Schempp and Chancey Give Excellent Church/State Separation Talk

As a member and supporter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, I am always seeking out great presentations on the subject. Last night’s talk at HCC-SW featured Ellery Schempp and Mark Chancey.

Schempp was the 16 year-old student who sued the Abington, PA school system after he protested the fact that the Bible was being forced upon public school students through readings of Bible verses. In 1953, the US Supreme Court ruled in Abington v. Schempp that state-sponsored Bible readings in public schools were unconstitutional. The ruling also stated that state entities could not promote one religion over another, which constitutionally mandated readings of the King James version did in Pennsylvania at that time. Fifty years later, the career physicist continues his church/state separation activism, re-defining the fight for religious freedom.

Chancey is a professor of religious studies whose thrust of his presentation proposed teaching academic, non-sectarian religious studies, rather than religion, as a matter of civic necessity, as religion has played a role in the history of the world. This has been a method which has not been up for debate or discussion as the debate has usually been about religious zealots wanting to force their versions of the Bible on everyone else without much inclusion of other religions. Meeting the Abington v. Schempp guidelines has seldom been a goal, politically.

That said, there is much to be learned about religion in the making of Texas. As I mentioned previously, the illegals the Southern US who were allowed to make Texas their home had to swear allegiance to Mexico’s Catholicism. Is it any wonder that religious references in Texas’ governmental documents are heavily stoked in protestantism? Even moreso, how those wanting to force the Bible on public school students come from a protestant background?

I guess I’m not much in agreement with Chancey’s argument because, given the nature of Texas politics, religion is probably best taught at home and church. Moreover, I wonder if the religious practices of indigenous folks would be considered, because, let’s face it, Mexican/Chicano Catholicism is filled with various Native practices, as well. And let’s not forget the paganism infused in all of them.

Excellent presentation, nonetheless. Thanks to Professors Schempp and Chancey and Americans United for some great food for continued thought and discussion.

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