Thoughts on Religion in Public Schools

Yesterday’s post on religion being taught in schools got me thinking about Why. Why don’t we teach religion as a humanity in public schools? Why would we as a nation rather let our children sit and stew in ignorance of other peoples’ lives?

I have a few thoughts on the matter, and I’m here to weigh in.

Separation of church and state came about in the first place because the framers of the Constitution wanted to keep them from combining. Their protestant ancestors had experienced first-hand the misfortune of a state tied up in a church, and they passed down their knowledge—the combination is deadly. Examples of church and state mingling range from the deification of the pharaohs to Henry VIII. Major events have reshaped our history because we allowed both church and state to influence each other. The Spanish Inquisition. The Crusades.


Which went super well for all involved. via

As history has proven time and time again, church and state mix as well as oil and water and nitroglycerin.

Despite the importance of understanding the views and backgrounds of other people, the education system in the United States of America has continued to avoid teaching the type of information that could open up crucial dialogue between faiths, even starting during school years. No wonder our political system is a mess—we’ve never learned to even try to understand people with different belief systems.

When was the last time you heard a Democrat concede a point to a Republican? or vice versa? Chances are very rarely. Our politics are failing us at every level because the important dialogues did not start when we were young. Those of us who do eventually learn to hear others out have to get through some serious growing pains to get to that point.


Much like Alan Thicke has faced with his son in real life… via

Sure, fear has kept us from mixing church and state (with few exceptions) and, sure, about the closest thing we have to Anne Boleyn is Marilyn Monroe, but how much more damage are we causing by failing to teach empathy and understanding in dealing with other beliefs?

In fairness, when discussing religion in public schools on facebook with friends, a couple mentioned getting taught about religions from all over the world in some classes. Maybe it depends on the teacher; I include information about Catholicism in my Spanish classes because it is an important part of Spanish and Latin American cultures.

My teachers in public school barely mentioned religions, and that left me with a lot of catch up to play later on in life. Maybe it’s selfish, but shouldn’t it be important to make the next generation just a little more understanding than mine is?

1 reply »

  1. As a teacher who has taught in both private and public schools, I see a certain amount of value in exposing students to the basics of World Wisdom traditions. In high school I was an Evangelical Christian but took a class in Bible as Literature as well as Asian Studies (this was a public school). I was skeptical at that time (the Bible was the only textbook worth reading, after all), but it began to open my rational brain to other perspectives. I went on to study Philosophy and Religion, became a Minister and now a Freethinker. Looking back, I think there was great value in the presentation of the full spectrum of beliefs and non-beliefs. As I was taught along the way, we only really value what we choose from viable alternatives. Yet, the great challenge remains: how to find teachers who can teach without preaching!

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