April 11th, 2017
Last month, a bill was passed in Kentucky that will change the role that religion plays in public schools. Public schools are now one step closer to allowing their staff members to express their religious beliefs on school property. In accordance with this bill, teachers will be granted the ability to use the Bible to teach about the history of religion. Supporters of this bill claim that the course is essential for students who desire to understand the formation of Western culture and history. In accordance with this bill, schools might also allow the performance of school plays that promote learning cultural or religious heritage.
Applicable Law in the State of Kentucky
The Act in question involves several critical elements. The Kentucky Board of Education is assigned the responsibility of establishing the regulations for how the courses of study involving the bible occur. These regulations must include an elective social studies course on the Old Testament, and an elective course on the New Testament, an elective course on the Old and New Testaments. The purpose of these courses is intended to teach individuals about the characters, poetry, and narratives of the bible in addition to learning about the applicable details of all parts of the Bible. The Kentucky Department of Education is also assigned the responsibility of ensuring the course standards in the program of studies for Kentucky schools. Courses under this Act are required to follow all other applicable federal and state laws.
Other Religious Rights in Kentucky
In addition to these various religious powers granted under the Act, public school students also have certain rights, including the following:
- Students have a constitutional right to religious expression as well as the freedom from religion under the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that leading students in prayer at public school violated the Constitution although many states including Kentucky have passed laws slightly altering this element.
- Law in the state of Kentucky, however, allows teachers to announce a one minute moment of silence that can be used for the purpose of either meditation or prayer. Students in Kentucky are also permitted to pray without a violation of the Establishment Clause being found.
- Additionally, law in the state of Kentucky allows local school districts to authorize the recitation of the Lord’s prayer in elementary schools. While many individuals might attempt to challenge this law on the basis of prayer in the classroom, the Lord’s prayer in this case has been interpreted as educational in context.
The Goal of Universal Life Church
This religious bill is one of many proposals that have recently been proposed by legislatures in Kentucky. There are new cases and bills each year that challenge the relationship between religion and education in the United States. For individuals who are interested in following these issues, the Universal Life Church’s blog aims to keep up to date on this subject.
(image courtesy of John Mark Kuznietsov)