I was reading up on the constitutionality of school prayer recently, and it seems my fears were right: the only lawfully authoritative interpreter of the Constitution is the Supreme Court, which has sadly ruled against school prayer more or less consistently (See Engel vs. Vitale, Abingdon vs. Schmepp, Murray vs. Curlett, and most recently Wallace vs. Jaffree) in any shape or form. I should also point out that I am against school prayer, if only because a sectarian prayer would violate the first amendment principles of freedom of religion and separation of church and state, and any prayer broad enough not to would honestly be too “watered-down” to have achieve the purpose of praying-speaking to God.
Nonetheless, I like to consider both sides of the debate. So I would be very grateful if you all could give some arguments in favor of school prayer
My children are in private school and there is a very positive relationship with God. The kids are given time to pray on their own in any way they want, or can join a general time for worship. We do not deny that God exists in our school, but also respect the various ways that families and kids might want to pray. And if they do not want to pray at all it is not mandatory. If they are offended by anyone praying near them, well, they don’t have to go to that private school. But please don’t make us ignore God and pretend that he doesn’t exist. We are full of the spirit.
In public school, when God is carefully and deliberately removed from all events, that sends a clear and loudly received message to kids - that discussing of God is off limits. But that is of course not true. But children interpret it that way unfortunately.
If there was a time for people to pray if they wanted to, but it was optional, and could be done in any way people saw fit, it would harbor and promote discussing God, and allow children to be enlightened by the various faiths while also being able to practice their own with dignity and respect.
School is hard and has many challenges. Prayer is needed to make it through. And to deny that to kids is cruel. If I have to pay extra to give them that then I will. But to deny God in public school amounts to religious persecution of the poor who can’t afford private school.
Pope Benedict XV explained it best: Once the plastic minds of children have beenmolded by godless schools, and the ideas of the inexperienced masses have been formed by a bad daily or periodical press, and when by means of all the other influences which direct public opinion, there has been instilled into the minds of men that most pernicious error that man must not hope for a state of eternal happiness; but that it is here, here below, that he is to be happy in the enjoyment of wealth and honor and pleasure.
The fundamental purpose of school, including college, is not to teach you how to get a good paying job. The fundamental purpose is to form young minds into how to be virtuous citizens, such that they will make society better as a whole. Virtuous citizens are citizens who respect the law and one another, fight for what is right, support the family, etc, because they were taught to do these things.
Man’s highest duty though is not earthly, but rather heavenly. Even if there is no specific religion, man can still recognize there is a God, and that this God is owed honor, worship, etc, and being spiritual beings we are also to realize that we have a super-natural destiny. Given this, the first and fundamental truth that all humans should be taught is that there is a God, and thus we must raise our minds to Him in prayer, and that as spiritual beings we will leave this earth some day to face God.
Strip away God and strip away our souls, and you strip away man’s primary focus, which in turn will cause all his focus to be upon the here and now, purely earthly matters. As a result, he will fixate on earthly pleasures, and this reduces to treating even fellow humans as objects of pleasure.
So, Yes, prayer in schools is not just important, it’s demanded by Natural Law. Not praying in school is in itself religious education, namely indoctrination of atheism. In a truly sane and virtuous society, they will seek out the true religion to the best of their abilities, and in doing so they will realize that incorporating the true religion into the education system is perfectly reasonable and indeed necessary. When it comes to the true religion, you are no more forcing others to embrace it as you are to force someone to accept murder is wrong or 2+2=4, because it’s simply the truth and must be proclaimed. There can be room for conscientious objection, but those making the conscientious objection must do so on the ground they are convinced they are following their conscience. The leaders should not default to “we don’t care what religion you choose to follow,” but rather to a more positive “there can be only one true religion, and we are doing our best to follow it, and all citizens are called to do their best as well.” This prevents religious indifferentism while keeping open the door to still actually follow one’s well-informed conscience.
To put out a blanket statement of “No prayer in schools” is effectively to say “God doesn’t matter, nor does religion, nor even truth in general.”
