Florence High School students have gone back to school this week with a big taboo permeating the campus from the recent lawsuit by Jewish teacher Robert Basevitz. The school district’s apparent coziness with the Cowboy Church has once again created religious controversy and put yet another layer of duct tape over the teachers’ mouths.
It seems those who are vocally religious are being shoved deeper into the closet as the courts rule they can philosophically believe what they want but can’t openly voice their beliefs. Silencing religion certainly wasn’t the intent of the original founders of our country. Yet, youths today are trending to think religion is a bad word and an avenue for prejudice.
Since Florence High School has been charged, along with extensive media coverage, of going too far in endorsing and promoting the Cowboy Church’s presence in the Fellowship of Christian Huskies, they now seem to be going too far in reverse and may be suppressing any hints of Bibles or nonschool-sponsored church events.
One FHS student claims she was reading Scripture on her iPad in class last semester. Her schoolwork was finished, but she was scolded by her teacher to stop because it was a “distraction” (from?). At Cañon City High School, another student shares how fellow classmates gave speeches on gay rights while spitting out how “evil” religion is to a progressive society.
Unfortunately, such sentiments are equally ignominious and misguided.
Just one example for the need of religious understanding is the study of the Bible on a literary standard alone. The Old Testament, which is also a Jewish/Torah and Muslim/ Quran-based document, is considered to be one of the greatest pieces of ancient literature with academic value full of poetry, foreshadowing, inner plots, allegorical uses of colors and props and tragic heroes.
Academic students need to be familiar with texts such as the Bible and Greek mythology as many great classics subtly reference such works in ways that speak fathoms, and if you’re not familiar with the original texts, you’ll be lost. It wasn’t that long ago, such as in Oxford professor J.R.R. Tolkien’s time, when the standards of education expected students to not only be familiar with such works, but to study them in their original Latin or Greek languages.
It was a mindset of higher education and advanced thinking. Whereas today, it is frequently becoming more commonplace to hear misinformed citizens despising any public input from any religious sources. I recently recall a Cañon City Council meeting where the public officials were severely reprimanded for consulting with clergy on city matters. It was “against the law,” one citizen vehemently said. Truth be known, not only can public officials legally consult clergy, a minister can run for mayor themselves if he or she feels so inclined. It might do us some good as they’ve counseled people of so many walks of life they likely have wisdom that could benefit us all. However, they probably wouldn’t have any luck praying around the flagpole at Florence High School anymore.
As the school year starts, I encourage the students at FHS to stand up for their beliefs as long as they are expressed legally and conducted with dignity and respect for those around them. I also suggest Fremont School District not cower too much and continue to support students to lead their own clubs, even if it involves eating “Jesus-pizza” at lunchtime.
Schools may not preach religion. They also may not oppress any student’s free exercise thereof. These standards are simple and clear. Interpreted objectively – without favor or malice toward religion – they should not be hard to obey.
Students should be as free to read and discuss the Bible or the Quran or the “Hunger Games” novels. In any case, you can’t control prayer in school. Anyone of any faith can pray any time they want, especially during finals!