Friday, April 18, 2008

Does a Bible on a Teacher’s Desk Violate Church-and-State?

A Science teacher, of all things, is in a brouhaha over religion. According to Dayton Daily News, John Freshwater had the 10 Commandments displayed in his room and a Bible on his desk. He has also taught Intelligent Design in the past.

The district finally asked Freshwater to remove the 10 Commandments and stow his Bible out of view of the studetns. He agreed to the 10, but drew a line in the sand at hiding his Bible, apparently preferring to let his light shine.

Dayton Daily News: "Would our government ask a follower of Islam to remove her burqa in order to teach school?" Freshwater said in his written statement. "Would we ask a science teacher to remove The Origin of Species from his desk merely because the origin of man has never been proven?”

What role does religion play in the 21st century public school?

First of all, had that been the Koran and Freshwater a member of Islam, you can bet your red apple that the religious right would have an all out fit, demanding the Koran be taken away. However, it is my humble opinion that Freshwater having a Bible on his desk poses no harm to anyone and the district needs to be calm down.

Claiming, however, that Intelligent Design is science is nonsense. It is religion disguised as curriculum. The Origin of Species may be a theory, but it is based on science, which is what science teachers are supposed to teach. Religion teachers preach. If he feels so strongly that his views cannot jive with science, then he should not be a science teacher. He can maybe become another kind of teacher, but you can't teach a core subject you do not believe in.


Unknown said...

So if a science teacher does not believe in one aspect of a science theory, he should not teach science any longer. We should forget that science is ever "evolving" and changing and we should leave the thinking outside the box of common theories to the experts. We know that true science would never think outside of the box. I guess we should also ask English teachers to step down that believe that Shakespeare was not that great.

admin said...

Nope. Didn't say that. What I said is that teaching creationism is not science or science-based. It's religion. The science teacher who chooses to teach things other than science is not doing his or her job. He is free to not believe in evolution if he wants, but in this case the teacher is asserting his personal religious beliefs into the classroom.

The English teacher is free to not care for Shakespeare. Who cares? If that teacher then refuses to teach Shakespeare and help the students understand the beauty and complexity therein, then that teacher is not doing his job.

The good teacher can set aside his or her personal religious beliefs and teach material without having to indoctrinate children.

The same applies to the atheist science teacher. He or she should not try to indoctrinate children into the belief that there is no God. That is not their job.

The job is to help students understand the nature of science.

Unknown said...

I think that you misunderstand what Intelligent Design is. Evolution is taught. It is not ignored. Usually when it is taught, the teacher recommends checking out a book in the library about the complex nature of the life and the universe and how that leads some people to view the intervention of a higher power. This is not Sunday school. There is no discussion of Jesus, Buddha, or Muhammad.

I am not an Intelligent Design person. They believe in macro evolution. I personally do not. To claim they do not teach evolution is wrong. I challenge you to check out this site for more details on Intelligent Design before labeling them as anti-science.

Here is their statement of objectives which I find interesting.

This teacher would have to have school board (if not state board) approval to teach Intelligent Design. He may be teaching the school board approved curriculum.

Donnie Smith said...

Why should only one theory be taught to students. Many parents do not believe in evolution, but they do not have a choice in the matter. I believe if evolution is taught, creation should be taught as well. There are a lot of teachers telling students that there is no God; however, if a teacher says there is a God they get in trouble. I agree with what you said. If you don't believe in it, don't teach it. Well, I will never teach science. In fact, I hated having to take science in college. Well, now you have my 2 cents worth!

admin said...

And what do the 10 Commandments have to do with science? Nothing, of course. His intention is to indoctrinate.

Neither the Christian, nor the Muslim nor the atheist public school teacher have any business indoctrinating kids with religious (or non-religious) belief systems. Which is why I suggest he stop teaching science. Apparently, his goal is not teaching science but to spread the holy Word. Good for him. Seminary would be a great place for him. Maybe a youth pastor.

