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Monday, October 12, 2009

On School Prayer

Recently a friend on Facebook sent me a message asking me to pray to have the Lord's Prayer allowed back in school again and it made me think about that very issue and I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject.

This is certainly a tough topic because it involves the much misunderstood and abused topic of "Separation of Church and State".
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."

There are obviously two parts. The first part prevents Congress (or the incorporated states) from establishing a "state" religion; the second part (largely forgotten about and wrongly superseded by misinterpretation of the first part these days), states that they cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion. Your religion, no matter what that may be. Public ridicule of other religions or complete rejection of all religion is NOT free exercise of religion, but it may be general freedom of speech if done properly and not in a belittling or provoking manner. People also do have the right to be wrong.

Though some would have you believe otherwise, the free exercise of YOUR religion on public property is not state sponsored establishment or endorsement of religion in any form and neither is a public display such as a nativity, a menorah, public prayer or any other such thing. In fact, the second part (no law...prohibiting the free exercise thereof) guarantees that RIGHT.

What it does do however, and is seemingly lost to us, is teach us two things. First to be tolerant of other people's faiths and second is to be strongly grounded in our own, whatever it may be. If a preacher or an atheist on every corner is such a threat to you as to cause you to question your own faith from block to block, then perhaps the problem isn't with them, but with yourself. If you're firmly grounded in your faith no amount of public preaching or displays will sway you from what you know in your heart to be true so all the public prayer and all the public displays of faith won't change what's in your heart. And so it should be. Isn't that one of the founding principles of Christianity?

Since the First Amendment prevents state endorsement of any one religion or force anyone into or out of any religion, it cannot force school children to pray. But more importantly it cannot restrain the free exercise of religion, even and ESPECIALLY on public property and that means they cannot stop a child from praying if they so choose!

While I do believe that the lack of religion and spirituality in our lives has caused immense moral decay in America, the lack of prayers in school wasn't the cause. The lack of prayer in school is merely a symptom of the lack of prayer in our lives, most importantly in our families.

I believe nobody should ever be forced to pray as prayer must come from the heart and a sincere desire to communicate in our relationship with God through prayer. You can't have a functional relationship with dysfunctional communication. I do agree that children should be taught to pray properly, but it should be by their parents who have a responsibility to train their children well the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Turning the tide of morality in America must begin at home and there will be no immediate results. You must have faith that by planting that seed now and teaching your children well and be being good examples of faith and morality, you are indeed supplying the future America with what is perhaps her most abundant resource; the faith in the American heart.

God's Blessings,


Vicky said...

Bob, I studied in a Catholic school all my life. That was a De La Salle Brother's School and the best one in town. Also one the top 5 in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was full of Protestants studying there because of the high academic standards. Once, the daughter of the Baptist leader came to my class, and her father requested her to be dispensed from Catholic celebrations. To what our director responded: "This is a Catholic School, every parent knows that prior to enroll its children here. Classes are never split for whatever reason. There are regular masses during school time and all students are required to atend. If that is not in conformity with your religion, you are free to take your daughter somewhere else." Of course he didn't.

Mike said...

The establishment clause of the first amendment is one of the most controversial parts of the bill of rights, along with the second amendment and the fictitious broad "right to privacy." Sometimes people overemphasize it or skew it in an awkward direction.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to share a friend's inspiring website. Lots of powerful prayers. And miracle Prayers

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

As long as there are tests, there will always be prayer at school. My noon class I teach always starts at 12:05 (I recite the Angelus in Latin and invite anyone to join in)

While it's not necessarily a right to be in error, rather I'd say you have license to error.

I am Catholic before anything else, and I'll pray, and pray always, I may get in trouble, but that I don't worry about :)

Who is the Catholic Conservative American?