Should students share their faith at school?

November 7, 2011 by  
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students share their faith at schoolUSA, November 2, 2011: If you wonder why many Christian parents view public schools as hostile to their faith, talk to Michael Ayers – father of a sixth-grader in the Pocono Mountain School District in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Last December, his little girl wanted to hand out invitations to schoolmates inviting them to a church Christmas party. Because kids were routinely allowed to distribute fliers inviting students to birthday parties, dances and other activities, K.A. (as she is described in court filings) assumed she could pass hers out too.

But after reviewing the flier, school officials said “no.” Angered by what the family viewed as school censorship of religion, Ayers filed a lawsuit on behalf of his then fifth-grade daughter.

On Oct. 20, a federal judge awarded round one to the family, issuing a preliminary injunction ordering the school district to permit K.A. to hand out religious fliers during non-instructional time.

What’s striking about this case – and, sadly, many others like it – is how hard some school officials will work to make public schools religion-free zones. Despite numerous court rulings upholding the First Amendment right of students to express their faith during the school day, some administrators still confuse government speech promoting religion (which the establishment-clause prohibits) and student religious expression (which the free-exercise and free-speech clauses protect).

Pocono’s superintendent tried to duck the religion issue by claiming that he turned down the flier because of safety concerns since he didn’t know enough about the event or the sponsoring church. Moreover, he argued that the invitation wasn’t “personal speech” but rather a third-party solicitation.

The judge disagreed, noting that the superintendent apparently had done little to acquaint himself with the church. And while acknowledging that the flier’s content was from the church, the judge believed that K.A. wished to invite her classmates to the Christmas party because she wanted to share her faith – very personal speech indeed.

In ruling for K.A., the court relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), the high-water mark for student freedom of expression in public schools. Following Tinker, student speech (which is not lewd or school-sponsored) can be prohibited only if it is likely to cause a substantial disruption.

According to the court, Pocono schools failed to make the case that letting K.A. pass out her invitations would have caused any “disruption,” substantial or otherwise.

The judge’s ruling in this case is consistent with a line of lower court decisions upholding the right of students to distribute religious literature in a public school. Of course, since public schools aren’t the public park, school officials may impose reasonable restrictions on when, where and how the distribution may occur.

Despite this clear legal trend, some school districts have continued to resist any accommodation of student religious expression, however long the court battle and whatever the cost (look for Pocono schools to appeal).

Consider Plano, Texas, where administrators refused to allow an elementary student to give out candy canes with a religious message at the class party. Or Baldwinsville, N.Y., where school officials folded over a child’s poster on the environment in order to hide the Jesus-figure he drew in the corner.

In both cases, the school district spent years in court and spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars – apparently because of an overwrought fear that the school might be seen as “endorsing” religion.

Memo to school officials: Divisive lawsuits and bitter conflicts might be avoided if you remember that students are not the government. As long as they aren’t harassing anyone or disrupting the school, students should be free to share their faith with classmates.

Issue a disclaimer, set ground rules for distribution – but let the student voices be heard, including those with a religious message.

– charles c. haynes

Madonna at NFL hurts Christian sensibilities

November 3, 2011 by  
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Madonna

Madonna

United States of America, October 11, 2011: It has been reported  that, the National Football League (NFL) is considering a proposal to invite Madonna to perform at the 2012 Super Bowl XLVI, which is indeed unfortunate. Madonna is better known for her anti-Christian stance, including offensive lyrics, lewd behavior and misappropriation of sacred symbols. Many Christians, particularly Catholics find ” few singers who have been as blasphemous against Jesus and His mother, the virgin Mary or the Christian faith as has Madonna. Some of her songs, albums and shows twist Christian themes and intertwines them with impure subjects – as in songs Like a Virgin, Like a Prayer, Goodbye to Innocence, and in her album The Immaculate Collection “. Madonna performed a mock crucifixion in Rome, nearby the Vatican, in which she wore a fake crown of thorns and descended on a suspended, glittery cross as part of her worldwide “Confessions Tour.”

If Madonna were to perform, Christians and secular others would certainly have their sentiments hurt. Christianity and the community would be discriminated against, as it is obvious that Christians would turn the other cheek and NFL would dare not feature an artiste who is known for blaspheming any other faith – Islam, Jewish, Hinduism, Sikhism, etc. Another good reason not to have Madonna to perform is the overtly sexual content of her lyrics, which will not go down well with the “straight” football fans, including children and women. Offering Madonna a world platform would be seen as endorsing or ignoring her anti-Christian stand.

In view of the above, we urge you to desist from such anti-Christian bias and not entertain Madonna at the NFL, which needs to be maintained as a respectable sporting event.

– catholic league

Tour of Chinese Bibles exhibit slammed as Government propaganda

October 30, 2011 by  
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Chinese Bible

Chinese Bible

United States, October 18, 2011 An exhibition tour of Chinese Bibles in the United States has been denounced as a “political propaganda show” to cover up the Chinese government’s persecution of Christians in the country. 

China Aid Association, a US-based Christian human rights group, said that the intent of the “Thy Word is Truth” exhibition was to “mislead members of the public, politicians, and church leaders overseas who are unaware of the realities in China”.

It has been organised by the “Bible Ministry Exhibition of the Protestant Church in China”, which is part of China’s official Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

China Aid contrasted the picture presented by an exhibit showing Bibles being printed and distributed throughout China with cases of “house church” Christians being arrested and sentenced to prison terms for doing precisely the same thing, as well as other examples of anti-Christian persecution.

Beijing house church leader Shi Weihan was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for printing and transporting a large quantity of Bibles and Christian materials.

Chinese pastor Hong Yujian said that the exhibition was “a total show for deceptive purposes”. He said:

I think it is a kind of grand deception for political propaganda purposes. Because inChina, except for government-operated Christian bookstores … no other bookstores … are allowed to sell the Bible.

China Aid also highlighted the “Chinese government’s persecution of house churches and any government-approved church that dares to adhere to the principles of the Christian faith and refuses to submit to the government’s political control and go against those principles.”

It cited the ongoing persecution of Shouwang Church, a Beijing house church that has been forced to worship outdoors after the authorities repeatedly thwarted its efforts to buy or rent premises in which to meet. Hundreds of Shouwang members have been detained by the police since the outdoor services began in April.

Official churches that do not toe the government line are also targeted. The Changchunli Three-Self Church in the city of Jinan, Shandong province, endured repeated government persecution from June 2009 to September 2010. Its pastors were removed, church members beaten and church building demolished.

China Aid expressed regret that some American churches, Christian organisations and leaders who are supporting the exhibition tour “had been misled and hoodwinked by this use of religion to engage in political and diplomatic trickery”.

“Thy Word is Truth” was in Washington D.C. from 28 September to 2 October before moving to Chicago from 12 to 16 October. Its next stop is Dallas from 30 October to 3 November and it will finish in North Carolina, hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, between 8 and 19 November.

– barnabas team

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