by Chuck Colson / Prison FellowshipIn too many cases, Christian children in public school classrooms are being forced to act like atheists. After all, that is effectively what is happening when they are told not to talk about Jesus, not to sing about Jesus, and not to write about Jesus. A very small but vocal minority pound away at teachers and school officials, intimidating them into thinking that the public school must be a "religion-free zone." Their attacks have resulted in the religious aspects of even Christmas being banned, Christian students being silenced, and teachers being censored. A climate of fear about religion surrounds too many schools. But you and I have a great opportunity to stop this discrimination against our children who want to express their faith at school.
January 16 is Religious Freedom Day, and President Bush's special proclamation will ask schools to commemorate the day. While many public schools are denying students' rights to freely express their faith, the U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines that clearly list and explain those rights. For example, students have the legal right to express their faith in their assignments; they can witness to their classmates; they can read their Bibles at school; and they can pray. But many teachers have never seen these guidelines and believe they cannot allow these or any other religious expressions in their classrooms.
It's fitting that Religious Freedom Day comes on January 16, the day after we commemorate Martin Luther King's birthday. After all, King's religious faith was the foundation of his fight for civil rights. And it was religious freedom in America that allowed him to express his faith against a dreadful evil and move the entire nation. While many people will commemorate Martin Luther King Day, few even know about Religious Freedom Day. That's why an organization called Gateways to Better Education is leading a national campaign to raise awareness about Religious Freedom Day. Gateways helps public schools teach Judeo-Christian history, thought, and values. It has also developed a website, ReligiousFreedomDay.com, to provide you everything you need to commemorate the day in your church, your home, and your school.
Other organizations have now joined with Gateways to bring greater awareness to Religious Freedom Day. These include the Beckett Fund, which is a great religious liberties firm defending us in our case with the IFI, the Association of American Educators, the Institute for Religion and Democracy, and the Council for America's First Freedom, headed by Ambassador Robert Seiple.
You can help promote religious freedom in our schools. Why don't you educate your children's teachers about the Department of Education's guidelines? Or ask them to spend a few minutes to talk with their students about their religious freedom, or to discuss with them the president's proclamation? And in your church next Sunday, why not distribute information on students' religious liberties to the Sunday school classes and youth groups?
The law is on our side. Gateways to Better Education has prepared fact sheets that are available by calling us here at BreakPoint (1-877-3CALLBP) or by visiting our website. This year, you can help public schools promote civil liberties and stop discrimination against children of faith by commemorating Religious Freedom Day. Let your voice be heard. Let freedom ring!