The American Religious Experience Essay

1209 words - 5 pages

In America today we all have choices to make in regards to our religious beliefs. Many young children are brought up today confused about religion and the significance it plays in their lives. There are many sanctions and rules now on what can and can't be thought or displayed to people on public property, but it wasn't always like this. In this paper I will be discussing the American religious experience in regards to the impact religion has in the public schools.Since 1776 the United States has grown from a nation of relatively few religious differences to one of countless religious groups. This expanding pluralism challenges the public schools to deal creatively and sensitively with students professing many religions or no religion. The following questions and answers concern religious holidays and public education, a subject often marked by confusion and conflict. Teachers and school officials, as well as parents and students, should approach this discussion as an opportunity to work cooperatively for the sake of good education rather than at cross purposes. School districts developing guidelines about religious holidays will want to base their policies in the shared commitment of respect for individual religious beliefs expressed in the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty. This means that public schools may neither promote nor inhibit religious belief or nonbelief. Drafters of such guidelines also will want to take account of the role of religion in history and culture.Awareness of legal issues is essential in considering religion and public education, but the law does not supply answers to every question. Within the current legal framework, schools-their boards, administrators, teachers, parents, and students-must make many practical decisions regarding religious holidays. This work can be done only by showing sensitivity to the needs of every student and willingness to steer a course between the avoidance of all references to religion on the one hand and the promotion of religion on the other.The Supreme Court has ruled that public schools may not sponsor religious practices (Engel v. Vitale, 1962; Abington v. Schempp, 1963) but may teach about religion. While having made no definitive ruling on religious holidays in the schools, the Supreme Court let stand a lower federal court decision stating that recognition of holidays may be constitutional if the purpose is to provide secular instruction about religious traditions rather than to promote the particular religion involved (Florey v. Sioux Falls School District, 8th Cir., 1980).As far as religious holidays are concerned the study of religious holidays may be included in elementary and secondary curricula as opportunities for teaching about religions. Such study serves the academic goals of educating students about history and cultures as well as about the traditions of particular religions in a pluralistic society.When should teaching about religious holidays take place?On the...

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