Grrr, TIL about Bible Belters flagrantly violating the Establishment Clause with open school prayer!

I have always suspected that small towns in the Bible Belt have routinely ignored the Establishment Clause as long as they have existed, and have continued to do so on into the 21st century, because no one “narcs” on them. But I was never sure, as despite reading atheist blogs and such, I never saw any confirmed report.

Today I got pretty solid confirmation: a friend of one of my wife’s Facebook friends teaches in a small town public school in southern Missouri, and she casually mentioned that at their school, all the teachers, administrators, and students gather around the flagpole every morning to pray.

Even though I always suspected it, it sickens me to see it stated in black and white. And I wonder: what would happen if someone like me moved to a town like that and made a stink about it? Would they just give me the cold shoulder, or perhaps try to intimidate or even attack me? :mad:

I can’t imagine that there is enough homogeny among small towns to give you a straight answer on this. I mean, with my boundless imagination I can imagine you raising enough of a stink to get a cold shoulder from everyone, but whether or not you would get stuffed into a bag and sunk to the bottom of the nearest lake would depend just a hair on the level of psychopathy present in the local populace.

Speaking as an atheist, religion is super bad, but still, chill a bit.

I’d start by wondering what’s meant by “morning” (before or after school starts) & “all” (all the students who are so inclined or all the students).

If all they’re doing is inviting anyone who’s interested to a prayer session before school, that doesn’t strike me as anything worth complaining about.

She said “all” and that the service was led by a staff member. She raised it as a counterpoint to a story about a principal in a larger Missouri city who got in trouble for leading prayers in school. “Thank goodness, not all towns are like that!” :dubious:

ETA: Often, people who have always lived in big or huge metros think “small town” means the kind of city I live in now (about 20K population). Oh no. This place she is talking about is a true small town (in terms of the ones that still have a public school of their own): less than two thousand residents, nowhere near anything bigger.

This happened long enough ago that I can probably talk about it safely, but I’m still going to be vague, because it happened in a setting where I was a sign language interpreter, and there were confidentiality issues. That’s why I didn’t do anything about it at the time. You can bet that if I’d been there for some other reason, especially if a child of mine had been in the class, stink would have been raised.

Anyway, kindergarten teacher read a very explicitly religious book about Christmas to her class at Christmas time. This was in a small mid-West town where I’m sure literally every child was some variety of Christian. If there was a child not celebrating Christmas, the family were JW’s, and still might not have objected to Jesus in the classroom.

Yes, I am quite sure of this. The school had a Christmas tree in the lobby, and a “Christmas,” not “Holiday” pageant, with some explicitly religious songs.

Had I said something to the principal (who was really excellent), she probably would have thanked me, and not said anything committal.

FWIW, this was truly an excellent teacher otherwise; in fact, this was the only complaint I could come up with about her in a whole year of being in her classroom. She didn’t even blink at the idea of an interpreter in her classroom, and even set aside a little time a couple times each week for some sign language instruction for the whole class, to help the Deaf kid socially. I did have to explain to her what being “Jewish” was, though.

Also, just FTR, the kid did eventually go to the Deaf school, but in kindergarten, his mother had just remarried and had a new baby, and his stepfather was his first real father figure in his life, and they wanted him at home that year. I know they had a real struggle with the decision whether to send him to the Deaf school or keep him home, and when I met the stepfather, I understood. He was taking a sign class, where the kid’s natural father didn’t anything, and the kid called his stepfather “Dad,” and bio-father “other Dad.”

But year, it happens in small communities.

I would first find out if there was a thriving wicker industry nearby.

How long ago was this? I graduated high school in 1984 and finished sixth grade in 1978, and I remember Christmas celebrations that were pretty much about “Christmas” and not the generic winter holidays, although they may have emphasized the non-religious aspects. And this was in suburban Connecticut.

Join them and try to lead a prayer from the torah or quran. They’ll snap that shit in bud!

I went to elementary school in New York, and we had “Winter Holiday shows” back in the early 70s. In a more cosmopolitan mid-West town, my cousin had Winter Holiday pageants" in the 80s; she was born, in, IIRC, 1980. I graduated HS in 85-- I went to HS and college in the same city where my cousin went to elementary school.

It was in the 90s that I had this interpreting gig.

At my “Winter Holiday shows,” there was absolutely nothing religious, unless you consider the stupid dreidl song religious. We sang some Santa songs, that used the word “Christmas,” but not the word “Christ,” or “Jesus.”

