Third Party & Independents Archives

Judge Powerless to Stop Prayer

This First Amendment case is a great example of how powerless the judiciary is to enforce its own rulings. When U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley told a high school graduating class that they couldn’t recite a simple prayer, the students responded in mass defiance to a standing ovation and support from the administration.

If only more graduation ceremonies were as exciting as this one (The Christian Post):

RUSSELL SPRINGS, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge on Friday blocked a southern Kentucky high school from including prayers in its graduation ceremony, prompting students to begin reciting the Lord's Prayer during the opening remarks.

About 200 students interrupted the principal's comments with the prayer, drawing thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Earlier in the day, a judge banned prayers from the ceremony in response to a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit sought a restraining order on behalf of an unidentified student at Russell County High School in Russell Springs, 90 miles south of Louisville.

Later in the ceremony, senior Megan Chapman told the crowd that God had guided her since childhood. She was interrupted repeatedly by cheering as she urged her classmates to trust in God as they go through life.

A sign across the street from the high school at a garden center declared "We believe in prayer" in response to the judge's ruling.

The student mentioned in the lawsuit had appealed to Principal Darren Gossage to drop the prayer from the ceremony, but the principal refused, ACLU attorney Lili Lutgens said.

Lutgens argued that any prayer would be unconstitutional because it would endorse a specific religion and religious views. U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley granted the temporary restraining order, prohibiting the school district from having even a student representative say a prayer during the ceremony.

Superintendent Scott Pierce said he was pleased with the students' response to the ruling.

"This was a good learning process for them as far as how to handle things that come along in life," Pierce said. "They exhibited what we've tried to accomplish in 12 years of education — they have the ability to make these compelling decisions on their own."

I am not the least bit sympathetic toward atheists who are so full of themselves that they would attempt to keep a harmless prayer out of a high school graduation ceremony. Lest it's been awhile since you last read your copy of the U.S. Constitution, the Establishment Clause plainly states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

The ACLU has for the last century depended on liberal judges to expand the First Amendment in such a way that "Congress" also means: neighborhood associations, courthouses, teachers, attorney generals - and now, high school students.

The argument that religious commencement speeches violate the Constitution is a silly one. For the three or so tedious hours family and friends come together to celebrate the graduation of the senior class, church and state remain in their respective corners. So now that we've got that out of the way, there's no rational reason to fiercely oppose such speeches in such a way that one would go to the lengths of filing a federal lawsuit.

And I know. Not everyone is Christian. Not everyone believes in God. But just because you don't believe in what's being espoused in a planned sermon, doesn't mean you have the right or authority to censor it. It's not as if you're compelled to submit yourself to a specific religion when it's the subject of an oration. Like the pointless valedictorian speeches with hackneyed directives to make "the most of yourself" and "the world a better place," the remedy for the person who doesn't want to hear anything about Jesus or the path to God is to simply block it out.

Yes, we must tolerate the minority, but we must also tolerate the majority (and in Kentucky where the crowd got so enthusiastic - it's a pretty big majority), and it's absurd that the interest group with the word "liberty" in its name finds more of it in a shield against religious exposure than the ability of free persons to practice it as they see fit.

Posted by Scottie at May 21, 2006 10:28 PM
Comments
Comment #150016

I think that inherent in the concept of freedom of religion is the idea of freedom from religion. There was nothing keeping the people who wanted to pray before this graduation from having a prayer circle in the parking lot before or after the ceremony. That they ‘courageously’ prayed without the proper authorities’ okay just means that one day, eventually, their rights will be run over when they’re in the prescence of a majority of non-Christians.

The proselytizing aspect of Christianity, the sharing of the Good News, has become, for the Evangelicals and the born-agains, not only a badge of religious faith, but of political rightness. It is this element that I find buried in this particular story of graduation prayer. This increasing willingness to throw the rights and sensibilities of religious minorities and non-believers out the window increases the likelihood of a political and social backlash.

I am somewhat sympathetic to the Christians’ views—there have been times when I’ve witnessed discrimination and belligerence towards Christian people. And everybody seems to remember what happened at Columbine, when one of the shooters asked a victim whether she believed in God.

The history of religious wars in Europe hung heavy on the minds of the Founders of this country in 1776. The concept of seperation of Church and State I’m sure was instilled to protect religious minorities from state-run religions. I wonder if they saw the danger of a religious cult taking over the government?

The social and political pendulum constantly is swinging. This may be a time when Christianity and the Christian Right are at their pentacle of political and social power. But persecution is also in Christian history, and a religious, fundamentalist conservatism that offers no room for freedom treads on thin ice.

There are over 360 Protestant denominations in the US, along with Catholics, Quakers, and others—in the Christian faith alone! There are increasing numbers of non-believers, Taoists, Zen Buddhists, Native American spiritualists, Hindus, Muslims and others. The graduating class in Kentucky could have easily have had a moment of silent meditiation or prayer—but they insisted on the Lord’s Prayer.

My father was a minister, so I am not devoid of the Christian point of view. But I have moved on to a spiritual way of life that isn’t Christian. Spirituality is a private thing ultimately, and I think that a proselytizing religion that constantly crosses the line of privacy and individual freedom of expression is devoid of real merit.

