This article is not about truancy. It is about an attempt to subvert the US Constitution with regard to separation of church and state. An article by Alan Johnson appeared on Dec. 5, 2013 in The Columbus Dispatch with the title Bill would let praying, Jesus back in school. This bill was introduced on Dec. 4, 2013 by Representative Tim Dickerson (R)-Oxford and by Representative Bill Patmon (D)- Cleveland.
Rep. Tim Derickson, a Republican from Oxford and one of the co-sponsors, called the bill introduced yesterday “a preventive attempt” to block further encroachment on expression of religious freedom. Derickson wants to allow prayers in public schools and public places, special treatment for churches with regard to zoning restrictions, and the ability to wear religious symbols and have public displays on government properties that support religious holidays.
Derickson didn’t really state his desires in these words. Derickson wants Jesus back in the schools, the Lord’s Prayer to be recited in schools, and Nativity scenes to be displayed on government properties without any religious based challenges in courts.
When asked about recent cases that required schools to take down pictures of Jesus, Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, said, “You would have a better opportunity of keeping Jesus up.”
Since the US Constitution clearly states that there cannot be establishment of an official state religion, this new law may create a very good situation for teaching religious tolerance in schools.
Buddhists, Muslims, Scientologists, Jehovah Witnesses, Jews, Sufis, Hindus and any other established religion can demand a place for their local heroes to be displayed right beside Jesus. This is a wonderful opportunity to support coexistence of all religions in our public schools and government facilities.
Past attempts to publicly display the Ten Commandments were quashed by the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS). This new law in Ohio may allow the display of the Ten Commandments in support of Judaism. Poisonous snake handlers from Appalachia may still be prohibited from fondling copperheads on the statehouse lawn, but other laws will have to be invoked to prevent this. They are Christians and the Bible does say that they will be protected.
While it is a good sign to actually see a bi-partisan piece of legislation coming together in Ohio, this is not the best place to do this. If this law is passed, each and every religious group in Ohio will have new rights when it comes to displaying icons of their religious leaders and setting up displays for their special religious ceremonies in schools and other public places.
It will be interesting to see the turmoil it will cause when the Hanukkah celebration is followed by the Ramadan exhibition at the Ohio statehouse. Will the schools have to rotate the pictures of Jesus with Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna and L. Ron Hubbard?
The first amendment states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
If Derickson and Patmon want to write an Ohio law that attempts to put Jesus and the Lord’s Prayer back in school, they had better be prepared for court battles. If they win, minority religions will be able to seek equal representation in the schools under the “no law can prohibit the free exercise of religion” clause of the first amendment.
If the new law is ruled unconstitutional, then Jesus will have to go back to church and stay out of school. The founding fathers specifically wanted to prohibit the establishment of an official religion for the United States, and attempts to proclaim Christianity as the official US religion is in direct conflict with the first amendment. Either every religion gets to be promoted in school or no religion is promoted in school. The atheists favor no religion. Those who belong to minority religious groups also want to keep religion and schools separated. Those in established religions should recognize the religious tolerance is the road to world peace and maintain their efforts to understand and accept the religious views of all.