Spencer to tackle religion in the public schools

Friday, July 3, 2009

Is there a place for religious expression in public schools?

Should history be taught to students via the Bible and texts dealing with Darwinism in a public school district's classrooms?

Spencer school board members, with hoped-for input from members of the public, are planning to address issues such as these with a draft religious liberty policy currently under consideration.

Barb Van Wyk and David Schlichtemeier crafted the policy -- which also recognizes the Constitution's "free practice" clause -- and placed it before their peers this week. Their hope is to join school boards across the nation which have already dealt with this topic.

The Spencer board discussion was spurred by a keynote address delivered by Charles Haynes at the 2007 Iowa Association of School Boards conference held in Des Moines. Haynes, a co-author to "Finding Common Ground: A Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools," a First Amendment guide to religion and public education published by the First Amendment Center, told school board members across Iowa the importance of districts having religious liberty policies in place before any kind of an issue would come up.

"He said it's better to have the discussion as a board and as a community proactively," Van Wyk recalled.

With Hayne's guide and the "Darwin's Black Box" book by Michael Behe in hand, and a handful of community members' insights, Van Wyk and Schlichtemeier drafted the policy presented Tuesday night.

"Currently, we don't have anything in place (within the Spencer school district)," Van Wyk said. "So, what ends up happening is both staff and students end up checking their faith at the door because everybody's afraid to say anything at all. Nobody wants to get in trouble. But that's not what our founding fathers intended either. So, we want to put it out there in a clear way that we don't expect students to check their faith at the door."

As it is currently written, the draft religious liberty policy touches on student and employee religious expressions, the distribution of religious materials on school grounds, and religion in the district's curriculum.

In its purpose and philosophy section, the policy lists that the school wouldn't discriminate against private religious expression. It also would educate about, but not indoctrinate, religious faith. In addition, district representatives would promote dialogue between schools and the community concerning faith, as well as create a climate of academic freedom concerning faith issues. Students and employees would also be allowed religious expression within the law. And, the school would neither promote or disparage religious faith.

The policy offered by Van Wyk, a pastor who is currently working with her family to serve as full-time missionaries in Africa, and Schlichtemeier, a Spencer pharmacist, defines religion and evolution. It also states that the school shouldn't forbid expression solely because of religious content. As far as graduation exercises and other extracurricular activities, it declares the "content of speeches by private individuals will not be regulated on religious content" and that the school "will permit the graduating class to choose whether to have an invocation and/or benediction to be given by a student (or) volunteer in a non-proselytizing and nonsectarian manner."

In regard to the potential distribution of religious materials on Spencer's school grounds, the draft policy asserts that such materials couldn't be singled out for specific regulation based on their content and that students may distribute such at "reasonable times and manners as designated by the school."

Teachers, as outlined in the religious liberty policy, would maintain an officially neutral position on religious issues while performing their duties. But, if a teacher were to be asked specific questions about his or her faith by a student, the instructor could choose to answer on a personal level.

The draft's approach to religion being offered within the district's curriculum is that it would have to be academically, not devotionally, based. Curriculum areas overlapping religious faith would demonstrate a respect for affected religious convictions. In addition, electives to be offered at Spencer High School, as suggested in the policy being considered by school board members, could include the national "The Bible in History and Literature" curriculum, as well as a scientific approach reviewing the evidence for and against the theory of evolution.

"This, and teaching the Bible as history, has already been adopted by 244 school districts in 32 states," Van Wyk said of the national curriculum suggested. "The Bible's a historical document and our country historically was founded on much of it. So, to teach it as history and literature is something that I think we're going to study for our students to be able to choose. This is being done all over the country. I hope it can happen here in Spencer, too."

Van Wyk also stated the religious liberty policy presented was taken in part from the "Finding Common Ground" book, which is also well documented with court cases.

"The things that we've outlined here are well within the constitutional rights of students," she said. "As far as speaking about it, handing out literature, having clubs and things like that, no one, to this point, has told them they couldn't do that. But, people are afraid to (do such things). We just want to proactively put it out there and say, 'Students, you're free to express your religious convictions. Here are the parameters.' So, we haven't gone out on a limb on any of this or proposed anything that hasn't looked good or been challenged in the court system."

