My highschool and my school district is in the news. I've spoken to fellow Catholics about this problem which then dismissed my deep concerns about 1st Amendment violations (or thin lines).
Growing up as a Catholic, I ended up being put in the awkward position of Christian evangelization at a public school. And what I mean by that is that it is largely of the Protestant flavor.
Before taking the field to march in the half time show, my band director who was Baptist would preside over prayer. Infrequently he would allow our token Jew to offer a prayer. We would say the Lord's Prayer including the doxology, which is something Catholics include separately as part of the liturgy. It was rather awkward for me so I'd often just remain silent during the doxology, but it's up to a individual Catholic's discretion on whether to be ecumenical to include it or refrain knowing that it's proper place is in the liturgy.
Likewise they had public prayer offered before football games. We would march on the field to play the National Anthem but before doing so the Methodist minister (usually although sometimes it was the Baptist) would offer a prayer. No other ministers or religious persons offered prayers despite it being a foot ball game in which cheer leaders, foot ball players, and band members were required to attend in order to receive a grade.
I argued that my attendance was required at the game and therefore I was required to endure this form of Christian evangelization despite my objections. At the time I wasn't sure how to approach this subject so I didn't. On the one hand I was a fellow Christian and want to be ecumenical, but on the other hand I felt insulted that it was Methodist minister. There was no pause of silence, not student led, no other ministers invited. And we did have a decent sized Catholic parish literally down the street. I argued with several fellow Catholics a few years back that I felt like my constitutional rights were indeed being violated. They claimed that it wasn't a requirement of my grade despite my protestations that indeed attendence at the foot ball game was a part of marching band grades. I was required to be on the field to perform the National Anthem. What would have happened if I simply refused to show for the game? I would have probably been scoffed at and flunked. Mississippi is part of the Bible belt. We weren't diverse then as we are now.
Apparently this form of evangelization has gone on unchecked in my absence and has worsened to include giving out Gideon Bibles to elementary school students, religiously-sponsored school functions, and prayers at other school functions geared toward students. Fortunately the courts are reigning this district in. And I'm not talking about after school clubs or student organizations. This form of Protestant Christianity is endemic. Keep in mind that the reason Catholics formed their own school systems is because all public schools taught with a Protestant slant.
And this is what worries me sending my own child to a public school. What slants are we teaching children in school? Isn't it enough that I grew up learning in history class that Christians (aka Catholics) attacked Muslims during the Crusades when it was a defense of pilgrims from Muslim aggressions? Isn't enough that I heard about the glories of the Protestant reformation? Christianity sanitized through lens of the popular Jolly Ol' Saint Nick rather than Saint Nicholas that Catholics and Orthodox know. Personally I'd rather the schools just stop. It's hard enough to combat the way the world views religion, which is often wrong. Look at how the New York Times characterizes the Little Sisters of the Poor Case. They really don't understand what objecting to something means.* I'm going to have to go to even greater lengths to explain why the school is flat out wrong both to my children and quite possibly the school. Now that gay marriage is on the table, well what kind of morality are children going to receive when we're not around?
If the Catholic schools could handle/integrate special needs children....if they could make tuition affordable once more...then my life as I'm sure the lives of many public school children's parents would be easier. Then we wouldn't have these rampant cases of evangelizing children using a Protestant flavor or secularized flavor. We'd be able to leave. And I'm not saying that children should be sheltered. I'm talking about teaching our children about basic morality. That should be left mostly to the parents.
I feel at least somewhat at ease. When I registered HB, for school one of the teachers recognized us from Mass. Also his kindergarten teacher said multiple times "You are your child's first teacher" during orientation. That's Catholic teaching. It should be more universal, but I recognize that this teacher gets it from some where. So here's to hoping it's a good year.
*I got into a long argument with someone about this. I don't want to endure that again. Basically if you want to understand their objection I'll phrase it this way: If you object to murder, you object to all murder not just the kind you commit yourself. You don't tell the government "I object to murder, but I authorize you to have a third party commit murder on my behalf." That's what the accommodation does. It's not a true exemption like churches have. It allows the government to murder (or in this case have birth control coverage) on the Sisters behalf through the insurance administrator. The Sisters object to birth control for the sake of birth control. Period. That includes everyone. That's what an objection is. It's not the ability to sit on a fence or take half measures. My critics seem to think that the Sisters have a full exemption because their insurance is through Christian Brothers which also receive an accommodation. As I pointed out, if they changed insurance companies they'd still be locked into the accommodation. It's the accommodation itself that they object to. Lesson over.