Thursday, November 20, 2008
Public School Faith
This statement by Rabbi Ana Bonnheim, Assistant Director for Education at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Greene Family Camp, delivered at the Texas State Board of Education hearings concerning the proposed revisions to the state’s science curriculum, is worth repeating:
“On the surface, teaching about the ‘strengths and limitations of scientific explanations’… may not seem like teaching religious beliefs. Yet … When science teachers answer questions about evolution and origins of life by pointing to the divine or supernatural, they are incorporating religion into science classrooms.
“For me as a rabbi, science and religion are not at odds … Moses Maimonides … who is perhaps the greatest philosopher of our tradition, was also a physician. He taught that scientific inquiry can lead to more thoughtful religious questions and better educated religious individuals. The place for the quiet discussions about spirituality in science is not in public schools but around the kitchen table, in religious school classrooms, or in a clergy member’s office.
“Sadly and painfully, my Jewish ancestors had a long history of persecution in places where there was no separation of church and state. When we permit religious beliefs to be taught in our state schools, we begin to blur the line that keeps religion and government separate. We are so fortunate to live in a country that respects individuals of all faiths. It is essential to maintain the boundaries that will protect religious groups of every faith.”