Tuesday, October 7, 2014
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND SCHOOL AGAIN?
Nearly ten weeks back in school, and look what we have here! Yes, another school rubbing the First Amendment right to the establishment and practice of religion in the mud. This time the Christian Club at Ward Melville High in New York was denied their right to assemble for the second year in a row. TOD STARNS’ newsletter of October 6 told the backstory and the current status. At least in 2013, the school district tried saving face when district Superintendent, Cheryl Pedisich told WCBS TV that the school had, in effect, overreacted out of misunderstanding. This year, Pedisich responded to the club’s leader with the excuse that the school couldn’t fund its existence unless twenty or more students attended meetings. How lame! Other clubs dealing with ceramics, fishing, and gay-straight relations draw smaller crowds. If this weren’t such a repeat performance of other districts each year, this case might have some precedent to set. Yet, two things stand in the way of considering Ms. Pedisich’s response appropriate. First, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects such establishment and practice. Second, this year’s cover-up excuse puts lipstick on a fattening pig. In the name of tolerance and diversity, more and more public schools are denying the right of students to assemble for religious reasons on school grounds. Tolerance! To permit thevariety of activities and clubs relating to social issues is a true mark of good citizenship. Yet, to deny people the right to discuss issues relating to the Christian faith takes back with the second hand what the district handed out with the first. What the district really fears, and wants to avoid, are lawsuits from other religious organizations catering to Muslims, atheists, devotees to Wicca or other brands of paganism, etc. The almighty dollar, not diversity rises to the forefront of school administrators minds. Compliance with a society that rejects much of its Christian heritage is leading this and other school systems to reach the long arm of dictates into students’ freedoms. Now, does one act of disrespect and dishonesty deserve another? NO. While Acts 5:29 calls us Christians to obey God rather than men when civic affairs clash with Christian teaching, the verse doesn’t tell us to take a militaristic pose. In fact, Rom. 13:1-7 urges us to submit to the governing authorities. This means using available legal means possible to accomplish the desired, Constitutionally-granted freedoms. Hence, when the club’s president received push-back from the school district this year, he returned to the Liberty Institute who had threatened to sue during the previous fall. Legal representation takes the matter to the courts which have the duty to interpret the law and uphold its precedent. In the meantime, who knows where the members of Students United for Faith will meet? One can only assume Liberty Institute will move quickly so that the club can use school property. Another angle worth pursuing is networking with organizations who have a nationwide, public and private school presence—most notably the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. (FCA) While some suits and complaints have raised against their meeting in schools, their case has withstood such opposition. Let’s hope the Students United in Faith will work through the appointed channels and attain the status in their school and community the United States Constitution permits them.