Letters to the Editor

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

To the Editor:

Gerald Carlson ("'Secular Intolerance' Seen Prompting State Regulation of Fundamentalist Schools," Letters, Aug. 5, 1987) imagines that there is a humanist "fox" guarding the public-school "chicken coop.'' The "foxes" guarding our public schools are the tens of thousands of parents and taxpayers who make up our local school boards, aided by the nine foxes on the U.S. Supreme Court, who have occasionally had to remind local policymakers of the applicability of the Bill of Rights.

Is public-school pluralism an "elusive myth"? Hardly. Our public schools are composed of a bewildering diversity of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and board members of every conceivable religion, political persuasion, and ideology. Curricula generally respect and reflect this diversity. This de facto diversity contributes enormously to keeping our schools reasonably neutral regarding religion.

Do public schools promote "secularism"? No, if by "secularism" is meant the promotion of the idea that religion is not important or that it is to be despised. Our country's pluralism and the federal and state constitutions do require, however, that the schools be "secular,'' which is to say religiously neutral. Neutrality is a far cry from hostility.

Many humanist values--such as a belief in democratic processes, appreciation for science and reason, respect for civil liberties--are found in our society and schools, but they are properly shared by the vast majority of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and other Americans. Those concepts that are uniquely humanist (for example, a wholly naturalistic view of the universe and a belief in the finality of death) are not and should not be taught in public schools.

It goes without saying that students may study about all religions in properly structured academic classes.

Finally, if our society "is becoming increasingly hostile to religion," that hostility is not directed toward religion in general but toward the activities and proclamations of certain televangelists and extremists.

Reasonable public regulation of private schools, which does not interfere with their religious mission, is analogous to public regulation of private hospitals, school buses, day-care centers, physicians, dentists, and automobiles.

Edd Doerr
Executive Director
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Md.

Vol. 07, Issue 03

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

To Address Chronic Absenteeism, Dig into the Data

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Keep Your Schools Safe and Responsive to Real Challenges

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

3 Unique Learner Profiles for Emerging Bilinguals

Effective Questioning Practices to Spur Thinking

Empower Reading Teachers with Proven Literacy PD

Student Engagement Lessons from 3 Successful Districts

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >