Education Secretary Paige Urged to Disavow Outrageous Remarks on Religion and Schools

In an interview published Monday, April 7 by the Baptist Press, Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige was quoted as saying, “All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith.” Paige seemed to denigrate the diverse student population in public schools saying, “In a religious environment the value system is set. That's not the case in a public school where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values.”

Statement of People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas:

“It was insensitive and irresponsible for Secretary Paige to suggest either that public schools should teach religious doctrine or that parents should abandon public schools and send their kids to religious schools. Either one of these reflects a lack of commitment to the mission and success of our public schools. It is particularly unacceptable that the country’s chief public school officer exhibit such disdain for the long tradition of diversity and inclusiveness celebrated in our public schools. The more than 50 million children of varying faiths in the public school system deserve an advocate and not an adversary.”

“Secretary Paige should take steps immediately to clarify his remarks and to reassure these children and their parents that he will work to uphold our tradition of a nonsectarian system of public education that serves children of all faiths. The Secretary’s statement makes even more troubling the Department’s recently released guidelines about religion in public schools.”

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