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Religion and Schools

January 02, 1994

The Times' editorial "Participate, Yes; Proselytize, No" (Dec. 21) unintentionally reveals where the real proselytizing has been taking place. The article condemned the Vista school board's decision to require the teaching of creation theory as a violation of the 1947 Supreme Court decision which forbade "practices that . . . endorse or prefer religion over no religion."

But what we quite obviously have now in our public schools is a reverse situation where no religion is preferred over religion. Currently, state science curricula permit only the teaching of atheistic evolutionary theory in the study of origins, despite a rapidly accumulating body of scientific evidence supporting a theistic interpretation. Is this not proselytizing on behalf of no religion? If endorsing religion over no religion is wrong, can endorsing no religion over religion be right? Of what value is censoring a widely held perspective simply because it has religious roots? Where scientific facts are concerned, shouldn't both hypotheses be allowed to compete together in the educational marketplace, especially since they both have such large followings? How could it hurt?

In requiring that the science of creation theory be taught alongside that of evolutionary theory, the Vista school board was not seeking to proselytize its students but only to even the playing field.

GREG SWITZER

Studio City

* I agreed with the basic thrust of your editorial. But there was one sentence that was so egregiously incongruous that I didn't know what to make of it. It said, "The United States, especially in its public schools, does not discriminate against those who do not believe in God."

Considering that this sentence is inconsistent with the context, my first guess is that the word "not" was inadvertently added as a misprint. Or that the entire editorial was written by a religious person who wishes to support the continued discrimination against atheists by denying their existence. Suffice it to say that when President Bush stated, repeatedly, that he didn't think atheists should be considered patriots or citizens, because "this is one nation under God," there wasn't a ripple in the mass media. Whereas, if he had said the same thing about any other minority, there would have been nationwide headlines screaming for his impeachment.

LEE CARTER

Van Nuys

* You describe the opponents of "Christian conservatives" in school board elections as "everybody else." If this is true, how do they win elections?

You imply that including creationism, "a religious doctrine," into the curriculum is an attempt to proselytize--to change the beliefs of the children. Can any educational system avoid proselytizing in one way or another?

The articles written by Douglas Frantz and Elizabeth Shogren (Dec. 10 and 11) included an incident that led to controversy in the Meridian, Idaho, school district. "Battle lines solidified in the fall of 1992 after two lesbians spoke about their lifestyle to three high school classes." Do you believe that these two people were not there to influence or possibly change the beliefs of children?

RICHARD A. SCHNEIDER

Helendale

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