* Spencer board members are expected to further address this matter, along with input from Iowa Association of School Boards Attorney Mary Gannon and Spencer attorney Steve Avery, either during a 5:30 p.m. work session on Wednesday, July 8, or their July 30 meeting.

Board members also:

* Learned that the Johnson Elementary preschool, which is a Shared Vision program, achieved accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children recently. The five-year accreditation granted to A Child's Garden carried a 94 percent approval rating.

* Were informed that Spencer did not receive a voluntary preschool grant for 4-year-old children it had applied for from the Department of Education. Superintendent Greg Ebeling suggested since reviewers of Spencer's grant application found there are 11 preschools in the community already, it was hard to show a need for another. The district will continue to apply for this grant, though, Ebeling reported.

* Were told that school board candidates may file nomination papers July 6-30. The papers for four-year board terms are available in the district's central office, online or from Clay County Auditor Marjorie Pitt's office. Nomination petitions are due to be filed with school board secretaries by 5 p.m. July 30. This year's regular school board election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 8. In Spencer, Ed Ver Steeg and Barb Van Wyk have announced their intentions to not seek re-election. David Schlichtemeier, who has not formally committed to a third term as a Spencer school board member, has accepted candidate materials.

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  • Whatever happened to separation of church and state? Private parochial schools exist for parents wanting religious content in classrooms. This article barely mentions evolution except to say that "elective curriculum could include a scientific approach reviewing the evidence for and against the theory of evolution" as if there is a question about evolution. There is no mention of curriculum questioning the evidence of religious theory as if there is no qustion about it. For public schools' students, religion should remain at home.

    -- Posted by communicate on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 8:15 AM
  • The article states "religious freedom" yet all I see is christianity and bible. Are other religions going to be covered at all or is this just yet another way for christians to try and convert our children. This doesn't sound like religious freedom at all.

    -- Posted by HergerSeamas on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 8:52 AM
  • It would be unconstitutional. Discussing all the world religions and atheism as a general topic would be interesting and probably acceptable, only as an elective. But to actually TEACH from a religious text in a public school? No Way, No How.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 10:35 AM
  • I would assume that Iowa is still a fairly homogeneous population in terms of race and religion. Do you have a substantial Muslim population or significant numbers of Hindus, Sikhs etc? I live in a province of Canada that has a dual track of publicly funded education: "public" and Separate (meaning Roman Catholic) and there are also a few Muslim schools and one Jewish grade school, a Seventh Day Adventist school and some Pentacostal type schools. A campaign promise

    to give funds to other religious groups besides Roman Catholic tanked the candidate. This I agree with wholeheartedly. I agree with other readers to this site that the inculcation of religion belongs at home and church. However, I DO suggest that a certain amount of religious literacy is good. It is too bad when children from a nation that is still Christian in majority (heaven preserve us if the Muslims take over) cannot recognize "Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Moses, Abraham etc" as significan figures.


    Born in Iowa and faithful to my roots

    -- Posted by emeyer5@cogeco.ca on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 11:05 AM
  • There is no such thing as "separation of church and state" in the Constitution. It only states as follows : 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.

    I applaud the board to restate the constitutional rights of the students. A few radicals tried to control the schools and they convinced the schools to remove all references to religion. The Constitution is clear religion is OK to talk and teach about in the schools. It is every students right, don't take it away.

    -- Posted by guitarman on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 12:30 PM
  • Bravo!! Historical Biblical accuracy. Very cool. Jesus is not a ficticious character in a comic book. He lived and died as recorded in history, and should be taught as such. Maybe we can beging to reverse the trend that has devalued the sanctity of life, and get back to a little personal responsibility. I say Amen! As for those who post ridiculous objections, what are you afraid of? A loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself? Horrors.

    -- Posted by read me on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 1:00 PM
  • A world religion class that includes a socio-historico look at the Christian Bible and other religious texts from other traditions is appropriate. Teaching the Bible as if it some sort of accurate history book is not.

    -- Posted by sajohnson on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 1:42 PM
  • "Bravo!! Historical Biblical accuracy. Very cool. Jesus is not a ficticious character in a comic book. He lived and died as recorded in history, and should be taught as such. Maybe we can beging to reverse the trend that has devalued the sanctity of life, and get back to a little personal responsibility. I say Amen! As for those who post ridiculous objections, what are you afraid of? A loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself? Horrors."

