Commentary: Religion in Schools – is it Constitutional?

written by Emily Tully

At the constitutional convention in 1787, our founding fathers came to the conclusion that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Many interpret this to mean that, literally, Americans have the right to practice any religion that we choose, but the government cannot force any religion onto you.

In recent times, or even since that amendment has been ratified, it has been misquoted and not followed as our founders meant.

Religion remains a topic not to be brought up with people, as most have a passionate opinion about it. Individuals follow the faith that they so choose and practice it in their daily lives to their discretion.

With that being said, there are some that don’t.

If things were as they were laid out in the Constitution, that would be fine. But companies, schools and other organizations have been shaming those who do not follow religion, or don’t practice the religion that they do, and making it institutional.

With the recent mass shootings in schools, there have been more calls for action as a means to stop the senseless violence and death that have been surrounding our society for over a decade. Solutions to the problem have been mentioned — arming teachers, stronger gun control, and even some unconventional ones, like adding more religion in schools.

The problem with teaching religion in public schools is that it is unconstitutional and hinders the process of students being able to form their own opinions.

Posts on social media from local high school students have claimed that the reason for these tragedies is ‘our country’s lack of morals and a relationship with God.’ Organizations have banded together to put ‘God back into public schools’ following mass acts of violence.

But what about those who do not practice any religion, or a religion that doesn’t have to do with God?

As a high school student, who isn’t particularly religious, I am absolutely in awe at the fact that other high schoolers want to blame this problem on something that is not based on fact. The fact of the matter is the average person, as young as 16 years old in Vermont, can purchase a gun. Eighteen-year-olds can purchase semi-automatic weapons that cause mass destruction. As many as 50 people can be killed in minutes, as seen in the Las Vegas shooting.

How long must this go on before our voices are heard? Why do these calls for action have to come from ‘children’? Why is being a ‘child,’ or a young person, a bad thing? Why do we imply that our youth is uneducated about this topic in particular; when, in reality, high school students are the ones who deal with this first hand?

As of print, there have been 82 school shootings since I started my freshman year at Jeff High, all of these resulting in injury and death. But my opinion doesn’t matter?

Students are faced with anxieties and fears that our lives will be potentially cut short, in a place where we are supposed to prepare for a life full of longevity and prosperity.

Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education, has been known for her Christian belief, although she has kept quiet since her nomination. In a 2001 interview, though, she offered a glimpse into her convictions.

“Our desire,” she claimed, “is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

Isn’t this, by definition, unconstitutional?

DeVos is known for her support of private and Christian/Catholic education, supporting President Donald Trump’s call to fund families moving away from “our failing government schools” into their choice of charter or private school.

Why would the country’s Secretary of Education be focused on moving families out of government schools, instead of improving them? Is it because they cannot teach their religious agenda in public schools?

Public schools are not a place to push ideologies, whether they be religious, political or economic. Schools are supposed to be a place for us students to prosper and find ourselves — find our ways of thinking and ways of doing things in a manner that we so please. If I had listened to all of the principles that were pushed upon me, I would not be the activist and opinionated person that I am today.

It’s not just ‘liberals’ or ‘left-wing’ people who believe in teaching students in a way that they can learn for themselves. Most students that I have polled, from all walks of life, want to learn for themselves.

Junior Chris Sosa believes that, “If the government is funding families going into private schools, that’s wrong. They should be focusing on bettering our public schools, because not everyone is going to choose to go to a private school.

“It’s a bias within our government towards those who don’t follow the religion that they do,” Sosa continued.

In this time of societal divy of how to fix this nationwide dilemma of violence, does the answer really lie within amending the Constitution?

Tully and Treat’s High School Help

What is it like to grow up as a female in today’s society?

Chloe’s Answer:

Being a girl in general is not easy, but being a teenage girl is even harder. It feels like there’s a constant expectation that has to be met: look this way, feel that way.

When I started high school, I was always comparing myself to other girls, and sometimes I still do. If you live your life trying to be like someone else, nothing will ever feel right.

Our high school years are some of the hardest mentally, too.

Obviously gender doesn’t determine whether or not one suffers from depression or anxiety, but it is more common in teenage girls than boys. Some doctors say this is due to girls maturing faster; therefore we are more vulnerable to these feelings.

For me, I think it has a lot to do with the social stresses put on girls. As humans, we want validation and acceptance from those around us, and that can affect our self esteem and confidence in a  major way. For us girls, I think we try really hard to be good enough, pretty enough, and smart enough.

For as long as women can remember, they have been seen as inferior to men. This has caused women to have to prove themselves to anyone that sees them as different. You’re only a teenager for so long, so you can’t waste your time trying to prove yourself to people who probably don’t even care.

I think you have to reach a point where you love yourself for who you are, and you realize that you are good enough, in every way.                                                      

 

Emily’s Answer:

Growing up as a girl in today’s age is obviously easier than it was for the women that came before us. We don’t have to fight for the right to vote, for equal education, or any “real” barriers keeping us from our male counterparts.

However, this does not mean that growing up as a young girl is a walk through the park. There are a plethora of societal barriers that are holding young girls back from their full potential.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve felt a pressure about having to be a certain way. I have to be smart and level headed, but not smart enough to threaten my femininity. I have to wear clothes that are in style and that are flattering and feminine, but I have to make sure I’m not showing too much of any part of my body.

It took me awhile to actually realize these inconsistencies in the standards for boys and girls. I can thank my parents for that, for always encouraging me to be unapologetically me, and to not necessarily have to fit to these stereotypes.

Just because I was in this environment at home, doesn’t mean that it’s like that everywhere. Some of my earliest memories of this unfamiliar judgement were in a school setting. Being told to act “ladylike” was a very common statement that was pushed upon myself and my friends.

At the time we were embarrassed and ashamed. Were we not ladies anymore because we would rough-house and play pretend outside?

It’s taken me an extended amount of time to realize that women, as a whole, are held to societal standards that are dangerous and detrimental to one’s vision of themselves.

One of my favorite sayings is, “There is no wrong way to be a woman.” I try to remind myself of this consistently and empower myself and other girls to continue to encourage each other to be the best we can be at whatever we want.

No matter the connotation it comes with.