Keep Bible references out of biology lessons

As a field organizer at the Center for Inquiry, headquartered in Amherst, I work with high school and college students around the world to help promote secularism on their campuses.

This involves working with and supporting students like Jessica Ahlquist, a Rhode Island high schooler who, when advocating for the removal of a Christian prayer from her school’s auditorium, had to endure threats, bullying and harassment from peers and community leaders (including a state representative).

So, as a professional advocate for students, it frustrates me to see Joelle Silver, a biology and anatomy teacher at Cheektowaga Central High School, filing a lawsuit against her district protesting the requirement that she remove a prayer request box and posters and signs containing Bible verses from her classroom.

First, I wonder: What relevance do these Bible verses have to teaching biology? Second, Silver is concerned that her religious freedom is being threatened, but what about the freedom of her students? They could be Muslim, Baha’i, Catholic, humanist, atheist or Hindu, and all could be alienated by the open display of Christian references.

Secularism, the separation of church and state, offers protection to people of all worldviews, be they religious or non-religious. This is especially important in a public school classroom where students should not feel pressured to support or adopt a teacher’s personal beliefs.

The Center for Inquiry was created with the mission of fostering a more secular society. To that end, it supports the school district’s decision to stop teachers like Silver from promoting religion in their classrooms.

Sarah Kaiser