Religion in public schools 13 replies

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Commissar MercZ

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#1 7 years ago

I was prompted to make this thread after reading the following story. When I first saw the headline to this story on one of my feeds concerning hate mail being sent for a school district stopping distribution of bibles and 'trampling' on heritage, I half expected it to be in the United States. I am relieved to see for once it's not in the States.

Canada News: Ban on Gideon Bible handout at public schools sparks torrent of hate mail - thestar.com

A rural Ontario public school board’s decision to ban distribution of Gideon Bibles to its young students has unleashed a torrent of threatening calls and hateful emails directed at trustees.

Some messages to the Bluewater District School Board express racist sentiment and question trustees’ patriotism.

“When are you ‘politically correct’ idiots, with your heads buried in the sand, going to realize that every action you take to destroy Canadian heritage ...?” one email began.

“Allowing newcomers to Canada the ability to walk all over our heritage has got to stop before they carry us into the realm of a warring nation like the one they often left behind,” another writer said.

The invective has unnerved some trustees as they prepare to formalize the ban on distribution of all noninstructional religious materials prompted by a parent’s complaint about the decades-old tradition of offering free Gideon Bibles to Grade 5 students.

Trustee Fran Morgan called the “onslaught” of messages “really disturbing,” and said it has made her uneasy about driving the 30 kilometres to board meetings at night by herself.

“I really do feel threatened by it,” Morgan said from Griersville, Ont. “It’s been very unpleasant.”

The Bluewater board, with more than 18,000 students in 53 schools across a broad territory around Owen Sound up to Tobermory, is expected to formalize the ban at its meeting April 17, following in the footsteps of several other boards across Canada.

Ban proponents argue distribution of the Bibles has no place in a secular school system, and that it potentially violates human-rights legislation.

The board nixed the idea of allowing any religion to hand out materials on the basis it would suck up scarce resources and could be legally risky.

One writer blamed the decision on “a handful of non-Christian elected officials.”

Board chairwoman, Jan Johnstone, admits the vitriolic responses — some urging trustees to “watch your back” — are unnerving.

“People do crazy things,” Johnstone said. “They see Christianity as a fundamental part of their Canadian identity.”

Another wrote one trustee: “How is that you agree with God’s 10 Commandments and yet you have broken them countless times, you hypocrite!”

Gideons International is an evangelical Protestant association started in the United States in 1899. The Gideons International in Canada was founded in 1911 and today is an autonomous national association.

Gideons International has been placing its Bibles_comprising a New Testament plus the books of Psalms and Proverbs from the Old Testament_ in Canadian public schools since 1936.

Kelvin Warkentin, a spokesman for the Gideons International in Canada, acknowledged times have changed.

“Over time, due to the religious fabric of our country being rewoven, school boards have begun to re-evaluate their policies on this tradition,” Warkentin said.

“The Gideons’ response to the school boards’ decisions to discontinue the distributions has always been complete acceptance.”

Although one trustee received a phone call he thought was tantamount to a death threat, the board has so far not referred the matter to police, but a spokesman said the situation was being monitored.

Trustee Kevin Larson, who would have preferred all religions be allowed to distribute materials, said he was “disappointed” by some of what he’s seen.

However, those views are in the minority, and two leaders in the religious community have apologized for the hateful expressions, Larson said.

Trustees emphasized that most of those in favour of continuing the distribution practice have been respectful in their views.

Note: This article has been edited from a previous version to clarify Gideons International Canada is not affiliated with the Gideons International based in the U.S.

BTW I didn't know these were even handed out in some schools to begin with. The most visible presence of Gideon Bibles where I am and I'm sure for many others is in hotel rooms.

It's always been odd to me really with the debate over the role of religion in the classroom. Ideally there's a principle of secularism, but with accusations of education being used as a political tool that frequently pops up, interest groups form to counteract this perceived brainwashing. I made a thread about this popping up somewhat in the Texas social studies debates on the school board a couple years back to emphasize the 'Judeo-Christian' heritage of the US as well as the achievement of religious figures in the country, among other things.

I don't really know how to phrase this, but I guess the issue is I'm not entirely sure why this keeps popping up even in this day and age. What do you think? Why? How?




Dewey

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#2 7 years ago

Well, I grew up in rural Michigan where life revolved around church. There was a prayer in class after the pledge of allegiance, in our pre football game huddles we all held hands and prayed for god to keep us safe and deliver us a victory, and if you weren't at youth service on friday nights, you weren't cool. On the contrary now I am a manager at a large retail chain in the Seattle area where you can be fired for playing religious music, and where I have been reprimanded for having a large tattoo that involves a Maltese Cross on my forearm, even though it bears no religious significance.

