Michigan Reverend wants Bible lessons taught in Flint schools.

Flint area resident Rev. Benjamin Lewis Clayton aims to have the Bible taught in Flint schools, on a voluntary basis of course. He’s trying to rally support from public officials for his cause in an unusual way. For the past several months he’s been lobbying the Flint City Council to pass a resolution supporting a 1983 congressional resolution declaring that year as a national “Year of the Bible” and he hopes to get similar statements of support from the Mayor and the Genesee County Board of Commissioners. Apparently he feels this adds up to a compelling argument in support of a Bible-study class that he can use to present his idea to the school board.

Minister’s lobbying pays off; council backs Bible-study idea

Clayton says his goal is to take those endorsements to the Flint Board of Education and lobby for volunteer Bible-study classes. The classes, Clayton believes, would help teach youth to respect their elders and themselves.

“We just have a generation of children in Genesee County who are really angry and they have no idea of being kind and courteous,” Clayton said. “They don’t respect anybody. They don’t know because they haven’t been taught. They have no discipline. It seems to be a free-for-all.”

But Bill DeFrance, chief operating officer for the Flint school district, said while students could start their own Bible clubs, the district cannot support or initiate classes, based on an opinion the U.S. Department of Education issued in 2003.

Still, DeFrance called the idea “fascinating.”

When told of the district’s current policy, Clayton said the only way to change it is by people acting.

“We’re supposed to be governed by the people,” said Clayton, who added he’s only acting as a resident of Flint and not as a representative of his church, New Beginnings Ministries in Flint Township.

First, I’m not sure why the good Reverend seems to think that expressing support for a 21 year old Congressional resolution in any way supports his argument that the Bible should be taught in Flint’s schools.

Secondly, it’s clear he’s suggesting the course be voluntary because he feels that in being so it somehow avoids being a violation of the First Amendment. He’s mistaken in that assumption, but that’s secondary to the point that it seems unlikely that the kids he feels are most in need of this course would volunteer to take it making it a fruitless exercise even if it were legal.

Thirdly, considering that 83% of the population considers itself Christian and yet the problems with America’s youth he’s complaining about seems to be getting worse (in his eyes) it’s arguable how much value such a course would actually provide (if it were legal). After all, if the message isn’t getting across in the churches then why should it get across any better in a school?

Perhaps the good Reverend’s energy would be better spent trying to figure out how to increase youth church attendance so he could teach the Bible in an appropriate setting rather than trying to get the schools to do his job for him in violation of the First Amendment. Perhaps there’s a good reason he can’t get the message across in his Church where it belongs.

He’s right, though, the government is supposed to be by the people, of the people and for the people and that means all of the people. He seems to feel it should be “by the Christians, of the Christians and for the Christians.”

18 thoughts on “Michigan Reverend wants Bible lessons taught in Flint schools.

  1. Come on, when are we going to add the Koran to the curriculum?  Talk about keeping the kids in line!  There’d be no more stealing, that’s for sure … no more problems with the girls’ dress code …

    While we’re making up the “voluntary” reading list, let’s add The Spiral Dance, the Vedas, the Kojiki, the Gnostic gospels … and hell, let’s get Dianetics in here.  Why should L. Ron Hubbard miss the party?

    Now, a TRULY fair and balanced (gack) look at comparative theology, I could get behind as an elective course.  I’d put it right in there with literature.  But you just KNOW that ain’t gonna happen.  As you said, Les, he’s trying to chase the kids around with his church since they’re not showing up there now.

    Oh, and remember the point I made about needing a bigger, badder parent to enforce “morality”?  Well, if these kids are misbehaving so badly, why isn’t he exhorting the parents to keep them in line?  Is he giving up on them and deciding that the only thing that’ll work is waving Big Daddy at them?  (Does he really think THAT will work??)

  2. You offer a good point there, GeekMom. The problem with trying to offer a *balanced* curriculum involving religious study is that you would have to add an extra day in the week to accomodate them all. My teen is a great student, but that would really piss her off.

    Schools are meant to make kids *think,* not follow.

  3. The problem with trying to offer a *balanced* curriculum involving religious study is that you would have to add an extra day in the week to accomodate them all.

    Which is precisely why NONE of it belongs in public schools.

  4. Schools are meant to make kids *think,* not follow.

    In Germany, my class in elementary school went to church services a couple of times and the bible was tought as fact. Even with that level of access the Christian churches are rapidly losing members and influence.

    In the nine years of high(er) school, the Protestant priest that tought religion never once attempted to proselytize; he instead tought comparatative religion, ethics, philosophy, and many other things that conveniently fall between the cracks of the educational system over there (and probably in the US as well).

    The German Protestant clergy is generally to the left of the political spectrum and I suppose that this particular priest made a conscious decision to leave religious faith alone - you either have it or you don’t - and instead made sure that his pupils received an education that would make them question authority (to spell it out, conservative governments in particular) and teach tolerance.

