Sunday, June 15, 2003

Enquirer Editorial: Ten Commandments
On the issue of erecting a monument of the Ten Commandments on a public school the Enquirer is correct to support the court ruling requiring their removal. They are however wrong in their contention:
There is nothing wrong with exposing children to the moral truths embodied in the Ten Commandments. Teachers are free to explain the moral underpinnings of the commandments and how they influenced the development of our laws and society, just as they free to explain the principles and historical contributions of other religions. But public schools must not show deference to one religion over another, and that is exactly what the stone markers in Adams County were meant to do.
There is something wrong with teachers trying to explain morals to children. Whose morals are you going to choose? I do not want my future children taught that the first four commandments are "moral." The remaining six are in most incarnations good rules to live by, the "Golden Rule" being a better one, and are covered to varying degrees in criminal and civil law. The problem is that how do you teach these rules? Do you teach a kid that killing is wrong, and then ignore the death penalty?

Religion should not be taught in schools beyond the scope of the cultural impact it played in various societies and nations over time. This is useful in understanding history, social studies, and other similar disciplines. One can't study European History for example without understanding the influence of the Roman Catholic Church or the various reasons for war, which often had a conflict of religions element to it. That does not mean the teacher advocates the "morals" taught by a particular religion.

This editorial is a crafty one on a PR basis. The board took the valid legal and logical position of the court ruling, but did not want to come across as "anti-Christian" that stance is perceived to have by fanatics. They therefore chose to raise the issue of a pantheistic type approach to religion in school, which is in my opinion still unconstitutional. A pantheistic approach from a Christian perspective all to often is really a monotheistic approach, where monotheistic religions are acknowledged, while polytheistic and non-religious perspectives are ignored. If not monotheistic, then an institutional religious perspective is the bias, where individual religious beliefs or other minor religions are ignored or viewed as "nutty." The nearly never ending string of possible set of religious beliefs, not to mention the lack of religious beliefs, makes teaching their principals difficult, except in specific historical contexts. Keep moral lessons in the home and/or place of worship. Let teachers stick to the secular world.

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