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Holy Kindergarten Batman

TAUNTON, Va. ? When Heather and Logan Ward's son entered public kindergarten this fall, they were shocked to discover that pupils were taken from class to a nearby church for weekly Bible lessons.

The Wards moved to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley (search) from New York four years ago, and were unaware of the tradition that has remained in Staunton and other rural schools for more than 60 years.

"My reaction is exactly like the reaction of those who come here from a different place ? shock and disbelief that we have Bible (search) classes in public schools," Heather Ward said.

Now the Wards and other parents are asking the school board to eliminate or modify the program, which shuttles first-, second- and third-graders to churches during class time for voluntary half-hour Christian lessons and activities.

More...

Amazing. After SCOTUS decided in Engel v. Vitale that any kind of prayer, composed by public school districts, even nondenominational prayer, is unconstitutional government sponsorship of religion, Virginia has bible classes as part of the public school curriculum. Then again, maybe it's not such a surprise since Virginia filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief Friday claiming in its view, the Establishment Clause does not wholly apply to the states. It's looking more and more like Virginia wants State sponsored religion regardless of the 1st or 14th Amendments. What will they think of next?

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How does this violate the ruling?

Classes are NOT held on school property. They are voluntary. It doesn't look to me like they are part of the curriculum. There is nothing to indicate to me that it's state-sponsored religion at all.

Is it the government's role to impede people's religious freedom? Sounds like that's what they are asking for.

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Hi, Ed.

From the story, it sounds like state funds are paying for the busses, a clear violation. The other question is this -- can Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, or Wiccan children attend classes in their faith during that time?

-- Dave K, Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email semods4@yahoo.com

The opinions expressed above are my own,
and do not necessarily reflect those of CNET!

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They have Release Time Bible Study in Michigan too.

And every year it seemed someone tried to do away with it . It's not on school property, it's completely voluntary (with parent's permission, so there's no subterfuge going on).

I don't see why people are so freaked out about it. If they don't want their child to go, they are not required to.

--Cindi
Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email the mods

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Well...

as long as the school is willing to provide similar accomodations to individuals of other religions (if they ask), then there is nothing wrong with this practice.
The Establishment Clause simply prevented Government endorsement of a specific religion, the intent was tolerance of all religions, not intolerance of any religion (as it has been viewed recently).

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I dont think children should be placed

in a situation where theyll be stigmatized. That doesnt mean they should have to go along to get along.

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If all voluntary and the required

classroom hours of other required subject matter is not comprimised, I guess this is a workaround for keeping the old system intact. The only thing I did not see mentioned was how the shuttle service was paid for. If it comes out of state education funds, this could probably be a sticking point.

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