Church & State – Together at last?

There’s been a big foofaraw here in our small town this week because the middle school allowed a pair of Buddhist monks to describe their culture and beliefs at an assembly during the regular school day.

The feeling is that they have somehow violated the separation of church and state, and there have been several letters to the editor demanding that “Christians” get equal time.

I’m fine with that.

But as I understand it, the whole idea of “the separation of church and state” was to protect “the state” from compulsory participation in “the church.” (In a feeble aside, I think this probably goes back at least as far as King Henry VIII, who said, in effect, “I’m Henry the eighth I am, Henry the eighth I am, I am, I don’t care what you say, I need to divorce this wife, so that’s it, and I’ll see you in church on Sunday.”) But I digress…

We need to draw a distinction between teaching religion, and teaching about religion. (Thus the popularity of courses in public universities with names like “Comparative Religions” or “Religious Studies.”)

I have no problem whatsoever with someone coming into my daughter’s school and saying, “I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Triune Godhead. That means that I believe that Jesus is part of a “trinity” composed of The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. This isn’t strictly scriptural, but Paul hinted at it, and it was accepted as part of the Nicean creed that was adopted by the Roman Catholic church in 325 AD.”

Those are just facts.

But please don’t let a coach say something like “I’d like you all to join me now for a moment to pray for an easy victory over our rivals from Eldorado county tonight,” or let a biology teacher say “We feel that Creation Science and Intelligent Design are scientifically valid alternatives to Darwinism and the theory of evolution.”

I have believed some of those things, and perhaps sometimes still do, but from a public education standpoint, that’s just wrong.

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