The separation of church and state has been one of the most prominent ideologies in American society since the ratification of the Constitution. Many times, the line of separation is found to be blurrier than than it might seem at first glance, as shown by the countless Supreme Court cases that combine church and state.
In a public high school like Seaholm, the time and place to talk about religion in a non-religious school is not always clear. This complaint has been common for students who have passed through these halls, and it was extremely evident during the process of collecting the results pertaining to the religious breakdown of Seaholm students.
Although several students felt uncomfortable about sharing their religious beliefs with the Highlander, a few students felt compelled to share their own religious stories.
Senior Maclane Paddock is very open about her religion. She identifies as a non-denominational Christian, which can have different meanings for different people.
“My perspective is that Christ came and founded Christianity, but that humans and man split up into the different sects based on interpretation,” Paddock said. “It’s a very Bible-based Christianity and it follows verbatim Christ’s teachings.”
Paddock went to private Catholic school for many years and was baptized in the Catholic church, but in the last few years she and her family have switched to Non-Denominational Christianity. She says that her parents’ religious beliefs are very much congruent to her own.
“It was very different being in private school for a while, having everyone be of the exact same faith around you, than public school,” Paddock said. “It was just all of a sudden a revolution of different ideas from different people and people telling me that what I believed was either stupid or fake.”
However, Paddock says that all of the newfound religious confrontation she had never before experienced made her grow stronger in her faith.
“I had a lot of doubting periods because I really didn’t know what to think or believe because everything I knew was being challenged and questioned,” Paddock said. “Coming back sophomore year, after going through that trial period, I felt reaffirmed in my faith. I knew it was my own now and not just because of what my parents of my school taught me.”
Despite Paddock feeling stronger in her faith than before, she still does feel unsure sometimes about sharing her religious views with others.
“There have been times where I have been afraid to mention my faith because I felt like it would discredit me,” Paddock said. “Or that people would think that what I had to say wasn’t important or worthwhile if I brought faith into the conversation.”
However, for the most part, Paddock says that she feels as though she can share her religious views and still be respected, and credits a lot of that feeling of safety to how the Flexible Scheduling Program (Flex) is run.
“A goal of Flex is not only to study our different topics but also to study the community itself,” Paddock said. “In doing so, we really try to set up environments for conversation that are respectful and leave room for questioning – trying to understand and not to persecute. But yeah, there have been times mostly outside of Flex that I felt that my religion has been looked down upon.”
In light of the religious extremism (of numerous religions) that has been at the forefront of society’s issues, Paddock believes it all comes down to one word.
“Context,” Paddock said. “Too often things are taken out of context, whether it be in the news or social media. You have to remember that the Bible is a whole text, it’s not just different little verses. Verses are great, but if you’re not reading or using them in the context of what the big picture is, it’s going to be interpreted in the wrong way.”
Paddock believes that people of every religion try to escape the “culture of hypocrisy”, and take into account the entire context and the time period in which certain laws or beliefs were in place.
“The Bible is a book written by humans and humans are flawed,” Paddock said. “So there’s going to be flawed interpretations and you just have to be respectful with your beliefs.”
Fellow senior Phoebe Benet identifies as a Conservative Jew.
She mostly keeps Kosher and her family goes to an Orthodox synagogue, but Benet’s family and herself feel that they are more in line with Conservative values than Orthodox ones.
“It’s basically between Reform and Orthodox,” Benet said.
Benet says that her favorite part about Judaism is the emphasis on family.
“It’s a pretty relaxed religion, which is something I really like,” Benet said. “All the holidays are really nice and bring the family together.”
Benet also likes the fact that the religion is more about what one does in this life than trying to get into Heaven.
“We still have the idea of Heaven, but its more about living to your best morals and getting into Heaven is less stressed,” Benet said.
When it comes to Benet, she finds that she is more spiritual than religious, but still likes going to synagogue and keeping with Jewish traditions.
Benet moved to Michigan from California right before she started middle school, and says that the environment around religion is very different.
“Its very different than my old schools,” Benet said. “In California, I was one of the only Jewish kids in the whole school. Here, teachers understand when you can’t come to school on the high holidays, and people know basically what is means to be Jewish.”
Benet thinks that Seaholm’s teaching of religion is a bit lacking, but thinks that students teaching other students about their religions is a really great way for everyone to learn.
“I don’t think Seaholm really taught religion at all,” Benet said. “But I love it when people come up and ask me questions about Judaism. I think it’s a great way for kids to learn about other peoples’ religions.”
Sophomore Sean Williams identifies as no religion in particular.
“It’s basically belief in a God, but not a belief in a certain religion,” Williams said.
Williams does not have similar beliefs to his parents, but says that does not cause any issues at home.
“Even though we have different beliefs, we don’t really argue about it,” Williams said.
Williams says that his beliefs stem from being unsure about what faith to have.
“It’s really mostly just not knowing what to believe in,” Williams said. “And not having enough information to believe in something.”
He says that he sees the evidence of miracles all around him, but isn’t sure how these things could have been possible.
In regards to the Seaholm community, Williams believes that people are generally open to discussion of their religious beliefs.
“If it’s a group of professional people talking, they will listen to each other’s arguments and have a civilized discussion,” Williams said.
As for the results of the Highlander’s survey, the results are fairly similar to the religious breakdown of the United States in general. See this page’s graphics for more detailed statistics.* *Answers came from the anonymous survey responses of over 1,300 students building-wide.
By Tessa Banks