School-sanctioned prayer - Mothering Forums
Spirituality > School-sanctioned prayer
2xy's Avatar 2xy 10:51 PM 06-09-2011

Has anyone here ever fought this fight?

 

I'm of the opinion (and the law is on my side, Lee v. Weisman, 1992) that publicly funded schools should be neutral with regards to religion. My local community college does not agree with me. I will be meeting with some school officials next week to discuss this.

 

I would like to hear from those in religious minorities who have ever felt excluded during school ceremonies, events, etc. due to prayer. Even if you are not a religious minority, but are a Christian who doesn't believe in public prayer or something along those lines, I'd like to hear your thoughts and feelings on the matter. If you have ever worked for the government and have found yourself in similar circumstances, I'd like to hear about that, too.



34me's Avatar 34me 11:07 PM 06-09-2011
I work for a small city in the west. Every December during our "holiday luncheon" someone would get up and say a very (IMO) Christian prayer. Not only did it clash with the fact that I work for the government but it doesn't fall into my belief system. After 10 years there I finally called HR about 3 years ago. After I called it wasn't said but the employee that always had said it did comment on how he was no longer able to say it because HR yada yada yada.
2xy's Avatar 2xy 11:12 PM 06-09-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by 34me View Post
After I called it wasn't said but the employee that always had said it did comment on how he was no longer able to say it because HR yada yada yada.


What a douchenozzle.

 


SubliminalDarkness's Avatar SubliminalDarkness 12:14 AM 06-10-2011

I haven't dealt with it.... yet. But I would if I had to. I keep a close eye on things where we live(bible belt). I figure it's only a matter of time, but so far have been pleasantly surprised not to find it to be the case. 


Dacks's Avatar Dacks 12:20 AM 06-10-2011

I actually often spent 'band prayers' standing with the others in the circle, while most of my fellow nonbelievers were wandering around bored and left out. I felt I could filter the message, get what I needed out of it, and still feel like it meant something to me to be united with the band. I had felt uplifted, it was homecoming, the team was winning for once. While they bowed I stared reverently at the stars, soaking up the energy, the field show was going to be amazing, the drum major talked about unity and precision and teamwork. Then one a girl next to me snidely commented about the others standing outside, and it all came crashing down and I came verbally crashing down onto her. I tell you I snapped and for once said what I really wanted to say while angry. There was a lot of "don't you dare" and "you have no right" and "hypocrite" coming out of my mouth, and she just stood there with her useless mouth open. I was so livid that afterwards I was shaking, pacing the practice field, and everyone in the band was coming up to me to tell me how awesome I was for standing up. It was too late, the energy was gone, the field show was a wreck, and I felt ill from the stress of it all. 

 

I was in the military, and our mandatory location on Sunday mornings in basic training, was church. This was way before I discovered UU, and well after I reasoned myself into an atheist. I sat through the "you need to be spiritually strong, yadayada" speech at the initial briefing at the church building, and when everyone broke to go to their respective denominations, I sat in the back and waited for it to be over, mildly annoyed. The chaplain came to me and asked if I was lost, and I told him I was an atheist. I spent the next hour in his office being made to feel awful because of it, told I wasn't fulfilling god's plan for me, that I was denying the sacrifice Jesus made for me, crying from frustration at having to defend myself to someone who supposedly had my wellbeing in mind. It made me sick. From then on I spent Sundays in the dormitory, and since I and a few others stayed behind, we were made to do cleaning and guard duties. We were never allowed to relax on Sundays as the religious folks did, and when they got back they made a point of describing the little treats and how relaxing it was to just let go for a few hours. 

 

Every ceremonial event from high school band, high school graduation, basic training graduation, through leaving the military included a "non-denominational" prayer, and always a 'WE thank you Jesus...' (um? we who?) Thanks for making me feel like one of the team. The easiest way to find your allies in this situation is to look up while everyone else is looking down. 


2xy's Avatar 2xy 08:07 AM 06-10-2011

SD, the thing that surprises me so is that I do NOT live in the Bible Belt (I have in the past, for 8 years). I did not expect to encounter captive-audience-public-school-prayer here.

 

 


Dacks's Avatar Dacks 01:35 PM 06-10-2011

2xy, I was in the Air Force and went to basic in Fall 2001.

 

Wow, that Navy nurse sounds awful. I am disappointed, but not surprised, that she was allowed to run the department. 


2xy's Avatar 2xy 01:43 PM 06-10-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dacks View Post

2xy, I was in the Air Force and went to basic in Fall 2001.

 

Wow, that Navy nurse sounds awful. I am disappointed, but not surprised, that she was allowed to run the department. 



Holy smokes! Your experience sounded so antiquated, I'm surprised it was only ten years ago!

