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Charles Foster Johnson: Public Schools Preserve Religious Liberty

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Charles Foster Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, delivered a powerful lecture at Baylor University on the importance of public schooling. 

PTC has been an important advocate on behalf of public schools in several states. It has led the successful effort to block voucher legislation in Texas by forging a coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans.

An account of the lecture said:

Public schools in the United States offer the “meeting place for widening diversity” where students learn to live with others who hold different views, a Baptist preacher and advocate for public education told a Baylor University gathering.

Charles Foster Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, addressed “Religious Liberty, the Public School and the Soul of America” at the G. Hugh and Beverly C. Wamble Symposium, presented by Baylor’s J.M. Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies.

“I contend that public schools are the proving ground for religious liberty and church-state separation,” Johnson asserted.

In public school classrooms, students learn that their own religious beliefs are not to be given preference over the beliefs of their classmates, nor are their classmates beliefs to be preferred above their own, he said.

In an increasingly pluralistic society, understanding and honoring religious liberty may be more important than ever, he stressed.

“Our neighbor of another faith is right next to us now. … We share this absurdly small space called planet Earth, and we’ve got to learn to love each other,” said Johnson, former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio and Second Baptist Church in Lubbock. “One of the ways we do that is to accord every human being the freedom to follow God by the mandate of conscience.”

He decried any attempt to coerce compliance to any religion or compel religious expression.

“All faith in God is voluntary. If it is not voluntary, it is not faith,” he said.

 

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