A video posted online by a first-grade teacher at a public school in Texas showing her students reciting a Bible verse about love has prompted protest from some parents.
The students at Brown Primary School in Smithville were reciting in unison a paraphrase of Romans 12:9-10 from The Message Bible, reported the Fox TV affiliate in Austin.
“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle,” the passage reads.
The teacher, Susan Schobel, wrote on Facebook in a message posted with the video: “Start your day with a good Bible verse and life just seems better!! This is our daily Bible verse.”
Some parents with children at the school protested to the Smithville Independent School District, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
“This is not okay,” wrote parent Ashley Nicole. “I am truly shocked. I am concerned about how this is getting handled.”
Another parent, Charlie Lucko, characterized the teachers’ actions as “religious indoctrination” that violates the First Amendment.
Lucko told the Fox affiliate he has “nothing against religion.”
“I actually love Jesus,” he said. “I love His teachings, His practices, and it’s been a big impact in my life, but I don’t believe that belongs in the public school system.”
The Smithville School Superintendent, Cheryl Burns, declined to speak to media about the matter other than saying it had been resolved.
Schobel, who has deleted her Facebook post, also declined to comment.
The district, however, issued a statement.
“Smithville ISD is aware of recent dialogue on social media and in the news media regarding religion and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” the statement said. “The Smithville ISD and its leadership and faculty are cognizant that the district, as an institution, may not promote religious views, nor be hostile to religious views. The ‘Establishment Clause’ of the First Amendment requires neutrality toward religion by the government, including public school districts.”
Foundation of ‘a free people’
The First Amendment does not use the language “separation of church and state,” specifying only that Congress “shall make no law establishing a religion,” meaning a state-sponsored religion such as England’s Anglican Church.
Christian News, in a report on the Smithville controversy, noted a number of the founding fathers favored universal teaching of the Bible to children.
Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, said in 1806 that the “only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”
In 1828, Noah Webster, known as the father of American scholarship and education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed.”
Webster believed Christianity “must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”