Religious Cliques

An Alabama court battle over peer pressure to join religious activities at school is bringing attention to the popularity and pressures of religious cliques.

While religion in the classroom is off limits, it reigns supreme in before and after school hours. Those who aren‘t a part of the prayer are feeling left out. Instead of standing by their own beliefs, they are feeling pressure to join a particular religious group.

“It clearly has changed the tone and texture of the public high schools in a way that is making them more overtly religious, and making people less socially comfortable who aren’t participants in the majority religions,” said Michael Broyde, Religion and Law Professor.

For the minority resentment and tension can turn to hate. “There’s always gonna be a rebellious person. There’s always gonna be someone in the world that hates you because you’re Christian, or hates Christ,” said Michelle, 17.

Schools should actively aim for an environment, both scholastic and social, where students feel content regardless of religious beliefs, official said.

“There’s always gonna be a rebellious person. There’s always gonna be someone in the world that hates you because you’re Christian, or hates Christ.”

--Michelle, age 17

Too Busy to Worry

Schools administrators are advised to monitor the social environment of students. If authorities allow an organization to dominate the tone , they send a subtle message of favoritism. Offering a variety of extra-curricular activities can lessen the impact of a single group. The ability to choose, whether it is with the football team or prayer club, students will less likely feel pressure to join a certain group.


What Parents Should Know

Whether the topic is soccer, piano, or religion, if a child feels forced to participate in an activity, he or she is less likely to have a long standing interest.

The pressure to participate often causes resentment and disinterest. Dr. Michael Broyd cited the 1950‘s as a prime example, when many parents forced their children into the religious school systems. As a result, many of those children grew up and severed their religious connection.

“Coercive pressure to compel a religious belief, both with children an adults, has profound downsides. Eventually, adults become free and able to do just what they wish-and coercive exposure to religion drives people away,“ he said.

Further, if children are rushing out the door an hour early to make it to prayer club because the cool kids are there, they aren’t as likely to maintain a long-standing interest.

Dealing with social pressures is tough for many children, and when coupled with subtle pressures from authorities, it is even harder for children to withstand.

Broyd advised that parents, “ make sure your children aren’t going to the prayer club because the only alternative is to stand outside in the rain.”


If the School Doesn't Follow the Rules

Although it is illegal for schools to force children to pray, they often implicitly support Chrisitanity. Many schools have prayers before football games. By doing this the school is, in essence, saying that “if you want to be a part of the football team you have to pray.”

Dr. Michael Broyd,Religion and Law Professor recalled instances when the only option to prayer club was to stand out in the yard. Parents should make sure that their children’s school administration remains neutral.

If attempts to change the atmosphere fail and a child is extremely uncomfortable in his or her current atmosphere, experts advised parents to move a school that offers a more comfortable atmosphere. They advised visiting and researching the schools atmosphere as intently as the curriculum.


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