The Thinking Christian

Lately, when confronted with the opinions of my fellow Christians, I ask myself, "What were they thinking?" Truth is, I wonder if they've really thought through the opinions they put forth. In this blog I will attempt to provoke thought on some current issues. My thoughts might not mirror the popular view, but I hope they will help others consider the question, "What would Jesus think?"

Friday, August 26, 2005

Without a Prayer

I recently received an email imploring me to sign the attached petition for “President Bush to reinstate prayer in school.” I glanced at the list and there were my church friends, duly signed and numbered. I, however, couldn’t sign it.

You see, prayer in school is already protected by the US government. To quote from: http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html, “Section 9524 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ("ESEA") of 1965, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires the Secretary to issue guidance on constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools. In addition, Section 9524 requires that, as a condition of receiving ESEA funds, a local educational agency ("LEA") must certify in writing to its State educational agency ("SEA") that it has no policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer in public schools as set forth in this guidance.”

According to this guidance, the students are specifically allowed:

“Prayer During Noninstructional Time” This includes saying a blessing before meals, praying with fellow students, praying before a football game or concert, praying that a test will go well, etc.

“Organized Prayer Groups and Activities” This gives Christian students the right to form prayer groups, attend “See You at the Pole,” have Bible studies and Christian clubs.

“Accommodation of Prayer During Instructional Time” Under this heading, students may actually be excused from classes for a time of prayer if their religion obligates them to do so.

That is a lot of freedom. Granted, in their zeal to protect separation of church and state, school officials often make mistakes applying the law. That is when organizations like the Rutherford Institute (http://www.rutherford.org/) step in to remind the schools of the students’ rights.

If these laws are already in place to protect prayer in public school, what prayer does this petition want Mr. Bush to “reinstate?” It can only mean some kind of publicly mandated corporate prayer in classrooms and I’m not sure when in US history there has been such a thing. I went to school from 1962 to 1975 and never saw “corporate prayer in public school.” But if a thing once existed, do we really want it back? Let’s think about that.

If Mr. Bush were to “reinstate prayer in school,” my first question would be, “Whose prayer?” Certainly a Christian prayer, right? But even then, what branch? Catholic? Anglican? Mormon? Protestant? If Protestant, what branch? Baptists? Pentecostals? Lutherans? Clearly, even if such a prayer were kept within the bounds of Christianity, there is no standard to assure a single, acceptable Christian prayer.

Then there is that whole pesky separation of church and state thing. How would Muslims, Native Americans, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, etc. receive a publicly mandated corporate Christian prayer? I believe that separation of church and state is there to protect us and it should not be tampered with. Sure, things are great right now. There is a Christian president in the White House and the Christian Right has more power than ever before. If we tamper with the Constitution to suit our Christian agenda, it’s all for the best, right?

Probably not. If we weaken separation of church and state while Christians are in power, what happens ten years down the road when a Muslim becomes president and there is a Muslim majority in the US? Will the crack we put in the law open to allow publicly mandated Muslim prayer 3 times during the school day? It could happen. But not if we cling to the safety of separation of church and state and refuse to alter it even for what appears to be a good cause.

Christians expend much energy on non-issues like this. Before we send out a petition and before we sign one, we should research the issue. Is it a real issue of concern? In this case, a little research shows that there is protection for personal prayer in public schools and any public, corporate prayer would be against the Constitution and could lead us to a place where we would not want to be.

1 Comments:

Blogger Holmes said...

I agree here. Except that the day there is a Muslim majority in the US is the day we will cease to exist.

12:40 AM  

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