Freedom of Religion in Public Schools

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In recent years teaching or the individual practice of religion in school has become a very controversial topic. There are many different views on this matter and even more opinions on how it should be handled. There are people on both sides of the spectrum, there are those who believe that it should be taught and allowed in school, and there are those who believe it should not be taught or practiced in school. There have been cases brought to court about how religion should be taken out of schools, or if it should be allowed. There are many differences that cause concern between public schools and private or religious schools regarding education. For example, could it be that single – sex schools (which are only seen in private institutions) have better academic achievement because there is less distraction? Or maybe it is the fact that private school students are selectively picked, and therefore start out with better chances of succeeding. (Institute for Policy Research, 1998) Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious view with their peers. In God We Trust on the dollar bill, The Ten Commandments at a state court house, these are things over the past years that you might have heard in the news causing some controversy. As current events go on, the Separation of Church and State is being brought into light more and more every day. When the United States Constitution was founded in the 18th century, many liberties were given to its citizens. One of those rights was the freedom of religious persecution, and the right to practice whatever you believe in. As the months turned into years, and the years turned into centuries, we have been brought to present times. The controversy seems to be piling up these days, but to understand the controversy today we must understand the history and the concept of the Separation of Church and State. ( Before the government provided formal schools and programs of education, religion had been a major part of every person's education. As public schools started, this teaching of faiths continued with the practice of prayer before class and bible reading sessions. Were those actions taken in these classes constitutional, or did the practicing of religious activities deny people the freedom of religion guaranteed in the constitution? Many of those who find prayer and religion in school offensive say that it is a violation of their rights. Mr. Justice Black of the United States Supreme Court, once said, "The First Amendment has erected a wall between the Church and State which must be keeping high and impregnable. Those in support of religious teachings in public schools see participation in theological activities as a chance to teach morals, community ethics, and peace over violence. Nevertheless, the achievement of those goals through the denial of basic rights is wrong. Today's society is, fast paced, competitive, and based totally on equality. It 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.

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”. Many religious groups including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association suggest that a higher emphasis be placed on religion comparatively. (Arguments against school prayer. (2006). Retrieved on October 3, 2006, from The National Center for history in the schools encourages teaching religion. The current United States President George W. Bush stated, I support the...
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