Are Public Schools Teaching Your Child An Alternate Religion?

Would you send your children to a Muslim school? I have yet to find a Christian parent who says yes to that question – and the reason is obvious. We don’t want our kids indoctrinated into Islam. We want them to become Christians.

Yet, currently in the United States, 84% of Christian parents send their children to schools teaching an alternate religion. These schools may be billed as religiously neutral, but make no mistake: public schools are religious institutions, enthusiastically promoting the religion of secular humanism.

Make no mistake: public schools are religious institutions, enthusiastically promoting the religion of secular humanism.

Now, I realize that may sound extreme or fundamentalist. But trust me, I’m not making this up. In addition to reading widely on this topic, I’ve also raised two adult children, who regretfully spent several years in the public school. But, my greatest insight into public schools has been through my husband, who has taught in them for more than 30 years. He is the one who opened my eyes to the religion being promoted in the public schools. And interestingly, when he shares this view with students, they wholeheartedly agree.

In recent years, my husband has had the unique privilege of visiting a comparative religions class at his school to explain Christianity. And, each time, he presents Christianity as a comprehensive worldview and contrasts it with what he perceives to be the prevailing religious worldview at his high school – secular humanism. Based on the framework described in Nancy Pearcey’s book, “Total Truth,” he explains that every worldview has three components – an origins narrative; a “fall” or explanation for the cause of suffering; and a redemption story, or way to end suffering.

He then argues that in his school, the origin narrative is evolution: you are the result of random processes and are no different than an animal. The cause of suffering is socially-constructed rules that inhibit your freedom, especially your sexual freedom. And, the way to end suffering is to reject these rules, which typically stem from Christianity. So, in essence, salvation is found by rejecting Christianity.

“Yup, that’s right,” students typically respond. Interestingly, no student has ever objected to my husband’s description of his school’s religious worldview. In fact, when he describes it, most experience a sort of “Aha!” moment.

So, in light of this reality, I ask you: Should Christians send their kids to public schools? Last Saturday, I considered this question on my radio show, Up for Debate, as I have several times in the past. And every time, the question elicits strong opinions and emotion. And, I usually hear the argument that the education of our children is a very personal issue; it depends on the child; and no one way is better than another way. That, of course, sounds very reasonable and non-judgmental. But, is it really true?

I admit that as young parents, my husband and I didn’t understand this verse as a command to provide our children with a Christian education. We figured it would be enough to apply this verse to all our interactions with our children outside of school.

In Deuteronomy 6:7, God commands his people to teach his commands “diligently to (their) sons,” instructing them to “talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” I admit that as young parents, my husband and I didn’t understand this verse as a command to provide our children with a Christian education. We figured it would be enough to apply this verse to all our interactions with our children outside of school. But, years later, when someone challenged me to think about how this verse applies to education, the implication was inescapable. The verse says to teach your children about God 24/7. Why would that not include the intentional, formal instruction of our children?

Other verses carry a similar message. In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are commanded to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Proverbs 22:6 tells parents to “train up a child in the way he should go.” Scripture also warns about sitting under the influence of those who are hostile to God. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” In Luke 6:39-40, Jesus says, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked . . .”

How is placing our kids in a secular humanistic institution for their most formative years not a violation of these verses?

When I argue this case, though, I usually get a fair amount of push-back and hear some common defenses for sending kids to public school. But do these arguments actually hold up to scrutiny?

Common Reasons to Send Kids to Public School

“My School is Different.”

A veteran public school teacher from Las Vegas called in to my program Saturday, challenging the notion that all schools promote secular humanism. Sure, some do, she said. But for decades, she said she’s promoted Christianity in her classroom and has made a practice of praying with students, as well. She’s also made it a practice to tell her students that she’s praying to Jesus during the 30 seconds of silence that begin each day. And, during parent-teacher conferences, she said she often discusses family issues with parents and prays with them about those issues, as well. In fact, the influence of Christians is so strong at her school that the school once hosted a Christmas program where overtly-Christian, Christmas carols were sung. “So things can change in our public school system!” she said – if only more Christians would get involved.

The problem with what this teacher described, as one of my guests noted, is that it’s illegal! Ever since the landmark Supreme Court case in 1947 that erected a “wall of separation between church and state” – and the 1962 case, which outlawed school prayer – Christianity has been officially banned from public schools. The only way to introduce a Christian worldview back into the public schools would be either to change the law or to encourage Christian teachers to violate the law. Given that the latter would violate the admonition in Romans 13 to submit to authorities, I would not recommend it as a solution. And, given that our courts increasingly are ruling against Christian liberty, and the prevailing culture is hostile to Christianity, I don’t think there is any chance we will re-introduce Christianity into our schools any time soon.

“Christians Kids Need to Be Salt & Light.”

