Since the formation of our nation, faith has been interwoven within the fabric of the culture. To protect the freedom for someone to practice their own faith, the founding fathers approved the First Amendment to the Constitution, within it is the “Establishment Clause.” The first 16 words of the First Amendment read “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
This constitutional amendment does not mean that people must leave their faith at home when they go to school, but it does put limits upon school personnel’s expression of faith that might influence students. However, students are still free to express their faith, and many do so by joining organizations such as student-led Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) huddles. These clubs have served students of faith for years, and their right to assemble has been fought all of the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. FCA began in Oklahoma in 1954 and grew nationwide and even into other countries.
Oklahoma was also a pivotal state in forming a new faithbased organization for school leaders called the Association of Christian Administrators (ACA). Oklahoma hosted its first ACA meeting in June 2014 during its annual state administrators conference. At the same time, several Illinois administrators were discussing organizing a similar group. Leaders from the two states joined together to develop the vision, mission and values that formed the Association of Christian Administrators and launched its national presence through meetings at national administrators conferences and state administrators meetings.
Besides Oklahoma and Illinois, an ACA chapter formed in Missouri. Now Arizona and California are considering chapters. The purpose of ACA is to support and encourage school leaders by providing a network of support and spiritual growth. School leadership is a tough job, and ACA strives to be a positive encouraging voice for all school leaders no matter what faith they hold.
ACA is well aware of the “Establishment Clause” and respects the First Amendment, so it adopted the “16-9 Movement” taken from a blog written by a Florida school leader. The 16-9 Movement simply calls for school leaders to respect the first 16 words of the First Amendment, but to always exhibit the nine parts of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Gal. 5:22-23
ACA, like FCA, recognizes that students need not leave their faith behind when they enter the school-house doors but that adults working in those schools are prevented from leading or participating in student-led, faith-based clubs. However, exhibiting the fruit of the spirit in all of their interactions with students and parents does nothing but benefit the school and help build positive relationships.
Derald Glover is assistant executive director of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators.