People have the constitutional right to have their children taught whatever religion they wish as long as what their children are taught does no harm to them or to others and as long as American taxpayer money is not involved. Parents should and do have the right to send their children to a religious based school. However, tax supported schools violate the Constitution and the rights of others if students are taught any religion as fact. Public schools should expose children to the great myths of history, especially as those stories help explain how great civilizations have prospered and declined. Tax supported public schools must not seek to proselytize any child for any faith. Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists, Hindus, pagans and every other dogma have the right to believe as they wish and to attempt to inculcate in their children what any particular belief teaches is right, but no group has the right to have the taxpayers fund such indoctrination.
Public schools should expose students to comparative religions just as the schools should teach world history and philosophy. Where taxpayer supported public schools breach the Constitution’s wall dividing religion and the state is when the schools teach any religion as fact or when the schools promote any particular religion. That is why Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters may want to revisit some of his pronouncements. And the same may be true for other elected or appointed governmental officials and not only in Oklahoma.
Superintendent Walters was elected, so many citizens may agree with his theories of education. However, a general acceptance of a governmental practice of discrimination does not validate such a theory. Separate but Equal and the Trail of Tears come to mind. Superintendent Walters may believe he has the best interests of students at heart when he promotes Christianity in public schools. True believers often have seen it as their duty to save others. But, attempting to save children by indoctrinating them using taxpayer funds violates the law and the principles upon which the United States of America were founded. It also violates the rights of parents who do not want their children taught any religion by strangers who work at public schools their taxes pay for, especially if what a school may promote as fact the parents may not believe is correct.
Most of us want others to agree that what we believe is the truth actually is factual. Such a desire is normal and not illegal. Ryan Walters may believe his faith is fact if he wishes. However, Superintendent Walters violates his oath of office and the Constitution if he uses his office to discriminate against or for any particular faith in our public schools. And, of course, so does any other governmental or public school official who does the same.
Mr. Walters may think he has the best of intentions in his heart. But it is his mind and the law that should guide his actions. He need only look at the religious based atrocities of the Taliban to understand the dangers of what he may consider our children’s salvation.