The Dangers of Religious Instruction in Public Schools

Should we teach religion in public schools? And if so, how?

John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics
1 Brookings Drive / CB 1066
Washington University
St. Louis, MO 63130

By Annie Laurie Gaylor

January 7, 2014

vjeronaukWhen I heard the question, “Should we teach religion in public schools?” it made me cringe. Why? The United States is currently in the unenviable position of being near the bottom of the list of industrialized nations when it comes to teaching evolution in our public schools. As a consequence, at least half of adults outright embrace creationism and reject evolution. The rejection of reason, this religious revival we’re still in the midst of, is imperiling our international standing. How can a scientifically illiterate nation compete in global market? What does it mean for our future when half our population rejects fact and accepts fable? Supreme Court litigant Vashti McCollum often responded, in response to the question about teaching religion in the schools: If we teach religion, whose religion? It’s nearly always the dominant religion that is “taught,” with token references to other religions thrown in.It is in this context that we must consider whether typical public school teachers—particularly teachers at the lower level—can truly be trusted to be objective about “teaching” religion.

Continue reading “The Dangers of Religious Instruction in Public Schools”

Records found for 796 children believed buried at former Irish orphanage

news/world

http://www.thestar.com/news/world.htmlRecords found for 796 children believed buried at former Irish orphanage

Catholic Church faces fresh accusations after researcher suggests former septic tank filled with bones is final resting place for children of unwed mothers.

By: Shawn Pogatchnik The Associated Press, Published on Tue Jun 03 2014

Correction – June 24, 2014

BRING ME THE CHILDREN!When I heard the question, “Should we teach religion in public schools?” it made me cringe. Why? The United States is currently in the unenviable position of being near the bottom of the list of industrialized nations when it comes to teaching evolution in our public schools. As a consequence, at least half of adults outright embrace creationism and reject evolution. The rejection of reason, this religious revival we’re still in the midst of, is imperiling our international standing. How can a scientifically illiterate nation compete in global market? What does it mean for our future when half our population rejects fact and accepts fable?
It is in this context that we must consider whether typical public school teachers—particularly teachers at the lower level—can truly be trusted to be objective about “teaching” religion. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is continually contacted by students and parents who encounter teachers and principals who view their captive audience of students as a ripe mission field for recruitment. We handle more than 2,000 complaints a year by members of the public concerned about violations of the separation between church and state, and the vast majority of these concern violations in our public schools. We have to closely monitor our public schools to comply with more than 60 years of clear precedent barring prayer and devotional instruction in our public schools. We’ve recently had to complain in more than one state about kindergarteners being forced to pray by their teachers!
This year marks the 65th anniversary of the landmark McCollum v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, barring religious instruction in our public schools. Jim McCollum was the only child in his elementary school not participating in religious classes. He was persecuted, and so was his family, for pointing out that it’s up to parents to instruct their children in religious beliefs. It’s also the 50th anniversary of Abington v. Schempp, barring bible-reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. The plaintiffs in both these cases became pariahs for speaking out against religion in their public schools. Unfortunately, even today, students who stick up for separation of church and state still often become outcasts, as demonstrated by the mistreatment of high school student Jessica Ahlquist last year. After she won a federal ruling in Rhode Island removing a prayer banner from her public high school, Jessica at one point had to be accompanied to school by police escort. She retreated to private tutoring after repeated and vicious threats of violence and retribution. Religion in our public schools creates divisiveness, and awareness of religious differences often builds walls between students.
In 1890, Catholic parents in my state of Wisconsin brought suit against the practice of devotional reading of the (Protestant) bible in the public schools. In concurring with a ruling that declared such bible reading unconstitutional, a Wisconsin State Supreme Court justice wisely noted:
There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed.
Devotional instruction and religious exercises, of course, are very different from academic instruction—learning “about” religion. But the very way this question is posed, using the singular “religion,” rather than plural “religions,” reveals one of the innate dangers of such instruction. Supreme Court litigant Vashti McCollum often responded, in response to the question about teaching religion in the schools: If we teach religion, whose religion? It’s nearly always the dominant religion that is “taught,” with token references to other religions thrown in.
In the best of all possible public school environments, it would be ideal, of course, to include, at least at the high school level, a class on comparative religion. Most social studies and geography classes already study the religious affiliations of an area, and some of their identifying tenets. U.S. students should not grow up in ignorance of the world religions. But by the same token, nor should they grow up in ignorance of the world’s dead religions, or the fact that the nonreligious and nonadherents are among the largest segments of the world, when it comes to religious identification. Today in the United States fully one in five adults and one in three young persons identifies as “nonreligious.” If we’re going to teach religion in the public schools, we must “teach atheism” as well. Are Americans prepared to do that in a fair and neutral manner? Will teachers point out that the nonreligious segment is the second largest “denomination,” after Catholics in the United States? Ultimately, the object of any public school class, no matter the subject, ought to be to teach critical thinking skills. Are religionists willing to agree that children should be taught in public schools to question religion?
Perhaps it is religionists who should be wary of “teaching religion” in public schools. Atheists and freethinkers are often much better educated about religion and the bible than typical believers. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public life released a survey several years ago finding that when it comes to religious knowledge, atheists and agnostics score higher than any believers, who were often woefully ignorant of the tenets of their own religions. Members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation often tell us they came to their rejection of religion after reading the bible. A dispassionate and academic study of religions’ claims, as opposed to devotional memorization and parroting of the more palatable passages of the bible, almost inevitably will lead any thinker to realize: There are thousands of religions in the world, all claiming to be the One Truth Faith. They can’t all be right … Maybe, they’re all wrong!

