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Monday, July 28, 2014

The School Prayer Myth

Posted Saturday, October 3, 2009, at 3:35 PM

There has been a myth running around the nation for quite some time that prayer is not allowed, even illegal, in public schools. Anyone that spent any amount of time (be it as a teacher, student, parent, substitute, staff, etc.)in a public school, knows this not to be completely true.

While school led prayers have been curtailed, most other types of prayer in the school have not. There is a real simple reason why schools are not allowed to lead prayers anymore, the First Amendment. Public schools are partly funded by the federal government, and since the First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...", Christian prayers can not be led by school officials, but also schools cannot restrict religious prayers (whether its Christianity, Islam, Jewish, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc) performed by students. If a school or a teacher were to lead students in a Christian prayer they would be in violation of the Constitution by establishing one religion over others and prohibiting other students that are not Christian from practicing their religion.

You may ask, "What have the schools done about this? Schools now allow so-called "Prayer around the pole" before school time starts (it typically happens one to two times a month) and all are welcome to come stand around the pole and pray. Most schools also have a moment of silence at the beginning of the day after the pledge and if a student chooses that time to pray, they are not restricted from doing so.

How the myth actually started is a mystery, how it has endured, isn't so much of a mystery. The thing about myths is that once they are started and spread it is very difficult to diffuse that myth even with all the facts on the opposite side of the myth. More than likely the myth was started by an individual or group that was politically motivated and had no clue what actually was going on in a school from day to day.

It has been my experience that those that talk the most about what's wrong or missing in the public schools (but rarely offer any advice or suggestions about fixing the issues) are the ones who spend little (or no) time in a public school. So in reality the myth is actually propagated on a lie at the worst, a misunderstanding at the least, but in the end it is not based on truth.

How can I speak from experience? I am a teacher. I have spent three years teaching and before that three years training in (and about) the public schools. I know what the rules are on prayer. Both my parents teach in public institutions. I have, however spent most of my time in my mother's classrooms, first as an aid, then as a substitute. I have been around public education almost my entire life. There is prayer everyday at school, both by teachers and students (especially on test day). God has NOT been "outlawed" in public schools. There are actually many organizations (clubs, groups) dedicated to Christianity in public schools (and these groups do meet during school hours, not before or after).

There is also the myth of liberal indoctrination in public schools. It just doesn't happen. There may be pockets in the United States where liberal teachers are in the majority (mostly on the coasts) but GOOD teachers don't teach their values (don't even bring them up). The reality is, most public school teachers are moderate to slightly conservative. But even that stat changes when you look at individual departments within a school. At the school I taught last year I was one of only two liberals in the Social Sciences Department (usually the "hotbed" of liberalism at schools), there were three conservative teachers and the rest (six in total) were moderates.

In the end, however, when it comes to politics and religion, all teachers are "indoctrinated" (to use that ugly word) not to even mention either to students. The reasons are obvious. The most importsnt is that we, as teachers, are there to teach students whatever subject they are learning, we are not there to try to convince them that their beliefs are wrong. This does, however, happen from time to time. But it isn't nearly as rampant as certain organizations would have you believe.

Both sides of this issue have very compassionate people. My opinion on this issue as it goes for the adults is that adults can barely (or sometimes not at all) maintain basic civility and discourse when it comes to the debate over prayer in the school, then a teacher trying to preach his/her beliefs to students would be absolutely horrible

Final Thought:

When it comes to public education, personal politics and religious beliefs are best kept private.


Comments
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Iggy,

Absolutely.

jhat,

Yes, you are a cute little agnostic.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Thu, Oct 8, 2009, at 3:43 PM

CPB,

No, I currently do not. But I did when I was a Christian, and that's how I know the verse.

I shared it because I thought it was prescient. The discussion was about children praying at school, which is a very public place. I respect the 1st amendment, which is why I believe that children should be allowed to pray in school. But I just wanted to point out that Jesus had some very specific recommendations about praying in public places

-- Posted by jhat on Thu, Oct 8, 2009, at 8:36 AM

Yes jhat, we totally honor Matthew 6:5-6. Do you?

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Wed, Oct 7, 2009, at 9:50 PM

talk about not staying on topic there wallis

-- Posted by S&DC on Wed, Oct 7, 2009, at 9:25 AM

Chunky,

Good for you. Your children should be able to pray wherever they want (assuming they aren't doing it disruptively. Like out loud during class). Freedom of religion and expression are protected by the first amendment.

