Religion and the decline of public schools will be one of the focal points of a roundtable discussion later this month at Harris Manchester College in Oxford, England, in which the Rev. Frederick Favors of Springfield Baptist Church in Thomson has been invited to participate.
Rev. Favors, who also serves on the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners, is one of only 40 persons from throughout the United States and Europe to receive the honor of attending the roundtable discussion. It begins on July 29 and lasts until Aug. 3.
Those attending the roundtable will be addressing various aspects of religion, as well as education. They will be expected to come up with answers to one of the biggest questions regarding whether or not there is any common ground between religion and the decline of public schools.
"It's a tremendous honor for me to be going to England to provide a little of my personal input into subjects like this, because hard questions like these need answers," Rev. Favors told The McDuffie Mirror on Monday. "It's my belief that when you surround yourself with a number of intelligent people that you are bound to learn something from one another. I think it will be most interesting and informative."
Rev. Favors and his wife, Elene, depart for Oxford, England next Tuesday. They will fly from Atlanta to Newark, New Jersey and then onto London.
"I'm hopeful in some way I can be a significant contributor to the roundtable discussions," said Rev. Favors.
As far as local education goes in McDuffie and Warren counties, Rev. Favors said he believes that administrators and teachers "do a tremendous job in educating students and I personally applaud them all."
Rev. Favors pointed out that he feels politics is the intruder of the American public education system.
"I think politics works in a destructive manner to deteriorate our public education system," said Rev. Favors, who has served a total of 14 years in an elected official capacity in McDuffie County. "I think our public education system has somewhat been kicked around like a political football by both parties to a large degree."
In those instances, politicians have placed their own personal agendas and ideology against the cornerstone of public education, he added.
"Public schools, since their founding as progeny of the French and American Enlightenments, have experienced direct and consistent opposition from the Catholic Church, fundamentalist Protestant churches and conservative Islamic madrasses," wrote Dr. Kurt Ballstadt, facilitator of the Oxford Roundtable and a tutor at Lincoln College in Oxford. "Today, the conflict and divisiveness is perhaps as pronounced as at any earlier time.
"In an array of inconsistent precedents, the U.S. Supreme Court has exacerbated the religion issue by restrictive secularization of public schools, while contrarily opening the constitutional door to unrestrained tax funding of religious schools."
Dr. Ballstadt went on to say that "separation of church and state is no longer the law of the land. Because of the relevance of this issue for the direction of public policy in the United States and other nations, the Oxford Roundtable will devote a session to the treatment of this important matter."
Rev. Favors, who taught science for four years in Arkansas and Cobb County, Ga., before moving to Thomson, said other topics will focus on re-examining the concept and role of public schools in society; determining the extent and methods of government funding of parochial schools; exploring the effects of the rise of religious fundamentalism on public schools; and explaining the emerging concepts of establishment and free exercise of religion.