God In The Classroom

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decreed that for legal purposes “atheism is a religion.”  Kaufman v. McCaughtry, No. 04-1914, August 19, 2005.417748in_god1

“Humanism is a religion.”  Archie J. Bahm, The World’s Living Religions, p. 335.

“How successful has leftism been?  It dominates the thinking of Europe, much of Latin America, Canada and Asia, as well as the thinking of the political and intellectual elites of most of the world.  Outside of the Muslim world, it is virtually the only way in which news is reported and virtually the only way in which young people are educated from elementary school through university.”  Dennis Prager, “The World’s Most Dynamic Religion,” Whistleblower, June 2013, p. 39

“In this [university] arena, it is not Protestantism, Catholicism, or Judaism which will emerge the victor, but secular humanism, a cultural force which in many respects is stronger in the United States than any of the major religious groups or any alliance among them.”  Leo Pfeffer, Journal of Church and State, Vol. 19, Spring 1977, p. 211

Editor’s Note:  Leftism equals Secular Humanism equals atheism therefore Leftism/Secular Humanism/Atheism is America’s unofficial civic religion and the only religion allowed in America’s public schools. America’s “young people are educated from elementary school through university” in an atheistic based education. For further details see: Noebel, Clergy in the Classroom, available from Summit Ministries, (719) 685-9103…

Stephen D. Solomon’s article “God Is Still in the Classroom” does not address the larger issue—Secular Humanism is an atheistic religion and is taught in our schools!

God Is Still in the Classroom

The Supreme Court school-prayer decision of 50 years ago looks wiser as the years pass.

Stephen D. Solomon, The Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2013, p. A 11

Ellery Schempp, a 16-year-old junior at Abington Senior High School in Abington, Pa., went to his homeroom class one day in 1956 with an extra book in his bag. The public-address system crackled to life and a student began reading 10 verses from the King James Bible—an exercise required by law in Pennsylvania at the time. At that moment, Ellery, as he had planned, took the book out of his bag. He began silently reading the Quran. A few minutes later, he declined to participate in recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

So began a legal conflict that culminated 50 years ago this week (on June 17, 1963) in one of the most contentious rulings in Supreme Court history. In Abington School District v. Schempp, the justices ruled that public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when they sponsored prayer and Bible reading. The court said the activities in the Abington schools were religious exercises, violating the “strict neutrality” that the government must show on religion.

Although Schempp still gets attacked as an example of the liberal excesses of the Warren Court, the decision was 8-1. Three of the four conservative justices on the court voted with the majority (Justice Potter Stewart dissenting), and one of them—Justice Tom Clark—wrote the court’s opinion.

Justice John Marshall Harlan II, the intellectual leader of the conservative wing, joined a concurring opinion by liberal Justice Arthur Goldberg. The two said of prayer and Bible reading in Pennsylvania’s public schools that its “pervasive religiosity and direct governmental involvement” violated the Constitution.

The second misunderstanding is the complaint that Schempp “kicked God out of the public schools,” as the refrain goes. The reality is very different. One of the most important legacies of Schempp is that there is much more religion in the public schools today than there was the day the decision was handed down, according to Charles C. Haynes, director of the First Amendment Center’s Religious Freedom Education Project. In public schools across the country, countless students meet in religious groups and learn about religion in their classes.

How is that possible? Although it is too frequently forgotten now, Justice Clark was careful to distinguish the practices that violated the First Amendment from those that did not. The court’s ruling effectively prohibited public schools and their personnel from sponsoring or promoting religious activities and beliefs such as prayer and Scripture reading. The court thus protected students like Ellery Schempp, whose Unitarian beliefs differed greatly from the theology of the majority in his community. The ruling also emphasized that America is a nation of great religious variety—theSchempp decision cited 83 religious denominations with more than 50,000 adherents in the U.S.

Far from being hostile to religion, the court provided the foundation for including religion in the curriculum of public schools. It pointed out that objective study about religion was permitted. As Justice Clark wrote, “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 certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities.”

Objective study about religion is critically important in helping understand art, music, history and much else in the world. Many schools have incorporated study about religion into their curriculum. Some teach world religion courses, for example, to provide students with religious literacy to help them understand and respect many different faiths, or include the role of religion in American- and world-history courses.

At the same time, students have their own First Amendment right of religious expression. They can initiate prayer alone or in groups as long as they don’t disrupt the normal workings of the school or pressure other students to join them—and as long as school officials are not involved. They can rely on their own freedom of speech, as well as the federal Equal Access Act, to set up religious clubs when the school allows other noncurriculum-related groups.

Many conflicts over religion in the schools today are difficult to resolve because the exact boundaries are not always clear. Is a prayer by cheerleaders at a school football game truly student-initiated and thus protected by freedom of speech, or does it carry the imprimatur of the school? Is a world religions course presented in an objective way or does the teacher tilt the scale toward a particular belief?

Large legal principles require wise judges and school administrators to apply them to such potentially contentious matters. But Schempp, stripped of the misunderstandings, points the way—already being followed around the country—to provide objective teaching about religion and student-initiated private prayer without imposing beliefs on schoolchildren.

Mr. Solomon is the author of “Ellery’s Protest: How One Young Man Defied Tradition and Sparked the Battle Over School Prayer” (University of Michigan Press, 2009). He is an associate professor at New York University.

A version of this article appeared June 20, 2013, on page A11 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: God Is Still in the Classroom.


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