Free to be a Christian only at approved times?

John 3:16 & "think about what's true"

I am wondering about some of the rationale surrounding keeping any religious expression out of the schools.  If my son, who is in second grade, decided he wanted to take Valentine’s Day cards with a Bible verse on them, would that not be just as acceptable as any other card?  I ask this question because of the story from the Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, WI) describing an incident in an elementary school there where a 2nd grader was told he could not distribute his Valentine’s Day treat because it had John 3:16 on it.   (Source – Sheboygan Press)

I understand I am biased, but even so this doesn’t make sense.  In fact, the district itself even admits it has no written policy on this.  It made the decision, according to the article, because of two reasons: 1) “The kids were expecting a Valentine and were not in position to accept or decline the message.” 2) Allowing this would open the door for other groups to distribute their messages. “If somebody wanted to put anti-Semitism in there people would be outraged by that.”   – (Quotes of the Assistant District Superintendent from the article)

Why is it that every time something like this comes up, it seems like the same reasons are cited.  The notion that this is on the same level as some hate group is not a very rational argument.  Of course schools are not going to allow people to distribute hate filled messages.  A commenter on this article said, “what if porn was being distributed. You would be upset about that.”  Seriously?  That’s the argument?  There is a certain level of decorum and respect that needs to be maintained.  I think that goes without saying.  But look, John 3:16 says that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to offer eternal life.  It is a fitting Valentine’s Day message and certainly not hateful.  The ultimate show of love came when Jesus died for the sins of mankind.

But, let’s just say that someone in the school is not a Christian.  My guess is they would eat the candy and throw the note away without another thought of it.  My son came home with all kinds of Valentines the other day.  Are they all things I would agree with?  Well, not really.  Some of the messages are rather bizarre.  But, he eats the candy and throws them away without even worrying about it.

What is religious freedom if not the ability to practice your religion freely?  The schools have gotten so sensitive to this stuff that they are actually limiting the free expression of religion.  Being a Christian is not something that people should just shut off the moment that they enter some sort of government-run building.  It is who we are.  The Declaration of Independence even states that we are endowed with certain unalienable rights by our Creator.  It is woven through the fabric of our country, a thought many people have forgotten about.  But, ironically the schools teach evolution as fact without a choice to accept it or not.  If this argument that the administrator was making was legitimate, then we could say that students are in a position to receive instruction and they instead receive a biased view of how the world was created.  Where is the uproar about that?

I know that some people will say that I would not be ok with my kid coming home with other religious messages.  Truthfully, I would not have an issue with it if it meant that Christians could have a voice as well.  When my son comes home with any sort of issue that is against what we affirm and teach from Scripture, we talk about it.  If he brought home something from another religion, we would use it as a teaching moment. It certainly would not make me get up in arms.  It is ok to hear different views.

The other part of this story that is interesting is the way it was handled.  Here you have a 2nd grader who is completely confused as to why he can’t hand out his Valentines. In fact, the school confiscated them as if they were drug paraphernalia.  They are bottles of candy with a rolled up note in them!  Even funnier, a sibling of this boy at a different area school (charter) was allowed to hand them out without any incident.

School administrators need to lighten up with this stuff.  Their job is not to protect kids from learning that Jesus loves them.   Follow the law, sure, but don’t overstep the freedom of speech.  There is no way this is against the law because the school did not promote any religion here.

I applaud the boldness of the family for being willing to share what they believe.  People will not agree, but the least we can do is honor the freedom we all deserve under the Constitution.

I would be glad to hear your thoughts on this, provided they are respectful.  What do you think?  Am I overreacting?  Is the school overreacting?  Where is the line? 

Story Source — The Sheboygan Press

Advertisements

10 comments

  1. You are not over reacting, but they’ll say I’m prejudiced. You can bring any message you want into school/governement/etc. except Christian messages. A Bible verse (or most verses from the Quran…) is not porn or hate, and students actually have rights, but most school admins and students have no idea what they are. If I can find the link I’ll post it soon. Thank you for standing up for right. They can talk about sex in school and push values we don’t believe in, but heaven forbid we share anything. We are to hide our light under a bushel and shut up??? What a sorry mess 😦

    1. It just keeps on going. The assault on Christians is never ending. Schools are going off the deep end on this stuff and it is really starting to irritate me. But, I guess that is the world we live in.

  2. I think you are reacting. I cannot say overreacting because you do not react to other equal expressions. The reason John 3:16 is ousted is because nearly everyone in America has heard it, and it is the verse which is the lynch pin of Christianity and Catholicism. Messages adapted from other faiths are passed off without notice because the readers do not know the source.

    I have seen many Valentine’s with messages from the Dalai Lama, quotes from plays and from other religious texts. Since these messages are not the crux of the faiths they represent, they are not considered strictly religious…they hold some other probative value.

    I have been on both sides of this coin. My children have been exposed to many different faiths, theologies and ideologies. I considered it part of their education to know there are things other than the Christian faith. They needed to know how others could react. Not all are as moderate as you and would not take such a message as anything beyond an attempt to convert.