  5. Elwedrissche, I went to a Catholic high school in Chicago, and my religion teacher, thankfully, also placed most of his focus on comparative religion and ethics. But we also were required to sit through anti-abortion films, take a required class on Catholic marriage, go to services, etc.  Since this was a private school, I can’t see a problem with the school’s administration making these choices about the curriculum (even if it made me nuts as a teen.)  But it should be pretty obvious why public schools can’t go there—too many of the ‘religious’ issues we were presented with were also political issues. That the right wing in this country is so gung-ho about prescribing their morality to public school kids, but at the same time pretending that’s this ‘morality’ exists outside of a political context.  Never mind that there exist those mythical creatures, the ‘non-christians’, lurking around each corner….

  6. As time goes by I become more convinced that Republicans don’t actually want “smaller government” in the sense that they want LESS of it.  They just want the government to HELP fewer people, but REGULATE them more.  I don’t think that a government that abrades my rights, invades my privacy and tries to foist off personal beliefs as universal law counts as a small one.

  7. I would have liked—still WOULD like—to take a comparitive religion course.  Even though I …experienced… Catholic school, as well as Southern Baptist sunday school, I’d like to have a clue about Judaism, Islam, etc.  For the record, Sou Baptists & Ro Catholics aren’t that different….  An after-school elective maybe?  Of course, that would leave me out in the cold, but….  I’m a big girl now, I’m sure I can come up with something.

  8. I do recommend taking comparative religion, especially if the material goes back far enough (that is, pre-Judeo-Christian).  The more you read, the more you realize that “there is nothing new under the sun” (and the Bible DID know what it was talking about in this case).  Your basic creation myths, sacrifice and resurrection have been around from the beginning of time, and show up in pretty much EVERY belief system.  Even the deity names get recycled!  Not to mention that supplanting religions often co-opt the holidays and rituals of the ones that came before them.

    The more you know, the better you can think.  Highly recommended.

  9. i am not against teaching the bible in school, but it would cause a big riff amungst us Christians if it taught anything more than the trivial, historical issues. 

    denominations would squabble over what was taught and probably tell the youth that attend their church, not to enroll in the class.

    les is exactly right with this opinion/fact..
    After all, if the message isn

  10. …denominations would squabble over what was taught and probably tell the youth that attend their church, not to enroll in the class.

    The family of a close friend of mine is descendant from Hugenottes that fled France around 1685. His mother was upset when he dated a Catholic girl…

  11. You know something Randall, that has to be the best response you’ve ever left and I agree with you 100%.

    The Barna group is an amazing resource, aint it? I visit their site often.

  12. My high school (I’m in college now though)actually has a comparative world religions class.  I took the class and it was a basic discussion of the major world religions and their beliefs.  It was actually really interesting and I would love to have had it be full year then half year.

    However back to the topic of a class around the bible.  I dont think that a class that talked about the bible would be wrong, its how the bible was used.  You couldn’t have a class that espoused the bible as ‘true’ since that would be supporting one religion over another in a state institution which is unconstitutional.  However there could be a class that talked about the bible and its significance over the years with the caveat that the school and the class does not believe the bible is any better or worse than any other religious text/belief.

    If the town that Rev. Clayton is in really has children that are as ‘bad’ and ‘bad mannered’ as he claims then maybe there should be a class based on ethics and morality (ethics being a theory of what is right or wrong and morality being actually following whatever path of ethics a person believes in).  Such a class would probably be more useful in giving many examples of codes of ethics without espousing any one over the other or sayin which one is right or wrong.

  13. You know…some Christians in the bible wern’t really that wonderful..
    Lot was one of the only good men in the city (in the story of Soddom and Gomorah) and HE OFFERED HIS DAUGHTERS TO A BUNCH OF RAPISTS.
    Think about that one will you…

  14. Gummi Girl,,,

    no matter what your take is on God, Jesus, The Word etc., if you have read much of the bible you will find out that most of those mentioned had…“issues”

    having a daughter myself that old Lot has always perplexed me.

  15. I just happened across this site by accident.  I’m not surprised by the ignorant vitriol it contains.  Although the erstwhile preacher being vilified by a group of vocal protesters who were about to celebrate their national holiday may not demonstrate a completely logical approach to what he is proposing, he, at least, is not just sitting on his dirty duff watching (helping) the world go to hell in a handbasket.  He is trying to make a positive difference in a nation needing a lot of positive difference.

    It would be interesting to know what each of his detractors … some of whom seem to be obsessed with their own toilet functions … are doing to improve the state of affairs socially, morally, legally, physically and spiritually where they live.  I venture the opinion that the total of it probably adds up to zero … zilch … nada …zippo.

    Oh well … you can tie into me now … have fun!

  16. el tigre,
    I assume you mean by “trying to make a positive difference in a nation needing a lot of positive difference,” that badgering people into doing “good” by manipulation that “God will get them if they don’t” is possibly a “positive difference?” How about encouraging them to look inside themselves to find the “right” and “wrong” that each of us possess and to act on that in such a way that it brings out the best in all those around us. I am actively engaged in just such a group and encouraging non-violent solutions to our many problems (last week we had two hundred in attendance with workshops of 20 or so). Sorry if this is not sufficiently “tieing into you,” but maybe it has opened your eyes to other possibilities. lol

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