So in a way I think that both sides of the spectrum take it too far. I like to think that people should consider the free exercise cluase in the First amendment of our US Constitution that reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...". So in my opinion nobody should have the right to tell you that you must pray or accept religion, but on the contrary no one should have the right to tell you that it is inappropriate to express your religion for the sake of others beliefs. Everyone has their own beliefs and opinions on every other aspect of life so why should religion be any different? As for myself, I am not sure what I believe. I will tell you that I do attend church on Sundays, mostly because my girlfriend is Samoan and it is of such cultural importance to her family that I don't mind going because I love her and her family, depspite the fact I am not buying everything I hear there. I still keep an open mind about all political issues, but I like being able to make my own decisions, especially about keeping my political and religious veiws seperate and thats what being an American is about. I just dont understand why people have to be so black or white about this..




Emperor Benedictine

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#3 7 years ago

I think the issue keeps popping up because there is still that handful of nutters in every country who think we need to roll back to a kind of 1950's conservative conformity and the aggressive promotion of Christianity among children is just one part of that. I see "political correctness" being brought up by the complainers indicating this is indeed a case of privilege seeking to protect itself. The level of anger and violence is of course due to the fact that their cause is hopeless and social change is inevitable.




Dewey

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#4 7 years ago
Emperor Benedictine;5632155 I see "political correctness" being brought up by the complainers indicating this is indeed a case of privilege seeking to protect itself.

If you are referencing my post, I just want to be clear I am not backing either side here. I agree with PC to some extent, but I think lately it goes to far in some places. Just as I think people abuse the freedom of religion we posses and use that as an excuse to cram it down peoples throat. I think we should be able to, simply put, do what we feel like, without impeding on other people's freedoms.




Emperor Benedictine

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#5 7 years ago

I was referencing a quote from the article;

“When are you ‘politically correct’ idiots, with your heads buried in the sand, going to realize that every action you take to destroy Canadian heritage ...?” one email began.

I agree that political correctness can be taken too far but 9 times out of 10 when people cry "politically correct!" it is just a case of feeling threatened by any progressive change in society.




Dewey

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#6 7 years ago

Oh, sorry missed that part of the article. But I concur.




SeinfeldisKindaOk

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#7 7 years ago

Does Canada have a formal separation of church and state?

The article mentions that there have been several other bans recently in Canada. It also mentions this particular ban happened in a rural area. I believe rural areas are generally more conservative. Thus the community could be threatened by any change to long held customs, especially regarding something as central to many people as religion is. It's lamentable that some have chosen to resort to threats and prejudicial statements but it's probably indicative that there's a similar sentiment (hopefully to a less vitriolic degree) among many others. Perhaps some of the anger could have been mitigated by an explanation that religion is a private matter while education is public and asking people to admit that if a text from a religion other than their own was handed out in lieu of the bible they would probably feel prejudiced against.

That might not really fly though. Like Dewey mentioned, religion is often times ingrained so deeply in the culture that it's difficult to separate the two. Also, some people just aren't going to want secularization or equability. They're going to want their own beliefs promoted above others. I'm not sure what could be done about that.




Flash525

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#8 7 years ago

I don't think schools should teach any one specific religion like a lot of them do. Instead, schools should teach about religion in general. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam ect. It should all be covered in a more general tone as a subject of study rather than something that is told to be truth.

Least then, people can make up their own minds what to or to not believe.




Huffardo

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#9 7 years ago

It's a bit odd that people would see it fit to ban free Bibles from school. I can't see how anybody would be opposed to free copies of the Koran or any other child-appropriate book, so what is so bad about the Bible? I still have one of the Gideon New Testaments I got in school, and although I doubt anyone spent much time reading those, I don't see what harm it could possibly have done, the New Testament isn't even all that boring.




Emperor Benedictine

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#10 7 years ago
Huffardo;5632366It's a bit odd that people would see it fit to ban free Bibles from school. I can't see how anybody would be opposed to free copies of the Koran or any other child-appropriate book, so what is so bad about the Bible? I still have one of the Gideon New Testaments I got in school, and although I doubt anyone spent much time reading those, I don't see what harm it could possibly have done, the New Testament isn't even all that boring.

Who's paying for these "free" Bibles, first of all? And what is the unbiased, secular objective behind it? As to what harm it could do, well, I suppose there's a remote chance the students could become Christians after reading it. =p




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