Posted by: Tim Crow at May 21, 2006 11:18 PM
Comment #150022

Speeches, orations…whatever. Speech is speech and prayer is something entirely different. A similar lack of clarity as seen in the immigration debate, trying to lump it all together.

Posted by: womanmarine at May 22, 2006 12:30 AM
Comment #150023

Scottie,
If the same event occurred in Utah, with a majority consisting of members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), does your reasoning still apply?

You write: “… The remedy for the person who doesn’t want to hear anything about Jesus or the path to God is to simply block it out.

Yes, we must tolerate the minority, but we must also tolerate the majority…”

Muslims form the majority in some school districts in the US. Would you approve if the majority of the student body spontaneously chanted “Allahu Ahkbar” during a ceremony?

In other words, are you standing for a principle with which we can all abide, or merely looking to impose your particular version of Christianity through government agency, as a matter of the right of the majority?

Remember, many LDS members consider themselves to be Christian, so if this imposition can only be certain versions of Christianity, which versions do you have in mind?

Posted by: phx8 at May 22, 2006 12:38 AM
Comment #150035

Scottie,

It sounds to me like everything was done properly and worked out in the end. You said that a student appealed to the principal to remove the prayer from the ceremony. That leads me to believe that it was the principal who inserted it into the ceremony in the first place. The court was correct to strike the school sanctioned prayer. The students were also well within their first amendment rights to free exercise of religion and speech by saying the prayer of their own free will, without the prompting of the principle. So what’s the problem?

Posted by: JayJay Snow at May 22, 2006 2:12 AM
Comment #150037

If the students who freely recited the prayer get charged with something, then you’ve got yourself a real story!

Posted by: JayJay Snow at May 22, 2006 2:27 AM
Comment #150042

Scottie:
Is the new consensus that Jesus wholeheartedly approved of his followers being self-righteously insufferable? That’s news to me.

Tim Crow, well said.

phx8, I’ve gotten the impression from the fundamentalist evangelicals I’ve met that they consider other religions, even the Christian ones, to be not much more than “cults”.

Posted by: Adrienne at May 22, 2006 3:04 AM
Comment #150052

I want to know what you can’t say that’s worth saying without mentioning Jesus. Anyone can say anything, including, “let’s take a moment to thank…” or “A moment of silence for”.

For that matter, you could mention Jesus. You could say “Jesus said…, etc.” You can do anything you want, except FORCE someone to pray??? Doesn’t say much about your sense of faith in my opinion. I would hope your religion could gain converts without coercion.

Again, you can say whatever you want during the graduation, and are free to hold prayer services afterwards, with whomever wants to, outside school. What are you complaining about??? Not being able to force people to pray to your God? You suck.

Posted by: Max at May 22, 2006 4:35 AM
Comment #150061
Lutgens argued that any prayer would be unconstitutional because it would endorse a specific religion and religious views. U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley granted the temporary restraining order, prohibiting the school district from having even a student representative say a prayer during the ceremony.

This is where I find fault with the judge’s thought process. Allowing a prayer and endorsing something are two very different things. If a school allows a homosexual group, or religious group or athletic group to use their facilities, this does not mean they support the beliefs of the group.

In my state, a valedictorian was denied the opportunity to discuss how her faith in God had helped her achieve her success. Had she wanted to praise her parents, her teachers, her moral convictions, her study habits etc, she’d have been okayed. But not her faith in God. She was not proselytizing, unless one considers the mention of something to be proselytizing. If for instance I find the Atkins diet successful in helping me lose weight, and I tell someone about it, that’s not proselytizing about the Atkins diet. Neither was this girl’s mention of her faith as a key ingredient in her success.

Speech is speech, whether it is hateful or loving, whether ignorant or wise, and whether religious or non-religious. Sometimes actions count as speech. In upstate NY, a community with a population of Onondaga Indians allowed the students to express themselves by wearing clothing of Indian heritage to their graduation. It took nothing away from the other students, but had great meaning for the Indian students. It was ALLOWING a manner of expression, as opposed to endorsing it for all.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 22, 2006 7:50 AM
Comment #150074

JayJay Snow, thanks for clarifying the issue here to those who seem confused. This issue is an “official prayer” as made a part of the school ceremony. There was no ruling about a spontaneous outburst of prayer and no court orders were thus broken. I hope the Principal and Superentendent had the integrity to point this out to the students, and not misrepresent the situation, as well as express some tolerance of the student who complained. Then I would see them in a better light as educators.

I am myself an atheist and sometimes in school I felt I was made to feel segregated when the public school engaged in religious activity. I never made a point of my beliefs, as I knew I would be the subject of ridicule. Sometimes people are completely unaware of their own bias and derision of beliefs different from their own. That is a characteristic of Christianity that I always saw as a bit hypocritical.

Posted by: gergle at May 22, 2006 8:50 AM
Comment #150084

As a believer in “freedom from religion”, I think the system worked the way it was supposed to. The school did not endorse a particular religion; the students and the audience did. It was probably a bit alienating for non-Christians in the audience, but their legal rights were not violated, IMHO.

