This paper is the literature review. It deals with the topic of religion in schools. The main goal of this paper is to show how the selected sources support the topic and how they are similar and different from each other. In order to achieve this goal, different sources of information concerning the topic were carefully analyzed and examined.
Studies show that people are prone to oppose a constitutional amendment, which declares that the United States is considered to be Christian nation. However, the same studies also reveal that people tend to support teaching creationism in public schools. Moreover, the studies, which have been conducted by a California consulting firm, show that approximately 66 percent of the American people oppose a constitutional amendment, which says that Christianity must be established as the official religion in America. Only 32 percent of the American people agree with this amendment. However, evangelical Christians also support this amendment, while the public is totally against it. Approximately 66 percent of evangelical Christians agree with this amendment. The Barna Group has conducted the study, which reveals that the majority of American people are against removing Ten Commandments from public buildings. Moreover, about 84 percent of people are against removing In God We Trust from currency. The same number of people is against removing Under God from the Pledge of Allegiance. Moreover, about 59 percent of the American people support teaching creationism in public schools (AU Bulletin, 2014).
There is a great controversy regarding the public school curriculum. Public school officials always struggle to balance their own interests in progressing democratic education with different needs of families and students. Moreover, officials must take into account religious beliefs of those students and families. The Supreme Court provides the definition to the roles, which parents and religion play in public schools. That’s why public school officials must neutralize free speech rights and at the same time defend against Establishment Clause breaches (Russo, 2014).
In order to conform with the Constitution, public school officials should do something more than just to label different religious courses with another title. For instance, the Fifth Circuit denied the teaching of the Bible as literature in Alabama because this course was taught from a religious perspective. The court made the decision that the course was unconstitutional under the Lemon test after revealing that it was taught from Christian point of view without discussing the Bible from the literary perspective. Another case shows how a federal trial court proposed course on the Bible as the elective one, but later it was found that the school plan did not pass Lemon and other tests. It was revealed that the course taught about the resurrection as the truth. Moreover, the Third Circuit revealed that a class from New Jersey broke constitutional laws because it required the students to take part in faith-based ceremonies (Russo, 2014).
When some challenges appear, courts always consider the curricula, examine its intentions, and decide whether to consider them as religious constraint or endorsement. Curricula, which teach students about religion, are always supported by the Constitution if curricula serve secular goals. However, if the educators do not address religious topics in a neutral way, the courts discourage them from violating constitutional laws (Russo, 2014).
Levinson (2007) states that it is very difficult to define where the educators’ rights under the First Amendment begin, and where they end. It is also very difficult to determine the difference between academic freedom and free speech rights. These concepts are related, but also are analytically distinct. Even though courts recognize the relationship between academic freedom rights and First Amendment rights, these two terms do not correspond exactly (Levinson, 2007).
The First Amendment limits the right of public institutions to verify the expression of on all kinds of topics and in all the types of settings. Academic freedom focuses on the rights, which relate to educational contexts of teaching and learning for individuals at both private and public institutions (Levinson, 2007).
Talking about the religion in schools it is also important to mention the issue of celebrating holidays in public schools, which is one of the most controversial. The Supreme Court has forbidden religious prayer in public schools and as the result many schools try to avoid the expression of the Christian message in the holiday observations. However, Christmas is strongly accepted in American culture and its religious origins are ignored. Only a few of its contents and origins can be considered very seriously. Moreover, the Supreme Court has found that the celebration of Christmas by public entities does not violate the First Amendment (Hartenstein, 1992).
As the conclusion, it must be revealed that the topic of religion is one of the most spoken and controversial. Even though the studies show that the majority of American people are against the amendment, which states that Christian religion must be established as the national religion, it still has a place to be (AU Bulletin, 2014). The Constitution allows usage of religion in the education process under certain circumstances (Russo, 2014). Moreover, the First Amendment does not prohibit the celebration of Christmas, which strongly accepted in American culture (Hartenstein, 1992).
AU Bulletin,. (2014). Around the States: Americans Oppose 'Christian Nation' Amendment, Poll Finds. Church & State.
Hartenstein, J. (1992). A Christmas Issue: Christian Holiday Celebration in the Public Elementary Schools is an Establishment of Religion. California Law Review, 80(4), 981-983. http://dx.doi.org/10.15779/Z38S73V
Levinson, R. (2007). Academic Freedom and the First Amendment (2007) | AAUP. Aaup.org. Retrieved 12 January 2016, from http://www.aaup.org/our-work/protecting-academic-freedom/academic-freedom-and-first-amendment-2007
Russo, C. (2014). International Perspectives on Education, Religion and Law (pp. 28-37). Routledge.