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Prayer in Schools

Carol Brooks

Also See Is School Prayer Actually Prohibited (below)

Prayer in schools prior to 1962 was utilized in school districts all over the U.S. in many varieties. Some teachers used extemporaneous prayers, simply expressing their thoughts and desires; others implemented structured prayers, such as the Lord's Prayer or the 23rd Psalm, or others approved by local school boards. New York students prayed each day:

    "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee and beg Thy blessing over us, our parents, our teachers, and our nation."

It was this simple prayer which came under fire and went to the Supreme Court for the landmark decision.

Much has been said both for and against prayer in schools. There is little doubt that neither the Lord Jesus Himself nor the founding fathers would have been in favour of ‘forced’ or ‘state sponsored’ prayer. The option to pray or not to pray is a matter of individual choice and has to come from the heart. It is a matter of some doubt whether the actual doing away of prayer in schools has directly contributed to the escalation of teen-age pregnancies and suicides and the downward spiral of the SAT scores.

The Pharisees thought they would be heard for their ‘much speaking’, and similarly it is questionable as to how much value there is in a ‘canned’ prayer even if recited by thousands of young people across the country. (Consider that most schools in India start their day with a very generic prayer, similar to the one that sparked the U.S. Supreme court’s decision on the Engels v. Vitale case in 1962).

What Really Caused The Downward Spiral?
In the words of Greg Koukl..

    Some have suggested that there is a causal relationship between taking prayer out of school and all the other bad things that happen in our society. I'm not sure that it's valid. The rooster crows and the sun comes up. Does that mean that the rooster causes the sun to come up? Because the sun comes up after the rooster crows, does it mean that if we killed the rooster we'll be perpetually in darkness? The point is that just because one thing happens after another doesn't mean that the second is caused by the first. [1]

However some indisputable statistics tell us that the downward slide in behavior started about the time of the court decision and was very evidently related. As we see it, the court ruling to remove prayer from the school system was nothing more than the ‘official’ stamp on the removal of God from a very crucial part of our society. It was simply one large step among many small ones, which has contributed to the moral & spiritual disintegration of the US. It was a flying leap across the narrow chasm separating a God fearing moral country and the chaotic ‘everything goes’ situation we find ourselves in today. The message the Supreme Court sent to the country that fateful day was that it was okay to ‘remove’ God from His rightful place. They were simply another, very effective, tool in Satan’s hand

Remove the fear of God from the human heart, whitewash the reality that, sooner or later, all of us will answer to a supremely moral Being, eliminate the concept that He demands adherence to His laws and it is but a short step to the deterioration of the cornerstone of society… The Family. With the fear of God done away with there is no longer any reason to treat the marriage vows as sacred, to bring up God-fearing children. From there it is an even shorter step to all the other sinister and evil circumstances we find ourselves in today…. Teen pregnancies, violent crime, suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse are the very logical fruits of a society that has forgotten that He is a God of wrath. See The Wrath of God

The elimination of the fear of God, symbolized by the Supreme courts actions in the matter of school prayer, led to a dramatic increase in crime, venereal disease, premarital sex, illiteracy, suicide, drug use, public corruption, and other social ills. See Should Christians Fear God?

    Putting Prayer Back In Schools?
    Putting prayer back into schools may do more harm than good... In the words of pastor Greg Koukl

      …. It may be that the thing that has caused our decline was not pulling prayer out of schools, but there is a third thing that caused both the decline and the pulling of prayer out of schools. The reason that's important is that if we try to fix the problem by putting prayer back into schools, and taking it out wasn't the thing that caused the problem, then we are kind of fixing the wrong part of a machine that's not working. But in the process of fixing we could do more damage, and this is a big concern that I have. You have to be careful of making decisions based on what appears to be a causal relationship if there isn't in fact a causal relationship. ...

       “now that it's gone you will not be able to get back in the schools what was lost because if we reintroduce prayer in schools in any sense it's going to be kind of a benign civil religious prayer that satisfies everyone and offends no one... I think it may end up doing more harm than good by teaching people that as long as you have a kind of a benign, broad-brushed reference to some kind of deity then you are doing okay, and the details don't really matter that much. That would be a terrible message to send to young people.” [1]

    End Notes

    [1] Gregory Koukl. School Prayer: The Wrong Hill to Die On.


    Is School Prayer Actually Prohibited?
    It is my understanding that this is not the case.

      “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." 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." (Richard Riley, Letter to school principals dated 1999-DEC-17, at: http://www.ed.gov/inits/religionandschools/secletter.html. Link is no longer active))

    Apparently 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 jewellery (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 (http://www.rutherford.org/) 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." B.A. Robinson (religioustolerance.org)


    Inplainsite.org Comment: I have been in this country for almost 20 years now and have never ceased to be dumbfounded at the number of Americans who will argue to the death that we must have ‘Separation Of Church And State’ because this phrase is part of the constitution.

    It Isn’t!

    And, if you don’t believe me, I suggest you get your self one of those little Pocket Constitution Booklets. You might be surprised.

    So, if it isn’t in the constitution, where did the phrase ‘Separation Of Church And State’ originate?

    It was taken from an exchange of letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became President.  The concern of the Danbury Baptists was that the government might someday attempt to regulate religious expression. But as it turned out, Thomas Jefferson had no intention of allowing the government to limit, restrict, regulate, or interfere with public religious practices. He believed, along with the other Founders, that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination-a fact he made clear in a letter to fellow-signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Rush.  In fact what is truly amazing is that Jefferson’s explanation of his phrase is diametrically opposed to the manner in which courts apply it today. “Separation of church and state” currently means almost exactly the opposite of what it originally meant. [For Details See Separation of Church and State]

    Besides which it is ludicrous that prayer has been taken out of schools when there are so many instances where religion and the existence of God are at least given a token tip of the hat by the government. For example:

      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."

    What a double standard.  And just for the record.. America can no more rely on “the protection of divine Providence" than pigs can fly.

    See When Nations Die   Too Late For America   Only a Miracle

    Our Country..Our Children