    -- Posted by read me on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 1:00 PM

    @read me

    Ok.....just to set things straight. I believe in God and Jesus Christ our Savior. I have the utmost respect for my faith and in others beliefs.....Now onto where we part ways. No, Jesus is not a fictious character. BUT, learning about Him is not the state or school's responsibility. If you want your children to learn about him in school.....then send them to a school like Sacred Heart. No...he shouldn't be taught as such because he is a SYMBOL and figure of a belief system and faith. Not everyone believes as you and I do. They deserve respect also. We shouldn't take the chance in alienating individuals because you think everyone should have to study the life of Jesus. We have church, our homes, our hearts, to educate ourselves and anyone else about Jesus. It doesn't need to be force fed to students in public school. Now what exactly is devaluing the santitiy of life? If you mean not forcing kids to learn about Jesus when that possibly might not be their belief system, devaluing the "sanctity of life"....then I guess you're right...we devalue it.(that was sarcasm). If it's personal responsibility then we shouldn't rely on the school system to do what you and I and any other parent or person should be doing....as it is "personal" responsibility....not the responsibility of a "public" school. Lastly, just because someone doesn't agree with you, doesn't mean their outlook and opinion is ridiculous. For being so gung-ho about them teaching about Jesus....you have missed the boat on not being judgemental and accepting of others and thier views. Those are basic fundamental ideals that Jesus himself tried to instill on all his followers. In his defense....you have totally ignored the backbone of what you are fighting for.

    -- Posted by lastsonofoa on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 4:10 PM
  • I saw nothing in the article stating that religion would be taught. It only states that it would be alowed to be used as historical. It is probably more accurate than history books.

    The writers of history books did not include everything as it happened. Some of the historical things I learned in school are different than they are taught now. Those that write history were not there to write it as it happened.

    Not all history books agree 100% on some things and not all things are written as it happened.

    What about the Bible as literature. There is a lot to be learned that way also.

    -- Posted by giblem on Sat, Jul 4, 2009, at 8:16 AM
  • lastsonofoa - who are you to "set the record straight"? I believe that you have done the opposite. Christians have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to education since they took prayer out of schools. My children will not attend Sacred Heart because they are not catholic. That was a silly response. I will and do teach my children about Christ, but that should be supported by the school system, not mocked by them. Public schools teach tolerance of everything except Christianity. I am tired of being the silent majority, and for us to have a president who runs around the world stating that we are NOT a Christian nation makes me sick. Perhaps HE should have attended a school where historical biblical accuracy was taught, instead of the Koran. I am not tolerant to a religion that teaches death to America and infidels. Christianity is about a God of love. If you teach history in public schools you have to teach about Christ for it to be accurate. This is the basis of our culture.

    -- Posted by read me on Mon, Jul 6, 2009, at 7:37 AM
  • The Bible IS a history book

    -- Posted by read me on Mon, Jul 6, 2009, at 7:38 AM
  • The reason that you have your church, your homes, and your hearts, is because of America's historical democracy (based on Judeo-Christian ethics), and the soldiers who fought (and continue to fight) for your freedoms as afforded in the Constitution (also based on Christian ethics.) I would bet that you know the "symbols" (as you refer to them) of other religions. I would also bet that you didn't learn about them inside their mosks and synagogues. Where did you learn about those cultures? I learned about them through the public school system. Christianity should be taught historically. To not do so, is a disservice to our heritage. The sanctity of life comes from the (Biblical) teaching that life begins at conception, and it also teaches right and wrong. Moral relativism is a hoax and an excuse not to be personally responsible.

    -- Posted by read me on Mon, Jul 6, 2009, at 8:34 AM
  • The difference is that "Darwinism" i.e. evolution is scientific fact with verifiable evidence, whereas creationism or "intelligent design" is not scientific, but rather a belief that requires faith, and should therefore NOT be taught as science.

    -- Posted by jlees on Mon, Jul 6, 2009, at 5:25 PM
  • all i have to say is that i think it is wrong to teach the bible in schools. for one good reason there is alot of ppl that go to school that dont believe in god. and another reason kids are going to want to leave the class room if they do not feel comfortable talking about the bible and god. dont get me wrong i believe in god 100% but there are ppl out there that dont and its not right to do that..sorry if this is making anyone mad but im just stating the truth..