The ACLU has for the last century depended on liberal judges to expand the First Amendment in such a way that “Congress” also means: neighborhood associations, courthouses, teachers, attorney generals - and now, high school students.

It is a little more complicated in that. It used to be taken as given that the Bill of Rights only applied to the federal government. Later the Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection of the law) was read to say that these protections applied to the individual states also. (Remember that there is nothing innappropriate about the amendments changing the meaning of other parts of the Constitution. That is what they are intended to do.)

If you really believe that the Bill of Rights only restricts the federal government, then that means that states can deny you a lawyer, search your house without a warrant, and, yes, take away your guns.

Posted by: Woody Mena at May 22, 2006 9:27 AM
Comment #150094

gergle:

As a Christian, I disagree with your belief in atheism. As an atheist, you disagree with my belief in Christianity. There needs not be derision, but I’d expect we both have reasons for our beliefs, and we therefore should think that our personal conclusion is the right one.

Since atheism believes there is no God, and Christianity believes there is a God, our beliefs are diametrically opposed. We cannot both be right.

I respect and uphold your ability to make your decision about what to believe in. Because I believe there is a God, I must consider your belief to be flawed. But there is no derision in that. Its as simple as if you tried to claim that 1+1=3. I’d say you were wrong.

Sometimes the fervency of belief in God comes across as derisive, and in some cases, people actually are derisive. I think it goes against a main tenet of Christianity, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. Loving someone can mean attempting to expose them to what you see as the truth, but this must be done in a loving and appropriate manner.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 22, 2006 9:51 AM
Comment #150102

Another thought on my previous comment: If you really want to say that the First Amendment only applies to the feds, then you are not only throwing out freedom of religion but freedom of speech and the press. For example, Vermont or some other left-leaning state could ban right-wing newspapers. I don’t think any of us want to see that.

Posted by: Woody Mena at May 22, 2006 10:17 AM
Comment #150107

Woody, that’s an excellent post. No doubt these kids can say a prayer if they want. No doubt the non-Christians felt uncomfortable. It really would have been more polite for them to have their prayer before the graduation ceremony.

Posted by: American Pundit at May 22, 2006 10:28 AM
Comment #150109

Does anyone remember section (was it 540)? This was a big issue when Bush first ran for president. It involved the government giving money to churches to run charity services. Many Christians said that Democrat opposition was “prejudice” against their religion. Nope. Not that. I just don’t want my tax money going to your churches. Also, I don’t want my government regulating my religion, as they inevitably would have to (no passing out Bibles, etc.). I agree with our founding fathers that these things work better seperate.

Similarly, I don’t want to pay to have my kids taught about religion at school. It opens a door. I’m sure you wouldn’t want your kids to sit in a classroom and learn how to be a Muslim, Buddhist, or Atheist. If a valedictorian wants to talk about her God during her commencement speech, that’s fine with me. Personally, I think it’s rude, but she should be able to do it. However, if she wants everyone to pray, that’s not cool.

You have the ability to pray almost anywhere, but you don’t have the right to ask my kid to pray to your God at a function I pay for. It steps over a line, and if you truly had respect for other people you would understand.

Since Republicans can only think in business terms, pretend the school is a business. Could you say to your boss - hey, I want to take 10 minutes out of everyone’s day to pray tomorrow? Wouldn’t your boss say, but if you do it, everyone will get to do it? This is my time, your religion is your personal business, no offense, do it on your own time? School is everyone’s time, so we agree to respectfully disagree about things like religion and keep them out of our schools.

I think Republicans who want my kid to sit through silent prayers and be taught about a God their family doesn’t believe in is incredibly rude, thoughtless, unfair, and fascist. If you want your kid to pray, go spend some alone time with him, instead of passing the buck and doing on my dime thank you.

Posted by: Max at May 22, 2006 10:44 AM
Comment #150112

Max:

If a valedictorian wants to talk about her God during her commencement speech, that’s fine with me. Personally, I think it’s rude, but she should be able to do it.

I really am trying to understand why it would be rude to talk about God in a commencement speech. If she feels God helped her in her life, why would it be rude for her to discuss that in her speech? Isn’t a speech supposed to be a culmination of ideas and thoughts of the speaker?
Max, I’m really struggling with the concept of this being rude, and I can’t see it. Can you help me see your viewpoint more clearly.

I knew someone once who gave a speech in front of a classroom. She talked about a father figure in her life who had made a big impact on her life after the death of her own father. “Big Ed” helped her when she was down, gave her courage to do things she was afraid of, taught her how to stand up for herself and how to appreciate others. She talked with “Big Ed” constantly through her tumultuous teenage years and his advice was instrumental in her level of success.

Only at the end of the speech did she say that “Big Ed” was her pet name for God.

My questions to you: Was her speech rude because it was about God? Would her speech have been rude if “Big Ed” were a neighbor or counselor?

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 22, 2006 10:52 AM
Comment #150119

What is this post even doing in the middle column?

Posted by: beijing rob at May 22, 2006 11:05 AM
Comment #150122

I think Scottie is advocating all Religions from Wiccan to Islam be required in School Prayer.

That’s it, isn’t Scottie? Equal treatment under Law.