Yes, we need to teach our children to share Christ with unbelievers. But seriously, would any of us send an undeveloped, vulnerable child into a hostile mission field? Again, Scripture teaches parents to nurture and instruct their children, not send them as missionaries to a pagan culture. In 1 Timothy 3, we are told that leaders in the church should not be recent converts because they might fall into sin. Certainly, this same principle should apply to missionaries. Many children aren’t even converts, but they certainly are not mature believers. To me, sending children as missionaries is ludicrous. It’s also not working.

According to a study by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, 75% to 85% of public school children from Christian homes abandon their faith as adults. However, less than 10% of homeschooled children leave the faith as adults. Similarly, the Nehemiah Institute found that 80% to 85% of public school students from Christian homes have secular humanistic worldviews. But, only 3% of students attending schools that intentionally teach a Christian worldview have secular humanistic worldviews. Clearly, how we educate our children makes a difference.

“We Can’t Afford Christian School or Homeschool.”

Money, I believe, is the biggest impediment to Christian education. In fact, a Barna study found that public school is the first option for only 26% of the population. So, many send their kids to public schools out of necessity, and for no other reason. Economics is also likely a major reason why the homeschooling population is largely white. Surprisingly, though, the fastest growing segment of homeschoolers in the country is African-American. And, a significant proportion of these are single moms, showing that it can be done. But it takes an incredible amount of sacrifice, and increasingly, I believe the church needs to lend a helping hand.

However, educating our kids biblically is worth the sacrifice. Our family actually downsized several years ago, specifically so we could send our kids to Christian schools. And last year, we were actually paying twice our mortgage in our kids’ tuition each month! But, nurturing our children’s minds has been worth it. And, even though my husband and I are always teaching our kids at home, we have seen a huge difference in our children’s worldview formation since attending Christian schools.

So, given our experience and the clear teaching of Scripture, I would send my kids to public school only if there was absolutely no other option. But, I’m a believer that God normally provides options when we earnestly seek them.

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15 thoughts on “Are Public Schools Teaching Your Child An Alternate Religion?

  1. mp

    Regarding the teacher that called in from NV, when the case for Christian education is made, it should never be about Christians completely pulling out of the public education process. I believe we should be training Christians to go into public education and be salt and light, just as your husband is. this is about how we train our children. Just as putting them in a Muslim school would be unthinkable, it would also be unthinkable to send our children out as missionaries with no training or discipleship.

    Another compelling discussion is the time they spend under others influence. In our State, 1,100hrs per year of school time is a requirement. That’s almost 20% of their waking hours in a year. contrast that with time spent in church related activities or discipleship at home. That likely amounts to 4-5% of their waking hours for families that are really involved. That’s not enough time to counteract the world’s message…

    thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Lisa

    Now it is time to ask yourself, “Should Christians be working in a Godless institution which teaches all that opposes God and Scripture and should they be trading truth for a paycheck?”

  3. That’s a valid question, Lisa. My husband went into teaching math because he felt a very specific call from God to do so. Thirty-some years ago, when he began teaching, he was allowed to do proofs for the existence of God using logic and “Nihilo Nihil Fit” (out of nothing, nothing comes) as a premise. However, that is no longer allowed. It also used to be that math educators accepted that math was true; now they say it is a social construction.

    My husband doesn’t bow to this false worldview. And, so far, he hasn’t been forced to do or teach anything that violates his conscience. He’s leaving the public schools at the end of next year and is looking forward to teaching in a Christian setting in the future. But, I think it will become increasingly difficult for Christians to work in public schools and not violate their consciences, which is really sad. Despite the restrictions, which my husband has always honored, God has given him opportunities to confront the contradictions inherent in false worldviews and to minister to students outside of the classroom.

  4. Lisa

    Julie, consider those who send their children off to be indoctrinated with a secular humanistic worldview who use as part of their reasoning the excuse that there are Christian teachers in the schools. They have been led to believe that these teachers can counteract the wicked teachings of the schools, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. But let me ask you, would
    your husband consider teaching in a Muslim school? And, if not, why not?

  5. Neither I nor my husband have ever claimed that a few Christian teachers can counteract the humanistic system in public schools. Anyone who believes otherwise simply doesn’t understand the environment. Christian teachers are muzzled.

    I can’t speak for my husband about being in a Muslim school. But, I would guess that if they’d let him in, he’d be more than happy to infiltrate a Muslim school and find opportunities to shed some light. He would be there to subvert the worldview, not promote it.

  6. I attended a mix of Christian and public schools, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both settings. My strongest Christian friends were in the public school who were much more bold about their faith (such as meeting daily to pray before school) and were far less likely to be hypocritical and rebellious. My faith was strengthened much more in my senior year of high school in a public school than it was in the previous nine years in a Christian school. I’ve also found that (at least some) Christian schools are less likely to admit and help students with special needs. I’m a supporter of both Christian and public education like my parents (my dad was a public high school counselor who sponsored the Student Venture — Cru’s high school ministry — group at the public school, and my mom taught in both public and Christian schools). I also have family members who homeschool, and I think that’s a great option for some people but not others. I get frustrated that some Christians think their choice for their children is the only acceptable one.