    -- Posted by kharleman on Mon, Jul 6, 2009, at 10:41 PM
  • Read me, If the bible is to be taught in public school, it should be taught as mythology along side the Illiad and the Odyssey. It is not history, it is Jewish mythology. Just because places in the bible are real doesn't make the stories true. The majority of mythology mentions real places, places you can physically go to and recognize As for you learning symbols from other religions in public school had nothing to do with christian ethics. You learned it through the open minded secular school system that overcame christian dogma many years ago. We no longer burn books and we no longer ostracize those in our society who aren't christian. In religion you must have faith to believe it's true, in science you do not. This is not just a christian nation and to suggest that without "christian values" this country would not be great, is ridiculous! Next you will be screaming, "What is this country coming to, pretty soon the USA will be a melting pot"! Sorry, It is a melting pot. I am a veteran and I can tell you there are soldiers who are Pagan, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, and yes, Muslim! And many more. Leave your "moral superiority" and your religion at your house. Thanks.

    -- Posted by HergerSeamas on Tue, Jul 7, 2009, at 10:05 AM
  • I want ALL religious beliefs to be available to discuss (not taught) well but only as an elective. I would want my children to be able to make their own decisions on what to have faith in. Not forced to believe what everyone else thinks is the right choice. By freshman year kids have their own ideas about god or any other religion. Why not give them the answers they are looking for or a place to explore their curiousity in a structured classroom? But wait, they've already read about it on the internet!

    -- Posted by puppyluv on Tue, Jul 7, 2009, at 1:17 PM
  • I have seen the word "truth" and "fact" interspersed in arguements in this post and it is laughable to not use those words unless you are speaking about Jesus Christ. Darwinism and evoloution are NOT fact. Ask someone who teaches the subject. They are theory, and should be taught as such. Apparently, you were not given a choice or an opportunity to explore the scientific evidence of creationism. There is nore scientific evidence of creation than there is for evolution. You just have to look for it, because it is not taught in your school. Hopefully, that will soon change. Biblical stories ARE true. They would never have held the test of time that they have. Those who have tried to disprove Christianity, are now is staunchest allies. Those who speak otherwise, are poorly educated on the subject. Let the school teach biblical history. More than the places are real. "Melting pot" refers to a group of people who, when they live together under the same ideals, become harmonious. The country you speak of teaches "multiculturalism", which is not the same. I would be all for returning to the teachings of the "melting pot". That, too is based on Christian ethics. Your ignorance and backward tolerance speaks to your surface knowledge of Christianity. Dig a little deeper.

    -- Posted by read me on Wed, Jul 8, 2009, at 2:10 PM
  • Yawn, the same tired rhetoric coming from the same tired people. Creationism is a jokel and you will not be satisified unless all think like you and believe like you. Obsess much?

    -- Posted by HergerSeamas on Wed, Jul 8, 2009, at 2:41 PM
  • There will always be two sides to every arguement. Not to have information from both arguements is ignorance, not education.

    -- Posted by read me on Wed, Jul 8, 2009, at 7:54 PM
  • Oh, Dave Schlichtemeier's at it again. Does anyone remember his wonderful commencement address in 2008?

    -- Posted by tbates94 on Wed, Jul 8, 2009, at 8:19 PM
  • "Darwinism and evoloution are NOT fact. Ask someone who teaches the subject. They are theory, and should be taught as such." - read me

    They are taught as a theory, actually. By definition, a theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena." The theory of evolution falls into that definition perfectly. It is a theory that has been tested using the scientific method and is accepted almost unanimously in the scientific community today. Creationism is also a theory, albeit one whose explanation is spelled out in the Bible and not open for evaluation of any sort, even as technology and science progresses.

    "Biblical stories ARE true. They would never have held the test of time that they have." - read me

    People thought the Earth was flat for a really long time too.

    -- Posted by alex57 on Wed, Jul 8, 2009, at 9:44 PM
  • So read me isn't tolerant or a religion that preaches death to infidels? Me neither. In fact, I was reading through a pretty reliable historical text and came across this:

    "You shall annihilate them--the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites--just as the Lord your God has commanded."

    -Deuteronomy 20:17

    So I, too, would like to remind everyone that ignorance and backward tolerance speaks to only possessing a surface knowledge of Christianity.

    -- Posted by Nolan Goeken on Wed, Jul 8, 2009, at 10:29 PM
  • ...Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.

