“Shut up and Let the Christians have their moment!”
There are many things that we, as teachers, have working against us. There are antiquated systems and people who don’t give us respect. There are state standards and angry parents and students who just don’t care. But, just to make our job even more complicated, there are also legislators who think that they know more than we do.
I get annoyed by bureaucrats just as much as the next person (which is to say, once every couple of months or so), but I get especially annoyed by that special breed of elected officials who think that religion belongs in public schools. And, of course, “religion” to most politicians just means Christianity. I really don’t see what is so hard to understand about the separation of church and state.
Apparently, the people who are chosen to lead us can’t wrap their heads around that fact that religion belongs at home. Katrina Jackson, a Louisiana representative, has submitted a bill in her state that would require each classroom to, “participate in the Lord’s Prayer and the ‘Pledge of Allegiance To The Flag’ [sic] at the commencement of each school day”. Now, she states that each child’s participation would be voluntary, but let’s be realistic here. Do you really think that a 1st grader is going to be willing to stand out among his peers for not reciting something that everyone else is?
I guess what really annoys me about the audacity of her even submitting this bill is the underlying assumption that everyone is Christian, and that everyone else can just sit down, shut up, and let the Christians have their moment. Jackson makes sure to try to explain her suggestion by stating that “students should be reminded that the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that the pilgrim fathers recited when they came to America in search for freedom”. That is her rationale for having students say the Lord’s Prayer. The bill mentions that, “students should be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual’s personal religious beliefs in any manner”. Yes, that will work — because tacit endorsement of a religion doesn’t influence a specific religious belief at all.
I haven’t seen much in the news about this bill, which leads me to believe that Jackson’s fellow politicians did not hop on board with her idea. Still, I think there should have been widespread information about this in the press. After all, Jackson will need to be up for reelection at some point, and I think that the people of Louisiana should know just what their elected officials are trying to get passed. Maybe all the nonreligious people of Louisiana – and, just for shits and giggles, let’s throw in the non-Christian religious folks, like the Buddhists and Muslims and the former Hindu, Louisiana governor (and Republican sweetheart) Bobby Jindal – wouldn’t take too kindly at Jackson’s poorly-disguised plan to push Christianity on the masses through the public schools. And hopefully, Jackson won’t be reelected.
As teachers, we need to hold tightly to the belief that church and state remain separate. Each little invasion by religious groups could be the leak that breaks the dam. Don’t let something that seems small become the norm. Otherwise, one day, we could find ourselves all teaching a myth as the truth.