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.

  • http://jthughes.blogspot.com Jason Hughes

    You said: 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.

    A. Isn’t that what Sunday School and church are for? To learn about god?
    B. Many people of faith have intergrated science, education, and faith without a blip–why do you feel this is an issue for you?

    You also said: the least it can do is recognize the rights of parents and children to integrate religious education into a comprehensive, character-forming curriculum.
    A. This is why many families are home-schooling. This is also why many go to church and Sunday school. This is why you can choose a private school–as the government recognizes your right to instruct your children in religious matters as well as education.
    B. You make it sound as though “religion” is the only means of getting a “character-forming” education–does this follow for Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu families as well? Honestly, I’d like to know if you feel that your faith is the only one that can provide this; or if you believe a lot of differing world views, whether privatized or public, can accomplish this as well, just not within the current framework?

  • http://www.hubsandspokes.com marc

    I’ll take a crack at answering your questions, Jason.

    [i]A. Isn’t that what Sunday School and church are for? To learn about god?[/i]
    Sure. But because I believe that God is sovereign over [i]all[/i] areas of life, I also want my kids to learn about God at school and at home as well.

    [i]B. Many people of faith have intergrated science, education, and faith without a blip–why do you feel this is an issue for you?[/i]
    Well, I’d say that I’ve integrated science, education and faith pretty well in my life having received a private, Christian education. The issue isn’t that; it’s ensuring that parents (who are ultimately responsible for the education of their children – not the state) have as much flexibility and choice in determining what type of education their child recieves.

    [i]A. This is why many families are home-schooling. This is also why many go to church and Sunday school. This is why you can choose a private school–as the government recognizes your right to instruct your children in religious matters as well as education.[/i]
    While the government “recognizes the right” of parents to instruct their children in matters of moral formation, the government refuses to acknowledge that opting out of the government school will inevitably impose significant financial burdens on many families, in essence making the exercise of that right nearly impossible. “Sure, you can educate your child in the manner you see fit; however, just be sure to continue paying the exact same amount in taxes and fees to support your local public schools that you don’t use, and don’t expect any consideration from us to defray the costs of the private education either.”

    [i]B. You make it sound as though “religion” is the only means of getting a “character-forming” education–does this follow for Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu families as well? Honestly, I’d like to know if you feel that your faith is the only one that can provide this; or if you believe a lot of differing world views, whether privatized or public, can accomplish this as well, just not within the current framework?[/i]
    I have little doubt that there are a number of ways for a person to receive a character-forming education, and a lot of differing world-views can form “good people.” But you need to understand that I absolutely believe that my faith is the only one that can save my child’s soul. Therefore, I believe that it must be central to my child’s life in all its facets, including (and especially) in the area of education.

    I get the sense from a quick perusal of your blog that you aren’t a particularly religious person, so a lot of this stuff might not make a ton of sense to you. that’s fine. Let me sum it up for you this way: I believe that when our society says that public education is a priority, that’s a good thing. It becomes problematic, however, when the government is the only vendor of a “free” public education. Not only does this create a monopoly situation (higher cost; lower quality due to lack of competition), it creates a one-size-fits-all system that by necessity reduces the religious element of education to an afterthought. And so Jordan has it right in his summary: “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.”

  • http://blog.acton.org Jordan

    Thanks, Marc. I would only add briefly that you don’t have to agree that integration of religion into education is more effective at forming character, among other relevant concerns, but that as a parent I have a right to have my child inculcated into the tenets of my faith tradition.

    Recognizing the value of the home schooling movement seems to assume the validity of this assertion.

    Why is it then that the only worldview that is deemed worthy of receiving government subsidy is that of secular humanism? The government recognizes a faith education as a right but only one apparently that can be exercised by those who can afford to send their children to a parochial school or home school, neither of which does anything to relieve their share of the public education tax burden.