Role of Religion in Education

Article excerpt


On Nov. 20, the Council on Islamic Education (CIE) and the First Amendment Center (FAC) sponsored a press conference on their most recent collaboration, a study of teaching about religion in national and state social studies programs.

Among the discussants was Dr. Charles Haynes, senior scholar at FAC, who explained that the study represents another "building block in the cause of religious liberty." He argued that contrary to cultural misconceptions about the role of religion in education, especially because of the well-established separation of church and state, the U.S. constitution mandates that public schools remain neutral on religion. This neutrality was not intended to engender hostility or silence about religion, he explained, but rather to be fair in teaching about, as opposed to of, religion.

Dr. Haynes also argued that a good education must include a diverse curriculum, both religious and nonreligious, and that teaching about various ways of understanding the world and different faiths enhances students' educational experience. He explained, however, that although national and state educational standards mandate some teaching about religion, discrepancies exist in its implementation. Among the various challenges facing educators, Dr. Haynes asserted, is teacher preparation and the availability of resources and textbooks. He concluded by saying that the study is not intended to promote the interests of one religion, but is rather an endeavor to work on behalf of all Americans.

Shabbir Mansuri, the founding director of CIE, explained that since its inception in 1990, CIE has worked to strengthen the U. …