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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Baptist Pastor: Don’t Teach Religion in Public Schools!

By Phil Plait

I recently posted about Zack Kopplin, a young man we need to clone. He is tirelessly working against ridiculous religious overreach in his home state of Louisiana. You may remember that this state, spearheaded by its creationist governor Bobby Jindal, is giving out education vouchers that can go to schools that teach creationism, a clear violation of the First Amendment. Jindal is still defending this illegal lawâhe comes right out and says we should teach creationism in public schoolsâbut itâs being fought by many people, including Kopplin.

I have a lot of opinions about thisâand Iâm usually pretty clear about themâbut it does get a little delicate. When any group is seen fighting a law like this, naturally a lot of people get very sensitive about it since itâs a religious issue. They see it as an attack on their beliefs. That isnât the case here; weâre talking about a legal issue, not necessarily the validity of the belief (for example, it is just as illegal to teach atheism as it is creationism). But it doesnât matter if the law is blatantly and nakedly illegal and unconstitutional, once you mention religion youâve opened a can of worms; folks self-identify with their beliefs, so attacking those beliefs is, in their eyes, attacking them.

Some people might jump the conclusion that anyone fighting this law must be an atheist, or anti-Christian. Evidence of that isnât hard to find. But thatâs not true, and I have evidence of that as well.

It comes in the form of this wonderful OpEd by C. Welton Gaddy, Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana. He sees this law for what it is: a very bad precedent. People, especially religious people, fare far better when religion is allowed to be free, rather than mandated by the government in any way. When government starts to legislate religion, things get sticky fast.

Iâm very glad to see this. To many religious people, simply being an atheist is enough to get your opinion not just dismissed, but rallied againstâit is a Catch-22 of fighting religious overreach. But fighting this voucher law is not anti-Christian. Itâs pro-American, in the truest sense of the phrase. Itâs defending the First Amendment. We should all stand together when it comes to this.

Thatâs also why I support interfaith groups like Americans United for Separation for Church and State (run by the Reverend Barry Lynn). They do good work, and have people of many faithsâand no faith at allâas members. Itâs a model of how things should be.

The use of vouchers to give public funding to religious schools is spreading from state to state (like Wisconsin, for example). We must stop it, and we can use the help from everyone who is willing to speak up.

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