Editor's Note: An article on Page One of today's Courier concerns the ACLU-TN contacting Cannon County's REACH program.
When most of us hear the term, ACLU, we tend to think of a liberal group that wants to hold up the country over some socialist cause or another.
Well, to be frank, that's not exactly true.
There's a recent Cannon County case for an example.
An elementary school student was recently told by a REACH employee that he couldn't read his Bible during a free-reading period. His mother was called and told to pick him up when he refused to surrender his Bible.
In case you didn't know, REACH stands for “Reach: Enrichment, Afterschool and Community Health.” REACH is an after-school program that operates at several county elementary schools.
The REACH program provides opportunities for growth and enrichment in children. It enables youth to interact with adults and peers while learning in a safe, supportive environment.
At REACH, children focus on and learn clear standards for behavior, healthy beliefs, opportunity to contribute to a pro-social peer group as well as skilled needed for recreational activities. By developing a sense of self-worth, identifying healthy alternatives and creating bonds, children will be more equipped with the skills necessary to create resiliency. The program offers four main components: Enrichment Activities, Peer Tutoring Program, Mentoring Program, and Academic Assistance. A nutritional snack provided at the grammar school sites.
Or at least that's what REACH states in its grant proposal.
What this situation boils down to is a basic misunderstanding of how the Constitution works when it comes to religious freedom.
Basically, the purpose of the First Amendment is not to prohibit religious expression, but to preserve the freedom to worship, or not, as one chooses.
However, it also means that a public school cannot impose or promote a particular religion.
Back when I was in high school, we had a math teacher whose basic goal seemed to be teaching his particular religion instead of algebra. While, it didn't particularly bother me (either way) the situation did prompt an official response from somebody or another. The teacher did end up apologizing and explaining his situation to each of his classes.
Suddenly, our class was back to the business of algebra (yuck).
While, he wasn't preaching some radical religion, his teachings were different from what a majority of his students had either heard or believed in. So, bottom line, that means that most of us really didn't want to hear his scripture lessons.
And that's a partial reason for the ACLU's stand.
Public schools (or public after-school programs) shouldn't be in the position of pushing a particular religious idea, but they should allow children the freedom to believe, or not. That's what the First Amendment is all about.