Religion used to be an integral part of school curriculum and it still is in convents or schools that are funded predominantly by the church or specific religious entities. Public schools, however, cannot include religion in the curriculum. Schools and the state in larger context must remain segregated from religion. There are many who would want religion in schools and many oppose that view. Since there are substantially contrarian views and everyone is entitled to have their opinion on religion, it is better to take a pragmatic approach to understand the religion in school pros and cons.
Religion in Schools Pros
1. Allows Free Practice in Schools
Separating religion from schools leads to a scenario where religion has no place in schools. This prevents students who wish to practice their religion in the school to do so. One is free to practice the faith he or she chooses and by that extension one may want to pray at certain times of the day, indulge in a certain ritual or practice specific customs without affecting others. By banning religion in schools, one effectively doesn’t get to practice his or her religion. This is, in a way, contrary to what the constitution guarantees every citizen pertaining to right to freedom of religion.
2. Guides the Morals and Values of Society
Religion has always been a guiding force in instilling the best moral and societal values. Religion has also been integral in shaping the culture of every civilization in the world. At a time when kids are increasingly getting addicted to drugs, when there’s violence in schools and various kinds of problems including teenage pregnancy, introducing religion or some of the religious teachings pertaining to these issues can be an effective way to curb the problem. Punishments or penalization of myriad forms don’t work all the time. In most cases, relatively punitive action boomerangs and kids get pushed away from the mainstream. Public schools could instill better morals and cultural values in kids if the help of religion is sought.
3. Establishes Religious Harmony in Society
One argument put forth by critics of religion in school is the fact that the state and the church or any religious entity should remain segregated. This rejects the space of any religion and in the process kids don’t get to know much about the religions of other people who may be living just next door. In effect, kids may grow up to be intolerant or relatively ignorant of other religions. One of the best ways to establish religious harmony in society is to instill the values of religious tolerance and acceptance of other people who may be different in many ways but similar in more ways. Religious harmony is not attained by ignoring religion but by acknowledging all religions and then having one’s personal space and faith.
4. Ensures a More Holistic Education
Religion and science have often been at loggerheads but over the last few decades, religion has accepted science and the latter has become more accommodating or at least indifferent to religion. The two can coexist and one doesn’t have to negate the other. The absence of religion in school can again tilt the balance and bring it head to head with science or academic interests.
Religion in Schools Cons
1. Establishes a Correlation Between State and Church Violating Laws
A school or schools may be seen as promoters or preachers of a particular religion. This is not acceptable in a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multiethnic society, as large as America. Religion in school will violate more than one law of the land.
2. Can Lead to Discrimination
Religion in school may lead to discrimination, among people practicing different religions and kids who don’t practice any faith at all. There must be space for everyone and one must also have the right to have no religion at all. The moment religion finds a place in school curriculum, atheists will be discriminated and kids who don’t wish to indulge in any religious education or influence will be compelled to think of other options, and private schools may not be affordable for them.
3. Provides a Moral Dilemma in Bringing Religion in Schools
There are many families who pay taxes, by the virtue of which schools get funded, who don’t have any religion. Their money shouldn’t ideally be used to fund religious education or programs.
4. Education May Take the Backseat
Religion has had an infamous history of rejecting science and has also come in the way of education. Every religion has certain values that are not widely accepted by modern society. While at a personal level, one can pick and choose the specific religious values that one would endorse and practice, which may not happen in public schools. There is an element of doubt that religion may become a priority and education may take a backseat. The focus of schools is education and that should be unflinching.