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  • Whitney Houston's funeral service really took the world to church. Love Pastor Winans' honesty, very moving.

  • #teacher ? Here are appropriate responses to situations with your Jehovah's Witness student:

  • #Teachers: Want to know why your Jehovah's Witness student won't say the pledge and how to respond?

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Ethics & Religion

Teachers: If there’s one thing you probably already know about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s that they are a group of religious folk who go door to door giving out information about their beliefs. But as an educator, there are a few other things to know about the Jehovah’s Witness in your classroom. Here are answers to three common questions to help you respond appropriately and with sensitivity when situations arise.

1. My student won’t say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem. Isn’t this unpatriotic?

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that actions such as saluting the flag, singing the national anthem, and saying the Pledge of Allegiance give reverence to one’s country, instead of God. To the Jehovah’s Witness, patriotism is a form of idolatry to be avoided.

How to respond: Your student may ask to sit during the pledge, stand quietly, or even be dismissed from the classroom. You may not agree with her beliefs, but you can respect them by allowing her to take part (or sit in the hallway) as her conscience permits.

2. Can my student participate in a holiday celebration?

Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays or holidays (including Christmas) because they believe holidays originated as pagan festivities and put the focus on humans instead of God.

How to respond: Do not automatically plan a birthday celebration for your Jehovah’s Witness student. If you are planning any sort of birthday or holiday celebration to be held during class, pull him aside ahead of time and ask whether he would be allowed to attend. If not, make arrangements for him to be elsewhere during the celebration. Be sure to give him a fun activity to do in the other room (not homework) since your other students will be doing something fun.

If you are holding a holiday celebration that’s intended to teach a student about a culture (such as Mexico’s Day of the Dead), give your Jehovah’s Witness student instruction and classroom materials that will help him understand what that holiday means to the culture…but don’t require him to participate in the celebration.

3. Will my student try to convert people in school?

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus sent followers out to share his message. Children often accompany adults on missionary activities. The steps that are believed to lead to conversion include passing out literature at homes but do not include passing out materials in schools. That said, students may be excited to share their beliefs just as any student from another religion might want to tell others what he believes.

How to respond: For the most part, if a student wishes to pass out evangelistic materials to her classmates, public school districts can’t prohibit them from doing so. However, they can place restrictions on when and where those materials are distributed. If you have concerns, talk to your administrators.

To learn more about what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and how you might respond, visit their official website or this BBC site.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2011.

Yesterday, November 1, the News Literacy Project held an event at a high school in Chicago, in which religion reporters spoke to high school students. The event was titled, “Covering Religion: How to Balance Facts and Faith in the Search for Truth.” If you missed my tweets from the event, check it out now at

The event was moderated by Art Norman, anchor at NBC5 Chicago and included three panelists:

Watch this video to hear the panelists answer a student’s question:

“How do you balance fact and faith when reporting religion?”

Created by Religion Transcends, 2011.

Tomorrow is the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. While women do have the right to vote, women still do not hold an equal place within the hierarchies of many of the world’s religions. Take, for example, the Church of England, which does not ordain women.

Recently, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), a Pentecostal Christian denomination, said it would allow women to serve on local church councils – but like the Church of England, women cannot be ordained as bishops.

As quoted on the Pew Forum:

“This has nothing to do with women not being smart enough or good enough or qualified enough. The issue is, did God know what he was talking about? And whether we like it or don’t like it … if our rules, our standard, is biblical text, then we have to be faithful to biblical text even in a contemporary society that sees it as bigoted or old-fashioned.” — Britt Peavy, senior pastor of West Ward Church of God in Douglas, Georgia

Religion Transcends supports the Church of God’s efforts to work toward inclusion of women at every level. Here’s hoping religious groups continue to consider women’s roles and debate the sacred texts that seem to define those roles.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

Two hospitals in Florida have created guides to help their staffs be sensitive to a patient’s language, religion, and culture.

Orlando Health distributes a cultural toolkit, and Florida Hospital distributes a “Guide to Religion and Culture.” In addition, the University of Central Florida teaches courses to medical students, nurses, and health professionals focused on cultural sensitivity.

In the Orlando Sentinel, one hospital manager said, “A patient is the best resource for their culture. Some cultures are highly traditional. Being aware of what some of those cultural traditions are can affect their ability or willingness to follow medical course of treatment.”

Kudos to these institutions for being understanding and for proactively creating awareness of the needs of followers of various religions.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010