Posted by: Aldous at May 22, 2006 11:10 AM
Comment #150128

JBOD,

Allowing a prayer and endorsing something are two very different things.

True. But we’re talking about a school organizing a prayer, which, IMHO, is more closely related to ‘endorsing’ than it is to ‘allowing’. The state should not be organizing religious services on the taxpayer dollar.

If, on the other hand, a student wants to include a prayer in their speech, they’re more than welcome to do so. If a member of the community who is invited to speak decides to say a prayer, and invites others to join him (as occurred at my high school), there’s no problem with that, either. But if the school is organizing and scheduling prayers during its events, it’s crossing the line of Separation.

Individuals must be allowed to freely practice their religion. The Government, however, should practice no religion.

phx8,

Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
Remember, many LDS members consider themselves to be Christian

As a Latter-Day Saint (aka Mormon) myself, I think I can safely say that most, if not all, LDS consider themselves to be Christian. And the full name of our church, for the record, is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For some reason, people have a tendency to leave those two important words out.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at May 22, 2006 11:31 AM
Comment #150131

Rob:

Thanks for pointing that out. I have no problem with a principal including a prayer in a graduation ceremony, but I can see where some might have a problem with it. And it opens a Pandora’s box of potential problems.

We are seeing, however, that even individuals are prohibited from mentioning God, and that is where my comments about the difference between ‘allowing’ and ‘endorsing’ are relevant.

Thanks for the clarification from the beginning article.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 22, 2006 11:35 AM
Comment #150144

Prayer at public ceremonies is a great way to

a) force those who don’t believe to participate in another’s religion,
b) submit to another’s pontifications on religion, or
c) be singled out as a non-believer.

No problem. But remember, Christians, your religion may not always be the majority. Are you OK with having to listen to Muslim pontifications should that religion gain in popularity? Are you OK with groups of students who want to talk about Wiccan beliefs? Or atheists or agnostics who want to discuss the rational of their philosophy(or even enough students to defy court orders).

All is happiness for Christians who insist on having their views shared publicly. They feel a great superiority and think most will back them, but there may come a day when they will have to submit to another’s viewpoint. Is that OK with you? You know, in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, etc. publicly declaring your religious views is accepted and encouraged. Are we going there?

Ever notice how people who want to discuss their religion with you, never want you to discuss yours with them! Perhaps we should have government Identification of one’s religion. I would request airline seating in a Religious Fundamentalist-free area. Kinda like a no-smoking area. Only smokers don’t bother me as much. They don’t assume that I’m an idiot.

LibRick

Posted by: LibRick at May 22, 2006 12:31 PM
Comment #150145

JBOD,

The way I see it, a student is allowed to mention any diety of their choice in their valedictorian speech in the contex that the valedictorian’s faith or belief helped them accomplish what they have done. What is over the line, in my opinion, is if this student makes any remark that is an attempt to convert the spectators to the said religion. For example saying things like “I follow religion X and you should too” is wrong as it is using public funds to further a private cause that is relgious in nature.

Posted by: Warren P at May 22, 2006 12:33 PM
Comment #150154

Warren:

I’d agree with you. Problem is that some valedictorians are prevented from doing as you say. That’s where I have the problem.

LibRick:

The comments you made in your post are sometimes true. But you make it seem as if its the norm. If you read my posts, you’d see that your comments don’t fit when put up against what I’ve written. I’ve got no problem discuss anyone’s religion with them—I find it instructive to learn about other people’s thoughts and ideas.

I have no problem with a student in a public forum explaining their ideas on religion, or saying what has helped them in their lives. I then can choose to agree or disagree with their sentiments. I know many Christians, but none who expect others to “submit” to their way of thinking. I know those who willingly share their faith with others, and I know those who too willingly share their faith with others, and I know those who show their faith by their actions.

You are painting with an awfully wide brush. Many Christians believe it is their duty to share their belief with others. I believe this, but I also believe that others can choose to not listen. I might open the door to a religious conversation, but I only step through the door if the other person is interested. I don’t find that my mentioning religion is “forcing” it on them, rather creating an opportunity for them if they choose to take it.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 22, 2006 12:57 PM
Comment #150155

Fellow graduates,

I am the top of my class, and, for me, personally, the way I did it was by not believing in God. I really feel it’s important to not get sidetracked by Jesus. In fact, I would like everyone to join me in a moment of silence to think about how religion isn’t really helpful and there are better things to spend time on, like homework. I consider my beliefs so important to my acheivements that I have dedicated this hour long commencement speech to the subject of there not being a God.

Joebagodonuts,

Are you getting how it’s kind of rude now that I’ve turned the table? If there was a kid like that I guess he could say whatever he wants, but I’d leave, think him rude, and resent that he turned my kids graduation into a sermon.

I get where you’re coming from, but I just don’t know how you let “just a little” religion into schools. You either accept whole hog that religion will be taught, which means teaching everything, or nothing.

This kid is completely free to hold a mass, or group prayer before or after the commencement anywhere besides the school. You don’t really want to ask someone to participate in something they don’t want to do you?

