God IS in our Schools: An Open Letter to Governor Huckabee

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools.  Should we be surprised that schools would become places of carnage?” — Mike Huckabee, (R) former governor of Arkansas, Dec. 14, 2012

Dear Governor Huckabee,

I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, that you would explain the horrors of what happened in Newtown, CT according to one of your favorite soapbox issues: prayer in the schools.  After all, as a Baptist minister, this is your worldview and frame of reference.  You are simply trying to make sense of this horror just as the rest of us are.

I want to tell you why you’re wrong.  God IS in our schools, each and every day.  While it might be true that a public school teacher may not lead a group of students in a prayer, any teacher or student is free to pray at any time, according to the tenets of their own faith.  But there is a difference between the presence of organized prayer or religion, and the presence of God.

I’ve spent thousands of hours in schools, public and private, religious and secular, as a student, as a teacher, as a volunteer, as a parent.  My own parents were both educators who worked hard, sacrificed, and made incredible contributions to our community. I can tell you that every day in every classroom I’ve ever been in, I have witnessed the presence of God.

God’s love is in the kindergartener who gives his lunch money to a friend every day, knowing that he has food waiting for him at home that evening, and she does not.

God’s understanding is in my friends Stacey (a head of school) and Linda (assistant head of school and an ordained minister), whose offices are a calm place of refuge rather than punishment for children who are acting out in class or simply overwhelmed.

God’s compassion is in the preschoolers who rush to a classmate’s aid, offering him bandaids and ice packs after he’s fallen off the swing.

God’s patience is in my aunt Sue, who taught kindergarten for forty years, my aunts Linda and Sarah who have also taught for decades, my cousins Amy and Jessica and Dunia who now teach middle school and high school, and my cousin Jody, who keeps a small town library going — book by book, child by child.

God’s grace is in the high school football players in Arizona who befriend a developmentally challenged girl each day, so that she will not be alone or bullied.

God’s abundance is in my friend Amy, who each year buys school supplies and decorations for her classroom out of her own salary, so that her underprivileged students will have a bright, inspiring space and everything they need to do their work.

God’s caring is in the young Colorado girl who created an anti-bullying program for her school, a program that is now a model for other schools to follow.

God’s generosity is in the principal who bought a teen a brand-new suit when he was nominated to Homecoming Court and had nothing to wear.

God’s sacrifice is in Victoria Soto, the first grade teacher in Newtown, who hid her children in cupboards and cabinets and told the shooter they were in the gym.  She was killed, but most of her students survived.

God’s perseverance is in each and every teacher who stays late to help a struggling student, who places a reassuring hand on the shoulder of a young child, who spends countless unpaid hours grading papers, coaching, and mentoring simply because they know in their hearts it is the right thing to do.

 

I could provide a million more examples, Governor Huckabee, but I think you get the point.  I believe if you were to spend a few weeks in a classroom, with an open mind and an open heart, you would be reassured that God IS in our schools.  I challenge you to do that.  I’m sure you can find a school where your service would be welcomed.

If, after this time, you are still concerned about the lack of God in our schools, I would encourage you to remember that Americans have the freedom to choose religious schools for our children. I encourage you to look around at our communities, where there is an abundance of places for people learn about religion and be filled with faith.  We have churches, temples, synagogues and other houses of worship.  We have Christian schools, Catholic schools, Jewish schools, vacation Bible schools, and more.  We have religious bookshops, public libraries filled with books about religion, and websites devoted to teaching the tenets of any faith you can imagine.  The opportunity to know God is everywhere.  Even in our public schools.

God IS in our schools.  And in each and every one of us.  Let us not forget that in this difficult time.

 

Sincerely,
Kristi Holmes Espiñeira

 

 

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God IS in our Schools: An Open Letter to Governor Huckabee by Kristi Holmes Espiñeira is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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10 Responses to God IS in our Schools: An Open Letter to Governor Huckabee

  1. Linda Hageman says:

    This expresses EXACTLY how I feel. One of the most memorable things I remember learning in Sunday school was that no one could take God away from you. The example given was of prisoners who were forbidden to worship God. But the thing is, no one can control what you do in your heart or mind. Knowing that fact was what helped them survive. And as you stated, the evidence of God’s presence is very much in school.

    Thank you Kristi!

  2. Nicole says:

    Yesterday at Valor Christian High School, all of the theater kids who were waiting after finals for their call backs heard of the connecticut happenings from a teacher walking by in the hallway. After the teacher left, THE STUDENTS made a giant circle and did a power prayer. A power prayer is when everyone in the circle holds hand prays out loud in a whisper. There was a good 15 of us participating. I agree with Kristi, and with experiences in my own life, THAT GOD IS IN OUR SCHOOLS MOST DEFINITELY.
    Nicole
    Age 17

  3. Judith Rainer says:

    Thank you for this. Those of us who have worked in education see God everyday.

  4. lilalia says:

    Thank you for writing such an eloquent rebuttal to, in my opinion, an unfortunate inappropriate politically-motivated statement. How someone with the career history of Mr. Huckabee can focus on the so-called “systematic removal of God” in schools instead of the inability of the government he serves to address and introduce more moderate weapons laws, is a mystery. The world grieves with all the residence of Newton, may they find some condolence through our prayers.

  5. Nicole says:

    So well written! I have been so saddened by the outcry of people around the internet saying this tragedy happened because God was not in this school? Of course God was there, he can’t be shut out by doors! I feel saying this also belittles the tragedies that have happened in other facilities: malls, movie theaters and even churches or places of worship …. was God not there? Thank you for so eloquently phrasing what has been in my heart for some time now!

  6. The Rev Lyle Grosjean says:

    Many Christians believe that the coming of Jesus was also the lifting up of humanity, that God is with us even when we don’t recognize, understand or desire it. Christians believe that God was incarnate in Jesus and in all people. I think God is especially recognizable in first grade boys and girls, and in public school teachers. God can be felt even in the lives of people who claim no belief in God or religion. Their lives can be a Gift, even to us who are so full of our faith and Gov. Huckabee who is full of himself. Let the little children come and show us who they trust in a crisis.

  7. Colleen says:

    Kristi, as usual, you are showing the strength of character that I have known from your mom and dad. As a first grade teacher (and a 30 year veteran teacher), this tragedy has hit pretty hard. But I know that God IS all around me every day. I think Gov. Huckabee needed a good reminder. I hope he has the opportunity to read your words.

  8. Melissa Hourigan says:

    Beautiful, simply beautiful.

  9. Robyn K says:

    Beautiful, Kristi!

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