I read this article earlier tonight…
Despite the fact that they’re sticking up for the anti-religious perspective, this article frustrates me more than most on this website. I am definitely an atheist. If you look to the atheist section in the menu to the left, my Atheism category, or my article, 22 Ways Religion Promotes Crime, you’ll see that I don’t hold back nor apologize when attacking religion. However, I feel like this article and many of the comments below it are being unfair toward Christianity and even more unfair to the students. Granted, I don’t know the whole story of how the bill would work and I’m suspicious of anything that has lots of conservative religious support, but this article feels overly paranoid and fearful, claiming this bill will open up avenues of hate speech and religious indoctrination, and cause student conflicts. I don’t know. I say we should calm down about it. They claim this is religion pushing their views on us, but that almost sounds like the same argument the conservatives make about homosexuality… that simply allowing people to be who they are openly in public is synonymous with them forcing their lifestyles upon us.
From this article, the bill almost seems like a good thing, and seems like it has as much chance of bringing positive change as it does negative, while giving the students a little more power over their school assemblies. I’m not totally sure, of course, that I would support this bill if I was a Floridian. I would have to read more about it, and learn more about school policies, but as an Atheist, I think it’s important to say something when I think that the “war on religion” might not be playing fair, and make it clear that no matter how strong my atheist values are, and how much I believe religion is a virus, I do not support the censorship of anyone’s spirituality and don’t necessarily support the hard-line approach our public schools take toward religion.
From what the article says, the bill basically allows students to put together “inspirational speeches” that are allowed to include religious references and statements. The teachers and administrators aren’t allowed to edit or censor the student-controlled speeches, though administrators will be able to place wider guidelines, and like anything related to kids and schools, the parents and teachers have the potential of manipulating the kids, as though religious individuals are really good at controlling their kids. The bill supposedly has some hypocritical wording, but that’s kind of par for the course with government bills in my opinion.
One argument is that “The board could simply only allow Christian themed messages, which would alienate religions such as Islam and Judaism”. I think that while technically this is possible, we need to calm down and not jump to the conclusion that this is a Christian conspiracy to force themselves upon us. I think our society has gotten to the point where if administrators blatantly allowed only Christian speeches, enough people would protest to make it not worth their while in the long run, but if I’m wrong, simply banning all religious-related speech in schools doesn’t solve the underlying problems. It merely hides the issue. If this did happen and administrators refused to back down from these Christian-only policies, at least it would bring the issue out in the open and people would be forced to look into permanent solutions instead of just banning everything without thinking about whether or not that serves the greater, long-term good.
I’ve had lots of religious friends over the years and overwhelmingly it was my religious friends and the time I spent as a Christian that inspired me to be an Atheist. I have many, many gripes about religion, which you’ll see if you explore this website, but surprisingly them forcing their religion upon me on an individual level isn’t really one of them… sure, I don’t like most public policies put forth by religious organizations. (“In God We Trust” has no business on our money). But on an individual level, most religious people I’ve met have been very reasonable and respectful of everyone’s freedom of speech and from what it sounds like, there isn’t anything in the bill that specifically gives Christianity any more power than any other religion or non-religion.
I feel like censoring religion kind of gives it more power. We’ve pretty much banned religion outright from public schools, but somehow we have one of the most religious countries in the world. Censoring Atheism on the other hand, gives us less power, because Atheism makes sense while religion does not. If we allow everyone to speak freely and equally, without censoring the discussion afterward, I don’t see how opening up the lines of communication could be anything but good for the Atheist perspective, and would be good for everyone in the long run. Granted, the locals need to be vigilant that Christian administrators don’t enforce Christian-only messages, but I think the benefits would outweigh the risk of this happening, and people need to be vigilant with school administrators anyway, considering some of the policies they’re placing on our kids.
In High-School I was frequently forced to watch football propaganda, filled with lame pop music piped over crackly speakers with football players jumping through big sheets of paper and cheerleaders screaming about how our school was better than all the other schools. I was an Atheist in High-School, but I still would have preferred to see another student giving a religious speech he had written himself, over what we had in our spirit assemblies.
My junior year one teacher decided that everyone in the school had to say the flag salute so he enforced this every morning by getting over the speakers and forcing us to be a part of this. I always felt this was a form of worship that is every bit as dangerous as religion. They are blindly worshiping a piece of fabric that represents a nation that has a very morally questionable history and they’re doing it on a daily basis. Why are liberals not upset about this? To me this is a far more egregious affront to the personal liberties and viewpoints of students than is allowing a few of them to say some God-related words at an assembly.
When we first started I would stand for the flag salute. I was bitter about it, but I didn’t want to get in trouble. Then another student told me that he never stood for the flag salute, as a protest of the policies of the US government, particularly the drug war and foreign policy (Bill Clinton was bombing people). I started staying seated for the flag salute and what I found was that only a few people were put off by it. Some found it funny, and a couple found it offensive, but the overwhelming majority didn’t care one way or the other. The ones who found it offensive, however, for the most part confronted me about it in a reasonable and polite manner and I explained that I was opposed to military occupation and bombing of other countries and felt it was my moral obligation to avoid supporting that. For the most part this put their concerns at ease, and I don’t remember ever once getting hassled about it…
…with one possible exception. I had a class, coincidentally with this same buddy who also refused to stand, and the teacher would snap his fingers at us and give us rude looks. This lasted for maybe a week and finally we talked to him after class and basically told him he was fighting a losing battle and that if he pushed us on this we’d be filing a complaint. He backed down pretty much instantly and it ceased to be an issue.
My point is that rebellious individuals have options even if it does become overly Christian-dominated, as long as they are aware they have options. I think liberals would have their agenda better served in the long run by trying to teach students about the powers they really hold and teaching them to stand up for their beliefs and their rights instead of simply banning anything that has a possibility of indirectly infringing on their rights, while ignoring other policies that clearly and directly infringe.
For example, attendance policies. To make this issue a whole lot easier, simply lighten attendance policies, particularly when it comes to assemblies, and allow students the basic human right of getting up and walking out on a speech they find offensive. This, to me, is the root of the problem, and banning religion is merely a temporary solution to the underlying problems.
I agree that religion has no place in science class any more than it has in math (ever heard a teacher say “sometimes two plus two equals five if you pray really hard”), but trying to prevent any mention of it at all, I think, is counter-productive.
As one commenter pointed out, this could backfire on the Republicans… assuming this is motivated by a purely Christian agenda, which at first glance, I don’t believe it is. Students may, for example, vote for Pagan inspirational speeches… or for that matter, Atheist inspirational speeches. Why wouldn’t they? When I was in high-school I would have voted for anything that broke the monotony. Atheists are being censored in public schools too. They’re not allowed to get up and talk about the positives of not having a God any more than a Christian can talk about how much they love Jesus, so how can we be sure that some dedicated Atheist or Muslim kid, or for that matter, some kid who invented his own belief-system, isn’t going to be able to write a speech that can get voted in by the student body? Despite having a few students get offended in school, which already happens for a wide variety of reasons, I think it could actually be a good thing to open up these kind of conversations.