I have long said that this was an issue I would avoid. Well, like many other topics, I have something to say. First a disclaimer for my local readers.
These are not necessarily my opinions. The text here are the opinions of many people, the Supreme Court and other sources. Although I comment from time to time in it, I write it as objectively as I can. I welcome your comments to me either on the message board or in private email if you prefer. I offer these comments to get your reaction to this controversial issue. All board posts may be anonymous and all e-mail addresses from private e-mails will be deleted. Although we will own the e-mail text, your e-mail address will be deleted upon our receipt. We will not provide your e-mail address to anyone for any purpose at any time. Don't forget to take our poll at the bottom.
I support Gary Beeler's Crusade. I know Gary Beeler personally, and consider him a friend. This discussion is not about him, his crusade, or our school system. This is based on the arguments pro and con school prayer. In my opinion there has been so much misinformation broadcast on BOTH sides of this issue in the media nationally, I fear both sides are beginning to loose credibility. In this article, I hope to give a better history of the events that cause this divide. As well, I would offer what I think are the sticking points and some solutions. This is not one of my silly articles.
What I think locally is that it's really a non-issue. Easily 90% of our county is for it. The kids post to our board and write us that it's a non-issue. They'd rather see adults addressing the issue of whether all kids at school are treated the same by the teachers and principles. Kids tell us if they want to pray they will, and not a single child has complained to us of being made fun of.
Personally, I'd like to see the Federal Government and the State get out of it. I would like to see this become a local issue where local schools and municipalities get to decide this issue for themselves.
When people want to ban school prayer, the first thing they turn to is the Constitution of the United States. Other than the Bible itself, I do not believe any document in history is more open to interpretation. I can take the Constitution and find something to support anything I want. We say the Constitution separates the church and state. Let's have a closer look.
The people who would ban religion in schools turn to the Constitution in the very first amendment. They quote the line "there is a separation of Church and State." problem is, that isn't in the Constitution. Separation of Church and State is a phrase that was used in an early court ruling on the subject. That use was taken from Thomas Jefferson, who wrote of the need for "a wall of separation between church and state." Nowhere in the document are those words uttered. This is one of the first myths of this topic. let's see what it actually says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free speech thereof;
That's what it says folks. Now, we must decide what the meaning of this was, when it was written and drop any preconceived notions we have today.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
Establishment of religion, not religious establishment. In 1534 the Act of Supremacy made King Henry VIII the head of the Church of England. Basically it declared that the Pope had no authority on British soil and said that English subjects had to belong to the newly organized Church of England. (Chip's note: I realize the Church of England traces it's history back to 549AD but for our purpose we only look at it after King Henry) Now, many people did not want to be forced into any such religion. So, even though many protestant religions did not recognize the Pope anyway, they still joined with the Catholics in their flee to the New World to escape being "drafted" into this Church of England by the King. They came to America to worship in their own faith without fear of retribution.
Roger Williams, who fled religious persecution in England and, in 1644, founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious minorities, said it was Gods command that "a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or Antichristian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all Nations and Countries." He said so stating that all men should be able to worship in their faith without being instructed in any one belief forcibly by the government.
So, when the Constitution was written, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion was included for this purpose. It was written to stop our new government from ever one day saying this or that is the "OFFICIAL" religion. Tons more have been read into that line than was originally intended.
What we have to do is look for the original intent of the document. Not what lawyers have twisted it to mean since 1884 when the first contest of it was heard in court.
or prohibiting the free speech thereof
Now how about this line? Most people quit quoting long before this line that also appears in the first amendment of the Constitution. Kind of selective isn't it? Congress can't pass any law prohibiting the free speech of religion, that's what it says. Yet in 1971 a court ruled that a school principle was not allowed to read a Bible verse before school each day, in public. How can this not contradict the second line of the first amendment?
So people tell me that, "Chip you are talking about apples and oranges." What the government can't act upon is the practice of one religion, speech is something else.
You know, this has always amazed me. Both sides of the issue scream separation of Church and State (which we have now learned is not in the constitution). Yet when one wants to best the other they run to a State or Federal Court for a ruling. That's trying to have it both ways on both sides.
Now, the state reacts to religious practices every day. In the 1800's Mormons believed in taking more than one wife. This was a common belief of their religion that they backed with select passages from the book of Mormon. The government had morality laws that forbade this practice for the general public. Although the government recognized the Mormon religion they ruled and instructed the Mormons that, although they recognized their religion, they had to abide by the laws set forth by the government. Thereby, one belief of this religion was ruled against the law. That is clearly a reaction of the government against a religious belief.
