especially on the theories and ideas that many young people today base their values on. As stated earlier (will be in the introduction), 34% of students say that religion plays a role in their lives and it is the second strongest influence on their lives. This is above all the other factors including the most commonly known influence on young people today, the media (Lerman, 1). The Supreme Court even stated that “… it is legitimate for the public schools to inculcate values,” and many values are also based on religion (McConnell, 9).

This being said, religion also played a colossal role in the historical foundations of the present day America. Historically, religion was one of the main fundamentals that caused America to become its own country let alone allowed it to survive. Much of the constitution is based on religious laws followed by the people of the soon to be country of America (Zacharias, 2). And this country obviously still has religious based laws and an originally based religious people but yet we cannot have a religious based environment for students in a public school?

Religion in the Public School Curriculum: Questions and Answers, which was “issued by a coalition of 17 major religious and educational organizations,… describes the importance of religion in the curriculum through this statement: Because religion plays a significant role in history and society, study about religion is essential to understanding both the nation and the world. Omission of facts about religion can give the students the false impression that the religious life of humankind is insignificant or unimportant (Haynes, 2).

Thus showing that religion was a vital part of the foundation of the United States. In 1980, for example, on the case of Davis vs. Beason, the Supreme Court outlawed “bigamy and polygamy, which are crimes by the laws of the civilized and Christian countries (Glenn, 5). Consequently, religion was also historically a fundamental part of the value systems of American citizens. Thomas Jefferson stated, Americans were “enlightened by a benign religion professed indeed and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man (Glenn, 3).

When Americans came to this country they came to gain religious freedom because of the religious prosecution they were receiving from Great Britain (Cayton, _). Then the laws that were written based on the religious value of the people came from Great Britain at the time (Glenn, 7) such as George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin were some of the most respected young men that went on to become presidents (Cayton, _). The permissibility and benefits of having religion in the school system is shown through the historical significance, Supreme Court decisions and opinions, and the three main areas of a school.

The Supreme Court has made it clear through its case by case decisions that it is constitutional and beneficial in some areas. Also, many organizations of official government and educational positions have also stated that religion is recommended in the public school. In addition, the historical significance of religion in the creation of the present day America and the laws that it is based on is by and large one of the greatest influences on the common everyday workings of society.

Religion is part of a well rounded education and provides the religious aspects of human morality and virtuosity (Haynes, 2). It allows for the insight into history and culture through the historical influence of its nature. Despite the fact that it is not the only factor, one can not help but notice the steady decline of the moral society in relation to the degeneration of religious rights (Glenn, 7). One must stop and think how a little bit of voluntary religious freedom in the public school system would affect the morality of the new age student.

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