Opinion: I Want My Kids Protected from Predatory Religions at Schools

Walter Rhein

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There has been a huge debate raging in the United States as to what kind of materials should be considered “inappropriate” for schools. Some states have even passed broadly worded laws to prevent the discussion of certain topics. Recently, the Supreme Court decided in support of a football coach who conducted “voluntary” prayer.

The Supreme Court today further blurred the line between church and state with its ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case involving a football coach who used his position to conduct public prayers at midfield after games. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union representing more than 3 million educators, filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the coach’s actions — which created a public controversy around the prayers, led to threats against district staff, and caused some students to feel pressured to join the prayers — were not protected by the First Amendment—Staci Maiers

The problem with this situation is the pressure the students felt even though the prayers were “voluntary.” Students should not have to feel pressure to participate in any kind of religious indoctrination.

However, a significant portion of the American public applauds this decision. Unfortunately, there is relatively little discussion about the dangers of faith-based indoctrination.

Contrary to findings of previous research regarding the influence of religion on nonsexual criminality, for this sample of sex offenders, religiosity was linked to a higher number of sex offense victims and more convictions for sex offenses. Those sex offenders who reported regular church attendance, a belief in supernatural punishment, and religion as important in their daily lives had more known victims, younger victims, and more convictions for sex offenses than the sex offenders who reported irregular or no church attendance and no or less intense allegiance to religious beliefs and practices— Religious Affiliations Among Adult Sexual Offenders

These statistics are widely known, yet the American public remains ignorant of the danger of faith-based grooming and child molestation. There are documented examples of faith-based institutions that used abusive practices such as this account from a Baptist boarding school in Missouri:

[F]ormer students interviewed by The Daily Beast say the school was far from heavenly. Instead, they encountered a climate more like Lord of the Flies, where staff were given free rein to restrain and beat students, and where some kids were emotionally and sexually abused. They claim Agapé has functioned like a “cult” and “Christian torture compound” for decades, allowing adults to manhandle teenagers and withhold food, water, and proper clothing—apparently without most parents ever knowing—Kate Briquelet

It’s terrifying to think that the Supreme Court’s recent decision might have exposed all of our children to this kind of behavior.

It’s natural for parents to be concerned about the material teachers share with their students. Some people suggest that if you don’t like what a school teaches, you always have the right to home school.

However, homeschooling is not a practical solution for everyone. Some families do not have the economic means that allow one parent to stay at home as a caregiver. The question of what constitutes appropriate school material remains.

The sad part is that as much as the debate rages on, few authority figures take the time to cite statistics as to what constitutes a danger. Many arguments are based on unsubstantiated opinions rather than facts.

It’s odd that in light of the very real danger of faith-based abuse in our country, many parents are more concerned about Critical Race Theory (CRT). It’s even more bizarre when you consider that CRT isn’t being taught in public schools.

Critical race theory is an academic framework developed in the 1970s and 1980s that examines how systems and policies can perpetuate racism. The term is widely misunderstood and misused. People sometimes confuse the discussion of racial issues to be "critical race theory." The theory also has become somewhat of an all-encompassing phrase to describe race subjects some conservatives find objectionable, such as white privilege and systemic inequality—Critical Race Theory (CRT) is not being taught in K-12 schools, but that didn't stop Virginia Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin from vowing to ban it

Most of the objections to CRT stem from a deliberate misrepresentation of what CRT is.

Similarly, there is no evidence that the LGBTQ community has any kind of agenda. There is no “agenda” there is only an effort by our educational system to teach tolerance and end bullying.

Alarmed by evidence that gay and lesbian students are common victims of schoolyard bullies, many school districts are bolstering their antiharassment rules with early lessons in tolerance, explaining that some children have “two moms” or will grow up to love members of the same sex—Erik Eckholm

It’s offensive for groups to vilify educational efforts to teach true American history, or teach tolerance by claiming it’s some component of a fabricated agenda. The result of this tolerance for lies about CRT and LGBTQ and a refusal to recognize the dangers of faith-based prejudice has led to the documented suffering of American children:

Highly religious parents are significantly more likely than their less-religious counterparts to reject their children for being gay – a finding that social-service workers believe goes a long way toward explaining why LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless-youth population. The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States—ALEX MORRIS

The American public is worried about the wrong thing. It’s good to teach true history in our schools. It’s beneficial to students to teach tolerance. However, parents should be aware of the dangers of allowing any faith-based materials in the classroom.

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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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