Freedom of religion in school

Last Edited By Krjb Donovan
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2014 07:35 PM GMT


QUESTION: My 14 year old was asked to write a book report on any historic book either fiction or non fiction. She was told by her teacher that she could not write a report on a book of the Bible.I believe this is a violation of her constitutional rights.

ANSWER: Ms. Greely,

I'd have to have more information before I could possibly know if you're right--but I'd guess you are not. Separation of church and state--vital to protecting the religious liberty of everyone--would prevent the teacher from drawing any conclusions about your daughter's opinion of the Bible--or any other book considered sacred. The teacher would therefore be quite wise, in my opinion, to ask students to report on books other than books considered sacred by many. The teacher is not, in any case, required to accept a student's interpretation of a reasonable assignment, and it is the teacher's responsibility to make appropriate assignments.

If the teacher ridiculed your daughter's religious opinion--told her that the Bible is nonfiction when your daughter insisted it is fiction or vice versa, for example, that might be a violation of your daughter's rights.

Perhaps you should visit the nearest office of the ACLU, with all the details, if you want a more definitive answer.


Ed Buckner

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: While I see your point.I believe that since the assignment was on any historic book both fiction and non fiction that the teacher is discriminating against the Bible. If the book report was on Harry Potter than I would consider it witch craft and I am against that but public schools support Harry Potter books.The teacher also stated that the Bible is not historic.


The problem you see is that views of how historically accurate and reliable the books of the Bible are, are in fact religious opinions--some people (mostly fundamentalist Christians and Jews though also some Muslims) believe the Bible is a valuable guide to history, while others (liberal Christians and Jews, secularists, and others) believe that some history in the Bible is accurate but that most is not, that it is heavily affected by myth, etc. Which view one takes of the historical accuracy of the Bible is strongly related to one's religious views, and a teacher could not argue on either side of the question without proselytizing--and that's a violation of the First Amendment.

Maybe this will help you see why such matters--of great importance to people on all sides--need to be dealt with in places other than public schools.


Ed Buckner


©2024 eLuminary LLC. All rights reserved.