According to news reports, elementary school students in Johnson County, Ky., were forced to perform an edited version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” purged of Bible verses after the school district barred religious references in holiday programs. Johnson County Schools Superintendent Thomas Salyer said that the district’s holiday programs had to comply with federal law, which he concludes prohibits teachers and faculty from promoting a specific religion at school:
"The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are very clear that public school staff may not endorse any religion when acting in their official capacities and during school activities. However, our district is fully committed to promote the spirit of giving and concern for our fellow citizens that help define the Christmas holiday."
A few hundred miles away, a local dispute over a high school homework assignment blew up social media when students at Riverside High School in Staunton, Va., in a world geography class, were asked to copy the Islamic statement of faith as a way to give students “an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.”
According to CNN, the statement of faith translates: “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.”
Augusta County Public School stated that “no lesson was designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student’s religious belief.”
Apparently, the notion that “public school staff may not endorse any religion when acting in their official capacities and during school activities” didn’t cross anyone’s mind in Augusta County? Then again, is including a statement from a faith in a lesson “endorsement” of religion? Is a verse of scripture quoted during a “holiday” performance “endorsement” of religion? Does the lesson or performance have to be “designed to promote a religious viewpoint” or does it do so just by existing?
The ACLU of Kentucky celebrated the censoring of the Bible verses there, while the ACLU of Virginia defended the teacher in Staunton. Confused much?
So, what’s the answer?
Education choice. Clearly, the government schools cannot meet the needs or desires of a diverse, pluralistic society. It’s time for more options and more freedom and allow parents and families to choose what they want “endorsed” or not.