Iowa School District Plans to Revise Religious Liberty Policy

School officials in Spencer, Iowa, are putting the brakes on a proposed "religious liberty" policy that would allow students to critique Darwinism and study the Bible, among other things.

Protests and criticism from nonreligious groups and advocates have led officials to reconsider implementing the policy.

"I think the wisdom is to slow down and make sure we cover our bases," said Superintendent Greg Ebeling, according to the Des Moines Register. "In the end, it'll probably be a much more palatable policy."

The proposal was introduced to set clear rules for religious expression on campus both for students and educators.

Ebeling has said that teachers more often choose never to address faith and religion because of fear of offense or lawsuits. Spencer officials were concerned that public education has often "gone too far" in excluding religious influences and were seeking to restore balance to the issues and allow for the inclusion of religious expression in their public schools.

"A lot of times students and teachers feel they have to check their faith at the door," said Van Wyk, an Assemblies of God pastor who co-wrote the policy, as reported by the local Register. "That is not what the Constitution says."

Under the original proposal, Spencer schools would offer "The Bible in History and Literature" and "Critic of Darwinism, a scientific approach" electives and allow students to distribute religious materials, talk about their faith and pray. Moreover, graduation speeches would not be regulated on religious content and teachers would be able to answer questions about personal faith issues while maintaining a neutral position.

After complaints from such groups as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Spencer school officials are revising the policy, hoping to avoid future court battles.

The new policy will be revealed in September. Spencer is reportedly the first Iowa district to specifically address in writing religious freedoms in schools.

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