Many faiths, many stories

Religion in American Life series, edited by Jon Butler and Harry S. Stout (Oxford University Press)

When I discussed the benefits and difficulties of teaching religion in public schools with my private-school religion class of 15-year-olds, I received an unexpectedly nuanced answer. The students did not simply say that religion should be taught because it is an important part of the lives of many American citizens, or that religion should not be taught because the Constitution prohibits the establishment of any publicly funded religion. Rather, they said that before they could make a decision they needed to know who would be doing the teaching. Unless they could confirm that teachers of religion would be well educated, open-minded and noncoercive, my students would not want the subject taught in public school. On the other hand, if these criteria could be met, they thought that a class about religion would be beneficial.

 

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