By Pat Centner, AFA Journal staff writer
August 2002 – America’s public schools have come under intense fire in recent years from the ACLU and other liberal organizations regarding issues that supposedly violate the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a result, numerous educators nationwide are apprehensive about teaching or allowing anything to happen in their classrooms that might even remotely smack of God or religion. Christian teachers are particularly frustrated, yet also apprehensive.
Gateways to Better Education, a national ministry located in Lake Forest, California, is tackling this problem in some very effective ways. Eric Buehrer, president of Gateways, says, “Our ministry is dedicated to helping Christians at every level in the public school, whether teachers, parents, administrators or board members, know how they can appropriately express Judeo-Christian thought and values in the classroom, or in the policies they set.”
When Buehrer speaks to teachers on this issue, he uses four key points to make the case for public school educators to teach, and students to learn, about Christianity and its benefits to America and the world:
1. Culturally relevant – It is reasonable for American schools to teach American students about American culture. And Christianity is deeply rooted in American culture.
2. Academically legitimate – It is a legitimate topic for academic study. For example, California’s 2001 State Academic Standards indicate that, among other religious facts, sixth graders should know the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, as well as the life and teachings of Jesus. Gateways has also researched the academic standards of other states and gleaned many references to teachings about Christianity.
3. Legally permitted – The courts, on the whole, have found it legal for Christianity to be taught in the context of American history.
4. Morally imperative – Our form of government works best when our citizens are morally restrained by Biblical principles of conduct.
Buehrer recommends the handbook, Teachers & Religion in Public Schools as an excellent reference for Christian teachers who want to know their rights and are looking for answers to specific questions and situations they address daily in their classrooms. It is published by Christian Educators Association International (CEAI) in conjunction with the Christian Legal Society. It can be purchased through CEAI at 888-798-1124 or at www.ceai.org.
People of influence
“One of the principles under which we operate at Gateways is the belief that there is at least one Christian representative in every classroom in America,” Buehrer comments. “If not the teacher, then certainly a student or students.
“So what we’re doing is helping Christians realize they don’t have to feel isolated. There are millions of Christians in public schools. So take heart in that fact, and encourage one another. Hebrews 10:24 is our guiding Scripture: ‘... consider how you can spur one another on toward love and good deeds.’ And rather than viewing the public school as a battleground, we view it as a garden, and the Christian is the gardener.
“Encouraging Christians to become People of Influence by helping them live a Christian life in the marketplace called ‘public schools’ is one of Gateways’ chief goals,” explains Buehrer. Being a person of influence means “you look for opportunities to plant a seed, water and nurture it and reap the benefits.”
For example, a mother becomes a person of influence when she helps her child’s teacher overcome fears that reading the Christmas story is illegal. She offers the teacher literature explaining guidelines allowing such an activity.
Gateways plans to initiate the “People of Influence” program at between 250 and 500 public schools this year. “We believe we are pioneering a shift in thinking about the Christian’s role in the public school,” Buehrer remarks, “and we’re excited about its impact in the future.”
To learn more about “People of Influence,” contact Gateways at 1-800-929-1163,write them at P.O. Box 514, Lake Forest, CA 92609, or visit online at www.gtbe.org.
Gateways offers Pledge of Allegiance posters for school classrooms, businesses and homes. The 11” x 22” poster explains the meaning behind the Pledge and, in particular, the phrase, “one nation, under God.” To order posters, call 1-888-706-5601 or click here.