Posted by: Max at May 22, 2006 12:58 PM
Comment #150159

Max:

There is a big issue in what you wrote. What you wrote was not someone saying what has helped them. What you wrote was someone tearing down God and religion.

What you wrote would be akin to a valedictorian saying the following: I am a Christian and I repudiate Allah, Buddha and Vishnu, among others. They are not true Gods—only my God is the true God………

What would be acceptable would be for someone to stay positive and focus on what has helped them:

My Muslim faith has helped me be the person I am. It has focused my energies into improving myself as a person……. OR

My Christian faith is important to me. I believe God has a plan for me, and I trust Him to guide my decisions…..

You see the difference. Your valedictory statement was a negative, showing the badness of something. Mine were both positives, showing the goodness of something.

I’d agree that denigrating someone’s religious beliefs in that kind of forum would be rude. But to simply show how one’s own religion helped them wouldn’t be rude at all.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 22, 2006 1:10 PM
Comment #150161

ADMENDMRNT I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,………..
I fail to see where a school district is an extension of congress. For it to allow the students to pray isn’t establishing any religion.
The ACLU has argued that allowing student to pray is establishing religion. Actually, not allowing students to pray is is prohibiting the free practice of religion.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 22, 2006 1:14 PM
Comment #150167
Problem is that some valedictorians are prevented from doing as you say. That’s where I have the problem.

JBOD,

Who is preventing these valedictorians from mentioning their religion? The school or a court of law? The school cannot endorse a particular religion and therefore cannot endorse a student’s speech that includes such content. However, the student is guaranteed their right to free speech and may say anything they wish as an individual. If a court of law restricted an individual from their right to free speech, then that is clearly unconstitutional and sounds like a good case for the SCOTUS.

Posted by: JayJay Snow at May 22, 2006 1:21 PM
Comment #150173

Max

Fellow graduates,

I am the top of my class, and, for me, personally, the way I did it was by not believing in God. I really feel it’s important to not get sidetracked by Jesus. In fact, I would like everyone to join me in a moment of silence to think about how religion isn’t really helpful and there are better things to spend time on, like homework. I consider my beliefs so important to my acheivements that I have dedicated this hour long commencement speech to the subject of there not being a God.

If a student believed that and stated it even though I would and do disagree with it, it’s still their right to believe it and state it. It is also the right of someone who believes that God helped them get where they are to say so.
I personally give God credit for my success. If someone else doesn’t want to that’s their right. And both of us have the right to state our beliefs openly.
And those that disagree with the student has the right during the moment of silence to thank God for their success if they want to, just like the those that disagree with a student that give God credit have the right to think about how bad religion is during a moment of silence that student has.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 22, 2006 1:28 PM
Comment #150174
I fail to see where a school district is an extension of congress. For it to allow the students to pray isn’t establishing any religion.

Ron Brown,

Federal and state governments run the public schools. It is a governmental institution and therefore cannot endorse a particular religion. I do believe that you are correct that the schools are not able to restrict the free exercise of an individual’s religion under the constitution. I think there is a fine line between allowing an individual free exercise of their religious beliefs and a governmental agency endorsing or leading the students in a religious exercise.

Posted by: JayJay Snow at May 22, 2006 1:29 PM
Comment #150177

Max,

I agree that it’s rude, but I also think its perfectly within that student’s rights to say what he wants. Free Speech means the right to be rude.

I get where you’re coming from, but I just don’t know how you let “just a little” religion into schools. You either accept whole hog that religion will be taught, which means teaching everything, or nothing.

Allowing a student to include religious messages in a speech isn’t “teaching” religion. Schools don’t have to be religion-free, just religion-neutral. There’s a difference.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at May 22, 2006 1:37 PM
Comment #150194

JBOD,

We are seeing, however, that even individuals are prohibited from mentioning God, and that is where my comments about the difference between ‘allowing’ and ‘endorsing’ are relevant.

For the most part, individuals should be allowed to say whatever they want regarding religion. Where we have to be careful, however, is when individuals are acting as mouthpieces for the government — especially if they’re “on the clock” at the time. A teacher, for example, is limited in what he can say to students because of his role as a teacher.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at May 22, 2006 2:07 PM
Comment #150198

JayJay
Allowing students to pray isn’t endorsing any religion. Students are just as free not to pray.

For all yaall that don’t want Christians to pray to God in public.
Would you find it offencive if a Muslim prayed to Allah in public? Or if a Hindu prayed to their god in public? Or a Satanist?
If a school district allowed them to pray at a commencement ceremony, would you consider that endorsing a religion?

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 22, 2006 2:10 PM
Comment #150201

Ron Brown,

I have no problem with Christians, Muslims, or anyone else praying in public. In fact, I encourage it.

And I have no problem with a school district “allowing” a prayer at commencement. What I have a problem with is a school district “organizing” a prayer, because it puts the school in the position of having to choose which religion to endorse.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at May 22, 2006 2:22 PM
Comment #150202
If a school district allowed them to pray at a commencement ceremony, would you consider that endorsing a religion?

Yep. And all I was saying above is that I find it rude. Not that the student can’t do it. Prayer though has no place in public schools, sorry. I don’t pay taxes for my kid to learn your religion.

