Bibles in Schools
There have been a lot of stories in the recent past about public school students having their religious rights restricted at school. Every time this gets brought up, Atheists / Liberals are always blamed and are always labeled as angry or oppressive.
Call them like you see them
You have to call them like you see them with cases like this. If someone is being an asshole, then they are being an asshole. Assholes exist in every faith and philosophy. It doesn't matter if they are atheist, christian, or buddhist. They are assholes. That should be the first reaction that anyone has. The second reaction should be skepticism.
In the wake of the many situations like these, we need to stay skeptical about these types of stories. While some incidents of this nature do occur with substantial corroborating evidence, that shouldn't prevent you from doing the work to figure out the actual situation. Reserve your feelings until the complete and objective view of the situation is revealed. At least as objective of a view as we are going to get.
Reason to be skeptical
An example of a reason to be skeptical is a widely shared story from March/April 2014, which Snopes has investigated and determined false. In this story, a child has chosen Jesus as her personal hero and has chosen to write on him. The teacher informed the child to choose a different hero because she can't use Jesus in her paper. This of course got Christians pissed and shared the story like crazy. Immediately blamming Atheists for being offended by Jesus, God, and the Bible because there is no way that it could be the fandom of the Holy Trinity instead of the fictional story that in itself doesn't hurt anyone.
What was the result of an investigation into this?
After speaking with both the teacher and the principal, we have learned that students were not restricted from writing on any topic of their choosing. Columbus County Schools encourages student expression in all aspects of our educational program. We also have an open-door policy, and encourage our parents and guardians to contact or visit their child's school to address any concerns.
When these situations do occur, I would put money on the idea that these teachers are simply undereducated about the specifics of the law when it comes to these situations. These situations being a child reading religious texts during class or writing a paper on a religious figure. The issue isn't with a child privately reading a religious book, despite my personal opinion about childhood indoctrination. The issue arises when the teacher seeks to lead their class room in a religiously oriented way like requiring the class to acknowledge the christian god or to say a prayer to the christian god.
Recent Verified Incidents
Broward County Public Schools
On 8 April 2014, a Florida teacher in Broward County Public Schools named Mrs. Thomas told one of her students to refrain from reading his copy of the bible during their appointed "Free Reading" period. The father of the child told him NOT to obey the teacher and to instead call him, which she did. They are prepared to take legal action if this incident is not cleared up. Using the leg work done by The Friendly Atheist, the school investigated the situation and at first they were under the impression that the child was reading during a separate reading time and not the "free reading" time. This wasn't the case and the school corrected the teachers actions by issuing the statement:
Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the rights of students to bring personal religious materials to school, including the Bible, and to read these items before school, after school or during any "free reading" time during the school day. This information has been communicated to the parents of the student involved in this situation.
This statement isn't enough for the parents or the Liberty Institute. They are now demanding special religious treatment for their child and the bible in public schools.
Liberty Institute director of litigation Hiram Sasser demanded assurances that Giovanni be allowed to read his Bible during "accelerated reading program" class periods as well.
I wonder if they would fight this hard for a buddhist child? I think past situations of this nature can give us a clear indication of how situations might be handled in the future. Or maybe the parents, the Liberty Institute, and the teacher in Lousiana are just being assholes at this point.
Chemistry Professor in NC
A Chemistry professor in North Carolina attempted to restrict the graduating student body from mentioning god in their acceptance speeches. The email that was sent out to all chemistry students is show below:
I do not agree with what the professor has done here nor would anyone that isn't an asshole. He doesn't have the right to restrict the first amendment rights of others and that is what he is doing. The college corrected the professor and made sure it was clear that religious references were not going to be restricted.
What is needed
What is needed is proper training for the teachers on the exact law concerning private and public religious situations. This type of training should be mandatory before employment would start and perhaps annual refresher courses on it (possibly during the summer so there is no interference during the school year).
At least for me and others like me, we don't want to prevent people from having their private religious teachings or books but we do want them to stay private. The objection that I have is to public school administration pushing any religion on their students. In the above mentioned situations, I would have a problem with the teacher requiring the bible to be read during school or requiring the mention of god in an acceptance speech. Those instances are just as bad as restricting the students' religious beliefs.
Please Leave your comment below. Let me know your opinion on this subject, even if it's the same as mine.