Students Seek Spiritual Awareness

Maria Carberry

It’s not about evangelism, it’s about learning.

— Olivia Madaras


Urbana High School is home to three student led religious groups: the twice weekly Bible Study, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and the Muslim Club.

The Bible study meets every Wednesday morning at 7:00 A.M. before school starts, and Fridays after school, it is not a club like FCA and the Muslim Club.

Junior, Olivia Madaras is one of the school Bible study leaders. “We all gather around and we read a chapter every day that we meet, and we discuss the meaning of it. We will welcome any new members too,” she said.

One of the teacher advisors for FCA, math teacher, Becky Hackett explained their group meetings. “We meet every club day and we do an activity that is usually some type of athletic thing. We do a Bible study that is Christian based, and student led. The leaders are responsible for coming up with the lesson for the day.”

Art and Publications teacher, Debbie Winkles, is one of the teacher advisors of the Muslim club. “We meet on club day and the meetings are student led. The kids pray together and organize it themselves,” she said.

As states in school policy #427.3,“School employees, when acting in their official capacities, are representatives of the state and are prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment from soliciting or encouraging religious activity and from participating in such activity with students.”

Many students wish that teachers were allowed to lead discussions within these organized groups. Senior, Andy Moss thinks that it is ok to have teachers speak personally to a student about religion on their free time, “If it’s before or after school it’s fine because it can be in an organized group like FCA who all have the same beliefs and nobody will be offended,” he said.

Senior, Zach Maxson, a leader of the school Bible study, feels this way. “You want to say that teachers should be able to [speak about religion] but when people speak out against your beliefs you think teachers shouldn’t say that. If you and the teacher have the same beliefs, I don’t see why they can’t talk to you about it,” he said.

Regardless of the fact that this is a public school, many students want the right to be able to speak to teachers about religion, Junior, Mandy Walasik said, “I think when a teacher talks about their beliefs, and it is nice to share what they think. It doesn’t bother me. It is nice to know what they believe in.”

Walasik likes to think of teachers as someone she can look up to and speak about her beliefs with, “It’s such a grey area that it’s hard to decipher who they are allowed to talk to [about religion]. Parts of it make me sad because I know I go to a place that I can’t talk to certain people about specific issues,” she said, referencing the public school environment.

“I used to go to a Lutheran school, and I miss being accepted by everyone and everyone understanding what I believe, you can’t speak as freely in fear of offending people. I like places like Bible Study to be able to speak about it [religion] freely,” she said.

Madaras, has strong opinions as well, “You are in a public school for diversity. I would be happy if there was a teacher of a different religion than what I believe and they had something they wanted to share, I would be glad to hear it. It’s not about evangelism, it’s about learning,” she said.