Tis the season . . . back-to-school, that is, and chances are if you are a Christian teacher, administrator, parent, or student connected to the public school, youve got some questions about what is and is not currently permissible in the classrooms when it comes to religious freedom. Maybe youre asking questions like these:
May my children express their religious beliefs in a school assignment or in artwork? May a teacher discuss her personal religious viewpoints during class discussions? What about music? May a music teacher include religious music in choral programs? Or may a literature teacher teach the Bible or other religious material if taught in an objective and historical manner?
Take this scenario, for instance. Your son has just returned from a wonderful summer missions trip with his youth group to Lima, Peru. Hes gotten a glimpse of the needs beyond his own backyard and a vision for advancing Gods kingdom. He knows several kids at school from his youth group and some from other churches who also share his passion for helping the poor and taking the Gospel to every people group. So he organizes an early-morning prayer group, finds a teacher, Mrs. Hutchison, who is willing to open up her classroom, and is very encouraged to see an average of twenty-five kids showing up every week. But Mr. Overman, the assistant principal and an outspoken atheist, after hearing the buzz about whats going on before school, bursts into the prayer gathering one morning and publicly chastises the teacher and students. The assistant principal orders the group to disband. Your son comes home that evening dejected and angry. Will you know what to tell him?
It would be helpful if you knew, for example, about the Equal Access Act, which addresses this situation, or if you knew the Department of Education Guidelines, which state:
Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs and see you at the pole gatherings before school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other non-curricular student activity groups. Such groups must be given the same access to the school facilities for assembling as is given to other non-curricular groups.
Thankfully you can find all of this information in an easy-to-read and newly updated guide called Teachers & Religion in Public Schools. It is produced by the Center for Law and Religious Freedom of the Christian Legal Society and the Christian Educators Association International. The guide uses three easy symbolsa green light, a stop sign, and a warning signalto indicate whether a particular practice is legally permissible today in the public schools. I want to strongly encourage you to get this great resource into your hands and into the hands of teachers, administrators, other parents, or students connected with the public schools.
I know that you, as a Christian Post reader, are concerned with how faith fits in the public square. Heres an active way and a practical way that you can help others in this regard, and perhaps protect legal religious expressions of faith in the public schools in your neighborhood this academic year. To find out more about this wonderful resource, contact us here at BreakPoint at 1-877-3CALLBP or visit us online at http://www.breakpoint.org/.
From BreakPoint®, September 5, 2006, Copyright 2006, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. BreakPoint® and Prison Fellowship Ministries® are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries.