Sunday, December 25, 2011

Religion in Schools

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Religion in Schools

What is the solution to the problem of religion and prayer in schools? Our student body is increasingly diverse. Schools must give special consideration to the fact that many school students belong to minority religions or are raised in non-religious environments. The nations public schools must be welcoming to students from a variety of backgrounds - students of all faiths or no faith. There are several positive ways of dealing with this including a “moment of silence” or letting the students take turns with their beliefs, as well as negative suggestions that include, ignoring the issue.

The Framers, who put together the Constitution, recognized the importance of keeping government out of religion and religion out of government. This created a wall of separation between church and state in the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The government also guaranteed religious liberty in the First Amendments free exercise clause. The government is unable to endorse or intentionally burden any religious practices or beliefs, due to the first amendment and free exercise of religion. For more than two and a half decades, fulfillment with the establishment clause has been examined under a test in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Lemon test has proven largely successful in protecting the religious rights of all Americans, including religious minorities. The principle that public schools must be religiously neutral has been established in a long line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Any school-sponsored religious activity must conform to the Lemon test. Students must never be given the impression that their school officially prefers or sanctions a particular religion or religion in general. Further, students must never feel forced by pressure from their peers or from the public to stay or join with any religion. Some things that parents argue are that they want their child to be raised in a “religious environment”, or that they should pray before class starts, and/or before a meal. It is thought that banning school prayer would lead to moral decline. Finally, some parents that want religion in their schools want certain aspects about religion taught in the curriculum. Such as in science class, the theory to evolution is taught along with creation of mankind as told in Genesis of how the world began.

There are also many reasons against having religion in schools. So many different religions nowadays; for example, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism, that teachers can’t target just one, and they can’t teach them all, due to lack of time, so don’t teach any at all. If it is taught, it becomes unconstitutional and a clear violation of our First Amendment to teach religion in schools, so it is not allowed. People who oppose school prayer believe that prayer is not effective. School prayer is obviously a form of religious indoctrination, and this should not be the schools’ place to teach the kids.

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There are several of things that can be done to help solve this problem. Firstly, don’t allow prayer unless it is personal, private and kept to the one who is praying. Another would be to allow for a moment of silence. This shouldn’t be forced or looked upon as a time to pray but as a time to regroup. Finally, another solution to help prevent controversy over this issue would be to have each student take turns throughout the year to pray out loud, to their God, about there beliefs, or chose to decline their turn.

I think the best option would be to allow for a “moment of silence”. This would help to clear the thoughts in your head or it can be used however the student intends. Life is so busy for most students that this time would be good for students for just a couple of minuets before every class, or activity. This helps remind the religious students of the high morals and values to which they aspire. It would help to remind them to remain honest, respectful, and kind to each other. The next best thing I think would be to leave it the way it is. School prayer is allowed, privately, and to yourself. Finally, to let students pray out loud taking turns per day might let every denominations be heard but, in turn, would result in inter-denominational conflict among people of all religions.

The “Moment of Silence” would take place at the beginning of each period throughout the school day, before lunch, before all school activates, and before graduation ceremonies. This doesn’t have to be for prayer, or meditation, it is just silence. The student can choose how to spend this time, as long as it is quietly. Students can chose to pray, self-reflect, plan their day, engage in any other silent mental activity, contemplate, study, or lay their head down just for a break, it doesn’t matter, just the time in life’s busy schedule to take a break. This would not only be good for the student but the teachers as well. To regroup from the last class, and prepare for the next class, and take a “breather”. Some schools already institute a moment of silence that students and teachers can use to pray silently, or meditate, or simply center them selves. In late 2000, a federal court affirmed the constitutionality of the moment of silence law, which came into effect in Virginia on April 1, 2000. “The Natural Prayer Project (NPP) recommends that schools follow a suggestion made by Colin Powell, the Attorney General. He recommends a simple moment of silence.” (Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance) It would appear that Jesus promoted private prayer, and condemned public prayer. Some Christians who follow the Bible would logically oppose prayer in school and other public places. There are many places in the bible that have Jesus praying in private. For instance, Matthew 14 reads Jesus went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Or Matthew 66-44 states Jesus went with three disciples, left them behind and went further to pray alone. This is a well-known passage in which his disciples fell asleep at Gethsemane.

Public schools can neither foster religion nor preclude religion. Our public schools must treat religion with fairness and respect and vigorously protect religious expression as well as the freedom of conscience of all other students. In so doing our public schools reaffirm the First Amendment and enrich the lives of their students. (Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley). So the moment of silence is good by abiding by the government as well as fulfilling the needs of those who would like to take advantage of freedom of speech by using the moment of silence how they wish.

So to get the moment of silence allowed in schools a proposal should be submitted to the higher courts, or who ever needs to be addressed about the issue. If it starts in Baltimore County, then it could spread to all of Maryland. After that, the surrounding states could institute the law of a moment of silence, and soon this could be a national law for the Unites States.

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