 

Yeah, I couldn't stand that nurse. She wasn't even a nice person. I wish I'd had a set of balls back then, but I was only 22 and didn't know how to handle her hocus-pocus, so I just griped to myself. It wasn't likely that anyone was going to stand with me on the issue.


Dacks's Avatar Dacks 06:56 PM 06-10-2011

It does sound like it belongs in the ancient past, doesn't it? I wouldn't be surprised, though, if it were still like this today.


LynnS6's Avatar LynnS6 12:39 PM 06-11-2011

I haven't fought this fight, but I've thought about fighting a similar fight in that my kids' public school does projects that look to me a lot like Christmas projects. I wouldn't mind that if they included other traditions, but they only do the secular US Christmas junk.

 

Here are my thoughts as a practicing Christian whose children go to a public school:

1. The constitution clearly protects separation of church and state. There is no state-sanctioned religion. This, I believe, is one of the great strengths of our country, and I'll go to great lengths to defend it. 

2. The school, as a governmental agency, is not to sanction any one religion or belief system. Since prayer is automatically to a 'higher power', school-sanctioned prayer automatically excludes atheists. The school need not deny the existence of religion. Indeed, I'd be thrilled if the school gave a balanced overview of all the world's religions and belief systems.

3. As a society, we have an obligation to protect minorities, especially minorities with whom we disagree. Freedom of speech doesn't just apply to people who say things I like. Religious minorities are the hardest to 'see' because no one can tell from the outside that you don't believe what everyone else does. Thus, schools should err on the side of caution when religion comes into play. They should avoid school-sanctioned prayer and even the appearance of school-sanctioned prayer.

4. As a society, we have an obligation to protect children. Children, unlike adults, are less able to stand up for their beliefs, especially if they're different from the 'norm'. It's very easy for children (even teens, or maybe especially teens) to be coerced into doing something they don't want to do so they won't stand out. The people in power in schools should not put children in a position where they're made to feel 'othered' and required to defend their beliefs, because they are going to be less able to stand up for their beliefs in the face of the power of the teachers/school structure. Thus, nothing in the structure of school or school activities should include prayer.

 

What this means for me is that schools should not have any adult-led prayer in schools ever. Student-led prayer can't be forbidden, but it certainly can be set up so that it's not focal. Band leaders, for example, should not lead prayer (even if they're students) because again the issue of power and coercion. If there is student-led prayer then there should be something equal for the other children to do for community building. Students of all beliefs should be made aware of the constitution and the case law surrounding this issue.

 

Finally, as a liberal Christian, I would say that I don't WANT someone else teaching my kids to pray. The beliefs of people who feel compelled to pray in public are usually considerably more conservative than what I believe. I don't want my kids to have their baggage. It's my job to teach my children our religion.


2xy's Avatar 2xy 01:20 PM 06-11-2011

Lynn, I agree with everything you said, with one minor clarification.

 

Students can be banned from leading prayers if the prayer is part of a school event organized by school officials. (I just spent the better part of two hours this morning reading two Supreme Court cases and taking notes for further use.)

 

What cannot be banned is students conducting private prayer on school property. Once it ceases to be private speech and becomes public speech, it is unconstitutional.


Dacks's Avatar Dacks 04:52 PM 06-11-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

Finally, as a liberal Christian, I would say that I don't WANT someone else teaching my kids to pray. The beliefs of people who feel compelled to pray in public are usually considerably more conservative than what I believe. I don't want my kids to have their baggage. It's my job to teach my children our religion.


Absolutely excellent point of view, and I wish all parents approached it as you do. joy.gif


Dacks's Avatar Dacks 05:04 PM 06-11-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by 2xy View Post

Lynn, I agree with everything you said, with one minor clarification.

 

Students can be banned from leading prayers if the prayer is part of a school event organized by school officials. (I just spent the better part of two hours this morning reading two Supreme Court cases and taking notes for further use.)

 

What cannot be banned is students conducting private prayer on school property. Once it ceases to be private speech and becomes public speech, it is unconstitutional.


 

It can really be treated like a grey area, even when it isn't. In my HS, the breakfast time in the cafeteria was pretty much taken over by the "voluntary student led prayer" group. Initially, it was perfectly within reason, religious students would gather in an area of the cafeteria, usually around a table, and someone within it would lead a prayer, they would all amen. I never knew what their prayers were about because it was pretty quiet and unobtrusive. Other students would generally quiet down out of respect, and then the bell would ring to bring us to our first class. Done and done.

 

But then someone with a strong evangelical type personality started leading up the group, and it became very difficult to even be in the cafeteria during this time. They would go around to tables and tell everyone it was "time to pray" and I even once had them take my hand and try to pull me over there. Extremely not ok. The guy would stand on top of a table and 'pray' loudly enough for all to hear. He would pray for the unbelievers to be guided to Him. He would pray for the souls of sinners who don't know Him. On and on. I would have to leave, and since I was on free school meals, 100%, this was my only chance to eat breakfast.

