Separation of Church and State
“Public schools and religious institutions have different missions, but they share many of the same civic and moral values … and each is committed to the well-being of children. By working together in ways that are permissible under the First Amendment … schools and religious communities can do much to enhance the mission of public educations.” First Amendment Center, Vanderbilt University
Q: Are churches allowed to serve schools?
A: Yes! In fact, School Districts across Greater Houston intentionally engage faith leaders.
- Lamar Consolidated
- Spring Branch
What a Church Can Do on Campus:
- Be present!
A church has as much right to participate on school grounds as any other civic or business entity. As such, it must, by law, confine its work and ministry to non-religious activities during school hours
- There are NO laws or statutes prohibiting a church to engage with a school
- With permission, school grounds may be used after school-hours for various optional activities
There is a balance (or tension) between what is legal and what is permitted. In most cases, the principal has the authority over the school grounds as to participation and activities
What a Church Cannot Do on Campus:
- Initiate conversations on religion
- Compel or invite children to church directly
- Tie educational goals and/or activities to participation in church activities
The Gray Areas:
- Current statutes regulate activity during school hours
Within reason, and by permission of the principal/school board, other activities can be held, such as Good News Clubs, Young Life, etc. These are to be of a voluntary and optional nature for students.
- Regulations are for students
Conversations and activities for teachers and principals are not regulated (except by 1 Peter 3:15!). Be respectful and use discernment.
- Church programs
Again, follow the guidelines for permission to publicize and invite students to attend these events. Each school is different.
- Conversations about faith
Legally, we cannot initiate conversations about faith. So if a child initiates the conversation, one can legally continue it. But a word of caution is in order: if such a conversation is overheard by the “wrong” person, the initial conversation starter and motive will likely be missed, and the wrong assumptions can be made, with unpleasant consequences.
- Postpone the conversation to a more suitable time – possibly including the parents.
- Advise principal of the conversation.
- Pray for the opportunity to continue the conversation.