Does the government promote any specific religion? Do not all of our monies have "In God we trust" stamped on them? Does not our President lay his hand on a Bible to be sworn into office? Do you not take an oath to God before you testify in a State or Federal Court?
In 1785 James Madison wrote in his Memorial and Remonstrance that "religion is not helped by establishment, but is hurt by it." In 1791, when the Bill of Rights was adopted, it reflected this view. More than a century and a half later, in 1971, the Supreme Court decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman established a three-part test for determining whether a law or government policy has breached the wall between church and state. The Lemon test, still used by the courts today, asks: (1) whether the governments action has a religious purpose; (2) whether the primary effect of the governments action is to advance or endorse religion; and (3) whether the governments action fosters excessive government "entanglement" with religion. If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then the law or policy violates the Establishment Clause.
Are all religions protected by this clause? (Supreme Court)
Not according to our Supreme Court. The Freedom to believe is protected, but not the practice thereof.
Not all religious practice is protected, however, even though the freedom to believe is absolute. To determine whether a particular religious ritual is covered by the Free Exercise Clause, the Supreme Court developed a test: A person or group must show (1) that the ritual is motivated by "sincere religious belief," and (2) that the state has imposed a "substantial burden" on the practice. If these two criteria are met, the government must accommodate the religious practice unless the government can show that it has a "compelling interest" in restricting the practice, and that its restriction is the most lenient way possible of serving that interest.
Now I find it interesting that a government that does not have any predisposition of any religious beliefs (as is held by the Supreme Court) has an image of Moses and the Ten Commandments on the facade of the Federal Supreme Court building.
So we all want to blame Ms. Ohare for getting prayer tossed from school. She may have played quite a roll in making it an issue on the front burner, but she wasn't the first. She made a name for herself because she got media attention and was the most radical. However, I will point out that the 1948 case of Illinois VS Board of Education was the first ruling of "No church services in school."
No, the controversy over officially sponsored prayer in public schools didn't begin in 1962. It began in the 1830s, when Italian and Irish Catholic immigrants came to this country and objected to forced readings of the King James Bible and the recitation of Protestant prayers in most public schools. Riots erupted, the expulsion of Catholic children from public schools, the burning of convents, and even some deaths. THIS WAS 1830! Long before the Ohare lady got on her soapbox.
In the 1940's a growing religious diversity once again sparked the fires of controversy related to this topic.
From this controversy arose Engel v. Vitale, a 1962 case in which the Supreme Court ruled against officially sponsored and organized school prayer. Wrote Justice Hugo L. Black for the court, "We think that by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents' prayer (a prayer created by the government), the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause." In 1963, in School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, the Court held that Bible readings in public schools also violate the First Amendment.
In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that Jehovahs Witness children could not be forced to salute the flag in public schools in West Virginia v. Barnette. In 1963, the Court held that a Seventh Day Adventist could not be denied unemployment insurance because she refused to work on Saturdays in Sherbert v. Verner. And in 1972, the Court overturned the conviction of an Amish parent who refused to send his children to school beyond eighth grade in Wisconsin v. Yoder.
How about nondenominational prayer?
Can there be any such thing? In my opinion, religion teaches us three things: 1)The meaning of life, 2)What happens after death, 3)The difference between right and wrong. These are the three things that must be taught in nondenominational services, without the use of named characters or stories.
Here in Union County we don't have the diverse number of religions found in other areas. How can we have nondenominational prayer, when some believe in praying to Jesus, some to Mary etc? Some believe in one God while others believe in numerous Gods or no single God. I do not believe that any form of nondenominational religious services could exist. Maybe it could exist in our moral values, but certainly no service could withstand the twisting of individual rights as they are interpreted in the laws that are written.
Should prayer be allowed in schools? What does the majority think?
Since the banning of organized prayer in public schools, the nation has been in steady moral decline. Divorce rates, teen pregnancy, violent crime, and drug use have all increased. Many school prayer supporters believe there is a direct correlation between the removal of prayer from public schools and the decline of morality. Religious conservatives are convinced that religious influence in the schools is necessary to teach students morals and values.
The majority rules?
We live in a democracy. Democracies are founded on the greater good of the body. That is majority rules. That's why we have elections. However, twisting and interpretation of the Bill of Rights is leading us toward a situation in which our own Supreme Court can rule that while the majority thinks this, another minority should have equal say. Therefore, based on opinions of our Supreme Court, our government if not happy with the opinion of the majority may overrule them in favor of a minority of voters. Public opinion has remained strongly opposed to the court rulings that barred classroom prayer and Bible readings in the 1960s. National polls repeatedly indicate that the majority of Americans favor organized prayer in public schools. School prayer advocates argue that to forbid the majority the right to pray because the minority objects is undemocratic. Supporters are generally committed to majority rule at a local level, and are favorable to laws that would allow local majorities to make decisions about religion in public forums.
