A new book published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State gives educators and families detailed information about the law governing religion and the public schools.
Religion in the Public Schools: A Road Map for Avoiding Lawsuits and Respecting Parents’ Legal Rights is a 129-page guide that provides a clear and concise account of court rulings on a variety of religious issues related to the classroom.
“This book will be help educators, parents and students navigate sometimes-tricky issues regarding the role of religion in the classroom,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Given all the disputes about this topic around the country, it is extraordinarily timely.”
Heated controversies over religion and schools have erupted recently in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Iowa and other states.
Topics discussed in the book include school prayer, the teaching of evolution and creationism, student-run religious clubs, religiously based censorship, teaching about religion as an academic subject and students’ religious rights.
Court rulings in these areas and others are surveyed, and what the law allows – and what it does not – is explained. Legal cases are fully cited with extensive endnotes.
Lynn said the book makes it clear that religion can be studied as an academic subject and that students have the right to pray on their own voluntarily. But, he added, public schools may not promote worship, advocate a theological viewpoint or pressure students to take part in religious activities.
Religion in the Public Schools was written by Anne Marie Lofaso, an associate professor of law at West Virginia University. A Harvard graduate, Lofaso has law degrees from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the University of Oxford.
Lofaso’s book tells what the law says about religion and schools, not what activists on either side of the conflict wish it were.
“All too often, disputes over religion in public schools end up in court,” said AU’s Lynn. “This book provides a better way. When school officials know what the law says and follow it, everyone benefits.”
Lynn said print editions of the book will be distributed to educators, school attorneys and others nationwide. The full text is also available online without cost at: religioninthepublicschools.com/
The book project is supported by a grant from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.