But I'd also remind you of how Jesus taught his followers to pray in Matthew 6:5-6

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men...

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret."

(also, I highly doubt that you could convert "even the most ardent" atheist. And that statement seems to be a bit baited.)

-- Posted by jhat on Wed, Oct 7, 2009, at 9:21 AM

Yeah, I didn't really see Wallismarsh's point either. Was it arguing that men are important in their children's lives? I don't disagree. But I don't think anyone claimed differently in the comments here. Unless I missed something.

-- Posted by jhat on Wed, Oct 7, 2009, at 9:16 AM

If you missed my point I need not explain. We are so different I should move on.

Good Luck.

-- Posted by wallismarsh on Tue, Oct 6, 2009, at 6:07 PM

My kids know full well they themselves can pray whenever and where ever they want. If they are ever told they can't, then I am to know about it. I can convert even the most ardent atheist.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Tue, Oct 6, 2009, at 3:12 PM

I don't disagree with you wallismarsh. A father is a very important aspect to a child's life. But what is your point? I guess I missed it.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Tue, Oct 6, 2009, at 3:11 PM

Justin76,

If the situation with your son is truly as you described, and he is not allowed to talk about God in school, I'd reiterate what Mike said and suggest that you contact the ACLU. Despite the bad rep they get from the political right, they have a great track record of protecting first amendment rights. Hopefully, if the nearest office isn't too overloaded with cases, they will be able to help you out. Sometimes, it just takes a call from an ACLU lawyer to set a principal straight on the correct legal policies.

That said, it's not a black and white situation. Your son DOES have the legal right to discuss God privately with his friends at school. But I'm pretty sure the laws regarding proselytizing on school grounds are more restrictive. As are the laws about bringing it up in class. I'm not a lawyer, so I cannot speak with authority. Which is why you should contact the ACLU, or another attorney if you are more comfortable.

(alternatively, you could research some case-law on your own, and present your findings to the principal)

-- Posted by jhat on Tue, Oct 6, 2009, at 10:06 AM

Mike,

As a new father I will point out these stats for you (off topic slightly I admit).

33% of children attend church as adults when raised by and taken to church by a single mother.

50% of children attend church as adults when raised and taken to church as children by a single father.

77% of children attend church as adults when raised by a mother and father and taken to church as children.

Men are important in the lives of kids. Just an FYI.

-- Posted by wallismarsh on Tue, Oct 6, 2009, at 6:42 AM

AMEN TO JHAT.... High school was not that long ago for me either... and i appreciated the sex education i got....that way i knew how to be safe and keep a bad situation from happening

-- Posted by S&DC on Mon, Oct 5, 2009, at 3:29 PM

And on the subject of abstinence only education (kind of off topic, but seems like people are talking).

A very good friend of mine had chosen to abstain from sex until marriage. He had been taught abstinence-only education in his school district. And not given any sort of safe sex education.

Recently, he met a girl he really liked, and in the heat of the moment, decided to...um...stop abstaining.

He is certainly no teenager, he's a 23 year old man. But he was still not informed enough to use any sort of proper protection. In fact, he had the girl take some...rather unorthodox measures to prevent pregnancy. I won't detail them here (for decency's sake), but suffice it to say that anyone with basic sex-ed would know that those measures would be completely ineffective.

We're still waiting to find out if his lady friend is pregnant. And I hope for his sake that she is not.

I'm glad that I was given a comprehensive overview of safe sex (including abstinence) so I could make an informed decision about my sex life, instead of basing my safe-sex methods on rumors, hearsay, and urban myths.

-- Posted by jhat on Mon, Oct 5, 2009, at 2:33 PM

High School wasn't that long ago for me (though it seems that way).

In my highschool, we did have Christian groups. Including one that had a "Prayer around the Pole" once a week. I can't recall any instances of students getting in trouble for praying privately. I do remember students getting in trouble for proselytizing on school grounds, but that would have gone for any religion, as it was a clear distraction for other students.

But, as the law stated, no teacher ever led the class in prayer. Which was fine with me, even though I was a Christian at the time. Prayer wasn't outlawed in my school, just not sponsored/initiated by teachers or the administration.