    I know of many parents who feel religion is not why they send their children to public school. They feel threatened by anyone approaching their child with anything other than their particular brand of faith. For the parents who think it is inappropriate for schools to teach religion, they bring their children to churches and mosques and temples for that purpose. They consider the separation an honor to their house of worship.

    Do not think I am being argumentative. I have a legitimate question. What would the second grader have done if one of his Valentines asked him about his God? Is he firm enough to witness or is he likely to give a faulty interpretation as to the meaning of the verse and its implications?

    Personally, I am not so certain I would want a second grader’s interpretation of salvation distributed to other children. It is impossible to unring the bell.

    Red.

    1. In this case it is hard to say whether the kid could actually describe his faith. My kids will like what I like naturally because that is what kids do. Would my son (2nd grade) come up with this idea on his own? I doubt it. He does think to pray by himself and talks about faith in general. So, I don’t think it is completely out of the question. I know that my son could at least tell you who Jesus is and why He matters. If the mom conjured this up in order to get attention, well that is not right.

      I do see why the school had an issue with it. What I don’t understand is why they handled it so abruptly. Instead of confiscating the “paraphernalia” it might have been better to have a conversation with the parents in order for them to talk to their child. I know my son would have been crushed by this because he is quite sensitive.

      The other thing is I am not sure that it is necessary for people to shut off their religion at school. We do still have freedom of religion. If any of my kids brought home a message under these circumstances I wouldn’t get crazy about it. It is an opportunity to talk about why we believe what we do. It is tricky, though, because you don’t want people to use the school as a platform to distribute their religious materials. This is a unique case given the age of the child. At the high school level this might not have come up because if high school students are talking about their faith at school, there is obvious meaning for them.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You make good points here.

  3. I think you may have missed something here. I do not think it is necessary to turn off faith, ever, but I do feel like I need religion turned off in school. Religion is not faith. While we do have the freedom of religion, that does not mean we can practice our religions any and every where, and it especially does not mean we can practice it where it impinges on other’s rights. What it does mean is we can practice our religions without fear of governmental and personal persecution.

    Whether you like the concept or not, the government is not impinging your right to freedom of religion when it prohibits it in public schools. To use some of the hyperbole already expressed, it is truly no different than the government prohibiting other acts on school grounds such as the distribution of pornography, political materials outside the educational construct of a classroom (electioneering) and solicitation materials.

    The reasons for school ground prohibitions are all based on the same ideology: houses of primary learning are not appropriate places for materials which would influence the students in matters which are suited for or should be proctored by adults.

    This country was founded by deists (also by Deists) and atheists who revolted against theocracy. They designated the freedom of religion because they felt the government had no right to tell them what to believe. They did not found the country to have a national religion by design.

    To feel blighted or persecuted because your particular religion is not welcomed by the government is fundamentally unfair. It is not just your religion being shunned. The founding fathers did not believe any one organized religion should dominate the American landscape, especially given they themselves had differing faiths.

    Just a little history to put this in perspective.

    As to the schools handling of it, I think gestapo tactics are over-reactionary. Confiscation of the materials is warranted, but their methodology for execution may have left something to be desired.

    Red.

    1. I don’t think I would go as far as to say I feel persecuted by the government because it is not welcomed. There are parts of the world where people are put in prison for their beliefs. This has not happened here and I hope it never does. I just am more irritated with the inconsistency. This same family in the article I referenced had a student at a charter school in the district hand out the same thing with no issue at all. At a school here the teachers would say Happy Hanukkah but not Merry Christmas. At the high school they have been studying world religions. You would think that when they do that they would talk about Christianity as one of them. They did, but without mentioning Jesus. All I am asking for is the same standards for everyone, a balanced approach.

      In this case it does have the solicitation feel, so I would be willing to cede my point on this one provided the school at least be a little more respectful with their methodology. They are too worried about always being politically correct rather than just handling it in a rational way.

      In all fairness here, I clearly disclosed my bias. 😉

      1. I know, which is why I tried realllllllllllllly hard 🙂 And we agree on the imbalance and inconsistency.

        To be fair, did they mention in the world religion classes the turnkeys for the other faiths?

        And because I clearly have misunderstood something, how does one explain Christianity without mentioning Christ? As I see it, by definition Christ would have to be part of the explanation. Otherwise, it would be explaining Buddhism without mentioning Buddhists worship Buddha.

        Red.

        1. That is my point exactly. If you are going to teach what they religions are about, then you need to actually teach that. Isn’t that what teachers are supposed to do with any subject?

          The religion class didn’t go into great depth, as described to me, but rather gave some history and overview.

  4. I think I am more disturbed to find out it was a religion class and not a history class. History has a habit of saying “The Christians/Catholics/Muslims did this” without describing the motivation from a religious standpoint. While not the well-rounded method of teaching, I understand it in context.

    To fail to introduce the rudimentary concepts of Christ, Buddha and Allah in a religion class is tantamount to not teaching. Even a mere history of the religions should have led to the definitions even if it skirted the methods to enter the religion.

    Red.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s