Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Should We Have Prayer in Schools?

Reader's Advice: Drop 'The Christian Argument' About Public Education
By Lee Duigon
October 13, 2011
A reader has challenged me to drop “the Christian argument” against the public schools and find a more broad-based line of reasoning that “will prevail” in the debate.
Let me state her major points as clearly as I can. 1. “Those who oppose Christian ideas and views… control all of education.” 2. Most parents, including Christians, are convinced that receiving a public education is “the only way that their children can be successful.” 3. They represent “a huge segment of the population which prefers to keep religion and state totally separate.” 4. Because Christianity is divided into so many different sects, Christians can’t speak with a unified voice on any subject, including education. 5. Therefore, because “it’s a lose-lose situation,” the only thing for Christians to do is, first, “to convince many people that something is wrong,” and then to “work on a priority basis”—which I take to mean to try to reform or repair public education by addressing specific things that are wrong with it.
The reader is well informed on the history of public education. She understands how its founders and
theorists turned schoolmarms into “change agents” aimed at de-Christianizing America. She quotes the most insidious agent of them all, John Dewey, who envisioned schools as playing the decisive role in “devising the social order of the future” under the direction of “experts” like himself. And you can see what kind of new social order they’re devising for us. They have replaced “the three Rs” with the three S’es—Socialism, Sodomy, and unearned Self-Esteem.
The results are plainly visible: a homosexual teacher in a Texas high school putting up a poster of two men kissing and telling students “you’d better learn to accept it,” and a “gender coach” in a California classroom telling very young children “you can be a girl one day and a boy the next, depending on how you feel,” and college students defecating on police cars in New York City while demanding that business “create jobs” for them, but not dare to make a profit.
So, yeah—something’s wrong, all right. The teachers’ unions who dominate public education are maniacally anti-Christian, anti-family, and anti-capitalist. Don’t take my word for it. Visit their websites and read the speeches and the resolutions that come out of their national conventions.
The parents don’t want to know. Public school is what they’re used to, and they fear change. They think the public schools are “free”—ignoring the massive impact on their tax bills—and they don’t want to pay for private school or homeschooling. They anesthetize themselves with the mantra, “Our schools are different,” consigning all the problems they hear about to the next township, county, or state. And if all else fails, they fall back on the bromide that their Christian children will be “salt and light” in the public schools—just as the early Christians were salt and light to the lions in the Coliseum.
It would be easier to restore the Titanic than it would be to reform public education. There is no argument that would “prevail” on the teachers’ unions and get them to change their ways. “Well, dog my cats! Why didn’t you say so earlier? But now that you’ve made it so clear to us, we’ll just disband that Gay-Straight Alliance we set up in your child’s middle school…”
Dream on.
Christian children are entitled to a Christian education. How else is a Christian culture to survive? What good can come of teaching Christian children not to be Christians?
We make “the Christian argument” because it’s true: the only way it can’t be true is for God Himself not to be true. God commands us to speak truth, whether it prevails or not. This is the prophetic function of the Church, a duty that cannot be evaded. Are we to stop telling the truth because people don’t want to hear it?
It’s a question of obedience. God commands us to “train up a child in the way that he should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) He commands us to teach our children His Word. (Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:7) We are not to jettison God’s Word as long as our children can learn chemistry or calculus—and the public schools are doing a lousy job of teaching those specialized subjects, anyhow.
What would God have said to the early Church, if they’d sent their children to the pagan school in Ephesus and they came out worshiping the Greco-Roman gods and goddesses? What excuse would have gotten those parents off the hook? “True, Lord, our son now chants ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians,’ and worships idols. But look how good he is at long division!” Think that one would fly?
Technology has advanced to where homeschooling or church schooling in any subject is eminently practical. Homeschooled children routinely and dramatically outperform the public-schooled in every test devised by education analysts.
My reader remarks that public education has been enormously successful in its mission to change the culture. This is true—and all the more reason to take our Christian children out of there. We’ve had more than enough of the National Education Association’s brand of cultural change, thank you.
Would it not be very “changing” to the culture, to liberate, say, 20 million Christian children from the public school indoctrination factories? Certainly radical politics could kiss a big chunk of that teacher union funding goodbye.
If the best the public schools and colleges can do is to produce mobs of defecating imbeciles who are unable to understand the relationship between making profits and hiring new employees, then we’re surely better off without them.
Public education is mis-education, pure and simple.
