School Board Candidate Matthew J. Fitzpatrick shares his view regarding the topic of “God in Schools?”
I received a couple of good questions this past week regarding Religious Freedom issues...I just thought I would pass along my answers for those who may share similar concerns. I think it is important to talk about these kinds of issues...My answers aren’t the final word on the topic…these are just my thoughts, which are open for debate.
Here’s the first question:
1. Hello. I'm glad I ran into your page and I like what you have to say. I do have a concern. As a non-Christian I was not happy about the Bible distribution in schools and I often see issues with religion (specifically the Christian religion) being slipped into our schools.
Your post relies heavily on your values as a Christian, and I'm okay with that, but I'm concerned as well. What do you think about religion in schools? Prayer in schools? Bible distribution? What is your line about what is okay and what is not okay in public schools?
Thank you for addressing this issue. I am excited to be able to support many of your proposals.
Here’s my answer:
That is an excellent question. I believe in religious freedom, and I also believe in the freedom from religion. In my view of life, God created the world in such a way that he allows people to live entirely free from even thinking about him, to a certain extent. I tend to believe that when Jesus said, "When you pray, go into your closet.", I think he said that because many use public prayer for a show. Jesus gave some of his sternest warnings to religious/political leaders that were simply using religion for their own agendas. My religion is one of loving people, and I think people don't need words to "sell" their religion when they truly love others. I don't think schools should distribute Bibles...or any other religious materials such as Satanic coloring books. I don't have a problem if students distribute Bibles on their own, to their friends...I think that's a freedom afforded to people in a free society, but it should not be coming from employees of government institutions.
I think that there should be open debate about topics that have religious implications...I think students need to learn to research, think critically, organize their thoughts, listen to the opposing views of others, and then to articulate their own ideas in a clear, compelling manner. I think we lose something when we shy away from civil debate about important topics that society wrestles with. I think we have much to learn from each other's perspective, and it starts with listening and seeking to understand. The best debaters are those who can argue the best points of the ideas they oppose. In many cases, people need to agree to disagree, but at least they can shoot for being civil. Our society is desperate for civility.
I hope that you don't fear my brand of Christianity. I believe that Jesus attracted the "sinners", drunkards, prostitutes, and the hated tax collectors of his day because he was different. His love was far different from the average religious leader. He loved people, regardless of their status or situation. He hated hypocrisy and pride. He had mercy on people...even those who doubted him. It says that he did not "shout out in the street, and a bruised reed he did not break", which seems to indicate to me that his methods were gentle. He said, "Come unto me all of you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." When someone is overbearing...I don't see the "rest" that Jesus spoke of in his or her life. It was the controlling, obnoxious, prideful, religious leaders of his day that wanted him dead...and they did eventually hand him over to the Romans to be crucified. In many ways, I believe those same types of people would oppose Jesus in our day if he were to walk among us again. I am very leery of obnoxious religious people who seem to think that forcing their religion upon others is beneficial. I believe in a God that knocks gently on the door of a person's heart...he doesn't break down the door. On top of all of that...I know how hard it is to believe things that can't be seen...my faith is one that has been fired in the furnace of much doubt and skepticism, so I am sympathetic to those who find it either hard or impossible to believe.
Let me know if you have any further questions...I certainly don't want to trick anyone into voting for me...that's not the way I operate. If I had more time, I would have posted something earlier.
Have a great weekend...
Here’s another question I received, with my answer below…
2. Hey Matt. What is your stance on high school football chaplains?
As a Christian, I like having good people around young people to influence them in positive ways. I think Christians need to be gentle in their approach to those who do not share their Christian beliefs. I don't think public prayer is nearly as effective as private prayer...especially if you are forcing lost people to listen and somewhat participate. I think the greatest witness a Christian could ever achieve is by loving and caring about people. I think if Christians want to be involved in sports, they ought to become part of the coaching staff...even if it is on an unpaid, volunteer basis. Getting to know kids and being a positive voice in their lives is much more effective in influencing kids than to have a title and publicly pray for a team. And, please understand, I believe deeply in prayer and interceding for others. But I think many are more motivated to pray in public than they are to pray in private. Jesus warned his disciples about religious leaders who make lengthy prayers in public for show. I don't think all public prayer is for show, but when unbelievers are "forced" to be present, I think we are on slippery ground. I think Christian coaches should also become part of FCA in order to be able to help students on a deeper level, if student athletes are at a place where they are seeking that kind of help.
As a public institution, I think we have to do our best to not promote one religion over another. I don't have a problem with a coach telling his players that he is a Christian, but I don't think he or she should be using their position to preach at them and publicly pray over them. Most Christians would not want a Muslim coach praying over their child, so we have to make sure we don't create that same kind of situation for non-Christians or people of other religions.
The School District talks a lot about Faith-based initiatives...I think Churches can certainly get involved and show their love and support by joining together and feeding players pre-game meals sponsored by different churches on a weekly basis. I've seen this done in a very positive manner. Showing love in relevant ways will never be against the law. Caring about kids will never be against the law...at least I hope not.
I don't have the final word on this topic...these are just some of my thoughts...I am certainly open to debate and discussion on the topic. Let me know what you think.