Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America — the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, through its Institute for Public Affairs welcomed President Bill Clinton’s promotion of guidelines for the proper teaching of religion in America’s public schools. The President discussed the “Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools” in his weekly radio address Saturday morning. The Teacher’s Guide was developed and endorsed by a broad coalition of religious organizations and communities including the Orthodox Union, the National Council of Churches, Christian Legal Society and American Jewish Congress.
The Teacher’s Guide recognizes that under current constitutional precedents, America’s public schools “may not inculcate religion,” they “must be places where religion and religious conviction are treated with fairness and respect.” The Teacher’s Guide recognizes that public schools may teach “about religion” and that the study of religion’s role in art, history and culture is “an important part of a well rounded education.” The Teacher’s Guide also gives guidance on how teachers could accomplish this important task, and how they should deal with their personal religious convictions, and those of their students.
In his radio address, President Clinton announced that the Teacher’s Guide, along with guidebooks on religion in the schools for parents, and a Guide on Religious Communities and Public Schools – discussing appropriate ways for public schools to partner with local religious communities to provide youth services and other important needs – would be sent by the U.S. Department of Education to every public school principal in the United States.
Nathan Diament, director of the Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, states in connection with the President’s address:
President Clinton’s promotion of constitutionally-approved methods for recognizing religion and religious conviction as an important part of the lives of America’s schoolchildren is most welcome. Americans, including our schoolchildren, are people of faith. The notion that our public schools – the places where we form the character of most of America’s next generation – must be places bereft of any mention of religion is a position clearly not supported by the U.S. Constitution, nor in the best interests of our nation. The guides that will be disseminated will help restore the proper role and relationship between religion and our public schools. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations is pleased to support this effort, and applauds President Clinton’s promotion of it.