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Religion in the American Public School

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Throughout history, religion has impacted the lives of millions whether at school, work, with friends, or by some tragedy. Religion can change the way people view their existence. Religion also plays a big role in the infiltration of values into the loves of many young people today. In a recent pole printed in the USA Weekend Paper, "34% of respondents [said] Religion plays a powerful role in their everyday lives." These student respondents "cited religion as the second-strongest influence in their lives outranked only by parents." Religion also surpassed the world-renounced media as an influence in their lives (Lerman. 1).

Many outsider views have changed negatively since the enlightenment (McConnell, 10) however, the fact still stands that religion is one of the most powerful influences on a person's decisions throughout whether it is an actual religion or the lack thereof. The Supreme Court even states that "it is legitimate for the public schools to inculcate values" and most values of present day society are often based on religious beliefs. Inculcating religion into the lives of students in the public school is not only both historically and presently permissible but also beneficial to the three main areas of a school system.

Through many Supreme Court cases, decisions, and official statements, the United States Government has made it clear that study about religion is constitutional (Haynes 2). 3 main cases have explicitly shown the acceptability of religion in school. There have been many statements made Supreme Court Justices and the current president himself stating the permissibility of having religion taught in school. Guidelines have also been written and carried out for the use of religion in the public school system (Guidelines: U.S. Department of Education, 2)

One of these cases includes the Good News Club, a Christian-based youth program, vs. Milford Central Schools case. Despite the fact that this case didn't rule in favor of religion, it was a ground post for many other court cases for holding religious based clubs on school grounds. The club was refused the right to hold meetings at the Milford Central Middle School while other clubs could. The state court ruled against the club and an appeal was filed. Rev. Stephen D. Fournier of 10 years from the Milford Center Community Bible Church said it was discrimination by the school. A federal trial judge threw out the appeal. However, on a case of another Good News Club the 8th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994, ruled in favor of the club, therefore showing its permissibility (Associated Press, 1).

A battle amongst the Kentucky General Assembly and other States in America has shown the admissibility of religion throughout the public school. This debate is over the issue of displaying the Ten Commandments in the public school. 20 years ago, when this issue was brought up to Kentucky General Assembly, their ruling ended the Supreme Court ruling to not allow the Ten Commandments in public schools. Along with Kentucky, two states, Indiana and South Dakota made it law that the Ten Commandments were allowed to be put up in public schools and 11 others also made actions toward allowing it (Copeland, 1).

Another court case on Everson vs. Board of Education showed the admissibility of religion in public schools. In it the Supreme Court stressed that the constitution protects not only the people that believe in God but also those who do not. They are therefore stating that as long as religion is kept on a voluntary basis in public places, it is constitutional and allowed ( ).

There are also many government officials and organizations that support religion in school. Many statements have been made by Supreme Court Justices, the current United States President and other organizations. For example, for the Abington vs. Schempp case Associate Justice Tom Clark of the Supreme Court wrote:

[I]t 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 (Haynes, 2).

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 (Muro, 2).' " Many religious groups including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association suggest that a higher "emphasis" be placed on religion comparatively (Spiro 7). The National Center for history in the schools encourages teaching religion (Haynes,3). 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 (Muro, 1)." This was stated after the Supreme Court told Texas public schools can not have student-led prayer at football games (Muro,1).

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.

The first main area is religious teaching in the classroom setting which is constitutional by means of the First Amendment. It is well stated by Associate Justice Tom Clark saying, "...one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion... (Haynes, 2)." It was acknowledged in A Teacher's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools, "Most state standards in the social studies require or recommend teaching about religion (Haynes, 3)." This is also stated earlier in the guide saying, "Schools demonstrate fairness when they ensure that curriculum includes study about religion, where appropriate, as an important part of a complete education (Haynes, 1). These statements are consequently showing how religion in the classroom in constitutional and permissible by all stretch of the meaning.

Religious teaching is also beneficial to all students in the classroom setting. This was well stated by the above guide for teachers declaring, that religion and the Bible contributes to the culture of historical nations and is therefore vital to understanding the study of history (Haynes, 2)." Religion gives students a different perspective

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