Should Religion Be Off-Limits in Public School?

Statement

Nothing religious should be allowed on public school grounds.

Q1 Analysis

This may be a Q1 violation if:

Q2 Analysis

This statement does not seem to be a Q2 violation, but may be depending on whether you think that religion should be completely absent from all government property.

Discussion

Separation of church and state means that a public school cannot endorse a particular religion. But does this imply that students cannot endorse a particular religion while they are on school grounds? And if so, should displaying symbols of religion be considered endorsing a religion?

If you think that students shouldn’t show their religion at school, then how will you determine what is considered a religious object? A T-shirt that mentions Jesus in a positive way is pretty clearly religious, but what about religiously mandated garments that do not explicitly show religious symbolism? Can Jesus Gonzales have a book bag with his first name embroidered on it? If a student is not allowed to bring a Bible to read during lunch time, how about other religious books? Or books that are not explicitly religious but have religious themes or subtext (such as The Scarlet Letter)? If religious speech is not allowed, are all mentions of God taboo — such as after someone sneezes or when cursing? Can one student give another student a Christmas present on campus? Can a member of the football team point to the sky after making a touchdown? Can a student insist on eating only kosher food? Or refuse lunch because she is fasting? Or not attend school on a religious holiday?

Will non-Judeo-Christian religious beliefs be equally off limits? What about a crystal necklace worn by someone who does not think that crystals have mystical powers? Are discussions of modern witchcraft or past religious practices allowed? Can Greek mythology be discussed?

Are expressions of specifically non-religious practices allowed if they would be frowned upon by a religious group? Can a student be openly not religious? Is a book on atheist philosophy taboo? What about a book on Communism? Or a book about evolution that criticizes creationism?

If these things are banned on school property, are they banned even when school is not in session? If clubs are allowed to meet on school grounds after school, are religious or atheistic clubs denied this right? What about non-religious clubs that discuss topics that may be related directly or indirectly to religion, such as history, politics, or literature?

If students are bound by certain school rules on their way to and from school, may they not discuss their religion on the way home? What if they go directly from school to a church? If an atheist student lends a theist student a book on atheism while off school grounds on a weekend, could this in any way become a school matter?

This is a topic on which some people assume that a zero tolerance policy is the easiest policy to define, but in general more thought is needed to keep the policy practicable.

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on January 11, 2011 at 9:54 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

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