Monday, August 2, 2021

Whose prayer in school?

 People are cluttering Facebook and Twitter with calls to put God, and specifically prayer, in the public schools. I'm old enough to remember compulsory prayer in school: It was Christian, and Protestant at that. 

If some way around 1962's Engel v. Vitale Supreme Court decision were found, I think the Constitution would still not allow one form of religious belief to be privileged. So how would you devout folks feel about Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or Native American prayers in the schools? Wiccan? Perhaps not so enthusiastic? 

The Founders knew what life was like in nations with official state religions, and they were determined that the United States would be a secular republic, with freedom to profess any form of religion, or none. True, the early Republic was culturally Christian, and mainly Protestant, but if you look out the window, you may notice that white Protestants have become a minority, and we usually frown on a minority that seeks to dictate to the majority. 

So if are concerned to spread Christian belief and practice, you might do well to emulate the earliest Christians, by the example of your lives rather than by attempts to hijack the state to impose your preferences. 

1 comment:

  1. A decade or so ago, when I was a regular reader of (and self-declared honorary British Consul to) an earlier incarnation of this blog, this subject came up and I remember asserting from my own experience that it is quite possible to live in a society with a state religion without suffering as a consequence.

    Indeed it was a society with a legally required religious ceremony at the start of each school day. The service was vaguely Anglican, and consisted of a prayer, a hymn, and an address by the headmaster warning of the latest sins among the school population, such as travelling on public transport without a school cap, or being found with hands in pockets. Catholics and Jews were much envied for being excused attendance at this service.

    That does not mean I recommend such a system to the United States. A secular republic is fine, and I agree with you that it is odd to try to reconcile a secular republic with enforced Christianity.