Who should public schools allow to meet?


As a child going to a church-run school in the farmlands of central Oregon, I remember hearing terrifying stories of children in communist countries who were punished for owning Bibles or talking about God. They weren’t even allowed to celebrate Christmas.

We prayed for them while thanking God we lived in a free country where people could worship (or not) as they chose. Fast forward three decades, and instead of pausing for Christmas and Easter, public schools now take time off for “winter” and “spring” vacation. Holiday songs about the nativity have been swapped for jingles about snowmen and Santa. And the mere mention of God is frequently met with a lawsuit.

I don’t usually weigh-in on political issues, but when I read a BDN article about a small group of Skowhegan parents, about an hour north up I-95 through the Maine woods, who were angry about a Christian club meeting at the town’s elementary school, it brought back memories. Not only did I occasionally go to such a club, run by Child Evangelism Fellowship, but after moving to Maine, I formed a comparable club while attending Marshwood High School, a couple hours south in Eliot.

It’s how I met the man who became my husband. A friend invited him. Now married for two decades, I may be biased about the place of faith in public school, but when I think back to those awkward, hectic days of high school, this is what I remember: a small group of students gathering in an empty math classroom before school to pray; Friday nights sharing stories and snacks while discussing Bible verses in my South Berwick living room; piling into my mom’s Subaru to attend a Christian concert.

We weren’t dealing drugs or drinking. We weren’t planning a school attack. We were getting together for fun and encouragement while sharing our faith with anyone who was interested. My memories of the club I attended in elementary school similarly centered on games and Bible stories, which are essential to understanding both history and literature.

The gripe against The Good News Club in Skowhegan came from Anna Marin, a member of the Maine Atheists and Humanists, who said that if Christians are allowed to share their beliefs in a public school building, Muslims and Satanists must be allowed too. Constitutionally, she’s right. But the conclusion she draws, that no religious groups should be allowed, is wrong.

Americans—even small ones—are entitled to gather without government interference. While some want to keep faith out of school, the greater good (and one recognized by our country’s forefathers) is an environment in which young people are allowed, with guidance from their families, to decide what they believe for themselves. In Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve three gifts: the earth to care for, each other for companionship, and the freedom to choose.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die,” Genesis 2:16-17 NIV, emphasis mine.

Of course, without groups like Child Evangelism Fellowship, young people today might not know that.

Meadow Rue Merrill

About Meadow Rue Merrill

Wife, mom, writer, friend, advocate for orphans and people with disabilities, sharing God in my everyday world through “Faith Notes.”