Bring Your Bible to School Day

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

I found out here that today is “Bring Your Bible to School Day.” It’s an evangelical Christian campaign to encourage kids to bring their bibles to their schools and talk about their religion to other kids. The site even has a fancy legal memo (put together by the Alliance Defending Freedom) which goes into the boundaries of what kids can get away with between classes. All in all, it’s an exploratory pitch into getting kids to sell the faith where their parents cannot go.

Unfortunately I didn’t find out about this in enough time to write this post any sooner, but I think that it still raises an important issue: how should someone respond to this in an educational setting? Essentially the idea promoted by the organization (backed by Focus on the Family, no less) is to show that Christians are still everywhere. Not only that, but children even in elementary schools are also being encouraged to promote The Bible and their faith to other kids. Depending upon how many participants there are, this could be something strange or even scary to a child who just wants to get through the school day.

However, stuff like this campaign actually happens more often than people might think. Children are always pressured to share their faith with their friends. If that wasn’t enough, faith takes a center stage in many schools; kids in secular families aren’t allowed to ignore it at all. Therefore, despite this campaign taking place today, there needs to be a discussion on how to protect kids from religious sales pitches.

Don’t feed the persecution complex.
Persecution myths abound in early Christian lore, and certainly growing up I heard all kinds of horrific tales about how the Christian deity was getting taken out of schools. What this does is create a default belief that merely talking about religion will generate an organized response from the enemies of the faith. Confrontation is expected in situations like this. Indeed, that even might be a goal of the whole event (more on that later).

Opposition to religious indoctrination does not always mean confrontation, though. An important reminder is that while kids are allowed to talk about religion on their own time, nobody is required to listen. Changing the subject and excusing oneself from the conversation are valid ways of handling youth preaching. If you see a group of people carrying bibles, give them a wide berth. It’s good practice for dealing with animated street preachers later on in life.

A lack of confrontation actually speaks volumes. To people expecting to get into verbal fights over their beliefs, being afforded mutual respect flies in the face of that myth. It’s a contradiction that they will have personal experience with, some hard evidence that shows perhaps they’re not as persecuted as they’re making it out to be.

Children might be the only people showing their Christian peers human dignity.
At its core, getting children to preach to other children is an exercise in parents using their kids. Most realistically, these kids live a life that provides constant opportunities to be further drawn into their religion. For some, this isn’t about choosing to talk to others. Rather, it’s about having family pressure them into practicing what is being preached.

Inherent to this is a lack of respect for the dignity of those kids being used as pawns. While these beliefs might seem silly or laughable to kids that aren’t subjected to it, they’re all too real to the ones that are. Indoctrinated kids are being told that their worth as people can only be measured in religious terms, and they are treated accordingly. Sometimes, it just helps to remind one’s friends that they are valued regardless of what religious beliefs they might have.

This also might be part of a trend of generating litigation for “religious freedom.”
There is a good reason why legal issues are getting explored in conjunction with all of this. The way the law currently works, students are able to talk about whatever they want so long as it doesn’t disrupt the good order of the campus. Any effort by the school to enforce discipline can be scrutinized under this framework. So, a teacher who tells his or her students to close their bibles before class starts might end up getting slapped with a lawsuit. The same thing goes for schools responding to disruptions caused by religious discussions that get out of hand.

Every single one of these suits is an opportunity to appeal to higher courts. Eventually one or more of them might make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Once there, religious groups will have an opportunity to get new decisions which expand the ability of churches to use kids to promote their message. If they fail, they will most likely get more restrictions placed on student freedoms.

The bottom line here is that children are being brought in as fodder for their parents’ agendas. This means that responsible parents might want to take steps to educating their kids in how to preserve their own rights. Despite the apprehension parents might feel about it, ultimately this will empower kids to make their own choices about what they deeply believe – without being treated like collateral.

13 thoughts on “Bring Your Bible to School Day

  1. What the Christians fail to understand is tomorrow might be “Bring your Quran to School Day” . What will they have to say about this ?

    Faith should be a personal thing if you’re going to have it at all. This means keeping it to yourself, not in schools.

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  2. Hello S.B., I know of this first hand. Long story short, I was an abused kid, rescued by a local man with lots of money and deep into his religion. I admit I was very grateful. However that meant that as a 17 year old boy who had little to no church indoctrination, I was expected to do church things to keep my new safety. I was taken to church, involved in youth groups, and required to both study the church doctrines and to repeat them back to others. I was sent for my own good ( and I was again grateful ) to a church boarding school. During the non-school year I worked for the school in the furniture manufacture plant and in my non working time I was in study of the church doctrines. One part of this study was to prepare me for outreach programs, as this was an expected part of our lives. We were taught to reach out and proclaim the church.

