Flint area resident Rev. Benjamin Lewis Clayton aims to have the Bible taught in Flint schools, on a voluntary basis of course. He’s trying to rally support from public officials for his cause in an unusual way. For the past several months he’s been lobbying the Flint City Council to pass a resolution supporting a 1983 congressional resolution declaring that year as a national “Year of the Bible” and he hopes to get similar statements of support from the Mayor and the Genesee County Board of Commissioners. Apparently he feels this adds up to a compelling argument in support of a Bible-study class that he can use to present his idea to the school board.
Clayton says his goal is to take those endorsements to the Flint Board of Education and lobby for volunteer Bible-study classes. The classes, Clayton believes, would help teach youth to respect their elders and themselves.
“We just have a generation of children in Genesee County who are really angry and they have no idea of being kind and courteous,” Clayton said. “They don’t respect anybody. They don’t know because they haven’t been taught. They have no discipline. It seems to be a free-for-all.”
But Bill DeFrance, chief operating officer for the Flint school district, said while students could start their own Bible clubs, the district cannot support or initiate classes, based on an opinion the U.S. Department of Education issued in 2003.
Still, DeFrance called the idea “fascinating.”
When told of the district’s current policy, Clayton said the only way to change it is by people acting.
“We’re supposed to be governed by the people,” said Clayton, who added he’s only acting as a resident of Flint and not as a representative of his church, New Beginnings Ministries in Flint Township.
First, I’m not sure why the good Reverend seems to think that expressing support for a 21 year old Congressional resolution in any way supports his argument that the Bible should be taught in Flint’s schools.
Secondly, it’s clear he’s suggesting the course be voluntary because he feels that in being so it somehow avoids being a violation of the First Amendment. He’s mistaken in that assumption, but that’s secondary to the point that it seems unlikely that the kids he feels are most in need of this course would volunteer to take it making it a fruitless exercise even if it were legal.
Thirdly, considering that 83% of the population considers itself Christian and yet the problems with America’s youth he’s complaining about seems to be getting worse (in his eyes) it’s arguable how much value such a course would actually provide (if it were legal). After all, if the message isn’t getting across in the churches then why should it get across any better in a school?
Perhaps the good Reverend’s energy would be better spent trying to figure out how to increase youth church attendance so he could teach the Bible in an appropriate setting rather than trying to get the schools to do his job for him in violation of the First Amendment. Perhaps there’s a good reason he can’t get the message across in his Church where it belongs.
He’s right, though, the government is supposed to be by the people, of the people and for the people and that means all of the people. He seems to feel it should be “by the Christians, of the Christians and for the Christians.”