And disobeying God is no way to ensure the future of our country.
"Americans are being denied the right to express their religious speech in the public square." Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition.
"Public schools can neither foster religion nor preclude it. Our public schools must treat religion with fairness and respect and vigorously protect religious expression as well as the freedom of conscience of all other students. In so doing our public schools reaffirm the First Amendment and enrich the lives of their students". Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley June 1998
"A Congress that allows God to be banned from our schools while our schools can teach about cults, Hitler and even devil worship is wrong, out of touch, and needs some common sense." Rep. James Traficant, (D-OH) 1999-APR-27.
"There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed." Supreme Court of Wisconsin, Weiss v. District Board, 1890-MAR-18.
"A union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion." Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, Engel v. Vitale, (1962)
"School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. " U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Santa Fe v. Doe, (2000).
Toronto District School Board defends hosting Muslim prayer sessions
Kate Hammer
Globe and Mail Update
Published Tuesday, Jul. 05, 2011’
The Toronto District School Board says it is meeting its obligation to accommodate students’ religious beliefs by allowing an imam to lead students in prayer on school property.
The board came under fire this week when a Hindu group that regularly criticizes Islam raised objections to Friday Muslim prayer sessions, which have been held inside a cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School in Flemingdon Park for about three years.
The Muslim Canadian Congress, an outspokenly liberal group, also raised concerns that the TDSB is putting the needs of Muslim students above their classmates.
“The reality of that is that the school board is being politically correct and naive,” said Salma Siddiqui, the group’s senior vice-president, told the Globe on Wednesday. “Honestly it does not work in the long run. How are they going to accommodate other religious minorities?”
Jim Spyropoulos, superintendent of inclusive schools for the board, said that parents and teachers at the school came up with an arrangement that would enable the more than 300 observant students at the school to attend prayer without leaving school property and missing class time.
A spokeswoman for the board said the prayers are entirely run and paid for by the Valley Park community.
“I think it’s important to note the prayer isn’t conducted under the auspices of the board,” he said. “The principal was creative enough to sit down with parents and come up with a solution that worked for everyone and there has not been a single complaint from within the community.”
Similar arrangements have been made for Muslim students at other schools throughout the board, he said.
But Ron Banerjee, director of Canadian Hindu Advocacy, said his group has received support both from Hindus and non-Hindus who say the TDSB is going too far.
Islamic groups are “imposing their view and trying to change the rules, regulations, norms and values to accommodate themselves, and in the long-term, to spread their ideology,” he said.
“….Pretty soon we’re going to have 50 different ethnicities and religions asking for different accommodations.”
The TDSB introduced a religious accommodation policy in 2000 in order to ensure it was in compliance with human rights legislation. It outlines ways to accommodate modesty requirements in gym class, and fasting and dietary requirements, among other things. It also includes limitations that state the board won’t compromise on certain issues, such as public safety or health, in making these accommodations, and that parents must make the request.
Prayer has a long history inside Canadian schools.
Since before Canada became a country, it was a common requirement for students to begin their day with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.
In 1982, when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into play, obligatory school prayers became a potential violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and religion.
Prayer in schools has remained controversial in the United States where some jurisdictions have attempted to reinstate religious observances in state-sponsored classrooms.
The accommodations for students at Valley Park Middle School are very different.
They amount to allowing prayer inside a school, but don’t go so far as the school-directed form of prayer that was outlawed in Canada nearly 30 years ago.
“In a school where there is such a high concentration of Muslim students, this was the best solution that avoided compromising instructional time,” said Mr. Spyropoulos.
When the court prohibited prayer
The day when this essay was originally written, 2002-JUN-25, has been declared a day of mourning by the Texas Justice Foundation. It is the 40th anniversary of the Engel v. Vitale decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared unconstitutional the inclusion of state-sponsored school prayer as a part of instruction in public schools.
Background information:
Public schools in the state of New York are under the supervision of a state government agency, the State Board of Regents. In the late 1950's, they published a "Statement on Moral and Spiritual Training in the Schools." One component of the statement was a prayer to be recited by public school students:
"Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country."
