Prayer In School – Yours Or Mine?


So, this meme is making the rounds these days. It’s troubling in many ways and I am going to attempt to address them all in this post. First, I am assuming they are talking about the taxpayer funded, public school system here which is staffed by employees who work for the government. Therein lies the problem for me. I am, always have been and always will be an advocate for the separation of the powers of church and state. I believe history has shown again and again that it is disastrous to combine the powers of religion and government and therefore that religion should stick to the religion business and government should stick to the governing business. Now, if a Christian child wants to say a prayer or even join a group of friends in prayer before or after classes, sporting events, or even have after school bible study I see no problem whatsoever in that. They should be allowed to do so as long as they are not disrupting the course of study (reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, art, etc.) which is scheduled to be undertaken. That goes for children of any other religion who attend the public schools as far as I am concerned. But when the school itself puts up biblical verses or an official of the school leads prayer of a particular type to the exclusion of all other religions then the state has established a preference for one religious school of thought to the exclusion of all others and that is wrong in my opinion.

The public schools are funded, at least where I live, by property taxes raised by home and land owners throughout their region. Those taxes are raised whether you have children in the school system or not and I am okay with that because a well educated populace is beneficial to us all. But it is raised from you whether your family is Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Wiccan, Atheist, or any other religious tradition or non-religious one. To take money from me for the public schools and then have me send my children to said schools and be instructed that their religion isn’t “good enough” to be represented on the walls of the classroom, or their prayers aren’t supported by the state is a form of indoctrination. That is really what it comes down to. It is an attempt by the majority religion to take advantage of the position of power and authority in the institution set up to mold young minds and leverage that to force their religious beliefs on others. In your homes, not problem, in your churches, no problem, out in the streets, go for it, but in the schools? Hands off of my kids or make me exempt from paying taxes to support your school. It’s as simple as that. What you are advocating is a misuse of power and funds and it’s wrong.

Now, let’s address some of these other claims. The Pledge Of Allegiance. I love America. I love what America was founded to represent and stand for. I love the opportunities of freedom and to pursue life, liberty and happiness for all. That is the ideal I believe all Americans should strive for. But the thing about the pledge of allegiance that seems to get glossed over in most history classes is that the original did not contain that phrase “UNDER GOD” which I have seen emblazoned in big letters like that on bumper stickers, stenciled onto the back windows of pickup trucks and on signs in store fronts. Why do you suppose that is? Because from 1956 on the Pledge of Allegiance has been converted to a prayer to a monotheistic God with a capital G. All other gods, goddesses, etc. need not apply. This was done during the height of the McCarthy era in response to the rise of hysteria over “godless communisim”. But the original, as it was penned in August of 1892 by a social minister named Francis Bellamy looked like this:

Pledge Of Allegiance
Pledge Of Allegiance

Dominionists don’t like that version. They want all the kids saying the other version so they can make all of the other kids who do not subscribe to the view that there is only one supreme being feel left out and awkward during the saying of the pledge. Basic peer pressure.

Reading from the bible? Do we really need to go into this again? State employees? Why not the Torah? Why not the Vedas? Once again, only one religion represented and given superiority status by the state. Read the bible in Christian private schools, home and in church all you want. Heck, as I said earlier, let the Christian kids have bible study after school in the public schools even if it isn’t disrupting anything. But led by the school staff? What do you suppose the reason for wanting that is again? Yes, misuse of power and funds again. Indoctrination again. Not right, again.

The Ten Commandments?  As a historical reference maybe. Alongside similar documents such as Hammurabi’s Code, Brehon Laws, the Wiccan Rede maybe. But once again, cherry picking from one religious text in a school that is not supposed to prefer one religion over all others. Not acceptable in my opinion.

Now, let’s move up to the original claim about not remembering any school shootings when they were a kid. For me, the earliest school shooting I could remember was Kent State in 1970. But I went in search of other school shootings and found many of them dating as far back as 1764. Unfortunately that earliest one was one which Lenape American Indian’s perpetrated against colonists. I have long supported Native American’s causes and feel that what they have historically endured has been atrocious. So sharing that bit of history is troubling to me but in order to truly understand history we have to look at all of it, not just the parts we like. We can’t gloss over the ugly parts and act like they didn’t happen if we’re going to be honest with ourselves and our descendants and if we are going to work to build a better world going forward. So, we have to recognize that there were terrible things done by both the Natives and the Settlers. There were also good things done by both sides. Anyway, for a more complete list of school shootings throughout U.S. history, take a look at this:

America Is A Christian Nation? There are those who claim it’s okay to do these things because America is a Christian Nation and they are only trying to preserve that heritage. While, certainly it is true that the majority of (but not all) Americans have always subscribed to one denomination or another of Christian thought, this nation was not founded as a theocracy and should not become one. Back when the United States was founded there were still many first nation tribes living on the land and practicing their native religions. There were Jewish settlers, Deists and some even who did not subscribe to a religious belief at all. The Declaration of Independence does not refer to Jesus one time but does make three references to “GOD” and in it he is called Nature’s God which can be interpreted many different ways by many different religions. The United States Constitution does not make one single reference to any deity whatsoever. Indeed, Thomas Paine said “As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious protesters thereof, and I know of no other business government has to do therewith. ” ~~ Common Sense, 1776. Thomas Jefferson professed “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” ~~ Notes on the State of Virginia , 1781 – 1785 and “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion.” 1797, The Treaty of Tripoli, initiated by President Washington, signed by President John Adams, and approved by the Senate of the United States among other quotes by the founders of this nation. Majority Christian yes, but founded as a Christian Theocracy? I beg to differ.

Besides, ask yourself this. If your god needs government enforcement to back him up, what does that say about your faith in him?


Whose Prayer In Schools Is It Anyway?

Played With Real Nuclear Bombs! Prayer
Played With Real Nuclear Bombs!

My friend Toby S. Posted this as his status on the book of face yesterday and as one might imagine a great deal of commentary and debate soon ensued. But he brings up an excellent point which too many people, I think, miss. Is it a singular worldview arrogance that drives those who claim that prayer is not allowed in school (It is indeed allowed in most public schools actually.) or is it a drive for true religious coexistence?

So, when a person endorses or says they want prayer back in schools, or “god”, do they mean ALL concepts of prayer, ALL concepts of “god”? Or just one version? It is a mystery to me, how many people say things, but don’t truly know what they are really asking for. I think prayer is a fantastic idea! I also think that if that prayer is a rug facing East, or sitting Lotus style and chanting a mantra, or pacing off a sacred space to call god and goddess into, or simply laying prostrate at the feet of your interpretation of god should also be allowed. This advocating certain doctrines or ideology is two faced and should REALLY be examined when standing up for equality or trying to pressure legislation.

I’ve said it before and I won’t be silent about my stance on equality. What is good for one religion, lifestyle, political view, gender etc, is good for ALL of them.

Would it be right to take property tax money from a Wiccan household to pay for public schools but when their child goes to that public school, which their parents took a part in paying for, the child is then taught that their religion is wrong and only one god should be prayed to? That’s the million dollar question.