Apologetics, Biblical Doctrines, Christian Living, Church, Culture & Society, Politics, Theology

Prayer in Public Schools – The Debate Continues

“I exhort therefore, that, first [most importantly] of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville

The apostle Paul was a great believer of prayer. Prayer was part of his Jewish culture. Rabbis taught their students to pray, as John taught His disciples, and Jesus taught the Twelve. Paul carries on the rich tradition of teaching others to pray.

By giving his exhortation, Paul placed himself, and all Christians throughout the ages, in opposition to a secular society that does not value prayer.

If you have been watching the news, you know there is great hostility by many people to prayer.

Hostility to religion in general is expected by Socialist, Communist, and Liberal political parties which sympathize with godless ideologies.

In his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1843-1844), Karl Marx (May 5, 1818 – March 14, 1883) wrote,

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.”

The abolition of religion in America has been the political objective of Human Secularist for a long time.

In 1962, Engel v. Vitale, the United States Supreme Court examined a simple twenty-two-word prayer which had been drafted by the New York State Board of Regents.

This prayer is not found in the Bible, and it was not drafted by a religious institution, and so does not violate the establishment clause.

Nevertheless, this prayer was used to remove prayer in schools.

“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.”

This simple prayer honored God, and asked for His blessing.

However, without much protest, Americans’ allowed the removal of prayer from our public schools, and took a downward step toward complete destruction of America’s original Judeo-Christian educational system. This value-free environment has resulted in political, moral, spiritual, and personal chaos.

Since 1962, other laws have been passed restricting, or prohibiting prayer, especially in public.

On June 19, 2000 the Court ruled 6-3, in the case of Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, that pre-kickoff prayers at high school football games violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, typically known as requiring the “separation of church and state”.

The decision may bring an end to the delivery of religious invocations at graduations, and other ceremonies. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the debate continues.

To help crystalize the debate All About GOD Ministries, Inc, PO Box 63 Belen, NM 87002-0063

(719) 884-2246, has done a wonderful job of setting forth the arguments on both sides of the issue. They are presented here for your thoughtful consideration.

Arguments Against School Prayer

School prayer is unconstitutional. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment provides that government shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. Because public schools are government funded, prayer led by school officials or incorporated into the school routine amounts to government-established religion.

School prayer violates the “separation of church and state.” Although this phrase is not found in the U.S. Constitution, it is an accepted principle of American law, providing that the government cannot interfere in the practices of the church, nor advance or advocate religious observances in government settings.

Public schools are intended for education, not religious observance or proselytization.

Prayer is school is already legal. Students are already allowed to pray on a voluntary basis (in a non-disruptive way) so formal school prayer is unnecessary.

School prayer may lead to intolerance. Public prayer will highlight religious differences of which students may have been unaware. Those students who abstain from school prayer, or protest against it may be ostracized.

School prayer is inherently coercive, and cannot be implemented in a way that is truly voluntary. What young child could regard prayer as voluntary where it is led by his teacher, incorporated into the school routine and engaged in by the majority of his peers?

The public-school system is created for all students, and supported by all taxpayers. It should therefore remain neutral on religious issues over which students and taxpayers will differ.

Since no formal school prayer could simultaneously honor and uphold the tenets of the many religions practiced in the U.S., as well as various denominational differences, prayer is better left in the home and religious institution of the individual student’s choice. A related argument is that school prayer usurps the role of parents and religious institutions who desire to provide religious instruction in keeping with their own beliefs.

Arguments for Prayer in School

Prayer in school is constitutional, and supports the principle of freedom of religion on which the U.S. was founded:

In banning school prayer, the U.S. Supreme Court has misinterpreted the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. A simple and voluntary school prayer does not amount to the government establishing a religion, any more than do other practices common in the U.S. such as the employment of Congressional chaplains, government recognition of holidays with religious significance such as Christmas, or the proclamation of National Days of Prayer.

In banning school prayer, the U.S. Supreme Court has mistaken the principle of “freedom of religion,” guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, for freedom from religion and any observance of it.

School prayer would allow religious students the freedom to observe their religious beliefs during the school day. The U.S. Supreme Court has urged school cooperation with religious authorities for “it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs.”

Prayer in school acknowledges our religious heritage.

Our country was founded by people who believed in freedom to practice one’s religion openly and who used their religious beliefs to create the backbone of this nation. Our children should be able to participate openly in this great heritage, seeking help, strength, and endurance from God as did their forefathers.

Our system of education also has a rich spiritual heritage. Of the first 108 universities founded in America, 106 were distinctly Christian, including the first, Harvard University, chartered in 1636. In the original Harvard Student Handbook, rule number 1 was that students seeking entrance must know Latin and Greek so that they could study the Scriptures: “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, (John 17:3); and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”

Prayer in school offers many societal benefits.

School prayer would instill moral values. Schools must do more than train children’s minds academically. They must also nurture their souls and reinforce the values taught at home and in the community. Founding father Samuel Adams said, “Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity. . .and leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.”

The public-school system is tragically disintegrating as evidenced by the rise in school shootings, increasing drug use, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, and HIV transmission. School prayer can help combat these issues and is desperately needed to protect our children.

School prayer could lead to increased tolerance and less bullying in school since it can instill a sense of right and wrong and a love for others above oneself.

School prayer will promote good citizenship. Founding father John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The founding fathers believed this should be taught in school. George Washington stated, “What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.”

School prayer may cause students to acknowledge a power greater than themselves on which they can rely for comfort and help in times of trouble. This will lead to decreased reliance on drugs, alcohol, sex, and dangerous amusements as well as decreased suicides.

Conclusion

Secular Humanist will not find the arguments for prayer in public schools persuasive. Christians will not find the arguments reasonable against prayer and the promotion of a value-free educational system. Therefore, when Christians obey the Royal Command to pray, they will continue to find themselves in conflict with a secular society that despises God, and wants to silence those who pray.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s