Public Schools Are No Place For Bible Bullies

Mark Tapscott Executive Editor, Chief of Investigative Group
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Texas is the Bible Belt’s buckle, so who would have expected the Lone Star State to be where West Memorial Junior High Schooler Jordan Wooley would find herself being told in class by her teacher to renounce her Christian faith or receive a failing grade.

Even worse, the Katy Independent School District teacher told other students professing their belief in God that they would fail if they stated their faith in answer to a test question instead of the mandated rejection of their faith, according to Wooley.

The assignment asked students to assign “myth,” “fact,” or “opinion” to various statements, one of which was, “There is a God.” The teacher reportedly only accepted “myth,” as an answer to that question.

The incident is sparking understandable outrage across the country and will no doubt be discussed in thousands of sermons in the nation’s churches Sunday. No word at present whether the teacher will be disciplined or fired.

However the incident is resolved, it can be a teachable moment for both sides in America’s long-running debate about the place of Christianity in the public square, and one that could assure everybody involved an equal chance to speak their mind.

First, for those who think there is no place for expressions of Christian faith in public schools, not even voluntary ones by students, teachers, coaches or administrators, recognize that threatening dire consequences is no way to advance your case. Neither is ridiculing or mocking vulnerable kids.

In the present Katy incident, the teacher acted as a religious bully and clearly deserves, at a minimum, censure and it needs to have some genuine bite as a warning to others that trampling on the First Amendment rights of students is always a bad idea.

Beyond punishing the illiberal actions of the Texas teacher, however, wouldn’t it have been better for everybody involved had the instructor used the situation as the occasion for some elementary lessons in logic and civility in debate? Why not pose a question to the professing students about how they would “prove” the existence of God?

Explain the old debate about whether the material universe has always been here or did it have a definite beginning. And if it had a definite beginning, how could something have come into existence out of nothing without a cause?

Seventh graders aren’t likely to take such questions and run very far with them, but the point is to begin teaching them how to think – not what to think – about important issues. After all, Christian students should understand that God gave them a brain to use for real thinking, not just texting.

Which brings us to the second potential teachable moment here: Aren’t Christians told in Scripture to be prepared “to give a ready defense” to anybody who asks them about their beliefs? Doesn’t that also mean it is the obligation of believing parents to prepare their children for such questions?

A useful starting point in that preparation is understanding that the best answer to a question like “how do you know Jesus was really resurrected from the dead three days after He died on the cross” is posing another question like who got the body of Jesus?

If Jesus’ friends somehow managed to steal His body from the tomb, why didn’t at least one of them confess later? All of the disciples but John became martyrs, dying horrible deaths for their faith, so wouldn’t probability suggest somebody would have spilled the beans under torture?

Or if Jesus’ enemies got His body, wouldn’t they have rolled the decaying corpse down Jerusalem’s main street when the disciples stirred up the city by claiming He had been resurrected and was alive? Had they been able to do so, they would have stopped Christianity in its tracks and we would all be living in a different world today.

Secularists must not succumb to the temptation to force their views on others, especially not middle school kids, and Christians ought to relish the opportunity to explain and defend their views. Both sides are guaranteed by the Constitution the right to speak their piece in peace. That’s what civil people do in this constitutional republic.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and chief of its Investigative Group. Follow him on Twitter

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