Monday, March 4, 2013

Firing Moms: Religion Has No Place in Education

The Folly of Religious Institutions

 By Lady Rhiannon

Recently San Diego mother to be, Terri James, was fired from the Christian college where she was a financial aid specialist, because she became pregnant, which was evidence of her premarital sexual activity. Premarital sex was forbidden by the moral pledge she signed when she was hired, but the pledge did not specify that she faced termination if she deviated. Firing her for becoming pregnant is obviously discriminatory because only women can display the physical evidence of sexual activity, thus are usually the only ones who are stigmatized for such behavior. It is also illegal to fire someone for being pregnant under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. The school also offered a job to her boyfriend after making the decision to fire her, whom they must have assumed was also non-virginal (he didn’t take it).  However, the biggest problem roots and stems from the very existence of religiously run schools and their “moral codes” for staff and students.
I will not fault this woman for taking a job at a Christian school (though I certainly would not) because jobs are very hard to come by in this economy, but ideally she should not have had to take a job in a religious setting and submit to a moral clause. First of all, the expectations within the workplace should remain separate from the privacy of your home life. Secondly, there should be more than enough schools and funding for teaching and administrative jobs in this country so this woman wouldn’t have to take a job at a Christian school. Lastly, my primary point, that religious institutions should not own and run schools; education should no longer be the domain of religion. We as a society just accept it, because this is the way it has always been; we have always had religious educational institutions. Historically churches have been a primary source for education in one form or another. Socialized public school is much newer to our society than religious education, although it is the far more preferable method of instilling strong minds into our populace.
This is not a plea necessarily to ban religious organizations from opening a school, but rather a plea to all people to never send your child to a religious school, and do not work in one. Also, there should be absolutely no public funding going to these schools, through voucher, financial aid, or otherwise. Religion’s tax exempt status already costs us almost 71 billion dollars a year in taxes, which is a tragic waste of public revenue. Religion really has a perfect business plan going; they sell a product that is absolutely perfect (but invisible and only speaks through one book as interpreted by certain special men) and deferring to it, by giving it money and praise and obedience, is the only way to ease the guilt, shame, and fear that religion itself imposes on people, and to ensure a secure place in paradise after death. Religion feeds off of common human insecurities and our fear of death (being primarily a fear of the unknown), among other things.
Their scheme works best, however, if they can catch people when they are young, impressionable, and already prone to irrational fears, guilt, and the belief in imaginary creatures. If children and young people have no other influences in their life other than religion at their schools, jobs, hospitals, and at home than they are the unsuspecting victims of cult indoctrination, and they have very little chance for mental expansion within such a restrictive and oppressive environment during their formative years. How can you properly analyze your beliefs or the world around you if you have had absolutely no exposure to any other way of thinking or living, particularly during the years your brain is developing? If you have to isolate, pressure, and consume people into an ideology, than that ideology does not stand strong enough on its own. Religiously based education most often is designed to promote an unquestioning adherence to a strict worldview. It is against the interests of religions to promote free, critical thought; as such thought inevitably leads to the questioning of one’s own spiritual habits and beliefs.
                The ideology that many religious institutions promote is one that perpetuates a discriminatory and exclusionary atmosphere within society as a whole. The moral contract that Teri James had to sign included a section forbidding homosexual activity as well, thereby excluding homosexuals from employment also, which should be illegal, but in many places is not. There is virtually no faction exempt from the reaches of religious judgment, especially to homosexuals, bisexuals, blacks, atheists, or women who get abortions, use birth control, are single moms, have sex, or generally reveal any aspect of their sexuality in any way. Often the students themselves become targets of harassment from students and teachers if they are believed to be gay, atheist, or some other ungodly deviation from holiness. Religious schooling also denies children of sexual education, the truth about evolution, the Big Bang, and anything else that religion deems “sinful” or “blasphemous”, which is anything that contradicts their collection of ancient writings of orated tales from an era predating modern science.
                Children and young people need to be handled with care, and their education should be based on facts and truths about the world and our physical reality. Being hateful, oppressive, and intolerant is not innate in our character. Bigotry is propagated into our children and young people by many religious institutions, and is damaging to the individual as well as society, which must feel the brunt of that prejudice. It is also psychologically damaging for children and adults to repress their natural urges from a fear of godly retribution, whether it be about masturbation or their sexual preferences. Refusing to teach sexual education as religious schools often do is absolutely dangerous and is the reason that Mississippi has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. Parents who are insistent on making religion an aspect of their children’s lives can do so at home or at church. The goal of schools and formal education should be to nourish the intellect and instruct individuals on the art of how to think, using critical and analytical skills, not to enforce a certain religious ideology or moral code upon them. Also, think about it…is firing a soon to be mother and taking away her livelihood REALLY what you think Jesus would do?

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