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Freedom Of Religion In Public Schools

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In recent years teaching or the individual practice of religion in school has become a very controversial topic. There are many different views on this matter and even more opinions on how it should be handled. There are people on both sides of the spectrum, there are those who believe that it should be taught and allowed in school, and there are those who believe it should not be taught or practiced in school. There have been cases brought to court about how religion should be taken out of schools, or if it should be allowed. There are many differences that cause concern between public schools and private or religious schools regarding education. For example, could it be that single вЂ" sex schools (which are only seen in private institutions) have better academic achievement because there is less distraction? Or maybe it is the fact that private school students are selectively picked, and therefore start out with better chances of succeeding. (Institute for Policy Research, 1998) Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious view with their peers.

In God We Trust on the dollar bill, The Ten Commandments at a state court house, these are things over the past years that you might have heard in the news causing some controversy. As current events go on, the Separation of Church and State is being brought into light more and more every day. When the United States Constitution was founded in the 18th century, many liberties were given to its citizens. One of those rights was the freedom of religious persecution, and the right to practice whatever you believe in. As the months turned into years, and the years turned into centuries, we have been brought to present times. The controversy seems to be piling up these days, but to understand the controversy today we must understand the history and the concept of the Separation of Church and State. ( Before the government provided formal schools and programs of education, religion had been a major part of every person's education. As public schools started, this teaching of faiths continued with the practice of prayer before class and bible reading sessions. Were those actions taken in these classes constitutional, or did the practicing of religious activities deny people the freedom of religion guaranteed in the constitution? Many of those who find prayer and religion in school offensive say that it is a violation of their rights. Mr. Justice Black of the United States Supreme Court, once said, "The First Amendment has erected a wall between the Church and State which must be keeping high and impregnable. Those in support of religious teachings in public schools see participation in theological activities as a chance to teach morals, community ethics, and peace over violence. Nevertheless, the achievement of those goals through the denial of basic rights is wrong. Today's society is, fast paced, competitive, and based totally on equality. It 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.

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”. Many religious groups including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association suggest that a higher emphasis be placed on religion comparatively. (Arguments against school prayer. (2006). Retrieved on October 3, 2006, from The National Center for history in the schools encourages teaching religion. 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. This was stated after the Supreme Court told Texas public schools cannot have student-led prayer at football games. 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. ( Hernandez, E. I., Sikkink, D. (2003). Religion matters. University of Notre Dame, 2003(1), 12, 21- 22, 31- 38. Retrieved September 27, 2006, from

Those who are against prayer in schools also say that religion is private, and schools are public, so the only appropriate situation is that these two do not mix. They also say that introducing religion in public schools would build walls between children who may not have been aware of religious differences before. (Gaylor, A. L. (1995). If we were to allow prayer in the classroom our constitutional rights as defined by the first amendment, separating church and state would be violated. This would contradict what we’ve built our country on. It would take us a step back from being a free country. At that point we would be under a totally different political system and everything past generations have fought for would be for nothing. Allowing the separation of church and state to parish would place our country in the same turmoil that Mid-eastern countries are experiencing. It would impose the same kind of separation of people that apartheid has imposed in Africa, based on beliefs instead of their skin color. There may not be the same actions taken such as in slavery but there would be a great amount of persecution as is being experienced in Africa and the Mid-east.

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



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