Debate deserves discussion

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Fixing the problem of Social Security is often referred to as the "third rail" of American politics -- touch it and die. The same could be said of proposals to merge religious studies and government.

And for good reason.

The political doctrine mandating the separation of church and state, a phrase first coined by Thomas Jefferson, is very clear -- religious, state and federal institutions don't make good bedfellows.

Nonetheless, on the heels of a story in the Saturday Morning Press, this editorial board set out to reach a consensus regarding a local woman's petition to insert the Bible into the Moffat County School District's curriculum.

Craig resident Deborah Powell said God spoke to her through a Chuck Norris commercial asking Christians to petition their local school districts on behalf of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools for a Bible-based class.

Pete Bergmann, Moffat County's superintendent, said the School Board would be willing to listen to Powell's request, but expressed doubt that the district could find a solution that gets around separation of church and state laws.

As a whole, this editorial board does not endorse Powell's proposal.

Some agreed that an elective class covering a variety of religious doctrine -- from the Bible to the Koran to the Torah -- would be an important and worthwhile educational offering.

Others think that maintaining the status quo -- that is leaving the business of a higher power to parents, family, and religious leaders to discuss with children -- is the most suitable path.

But, based on this discussion, the board determined that perhaps Powell unwittingly stumbled onto a broader issue.

This subject, while very personal to many, deserves serious debate.

Perhaps a joint panel, comprised of religious, education and community members, could be formed to explore whether a class on a wide-range of religious views is appropriate.

Perhaps college professors and other experts in the area could be consulted to design a class that meets the needs of educating students about a variety of religions while avoiding the fear of many -- that those trusted with teaching the class would steer students toward their beliefs.

Obviously, such a class would need very narrow parameters, the understanding of the public and the complete support of the school district.

But, is such a class in public schools worth the trouble?

Depends on whom you ask.

Some board members think that in today's world climate, where technology brings people closer together, where religious fanatics bomb buildings and fight our soldiers, where the confusion between what's doctrine and what's interpretation can start wars or cause riffs in political policy, that educating the next generation about others' beliefs isn't a bad thing.

Others think that such an important task falls to parents and family. That the right of broaching these weighty, important issues rests with those responsible for children's upbringing.

But our input, in the grand scheme, means little in this case. We, as a public, elect our leaders to research and make the decisions deemed most appropriate for the common good.

The real answer now lies with the School Board.

Where will they take this question from here? How much work and risk are they willing to put in for an uncertain reward?

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