Posted by: Max at May 22, 2006 2:22 PM
Comment #150203

This is simple people. A judge can block “official” prayer if he wants, but if 200 students want to recite a prayer, what is anyone going to do to stop them? If you think that act is stupid, then freedom is the right to be stupid. I’m sure if there wasn’t a daily assault on Christians from the left, they would have met in the parking lot before the ceremony and prayed there. However, Christians now realize that they are under attack, and this in a non-violent way to fight back.

If I lived in Saudi Arabia, I would expect to hear Muslim prayers. It would not affect my Christian beliefs one bit. If you live in a country where 85-90% of the people identify themselves as Christians, don’t be surprised to hear Christian prayers. If your beliefs are so fragile that they cannot handle that, get some better beliefs.

Posted by: David C. at May 22, 2006 2:23 PM
Comment #150205

One more thing. The Constitution does not protect us FROM religion and doesn’t guarantee freedom OF religion. It states that the Federal Government shall not IMPOSE a religion on the people. Praying, even by officials of a school, to a God worshiped by 3 main religions and countless sects of those religions, is not IMPOSING an official religion on the people. The left knows this, but conveniently ignores this fact. They are really the ones who want to impose their religion, Socialism, on the country.

Posted by: David C. at May 22, 2006 2:29 PM
Comment #150208

David C.

This has nothing to do with having to “hear Christian prayers”. This has everything to do with Government endorsement of religion.

The students praying was not a violation of the Constitution. Although one could argue it was a rude interruption, it was protected by their freedom of speech.

The issue is whether or not a SCHOOL could ORGANIZE a prayer legally, and the answer was NO. And, as a Christian, I whole-heartedly agree with that answer.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at May 22, 2006 2:31 PM
Comment #150220
I am not the least bit sympathetic toward atheists who are so full of themselves that they would attempt to keep a harmless prayer out of a high school graduation

If you’re an atheist, there’s no such thing as a harmless prayer. Prayer, any prayer, is an expression of a particular religious viewpoint. Would you object if a student wanted to perform a Wiccan ceremony or Voodoo at a school graduation? Of course you would, even though they are equally protected, legitimate religious events like prayer.

Posted by: gary at May 22, 2006 2:51 PM
Comment #150224
If I lived in Saudi Arabia, I would expect to hear Muslim prayers. It would not affect my Christian beliefs one bit. If you live in a country where 85-90% of the people identify themselves as Christians, don’t be surprised to hear Christian prayers. If your beliefs are so fragile that they cannot handle that, get some better beliefs.

That’s your problem right on the head David: ‘better’ beliefs. The United States is founded on the principle that there’s no such thing as ‘better’ beliefs in this country and you are in no position to make a judgement that someone else’s beliefs are better or worse than yours. That is why we keep religion out of government. As for your comment about comparing the U.S. to Saudi Arabia — I’d have a lot more respect for that comparison you make if you actually lived in a country like Saudi Arabia. Your problem is that you have no respect for the views of and problems faced by religious minorities in the US.

Posted by: gary at May 22, 2006 3:09 PM
Comment #150228

JayJay

The school cannot endorse a particular religion and therefore cannot endorse a student’s speech that includes such content.

I agree that a school cannot endorse a particular religion. No one is asking the school to endorse the student’s speech. It can be as simple as the caveat seen on tv and radio—the views of the speaker do not necessarily represent the views of the school. Ta daaahhh…no endorsement.

Now, if the student is representing the official policy of the school, then the student must refrain. A valedictorian is not such a case.

I’ll look for some references for you. I found a similar situation in which people bought bricks to place in a walkway, and had them inscribed. A person who inscribed the brick with “Jesus” was not allowed to place the brick. I’d suggest this example demonstrates the need to understand the difference between “allowing” religion and “endorsing” religion.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 22, 2006 3:23 PM
Comment #150260

I’m not so fragile that it bothers me to hear one’s religious beliefs expressed in public. And I’m not here to burst anyone’s bubble or poke holes in what they hold dear.

Regardless of Fox New’s insistance that atheists and agnostics are trying to impose their lack of faith upon the rest of America, I just don’t see that happening. In fact, I have NEVER had my doorbell rung by an atheist or agnostic trying to convert me away from a belief in a higher power. I have had numerous Christians ring my doorbell, corner me at a supermarket, push pamphlets on me at the mall, or hold me hostage on an airline seat.

What Christians see as a service to the Lord to spread His message, I see as an intrusion into my privacy and just plain bad manners. What I hear when someone PUBLICLY espouses their religious views is:
a) someone so presumptious about the correctness of their beliefs that they ASSUME that I am ill-informed or misguided. How dare they? Do you not think that perhaps I spend MORE time thinking about moral and ethical issues than many Christians? I think I do. Not all do, but hey, they just insinuated that I am a moron or amoral.
b) someone who is so insecure about their beliefs that they must get confirmation from others that they are on the right track.

I won’t go into my beliefs here, but rest assured that I HAVE some. Selling me your beliefs in a public situation that I must or have a right to attend is just plain rude and wrong. The Caliphs and Pharisees that called for the death of Christ made sure that everyone knew they were religous. They wanted the front row in religious services. They were the FIRST to speak out in the name of religion. They were the first to condemn those that they deemed irreligious. So you can see why I am very leery of the religiously outspoken. They get no brownie points in my book.

