skip to Main Content

May teachers give their personal viewpoint in answer to a student’s questions about religion?

Teachers are always permitted to teach about religion or to answer students’ questions (either in or out of class) about religion as long as they do so in an objective, neutral, and academic manner.  Such religious interchanges with students must always be age-appropriate and must be for pedagogical rather than for proselytizing purposes.  When engaging in such discussions, the Christian Law Association (CLA) advises teachers that students should not be able to discern the faith of the teacher.  Even questions about salvation may be answered in an objective manner that does not indicate that the teacher shares that belief.

While it seems logical that teachers should be permitted to discuss their own personal viewpoints (including their religious viewpoints) with students both inside and outside the classroom, the law has moved in the past few decades in a different direction that considers such sharing to be an unconstitutional government imposition (or establishment) of a particular religion.

This movement in the law can, therefore, be interpreted to mean that while teachers may have opportunities to share their religious viewpoints during class time or during private conversations with students, teachers do not have a right to do so.  If a teacher knows her students, their families, the community, the school board, and her superiors well, and knows for a certainty that such sharing about personal religious viewpoints would be universally welcome, it is probably not risky to engage in such sharing.  On the other hand, if any of these variables might not support such sharing about religion, doing so could be a risky undertaking for the teacher.

A teacher must be willing to risk losing her job if she engages in such personal sharing about her faith with students.

Generally, problems arise when wither students or parents complain to school administrators about personal religious exchanges between teachers and students. A teacher would likely have no legal recourse if fired for sharing personal religious view points with students, particularly in violation of a specific controlling school policy.  If there is no school policy and there are no complaints, principals have a great deal of discretion as to what they will permit teachers to do in the classroom with respect to religion.

—Keeping Christ in America’s Public Schools, Gibbs & Gibbs, 2008

Back To Top