Wednesday, March 7, 2012

There Should be Religious Services in the Public Schools – Yes Everyone Heard That Correctly

And Yes – An Explanation is Needed

Regular readers of this Forum will know that nobody is more in favor of separation of church and state than the author of this Forum.  The removal of religion from government was probably the greatest accomplishment of the geniuses who founded the nation, something that becomes more apparent every day as politicians try to use government to force their own sectarian beliefs on others.

So why is there a call here for the presence of religious services in public schools?  It is for this reason here, as explained in The Economist magazine.

A LARGE sign outside PS 150, a public school in Queens, encourages students to “KEEP READING!”. On Sundays another sign appears, temporarily fixed to the school fence, that says “Grace Fellowship Church”. Grace Fellowship, a Presbyterian congregation, owns no space of its own, so it pays the Department of Education about $1,400 a month for the use of the auditorium in PS 150. But because of a court battle its 90 or so members face having nowhere to pray.

About 60 churches, mostly Christian but also Buddhist, Jewish and Hindu congregations, rent space from New York City’s Department of Education.

That’s right, in New York City, and presumably around the country congregations that do not have a dedicated facility of their own rent space in public school buildings to hold services when school is not in session.

This is an entirely correct practice.  The role of government is not to advocate religion, but it does have a role in accommodating religion.  It is not advocacy of religion to make Christmas a legal holiday, it is an accommodation for the large majority of the population who believe that Christmas should be a celebration of their religion.  In New York state, with its large Jewish population the state accommodates celebration of the Jewish High Holy Days.  Obviously accommodation is an art, not a science, and not every religion and every religious holiday can be accommodated by government.  But where common sense and decency demand an accommodation, it should be done.

So why would anyone object to the empty public schools being used by religious groups for services?  Well there is the American Civil Liberties Union.  This fine organization is frustrating because about 5-10% of the time it adopts policies which are just plain wrong.  It does so in this case.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) says allowing worship in school buildings sends out the message that the government favours Christian churches, as they can use them more easily than groups who worship on days when they are open. (Most Muslims, for instance, have Fridays as their principal day of prayer, ruling out the use of schools.) This violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government endorsement of religion, reckons Donna Lieberman of the NYCLU.

This is pure idiocy.  There is no attempt at discrimination against religions that do not have Sunday as there day of worship.  That is just the way things have worked out.  Does the ACLU really think that centuries ago when the public school calendar was being made people thought that they would include Friday as a public school day just to thwart religions who wanted to use the school building on that day to hold services?  It sounds like it.

In fact, the ACLU position in this situation damages religious freedom because it provides ammunition for those who want a larger presence of religion in government under the argument that government is hostile to religion.  The ACLU does great work, but their stupidity in the 10% or so positions they take that have no rhyme or reason almost totally offset the 90% of proper positions that they take.

So yes, if a congregation wants to rent a public school building for the purpose of holding services when the school is not being used, by all means let them.  The aura of religion leaves the building when the congregants leave, it does not stay to infect the students who arrive on Monday morning. 

No comments:

Post a Comment