Religious expression in the public schools
Occasionally, an odd search term brings a visitor to my blog, and I often wonder what they were thinking when they typed in their search. Perhaps, like I used to do, they were merely bored and typing in strange queries to see what would happen. I used to be quite highly ranked on the search engines for the search, "chicken mop." I haven't noticed anything that odd recently, and actually have wondered at the increased relevancy of search terms bringing my random visitors.

This one isn't that odd, really, but it does leave me questioning about what people imagine the role of the state to be in our lives: "should a public preschool allow religious discussions among peers?" And if you look at the search, there I am at number seven with an odd excerpt that probably would have lead that person to believe that I am against homeschooling.

But is there seriously any doubt? Or just what kind of society do we want to live in? Are we really desiring a society which allows the state to listen in on private conversations to ensure that no religious expression occurs in the public domain? A public school teacher is an agent of the state (that is straight from my new teacher inservice training in Texas). As such, the teacher may not legally represent any religion while in the classroom. Your behavior outside the classroom is under scrutiny, as well, but thankfully for more common conceptions of decency rather than religious expression. However, as an agent of the state, it is also the duty of the public school teacher to protect the constitutional rights of the students in the classroom.

The topic spurred the release of a letter to all school districts from the former Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley (under President Clinton) outlining the school's duty to protect the religious expression of children in line with Supreme Court Rulings. Among other things, the letter lines out clearly that
...schools may not forbid students acting on their own from expressing their personal religious views, or beliefs solely because they are of a religious nature. Schools may not discriminate against private religious expression by students, but must instead give students the same right to engage in religious activity and discussion as they have to engage in other comparable activity.
Or do we want the government to control our thoughts, as well?

Related Tags: , , ,