Keeping schools neutral on faith

This letter is a response to the uproar from the community over the recent decision by the Board of Education to strike Philippians 4:13 from various public resources at Parkersburg South High School. There seems to be a lot of misconception over why this decision was made and how it affects the rights of individuals.

To begin, the United States is not a theocracy nor does it endorse an official religion. Instead, we are a nation comprised mostly of Christians. That is a distinct difference that many have failed to grasp. Our Constitution prohibits the bedding of government and religion in the Establishment Clause, and we know that this is how the Founding Fathers intended it to be interpreted. This extends from the White House all the way down to the public school. Public institutions of any kind cannot even seemingly endorse a faith system. This is supported even by case law, such as Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971.

It is in this context that the board of education takes action, which has not infringed on the rights of individuals. We are talking about school-affiliated resources bearing a public representation of a specific faith system. This is absolutely against the law, and we should oppose it on the merit of keeping our public institutions neutral on faith. The students can still wear their shirts, as this is actually their individual right. The creation of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter serves a greater purpose of supporting individual religious rights than the representations of Philippians 3:14 ever did. If anything, this is a huge victory for Christians and our constitutional rights.

The response by the community has shown how religious endorsement can ostracize people of other faiths or non-faiths. The backlash has been particularly hostile against secularists and atheists. As the former President of the Secular Student Alliance group at West Virginia University, I knew both religious and non-religious students who were bullied or isolated because of their religious views. Minority groups are particularly vulnerable to this hostility, and Christians are not often in the minority in the U.S. For any current students that are looking for something else, the Secular Student Alliance promotes mutual understanding and respect regardless of faiths. They support both college and high school groups, so check them out!

Braeden Harpool