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Professor Says Religion Education Possible

January 31, 2012, 9:52 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

Professor Says Religion Education Possible
SIOUX FALLS, SD - South Dakota lawmakers have passed a resolution suggesting that public schools incorporate study of the Bible. While the legislature supports the measure, school administrators say it could blur the line separating church and state. But those who study religion the most say such religious study could be beneficial.

Religion is the focus of education at the Sioux Falls Seminary. But a resolution passed by South Dakota lawmakers suggests it should also be part of education in public schools.

"Many of the times when religion is taught in public schools, or the Bible is taught, it is not done in a way that adheres to the first amendment," Philip Thompson said.

However, professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Heritage Philip Thompson says that doesn't have to be the case. He says a well-trained teacher would be able to educate about religion in public schools because it is common to find in other places.

"So many Biblical images, metaphors, echoes, are throughout our cultural history; politically, historically, in the literature and music of the country.  And so it's part of being a well-informed student," Thompson said.

Thompson says often times the idea of separation of church and state can be over dramatized. And that dramatization can make it easy for school administrators to reject the idea of teaching the Bible.

However, he says that separation doesn't dictate a ban on religion education. The focus of the subject, he says, is critical.

"The key is to do it in a way in which religion is taught about but it is not taught with the goal of leading to acceptance of that religion," Thompson said.

And while the resolution passed in Pierre is not binding by law, Thompson says he's hopeful schools will now consider an education that includes a non-secular look at faith.

Thompson says there are groups across the nation, such as the Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty, that support the notion of a proper look at religion in public classrooms.

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