I don’t understand people who claim that our country is falling apart because we don’t have religious freedom anymore. “Our children don’t pray in school.” “Our children aren’t being taught about God.” I’m sorry, but if your children aren’t praying in school, it’s because they’re making their own choice not to. If your children aren’t being taught about God, it’s because you aren’t teaching them. School is not the place for mandated prayer time, and it’s not the place for catechism.
What is this notion that prayer has been brutally stripped from the classroom?
No child gets punished for taking a moment to bow her head and say a prayer in the lunch room before she eats. No child gets arrested for saying a prayer at his desk before he takes his spelling test. That’s why I don’t understand this claim that prayer isn’t in the schools anymore. What do these people want? They want their child’s calculus teacher to start the lesson with a prayer? They want the teacher to force the children to kneel down and pray together at the end of the day? What about people of different religions? Should we ship them away? Segregate our schools by religion? I don’t get it.
And what is this notion that kids aren’t allowed to be taught about God? That we don’t talk about religion and its role in history?
I just was flipping through the news channels and stopped on Glenn Beck’s show. I usually avoid this show, but I was so fascinated with the people speaking that I couldn’t change the channel. It was some kind of “mother’s forum” where the audience members were airing their grievances. Many were complaining about how their children don’t learn history anymore, so they’re losing their identities. Er, when was the last time these people sat through their children’s classes? Because I just sat through a 5th grade class last Thursday as a volunteer, and the whole time I was there they were learning about history. George Washington. This nation’s founding. It was pretty clearly a history lesson to me.
The people on this show were saying that their children weren’t being taught about how important religion was in the establishment of this land. Er, I’m pretty sure if you ask any mildly attentive high schooler why the pilgrims came to the Americas, they would tell you that they were seeking “religious freedom.” If you asked them if the founding fathers were religious, they would know that they most definitely were. In my own history classes, we discussed many different religions’ basic beliefs. We learned about who founded what, when, and why. We had a unit where everyone did a presentation on a different early-American religious group. As an eleventh grader, I taught a whole lesson about Joseph Smith. I didn’t get sent to jail. Neither did anyone else who taught about other religions, however unique or unconventional (or mainstream) they were.
This is what religious freedom is. We don’t impose our beliefs on others. We create an atmosphere where it’s safe to learn about all kinds of people and faiths. We don’t force anyone to adopt any behavior they don’t approve of. Children are allowed to pray in schools, but they aren’t forced to. We don’t hang the Ten Commandment’s from the ceiling, but we don’t punish people for keeping them in their hearts.
We live our religious beliefs within ourselves… it’s the way we act, the ideals we hold inside, the way we treat others, the way we choose to worship in our free time. We don’t need the government or our schools to enforce our own personal religious codes. We simply create a space where everyone can practice their beliefs “how, where, or what they may.” If you feel very strongly that a more personal view of religion and God needs to be infused with your child’s schooling, then more power to you. That’s why this country allows you to home school your child, to send your child to a private school, or even to start up your own charter school. We all have options. That’s what’s so great. We all are free to choose, regardless of whether we’re Muslim, Catholic, Jain, Mormon, or atheist.
The people on this Glenn Beck show were saying that they’re tired of the government trying to make us dependent on it for everything. Then why are they so insistent that the government enforce religion? It seems to me religion is a personal issue, taught in your home, fostered in your heart, and practiced on an individual level. I don’t understand its place in public schools beyond the scope of informing our children about the different belief systems that exist in our society.
One last thing and then I’ll cap it. The people on that show were also saying that we don’t live a free country anymore. They said that “we’re only partly free,” and one woman—a black woman, no less—asserted that after the fifties, everything began to fall apart. So I guess that granting civil rights to blacks and suffrage to women were all steps backwards in extending freedom to our citizens?
I think that their assertion that we’re not quite free wedged itself so deeply under my skin largely because of the movie I watched last night. Bryant and I watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a World War Two movie about a death camp, and it was still very fresh in my mind. I think I got so annoyed at the people on that show because I felt like they weren’t taking seriously what they were saying. They’re not free? Really? Not being free is not being able to voice your opinion for fear of serious repercussions, like the torture and murder of you and your family. Not being free is having to hide who you are—your heritage and your beliefs—because if people knew the truth, you would be ripped from your home and sent to a gas chamber. Not being free is not being able to help a stranger in need without being beaten to death by the authorities. Not being free is having to agree with the government no matter what.
Not being free is definitely not a Mormon hosting his own talk show on a cable network in a room full of women passionately voicing their disapproval of the President, his administration, and various aspects of our nation. That is freedom. It may bug the crap out of me, but it most definitely is freedom. And I’ll take it.