Religion arena has been a complex and contentious issue because it consists of diverse and world views concerning the issue that are often contradictory. Struggle for religious liberty in public has been going on and especially in public schools. A series of questions have tried to capture attitudes towards religion in public schools (Valk 281).
The issue of religion in the public school set up has singled out students according to their religion. People who feel that some public schools are violating the rights of students as well as teachers are in most cases persecuted. A lot of students go to public schools and these students come from homes that practice a variety of religious and philosophical beliefs. Given the incredible diversity of the society, it is important that public schools respect the beliefs of everyone and protect parental rights. Religious neutrality must be maintained and not interfered with. The problem in public schools about the issue of religion is something that can be solved today, through various ways.
Public schools can try to do their best by not sponsoring religious worship (Dimitrakopoulos 507). In the case where public schools are being sponsored by certain churches in conducting religious activities, many students find themselves being forced to attend those religious activities even though they are not in accordance to their beliefs. By adopting this idea of not practicing school sponsored religion, students will be guaranteed the freedom to express and exercise their faith in a free way and without any interference (Flowers 101). This is because religious education should not be directed by the public schools but by parents since they are the ones who know the right path for their children and of course every parent wants what’s best for their children. This is not to mean that religion should not be taught in schools but every child is entitled to be taught the religion in which he/she is entitled to.
Teachers from different religions should be employed in the public schools to ensure the needs of students from various religious beliefs are catered for. Religion has played an integral part in history and this may be acknowledged in the interaction between religion and the public schools (Flowers 101). So long as the public schools do not promote or sponsor religion but merely cooperate with it there is no problem (Flowers 101). They should guarantee the freedom to worship as one chooses and make room for as wide a variety of beliefs and creeds as the spiritual needs of man deem necessary.
Public schools should ensure that all students coming from different religious backgrounds are granted equal freedom to exercise their religious beliefs.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, an intense analysis has revealed that there exist certain regulations together with prohibitions imposed on the wearing of various religious symbols (OHCHR 1996-2012). These religious symbols still remain as a subject of discussion in today’s society and this includes public schools. Students in the public schools are at a high risk of being thrown out of the school system while teachers on the other hand face the danger of being dismissed from their work (OHCHR 1996-2012). This happens if they do not follow the prescriptions concerning religious symbols.
In the same note the wearing of dresses that depict certain religious beliefs in the public schools face high criticism and this is especially to Muslim women and girls who wear burkas or khimar (head scarf) in public schools (Manisuli 657). Students as well as teachers should be left to where their religious symbols and dresses as this is the manifestation of their faith. Schools are expected to promote a positive school culture and climate that provides students with a supportive environment in which to grow both socially and academically. Public schools should also inform and involve parents when they are planning to address the issue of dealing with religious liberty (Duncan et al. 96). Moreover public schools should ensure that the curriculum that is used in the schools offer neutral activities where religion is concerned.
Remaining neutral on the matters concerning religion will also involve including neutral religious activities in the school curriculum. Those activities should offer a better way of understanding the world and these must be neutral (Flowers 101). This does not mean that religion should not be mentioned at all in public schools but it simply means that religious activities should not be based only on one religion. The school board must end religious activities such as official prayers during class and school events. By doing this the problem of religious discrimination in the public schools will ultimately be solved.
Government and States have the responsibility to eliminate religious discrimination in education in order to make education accessible and available to all (Manisuli 639). In addition States should also ensure that education is accessible both to parents and to children. All institutions that offer education, especially public schools, have to be accessible to everyone without any discrimination. This means there should be a guarantee in the quality of education and respect for parental freedom to have their children educated in conformity with parents religious, moral or philosophical convictions (Manisuli 659). Since everyone is guaranteed the right concerned with the freedom of worship which means there is liberty in religion, educational institutions must respect this right. By doing this they will be sure to eliminate any form of religious discrimination in public schools.
States can begin by understanding what public education means. They should think about it in terms of educating the public not in terms of government run schools. There should not be any religious or political test or qualification required as a condition of admission into any public educational institution of the state as teacher, student or pupil (Johnson et al. 115). This will make sure that teachers are not denied employment because of their religion as well as students being denied admission based on their religious beliefs. Furthermore States should also ensure that teachers in public schools should remain neutral upon religious questions in their teaching (Johnson et al. 117). This will ensure that all students in the school are fully incorporated in the school curriculum.
To conclude, the problem concerning religious matters in the public schools is something that can be solved because there are many measures that can be put forward to address this issue. The government, the public schools themselves together with parents and students should be in the front line in ensuring that there is religious liberty in all public schools. People should put in mind that everyone is entitled to the right and freedom of worship in whatever religion one feels comfortable with. This includes manifesting one’s faith in public. This will make learning to be enjoyable and students together with teachers will feel at ease as they work together to promote education.
- Valk, Pille. Teenagers’ Perspectives on the Role of Religion in Their Lives, Schools and Societies: A European Quantitative Study. Münster: Waxmann, 2009. Print.
- Dimitrakopoulos, Dionyssis G. Individual Rights and Liberties Under the U.s. Constitution: The Case Law of the U.s. Supreme Court. Boston: M. Nijhoff, 2007. Print.
- Flowers, Ronald B. That Godless Court?: Supreme Court Decisions on Church-State Relationships. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005. Print.
- Manisuli, Ssenyonjo. The Islamic Veil and Freedom of Religion, the Rights to Education and Work: a Survey of Recent International and National Cases. Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.