Americans United for Separation of Church and State

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Church State Issues

Keep religious spats out of public schools???

Oct 7, 2014

Arizona Republic

If the employees at government schools would obey the Arizona and US Constitutions against mixing government and religion and trying to force the Christian religion on the children we wouldn't have these problems.

But sadly many government school employees think it is more important to shove Jesus down the throats of the kiddies then it is to obey the Constitutional and keep religion out of government.

If teachers want to teach the kiddies about Jesus, they should be working at a private religious school, not a government public school.


Keep religious spats out of public schools

Editorial board, The Republic | azcentral.com 7:41 a.m. MST October 6, 2014

Our View: Special interest groups are too quick to turn public school campuses into a battle zone.

Look, we get it.

Separation of church and state has a long, grand tradition in this country, where religious and political refugees found a home away from the controlling hand of the British monarchy and the Church of England.

We get that institutions run by local, state and federal governments cannot become hot houses of religious indoctrination. Those institutions belong to all of us: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, atheist, Rastafarian. They are not the vehicles for any of us to preach our notion of God or no God.

But can we call a truce?

Can we call a truce in our 21st-century culture wars that turn every encroachment of the church-state armistice into legal blitzkrieg, pitting rival interest groups and their attorneys against each other?

Are public-school children really best served when every classroom indiscretion on First Amendment grounds erupts into a volley of threats and counter-threats and bad publicity?

The latest outbreak of hostilities comes in the Peoria Unified School District, where a first-grade teacher is accused of putting a plaque on her wall that reads, "Jesus Loves the Little Children."

Educators at another district school, as Republic staff writer Mary Beth Faller reports, are accused of having Christian symbols on the wall, Bibles on a classroom bookshelf and a Thanksgiving celebration in which some children played the role of preacher.

That caused the national Freedom From Religion Foundation to thunder that old principles are being violated and young minds contaminated by religious messaging in a religion-free zone.

"The courts have been pretty clear that teachers don't have First Amendment rights when they're acting as teachers," said Andrew Seidel, attorney for the group.

When it was alleged a teacher was told to remove religious symbols from her classroom, in galloped the Alliance Defending Freedom to protest.

Teachers have every right to have Bibles and Scripture readings on their personal desks, they argued.

Caught in the middle are school administrators, who have better things to do than endure the push and pull of fundraising groups with self-interested agendas and hair-trigger reflexes.

Surely there are ways to work these things out amiably and quietly while leaving schools to focus on their core mission — educating children.

Rather than raise their swords, opposing special interests need to take a powder.

To the civil libertarians, we would say pick your battles. Don't ignore violations of church and state; just make sure they rise to the level of truly threatening personal freedom.

If you jump on every Bible on a book stand, you become a bigger problem to schools and schoolchildren than the remote possibility that a child might be indoctrinated.

Teachers struggle to get their kids to read the next day's homework, let alone a much thicker and impenetrable book of Scripture.

To the religious libertarians, we would say show some discretion. Schools have a right to instruct their teachers to respect church-state boundaries; otherwise they end up with the kinds of time-sucking disruptions we now see in the Peoria School District.

This problem is not about children. This problem is about adults who fail to bring to these complex issues a little bit of temperance and good judgment.

Our schools face huge challenges. They don't need the added disruption of being ground zero in the culture wars.