 

Religion: a wretched excursion into a world of illusion and ignorance.

McBrolloks
Religion: a wretched excursion into a world of illusion and ignorance. (DBS)

June 4, 2014

Just when you think the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t get any worse, this story gets released. This proves that thousands of children actually died while incarcerated by the church after they were forcibly removed from their mothers, who by the way was also incarcerated, because they were not married at the time they had the children. While in their custody, and because of the churches neglect and abuse, thousands of children died. Their bodies were unceremoniously dumped into mass graves all over the country. In this case dumped in a sewage tank. They are obviously covering up a lot more. Now the bastards wants to pray for the kids and “do the right thing” by putting up a memorial???? Fucking monsters! Murderers!!!!

Continue reading “Religion: a wretched excursion into a world of illusion and ignorance.”

Pope asks forgiveness for ‘evil’ of child abuse by priests

Fri Apr 11, 2014

(Reuters) – Pope Francis made his first public plea for forgiveness on Friday for the “evil” committed by priests who molested children, using some of his strongest words yet on the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis.

The Argentine-born pontiff said the Church, which last month named a high-level group on the scandal including an abuse victim, had to take an stronger stand on a scandal that has haunted it for more than two decades, and indicated there would be repercussions for perpetrators.

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil that some priests – quite a few in number, (although) obviously not compared to the number of all priests – to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” he told members of the International Catholic Child Bureau.

 

“The church is aware of this … personal, moral damage carried out by men of the church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and to the sanctions that must be imposed.

“On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children,” Francis said in unscripted comments as he addressed the children’s rights body.

The comments, originally in Spanish, were translated by the Vatican Radio news service.

Francis did not specify whether “sanctions” would be church-enforced or involve civil justice authorities. In February the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child accused the Vatican of systematically turning a blind eye to decades of abuse and attempting to cover up sex crimes.

The scathing report urged the church to immediately hand over its records on the abuse of tens of thousands of children, immediately remove anyone suspected of abuse from their post and refer the matter to civil legal authorities. The Vatican called the report unfair and ideologically slanted.

Francis’ words strike a different tone to comments he made in March to an Italian newspaper in which he defended the church’s record.

“The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more, and yet the church is the only one that is being attacked,” he was quoted as saying by Corriere della Sera in comments decried by victims’ rights groups.

“JUST TALK”

Criticism that Francis has not taken a bold enough stand on the issue, and did not meet sexual abuse victims in Italy and in a July trip to Brazil, has been a rare black spot in the overwhelmingly positive response to the pontiff in the 13 months he has been in office.

In particular, abuse groups have called on the church to discipline bishops accused of moving known child molesters from parish to parish, allowing abuse to continue.

“It’s nice to have expressions of concern. But actions need to happen, and people have been waiting an awfully long time for that to occur,” said Terry McKiernan, founder of BishopAccountability.org, which documents abuse cases.

“The best thing he could have done today would have been to step up to the microphone and announce that he is beginning to remove bishops who have behaved criminally in keeping priests in ministries where they don’t belong, moving them around so that they continue to be a danger to children.”

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which advocates for child protection and urges greater transparency in the church, said Francis’ words should be received with caution.

“We beg the world’s Catholics: be impressed by deeds, not words. Until the pope takes decisive action that protects kids, be skeptical and vigilant,” SNAP Outreach Director Barbara Dorris said.

“This may be the first time a pope has talked of sanctions against complicit bishops. But that is all it is: talk.”

Under Francis’ direction, the Vatican announced in December the creation of a new dedicated group to help the church deal with the abuse crisis. Its members were named in late March.

The body of clerics and lay people includes Marie Collins, a survivor of abuse in Ireland in the 1960s who has campaigned for the protection of children and for justice for victims.

Collins, a founding trustee of the Irish abuse victims’ organization One in Four, has in the past pushed for punishment for bishops who failed to implement church rules on the protection of children.

Child abuse litigation has cost the Catholic Church some $3 billion in settlements in the United States alone, and shaken the moral authority of leaders of the world’s largest religious denomination.

(Reporting by Naomi O’Leary; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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