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Letter: Observe free religion days

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opinion River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

How many readers know that both Sunday, Jan. 11, and Friday, Jan. 16, are opportunities for teachers, students, pastors, parents and grandparents to promote religious freedom in our local public schools?

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In fact, how many of you have even heard that there are such days, going way back to the 1700s? Jan. 11 is Religious Freedom Sunday, a nationwide initiative established by the Gateways to Better Education group to bring greater awareness to the observance of Religious Freedom Day on Jan. 16, and to help and encourage public schools to become more faith-friendly.

Because various Supreme Court decisions have severely limited religious expression in the schools over the last three decades, this observance serves as a way to explain the religious liberties of students in public (government) education.

Jan. 16 is observed as Religious Freedom Day by proclamation of the president. It calls upon Americans to "observe this day through appropriate events and activities in our homes, schools and churches." It is the anniversary of the l786 passage of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, legislation that was drafted by Thomas Jefferson to protect the rights of people to express their religious beliefs without suffering discrimination.

That protection is as important today as it was back then, as in too many instances, public school teachers tell Christian students they cannot include their faith in their homework assignments or classroom discussions.

But the U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines that explain students' religious liberties, and we learn that students can legally pray, read their Bibles and talk about their faith during schools hours and they are also free to express that faith in both their class work and homework.

If your children have ever had any discrimination aimed at them for expressing their faith, or if you have questions and would like more information, the U.S. Department of Education provides guidelines explaining students' religious liberties in a hand-out that's appropriate to give at church.

And if it's too late to get this information this year, just go to www.gtbe.org and be prepared for next year. Our children do have rights!

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