School prayer

In Language Arts we have to write a persuasive essay, and mine was on why there shouldn’t be school prayer. Just wondering what my fellow Dopers think I should add or change or delete to help my statement. (I put this in Great Debates because of the topic, and wondering what some counter arguments could be.)

Imagine this scene in schools across America: children reciting something that implies everyone that is not their religion is “unsaved,” “immoral,” and wrong, while the insulted students are forced to sit nearby, a captive audience. Christian fundamentalists seek to make organized school prayer the norm in public schools, without realizing that is discriminatory, unnecessary and un-Constitutional.

First of all, and most importantly, school prayer should not be practiced because it is discriminatory. One-sixth of all students are not Christian and would object to their school establishing Christianity as its official religion. Even allowing non-Christian students to leave class during the daily prayer singles them out as being somehow inferior and different, and leave them subject to peer pressure. At this school, Chad Robinson, a Christian fundamentalist, attempts to convert atheists. Three years ago he even tried to baptize one without the other’s consent. With school prayer enforced, more and more students would be identified and could fall prey to his abuses, just because they are a religion that he does not approve of. Some other proponents of school prayer argue that it should be reintroduced to schools because Christianity is the majority religion in this country. This is erroneous for many reasons. We may live in a democratic republic, but that does not mean everything is decided by a simple vote. People should be allowed to choose their religions, regardless of the fact that there may be more in one or the other. Majority and mob rule is not in practice in this country because oppressive majorities may infringe on the rights of the minority. Just because there were more whites than African-Americans during the Jim Crow days did not make segregation right.

In addition to being discriminatory, school prayer should be discouraged because it is unnecessary. Jesus himself was not in favor of school prayer. He is quoted in the book of Matthew as saying that Christians should not be like the hypocrites who parade their piety, and instead go into their rooms and close the doors before praying quietly. Besides, students are already allowed to voluntarily pray. Prohibiting a student from saying grace before a meal, or saying “Dear God, let me pass this test” would defy the First Amendment just as much as organized school prayer would. Just because the government is neutral does not mean it is oppressive, and there are sixteen hours each day (not to mention weekends) during which worship and prayer can be practiced as needed without infringing on the rights of others, as school sponsored prayer would. Yet another reason fundamentalists argue in favor of this practice is because “America is becoming more and more immoral.” They say that since organized prayer was outlawed in public schools teen pregnancies and school shootings have gone up. Those occurrences may be happening, but it has absolutely nothing to do with children not praying enough. Japan has no school prayer, and that country still has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Arguing that our country is immoral because students don’t pray at school is like saying Geraldo Rivera isn’t President of the United States because mice don’t give birth to camels.* The two things have nothing to do with each other.

As well as being discriminatory and unnecessary, school prayer interferes with the Constitution. The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” School prayer would interfere with the establishment clause, as the Supreme Court has ruled many times in the past forty years. Unfortunately, some people just won’t take no for an answer. Even in the light of evidence strongly pointing otherwise, many fundamentalists argue that the United States is a “Christian nation” because the founding fathers were Christian. First of all, the founding fathers were not in uniform agreement on this, or on any issue. Many of them were Christian, true, but most of them, even the Christian ones, believed in freedom and equality for all. (Or said they did, despite owning slaves.) James Madison, the writer of the Constitution, put the First Amendment in for a reason. To cite another example, Thomas Jefferson, who is credited with creating the phrase “separation of church and state” was a Deist that did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, as Christians do.

With the legal issues raised by the Constitutionality of school prayer, the moral issues involved in discriminating against millions of children and the needs severely questioned, it is obvious that school-sponsored prayer would create division rather than introduce the harmony that its advocates should be preaching.

  • – Note: Molly Ivins said, in Shrub, “The bill passed the Legislature with about as much difficulty as a mouse would have giving birth to a camel.” So that’s where I got that.

I’m curious to know, as are you, what the pro-prayer folks’ primary argument is. Although I am against school-sponsored prayer, I am in favor of allowing moments of silence for those wishing to pray.

There are too many religions, including agnostics, secular humanism, atheism, polytheism, wiccan, pagan, etc. If one “type” of prayer is allowed, they must all be allowed, and if they are all allowed, the school day/event will never take place. Moments of silence for individuals to pray (or not to pray) seems best. That’s what my school system did 30 years ago and continues to do to this day.

It is, IHMO, a matter of being tolerant of others’ beliefs.

“Imagine…”

“First of all…”

aaagh…

My eyes are burning!

God, I hate this.

I hate having to start paragraphs with transitions. They cause all the pain in the world. Sorry about the eyes, threemae.

You must have hated the John Lennon song “Imagine,” then. Just about every line opened with that word!

I think you are despicable and so ignorant. It is sure apparent that you had no Christian upbringing. I certainly do not respect our so called “Founding Fathers” for thinking that our Creator’s word is found in nature and science and considered the Bible to be a collection of superstitions and fables. Total hogwash. They were about as ignorant as you are now. Who do you think and who do they think created this world and all of us human beings? It certainly didn’t just happen by accident. Our real “Founding Father” is GOD. We were “Founded” as “One nation under God.” As far as the ones you consider to be our “Founding Fathers”, I notice that you do not list those who were Christians. I’m sure they far outnumber the deists. As far as spending our energy and time educating students about the history of this country, God’s creation of this country IS our history. I think you are the one who should educate yourself on the history of our country and you will find out it was based on Christianity.

