Omaha Public Radio News
3:08 am
Fri December 12, 2008

First Amendment Scholar: schools should allow students to freely express their religious beliefs

Omaha, NE – A First Amendment Scholar says schools need to include religion in teaching if students are going to get a full education.

Charles Haynes spoke Thursday night during a Project Interfaith forum at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Haynes says the "godless public school" belief is a myth. He says schools can allow students to express their religious beliefs and not violate rules separating church and state.

Haynes identifies three models of religion in public schools. One model, the sacred public school, focuses on religion. The second is the naked public school, which means schools avoid all teaching about or mention of religion. Haynes says these two models are unjust and Unconstitutional. The third model, the civil public school, is what Haynes recommends. He says those schools take First Amendment rights seriously and allow students to appropriately express their religious beliefs.

Haynes says teaching about religion also helps foster an understanding of other religions and religious beliefs. But he says adequate teaching about religion requires better textbooks and teacher training.