In too many cases, Christian children in public school classrooms are being forced to act like atheists. After all, that is effectively what is happening when they are told not to talk about Jesus, not to sing about Jesus, and not to write about Jesus.
A very small, but vocal, minority pound away at teachers and school officials, intimidating them into thinking that the public school must be a “religion-free zone.”
Their attacks have resulted in the religious aspects of even Christmas being banned, Christian students silenced, and teachers censored. A climate of fear about religion surrounds too many schools.
But you and I have a great opportunity to stop this discrimination against our children who want to express their faith at school. January 16 is Religious Freedom Day. And President Bush’s special proclamation will ask schools to commemorate the day.
While many public schools are denying students’ rights to freely express their faith, the US Department of Education has issued guidelines that clearly list and explain those rights. For example, students have the legal right to express their faith in their assignments; they can witness to their classmates; they can read their Bibles at school; and they can pray. But many teachers have never seen these guidelines and believe they cannot allow these or any other religious expressions in their classrooms.
It is fitting that this year Martin Luther King Day is also celebrated on January 16. King’s religious faith was the foundation of his fight for civil rights. And it was religious freedom in America that allowed him to express his faith and the dreadful evil and move the entire nation.
King was explicit about Christianity’s centrality in seeking justice through nonviolent protest. For example, he required that volunteers in the Birmingham campaign sign a commitment card pledging themselves to “meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus,” “Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love,” and “Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.”
While many people will commemorate Martin Luther King Day, very few people are even aware of the president’s proclamation of Religious Freedom Day. As a result, Gateways to Better Education is leading a national awareness campaign for Religious Freedom Day, and I encourage you to get behind it. Gateways is an organization helping public schools teach Judeo-Christian history, thought, and values. It has developed ReligiousFreedomDay.com as a special website to give you everything you need to commemorate the day in your church, your home, and your school.
This year, you can bring more freedom to your public school by asking your children’s teachers to join the president in commemorating Religious Freedom Day with their students and to read regulations issued by the Department of Education. And in your church on Sunday, January 15, distribute information on students’ religious liberties. The law is on our side.
Resources and the fact sheet are available online at BreakPoint.
This year, at the same time they commemorate Martin Luther King Day, public schools can promote civil liberties and stop discrimination against children of faith by also commemorating Religious Freedom Day. You need to set them straight, just as King set us straight a generation ago.
- (This update courtesy of the Breakpoint with Chuck Colson.)