The following article is an opinion piece by the author and represents the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
God and the Bible in Public Schools
If you have a child or children in public school, if you are a student in a public school, if you work in a public school, even if you think that maybe one day you will have a child that will attend a public school, then this one is for you. If you think public school is “Da Debil” and nothing good happens there, this is also for you.
Those that don’t know me may think that I have a lucrative career as a missionary, who doubles his income by writing a faith based column for All On Georgia. The truth is, I work in a public high school, and I use my free time for ministry. I balance my faith with my responsibilities as an educator, and believe it or not, sometimes those things coincide… and zero laws are broken.
As Christians in America, we have perpetuated the falsehood that on June 25, 1962, the United States Supreme Court ruled that God was no longer allowed in schools. This is the result of two different cases. The first: Engel vs Vitale, the court ruled that a school wide prayer constituted an establishment of religion and violated the First Amendment. The next year, the court disallowed Bible readings in school via the District vs Schempp for similar reasons.
Here are the facts of those rulings as they pertain to students, and teachers; because of Engel vs. Vitale, no one can be forced to participate in a prayer. This basically means that there can’t be a school wide prayer over an intercom that everyone has to participate in, or anything of that nature. Students can still pray, whenever and wherever they choose. Alone or in groups. So long as they don’t interrupt normal educational operations. Before school, at lunch, between classes, in a club, even during class, as long as it is not a disruption, students can pray in school. Teachers may also pray. They may pray with other teachers. They may pray with students. Teachers just can’t require an entire class to “bow their heads and close their eyes.” As Christians, it would not be beneficial to do that anyway.
The best part about prayer is that it cannot be outlawed. If we can gather a thought in our head, we can pray. The Bible says in Psalm 139:2 that God knows our thoughts. If our thoughts, which are only known to ourselves and God, are prayerful, then that’s the same as saying a prayer out loud. Furthermore, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray continually.” This includes at home, school, work, or anywhere else a believer may go. (Just please don’t close your eyes to pray while driving!)
The affect of District vs Schempp, and Bible readings being disallowed, is similar the decision on prayer. Students may possess, read, talk about and even distribute Bibles. No one can force a student to read, or participate in the reading of the Bible, but it has by no means been “removed” from schools. Teachers may also possess, and read their Bibles. Teachers can even discuss their faith with students, as long as the student initiates the conversation, especially in a club setting like Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I know many teachers who have a Bible in their room. I know a teacher that reads his Bible at his morning duty station. This falls inside of the first amendment.
If you take nothing else away from this article, please understand that God is still allowed in public schools. We can pray. We can read our Bibles. God is still working there. Our school curriculum includes things like The Protestant Reformation, and the Great Awakening. I’ve even been in classes where things like Calvinism and Arminianism were discussed. We discuss people like Martin Luther, Paul the Apostle, and Jesus Christ as they all have their place in history, having influenced the world even for non-believers. Some schools even teach the Bible in a historical context as an elective class.
We are commanded in the Bible to love our neighbors, so we should be respectful, but our God-given, inalienable rights cannot be taken away because it makes someone else uncomfortable.
Danny Burnham Religion Contributor