Schooled in Religion

Article excerpt

THE DAY ALWAYS began at the Fairview Elementary School with the teacher reading ten verses from the Bible, alternating one from the Old with one from the New Testament. We bowed our heads and said the Lord's Prayer. Then we stood, placed our hands over our hearts, faced the American flag and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. In secondary school, the same opening exercises occurred daily but were heard over the public address system--Bible, prayer, pledge. Sometimes a student was asked to read the Bible and lead the prayer and pledge--no small responsibility if the passage contained strange and difficult-to-pronounce names. I can't remember whether the biblical passages related to anything in particular: did we read about the birth of Jesus in December? All I can remember is that my buddy Charlie Kaminsky, the lone Jew in my class, sat through the readings and that Chuck Thompson, whose parents were Jehovah's Witnesses, didn't put his hand over his heart and recite the pledge. Chuck was also the toughest kid in the class. Anyone who commented on his questionable patriotism paid for it at recess.

Then came the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1962 and the praying and Bible reading stopped. I can recall people in the congregation I was serving worrying about the repercussions in terms of general morality and even the future survival of the republic.

Now we hear that biblical ignorance is epidemic. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune laments the fact that significant percentages of the population, particularly young people, know nothing about the Bible--don't know, for instance, where phrases like "east of Eden" and "salt of the earth" came from, or who Abraham, Moses and Joshua were. …