    --Deut 20:18 Keep reading, Nolan.

    -- Posted by read me on Wed, Jul 8, 2009, at 11:06 PM
  • "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved

    these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers,wealth,power, as no other nation has ever grown. But, we have forgotten God.

    We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied,

    enriched, and strengthened us. And we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too

    proud to pray to the God that made us.

    It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." -- President Abraham Lincoln. It was made during the Civil War when he called our nation to prayer and fasting, asking God for His help in that

    troubled time. What our founding fathers and early leaders believed about God and this nation, and the connection there, is indisputable. Why does our history matter? Why do our roots in this nation really matter? Why is it important to revisionists and secular humanists that they re-write and distort our history? If it really didn't matter what our history was, they

    wouldn't bother to re-write it and distort it.

    It matters much whether or not we were a Christian nation in our roots.

    -- Posted by read me on Wed, Jul 8, 2009, at 11:25 PM
  • That next verse does nothing to detract from the original meaning of calling for the elimination of those with different viewpoints. What is the difference between that thought process and that of an Islamic extremist preaching for the death of America because of our culture and beliefs? Since having information from both sides is of the utmost importance, I would like to know which parts of the Qur'an proclaim death to infidels. The obvious point made was that one can convey just about any message he/she would like by picking and choosing different passages of religious texts.

    read me, I would debate this with you further, but after simply copying and pasting some of the content, or lack thereof, of your posts and searching for it on Google, you seem to be directly quoting from chain e-mails. The odd formatting in your last post (starting a new paragraph mid-sentence) as well as your "facts" about Obama are dead giveaways. If you truly believe everything you read in those, then I am a Nigerian prince and will provide you with a large sum of money if you provide me with your bank account number.

    -- Posted by Nolan Goeken on Thu, Jul 9, 2009, at 1:57 AM
  • You are correct. I copied and pasted a quote from Abraham Lincoln. This doesn't detract from the fact that has said it, nor the fact that he called our nation to humble themselves and pray to a God who is able. He did not call us to pray to Muhammod. The Christian/Islam debate goes back to Genesis. The fact is that this nation was founded on Christianity, and that "bit of history" has been eliminated in our public education and needs to be reintroduced. The "salvation through faith" teaching does not have to be introduced in public education. Introducing them to Jesus would be sufficient. He can do the rest...You are right, we could debate this forever. You must have got your education about Christianity from your Nigerian upbringing. I do not need your money. There are other things far more valuable that I already possess.

    -- Posted by read me on Thu, Jul 9, 2009, at 7:00 AM
  • When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads, and when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly. --47:4 Koran

    Oops. Another copy and paste. Guess they really don't do this either...

    -- Posted by read me on Thu, Jul 9, 2009, at 7:11 AM
  • There are two sides to everything. Always has been and always will be. Let it be a college elective.

    -- Posted by sister_burton on Thu, Jul 9, 2009, at 11:47 AM
  • sister burton - It already is a college elective. Our children are influenced much earlier on by what is presented to them and labeled as "education" Either present both sided, or neither.

    -- Posted by read me on Thu, Jul 9, 2009, at 2:28 PM
  • Just out of curiousity. Did you ever stop and think God made evolution? Just wondering, if anybody else believes in that.

    -- Posted by _Samantha_ on Thu, Jul 9, 2009, at 5:18 PM
  • how do you come to that conclusion?

    -- Posted by read me on Thu, Jul 9, 2009, at 5:34 PM
  • I have a strong belief in God, but feel that religion needs to stay out of the schools teachings. Christianity's principals are taught in many religious guises, that is, love your neighbor as yourself, honor and respect each other, do unto others, etc, etc. It may be worded differently but the meanings and intent are the same. That's okay to teach all children and you can do it without naming a specific religion. I would be appalled if the Jewish, or Hindu, or even the Catholics MADE my kids study THEIR doctrine while at school. It's unfair to others who do not believe as I do, to insist they or their children learn my religious beliefs as part of their education. If they want to teach religion, it should be a class about ALL religions, their similarities, differences, no sides taken, just 'education'. Otherwise it's not religious freedom at all. The Hindu's, Muslems, Buddhists, even the Jew's, do not use the same bible as the Protestent. Even among Christian's doctrine varies - so, Dave, who's ya gonna use? eh? What if I don't believe the same as you, even though we both are Christians? What then? It's best left out of schools. Teach more reading, writing and 'rithmatic, history and science too. Who in h cares how the world got started anyway? Quite frankly, both theories are preposterus, and the focus now should be on how do we keep it around for the next millenium, not how it got here to begin with!