Most of the time when the objection “we don’t want to force our religion upon others” is made, it isn’t so much because they really don’t want to force people to violate their conscience. Rather, most of the time people say this, it’s because they don’t actually believe any religion is true, and that religion is really a private thing that doesn’t affect one’s public life. So they are disingenuous, even if they don’t realize it, and use that objection as a smoke-screen to prevent people from actually discussing what true religion might actually consist of.
The question of “Does God exist?” is not a matter of personal preference: it’s either true or it isn’t. People need to be adult enough to address the question. If it turns out God does exist, then that should be just as much publicly affirmed as any other fact of science, history, etc.
With students, faculty, administrators, and staff of diverse religions and no religion, it is, in my view, better to exclude group-led prayer in public schools. Private schools, particularly those which are religious, are another matter.
On the one hand, no one should put a gun against your head and make you pray. On the other, no one should tell you that you shouldn’t be able to. My little sisters are the only ones that stand for the pledge of allegiance in their respective homeroom classes…maybe, if we had more prayer in school we’d have less people acting like they’re entitled snot-nosed kids (just my opinion). I remember, when I was in high school (public high school at that), we had a moment of silence in the morning, and a teacher told us we could “pray if we wanted”. And he did just that. Older black man. Could seem kind of harsh but was actually a really sweet, gentle man. My experience with folks that don’t pray is they end up being quite bitter (of course, this is a generality). I say we allow it, but not force it.
The question of G-d’s existence can be discussed in a philosophy or history class. But prayer is something else, and religious minorities in particular should not be so quick to favor prayer in public schools, which have a long history of treating them and their religion unfairly. Catholics are included in this category in the early years of public schools, especially in New York City.
If a school cannot teach children about the reality of God and that there is an afterlife, this is leaving out two of the most important details out of a child’s essential education. A child will have a distorted view of science, history, and religion/ethics. It seems that to default to atheism is far more dangerous to society than minorities being inconvenienced, and it is implicit apostasy for any believer in these things to endorse an atheistic platform.
But the real problem might just be the very notion of a public education system, where one secular body thinks it’s their job to take the role of schooling in a country/state, whereas traditionally schooling was more decentralized and in most cases the school was founded upon some religion, and members of that religion sent their kids there.
When the government takes your money by force (you go to jail if you don’t pay taxes) and uses this money for public schools, and you could have instead used that money to go to a local private school in your faith, the government is de-facto punishing you if you go to a private school and removing religion from your education. If instead there were vouchers which let you use that same money to go to a local private school instead it would be less of a burden.
And this^^ ladies and gentleman is why I am a libertarian:D.
On a more serious note, you all (like me) do not seem to think that a mandatory moment of silence, during which students can choose to pray, is “pushing religion on anyone.” Like several of you have pointed out, removing them is a violation of the right of students nd teachers to pray, which begs the question: why aren’t Christians and people of other faiths briniging school districts to court for violating their first amendment rights and seemingly endorsing atheism?
Because we live in an age of political correctness.This means that if one person is offended by something, then the rest must stop.
The new ‘right’ that has been imposed is the right to NEVER be offended, ever. Where did that come from? Where is that in the constitution? O course it isn’t.
So if you start a conversation on having an option for school prayer and public religious education for those who want it, people immediately start talking about their right to not be offended, and nobody questions where that ‘right’ is derived.
People are attracted to power. The power to have the law support your ability to never be offended is very seductive. This becomes the prime law that is always in play. But of course it is made up and not part of the constitution. It is a phenomenon that has grown only because it has been exploited for political purposes. We are now not so much afraid of offending someone. We are afraid of being seen by others as someone who offends others.
People also prefer to not be confrontational. Confrontation is seen as stressful and to be avoided. In the modern corporate culture and social culture, someone who creates confrontation is punished.
So overall we have culturally grown to have very thin skin. We avoid confrontation and demand the right of never being offended. We are quick to punish anyone who would causes confrontation or offense. We walk on pins and needles in public.
Children I talk to in school are VERY stressed about this. They don’t know what they will say next that will cause offense. They can’t find the pattern. What makes something wrong to say? Why does it feel like everything you say gets you in trouble? In short they are experiencing the pins and needles of a society that has codified into law and social customs the ‘right’ to never be offended.