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russell lester

Orchardist, Grange

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Should U.S. schools be available to staff members to conduct after school "classes" on "the six big questions about God"?

In my local elementary school I have found that there is a councilor that on her resume shows 3 years of volunteer work with the Youth Through Young Lives Ministry as a qualification, I have found since then that many volunteers of the Ministry have sought jobs where contact and influence over young children is maximized. The councilor of my 8 year old sons school is now holding classes after school on school property about the six big questions about god, I looked they are not does god exist?
In my opinion this violates the letter and the intent of the separation of church and state, as defined in the u s constitution, however I would like to hear other viewpoints and I would most like to hear from people with personal experience as ministers or volunteers with Young Lives, or with people who were ministered too by them.

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  • Oct 24 2013: I find that there are far bigger issues in the world to deal with. I, of course, assume several positive things about the person leading it. For example, they are doing it with the best intent of helping kids, that they are doing so appropriately, etc.

    Is this scraping the edge of the law? Probably. If she is leading it as an educator, then there is an issue there. If she is leading it in her free time, well, then that might very well be different. That is for the school and the law to decide.

    I ponder this though, at what point do we want to eliminate any positive actions by adults who are trying to support students in a positive manner? We, as a country, seem hellbent on sterilizing our educational environment and requiring parents to parent their kids, but then we enroll these same kids in every program possible so that others can raise them. We want our kids raised with positive role models and standards, but many families fail to model that.

    So, my original point is that there are far more important issues that I see as worth focusing on, like tolerance of others feelings and attitudes, than on the odd person or group who might be doing some good for some students.
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    Sep 27 2013: A while back I hosted a conversation on a similar topic.
    The information in the conversation might help you glean some insight into the separation of church and state.
    Here is a link to the conversation.

    http://www.ted.com/conversations/18971/be_the_change_do_unto_othe.html
  • Sep 27 2013: I quote the following passages from the legal interpretation of the practice of "Religious Freedom" within the school ground, but outside the school hours, cited by Fritzie.
    "WHAT ABOUT RELIGIOUS CLUBS OR BIBLE DISTRIBUTION?
    Student-organized Bible clubs are OK as long as three conditions are met:
    (1) the activity must take place during non-school hours; (2) school officials can't be involved in organizing or running the club, and (3) the school must make its facilities available to all student groups on an equal basis. So your Bible club couldn't be the only group allowed access to the school grounds. Neither could your school let other student groups use the building for meetings and events and deny your Bible club the same opportunity.
    The organized distribution of Bibles or any other holy book during the school day is unconstitutional, even if teachers aren't the ones actually handing out the Bibles, and even if they're not used as a part of the school's educational program. That's because the school building or grounds are still being used to spread a religious doctrine at a time when students are required to be there.
    That's what religious freedom is all about -- you are free to worship as you choose -- even if that means not at all."

    So, my interpretation is that as long as the school doesn't discriminate lending spaces to non-profit or charity activities, and does not treat the activities as required work for any student, then it should be treated as the religious freedom activities within the school ground, but outside of the official student learning period, then it is interpreted as legal.
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    Sep 27 2013: The Supreme Court has spoken on this one. Here is an ACLU explanation of what is and is not consistent with the Constitution: https://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/your-right-religious-freedom
  • Sep 26 2013: Seems like a pretty clear violation of separation of church and state.
    A government employ working as an educator in an official capacity shouldn't be preaching religion to his/her students.

    Granted, its hardly cataclysmic, but its still nothing that should be encouraged.