 

Eventually, the students were banned from holding student lead prayer inside the cafeteria. It caused an awful uproar that their right to pray was being suppressed, but they regathered around the flagpole outside and I am sure this is how it is still done today. 

 


2xy's Avatar 2xy 05:32 PM 06-11-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dacks View Post


But then someone with a strong evangelical type personality started leading up the group, and it became very difficult to even be in the cafeteria during this time. They would go around to tables and tell everyone it was "time to pray" and I even once had them take my hand and try to pull me over there. Extremely not ok. The guy would stand on top of a table and 'pray' loudly enough for all to hear. He would pray for the unbelievers to be guided to Him. He would pray for the souls of sinners who don't know Him. On and on. I would have to leave, and since I was on free school meals, 100%, this was my only chance to eat breakfast.


 


Crazy thing is, Jesus told his followers to pray in private.

 


LynnS6's Avatar LynnS6 08:27 PM 06-12-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by 2xy View Post

Lynn, I agree with everything you said, with one minor clarification.

 

Students can be banned from leading prayers if the prayer is part of a school event organized by school officials. (I just spent the better part of two hours this morning reading two Supreme Court cases and taking notes for further use.)

 

What cannot be banned is students conducting private prayer on school property. Once it ceases to be private speech and becomes public speech, it is unconstitutional.

 

Ah, yes, it makes perfect sense. I didn't know the case law. This is more or less what I meant by saying that it shouldn't be focal, and that it shouldn't be led by student leaders, I just didn't say it very well. If it's a school event, it has to be non-religious.


CariOfOz's Avatar CariOfOz 03:18 AM 07-10-2011

I have not fought the fight, but I am a non Christian who would be extremely unhappy if school sanctioned prayer was introduced in the US.  (I am a US citizen, but no longer live there so this is somewhat hypothetical I guess?)  Firstly, it is a parents job to teach their children about religion.. not the schools.  And my big complaint is that there are a LOT of non religious or non Christian students that should not have to feel awkward and uncomfortable during a prayer that is organized/endorsed by the second biggest authority figure in their lives, right behind their parents.. their school. 

 

Imagine how devalued a non Christian student would feel knowing the only religion their school endorses through action like prayer, is not theirs?  And even further, the religion the school does choose to endorse by allowing the prayer, is one that teaches that they are the only true belief system and all others are pretty much going to hell?


moonshoes's Avatar moonshoes 08:58 PM 07-11-2011

I am a tradtional Catholic mom, and no way do I want prayer or religious activities held at public school. First of all, I feel it is a violation of students' rights to be compelled to participate in it. Also, I feel that the supposed religious stuff like Santa Claus and the Easter bunny have nothing to do with Christianity, but at the same time the perception that it does is unfair to non-Christians. In fact, when I voiced my displeasure at the Easter Bunny themed activities in my son's class, the teacher was shocked because "it has nothing to do with religion." duh. Easter anyone???

 

If people want prayer and religion in school, they should send their kids to private school.


lilyka's Avatar lilyka 09:33 AM 07-15-2011

I am a Christian and do not want my kids school to even come close to religion.  It is not their job.  And they will probably just screw it up.  There are so many people with wonky doctrine and theology....Not to mention most of the crap they teach in school about religion and/or culture is wrong.  Just plain wrong.  I don't want them learning about other religions either.  Because it will probably be wrong.

 

I don't want my kids to pledge alegience to the flag either.  That kinda keeps me out.


moonshoes's Avatar moonshoes 04:57 PM 07-18-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by lilyka View Post

 

 

I don't want my kids to pledge alegience to the flag either.  That kinda keeps me out.



I don't say the pledge of allegience. When my kids were in public schools the past two years, I let it be their choice. We are taking them out of public school for next year so it won't be an issue.

 


EFmom's Avatar EFmom 06:05 PM 07-20-2011

We are atheists and find religion in school to be offensive and uncomfortable.  The school isn't terribly bad, but stuff does creep in here and there, mostly associate with holidays.

 

Where I think it's most obvious to me is for my dd who is in chorus.  Now, I understand that much great music has religious origins.  The classical stuff doesn't bother me, but the cheesy hymns, complete with lyrics praising Jesus does bother me.


philomom's Avatar philomom 08:03 PM 07-20-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by EFmom View Post

We are atheists and find religion in school to be offensive and uncomfortable.  The school isn't terribly bad, but stuff does creep in here and there, mostly associate with holidays.

 

Where I think it's most obvious to me is for my dd who is in chorus.  Now, I understand that much great music has religious origins.  The classical stuff doesn't bother me, but the cheesy hymns, complete with lyrics praising Jesus does bother me.


Yep, could have written that post.

Also, the santa thing bugs us a lot because they try to get away with that, too... saying its more secular than sacred but you know.. that holiday/holy day has a big Christ at the beginning of it.
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