In the statement, they expressed the belief "that this Statement will be subscribed to by all men and women of good will, and we call upon all of them to aid in giving life to our program." That is an unusual statement. One would expect that most of the 88% of adult Americans who identified themselves as Christians at that time would subscribe to the Board of Regent's statement. Most followers of other theistic religions might also agree, because the prayer is not really a Christian prayer. The prayer implies only the existence of a single, monotheistic God who controls events in the universe and to whom one can pray, and receive benefits. Such a minimal prayer would offend few theists. But one would expect significant opposition from others. For example:
* Atheists have no awareness of the existence of God;
* Agnostics are undecided about the existence of God;
* Buddhists generally have no belief in a personal God;
* Humanists base their beliefs and practices on secular considerations;
* Jews, because of centuries of Christian persecution, tend to oppose government involvement in religion;
* Some theists who object in principle to state-sponsored prayers in public schools because of the degree of compulsion which is inevitably present; and
* Many religious liberals rigorously defend the principle of separation of church and state, and would oppose school prayer on principle.
The Board of Regents appears to have considered such individuals to not be "men and women of good will" -- a stance that many people would consider arrogant and narrow-minded.
The Board of Education of Union Free School District No. 9 of New Hyde Park, NY, instructed their school principal to have the Regent's prayer recited by the students "aloud by each class in the presence of a teacher at the beginning of each school day." 3 Shortly thereafter, the parents of ten pupils, who were enrolled in this school district, launched a lawsuit in New York State Court. They stated that this prayer conflicted with their beliefs, religions, or religious practices, and those of their children. Their case was based on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which requires that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." In rejecting their suit, the court said that the prayer was constitutional, as long as the school did not compel any student to join in the prayer over their parents' objection. The New York Court of Appeals sustained this ruling. The parents then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. At this level, the stakes were rather high:
* If the Supreme Court agreed with the parents, then state-mandated prayer in public schools would be unconstitutional everywhere in the U.S.
* If the Supreme Court ruled decisively against the parents, then it would be fruitless for anyone to initiate future lawsuits against this form of school prayer.
The Supreme Court ruling:
The case attracted enormous interest. Three briefs of amici curiae, (friend of the court) were filed by organizations urging that the Regents' prayer be declared unconstitutional. These were: the American Ethical Union, a group of organizations led by the American Jewish Committee, and a second group led by the Synagogue Council of America. Briefs in favor of upholding the constitutionality of the prayer were the Attorneys General of 22 states: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia.
The Board of Education argued that:
* The prayer was so generally worded that it was different from ordinary prayers; it was based on the country's "spiritual heritage."
* No student was compelled to recite the prayer. They could be excused from the classroom, or stay in class and remain silent. The Board adopted a regulation stating that: "Neither teachers nor any school authority shall comment on participation or nonparticipation...nor suggest or request that any posture or language be used or dress be worn or be not used or not worn."
The court upheld the claim of the parents. They ruled that the Regents' prayer was unconstitutional. Mr. Justice Black delivered the opinion of the court. He wrote:
* "...daily classroom invocation of God's blessings as prescribed in the Regents' prayer is a religious activity."
* Under the First Amendment, governments cannot "...compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government."
* Many of early colonists were motivated to leave England and seek religious freedom in America. A major cause of emigration in the 16th century was the British Government's involvement in the creation of the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer.
* At the time that the Constitution was written, many Americans became aware "of the dangers of a union of Church and State....They knew the anguish, hardship and bitter strife that could come when zealous religious groups struggled with one another to obtain the Government's stamp of approval... Our Founders were no more willing to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box than they were to let these vital matters of personal conscience depend upon the succession of monarchs. The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say -- that the people's religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office."
* "When the power, prestige and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain."
* The First Amendment rests on the "belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion."
* History shows that many people lose "their respect for any religion that had relied upon the support of government to spread its faith."
* "It is neither sacrilegious nor antireligious to say that each separate government in this country should stay out of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers and leave that purely religious function to the people themselves and to those the people choose to look to for religious guidance."
Dissent by Mr. Justice Stewart:
He was the lone vote against the decision of the court. He wrote:
"I cannot see how an 'official religion' is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation."
*"...we deal here not with the establishment of a state church, which would, of course, be constitutionally impermissible, but with whether school children who want to begin their day by joining in prayer must be prohibited from doing so."
* He described a number of instances where religion and the existence of God have been recognized by the government:
* Each day's session of the Supreme Court starts with the invocation: "God save the United States and this Honorable Court."
* The National Anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner" contains the words "Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation."
* The National Motto is "In God we Trust."
* The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag contains the words "one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
* The Declaration of Independence includes the phrase: "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."