What do you think is wrong with the youth today including yourself? I will tell you. They are not raised in church by Godly parents. It is more important to learn about God than anything they could learn about our country. It all means nothing unless you have God in your life. I am so thankful for the students who do want prayer in school and the prayer circles of students that have been formed to pray over the schools.

God has told us…and yes this is in the BIBLE…that some day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. What a glorious day that will be.

Signed,

A devout Christian

Who is not me. I just wanted to share a pro-prayer point of view. Hope you found it educational, or at least humorous.

My position on the moment of silence is why is that even necessary? Why take time out of the class schedule that could and should be used for teaching? Why can’t students who wish to pray do it on their own time? There should be time before class starts if the student shows up a couple minutes early. There’s time before school, between classes, and during lunch when kids can pray to their hearts contentment. Why do the kids who are there to learn have to sit for an extra minute and wait on them? What does that accomplish?

A momen of silence can also be a moment to clear your head and focus and stuff.

6 year olds need a moment to clear their heads and focus? It sounds to me more like a moment to get fidgity and giggley and get into trouble.

Heh my moments of silence were for the teacher to yell at the students to be silent. Funny but now I don’t have them any more(if you don’t count alt-tabbing out of counterstrike and turning the mustic down when another teacher comes in)

Gr8Kat, I just want you to know that your first post gave me a headache! I was very confused–here all along I had been thinking you were a rational, intelligent human and here you are spouting this stuff? You have no idea how glad I was to get to the end of your post and find out that you are still the wonderful person I think you are! Whew!

I’ll probably be back to add to this as soon as I regulate my blodd pressure!

JFTR, when I was at school (in the UK), not only did we have to sit through a prayer in the morning but (between the ages of 5 and 11 at least) we had to sing hymns too.

OTOH it offered an unrivalled opportunity to substitute humourous words for words such as “peace”.

pan

Under the right circumstatnces, everyone is opposed to school prayer. If a teacher offer up a prayer to Allah, christian parents would have a conniption. Proponets will only support school prayer if their god is being prayed to.

It would seem to me that children of an enlightened age, and the teachers for those who are not, might wish to begin any important undertaking by first invoking the blessing of diety, if such a thing is desireable.

A moment of silence in no way impedes upon the day’s activities. From what I remember, it was a mere 30-60 seconds. Time well spent, IMO, to honor the wishes of others.

My memory of the moment of silence is a bit different. Mind you, I’ve had agnostic/atheist leanings since the Sunday School teacher couldn’t tell me which day god created the dinosaurs on. I remember being acutely aware that the moment, which, IIRC was called a “moment of silent meditation”, was intended to be a momemt for prayer. From a child’s perspective, what else do you do in silence with your head bowed? I also recall feeling, that if everyone else is going along with this, then I should too. Now, if I felt like a minority being pressured to go along with the group, I suspect that someone with a religious belief that was in the minority might also feel the same way. Even though the “moment of silent meditation” does not announce or endorse a specific belief, I’m sure most children are aware of any differences between themselves and the rest of their classmates, especially when they are in the minority, or worse, a minority of one.

As an adult, I would have no problem giving up 30-60 seconds to honor the wishes of others, without feeling pressured to go along. I’m not certain that all children have the level of maturity neccesary to feel the same.

May I suggest that anybody who expresses their desire to have prayer in American Public Schools be offered this statement:

“Yes, you’re right. Every child in Public School in America should stand before every class and recite the ‘Hail Mary.’”

As most of these folks are Fundamentalist Christians (Protestants), I think that this statement would give many of them a heart attack.

Incorrect. It delays the whole enterprise, thus being an impediment. How about the wishes of those who want to get on with it?

Good news! You can now give up your immoral tendencies. Jack Chick has explained this.

I loved the one year my school had a moment on silence. I t was a few more mminutes in the day when everybody (particularly teachers) would shut the fuck up and let me read. But it obviosly makes a big differnece that I’m talking about high school and not 1st grade.
Keep in mind that nowadays the crux of the debate over school prayer is “student led prayer”. Most pro-prayer people have been forced to concede that teachers etc. leading prayer is not constitutional. Or at least that they are not going to get away with it. So they focus on student praying in school- the question is, while you can’t (and shouldn’t) prohibit a kid’s resonable opportinity to practice their relgion at school, any more than any where else, at what point does it become a school endorced ritual-like prayer at graduation or football games- even if it’s a student and not a school employee.

And what child is so anxious to “get on with it?” 60 seconds delaying the whole enterprise? Tolerance, man.

People love school prayer, as long as they get to pick the prayer and make anyone not praying feel uncomfortable. Wanna pray silently? No one is stopping them. They want validation that everyone else is, too? Sorry, they won’t get it from me.

I don’t know about your school, but we didn’t talk during tests. If anyone was praying then, no one would care nor notice, and a minute one way or the other didn’t make a difference in finishing. I can’t see why this isn’t sufficient. Plus if you got to class early - hey, more time to pray! Oh, plus there’s such a thing as private school that I heard of, and they take vouchers AND they pray all the time! :smiley: