Opinion: We Must Protect Our Children From the "Christian Agenda "

Walter Rhein

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I’m an atheist, but I’ve read the Bible multiple times. I would dare say that I have read the Bible more times than most people who claim to be Christians.

My degree is in English literature and many texts written in the English language reference the Bible. Therefore, to make sense of classic literature, you have to read the Bible.

I am fortunate that I had the opportunity to read the Bible as a scholar and not as a zealot. I came to the text as an adult and was able to perceive its significant flaws.

For some reason, our society turns a blind eye to the blatant misogyny and language of oppression present in the Bible. I think this is similar to how we watch television shows from the nineteen fifties and assume that it’s appropriate for the whole family.

The truth is that old television shows often feature blatantly sexist messaging.

On The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden had a couple catchphrases solely for his wife, Alice. Fed up with her misgivings about his latest get-rich-quick schemes he would lean in, raise his fist and shout ”One of these days, Alice – Pow! Right in the kisser!”—‘POW, RIGHT IN THE KISSER:’ ‘THE HONEYMOONERS’ CONTROVERSIAL CATCHPHRASE

Using a threat of domestic violence as a punchline is inappropriate and our children shouldn’t be exposed to such things.

But as bad as fifties era sitcoms were, the Bible is even worse.

For a book that is supposed to be about love and tolerance, the Bible contains an incredible amount of sexism. It makes repeated reference to how women should be subjugated to men and are not entitled to equal rights. In numerous instances they are blamed for tempting men into committing sin, even if a man is an equal partner in the act. For centuries the Bible was quoted in defence of treating women as second class citizens—Robert Nielsen

As a father, I don’t want my daughters subjected to a philosophy that treats women as inferior to men. As a parent, I have the right to determine what material teachers bring into the classroom.

Fortunately, I live in the United States where the Constitution gives every citizen the right to be free from religion.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that everyone in the United States has the right to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all—YOUR RIGHT TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Unfortunately, there is always a push from radicalized Christian nationalists to force prayer and religious indoctrination back into schools.

Christian nationalists often point to two Supreme Court cases from the 1960s, Engel v. Vitale and School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, to claim that the government “banned school prayer” or “took God out of the schools.” These are harmful misrepresentations. These cases didn’t ban the free exercise of Christian worship. They banned mandatory Bible readings and prayers written by the government. It should not be controversial to oppose government-dictated religious practice—Amanda Tyler

Also, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court has recently made a decision that puts all American children at the risk of religious indoctrination at school.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with a high school football coach who claimed the right to pray on the 50-yard line after each game, joined by those players who wanted to participate. The 6-to-3 decision was the latest example of the court's conservative supermajority requiring more accommodation for religion in public schools and less separation between church and state—NINA TOTENBERG

The problem is, I’ve been in situations both at work and school where everybody knew “voluntary” activities were mandatory.

I’ve been in situations where I was told I didn’t have to participate, but then the authority figure took note of my absence. Afterward, I was punished unfairly in retaliation.

This is an example of a clear abuse of power, but as a student or an employee, there’s not a lot you can do. We need to protect our children from this form of abuse.

As a parent, I don’t want my daughters singled out because they don’t want to participate in a prayer that is not of their faith. I don’t even want the teachers or other authority figures asking them about their faith. It’s none of their business.

The Founding Fathers established separation of church and state for a very good reason. It’s odd that we’re conditioned to respect the Constitution, yet so many Americans are defiant on this point. Many groups in our country want to use public schools as a tool of religious indoctrination.

I don’t trust teachers with inappropriate and potentially dangerous material. Any mention of misogynistic texts like the Bible needs to be banned from all public institutions. People in the United States have a right to go home and practice whatever religion they want.

American citizens do not have a right to force their beliefs on the rest of us or use the practice of those beliefs to single out our children for retaliation. Teachers who lead prayer in school only sow the seeds of division in our communities and our nation needs to be united in order to be strong.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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