  7. mp

    Pulling out of the culture is not God’s plan for us. Since creation, God has always put his people at the heart of culture to be salt and light. The reason that Godless institutions exist is because Christians fail to work in these institutions in sufficient numbers to counteract the drift away from truth or they fail to speak up.

    Our society’s hard turn toward “progressive” thought in the last few years didn’t just happen over night. It is the result of dedication and sacrifice of liberals to take over the education institution of our country (it’s also affecting our Churches too). If only more Christians were as dedicated to ensuring our public schools and policies were more in line with God’s truth by teaching, serving on school boards, pursuing positions of influence in universities, etc. I’m under no illusion that the government will be our savior, but I can guarantee it will be Godless if all Christians only serve in Christian institutions.

  8. Joseph Andrews

    Your husband was doing what?

    “My husband went into teaching math because he felt a very specific call from God to do so. Thirty-some years ago, when he began teaching, he was allowed to do proofs for the existence of God using logic and “Nihilo Nihil Fit” (out of nothing, nothing comes) as a premise.”

    In a high school Mathematics class, your husband was allowed to teach/lecture on the topic of proving the existence of God with mathematical proofs?

    You’re kidding, right?

    Please tell me you’re just pulling my leg, right?

    My oh my.

    • Mitch

      And to Joseph Andrews’ comment:
      Absolutely!! Many great ideas in Mathematics have come from this…
      Gödel’s ontological proof for one. If we can use such an idea to further the curiosity of math in any student, why not? Mathematics is not just simple arithmetic. Mathematics and philosophy have been linked since their inception. Just because Atheists often use math and sciences to discredit Theology, does not mean, they can not be used in turn to prove its worth. Don’t be so quick to dismiss what you at first think to be a crazy idea.

  9. Matt C

    If your husband is hearing voices, I’d recommend seeing a doctor.

  10. we live in a godless world. As adults we must spread the gospel

  11. Mitch

    A) Never quote Deutoronomy to support an argument. If you do, then you must absolutely support Deuteronomy 22:28-29, women marrying their rapists. It undermines your position.
    B) Your husband’s theory is flawed. I would suggest that the nature of education and it’s application of rules for behavior are examples where the doctrine is that the suffering is due to LACK of rules. Detention, suspension, failing grades. These bestow the idea that MORE rules of good behavior are required. Therfore refuting Christianity is not at all a reversal of this belief.
    C) Have you ever read the Qu’Ran? It refers to Jesus much more often than to Muhammed, and is a revered prophet. So would not teaching this make one more open to learning about the teachings of Jesus Christ? Not only do my congregation believe in Him, but also many other millions of people!?! Great.
    D) I believe the hesitation of the parents is more racial/cultural than spiritual. Picture an Islamic school full of white americans, eating macaroni and cheese, wearing jeans and singing God Bless America, or a Christian school full of immigrant students from the Republic of Congo eating goat, wearing raffia dresses and singin african hymns. I believe their conviction for a Christian education may not be so fervent.

  12. I have to say I like most of this article and agree with her on almost all points, but I vehemently disaagree that we should keep our mouths shut about Jesus because a law has been passed. She says in her article that a teacher who said she shares Jesus in class is breaking the law. While this may be true, she goes on to say she doesn’t suggest this as a solution. I don’t get that. Are there consequences for sharing Jesus? Yes, sometimes. In other countries, yes, many times. We send missionaries to China and other anti-Chrisian countries to share Jesus in violation of their laws. We have “underground” churches all over the world where Jesus is shared. I have friends who have smuggled Bibles into other countires under threat of their lives and their families. If our country passes a law saying we can no longer talk about Jesus in public, will we listen because we have to submit to authorities? Absolutely not. I am willing to submit to authorities in everything EXCEPT when that submission is in direct violation of God’s Word. Didn’t our founding fathers commit treason against England in order to be able to worship God freely!? I realize she’s saying this to underscore a point about public schools and how they aren’t really reform-able. But, I don’t like the approach she takes to do that.

  13. Lor

    I was both home schooled and went to public school. My parents didn’t home school for religious reasons but because they felt we would socialize better than going to Christian school. Children need to learn that not everyone believes as they do and that is okay. I learned a lot about myself and other religions from public school. Some of the worst kids I ever knew growing up were home schooled. Home schooling and private Christian schools aren’t always the answer. It is what ever will work best for your family. What many fail to see is that regardless of what kind of school a child goes to parents still need to teach their children things.

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