Separation of Church and State

The separation of church and state can be traced back to 1802, in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson; addressing the intent and addition of the Establishment Clause, of the First Amendment, to the Constitution. More specifically, the usage of the phrase “separation of church and state” is in regards to public schools. “The Establishment Clause prohibits laws requiring that anyone accept any belief or creed or the practice of any form of worship. Courts have relied on the Establishment Clause to nullify numerous practices in public schools, such as offering school-prescribed prayers in classrooms and at commencement exercises, posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms, requiring Bible reading, displaying religious symbols, observing moments of silence, studying Scientific Creationism, and distributing Bibles.” (Education Law: Separation Of Church And State, law.jrank.org) The separation of religion in schools is important because students have the right to secular education; without it, children could be vulnerable to discrimination.
In early November of 2019, The Ohio House of Representatives passed the House Bill 164: “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019.” The bill passed 61 to 31 in the House. The bill includes many controversial stipulations endangering the practice of the separation of church and state: “Requires public schools to give students the same access to facilities if they want to meet for religious expression as they’d give secular groups, removes a provision that allows school districts to limit religious expression, allows students to engage in religious expression before, during and after school hours, prohibits schools from restricting a student from engaging in religious expression in completion of homework, artwork, and other assignments,”(Ohio lawmakers clear bill critics say could expand religion in public schools, Laura Hancock) and “allows districts to provide a moment of silence each school day for prayer, reflection or meditation but bars them from requiring that students or employees participate.”(Valrie Strauss, The Washington Post) Critics argue that this law will try to justify false scientific learning, pressures religious conformity, and leaves children vulnerable to discrimination. Supporters claim that this bill will protect students’ religious liberties at school. I do not support the passage of this bill as it promotes a false way of scientific learning, may increase pressures of religious conformity and could leave children exposed to discrimination.
A majority of supporters for HB 164 are republicans. The bill was primarily sponsored by Timothy Ginter, a republican Ohio representative for district five. Ginter has been persuaded to believe that allowing religious self-expression would be a positive thing for students. It is not uncommon to see the increasing rates of drug use, mental illness, and violence in children, typically teenagers, these days. 86% The percentage of teenagers that know someone who smokes, drinks or uses drugs during the school day (Drug Use Among Youth: Facts & Statistics, NCDAS), approximately one in five teens (aged 12 to 18) suffer from at least one mental health disorder (Important Teen Mental Health Statistics for Parents, Teen Polaris Center), and 1.7 billion children are exposed to some kind of abuse or violence in the time span of one year (Almost 75% of all children are subjected to violence each year, research finds, Support the Guardian). Having a religious outlet is seen as a potential solution to these ever-growing problems. Supporters also claim that this bill protects students’ religious freedoms at school. I agree that students have every right to religious freedom, however, the components of this bill that claim to protects are redundant. Children in school already have their religious liberties protected in schools. They are free to start and join their own religious clubs and read the texts of their faith.
A majority of the critics against HB 164 are democrats. The first argument against HB 164 is that it promotes a false way of scientific learning. In schools, students work can not be penalized or rewarded based on their religious composition of the assignment. This can be seen as a critical situation as students will not be penalized for scientifically incorrect answers. The student must complete the assignment in the manner it is being taught it, but they are entitled to express their opinions and religious beliefs as well. The passage of this bill and its’ expanded foundation of religious liberties, may increase pressures of religious conformity. Students who can more freely express their religions during the school day can be controversial. There are many different religions that students could be apart of. When divided up into these faiths, pressure can be placed onto the students not apart of a religious group. This can push a student to conform to a religion he or she may not be comfortable with. This peer pressure can disconnect students from their peers if not respectful of each other. Lastly, scholars can be subjected to discrimination as a result of more religious freedoms. The presence of more religion in schools can provoke certain communities. Many religions are opposed to the lifestyles of those involved in the LGTBQ+ community. This leaves the people included in such groups vulnerable to discrimination. Severe discrimination can lead to a lack of confidence, self-esteem issues, mental health issues, etc. I do not support the promotion of a false way of scientific learning, possible increased pressures of religious conformity, and exposure to discrimination to younger generations.
The separation of church and state has been a system that the United States has followed for many years. The separation of religion in public schools is important because students have the right to secular education. The Ohio House of Representatives passed the House Bill 164 expanding students’ and scholars’ religious liberties in public schools. Supporters of HB 164, primarily Republicans, claim that this bill is vital in protecting students’ religious liberties at school. On the other hand, the opposers of HB 164 claim that this bill promotes scientifically incorrect responses, increases peer pressures of religious conformity, and subjects youth to discrimination revolving around others’ lifestyles. Students have the right to freely express their religious beliefs, but the stipulations of this bill will harm public schools more than it would help. I agree with the general idea of the religious liberties of this bill, but disagree with how the House of Ohio Representatives tried to execute this idea.
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