Last week I told you that I would be putting up some reviews of the literature that I used for my after-school ministry project. Here is the first review on “Finding Common Ground: A First Amendment Guide to Religion and Public Education” by Charles C. Haynes and Oliver Thomas.
Charles C. Haynes, Ph. D., is a recognized leading authority on religious liberty in public education because of his involvement in writing books, curriculums, and co-chairing coalitions that produced a series on “Religion in the Public School Curriculum”, “Religious Holidays in the Public Schools”, and “The Equal Access Act.” Oliver Thomas, Esq., is a Baptist minister and an active member of the Supreme Court Bar. He has worked with hundreds of school districts on religious freedom issues, as well as having involvement with litigation at the United States Supreme Court concerning religion and schools. Finding Common Ground (First Amendment Center, 2002) is developing an understanding of the historical American constitutional guidelines of religious rights and exercise within the confines of public education for teachers, students, and parents. This was a helpful resource for me because I knew that the government, more specifically school teachers and administrators, could not establish or promote religion but I did not know about things like the Lemon Test used in Supreme Court cases, The Equal Access Act in 1984, and the Character Education Partnership organization. These tools, laws, and organizations are helpful for understanding the precedences and applications of tolerance and informative instruction about various religious views through the lens of the subjects of history, literature, civics, science, and health in a multi-faith pluralistic society. Christian leaders would do well in helping develop open conversation and principles with other faith leaders to promote the common good and children’s moral character and civil development alongside school officials.