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religion in public schools

December 9, 2011

I came across a post by Wym that talked about religion in the public school system and after I commented on her post I knew I had more to say especially around this time of year.

Imagine that.

Here’s the bottom line [look there I will give you my bottom line opinion first so technically you don’t even have to read my justification and can skip to the comments. I am too nice.] I don’t think that religion has any place in our public school system.


No ifs, ands or buts.

I grew up a Jewish girl in a very Christian area of Central Texas. I was one of two Jewish kids in my entire high school. At times when I was younger [in elementary] it was hard. I can remember parent’s of friends not letting their child play with me.

I remember praying to God at night telling him that my family and I didn’t deserve to go to Hell because we weren’t bad people and that I hoped He still loved me.

I rememeber making Santa Christmas cards every year to bring home to my parents.

I remember having to say the Lord’s prayer before track meets and being the only girl who didn’t know the words.

My problem with religion in public schools is that public schools are funded by tax dollars.

My tax dollars.

I pay my school taxes every year and the last time I checked so did all the other members of my community.

I am Jewish. I am sure there are Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Christians, etc…whom also all pay school taxes.

So why should my child [or me when I was younger] be subjected to religion in my state run school when people of ALL religions pay taxes to that school system?

How is that fair?

If you want your child to have religion in their school then send them to a privately funded private school.

If you can’t afford private school then teach them about religion in your home and through your place of worship.

I know this is a touchy subject but it is one that I am so passionate about because I don’t think it is fair for any child to feel as alienated as I did at certain times in my life.

I know we live in a country that gives us the gift of freedom of religion. I feel like we are slowly and surely rubbing away what that means. The religious right movement in this country scares me and it has crept into our public school system and it is growing.

I honestly feel like maybe this is a point you won’t get until you aren’t the majority. You have to be the minority to see how it effects you. When you are the majority it doesn’t seem like what you are doing is offensive until you get a taste of the other side.

In the end, this is my long winded way of saying that as long as everyone’s tax dollars go to fund public schools then no religion belongs in that safe place where we send out children to learn.

**Edited to add: please be respectful in the comments section. Everyone has different religious/non-religious views. I have and will continue to delete comments that I find to be hurtful, rude or bullying to any one of any religion or of no religion. I understand that religion is a sensitive topic but ask that everyone please be respectful.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2011 2:35 am

    errmmm …. amen to that
    A person does not need to be in the minority to see this point. They only have to be reasonable in view.

  2. December 9, 2011 3:09 am

    My daughter has attends a public school (Long Island NY) and there isn’t PRAYER of any kind. However, during the holidays they have performed Christmas, Hanukkah and Kawanzza songs. She has practicing Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Jehovah Witness and Atheist classmates. I am Agnostic and she is being raised that way.
    I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools for 13 years. I remember as a young child being told to pray for the souls of the Jewish people and Communists, I remeber feeling it wasn’t right and questioning it, which led to a phone call home (one of many) to my (non Catholic, but Armenian Apostolic Christian, major issue through out my years in Catholic school) mother.
    I for one don’t want GROUP PRAYER of any type in our public schools. I do however support a child’s right to PRIVATE prayer, my daughter has witnessed children of various faiths saying a private blessing before lunch, or for example during Ramadan they would allow Muslim children to go to a separate room at lunch time so they wouldn’t have to watch other kids eat.
    I do believe that there is a place for the discussion of religions specifically the history, customs etc, in public schools. I think awarenss and education leads to tolerance and acceptance which will hopefully lead to one less child feeling alone and isolated the way you did in school.

    • December 9, 2011 3:22 am

      What a wonderful well thought out comment! THANK YOU!

      First, I think the fact that I live in what is commonly called “The Bible Belt” here in Texas is the first problem. I do live in Austin which is a more liberal city and not as close minded as other smaller towns in Texas. I do, however, hear of people growing up in other bigger cities (usually not in the south) where religious tolerance is not only accepted but practiced.

      I think you bring up an EXCELLENT point about a child’s right to private prayer. I support that 100% just as I support a child’s right to not pray. Great point and discussion right there!

      I also 100% agree that there is a place for religious discussion just as you mentioned above as a way to spread knowledge and tolerance. Absolutely! We tend to be afraid of what we do not know. That fear can sometimes turn into uglier emotions. By teaching kids about religions from a historical standpoint it helps kids not be afraid of what is difference therefore breeding a culture of acceptance. I think there are ways to do it, however. I rememeber discussing WW II in school and reading the Diary of Anne Frank. I was constantly singled out by the teacher and instead of it making me feel included I felt excluded and “different”…my point being there are good and bad ways to teach about religion without making any one child feel isolated. Unfortunately in my Texas public education that was not the case.

    • December 9, 2011 10:13 am

      I love this comment. It is so wonderful to hear communities including everyone! I wish I could put it down in writing the way you both have. I was having trouble justifying my feelings about the public school my daughter attends being so confused on the winter holiday season. I was offended when people told me it was a CHRISTMAS program at school and I should drop it. If I wanted my daughter to stare at a nativity scene I would choose to take her to one. I think pubic school should keep it secular and light hearted. Everyone should be able to enjoy the season and feel included. Private prayer and quiet moments should be the norm. I could go on and on about coaches and teachers leading Christian prayer in environments that include many different religions…

  3. Stephanie permalink
    December 9, 2011 7:38 am

    I agree Kelly! The actual practice of religion has no place in the public school system. But the allowance of private prayer should be allowed.

