This will ultimately turn out to be a political issue so that's why I put it in that category. The moderator can correct that as he sees fit.
A minor nit...
"Morrison isn’t a Christian, but he told us that he’s also not an atheist. Without an attachment to any faith, the teacher describes himself as an 'agnostic social scientist with a passion for concrete evidence and logical reasoning.' ”
Not sure how that works. I suspect he's cleverly attempting to deflect criticism of his own beliefs (or non-beliefs). I hope this doesn't blow up in his face.
He states that the district he works in has consistently backed him up. That speaks highly of anyone who has to put their job or reputation on the line to provide the kind of freedome he needs to continue. I just hope he doesn't see an avalanche coming from outside the district that will begin pressuring the powers that be.
I'm sure there are some who disagree with any mention of religion whatsoever in schools, citing church/state separation. IMHO, whether good or bad, we cannot deny the impact religion has had on human history. He is approaching the subject from the historical, sociological and logical perspective. That's a death sentence to dogmatic thought.
What he's doing is in my opinion extraordinarily valuable to all of us. I hope others can emulate his efforts. The unfortunate fact is that others may try to use this example as a spearhead to try the opposite approach, somehow managing to teach kids that religion and faith are true. I'm sure there are plenty of school districts with wrongheaded and hypocritical management. We'll just have to see how it goes.
Every school needs a teacher like Mr. Morrison!
“[Bible-believers] are uneasy with my class because I treat Christianity as one of many religions, and not the only ‘true religion.’ And they are especially outraged that I treat Jesus as one of many religious figures rather than the only son of God who died for the sins of the world. What they fail to realize is that legally I must treat all religions without bias and as ‘social phenomena.’ To do otherwise would be a violation of the Constitution. Ironically, the very groups that want prayer in schools and lament that God has been ‘shut out of schools’ are the ones who most strongly oppose me.”
I teach Ancient World Lit at a small, historically black university in Georgia, and most of the works on my syllabus are either directly or tangentially about religion. 99% of my students are some variety of fundamentalist, and about 120% of them do not accept either the fact of evolution or Darwin's theory that explains the fact. The first lesson is that we are not going to waste time discussing which ancient myth is "true," because in a literature class we don't look to the supernatural for answers. So we have to think of the Bible and the Qur'an as we would any other book. I always find that with the Bible, my "born again" students know very little about what it actually says. They seem utterly disconnected from the basics of Protestantism, such as the necessity about reading and interpreting the Bible for oneself, instead turning to their pastors for the "right" answers. Whence cometh the pastor's authority? He or she gets "the call," an event which for them is as factual as getting a new car. It's all about authority. Because of the call, any pastor is considered more knowledgeable about religion than I could possibly be, PhD and twenty years of study be damned, even though the "pastor" is a 20-year-old sophomore with a 2.1 GPA and an 830 SAT score, who has never read even a tenth of the Bible. Totally bizarre.
I'm very careful whenever I've brought up the subject in my classes. Thankfully, I can present the cultural aspects of religion (especially christianity) as it is in regards to Western culture, without too much worry of going over that line. I present the true origins of christmas traditions and how they were integrated into modern society by christians. The kids really seem surprised to find out about Roman use of evergreen boughs. (Pine boughs are used in new year's decorations in Japan, so it's pretty interesting, indeed!)