Resources for Troubled times

December 2003

If inquiries to BridgeBuilders and the current temper of the national media are any indication, the tension between religious and secular voices in our culture seems to be increasing almost daily. Numerous factors contribute for this:

  • Politicians often benefit from polarizing the culture as they gear up for a Presidential election year. The politics behind judicial appointees in the Senate only creates greater suspicion and animosity.
  • The pending Supreme Court decision on the Pledge of Allegiance and the turmoil over the Ten Commandments by the judge in Alabama have stirred up those who see the culture as hostile to people of faith.
  • The success of gay rights advocacy groups in passing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws and enforcing them by lawsuits in conservative communities, along with attempts to push for legalization of same-sex marriages have left opposing groups resentful.

Now more than ever, school districts need to ensure they do not add to the animosity growing in our culture. Fortunately two new resources may be of help to you.

Do you and your staff know what can and can’t be done regarding religious liberties in the public school? Correctly applied the current consensus under case law can help you build goodwill with diverse constituencies in your district. Conversely, any glaring mistakes can engender mistrust and suspicion, especially since every school district Superintendent signed a statement last year certifying to the federal government that they have no policies that restrict the religious liberty rights of students.

If you need a refresher course, think about what you would do in these situations.

  • During a class discussion of the U.S. role in the Middle East, two students claim that the U.S. is obligated to "protect the Holy Land because America is a Christian nation."
  • A student wears a T-shirt to class that reads, "Hell will keep you warm" on the front and "Are you saved?" on the back.
  • In response to a speech prompt that asks students to give a seven-minute speech about the most influential person in their lives, one student talks about the Dalai Lama and Buddhist teachings.

Then go to the article Religion and Education: Walking the Line in Public Schools in the November Issue of Phi Delta Kappan Magazine and test your answers to these and nine other common situations in the classroom. Their answers are a helpful reflection of current law.

Also Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation has just released Fastback #515 in their ongoing series. This one is titled Disarming Conflict Through Common Ground Thinking, which I had the pleasure of writing at their request. You can read the Introduction to that piece and find information about ordering it on our website at <>.

I hope you take advantage of these resources. They are excellent tools to help guide you through the treacherous waters of religious and cultural conflicts.

Wayne Jacobsen, President,
BridgeBuilders

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Worldviews Education Watch (WEW) is a free service provided by BridgeBuilders offering the latest information on religious liberty and public education drawn from court cases, policies and current events. It will also share examples of successful partnerships and cooperation between public schools and faith communities.

To subscribe send email to: waynej@bridge-builders.org and request, "Subscribe Worldviews Watch."

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