Sterling, Kansas. A quaint town playing host to numerous churches. Religion, specifically Christianity, reigns supreme. There’s even a Christian college in town. To say Jesus is an important part of this community is a bit of an understatement.
That’s why, when we heard rumblings of rumors concerning community members being upset about alleged violation of Constitutional guaranteed separations of Church and State, it got us thinking.
Sure, it’s not very rare to hear religion being talked about in the USD 376 school system. At the grade school, hearing songs from the popular children’s show “Veggie Tales” will happen from time to time. And although it is most associated with being a Christian program, it has great educational value and teaches youth right from wrong, along with some Christian morals thrown in.
Also, at the high school, one shouldn’t be shocked to hear a coach praying before sports practice. Likewise, you will hear a student recite a prayer before graduation, and see students post social media updates saying, “Thank God I’m A Black Bear,” which has become the unofficial motto of the school year.
All of this might seem like a very clear violation of the laws separating Church and State. We disagree.
No one is forcing students to wear T-shirts thanking God for being in Sterling, and when it comes time to pray, there is no rule stating all must bow their heads.
As journalists, we hold the First Amendment in high regard. Religion, free speech and a free press are all protected by this portion of the Bill of Rights. If someone feels there is a violation of any Constitutionally guaranteed right, then he or she has the responsibility to speak out. However, he or she must fully understand the right.
The point of this law wasn’t to keep religion away, it was to avoid a State-mandated religion and allow each individual to worship, or not worship, as he or she saw fit.
Sterling isn’t forcing anyone to take part in any display of religion. In every instance, proclamations of religious faith are individually led, and until religion is forced upon the student body, there is nothing wrong happening.