Religion CAN be taught in the schools ( the ACLU even agrees) if it is a scholarly classroom aimed at academics and if other religions are included. Religion and religious views can be analyzed as to how it impacted the author, the culture, the book and the religious symbols in a book. Posting the Decaloge in a science class is not academic or scholarly. It appears academics was not this man's intent.

That is what I object to.

admin said...

Thanks Donnie. You just proved my point. I will never understand why so many of my fellow Christians hate and reject science altogether. It makes no sense. Science explains the world. It does not take the place of God, but simply explains how God puts things together.

I'm glad you left the comment although I disagree with it.

Anonymous said...

Comments? Double Standards?

"I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion"
-Charles Darwin

Interesting - Darwin gave up qualifying for medicine and entered seminary qualifying for ministry but never ordained.

'Five pillars of Islam' taught in public school
'Education practice wouldn't last 10 seconds if kids told to dress as priests'

By Bob Unruh
© 2008
Another school has been "teaching" Islam by having students study and learn Muslim prayers and dress as Muslims, and a lawyer who argued a previous dispute over this issue to the U.S. Supreme Court said such methodologies wouldn't "last 10 seconds" if it were Christianity being taught.
"Would it have been 'just cultural education' if students were in simulated baptisms, wearing a crucifix, having taken the name of St. John and with praise banners saying 'Praise be to Jesus Christ' on classroom walls?" asked Edward White III, of the Thomas More Law Center.
His comments came after a new protest arose in Nyssa, Ore., where one parent raised objections when the Islamic teachings came to light. The district there, according to Supt. Don Grotting, is teaching a chapter in a history textbook "Journey Across Time" that talks about "how civilization has developed and some of the particular aspects of Islam."
"We teach out of the book, and there are some supplemental class activities," he told WND. "The kids do some skits, they could bring a food from the region, you could build a prop that would have depicted (something) maybe during that time period.
"If you wanted to you could dress up (as a Muslim) for extra credit," he said.
He said students also learned about the climate of the Middle East, the food and everyday activities of Islam, and the geography and the lay of the land.
Still another assignment was to learn the "five pillars" of Islam, study Ramadan and listen to guest speakers including an American Muslim who arrived dressed in her religious costume to talk to the kids about her Quran.
"She relayed to the kids, if you're a Christian you have your Bible, this is our Quran," Grotting said.
Parent Kendalee Garner, however, objected to having her son being taught Islam and also to the time the public school system spends on the subject.
She told WND that her 13-year-old son is being "indoctrinated that Islam is a religion of peace, and being dressed up as a Muslim, being taught prayers, and scriptures out of the Quran."
"I just don't understand the ban on Christianity but Islam has free rein," she said.
She said the guest speakers and skits and reports were wrong, but what set her off was a class in which students in all three social studies classes dressed in traditional Islamic outfits.
"The only reason I knew about it was because my son told me about it," she said. "They sent him to the library instead of stopping what they were doing. I'm sure people would be outraged if they dressed up as the pope."
That was White's point exactly.
If that's how teaching about religions is done, he said, "then teach all religions in the same way, Christianity, Judaism. Have the kids study Native American religions, do the dance, smoke the pipe. Have the kids dress up as priests and hear confession."
He said when he suggests that, school managers and even judges get that "panic-stricken" look.
He knows because he argued the same dispute up to the U.S. Supreme Court after complaints of similar teachings in the Byron Union School District in California.
As WND has reported that case was almost a duplicate. Teachers were having students memorize Islamic prayers, wear Islamic dress and learn to behave as a Muslim under the guise of studying history.
Some parents objected and their resulting lawsuit was turned back by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where the opinion called it "cultural education."
The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to intervene, but lawyers note that's not necessarily an endorsement of the court; it just means the justices will not review the dispute at this point.
White said he actually challenged the 9th Circuit to write its instructions in a detailed opinion, so schools would know exactly what's required. However, he said the court brushed him off with a three-paragraph ruling that essentially boils down to one district judge saying it's okay in one school district.
"Why is it okay to teach Islam? Unless there's an exception in the Establishment Clause, which says you cannot teach religion in schools unless it's Islam," he said. "I haven't seen it."
Grotting said the course has been taught for several years, and comes mandated by the state under a set of required standards – called Benchmark 3 – that students must reach each year.
Grotting acknowledged to WND that textbooks do "take a slant" on some issues, because publishers "are wanting to sell a textbook that is meeting the needs of the state and federal mandates."
"I believe we're not here to promote or advocate either religion or politics," social studies teacher Jim Casad told the Ontario, Ore., Argus Observer. "However, we do have an obligation to inform students of what is going on in our world today and how history and culture have affected that world."
In the California case, school officials also blamed the "possible cant" of the textbook and said the Islamic studies were being taught because of state mandates.
"It is imperative that our instruction includes an understanding of and insight into all cultures and a tolerance for the diversity found in the world," said Peggy Green, the Byron Union School District superintendent, at that time.
A review online of information from the text shows that it teaches Christianity spread because "it gave meaning to peoples' lives, appealed to their emotions and promised happiness after death."
Its description also focuses on Christians' conflicts with Rome (when they were fed to lions), and splits between Christians following Roman teachings and those following the teachings of Constantine.
However, the article praises how the Muslims founded the system for banking, created important centers for learning, government and the arts, how they ran "government, society and business" and made valuable contributions in math, science and the arts.
The text also credits Muslims with inventing algebra and chemistry as well as creating beautiful buildings, citing the Taj Mahal, although the text does not mention that that is a tomb.
There's also no mention of the Quranic instruction that Muslims must behead infidels, or nonbelievers.
One blogger said Christians should think strategically on such issues.
"Cases like this present Christians with a golden opportunity to introduce elements of religious teaching back into the state curriculum by using the left's double standard towards Islam against it," said one commentator. "Now that this case is on the books in the Ninth Circuit as precedent, expect Christian immersion classes to follow."

