Tim Hall, Ph.D., Founder and Lead Consultant
In education, there is a fear of bringing religion into the classroom. This fear founded on a misunderstanding of the application of the First Amendment has a huge potential negative impact on students growing up in the globalized 21st century. But why is there a misunderstanding? And why should we care?
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states the following: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Many in public education have interpreted the First Amendment to mean that religion should not be taught in the classroom. But this is not the case at all. As Justice Clark stated in the majority opinion in landmark First Amendment case, Abington Township School District v. Schempp (1963), an education “is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historical qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”
Then, students need to learn about religion in the classroom. This knowledge base is essential as we continue to globalize in the 21st century. Our world is getting smaller, and students will have more contact with other faith traditions: Islam, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and others. An understanding of religions will allow students to interact with others successfully. Also, knowledge of other faith traditions helps to eliminate prejudice, hate, and intolerance. Thus, students who have a better understanding of religion and its importance to societies will be preparing to thrive in a global community. Therefore, teachers shouldn’t run from the topic of religion; instead, they should embrace it. The better students understand the importance of religion to culture, the better equipped they will be to face and form our globalized future.