Source: Religion News Service
By Linda K. Wertheimer, who is a former Boston Globe education editor and author of “Faith Ed., Teaching About Religion In An Age of Intolerance.” Follow her at @lindakwert
(RNS) A dark chapter in our public schools’ tumultuous history with religion is repeating itself in Mercer County, W.Va.
A mother, who is an atheist, is fighting to stop her school system’s weekly, overtly religious Christian Bible classes so her child, a kindergartner, will not be ostracized for opting out when she will be required to take them next year in first grade.
I hope she wins. Legally, the federal civil suit the mother and the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation recently filed against Mercer County schools is clear-cut. It is unconstitutional to preach the Bible to students in school. Not only are these classes unconstitutional, they’re counterfactual; the Bible in the Schools course includes a lesson on creationism asking students to imagine that humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time, defying common sense and contradicting widely accepted scientific proof that this is untrue.
But there’s another pressing reason to keep these classes out of public schools: to prevent ostracizing of religious minorities and atheists. The mother in fact used pseudonyms for herself and her child in the lawsuit because she feared the girl would be picked on. Though she has the right to opt her child out, it will set her apart. I know that from personal experience.