June 11, 2005


Churches, groups look to faith as answer for school truancy (TOM HEINEN, June 10, 2005, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Several faith-based organizations and churches are pushing to improve school attendance and reduce violence by getting more pastors and volunteers to lead Bible study clubs and to form prayer groups inside Milwaukee Public Schools and charter schools.

Their efforts - which will include a stop-the-violence march and rally today- are based on the belief that faith and values are critically important parts of any solution.

"This rally is based on youth and on getting prayer back in the public school system, because what's shaping our youth is that they are doing things that are ungodly," said the Rev. George Nathaniel, pastor of Compassion Ministries International, 3410 W. Burleigh St.

Partly an outgrowth of their own missions, their strategy also represents the faith community's response to state school Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster's broad Alliance for Attendance initiative to increase school attendance in a system where 70% of the high school students are labeled as chronically truant in a typical year, said Nathaniel and the Rev. Arnold Brownstein, director of urban ministry services for BASICS in Milwaukee, or Brothers And Sisters In Christ Serving. [...]

Chased out of public schools by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1962, faith-based prayer groups were allowed back in by a 2001 Supreme Court decision that is reflected in the U.S. Department of Education guidelines, Brownstein said.

This school year, various faith-based groups ran Bible study clubs in some 40 schools, prayer groups in at least five schools, and tutoring in at least 32 schools in the greater Milwaukee area, but the vast majority of those were in the suburbs, Brownstein said.

Because of that, a coalition of faith-based organizations - including Citizen Action of Milwaukee, MICAH (Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope), BASICS and the City of God Network - is making a push this summer to get Milwaukee pastors and churches to adopt a school in their neighborhood and get involved.

"Chased out" is a nice touch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 11, 2005 9:46 PM

They were "chased out" because they made it their business to coerce all students to adopt their religious viewpoints, regardless of the religious views of the students or their parents. How is it a conservative ideal to use the power of the state to subvert the authority of parents to teach religion and morality to their children?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 12, 2005 9:30 PM

It worked for two hundred years and parents want it, that's why it's coming back.

Posted by: oj at June 13, 2005 7:24 AM


In France, to this day, there is religious instruction in the public schools of Alsace and Brittany. Students can opt for it or not. There is no coercion.

American universities have clubs for members of various religious denominations with no problem. Again, there is no coercion.

How is this any different? Where precisely is the coercive pressure from the State to join a particular religion or to join a religion at all? Is this any different from prison chaplaincy?

Posted by: bart at June 13, 2005 8:58 AM


Robert wants religion banned from the public square.

Posted by: oj at June 13, 2005 9:30 AM

You should review the court cases in question, Murray vs Curlett and Abington Township v. Schempp. This wasn't voluntary prayer.

Clubs and prayer groups is one thing, state mandated prayer and Bible study for all students is another. It amazes me that proponents of the first still decry the Supreme Court ruling in the above two cases, which abolished the latter.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 13, 2005 11:28 AM


State mandated prayer? Ten years of teaching college level math tells me that as long as there are math tests that there will be prayer in school.

Bible study? What exactly is wrong with Bible study? If you don't know your way around the KJV and Classical mythology what precisely are you going to do when you read pretty much anything written before WWI or look at any art from before Picasso? Can you imagine reading Moby Dick without knowing your Bible pretty well and understanding what is going on?

My parents lived through the period in American history where we had mandatory Bible reading and prayer in school. My mother grew up in a Wisconsin county where they were one of three Jewish families and where the public schools were quite obviously dominated by a Protestant ethos. Neither of them had any problems of significance, neither of them felt particularly intimidated or insulted as people insist we should feel in such an environment.

The cases you cite are old cases not the fact pattern under discussion.

Posted by: bart at June 14, 2005 6:39 PM