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Indoctrination Of Children


Caretaker
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I raise this topic from an earlier discussion I had with my uncle concerning a local school district that had to discard and reprint school menus when the first batch had "Merry Christmas" printed on top. Stemming from this, I have been pondering about the practice of parents indoctrinating their children into a particular religion, and whether or not it should be considered free exercise of religion.

 

I would like to pose these questions:

What is free exercise of religion?

Is any person free to exercise a religion of choice even if such exercise is at the expense of another person's freedom?

Do children have the same freedom to exercise a religion of choice?

 

And more importantly, these questions:

Can a child be expected to make a genuine and informed decision about what religion he or she will practice (or not practice)?

Should it be considered free exercise of religion for parents to indoctrinate children into a religion?

Does such indoctrination violate the rights of the child?

Is it a violation of the child's rights if the child has actively demonstrated disinterest or rejection of the religion?

 

In addition, I would like to devise a scenario, where a child of devoutly religious parents, after having gone to school in a public school district, has rejected the parents' religion. The parents have taken action against the school district, alleging the district has violated their religious freedom and is responsible for their child's deconversion.

 

Is a school obligated to uphold a child's religious identity, whether determined by the child or the parent?

Has there been a violation of religious freedom if a child has willingly rejected a religion as a result of any activity from within the school (eg. A social studies unit on religion)? If so, whose rights were violated?

Should a school honor and enforce a parent's request to exempt a child from a particular activity for religious reasons, if the child would still like to partake in such activity (eg. a unit on sexual reproduction)?

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Is any person free to exercise a religion of choice even if such exercise is at the expense of another person's freedom?

 

Could you give an example

Do children have the same freedom to exercise a religion of choice?

 

That depends on what age are they?I certainly would not want my child to take part in any cult activity of any religion

 

Can a child be expected to make a genuine and informed decision about what religion he or she will practice (or not practice)?

 

Not really, cause for most of us, we usually adopt the religion of our parents. Maybe later on when we get more information we can change our mind

 

Should it be considered free exercise of religion for parents to indoctrinate children into a religion?

 

Yes, because every parent has the right to raise their kids as they deem fit, and if they believe that their religion would help their child become a good person, then yeah, why not? I don't see a problem.

 

 

Does such indoctrination violate the rights of the child?

No, because the child can always choose to reject a religion, if he wants to.

 

In addition, I would like to devise a scenario, where a child of devoutly religious parents, after having gone to school in a public school district, has rejected the parents' religion. The parents have taken action against the school district, alleging the district has violated their religious freedom and is responsible for their child's deconversion.

 

I mean if the child gets influenced in a school to reject it, then no. I guess there is no violation of religious freedom, because the parent knew that this is always a possibility.

 

However if the child is forced to do something like pray to Allah/Jesus, then I guess that is a violation of their religious rights.

 

Is a school obligated to uphold a child's religious identity, whether determined by the child or the parent?

 

Well I guess they obliged to respect it, but they are obliged to make sure that their child keeps the religion

 

 

Should a school honor and enforce a parent's request to exempt a child from a particular activity for religious reasons, if the child would still like to partake in such activity (eg. a unit on sexual reproduction)?

 

Yeah, I guess that would come under a parenting choice.

 

The parent might feel that their child is not mature enough for it, and they might feel that their religion teaches about sexual reproduction in a better manner.

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The current social pressure is that chldren belong to the society, not to the parents. Society governs what tommow's needs will be and who shall be used to ensure its design.

 

Children belong to the evolutionary concern which parents can not properly understand, thus parents can not be allowed to govern the beliefs of their children else they might not answer to the needs of tomorrows evolutionary design.

 

Religion can not be allowed as this would restrict social engineering.

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Khan,

 

I think this is such an excellent question. It is an area that throws many things into conflict for me.

 

I think that at its heart is the questioning of belonging and whether children belong to parents. This sense that many people have that their children 'belong' to them affects all kind of policies and beliefs to do with children.

 

I think it is one of the reasons that the US has not signed up to the UN charter on the rights of the child. I had never really considered the idea really that children may also be felt to 'belong' to society - but of course that's pretty obvious as well - and explains all the programmes and measures to 'raise the workers/leaders of tomorrow'. I was reading earlier today about initiatives in the last century that were aimed at 'socially engineering' the next generation.

 

Of course looking in from the outside - this is exactly how we see religious indoctrination - as social engineering of the next church generation.

 

I have a belief that children belong only to themselves and should be free to make choices - however I am aware that leaving a child free of making 'decisions' - and exposing them to a wide variety of life philosophies they can later choose from - is likely to produce a next generation that thinks like me!

 

Various nations have provisions for children to be enabled to 'leave' a religion against parental wishes at the age of 14. Of course as the saying goes .... give me a child until he is seven ....

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I have a belief that children belong only to themselves and should be free to make choices - however I am aware that leaving a child free of making 'decisions' - and exposing them to a wide variety of life philosophies they can later choose from - is likely to produce a next generation that thinks like me!

 

I agree that children should be free to make choices, and that no human being really belongs to another. Otherwise, we might as well bring back slavery.

