Letter: Education and religion

January 27, 2014 

In response to John Rybarczyk's concern that teachers would be forced out of their profession for discussing religion in class: My students' religious rights are alive and well in the school. I teach U.S. history to ninth-graders, and it is impossible to teach history without discussing the rich and diverse religious history of our nation.

Recently we discussed the Bill of Rights and talked about the religious rights my students have in the school: their right to pray, read scriptures and discuss their religious beliefs publicly, yet appropriately. It was one of the most interesting classes of the year.

I have even informed them of some of my past and present beliefs. This is appropriate so they can understand the biases I have developed over my 49 short years. I know this might shock you, John, but if the district tried to limit my educational freedom to appropriately discuss religion in our history, the American Civil Liberties Union will (and has in the past) defend my rights as a teacher.

What I can't do, as an agent of the government, is to encourage my students to accept my beliefs or compel them to participate in beliefs other than their own.

STEVEN HENDERSON, Meridian

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