WHY the need to proselytize? If someone’s first remark to me is that they are a Christian, I am very skeptical of that person. What are they trying to hide that they put that out front? Why not just ACT in good faith?

Posted by: LibRick at May 22, 2006 4:35 PM
Comment #150265
For all yaall that don’t want Christians to pray to God in public. Would you find it offencive if a Muslim prayed to Allah in public? Or if a Hindu prayed to their god in public? Or a Satanist? If a school district allowed them to pray at a commencement ceremony, would you consider that endorsing a religion?

Ron,

I don’t care, nor find it offensive, if anyone prays to God, Jehovah, the Sun, Allah, Buddha, Satan, or any other deity in public. That is our right as Americans, as protected under the first amendment. My beliefs as a Gnostic Christian are strong enough that, as an adult, I can decide for myself what I believe and what I reject. That is not the situation you are dealing with in a public school system. We need to delineate between adults and children. Impressionable children being led by an adult authority figure should not be subjected to the religious beliefs of that person outside the family structure. It is the responsibility of parents to see that their children’s religious needs are met, not the responsibility of the public school.

I am sure you would agree if an authority figure in the public school were teaching your child that there was no God and that the story of Jesus was a myth based on Pagan characters. The right-wing nutjobs go crazy over the teaching of evolution, which neither proves nor disproves the existence of a God or the story of Jesus.

The Constitution does not protect us FROM religion and doesn’t guarantee freedom OF religion.

David C.,

The constitution applies to the government. It certainly does protect us FROM religion and OF religion from the government. It also forbids the government from restricting religious speech (any speech) by individuals.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion (freedom FROM religion), or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (freedom OF religion); or abridging the freedom of speech(including religious speech), or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Posted by: JayJay Snow at May 22, 2006 4:41 PM
Comment #150267
If I lived in Saudi Arabia, I would expect to hear Muslim prayers.

So would I. I guess I like the American model of government more. Crazy me.

Posted by: Max at May 22, 2006 4:45 PM
Comment #150269
What Christians see as a service to the Lord to spread His message, I see as an intrusion into my privacy and just plain bad manners.

Dare I say it? AMEN! LibRick! I wish I’d written what you wrote.

I too find it offensive that someone thinks they might have a good reason to (and I once had a cross country flight) “hold me hostage on an airline seat” to listen to Christian prostylization. When this person asked me what my “faith” was I was so insulted, but considering I had to bear this person for 5 hours, I had hoped my stock answer (Unitarian) might silence him. But no, he proceeded to ask me if Unitarians “speak in tongues” or practice “faith healing” by “laying of hands.” Do these people just not get it that total strangers are NOT INTERESTED IN SOMEONE ELSE’S RELIGION??

Posted by: gary at May 22, 2006 4:49 PM
Comment #150272

Republicans are always saying that people out of work should “get a job”. If you don’t repect anyone else’s religion but your own, and want your kid to pray all day instead of learning, take your kid out of school. Get your own school. Host your own graduation party. Don’t invite the Jews. Have a blast, but I will not spend my tax money for you to pray. I don’t bring my work or insist I teach evolution in your church. Why not? That would be freedom of speech right?

Posted by: Max at May 22, 2006 4:53 PM
Comment #150275

Gary, from one UU to another! It’s a hell of lot easier to explain what you believe in if you have a rule book like fundamentalist do, eh?

Posted by: LibRick at May 22, 2006 4:53 PM
Comment #150276

Gary, from one UU to another! It’s a hell of lot easier to explain what you believe in if you have a rule book like fundamentalist do, eh?

Posted by: LibRick at May 22, 2006 4:53 PM
Comment #150279

Max
I don’t pay taxes for my kid to learn atheism. and that’s the only thing yaall seem to want the schools to endorse.
School officials are not endorsing any religion if a student prays to his/her god during commencement exercises. If the school said yall will be this or that religion then it’s endorsing a religion.
Let me go another step. Do you think a school or any school official, teacher, principle, or what not should endorse any political party or thought?

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 22, 2006 4:55 PM
Comment #150281
I don’t pay taxes for my kid to learn atheism. and that’s the only thing yaall seem to want the schools to endorse.

Ron, where SPECIFICALLY in anything we’ve talked about here (or something else, if you cannot find it here) did ANYONE refer to ANYTHING that is teaching atheism??

Posted by: gary at May 22, 2006 5:01 PM
Comment #150284

gary
As a Christian I’m always willing to share my beliefs with others. But I won’t hold you hostage while I do.
I won’t just up and ask anyone about their religious beliefs. But if it comes up in conversation then as long as your interested I’m willing to talk with you as long as you want.
The person your talking about was dead wrong in their actions.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 22, 2006 5:10 PM
Comment #150287

JayJay
But would you be as offended if the school let these other religins pray at commencement exercises as yaall are about them letting Christians diong it?