 

But I wish there was a minimum age, like 12 or 13, that children had to be before they joined a religion. The parents could do whatever baptism-like rituals they wanted, but could not indoctrinate the kid into their religion until the child was at least 12 or 13. Then you'd have fewer kids buying into the concept of organized religion, and they'd have healthy skeptical attitudes.

 

As someone who had religion forced down my throat, and that religion was primarily responsible for me losing my self-esteem at a young age and not really regaining it until I left, I cannot approve of parents raising their kids in a fundamentalist religion that tells them they are worthless and need an imaginary friend to save them from an imaginary hell.

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I would like to add a question to the mix.

 

Is it a violation of the child's rights for the parents to withhold any knowledge or exposure to mainstream society in such a way as to affect the eventual decisions the child will eventually make?

 

After all, if a child is not aware of a freedom guaranteed to him or her, then quite easily, the child may not seek to exercise it. Would it be legal for parents to shield a child away from the Bill of Rights; keeping the child uninformed of his or her personal rights?

 

To me, it would be so much easier for parents to indoctrinate their child into a religion if the child is kept unaware of the true implications of the freedom of religion.

 

As a matter of fact, when the police make an arrest, they MUST inform the suspect of his or her rights. Clearly, when a person is aware of a right he or she has and wants to exercise it, there is no stopping that person (legally, of course). But if a person is not aware of the rights, that person will not seek to exercise them. If a person does not seek to exercise some rights, then there is no violation of rights. Right? No. I don't think so. I think this is the spirit of the Miranda decision, to keep law enforcement from taking advantage of suspects who are not aware of their rights.

 

And this old practice of shielding children from reality seems to be the same thing. Withhold the fact that a child is free to make his or her own decisions independent of the parents, and the child will fall in line real fast.

 

Now, withholding food from a child is considered child abuse. What about withholding exposure to mainstream society?

 

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Going back to the school lunch menu incident, I get the feeling that a great majority of the children will NOT have a coronary over whether their menus say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. What I see is that the parents are the ones who are upset. Why? They are not the ones receiving the menus. But I get the feeling that they are upset because they are seeing the school giving the message to the children that any religious view is just as acceptable as another.

 

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Do we have any Christians who would like to join this discussion?

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However, I am not going to fault a person for taking/making their children go to church.

 

Even when that religion causes that child to hate themselves, and the parents ignore all the signs because they think religion is inherently good?

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These are the kind of dilemma's I face in my job - when is the 'emotional' harm a child may be experiencing at home worse than the harm of removing them?

 

How harmful to a young child is exposing them to the idea that some people in society think their parents are abusive?

 

Conversely how abusive is it for them to grow up thinking their parents have the only valuable answers?

 

If you really truly believe in a literal hell - what's more abusive - warning your kids about it, or staying silent?

 

There's no clear sliding scale - there are a million and one considerations to factor in. I have a small collection of 'child raising manuals' ( not ones that I consult for work!) dating back to 1890. Its frightening the things parents have done with the very best intentions and not all fuelled by religious conviction either over the ages.

 

In terms of this discussion all I feel I can offer with any certainty is the comment - 'yes it's obvious you have a big heart for children SerenityNow' :)

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What about the children in school who are bereated by teachers and/or bullies? Many of them hate themselves too, despite parents trying their damndest to love them and show them otherwise (even the Christian ones). What do we do with them, take em' out of the school system?

 

I was bullied all my childhood, pretty much right through high school except for when I went to Germany my senior year. I first attended a Lutheran elementary school and begged my parents to send me to the public school when I was in 6th grade. I tried changing schools, but it didn't help. My low self-esteem was not helped by a religion that taught me that I was worthless without the love of an imaginary being, or my mother, who consistently berated me for not being thin and pretty enough (even though I wasn't really fat) and told me that I was going to hell on a regular basis.

 

What WOULD have helped was teaching me to develop self esteem and not hate myself, but the system at the time wasn't such that developing self-esteem was encouraged. They all said "just ignore the bullies." Well, ignoring bullies only works if your self-esteem isn't low.

 

What also would have helped was my parents telling me that they would love me no matter what I believed, but of course, my fundy mother could not do that.

 

My dad worked a lot of OT, and so wasn't very aware that this was going on, and I couldn't very well tell him when my mother had cancer. I did tell him later, but I don't think he believed me because he deified my mother by then. She died from cancer, so she could do no wrong. To this day, I can't talk about it with anyone in my family because they treat me like I am exaggerating or making it up or treat me like I should feel guilty for saying anything remotely negative about my mother.

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I agree that mental abuse is everywhere. But the Christians in my family never really treated me well, they either ignored me or berated me. I much prefered the ignoring and learned to deal with it by reading books.

 

I'm not saying that all children should be removed from Christian parents, only the abusive ones. What I am saying is that children should be given a choice about what to believe and exposed to people of different beliefs, not forced to believe one particular thing as I was, and treated like they will be loved, no matter what choice they make. But few Christian parents do that. Instead, they act as if the children have no choice but to believe what the parents believe and that the parents will hate them if they make any other choice.

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