A school district is openly promoting Christianity in the schools of Greentown, Indiana.
“We are a community of Christians who also are teachers and educators, and I don’t think any of us leave our faith at the door because the bell rings,” Eastern Schools Superintendent Tracy Caddell recently told the Kokomo Tribune. “But by the same token, we’re not teaching doctrine. We’re teaching kids, hopefully, to love thy neighbor as thyself.”
However, public schools are not allowed to endorse a specific religion, even in a predominantly Christian town such as Greentown.
“A public school should have no role in promoting religion,” Ken Falk, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, told the Kokomo Tribune. “This is an area where the law is very clear.”
Caddell countered, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and that doesn’t stop just because the school bell rings. As a leader, I’m hoping that we’re promoting what people would call Christian values. However, we’re not promoting or teaching Christian doctrine. There’s a big difference.”
Jerome Christian Church, Oakbrook Church, First United Methodist Church of Greentown and Kokomo Urban Outreach partner with the public schools in various programs, which Caddell defended.
"There are different churches that have been involved in helping us with our mission of helping and supporting kids. None of these groups have ever come in and tried to force their doctrine on the school, that’s for sure," stated Caddell. "They’re not here to teach doctrine to the kids. They’re here to show them there are adults who care for you."
Peter Heck, a history teacher at Eastern High School, has asked students to read from the Bible as part of an elective social studies class because he is appalled that the state and the country are "graduating high school students who don’t have any fundamental basis of understanding the Bible."
Karol Evenson, a choir teacher at Eastern Jr./Sr. High School says she shares her Christian faith with students if there is an opportunity.
“It’s a very big part of my life so how can I teach and it not be a part of my teaching?” said Evenson. “It’s just who I am, so I’m not going to deny it and if I have an opportunity where I’m going to share it, I’m going to.”
Evenson added that she mixes faith with school activities such as the Christmas program at the school, which includes a nativity scene and faculty members playing parts.
"A lot of times, I tell the kids, ‘I’m not asking you to believe, I’m hoping that you do and that you will, but I’m trying to get you to feel the music and what we’re singing about.’ A lot of the kids here do believe it, so when they are singing those pieces, it’s such a blessing for me,” stated Evenson.
Evenson claims the Christmas program is optional for students as is the prayer that she leads for the student choir before concerts. Students who don't want to pray can step away, but that likely violates several U.S. Supreme Court decisions on school prayer.
While no one has filed a complaint or a lawsuit yet, the Friendly Atheist notes, "[W]hen you live in an area where most of the people around you are Christian, you would be risking everything to go against them. It’s just easier to sit down and stay silent — and you can’t blame them for doing so."
TheSpectrum.com reports that a complaint was recently filed against an elementary school in Swainsboro, Georgia, where teachers are allegedly leading prayers for students, but allowing dissenting students to walk into a hallway.
Sources: Kokomo Tribune, Friendly Atheist, TheSpectrum.com
Image Credit: ErgoSum88