Where Beliefs Are Embraced

President%2C+James+Melkonian%2C+leads+biblical+a+discussion+for+his+club%2C+Fellowship+of+Christian+Athletes.+

Jennifer Baxter

President, James Melkonian, leads biblical a discussion for his club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Sam Bodnar, Editor-In-Chief

New York, Oregon, Wisconsin. All three states have made national headlines for prohibiting religious freedom and discussion on high school and college campuses.

From canceling Christian clubs to suppressing mention of Santa Claus, to denying community service credits when completed for a religious organization, the school districts in these states are becoming more austere with the expression of religion on campus.

For the Bobcat community, however, protecting religious liberties hasn’t been an issue.

“It is a blessing that we can come and meet on campus to learn about God and his unconditional love for us,” said senior, and member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) club, Chris Fandey.

Fandey reflected on some of the national headlines over the past two years, specifically the banning of a Christian club in New York.

“It’s depressing because America was colonized and created to allow the freedom of religion,” Fandey said.

Despite the Establishment Clause, stated in the U.S. Constitution, that enables religion in schools as long as it is not deliberately promoted or enforced, certain districts have decided that religious and holiday-themed decorations and collaborations are offensive to non-religious students and individuals of other religions.

Principal Cesar Morales praised Sage Creek students for setting the tone for an open and accepting environment.

“It’s their behavior [and] how accepting our students are. It´s not even necessarily about religion, it’s about the free environment that we establish and maintain,” he said.

Sage Creek’s campus has yet to endure any quarrels over a religious club or debate and, according to Morales, that’s primarily because of the accepting environment asked of Sage Creek.

“We as adults aren’t influencing [students] to lean towards a particular religion or away from one. We are here to create a positive learning environment, and with clubs like FCA, those are opportunities for kids that want to dive into a particular religion, have a positive environment, and embrace their spirituality,” Morales said.

While previous incidents in Long Island, NY saw the school administration interfere with the presence of religion, the Carlsbad Unified School District administration has not given any instruction to SCHS staff to remove religious clubs or groups.

Previous adviser to the Christian club on campus (whose students later joined the FCA), English teacher Corrie Myers, reflected on her positive experience with advising clubs.

“In general, it comes down to trust; where my administration trusts me and I trust the administration. Sage Creek is an environment where we can be inclusive and can express our own opinions, values, and passions. My admin trusts that I have my students’ best interests in mind. It’s not my idea; It’s not about my passion; [and] it’s not my beliefs. It’s about the students,” she said.

The students in Portland wanting to decorate classroom doors with pictures of Santa, dreidels, and presents were told that they were creating an unaccepting and exclusive environment on campus for students who don’t celebrate those holidays. Now, the Hillsboro School District in Portland is instructing everyone to “be respectful and sensitive to the diverse perspectives and beliefs of [the] community.”

During a conversation with senior and Jewish student Spencer Stein, he reflected on what makes Sage Creek so special in terms of being able to talk about and celebrate his religion openly.

“From a religious standpoint, I feel that Sage Creek is a very accepting place where I can discuss [Judaism] openly without judgment or discrimination. It’s also nice to have a handful of Jewish friends on campus with whom [I] can relate to,” Stein said.

When engaging in conversation on campus, Stein has not encountered opposition insisting that he cease his religious discussions, which again highlights the open environment that the current classes of Sage Creek High School live in.

Aside from exploring and embracing faiths on campus, Bobcat students also experience free range over what non-profit companies they can volunteer for.

Students attending SCHS need a minimum of 20 hours of community service in order to graduate. The Sage Creek website’s description of the community service guidelines states, “Community service can be completed by working without pay for a non-profit organization that benefits your fellow man, the environment, or the animal kingdom.”

The guidelines at University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, one of the campuses that denied students’ volunteer hours completed at a local church, there are commonalities.

“The Service-Learning Policy explains that ‘students’ sincerely held beliefs, preferences, and values will be reasonably accommodated in accepting service-learning proposals,” Eu Claire’s website states.

As alarming or unfortunate as current and recent events regarding religion may seem, Mr. Morales firmly stands by his goal of “creating a healthy environment where students can engage in religious oriented activities.”