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Church-versus-state debates are tiresome

It seems that Cheektowaga Central High School science teacher Joelle Silver has become the latest dandelion-head in the seemingly endless religion-in-schools debate. Like most church-versus-state debates, Silver’s is steeped in hyperbole.

According to The News, the first controversial poster that Silver was ordered to take down read, “Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done in love.” Alone and unattributed, these words are hardly controversial – it would take a rare, cantankerous and probably unbalanced person to find fault with such sentiments. But because these words were written by the Christian epistler Paul, they are stripped of their secular merit and deemed dangerous, as if their contagious influence will turn innocent schoolchildren into Christians.

Luckily one student was on guard, and reported the posters to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, complaining that he felt “uncomfortable and alienated” by these religious references. While this is without question complete nonsense, I wouldn’t compare him to a “cheater,” as Silver did. I would rather accuse him of immaturity, boring the community with yet another fruitless debate instead of talking personally with his teacher, as he ought to have done.

Silver isn’t totally innocent, though. Quotes from Ronald Reagan decrying some apocalyptic future for a godless America are a little out of place in a science classroom, and could legitimately offend and alienate students of the atheist, pantheist or Epicurean variety.

It is just as absurd to say that teachers can’t decorate their rooms – whether with Bible quotes or with posters of “Animal House” character “Bluto” Blutarsky chugging from a bottle of Jack Daniels – as it is to make references to Adam’s missing rib during an anatomy class. The debate is tiresome; let’s handle our personal disputes in person.

Aidan Ryan

Buffalo