Debate over religion in schools - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Debate over religion in schools


A northwest Iowa school district is resurrecting the debate over religion in schools.

Public school officials in Spencer are proposing allowing students to study the bible and pray during graduation ceremonies.

They say they want to set clear rules for religious expression.

Waterloo Schools looked into a similar policy at the beginning of last school year - ultimately deciding not to make a change.

It was after the request of a parent who brought a petition wanting school administrators to include the bible in the schools curriculum.

Rochelle Arnold has a daughter in the Waterloo school system.

She says she should be able to study the bible as a historical document.

"You need to know literature, culture, american history, our founding fathers if you don't have knowledge of the bible, it's hard when you get to college to understand it. I think it's a very important, well rounded book to include in the curriculum," said Arnold.

District officials considered changes last year but ultimately decided against it without taking formal action.

"The bottom line is that religion is already infused in so many of our social sciences. In history, in government, you can't really study a period or a group of people or a culture without noting the influence of religion," said spokeswoman Sharon Miller.

Still, Arnold says she's encouraged by the district's willingness to give thought to the idea.

She says most school districts are concerned about legal challenges.

"The separation of church and state was so religion wouldn't take over government. Any particular religious sect wouldn't take over government. It didn't say you couldn't study religion at school," said Arnold.

Right now, Waterloo and Cedar Falls School Districts don't have any particular religious policy.

They say students and staff can bring bibles, or hold meetings after school on school grounds.

They say they just can't have a student or teacher pushing their beliefs on someone else at school

The Spencer School Board has not taken any action but may decide at the end of the month.

Online Reporter:  Bob Waters

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