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 22, 2006 5:15 PM
Comment #150289

Ron,

If you believe the school is teaching your kid atheism take them out. I think they are teaching them “information”, but for some people basic facts, like that the earth is round, we live on a planet, the sun is the center of the solar system, etc. are just too radical for them. You’re free to not send your kid to public school or debunk the “myths” in the privacy of your own home.

Posted by: Max at May 22, 2006 5:16 PM
Comment #150291
from one UU to another! It’s a hell of lot easier to explain what you believe in if you have a rule book like fundamentalist do, eh?

technically, I’m not UU, but attend a lot of functions at one. My favorite joke is to pick up the little brochure they have that’s titled “What do Unitarians believe?” and joke that it’s blank on the inside :-)

Or better: the inside is a mirror!

Posted by: gary at May 22, 2006 5:20 PM
Comment #150293

Ron,

I appreciate your candor in pointing out the innapropriate actions of fellow Christians.

The “prostylatizing” faiths and denominations need to understand that it is offensive to many people for someone to even suggest that there might be a reason for them to change their religious beliefs.

Posted by: gary at May 22, 2006 5:26 PM
Comment #150308

Gary and LibRick, I am a Unitarian Univeralist as well; I guess that makes three of us!

Ron, No one here is saying that students should be prohibited from praying at school. What I think is that teachers should do what they are paid for, and that is educate their class on the topic of the day, and not pray or teach religion. As I said earlier, Valedictorians can say whatever they want as long as they do not say anything along the lines of, “I follow religion X and you should too”. I think the way my public school in Massachusetts handles religion should be the model for the country, religion has been mentioned in my classes on several occasions; mainly in history where relgion affected the decions of historical leaders (the Crusades, Islamic Empire of the Caliphs, both of the Great Awakenings in America etc…). The only time one of my teachers explained Christianity in class was when my Spanish teacher (who is from Pampaloma) talked about how Catholicism is a big part of Spanish Culture, saying things like how the festival of San Fermin is such a big deal in Pamplona that the entire city celebrates.

Posted by: Warren P at May 22, 2006 6:17 PM
Comment #150311

Ron,

Where did I say that I was offended by the students saying a prayer? I didn’t, and I’m not offended. In fact I said it was their right to do so. And, no I would be no more or less offended at other religions praying to thier God than Christians.

Sometimes people say things that other people will be offended at. Such is life, get over it and get on with it. I am personally offended by much of what the Republican’t party is spewing these days.

Posted by: JayJay Snow at May 22, 2006 6:24 PM
Comment #150323

I am personally offended by much of what the Republican’t party is spewing these days.

Posted by: JayJay Snow at May 22, 2006 06:24 PM

So am I.


Warren P
I agree, teachers need to be doing what they are paid to do. And that is to teach reading writing and arithmetic. Not environmentalism, feminism, gay life styles, or half the other garbage that the left wants taught.

I personally don’t want school teachers teaching my grand kids religion. Most of them don’t share the same beliefs that me and my kids do. The teaching of religious beliefs to kids is the job of the parents and the church.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 22, 2006 7:02 PM
Comment #150453

Ron, don’t forget that education today goes much beyond the three R’s. In mathematics we learn algebra, geometry, statistics and calculus, all of which are far beyond the arithemetic we learn in elementary school. There is also history and the sciences that are not part of the 3 R’s, but should also be taught.
I agree that those things should not come up readily, but there are certain exceptions; like the example I mentioned earlier about my Spanish teacher, there are exceptions to everything. For example, one cannot ignore the fact that homosexuals exist, and if that one child has two dads or two moms; then the teacher needs to explain to their students that they need to accept how reality is. Also, enviromental science is a part of biology and probably should be taught in how our biosphere operates. For example, in some ecosystems, there is a keystone species that the entire ecosystem relies on to exist. Some examples of this are the coral in coral reefs, species of pisaster in intertidal zones etc…

Posted by: Warren P at May 23, 2006 7:47 AM
Comment #150594

Thanks JayJay Snow,
So by your reckoning, the government cannot prevent a speaker at a graduation ceremony from uttering a prayer (freedom of speech). The mere spoken word is not the same as the government establishing a church, that would require a law. We have the freedom to practice our religion when and where we want. You have the freedom to be offended, and many in this country abuse that freedom. Freedom requires us to be a little bit tolerant. That is why after 9-11 there were no purges against Muslims. Had the terrorists done that to China, there would not be a Muslim alive and free in China today. That’s probably why they don’t screw with the Chinese. They are infidels too, you know.

So if you are at a gathering, and someone wants to say a prayer, just leave, or close your eyes and think about your favorite porn movie, or get elected President or Grand Poobah of that organization and change that policy. Just quit whining. The US government is not forcing anyone to join a particular religion. In the meantime, get away, go see the DaVinci Code, have some popcorn and relax.

Posted by: David C. at May 23, 2006 5:03 PM
Comment #150874

Historical fact: When the Constitution was written, the majority religion in the States was episcopalian (Anglican). It was the fundamentalist religions that pushed hard for separation of church and state as they feared the majority’s power. Now they are the oppressors.

Posted by: moksha at May 24, 2006 12:21 PM
Comment #151194

As long as there are test, there will be prayer in schools.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 25, 2006 11:14 AM
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