Apr 122013

A teacher gives pocket Bible to student after persistent questions on religion. Photo by Arvind Balaraman/freedigitalphotos.net

A New Jersey substitute teacher was allegedly fired in January for giving an inquisitive student a pocket Christian Bible within the school setting.

Walt Tutka filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in which stated he was terminated by the Phillipsburg School District for this action last October.

Tutka is claiming religious discrimination and retaliation, according to The Warren Reporter.

As unfortunate as it sounds, there are two issues that come to the surface regarding this particular incident:

First, there are legal implications from the ‘separation of church and state’ law and second, the moral ingrained characters of all true-blooded teachers. It is the intrinsic fabric of a great teacher to supply any and all students with knowledge, when they ask for it.

It is being reported the student repeatedly asked the teacher for more information when he quoted the verse from the Bible, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” (Matthew 20:16). Apparently, the student wanted to learn more from this man. Tutka obliged.

Being of a ‘teaching’ character, the teacher elaborated on the Scripture when the student questioned the quote. Tutka supplied the student with his own personal pocket Bible to further give the student information on the origins of the verse.

The Bible in school controversy

When a student asks questions, it is presumed a helpful teacher will further enlighten the child by giving that child ‘brain food.’ It’s the innate characteristics of a good, compassionate teacher. It appears this is what Tutka did, not out of malice but from this innate character.

Some may believe it is up to the parents, guardians or caregivers to direct a child in the religion preference. This guidance should be respected but there are extraordinary circumstances where this is detrimental to the child’s learning, as there is no preference in the home.

Some children do not come from a nurturing home environment, which leaves the child to seek education on their personal interests from others. These children did not receive the guidance and/or spiritual teachings to satiate their curiosities, so they seek it out on their own, sometimes from their teachers.

In these situations, the teachers supply the child with knowledge to make informed decisions on their own.

Children are inquisitive, teachers teach

Tutka responded to the inquiries of this particular student and being in the teaching profession, gave the child further information to supplement the answers. It is not known, nor implied this student did not receive spiritual guidance in the home.

The implication is that this teacher assisted a child by answering the questions (could have been any child), as a teacher is expected to do.

It was Tutka’s first inclination as a teacher to supply this child with ‘brain food’ or answers to that student’s questions, not to go against the law.

Many people feel that to terminate his employment for this one incident is drastic and harsh. It would seem more appropriate to discuss the ‘separation of church and state’ legal stipulations to Tutka’s complete understanding before drastically removing him from his teaching job.