    -- Posted by SpencerAlumni77 on Fri, Jul 10, 2009, at 1:58 PM
  • I'm confused about this pending policy. It says the school must offer a particular class using a particular controversial book. But it also says that academic freedom is to prevail.

    Under academic freedom, the teacher(s) should determine the class content and choose the book. The policy actually interferes with academic freedom.

    Worse than that---the book is by Mr. Behe. He was a major witness in the Dover court case in Pennsylvania, where the judge ruled against his "scientific" arguments and called them religion. Any school that assigns his book is asking for trouble, not seeking common ground.

    -- Posted by Bumpercrop on Sat, Jul 11, 2009, at 8:46 AM
  • What I don't understand is how the school system is going to come up with the money to hire a teacher or teachers to teach these proposed new courses. With everything that's been cut in the last few years due to the school's perennial budget troubles, I just don't see how it can be justified at this point. As the parent of a special needs child, I'd hate to think my son's badly needed special needs summer school program was cut just to pave the way for a couple of people on the school board to promote their religious agenda.

    -- Posted by Damon on Sat, Jul 11, 2009, at 9:40 AM
  • to Spencer Alum - You suggest that they should teach more history. That is the purpose of this program.

    -- Posted by read me on Sat, Jul 11, 2009, at 5:13 PM
  • If the purpose of the program is really to teach the role of religious texts in history (and literature), why is the Bible the only text under study? Why not also study the Koran, the Rigveda, and the Book of Mormon to get an idea of their place in history?

    -- Posted by Bumpercrop on Sun, Jul 12, 2009, at 9:14 AM
  • I agree with Damon - I don't like the idea of having these new classes in the first place because they only favor Christianity, and it seems like an even dumber idea when you consider the money involved. We should be trying to save money by getting rid of unnecessay things, and I think that having religion classes in school should count as being unnecessary.

    Also, as a Spencer alum who graduated not all that long ago, I don't think there they would even be enough student interest in taking these classes if they did somehow end up being offered. In my opinion, religion wasn't a huge issue to high school students and they were content to mainly discuss it in youth groups on Wednesday nigths and at church. Although faith is important to many teens, I don't think it is something that they want to delve into at school.

    -- Posted by alex57 on Sun, Jul 12, 2009, at 5:54 PM
  • Perhaps because they will be studying American history and how Christianity played a part. I suppose if you were in a historical section on the country of India (for example) you would study the history of the Hindu religion's influence on that country. No matter how you spin it, our founding fathers, and Democracy's principles are grounded in Biblical precepts. That is not wishful thinking on my part, it is just the way it was. And that is the way it whould be taught: accurately.

    -- Posted by read me on Sun, Jul 12, 2009, at 9:46 PM
  • I don't see anything in the draft about it being an American history course. The name of the proposed course is "The Bible in History and Literature," which would lead me to believe it would be more of a world history (and literature) course. In which case, other religions should be examined as well.

    While I agree that religious liberty is a topic that warrants discussion, and it probably would be wise to have some sort of policy in place, I still don't feel that this is an appropriate time to add ANY new courses to the curriculum. I think the more urgent problem to address is the ongoing budget troubles. Maybe a few years from now, the school system could look into adding a religion course or two as long as it's a with a more balanced approach than what is currently being proposed.

    -- Posted by Damon on Sun, Jul 12, 2009, at 10:37 PM
  • OK, my mistake. "The Bible in History and Literature" is neither an American OR world history course. The textbook merely teaches the Bible assuming that it is historically accurate, which, of course, is another debatable topic.

    -- Posted by Damon on Sun, Jul 12, 2009, at 11:18 PM
  • So, the district can afford to add a class on Christianity in school, but cuts programs for special needs kids? And, what about the district not even being able to afford to bus kids to school?


