Scoreboard Wrong

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First Amendment Advocate, Vol. 3, No. 2, August 2002

The Newsletter of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United

School scoreboard teaches students the wrong thing

BY Jim Huff

 

Someone in an Oklahoma City Public  School has determined that a High School needed a religious  endorsement on the  scoreboard in its gymnasium. 

 

The scoreboard has a very modernistic profile of a colonial tri-corner hat.  On  the  hat  is a Christian symbol — a “cross”.  Beneath the hat is a New Testament reference:  “I Cor. 9:25.”  The Bible passage compares the temporary, earthly rewards for athletic events with the eternal, heavenly reward of a Christian. 

 

This inappropriate public endorsement of the Christian religion is teaching students  the wrong things.   The scoreboard teaches students to:

 

1.  Be unconcerned  for  other  students  values.   Students know that  Supreme Court rulings do not allow public schools  to take sides  on  religious  matters. 

2.  Disregard  court  rulings.  It  teaches a “pick and choose mentality” toward  which  court decisions to obey and support.

 

3.   Accept religious endorsements from secular authorities.  It  teaches students that  the school  district or administration can determine which religious values  are  worthy to be  promoted in a public  school gyms.

 

4.  Worst of all, it teaches students that religious  symbols  and  scripture references can be treated trivially.  On  the scoreboard  the  religious symbol is  “secularized” and the religious principle is reduced to  a vague “slogan.”

Religious symbols and scripture references  should be treated thoughtfully and reverently.  That is best done within the students’ own family and faith group. 

 

Unfortunately, some people seem determined to teach students the wrong things about our Constitution and about faith.

 

For many years,   I have visited with middle school,  high school, college and older aged Oklahomans.  In public  school classroom settings,  adult conferences,  Sunday School classes, fair booth dialogues,  and  in teachers’ meetings I have had  many direct, face-to-face discussions.  The full spectrum of Oklahoma viewpoints on the principle of “separation of church and state” have been expressed.  To their  credit, the majority of students I have spoken  with, and not their elders,  have a far better understanding  of the proper role of the public schools related to student religious values.

 

Students are often better informed about current student  prayer and religious expression in the public schools.  The students do not demonstrate  fear and anxiety.  The students  readily acknowledge that they have devotional clubs, participate in a variety of prayer activities, discuss their personal  religious values and feel no unfair limitations on their religious convictions.  Students  agree  that all  of  these activities  are  above board and done on a voluntary basis.  The students do not seek  trickery  or  school  rules requiring participation.  

 

 Students are definitely more fair minded in their attitude toward other students with differing views than their own.  Most high school students are more considerate and sensitive about students with differing religious views than older Oklahomans.  Even those students with clear Christian convictions do not seek  school  imposed  support for Bible views.  Students, more  than older Oklahomans, seem to understand the fairness of school district neutrality in matters of religious viewpoints.

 

 I have advised the  appropriate  district representatives of the scoreboard’s  religious  content.  The  most  common  response  has  been, “That’ll  have  to  come  off.”   We will  have  to  wait  and  see  how  long  it  takes  for  its  removal. 

 

 

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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

Copyright © 2003 Americans United -- Oklahoma Chapter  P.O. Box 892747 Oklahoma City, OK 73189.   Phone and Fax:  405-632-0037   Send mail to jhuff@auok.org with questions about the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State

 

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