At my cousin’s pageant, they sang pretty much non-religious stuff, but I do remember “Away in a Manger” one year. They also sung “Maoz Tsur” every year, which is actually pretty religious. Everybody sung an English version, then all the Jewish kids in the older grades sung it in Hebrew. It’d be like 20 kids. I remember my cousin being very excited when she was old enough to get to be one of the kids who sang it in Hebrew. Nobody thought that was weird or discriminatory, but somebody probably would now.

I thought this thread was about GRRRRRRR!

Well, they very possibly might do that, or worse. Perhaps throw a Molotov (Jewish guy that he was) cocktail through your window. It’s the Christian thing to do! :dubious:

Well, in 1994, if you were a good Christian family who moved to the town from elsewhere and raised the issue, it is possible that you would be publicly ridiculed and your children persecuted and called “atheists.”

(She won the lawsuit, but I do not know what happened to her family after the court noted that she was correct.)

Or, if you were in Texas in 2000, the threat of violence might have been sufficiently strong that the court allowed you to file as Jane Doe or John Doe and the presiding judge might have decided that the threats were sufficiently real as to to impose harsh Contempt citations on people who were trying to discover who the anonymous plaintiff’s were.

Such cases died down for a while, although I suspect that under the Trump regime they will begin making more appearances.

Wow :frowning:

A school district in Ohio recently had to remove a large portrait of Jesus that had been hanging in the school for more than 60 years before anything was done about it.

A little more than a decade ago, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at my high school was just a prayer group run by the teacher who “advised” the club (everything is supposed to be student-led). This was pretty well hidden, though, and there really wasn’t any pressure at all to join (there were maybe fifteen of ~450 students in it on the occasions I passed through one of their meetings).

I’m not super keen on those things either, but they are pretty minor compared to the local preacher being your school bus driver who then gets out and leads the entire school, including all staff, in a prayer around the flag(!) right before school starts.

The details matter when it comes to the legality of prayer on school property. Neither students nor faculty are required to check their religious freedoms at the door as they enter the school house. See Tinker v. Des Moines ICSD

If the gathering is outside of normal class hours but during time in which the school grounds are open to the students then student led organized prayer is constitutional.

Again, this is not student-led. Not that it matters, because your information is old. Rather than your 1969 cite, how about the 6-3 SCOTUS decision in Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe (2000), cited upthread by tomndebb? Ibid:

Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas took your position, but they were outnumbered by a two-to-one margin. :stuck_out_tongue:

When I was a kid, there was some big-deal Supreme Court case about prayer in the school.

Note that up until this time we not only had a prayer every morning, every Monday we had “Church Count.” “How many of you went to Sunday School? Raise your hands. How many went to church” And so on…Sunday School, church, Sunday night service, and even Wednesday night service. If your class got closest to 100% participation, there was some sort of prize.

We had a kid in my class who never went. Some of my classmates said out loud that they wished he was in the other class, so we could have a chance at the prize. There was another kid I suspect of never going either, but I also suspect him of just raising his hand.

And then when got got a little older, we had a teacher who would summon one student and ask that student to lead us in prayer. It was bad to decline. I lived in terror that she would pick me.

And then came this Supreme Court decision, and I felt great relief that all this was about to end.

But, no. We went into that class, and the teacher said, “Well, we don’t care what the Supreme Court says, we aren’t going to let that stop us from praying, are we? Carolyn, will you lead us in prayer?”

And Carolyn, who went on to become a lawyer, said, “No, thanks.”

However…recently my graduating class, now united by Facebook and one or two really earnest classmates, decided to put a stone bench of some sort at the new school to commemorate a class benchmark. And there were people saying, “Well, we have to put something on there about the grace of god.” At which point I decided I was out of there and not sending any money for this bench. (These people were not all that religious when we were in school, or if they were I didn’t know it.) But then one of the earnest people came back and said, “Well, sorry, it’s really sad, but the school board has told us we can’t put anything about god or religion on our bench.” So apparently someone there is paying attention to the establishment clause.

I’m still not sending them any money.

Ugh. When and where was this? I love the peer pressure element there. :mad:

I graduated high school just before the Court ruled graduation prayers unconstitutional. I refused to stand for ours, and there were guys in nearby seats hissing at me to get up, in a very threatening manner, but I held firm. And this was in Duluth, MN, hardly a conservative Bible Belt type place.

Oklahoma, small town, early 1960s. And Oklahoma, same town, not a lot bigger, now. They ordered that bench in February.

It was uncomfortable. There were a couple of Jewish kids, but they went right up there and led prayers when asked…and it made them uncomfortable too. And also, in later years I thought they might have been lying about Sunday school, but it turns out they did go to Sunday school, where they learned Hebrew. But one of those kids told me later that Jewish people are allowed to lie about that kind of thing.