Acton Institute Powerblog

The Right to a Religious Education

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Sen. Dave Schultheis of Colorado has “proposed a ‘Public Schools Religious Bill of Rights’ to combat what he calls mounting, nationwide violations of students’ and school staffs’ constitutionally protected religious freedom.”

Without endorsing any particular elements of Schultheis’ bill, I have to admit that I have actually considered writing a piece on an idea like this before, a students’ bill of rights which includes the right to learn about God. It strikes me that for people who are religious, the current treatment of belief in God in public schools makes it practically impossible to integrate faith and learning.

In reality the only ones who are able to realize this right are those who can afford to send their children to a religious day school. That’s why we need education reform in this country so desperately. The poor who are forced to send their kids to public schools have no choice but to acquiesce before secularism.

Simply because government requires something to be done doesn’t mean that it has to be the provider. My state requires that I have car insurance if I drive a car, but I don’t buy my insurance from the state. Don’t let the cries against an “unfunded mandate” fool you. Whether in the form of vouchers or tax credits (given the constitutional issues involved in using vouchers to fund religious schools), change needs to come.

If the government is going to make K-12 education mandatory, the least it can do is recognize the rights of parents and children to integrate religious education into a comprehensive, character-forming curriculum. And since the government can’t be the one to administer religious instruction, education is a job best left up to private entities.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.

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