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Christian Teachers Urged To Impart Religious Values in Schools

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Philadelphia--Evangelical Christians who teach in the public schools should do all they legally can to impart their religious values to students, a group of Christian educators said here at a meeting attended by President Reagan's domestic-policy adviser.

"Those who hold Christian convictions must apply them within the realm of public education," said Forrest L. Turban, executive director of Christian Educators Association International, whose Aug. 7 annual meeting drew some 300 teachers, principals, school-board members, and parents.

Mr. Turban urged teachers to find ways short of teaching religious dogma to tell students about their faith. And he said that both teachers and parents should influence schools by holding high moral standards and demanding a curriculum that promotes Christian values.

Gary Bauer, the White House domestic-policy adviser and former undersecretary of education, praised the group's efforts in a speech to the association outlining his views on the importance of the family and values education.

"It is my firm belief," he said, "that the trend toward values-neutral classroom instruction has contributed significantly to the massive increases in youth drug and alcohol abuse, delinquency, promiscuity, illegitimacy, the whole litany of problems we're all familiar with."

Teaching the Bible

The 35-year-old association, which claims about 2,000 members, began holding annual meetings three years ago in response to the growth of private Christian academies, said Mr. Turban, a retired high-school administrator who now lives in Pasadena, Calif.

"We began to ask ourselves, 'What is it that public schools are missing that is causing this phenomenon,' and it is values," he said. "Christians have gotten a bad name as wanting to 'take over' the school system, but all we want is to establish that there is freedom of religion."

Educating teachers and administrators about their legal rights and the rights of students is one of the association's main goals, Mr. Turban said.

For example, he noted, U.S. Supreme Court decisions have established that teachers can discuss Jesus as a historical figure, can teach the Bible as literature, and can teach about religion as long as religious dogma is not taught.

"You can do a lot more than you think you can," said Sue Winter, a teacher in the Ritenour school district in St. Louis, who said she had given out Bibles to students in class.

Sometimes confrontation with school officials is the best strategy, Ms. Winter said. Her school's principal once said she could not legally read the Bible in class, she recalled. "I said, 'Yes, I can.' That threw her off."

According to Mr. Turban, many school administrators do not understand the rights of teachers. The association tries to intervene in disputes involving its members.

Joan Tilley, a 7th and 8th grade4teacher at Durham Intermediate School in Durham, Calif., told the teachers here that she takes any opportunity she can to "share the faith" with her students.

Admitting that her classroom methods might seem improper, and possibly illegal, to some, Ms. Tilley said she reads to her students from the Bible, makes them memorize biblical quotations and uses motivational and sex-education materials distributed by a leading evangelist. She said she also places Christian magazines around her classroom and discusses her beliefs with students at every opportunity.

Her principal knows what she is doing, she said, and the only complaints come when students mistakenly tell their parents she is "forcingthem to read the Bible" when she asks them to memorize quotations such as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Once parents are informed of the assignment, they usually approve, she said.

Like many at the gathering, Ms. Tilley believes, she said, that American society has become too secular, and that a teacher who is Christian "has a lot of responsibility" to bring Christian ideas and morality to the public schools.

The fact that she grew up in the small community in which she teaches and knows most of her students' parents contributes to hersuccess, the teacher said. "But I believe I would do the same things in any school."

Linden Boggs, a former high-school teacher and author of books for Christian parents, urged teachers at the meeting to fight the discrimination against them. "Some of the teachers here say they are the only [born-again] Christian in their school," he said.

When he was a public-school guidance counselor in Indiana, Mr. Boggs said, a 10th-grade student who had attended a Christian school "accepted Jesus Christ right in my office. She was saved in a public school."

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