Religion cannot be taught in public schools because the First Amendment to the Constitution demands “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” One of the primary causes of Europeans fleeing to the wilderness of North America was to escape state enforced religions. Too many martyrs for various religions had died in Europe for the Founding Fathers to want that tragedy repeated here.
One good definition of “religion” is “the service and worship of God or the supernatural.”[i] Because courts have ruled that the First Amendment limits what can be taught in government funded (= public) schools, there is a court enforced prohibition against teaching about God or anything supernatural in public schools. That was not very troublesome when the First Amendment was adopted because there were almost no public schools in America. Today almost 90% of students attend public schools.[ii]
The problem is: What if there is a Creator who did create life and does control the destiny of nations? This “no religion in school” interpretation of the First Amendment means scholars in public schools will be forever barred from learning the truth. The problem is compounded because judges, school administrators, politicians, even teachers who are the decision makers on this subject are often totally ignorant of religious truths and, therefore, are incapable of making correct judgments about teaching religion.
In the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District[iii] the court, following Supreme Court precedents, concluded that even the suggestion to students that a Creator—the Intelligent Designer in the theory of Intelligent Design—was involved in the creation of life was unconstitutional. The Kitzmiller Court noted that the National Academy of Science, purportedly the most “prestigious” of scientific societies, pronounced that “Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science.” There is a great danger in a quick reading of that statement. It says nothing about whether or not there is an Intelligent Designer, it only says gaining knowledge about one is “not testable by the methods of science.” This position was reiterated for the court by the American Association for the Advancement of Science . . . namely, that Intelligent Design “has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims” and that “the lack of scientific warrant for so-called ‘intelligent design theory’ makes it improper to include as part of science education . . .” These definitions of science are a statement of the limits of scientific knowledge—only those things testable by scientific methods. They are not a definition of truth.
The danger for many students, the intellectual trap, is that “supernatural” which means “relating to an order or existence beyond the visible and observable universe; esp of relating to God. . . “ is often presented as being equivalent to “superstitious” which is “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.” Atheists believe everything that is supernatural is superstitious. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Because of these court imposed, artificial limits, on seeking after or even discussing this truth, students could be forced into an atheistic view of reality. It is a potentially disastrous view. President Lincoln, in that most eloquent address at Gettysburg, described the founding principle upon which this nation is based: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” That central proposition, reiterated by Lincoln and at the very heart of the Declaration of Independence, is that: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The Founding Fathers recognized the truth that these fundamental rights came from one source: the Creator! Governments are instituted to secure those rights, not to prohibit the free exercise of them.
This essay is not intended as a claim that religion should be taught in public schools, or that any particular religion’s view of how creation occurred should be on the curriculum. School is not the place to teach religion—not only because it is potentially so divisive, but even more because good religious teaching requires moral teachers—the quality that is essential for true spirituality but a quality that is not used to select public school teachers, though many of them may be superbly qualified in that regard. Rather it is to recognize the fact that the current court decisions demand that only atheism be taught in schools because science defines itself as being atheistic or, more accurately, not dealing with religious issues. Knowledge of religious truths is beyond its scope.
What needs to be added to the curriculum is plain, truthful, teaching that the founding principle of this country was and is: that there is a Creator and that it is His will that underlies the profound and essential principles of our free government. Although this truth is beyond the scope of science, it is not beyond the scope of reality. We are doing a great disservice to students by denying them adequate education of this fundamental truth. The role of the Creator in our form of government and the basic values that unite this nation is a historical fact that does not have to be part of the science curriculum, but must be a part of the school curriculum. The Truth that brings us to Freedom is that there is a Creator.
[i] All definitions are from [i] Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, eleventh edition, 2007 (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, Springfield, Massachusetts, 2007).