Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed into law a bill that takes a common-sense approach to religion in public schools.
As one news report describes it, the bill:
• allows public schools to teach survey courses on world religions,
• allows students to pray in school and express their views on God in schoolwork;
• allows students to wear clothing or jewelry with religious symbols if similar secular apparel is allowed;
• allows religious student groups to use school facilities and provides that students may not be discriminated against based on their religion.
The bill recognizes that in some school districts, officials may have gone overboard in trying to follow what they believe the U.S. Constitution says about religion in schools.
The clear principle should be that students have a right to express themselves about religion when they are doing so by their own choice. The topic does not have to be taboo inside school walls.
Some observers of the new Indiana law say it simply reinforces rights that students already have under the Constitution.
If the law does nothing more than make it easier for school officials to understand the guidelines, it will serve its purpose.
On the reverse side, school employees should never make a student feel pressure to participate in a religious activity.
A situation could arise in which a student feels uncomfortable because his classmates are participating in a religious activity, and he or she is not. Students are not agents of the school district or the government, and a school district should not be required to prevent peer pressure. A school district should intervene if peer pressure expands into bullying or discrimination.