    -- Posted by Aimee on Mon, Jul 13, 2009, at 8:04 AM
  • To believe that Christianity is the only religion that built this great nation is laughable! True while the framers of the constitution may have been predominantly Christian they obviously recognised the importance of other religious views. The framers were for the most part Christian by default. US population was made up of primarily Western European immigrants at this time but they realized that the US was a melting pot and guaranteed the freedom of religion. Were the slaves brought from Africa as Christian? Were the Budhist Chinese that built the transcontinental railroad devout Christians? How about the Jewish and Muslims faith citizens in this country? Oh and how about the American Indian they may have an important part in this country's past as well. So if you want to talk religion, history and the building of this country we will definitely need a little more time in school to cover all of the bases. All of this opinion was a little off subject but I thought that it was worth mentioning.

    -- Posted by deweyh on Mon, Jul 13, 2009, at 8:23 AM
  • It is impossible to divorce the bible from christianity or the religion of christianity. It cannot be taught merely as a history book or as literature, and creationism cannot be recognized without faith of a "creator"...not just any creator..a christian creator. Fundamentalist christians want nothing more than to have christian idealogy taught in almost every facet of public school. Science, history, social studies and literature. They want to infuse their religion into the minds of our young people without regard to their beliefs or backgrounds. It's a sorry attempt to proselytize our teens. christian fundamentalism is dying in this country and, in my humble opinion, this is an attempt to revive it. They are going after children to bolster their numbers. Elective or not, this is a slippery slope the school board might want to think twice about.

    -- Posted by HergerSeamas on Mon, Jul 13, 2009, at 9:04 AM
  • HergerSeamas thank you for helping me to expand my vocabulary!

    Proselytism is the practice of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion.

    Yeah I definitely had to look that one up!

    -- Posted by deweyh on Mon, Jul 13, 2009, at 9:22 AM
  • I keep seeing read me saying "both sides" should be taught. Both sides? christianity isn't a side it's a world view. The bible is one of many, many world views. Religious zealotry is dangerous. I find it hilarious that read me's definition of "melting pot" is: "Melting pot" refers to a group of people who, when they live together under the same ideals,become harmonious. The same ideals?..christianity right? LOL! That's not a melting pot, it's a theocracy. That would make America no different from the countries that are run by muslim extremists. Fundamentalists want to label anyone who accepts others who have different faiths as liberal. The world isn't as black and white as what fundamentalists would have you believe. Truth? Your truth is resurection of jesus...it isn't mine. Just because YOU believe it to be true doesn't make it so. Also, read me said that the bible is a history book and the stories in it are true because they have stood the test of time. Most mythology has stood the test of time! You can say that about the mythology of the Celts, Roman, Greek, Indo-European, Nordic, etc. Because the "stories" still exist doesn't make them true. Are you going to teach the atrocities the church and christianity have comitted througout history as well? How bout teaching the inquisition, or Salem Witch trials. Both sides right? Lets teach the children about the murder, slavery, incest, infanticide, genocide, animal sacrifice, human sacrifice (jesus) committed in the bible, to name just a few.

    -- Posted by HergerSeamas on Mon, Jul 13, 2009, at 9:47 AM
  • My pleasure deweyh.

    -- Posted by HergerSeamas on Mon, Jul 13, 2009, at 10:48 AM
  • It is not the public school systems place to "Introduce jesus" to their students.

    -- Posted by HergerSeamas on Mon, Jul 13, 2009, at 3:03 PM
  • Our country was not founded on Christianity.

    ALL the great religions have a saying similar to the golden rule. (COMPARATIVE religion education is needed.)

    Self-rule and equality are not in the Bible. "Render unto Caesar," remember? Our laws are much better than those of God, who instructed how to treat slaves, not abolish slavery!

    Quit trying to rewrite history:

    "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion..."

    From Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli 1797. Unanimously ratified by the U.S. Senate and signed by President John Adams.

    -- Posted by Ruth1940 on Mon, Jul 13, 2009, at 6:29 PM
  • This must have been the view at Lincoln Elementary when my high-functioning child with PDD-NOS was placed in a low-functioning special ed class and made to feel like he was a retard (pardon the non-PC term) and would come home crying that "GOD JUST MADE HIM THAT WAY!"

    Sure, teach my seven year old about the bible without my permission. It didn't screw him up at all. I DO NOT REGRET TAKING HIM OUT!!!! Now he is in a regular classroom and excelling in a school where RELIGION is NEVER taught.

    As long as we're including christianity, we must include all types of christianity:









    As well as:



    Pure Land



















    New Religious Movements

    Christian-Derived NRMs

    Eastern-Derived NRMs

    Paganism and New Age




    Forgive me if I've left out any...like the flying spaghetti monster. Maybe my kid will come home saying Buddha made him dumb.

