Friday, January 27, 2012

How religion is infiltrating public schools - Reuters

How religion is infiltrating public schools - Reuters
"   On Sept. 1, 2011, the students of New Heights Middle School in Jefferson, South Carolina trooped into the gymnasium to hear the Christian rapper known as “B-SCHOC” tell them that Jesus alone could save them. They cheered as a pastor named Christian Chapman vied to win their souls for Christ. At the end of the show, they were asked to fill in a form indicating whether they had accepted Jesus as their savior. In a video posted on YouTube, B-SHOC exults that “324 kids at this school have made a decision for Jesus Christ.”

Wherever one chooses to draw the line between church and public school, there can’t be much doubt that the B-SHOC assembly at New Heights lay pretty far on the other side. Even the organizers of the assembly knew that. “Your principal went to me today, and I said, ‘How are you getting away with this?’” Pastor Chapman told a group of parents. “And he said, ‘I’m not … I want these kids to know that eternal life is real, and I don’t care what happens to me, they’re going to hear it today.”’
In fact, the school board voted to settle a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in which Jonathan Anderson, a parent whose son was harassed at the school for his non-belief, alleged that religion was all over the New Heights Middle School. School-sponsored prayers routinely opened and closed assemblies and performances. Religious messages made their way into lesson plans, and religious iconography decorated the walls. Students were punished for minor infractions by being told to write out sentences proclaiming their faith in God.

A number of these activities — such as the B-SHOC event — appear to be violations of the clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution intended to maintain separation between church and state. And the school board admits as much in its proposed settlement of the ACLU case. Yet an even greater number of religious activities in public schools have recently become legal as a result of novel interpretations of the Constitution handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Ironically, had the administration of New Heights been a little smarter, it could have achieved its apparent goal of using the school’s position of authority to spread the word of God among its captive students without running the risk of being sued. Thousands of other schools across the country do just that.   "   .........

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