Render Unto Caesar

Can public schools teach the Bible? What does the 1st amendment say? What can we learn about reading the Bible both religiously and secularly?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Individual: We can obviously learn lessons from the Bible. It has a plethora of characters, and we should be able to find our faults and shortcomings in some of the characters as well as our greatest strengths in some. You can read it as a religious text- as I do- or you can read it as you would Aesop’s fables.

Society: We can teach the Bible as literature. It is the most referenced piece of literature. If you wish to understand Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Dickens, or even the Declaration of Independence, you must know the Bible. It is impossible to understand Western literature, art, or music without at least a basic understanding of the Bible.

Politics: We must allow for people to explore ideas. As the Constitution states above, the government should neither prohibit or establish any religion. Since that was written, the Bill of Rights has been expanded to include state governments. However, to teach religions, at least as an offering, is obviously not the establishment of religion. The “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution, but an idea of the founders. The point was not to root out all religious ideas from the government, nor was it meant to not prefer one over another. Rather, it was the assurance that they would not be one institution as the Anglican Church was, so all people could practice their religion.

Mark 12:13-17, NIV:

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax[b] to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.

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