Faith

Tennessee School District Agrees to Stop Promoting Christianity

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A school district in Tennessee agreed to a lawsuit settlement that forces them to stop promoting Christianity in their schools.

A settlement reached in a federal lawsuit means a school district will no longer continue promoting Christianity in its schools or athletic fields.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit last year on behalf of two atheist families. The suit claimed the Smith County school system led prayer during mandatory assemblies, handed out Bibles during classes and prayed over loudspeakers at sporting events.

The Associated Press reported the district admitted delivering Christian prayers over the public address system. It also acknowledged the distribution of Bibles to fifth graders, and posting Bible verses and other religious messages in school hallways. It also acknowledged one teacher’s daily readings of Bible verses in class.

The ACLU filed the suit on the grounds the district violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. That clause “prohibits the government from establishing a religion.” In this case, the suit argued that the government through the school district established Christianity as the official religion.

When I started in grade school we had prayer every day.

I remember prayer in school, at least in first grade and probably through second grade. As I recall, and you’ll have to forgive me because it has been a long time, we had an informal prayer right before lunch. We lined up and someone passed a container with wet paper towels we used to “wash our hands.” Then there was what I remember as a moment of silence. The moment of silence — I don’t recall whether they actually called it that — was clearly meant for prayer. I can’t remember now whether a teacher actually said a prayer or whether a student did. Maybe no one prayed out loud.

I do remember a moment, however, when we closed our eyes and stood quiet.

At some point around third grade, that practice just quietly disappeared. I don’t know why. No one said anything about it.

In fact, as I recall, no one seemed to even notice its absence in our daily school life.

Oddly enough, that third grade year was not one of chaos. Things went on as they always had, minus that minute of quiet.

We didn’t become heathens. We didn’t destroy property. And we didn’t become any more rebellious than any other young teenager.

I read one account where someone called the practices in that Tennessee school district “tradition.” Frankly, it shouldn’t have had the chance to become a tradition.

Mandated prayer doesn’t belong in school; it belongs in church and homes.

Any student can take a moment to pray anywhere and at any time when they feel the need. I never had to ask permission if I wanted to say a quick prayer during a class; I just did so. No one knew I was even doing it. I just tuned out long enough to have a prayer moment and then went back to what I had been doing.

Some will take offense.

Whenever I hear of a story like this, I think of the angry Christians who will surely feel “attacked” by the change.

How would those who don’t mind a school promoting Christianity feel if the school leaders happened to practice a different religion and suddenly began forcing that religion on students? If a Muslim teacher, for example, required students to pray or read from the Quran, those same parents would likely pitch a fit.

And that’s putting it mildly.

That should tell them something. I wish more people would apply that same kind of litmus test when it comes to religion and how it gets forced on others.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.