Churches Called to Promote Religious Freedom of Students

Christian leaders are urging Americans to celebrate and promote religious liberty on Religious Freedom Sunday.

Amid widespread policies on school campuses that discriminate against students' beliefs, the national observance on Jan. 10 is intended to educate congregations about the religious liberties students have.

"The classroom should be a safe place for students of all ages to express their faith in class discussions and homework assignments, just as the U.S. Department of Education has affirmed," said Eric Buehrer, founder and president of Gateways, a national organization specializing in how public school parents and educators can work together to lawfully teach about America's Judeo-Christian heritage.

Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines clarifying students' religious liberties three times. Promoters of Religious Freedom Sunday say students can pray at school, bring Bibles to campus, witness to classmates, and include faith in school assignments and class discussions.

However, many schools are unaware of the guidelines.

"Too many students are told they can't even talk about their faith in class or that they can't refer to their faith in their homework," said prominent evangelical Charles Colson. "Many now feel they can't even pray over their lunch at school."

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal firm, has set up a multimillion-dollar center for the sole purpose of defending religious speech and expression on school campuses. ADF attorneys lament that many schools have enacted unconstitutional policies and practices censoring Christian speech, banning Christian groups from campus, and punishing educators and students.

ADF claims that it has been successful in having policies changed or removed in the nearly 50 major universities and colleges the firm has brought legal challenges against.

Religious Freedom Sunday occurs the Sunday before the U.S. president declares Religious Freedom Day on Jan. 16.

Gateways launched the Sunday observance to increase national awareness of Religious Freedom Day, which aims to promote and protect students' religious expression rights by informing educators, parents, and students about these liberties. Gateways insists that churches "must bring light to the issue for students and parents."

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