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Teachers ask whether God should be allowed in classcomment (0)

August 17, 2000

By Martine Bates Sharp

Patsy Bryant, a member at Central Park Baptist Church, Decatur, is well respected for her skills as a teacher.   But she feels ill-equipped to deal with certain situations that arise in her classroom.  She wrestles with questions like whether she can allow a student to present a report on the meaning of Easter, or what she can say to a child with spiritual questions.

Angelon Creel agreed, “I don’t think we’re really informed as to where the line is.”

Schools of education, school systems and even churches do little to aid teachers.  According to Patty Annerton, who attends Wear Baptist in Muscle Shoals Association, those who want to know have to search out the information for themselves.

“I researched it for myself, because it’s very important to me,” she said. “The only time a school official talked to me about it was in West Virginia (where Annerton and her husband had gone as missionaries). The interviewer knew why we were there, and he let me know I couldn’t talk to students about my religion.”

Although polls consistently show that a majority of Americans favor prayer and Bible reading in schools, Annerton acknowledged the problems that arise when the teacher is not of the Christian faith.

“I would not want my child exposed to it.  It’s hard — I’d like to be able to read the Bible and pray, and I guess if I have that right, they should, too.”

Bryant agreed, “I know their rights shouldn’t be any different from mine, but if my child were in the class of a non-Christian teacher who was teaching her religion, I’d want to know.”

The teachers felt strongly about feeling a certain amount of responsibility for the spiritual development of their students. 

Creel, a 27-year veteran who attends Westwood Baptist Church in Jefferson County, said, “Many of today’s children are not receiving guidance at home, being taught right and wrong.  I believe we owe our students the chance to accept the faith that has helped us cope with our lives.”

The inability to freely share their faith is a problem, but teachers can find ways to communicate their Christian witness without openly defying the Supreme Court — most of the time.

 “I turn questions back around to them and say, ‘Where do you think it came from?  Who do you think made these bugs?’  I can always count on some of my students to answer the questions.”

Sometimes, according to Annerton, you just have to do what you think is right.

“One of my students was killed in a car wreck.  She was in my last class of the day, and I knew that empty desk would be sitting there,” Annerton said. “I thought all day about how to handle it.  When the students came in, I told them, ‘I’m going to handle this situation like I do all situations in my life. You don’t have to bow your head, and you don’t have to join in, but I’m going to pray.’ “

Several students thanked her after class.

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