    -- Posted by liberateIA on Mon, Jul 13, 2009, at 9:58 PM
  • Point blank...Religion doesn't belong in public schools. Why? Simply for the fact that the public opinion varies so greatly on this issue. It brings too much arguement where no single opinion is right. With existing budget cuts there is no way that every opinion could be satisfied. I let my children choose their own beliefs, not force my beliefs onto them and I don't want it forced onto them at school. Leave it as a college elective so they have the freedom to choose. For isn't that what our country is really all about...Freedom?

    -- Posted by sister_burton on Tue, Jul 14, 2009, at 10:24 AM
  • Sister Burton, I actually don't object to teaching "About" religion in public schools. All religions should be examined skeptically for their philosophy and objectively for their cultural influences in history and in the present. There should be an Intro to Philosophy class, too.

    But it sounds like this proposed class is designed to make some point: That the USA was founded on Christianity. What other classes are designed to prove some point? History of China? History of France? I think not. Maybe a class on Holocaust denial would be similar to this proposed class in that it would also be trying to prove some point.

    -- Posted by Bumpercrop on Tue, Jul 14, 2009, at 10:53 AM
  • In Hartley they had a religious history class as a college elective. The school would pay for it (if you kept your grades above a C) if you chose to take it, you'd come in at about 6 o'clock on Tuesday and take the class for a couple hours and it would count towards college credits. My friend loved it! This was just while I was going there so I'm not sure if it's still offered but I think that would be a much better option. Then the students who seriously wanted to learn about it could and you wouldn't have kids taking it only because they think it'd be easy to pass. Also in my World History class he ran over world religion for a chapter so it was partially there but not over powering.

    -- Posted by _Samantha_ on Tue, Jul 14, 2009, at 3:38 PM
  • Good idea, Samantha. If the board is really open to academic freedom and is not merely trying to prove some point about US history, they should appreciate your solution.

    -- Posted by Bumpercrop on Tue, Jul 14, 2009, at 9:04 PM
  • I guess I don't understand how Dave Schlictemeir, even as a school board member, gets to create or alter the curriculum in a public school. I vaguely remember him returning to Spencer for a short time with his wife Jeanne, when I was a teenager in the late seventies. He helped start up a 'cool' place for teens to go hang out and talk about God and current events or bad hair days or whatever. It was a fun place where there were no drugs or alcohol or peer pressure. I don't know how it was funded, or how long it lasted even. I moved away shortly after I graduated and my sisters did not get into church stuff like i did. I wonder why Dave just doesn't do this again, through his church, if he's wanting to reach more teens to share his religious beliefs. Seems like the Junction would offer up the same teachings for anyone of any age to delve into should they so desire, without taking precious budget dollars from the school system to offer a class that a select few might be interested in. The state mandated more math and science credits necessary for graduation by the way- beginning with the graduating class of 2011. The kids are going to have a hard enough time getting all the credits in that they MUST have to graduate, along with a bit of the practical learning courses offered. Seems budget dollars would be better spent finding a few more and different credit-qualifying math class that everyone can pass not just the brainiacs. I LOVED trig & statistics, etc. - my kids aren't so fortunate. Does this religion class qualify for any of the mandated credits?

    -- Posted by SpencerAlumni77 on Wed, Jul 15, 2009, at 8:08 PM
  • SpencerAlumni77, They want to spread their religion to those who are "lost". They want to advertise jesus to those who have either rejected it or are ignorant of it. "Preaching to the choir" is not good enough and neither is "Sunday School", those people are already in the church...they want the "others" too.

    -- Posted by HergerSeamas on Thu, Jul 16, 2009, at 9:51 AM
  • Stafiniois, although I don't think this class is necessary to the Spencer school district and I hate to see special ed programs cut, you can't really argue that adding one class has a similar cost to an entire program. Apples and oranges, my friend.

    -- Posted by notinia on Tue, Jul 21, 2009, at 4:27 PM
  • http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article...

    So the school board decided not to push these religion classes after all. Wonder why I had to read about it on the Des Moines Register's website rather than here or on KICD's news page...

    -- Posted by PhMcS on Thu, Aug 27, 2009, at 8:26 AM
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