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Associate professor quoted on religion in schools

Kathryn Kao

September 18, 2017

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Every year, people across the country file lawsuits over the mishandling of lessons on religion by public school teachers. These teachers are viewed as violating the First Amendment's prohibition against state sponsored religion.

Kevin Burke, an associate professor in the department of language and literacy education in UGA’s College of Education, was recently quoted on this issue in Deseret News, a news organization based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to the article, educators can help reduce faith-based hate crimes by teaching students about America's minority faith groups and the history of religious freedom laws. However, principals take the threat of lawsuits seriously, especially since school administrators have traditionally been trained to avoid risks.

As a result, many schools choose to avoid the topic altogether, said Burke. In fact, teacher education programs tend to approach faith through the lens of potential legal action.

"To the degree that this sort of conversation happens in colleges of education, the limit of the conversation is what's legal and what's not," he added.

Several new tools seek to help teachers prepare lesson plans and answer questions from parents. According to the article, faith-related lessons cannot be devotional in nature, and teachers should focus on boosting understanding, not spirituality.

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