What do I think?
I think I want my kids to pray. I think I want my kids to know God (As a Baptist I want my kid exposed to the life of Jesus Christ). If Mr. Beeler wants to have a crusade and my kid wants to get out of class to go I will support him. It does not matter to me whether he is going to hear about Jesus or if he's going to simply miss an algebra test. Kids miss school every year to go to Dollywood or to see some silly play. If my kid goes to a crusade and hears something, maybe one day in life when he's forced to make a hard decision he will remember something he heard Gary say, while he was kissing his girlfriend at this crusade. Possibly, this one sentence that he hears will make a difference in his life.
Now, my kid will know he can pray when he wants. My kid will know he can pray alone and to himself and God will hear him. My kid will know that God doesn't take a vote and that his individual prayer means as much to God as the prayers of 15 people assembled in Church on Sunday. My kid may utilize and attend organized religious events, but he will learn about God from me at home and from his pastor at Church.
So I think what we are asking ourselves is how do we reach the kids that may not be as fortunate as my own. I realize every child won't be afforded the opportunity my child will, to be exposed to this outside of an organized event.
YES, I want all kids exposed to religion! But who's religion? Yes we want prayer in school! But who do we want our kids to pray to? Most of our county is Baptist or Methodist. How would we feel if we sent our kid to school and they sponsored a religious event? Most of us would be happy and hope our kids learned something. But what if we found that this even was sponsored by a Muslim Church? What if our kids went to this service and was told that they needed to pray to Allah or Buddha? Would we be just as happy then?
Yes, I would like to see prayer in school. But I want to see the religion in school, I want to expose my child to, not anyone else's. That's not fair is it? So whose do we teach? Non denominational? Define that for me.
I don't have one! Wow, you read all of this and the idiot isn't going to give his solution to the problem? Nope, I don't want to be besieged by Methodists nor tossed out of my Baptist church. However, I will give my opinion on where we need to head.
I think as society goes we have things we would be better suited addressing than whether or not kids get to go to a crusade. Look at our message board! Not a single child has expressed a problem with praying in school. The kid's see it as a non issue. The kids that want to already are and as far as I know nobody makes fun of them.
Not a single kid has sent me an e-mail personally or posted to my boards that they are against this.
This is another issue much like Little league. If grownups would leave it alone these kids would work it out for themselves. They seem to have a better handle on it than we adults. If your kid gets out of school two hours to hear a nondenominational sermon why are you concerned? There are far worse things for your kid to get out of school for. If your religion does not believe in a God then your kid should be firmly grounded in your faith that he cannot be swayed by listening to this. Further that is what permission slips are for.
Oh, but the kid who doesn't have a permission slip doesn't get to go. The one's that don't get to go are made fun of. No they're not. Not one kid has expressed to me that they were made fun of. Oh they may get teased that they have to stay in class and do yucky textbook work. But folks this would be true if they were left behind by nonpermission to go to a ballgame. It has nothing to do with the event. Yes, kids can be cruel. But I have witnessed kids being better to handle controversial issues many more times than we adults. If you give kids a chance, they will behave. Stir the pot and don't be surprised if the kids don't imitate you as parents.
I thinks kids should continue to pray at their desks if they want. If kids want to have a pre-school prayer group, they should be allowed to. There is plenty of time before and after school for them to organize into their own groups unsolicited or unpromoted by the school system. If kids want to hear a crusade and permission slips are given by the parents I feel it should be allowed. But be prepared for religions other than Baptist and Methodist to ask for the same opportunity to reach these kids.
Whether you are Christian or not, here is a fact. The Bible is a historical document. Forget all the stories in it, that's not what I am talking about. No other reason has there been so many wars than that which are waged over the Bible. No other book has dictated Kingdoms and Democracy alike. No other book has had as much influence on our world or society as the Bible. For that reason, I project to you that regardless of our beliefs, the Bible is a very historical document. Therefore it is my opinion that the Bible has a place in schools in as much as it is any historical text, regardless of beliefs.
Here is something I want to leave you with. The way I interpret the laws
of Freedom of Speech is this.
This is just my opinion. However, it is clear that the courts will rule that the Ten Commandments can not hang in any public building. This is because it is included in a text used by a group as the basis for a religious belief. However, based on rulings in other areas of this law, if the Ten Commandments had not been included in the Bible, and had been written last week by a guy named Bob, he would be able to print it, place it on any bulletin board in a government funded building and the courts would rule that no official had the right to remove it as such would violate Bob's right to free speech. What's wrong with that?
Now, Give us your opinions:
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