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Essay on Religion in Public Schools

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The subject of religion in public schools is one that has been debated vigorously and passionately. The warriors from the Right and Left fail to appreciate the facts because they are caught up in the rhetoric and have difficulty viewing this emotional topic dispassionately (Haynes, 2011). Both sides are right about one thing: this is an important subject.
The debate on religion in the public school is complicated by the fact that there are two clauses dealing with religion in the First Amendment (Warnick, 2012). The Establishment Clause, which disallows the establishment by the government of any particular religion, and the Free Exercise Clause, which prohibits the state from proscribing the practice of religion, are a source of conflict and tension. The tension stems from the fact that upholding one clause can occur at the expense of the other, and thus, the state is forced to choose between them (Department of Education [DOE], 2003; Warnick, 2012).
This constitutional strain is sufficient warrant for all educators to examine carefully the subject of religion and to examine it in the light of the constitution and of federal, state, and local regulations. To ignore it is a foolhardy action and can lead to very serious consequences for all stakeholders. Due to this conflict, the US Department of Education (DOE) has found it necessary to issue clarifications as to what is and is not permissible. One such clarification was issued in 2003 and entitled Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools (DOE, 2003).
While the constitutional issue is a powerful motivator, there are other reasons that educators must inform themselves about religious practice and belief. One of these...


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...s in Higher Education, 29(5), 18. Retrieved from www.diverseeducation.com

Gunther, V., & Purinton, T. (2011). Closing school for the holidays--whose holidays? Phi Delta Kappan, 93(4), 33-37. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy1.ncu.edu/ ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=39dd3b75-2dbd-4909-974b-e1599b9486e8%40sessionmgr15&vid=4&hid=14

Haynes, C. C. (2011). Getting religion right in public schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 93(4), 8-14. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy1.ncu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer? sid=c87613b3-ed54-42e8-8a36-e6d7876ef8bd%40sessionmgr10&vid=4&hid=21

Ream, G. L. (2003). Religion’s role in the development of youth. Retrieved from www.human.cornell.edu

Warnick, B. R. (2012). Student rights to religious expression and the special characteristics of schools. Educational Theory, 62(1), 59-74. doi:10.1111/j.1741-5446.2011.00435.x


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