Personal Faith and Public Religious Neutrality: A Brief History of the Separation of Church and State for School Leaders
Academic Leadership - Online Journal,
Vol. 6 No. 2 (2005): Vol-6-Issue-2-February-2005
We are often told “keep the faith” or “have faith” but rarely are we told what that means. Psychologist
and educational philosopher Sharon Daloz Parks states that faith is the way we make meaning from
our life’s experiences: faith results when “human beings… compose a sense of the ultimate reality and
then stake [their] lives on that sense of things” (Parks, 2000, p. 20). Faith is both a dynamic force as
well as a stabilizing and grounding entity; it organizes how the world is perceived, acted upon, and
interpreted; faith is not synonymous with religion, belief, or spirituality. Obviously something keeps us
together – how else would we persevere in our life’s work? While faith is not synonymous with a religion
or church, many find a religious faith tradition meaningful and sustaining in their vocation as school
leaders. Successful school leaders are those who maintain their personal faith as private individuals
while recognizing the religious neutrality that is appropriate for their role in the school’s public setting.
This brief article sketches salient points of the history and present dynamics of Church and state
interaction played out in public schools.