    When the school year started I had enough problems already to deal with , but added to that was mandatory trips into the surrounding communities to evangelize. I was not brought up in the church and I was not a real believer, but this was not a choice, it was required. The school did not care if I believed, just that we were out there handing out pamphlets and talking up the good of the church. As I couldn’t return to my former situation without personal danger to myself, I was stuck. Even though I did not believe I walked streets and gatherings, handing stuff out and telling everyone how great God was, how great the church made my life, and how well we kids were cared for. To tell the truth I sucked at it. I think really I did more harm than good for the church, and I really tried , I was just not prepared to do this.

    I talked to my friends at school who grew up in the church about it. Most were non believers just sent there by their parents and they were doing what was expected of them. Some like a child of the family who had basically rescued me and were paying my tab at the school were true believers. The son went on to become a pastor. Those friends I had who grew up in the church including a pastor’s son, told me to just fake it and get out of it as much as possible. They all hated it as much as I did.

    After graduation I was sat down at the home of the church elder who had paid for my time in the school. I was then told I owed the church and the people who paid for me to go there. I had to now make sure I upheld all church teaching and I was to go on to school ( paid for by them ) to become a church Pastor myself. I was reminded I must not become a stumbling block to any young person who might be wavering about the church. I simply couldn’t do it. I knew I was gay. They did not want to know about any of my issues, just wanted compliance. I broke ties with the church and went into the US military. I had nowhere else to go. As soon as I rejected the church I was given a bill for the cost of my stay at the boarding school. I paid on it for a year, and then decided that I did not owe that bill and it was very hard for me to pay.

    While I respect what was done for me, I don’t respect the reasons it was done. It seems it was not to take a young person out of harm’s way but to make a convert and servant of the church. When I refused to be that servant I was handed a crushing bill I had little to no way of paying back. It was designed to make me come back to the church with my “hat in my hand” and ask for forgiveness. I refused.

    It took a long time for me to get over my hurts. To grow up. One of the things that hurt me deeply was the idea that these people were not really caring about me, not really my friends, but were grooming me like a predator, to get me to further their aims and goals. I never saw it coming and it took years to overcome. I worry about the kids in the homes of true believers. Yes those I hung out with at the school understood it was crap and they were only going through the motions. Yet inside they all worried about it. I worry about the kids in fundamentalist homes. How will they deal, how will they separate the wheat from the dung? Those are the ones I worry about. Also I must say I think Ark is right, it is child abuse to force kids to go out to do these things. They don’t care about the kids feelings only how they look to the community. Before we went out we were inspected. We had to be dressed in our best, suits and ties, and shined shoes. It is too much.

    Thanks for a great post. Be well. Hugs

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    • As usual, Scottie, well-written.

      The topic itself is extremely disturbing. I know SB lives in a state that gets away with these things, but it should NOT be happening. Where is FFRF when you need them?

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re absolutely right, Scottie.

      One of the personal problems I’m having is that this is being done by Focus on the Family. That ministry is notorious for getting at kids, and encouraging parents to make kids conform. I was on the receiving end of that treatment for a long time.

      I think that there might be a silver lining in that it’s getting people to think about the ethics of forcing kids to believe the same religious teachings as their parents. People used to not care about that, but now it’s becoming important. I try to remember this so that people who suffered in the past can see how telling their story is improving how people live now.

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  3. This is about segragation – again. Divide and conquer. By making the kids from religious families proclaim a religion openly at their school is as much about making the religion more deeply rooted into their own identity and as a result harder for them to ever even later in life to question it. A majority religion, can through these sort of practices, create an in group and an out group between the kids. Kids are malleable in that way, but also often rather simplistic and it is a perfect opportunity for some cruelty between them. Segragation may not be the root of all evil, but it sure is a cause for a lot of evil, harm and suffering. Unlike some imaginary unnatural entities, that do not account for anything good or bad we humans do.

    It is actually sad how many people do not understand that the opposite of conservative is not liberal, but radical. People who base their values (and excuse their own biases) by appealing to conservatism are often surprizingly radical in making up all sorts of new customs and practices to defend and promote their values. As if conservatism in itself was not a bad and incomplete enough reasoning to hold anything as a value, they are not even content whith that, but are innovative in making up new “traditions” for future generations, that are equally decultured and poorly educated as those today. Future generations of ignorant enough people to assume these now new practices can be later defended by claiming this is how it has always been. How long is it going to take before people start defending a bring a bible to the school day by claiming it has always been the custom?

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