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New PBS Doc: An Atheist Mom Goes to the Supreme Court - and Wins

Imagine that you are a religious minority sending your child to public school, only to find out that the school has implemented a "voluntary" program of religious instruction that reaffirms the doctrines and creeds of the largely Christian community. Like most people, you don't want to make waves by challenging the views of the majority, so you allow your child to participate in this program, hoping that it will emphasize education, not indoctrination. Your child soon comes home with artwork and other materials, however, that indicate that the program is little more than a Christian Sunday school, having nothing to do with objective education and everything to do with instilling Christian beliefs.

Fed up with the blatant proselytizing, you advise the school that you do not want your child to participate in the "voluntary" program. Since it is conducted during ordinary school hours, not after school, and since your child is the only one who is not participating, the school must now decide what to do with your child while everyone else participates. To resolve this dilemma, the school orders your child to sit in the "detention chair," a highly visible seat outside the principal's office normally used for disciplining children who have been misbehaving, while all the other children participate in the religious instruction program.

The above facts, unfortunately, are not fictional. They are part of the story of the McCollum family of Champaign, Illinois, and they set the stage for one of the greatest church-state confrontations in American history. This story is being brought to life in a superb new documentary, called "The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today" that will begin airing on PBS in May.

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TAGGED: EDUCATION, ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE, LAW


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