Taking God Out of School

By   •   October 19, 2012

America at the Crossroads is a series of articles that examines aspects of American culture that are of concern to people of faith.

For a high school student in small-town Texas, it doesn’t get much better than Friday Nights.

It’s one of those rare instances where the attendance at a high school football game can exceed the city’s population limits.

NBC even made a TV series about the phenomenon called “Friday Night Lights.”

But under those lights in Kountz, Texas, a town of about 2,000 less than 90 miles northeast of Houston, controversy has swirled.

And it turns out someone wants badly to snuff out the Kountz High School cheerleaders’ Light.

A law suit has been filed — and trial set for June 24 of next year — in an effort to ban all Bible verses and religious sayings from posters and banners at Kountz High School.

The school officials caved under pressure after cheerleaders used scripture like Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ…” and Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us,” to take a stand for God.

Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin advocacy group that claims the messaging violates the First Amendment—once notified of these cheerleaders’ stand—were quickly dialing up their lawyers.

But District Judge Steve Thomas granted an injunction that will allow the religious-themed banners to be displayed, pending the outcome of next summer’s trial.

A momentary win for keeping God in public schools, although the outcome is still TBD.

“Anyone who is expressing their faith should be celebrated, from my perspective, in this day and age of instant gratification, this ‘me-first’ culture that we see all too often,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry told the Associated Press.

“We’re a nation built on the concept of free expression of ideas. We’re also a culture built on the concept that the original law is God’s law, outlined in the Ten Commandments.”

Separation of Church and State?

If you want to catch someone off balance with a trivia question, ask them if the phrase “Separation of Church and State” appears in the U.S. Constitution. Then ask them if it appears in the First Amendment.

Both answers are no.

Although in 1947 language was added in the First Amendment to allude to the “Separation,” that term doesn’t exist today.

In fact, most scholars trace the phrase “Separation of Church and State” to a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut.  It was picked up by a Massachusetts newspaper.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-religious freedom groups from hammering the public school system across this country. Here’s just a sampling of how God is being pushed out of the classroom and school buildings across this country—all examples from the last eight months:

Jackson, Miss: The ACLU has asked West Lincoln Attendance Center to stop prayer at school functions by Oct. 26 or face a possible lawsuit.

New York City: Michelle Schindelheim, 47, an English as a Second Language teacher at Bronx Middle School 301, was disciplined this week after she admitted to having her students pray to Jesus and sit in a circle and sing.

Poteet, Texas:  A 99-year tradition to pray both before and after a high school graduation ceremony ended in May after the valedictorian — an atheist — complained, a pro-separation group intervened and applied legal pressure.

Bellingham, Mass:  Stall Brook Elementary School decided to change the words to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” to “We Love the USA,” at a pep assembly in April. But after parents complained, the song was taken out altogether, then re-inserted after media onslaught.

Boston: A family sued to take the words “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance in February.

‘A Whole Different Worldview’

Gigi Savant has been teaching since the mid-’80s. She’s been in both public high schools and Christian schools, and she certainly does not like what she’s seeing in the public sector.

“Our nation was founded on Christian values of what’s right and what’s wrong, founded on the Ten Commandments,” Savant said. “But if you remove the basis of scripture, it’s everything. It’s our world view. And it has cataclysmic results.”

Savant currently teaches at a Lakeland, Fla., school, where Classical Christian curriculum is being taught.  “We stress goodness, truth and beauty,” she said. “In public education, there is no standard of truth.”

Well, there is one standard, but it’s nowhere to be found in the public arena.

“The Bible teaches there is truth. Jesus is the truth, the way and the life,” Savant said. “Truth really is a person, the person of Jesus. When you remove the Bible as your standard, what becomes truth?”

Some of the practical ways she has seen God — and morality in general — being stripped from the halls of a public high school, include policies that make giving a simple Tylenol to a student require a note from the parent, while the same nurse can help the same child get an abortion with no parental involvement needed.

“I remember on the radio about 10 years ago debating when is it OK for a teenager to be involved in sexual activity,” she said. “Well, definitely by the time they’re 18 is fine, they said. And 16 is probably OK. Well, what about 14? Well, 14 is too young.

“But it’s all arbitrary. Who’s to say what’s right and wrong? Cultural norms will change.”

The future, as it pertains to public education, does not seem very bright to this veteran teacher. She hasn’t taught in the public classroom for years, but she has many friends who currently do and she hears the stories and contrasts them with what’s going on at her school.

“In a Christian situation, when a child comes into my classroom, Lord willing, I don’t see him as a person to be controlled,” she said. “He’s a child made in the image of God.  As a Christian teacher, my whole purpose is to bring out the gifts and abilities, to reflect God’s character.”

Any chance of this teaching style becoming widespread in our country?

Savant pauses, trying not to laugh at the question:

“It’s a whole different worldview. Can you learn math and science? Yes you can learn that. Can you learn a value-based education? Get to the heart of the matter? I don’t see how you can reclaim that in the public schools, barring a movement of God in our country.”

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