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Saying "Da" to not freaking out

Because Facebook shows you other people's likes, I came across this video, labeled 'Ukraine is saying "Yes!" to God. Again.' It was posted by a ministry that distributes Bibles throughout Eastern Europe. The video itself is harmless, just a bunch of random Ukrainians saying "Da" (yes), presumably in response to a question about God (the video never says it explicitly, for some reason). Nothing really to object to: I realize believers exist. But the Facebook comments… hoo boy…

Some comments were simple supportive comments, no biggie. But the majority were of a somewhat strange nature:

Wish the USA were doing this!
Praying some day America says Yes to Him.
Would love it if America would follow suit!

That sounds reasonable… Wait? America is not Christian enough? Depending on the survey questions asked, 75-85% of the US population is Christian. The next largest religion makes up less than 2%. Plus, every president has been Christian, as well as the vast vast majority of the Senate, House of Representatives, state governors, state legislatures, and federal and state judges.

According to Google maps, there are 7 Christian churches with in 1 mile of my house. Seven. (Eight if you count the Unitarian church.) Several are quite large and obviously well funded.

How could America possibly say "'yes' to God" any more?

But then, further comments clarified things. You see, the ministry distributes some of the Bibles to Ukrainian public schools:

They won't ever allow bibles in public schools here. The separation of Church and State will forever keep that from occurring.
They get to have the Bible in school and our kids can't even say the name Jesus unless in profanity. Wasn't this the country that was founded on christian values???
and now schools r ordered to remove any 10 commandments
People everywhere should get themselves better educated on the separation of church and state thing. It really does not exist. The libs are the ones who drive this horse to death.
Now why can't we have them again in our schools? This land of the free???
Everywhere but the US where the mention of God is not allowed and under attack when brought up.
Yes!!!!! We need God back in our Schools!!!!AMEN!!! And give ear plugs to the ones that don't want to hear!!!!AMEN!!! GOD BLESS AMERICA
Praise the Lord–We all need to stand up and do what's right for our own Children! Put GOD back in our Schools!
Theses guys are putting God back in their vocabulary and their Schools. Why can't we do the same thing?
amen that beauitful we need the bible back in the school


Wow. I didn't realize we lived in such an atheistic totalitarian regime. Not only are Bibles, the Ten Commandments, and prayer banned from public schools (and possibly the public as well), you can't even mention Jesus or God without getting expelled?! Persecution!

Hrm…

The truth is prayer is not banned in public schools. Anyone can pray there. Yup, it's true. Students can legally pray in public schools. You just can't disrupt or take up class time, make it compulsory, or give the impression the school endorses the religion (so no teacher-led prayer, no prayers over the PA, no giant religious banners, etc).

It's the same with Bibles in public schools: I'm positive 99% of public school libraries contain a Bible, most likely more than one variety. Also, students can read from their Bibles whenever they want. The only rule is that the school cannot give the impression that it endorses the Bible as a favored holy book, for example by giving it a special place in the classroom, etc.

And, schools can (and have to) teach about religion. I can't imaging trying to teach history without discussing religion or religious beliefs: most of history would not make sense without understanding the religions and religious motivations of the people. Also, there can be any number of classes that teach about religion, such as history of religions or Biblical literature. Again, the simple rule is that the school cannot give the impression it endorses the religion as true or better than others.

"But wait! I've heard stories about students being punished for practicing their religion or praying in school!" Unfortunately, yes, it's true: some students have. Fortunately, many times the punishment had little to do with the religion, but because the student was disrupting class etc. But, sometimes school administrators are overzealous or are confused about the legalities, and do step in when they should not. These instances often end up as very public court cases and the US courts have been very consistent in ruling in favor of the religious student. The right to practice your religion in public schools still legally stands.

There are obviously many twists and turns and complicated legal gray areas, so I won't even attempt to summarize everything (or pretend to understand all the legalities), but I hope everyone realizes that:

  • Prayer is NOT banned in public schools.
  • The Bible is not singled out or banned from public schools.
  • If Christians are being persecuted in the United States, their persecutors are doing a terrible job.

(I think the persecution complex is being generated by Christian TV and radio, along with doom-and-gloom fear-mongerers like Glenn Beck. It boosts their ratings.)


For further reading on this subject:

Here's a quick little FAQ from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Here's the U.S. Department of Education guidance.

And, if those references seem too ungodly, here's the much same thing, but from the slightly religious group Answers in Genesis.

2013-05-30 #religion  

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