religion in schools

Washington Post goes into the classroom in front-page story on Bible classes in public schools

Washington Post goes into the classroom in front-page story on Bible classes in public schools

Let’s talk about Tuesday’s front-page Washington Post story on “Teaching Scripture in public schools.”

But before we do, let’s refresh ourselves on some relevant background: Back in January, President Donald Trump tweeted his support of Bible classes in public schools.

As I noted at the time, Trump’s tweet followed a USA Today story that reported on “a wave of ‘Bible literacy’ bills emerging in state legislatures.”

I said in that post:

Here’s the deal: Bible classes in public schools already exist, and they have for a long time. While the USA Today story, for example, did a nice job of quoting politicians and advocacy group talking heads, the better, more enlightening story is in the classroom itself.

That’s a point I’ve made before, urging reporters to talk to actual students and teachers involved in such classes — and if possible, observe in person — to see what these courses are actually like.

Fast-forward to this week’s Post story, and I couldn’t be more pleased to see religion writer Julie Zauzmer actually go into Kentucky school classrooms to report her piece.

That approach — which, according to a tweet by Zauzmer, involved two trips to the Bluegrass State — makes all the difference in the Post’s insightful and informative report.

Zauzmer’s lede sets the scene:

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Monday Mix: Church vs. football, religion in schools, scandalized bishops, His (Islamic) Holiness

Monday Mix: Church vs. football, religion in schools, scandalized bishops, His (Islamic) Holiness

Welcome to another edition of the Monday Mix, where we focus on headlines and insights you might have missed from the weekend and late in the week.

The fine print: Just because we include a headline here doesn't mean we won't offer additional analysis in a different post, particularly if it's a major story. In fact, if you read a piece linked here and have questions or concerns that we might address, please don't hesitate to comment below or tweet us at @GetReligion. The goal here is to point at important news and say, "Hey, look at this."

Three weekend reads

1. "I think we can all thank the Lord for Saturday night services and TiVo." The Tennessee Titans played the Los Angeles Chargers at 8:30 a.m. CDT Sunday in London (they lost a heartbreaker).

In advance of the odd kickoff time, religion writer Holly Meyer of The Tennessean had a timely, interesting feature on the clash between Sunday morning church and football:

While the extra-early Titans game is atypical, it is not uncommon for late Sunday morning worship services to run past the usual noon-or-later kickoffs in the 17-week regular season.

Die-hard, church-going Titans fans devise game-day routines that ensure they can watch their team and worship their God.

2. "(T)here is more student religious expression today in public schools than probably anytime in the last hundred years." For two decades, Charles Haynes has been a go-to source for journalists (including myself) reporting on the intersection of religion and public schools.

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The devil you say: Washington Post helps boost Satanist school program

The devil you say: Washington Post helps boost Satanist school program

Satanists have announced plans for "After School Satan Clubs" in public schools, trying to compete with Christian clubs already there.  And the Washington Post is all too ready to help the campaign.

The WaPo guest writer strives to show that the Satanic Temple is not the devil you know. But the article has a clear twin purpose: dissing the "fundamentalist" Good News Club organization.

At least the writer is accurate about the look and feel of the After School Satan promotional video:

SALEM, Mass. —It’s a hot summer night, and leaders of the Satanic Temple have gathered in the crimson¬-walled living room of a Victorian manse in this city renowned for its witch trials in the 17th century. They’re watching a sepia-toned video, in which children dance around a maypole, a spider crawls across a clown’s face and eerie, ambient chanting gives way to a backward, demonic voice-over. The group chuckles with approval.
They’re here plotting to bring their wisdom to the nation’s public elementary school children. They point out that Christian evangelical groups already have infiltrated the lives of America’s children through after-school religious programming in public schools, and they appear determined to give young students a choice: Jesus or Satan.
"It’s critical that children understand that there are multiple perspectives on all issues, and that they have a choice in how they think," said Doug Mesner, the Satanic Temple’s co-founder. 

You've no doubt read about the Temple's skill in getting publicity. David Suhor of the West Florida branch got people upset in July for his invocation for Pensacola's city council. And last year, Mesner -- aka Lucien Greaves -- pushed to put up a Satan statue on public property in Oklahoma last year. (He gave up after the state supreme court said the Ten Commandments couldn't be set up, either).

The new video "feels like a mash-up of a horror movie trailer and a 'Saturday Night Live' sketch, the WaPo writer chuckles, but says the Satanists are serious about planting clubs in schools. She says chapter heads from four states attended the viewing, with others from at least six cities taking part online. How many individuals? We'll come back to that later.

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How to stack the deck against Christian teachers expressing their faith at public schools

How to stack the deck against Christian teachers expressing their faith at public schools

"These Christian teachers want to bring Jesus into public schools," declares the clickbait headline on the Washington Post's long, winding profile of the Christian Educators Association International.

Read all 2,400 words, and the Post actually provides quite a bit of firsthand information from the organization itself about its purpose and approach.

But up high, the newspaper seems intent on stacking the deck against the Christian Educators Association and making it clear that these teachers are really, really scary. 

As in: Run for your politically correct lives!

The piece opens with this three-paragraph, 144-word lede featuring the association's executive director:

Finn Laursen believes millions of American children are no longer learning right from wrong, in part because public schools have been stripped of religion. To repair that frayed moral fabric, Laursen and his colleagues want to bring the light of Jesus Christ into public school classrooms across the country — and they are training teachers to do just that.
The Christian Educators Association International, an organization that sees the nation’s public schools as “the largest single mission field in America,” aims to show Christian teachers how to live their faith — and evangelize in public schools — without running afoul of the Constitution’s prohibition on the government establishing or promoting any particular religion.
“We’re not talking about proselytizing. That would be illegal,” said Laursen, the group’s executive director. “But we’re saying you can do a lot of things. . . . It’s a mission field that you fish in differently.”

How does the Post follow up that opening? By doubling down — literally — against the Christian teachers. 

The next seven paragraphs and 288 words explain what's wrong with the organization:

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Stenography vs. reporting: 'Bias' in the Lone Star State

Just the other night, I was watching an old episode of “The West Wing,” one of my all-time favorite television series.

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