Board Takes Up Issue Of Religion In Schools

Posted at 11:11 PM, Oct 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-18 00:11:29-04

Religious liberty and schools. Where's the line and what's protected?

The Williamson County School Board took up the controversial issue of religion in the classroom at a meeting Monday night.

While the First Amendment to the constitution guarantees religious freedom, which the state goes more into detail about in its own statutes, many parents argued that the issue is so important it should be school policy as well.

"This is too important of a hard-fought American right not to put it into district policy. That way all can see this for themselves with no room for confusion and doubt," said one of many moms who stood up during the School Board's public comment portion of the meeting.

Not everyone agreed with the idea. Some said thefour proposed policies prioritize Christianity.

Many board members said the policies are just repeating state law and simply don't accomplish what's intended: which is to make sure students, teachers and parents know how their rights are protected at school. 

Critics argued that re-writing a current law in a different way can invite lawsuits.

Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney suggested an alternative - post the law on the district's website so everyone has easy access to it. The arguing continued on for an hour and a half.

"We know what peer pressure is like and it's easier not to speak than to have the courage and speak. And if this gives even one child the courage to speak then I think it's worth it," said Board Member and policy sponsor Dr. Beth Burgos.

"There is no sense of panic, there is not threat, barbarians are not at the gate, " said board member Robert Hullett, "I cannot support this. I realize it's passionate for everybody else but I cannot support this. We don't need it. We're inviting trouble."

In the end, three of the four proposals failed, 4-7. One passed regarding religious holiday celebrations, which was meant to update an existing school policy.

What does that mean for your child? Nothing is changing. The religious rights of students and teachers are still protected under law. They're allowed to celebrate their own holidays, pray and read religious books as long as it doesn't interfere with someone else's right to do so too.