  4. Amanda permalink
    December 9, 2011 8:32 am

    As I was reading your post, it dawned on me that it is amazing how different someone’s view can be based on where they’re standing. I had no idea you felt so isolated and I am so sorry you did. High school is a hard enough time as it is just with all the other junk. 🙂 Thanks for sharing how you felt, Kelly.
    I, being a Christian in that same high school, also knew only a handful of real Christians – albeit more than 2 – (and I’m not talking about the ones that check the “Christian” religion box just because they don’t know what else to check). I remember being patronized because I was the Christian “good girl”. I am not sure how any of that is relevant, I guess just to say that being in the “majority” can be difficult too. Although, I will say that 99.9% of the time being in the minority is definitely harder.
    As far as the religion in public school, well, thankfully we don’t have to deal with that issue. 🙂
    We are able to teach our children / pray with them / disciple them whenever we want, without fear of getting in trouble / getting them in trouble – and I am very thankful for that. 🙂 I do think it is foolish to never educate your children about any religion but your own. I do not think ignorance in this area is beneficial to anyone.

    • December 10, 2011 1:05 am

      Such good points Amanda! I had no idea that you had felt judged for being a real Chrisitan. How you felt is no different then how I felt.

      I am just glad that we are friends! My oldest friend! What 27 years now! Wow…we’re old! 🙂

  5. December 9, 2011 11:14 am

    I completely agree with you!

  6. December 9, 2011 1:13 pm

    The few years I was in public school I can remember celebrating all the winter holidays and I thought it was so cool. I agree though, no one religion should be focused on and prayer doesn’t really have a place I don’t think.

  7. December 9, 2011 1:22 pm

    I grew up in Cincinnati, and attended public schools. I don’t remember religion being a large part of our education, but then again, I was in the majority so there may have been things that I didn’t notice. There was NEVER a group prayer or anything. When I went to a Clemson football game this year, I was surprised that they say a prayer before kickoff of football games. It seemed very strange to me.

    I love csh824’s comments about teaching about religionS in school. I do believe that while not one religion should be “observed” by public schools, allowing students to practice their religion without hinderances or calling them out should be done. Don’t necessarily do a group prayer, but perhaps allow a time for meditation when a child can do whatever they like? I don’t know. Very interesting viewpoint.

  8. December 12, 2011 10:29 am

    AMEN from one jewish girl to another! i couldnt agree more. there’s just no need for it. I went to jewish camp and that was where i really felt connected to my faith.

  9. December 12, 2011 4:41 pm

    I agree. I think religion belongs in the home. If I decide my kids need more religion in their schooling, I’ll either look into private schools or homeschool. Public Schools need to remain neutral and, well, public.

    I would love to see more general religious studies in the curriculum, so that kids can learn about all the major world religions.

  10. December 13, 2011 1:12 pm

    A really interesting post and comments! I didn’t grow up in a religious area and I don’t have kids so I can’t truly relate but I do completely agree with your points that one religion shouldn’t be pushed on all, especially not in a public school. Personally although I believe in ‘something’ it is certainly not a god, I don’t follow any religion but I respect people who do. Like one of the commenters above said, I think it would be great if kids were allowed meditation time during which they could meditate, pray, just sit quietly and reflect. I think that would benefit everyone! I don’t necessarily think there should be more religious studies in school either but perhaps cultural studies would be more beneficial? Learning about one another cultures and beliefs whilst not solely being centered around religion… just my thoughts though! Thanks for a great post! 🙂

  11. Courtney permalink
    December 13, 2011 2:35 pm

    Kelly, your post really made me think. While I have conflicting thoughts and feelings. I understand everybody’s issues with the public schools and prayer. Its very unfortunate how people single others out because of religion. It Isn’t the basis of every religion or denomination to love others and not to judge one another?

    I personally went to Catholic school and to an extremely Conservative Christian school from Kindergarten-12th grade. I am a Christian and I am active in my faith. However, I have had conflicting issues with religion and faith the past few year. I don’t agree with the super judgmental extremists of any religion. Why judge, that is God’s place, Allah’s or the Universe’s place or whatever you believe. Bottom line its not our place as human beings to judge. I went to high school with many Christian extremists, and didn’t really agree with them and they way they gave off the air that I was a sinner if I was not as conservative as they were. However, I now live in New York City, which most people think of as a place of religious tolerance, but I have been persecuted more for my faith here in the past few years than ever before. It really makes me sad, as least I believe something and have a sense spirituality, its better than not believing in anything or having no spirituality whatsoever.

    On the other hand since I lived in NYC I have embraced learning about other people’s religion’s and beliefs. The Jewish faith is the basis of my faith, so I love learning more about the traditions and customs. Muslim is a lot like Christianity in many ways as well, so I like learning about those similarities. I have some yoga teachers that don’t really claim any religion, but embrace spirituality as a whole. They believe in the energy of the universe. They are such calm people and always are offering mantras of love and peace, and not judgement. I wish I was taught an all encompassing religious class that explored all religions when I was in school, but understand that there shouldn’t be a forced prayer, perhaps just a moment of silence for people to pray or reflect on their own. Peace and Love to all and best wishes for 2012.

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