Jason said...

If there is no restriction on other teachers as to the reading materials left on their desk then there is no valid grounds to restrict him placing a Bible on his desk. It's that simple.

admin said...

We were all in agreement that the teacher had the right to have his Bible on his desk, Jason.

CrypticLife said...

You may be in agreement, but you're wrong.

"Would our government ask a follower of Islam to remove her burqa in order to teach school?" Freshwater said in his written statement.

The answer to Freshwater's question is yes. And the answer the Supreme Court gave when it answered this question was that a school district could ask a follower of Islam to remove her burqa.

admin said...


"Could" is a far cry from "must" or "should". Just because the Supreme Court said a school district could ask a person not to wear the burqa does not mean the school must ask the person to take it off in order to be in compliance with church-v-state.

Displaying the 10 Commandments is a different story.

Thanks for sharing.

CrypticLife said...


What, do I have to quote you one post up?

We were all in agreement that the teacher had the right to have his Bible on his desk, Jason.


That a school district can permissibly request that a teacher refrain from displaying the Bible means that the teacher does not have the "right" to have the Bible on his desk.

Jason said...

Jack, I was just posting my thoughts on the original article. Sorry if that was out of line.

admin said...


Not out of line at all. We have differing views going on here among the commentors. I love it. Keep posting and thinking and posting some more. We may not solve anything but we will have reflected and considered and hopefully stretched our minds. Nothing like a good challenge.

Anonymous said...

So, a Bible that is not taught in class should be removed. Yet science teachers force us to learn the Theory of Evolution...a Theory for crying out loud! The tables could be turned, say i walk out of Chemistry next year cause I dont believe in a "big-bang" theory because that is forcing a belief on me that contridicts with my religeous beliefs! The war goes on and on! Thank God for this teacher, I hope him and all christians alike stand firm in this and dont back down to a world whos constantly trying to force them out!

The Bible was there for 21 years! for 21 years no one said anything bout it till recently, and some say "it shouldnt have been there 21 years ago". 21 years ago, statues of the 10 commandmants were seen as symbolic representation of the ethics this (once great) country we live in was founded upon. But now anything dealing with Jesus(God) is immedietly offending everyone elses beliefs...yet we Christians are supposed to swallow this Evolution garbage? NO!