Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Separation of church and school?

In California, it's still OK for public school seventh-graders to take a three-week course on Islam.

In one of its first actions of the new term, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit brought by California parents who objected to the class, saying it violated the separation of church and state. According to the Associated Press, the parents said their son was forced to study pages from the Quran and study Islam's Five Pillars -- the central points of the Islamic faith.

The school says it wasn't trying to convert anybody, and the case brings up the prickly issue of just how much religion should be taught in schools. Islam has been a driving force in history for a good long while, as have been a good many other faiths. To understand history, some might say, requires some understanding of these important and, in many cases, revolutionary religions.

Teaching religion in secular classrooms is nothing new. Palmer High School has had an elective course, "Literature in the Bible," for a decade, and there's a move afoot to make public school students more "biblically literate," saying such literacy helps students understand history, literature and civics.

But, if such religious education is good and perhaps even necessary, it does create a fuzzy line. If a student is attracted to the tenants of one religion and decides to convert, is the school then guilty of prostyletizing?


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