* Each day's session of the Supreme Court starts with the invocation: "God save the United States and this Honorable Court."
* The National Anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner" contains the words "Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation."
* The National Motto is "In God we Trust."
* The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag contains the words "one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
* The Declaration of Independence includes the phrase: "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."
Reaction to the court decision:
Commentator Larry Paul writes that "according to religious enthusiasts, God was 'kicked' out of the public schools" by the Engel v. Vitale decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. He comments that "Of all the Court rulings of this century none has sparked more action in Congress than Engel."
Reaction was impressive. A few responses were:
* Privately funded billboards called for the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren.
* Billy Graham, Norman Vincent Peale, and Cardinal Spellman issued statements condemning the decision.
* Representative Rep. Frank Becker (NY) called the decision "The most tragic in the history of the United States."
* Senator Sam Ervin (NC) said: "I should like to ask whether we would be far wrong in saying that in this decision the Supreme Court has held that God is unconstitutional and for that reason the public school must be segregated against Him?"
* Hearings were held into school prayer by the House Judiciary Committee in 1964. They were published in three volumes, totaling 2,774 pages.
Is school prayer actually prohibited?
No. The Engel v. Vitale decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 prohibited only state-mandated prayer in public schools classrooms. As Richard Riley, the former Secretary of Education, stated: "...religious rights of students and their right to freedom of conscience do not stop at the schoolhouse door." 5 He was apparently quoting another landmark Supreme Court decision: Tinker v. Des Moines where the court ruled that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
Students in U.S. public schools are free to:
* Take Bibles or other religious texts with them on the school bus.
* Pray alone or in groups at the flagpole or elsewhere on school grounds.
* Pray in classrooms outside of regular teaching hours.
* Say grace and/or pray in a school cafeteria.
* Form a Bible study club or any other religious club, if even one student-led group is already allowed in the school. This is a guaranteed right under the federal Equal Access Act of 1984.
* Students can wear T-shirts with religious text. They can wear religious jewelry (buttons, symbols, crosses, stars of David, pentacles, etc).
* Students can hand out religious materials.
Although these rights are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, they are not necessarily granted by school officials automatically. Fortunately, a variety of legal organizations, such as the Rutherford Foundation 6 and American Civil Liberties Union 7 can intervene on behalf of students and explain the law to the school administration. These matters are usually cleared up very quickly, because of the wealth of case law supporting student rights. The Rutherford Foundation has stated: "Many cases can be solved with a strong and professional letter from an attorney, a legal memorandum from our office, or a phone call from a staff member."
Is the prohibition of state-sponsored prayer in schools good or bad?
No consensus exists. An advertisement for the Emmy Award winning film "School Prayer: A community at war" illustrates the division in the country over this matter: "A Mississippi mother of six sues her local school district to remove intercom prayer and Bible classes from the public schools. Christian community members rally against her to protect their time-honored tradition of religious practices in the schools. Both sides claim they are fighting for religious freedom."
Prayer is needed: Many conservative Christian and other groups feel that:
* School prayer had been a part of student life for centuries, until it was terminated by the Supreme Court. They want to restore this tradition and continue it into the future.
* The lack of school prayer has caused a general degeneration in the culture's morals and ethics. The downwards slide in behavior started about the time of the court decision, and may have been caused by it.
* Children need to have their faith reinforced throughout the day. Since they spend a great deal of their time at school, they need to pray there as well as at home.
Prayer is dangerous: A variety of civil liberties and liberal religious groups oppose prayer:
* State-sponsored prayer inevitably marginalizes religious minorities. It implies that one type of religious belief is state supported, and that all other religions are invalid. Students are called devil worshipers, atheists, etc.
* The potential for harassment of religious minorities and thus for school violence increases.
* Students have the right to be free of the coercion of state-sponsored and captive-audience prayer.
Also See:
Education Ain't What It Should Be (Part 2)
12 June 2011
Don't Blame the Teachers! Blame the Parents!
18 March 2011
Agenda 21! The Death Knell of Liberty!
02 March 2011
Parents! What do You Know about Whole Child Education?
13 August 2010
Sex Education in Ontario Elementary Schools is Going Too Far!!
24 June 2010
Teaching Propaganda or American History?
25 April 2010
What Happened to Education?
30 August 2009
Homeschooling - What About It?
18 June 2009
Education Ain't What It Should Be (Part 1)
21 April 2008