For eight years of the previous administration Americans who value their religious freedom suffered through attacks and denials aimed at decreasing public expressions of faith and confining faith and morals within church walls. So that government, not God, would be depended on as the provider of all needs from cradle to grave, the free expression of religion, as put forth in our 1stAmendment, would have to be stopped.
One could still believe, but living those beliefs in public life went from being old fashioned to being ignorant to being politically incorrect, harmful and not acceptable for open conversations. How things have changed…for the better… with President Trump’s commitment to religious freedom in the military, the workplace, the public square and in our schools, in addition to his attention to international religious persecution.
On Jan. 16, President Trump proclaimed the annual National Religious Freedom Day and announced safeguards for our children’s existing rights to live their faith in public schools. The president knows it is too common that students are reprimanded, denigrated or disciplined for protected expressions of faith.
The incidents are chilling considering these students have no one to speak up for them in situations where they did nothing wrong. A fourth grader’s teacher tore up his essay about Baby Jesus and Christmas and threw it in in her wastebasket. The teacher told the boy, “We don’t write about Jesus in this school. You will have to write another essay.” Another student was told she could not pray the rosary at lunchtime and would be sent to the principal’s office if she brought her rosary to school again.
A high school junior was denied permission to start an after school religious club and a senior, reading the Bible during free reading time, was loudly mocked by his teacher who encouraged other students to join in. These incidents are not uncommon in our schools.
President Trump has declared such mistreatment of our children must end. The safeguards he announced on Jan. 16, are not new laws, but a long overdue update and enforcement of Department of Education Guidelines to Religious Expression in Public Schools as first issued under President Clinton’s Department of Education.
The guidelines were to be updated every two years, but have not been revised since 2003 so this administration has done that and will notify all schools of the updated information. To monitor compliance with the guidelines, every public school will continue to certify to their state that they have no policy that conflicts with students’ religious freedom rights. As before, a public school’s federal funding could be suspended if the school is not in compliance.
Also, the updated guidelines will make it clear how individuals can file a complaint if they see their religious freedom denied. States will be required to communicate these complaints to the federal government annually.
Americans who believe that increasing prayer and the presence of God in schools will, over time, reduce problems with drugs, promiscuity, bullying and even suicide should educate themselves about students’ rights, watch their local schools for compliance with the guidelines, and encourage the children they know to bring their faith into school. President Trump is standing on the wall to protect America’s children.
We must now do our part.