There was only one exception to this. My coach did lead the football team in the Lord's prayer before football games. Here is where the problems lie. The coach (and many players) were catholic. Myself, and the majority of the players, were protestant. The coach recited the catholic version of the Lord's prayer (slightly different), and I know this made at least a few people uncomfortable. Even though they would recite their own version, they felt weird that an authority figure was reciting a different one, and it was always a weird moment when 1/3 of the team recited it one way, and 2/3 another.

And, there was one Jewish kid on the team, who would diligently lower his head with the rest of us, and be silent. He told me that he always felt weird doing so. But he did it anyway, because he was afraid of being ostracized from the rest of the team. He didn't want to be singled out as the only one who couldn't participate.

Even as a Christian, I felt extremely uncomfortable doing that. It felt mandatory and forced. And though I'm sure the coach would have allowed anyone to sit out, no one would want to feel so singled out from the team.

And that's one of the reasons I think teacher's shouldn't be leading prayers.

-- Posted by jhat on Mon, Oct 5, 2009, at 2:25 PM

Bye bye Karl,

Some schools, like the one i graduated from, say the lord's prayer before football games... now that never offended me and i participated without hesitation but is there any rule against this??

-- Posted by S&DC on Mon, Oct 5, 2009, at 8:55 AM

Karl and Guillermo, enough is enough. Both of your comments are way out of bounds and disgusting. Both comments have been flagged.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Mon, Oct 5, 2009, at 6:39 AM

Justin I know this will surprise you but I encourage you to take this on.

Your sons 1st Amendment rights are being restricted by his school.

Despite all the bad press thrown at them, if I were you I would contact your local ACLU chapter. They have actually done a lot of work in protecting religious rights.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Mon, Oct 5, 2009, at 6:38 AM

that's funny Mike. My son came home and told me they can't talk about God at school, recess mainly. I had a very long talk about it with him and told him that wouls be a violation of his 1st amendment rights that George Washington fought for.

He came home again a week later and must have been reminded at school as he told me again.

My next move is to visit the school and ask them who is denying my kid his God given right. I can't believe I have to deal with this crap in McCook.

-- Posted by Justin76 on Sun, Oct 4, 2009, at 9:03 PM

I do find it interesting that the original blog was about the myth of school prayer and it has turned into sex education. It's all about school so I can't complain.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Sun, Oct 4, 2009, at 6:31 PM

MrsSmith I would like to see the proof behind your assumption that there is a skyrocket of abortions due to safe sex education, because everything that I have seen points the exact opposite.

As to teaching sex ed to students, Karl Marx, I don't know where you went to school, but I had sex education in 6th grade. This is the exact reason you teach them at a young age, because they don't know any better. If you give them the information, both safe sex and abstinence, they are better informed to make a better decision. Should they be having sex at this age, of course not. But one would be foolish to think that it doesn't happen.

Of course when you pervert what I have said, leave out information, or turn the argument into something worse (heroin and murder) of course it looks horrible, but at the same time you are completely ignoring the real issue, safe sex and abstinence. This is the prime reason why debating in today's society has become so uncivil and ugly. There are always those few people who come to the debate totally unprepared and all they do is shout down everyone and present their argument with no logic while trying to turn it into linking sex with using drugs and murder.

If that's the way you prefer to debate, that's fine. I will answer you to the best of my ability after I read through your diatribes but I won't stoop to your level of personal attacks and incivility to do it.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Sun, Oct 4, 2009, at 6:27 PM

GI, I must point out that you have a statistic missing from your AOUM rant. You've forgotten the number of abortions.

It's no advertisement for comprehensive sex education when the number of murdered unborn infants skyrockets in it's wake. Teaching them to make and murder them is NOT the answer.

-- Posted by MrsSmith on Sun, Oct 4, 2009, at 4:41 PM

It's too bad we can't eliminate the religion of secular humanism from our schools.

Isn't it funny how those that know the least about Christianity also seem completely blind to the problems with the religion that took it's place in the public schools?

-- Posted by MrsSmith on Sun, Oct 4, 2009, at 4:38 PM

Karl I just have one simple question, are you hear to debate anything or to share any ideas or just to attack me?

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Sun, Oct 4, 2009, at 12:41 PM

I don't fully disagree with you Sceptre. Reading and writing are the two most important (or should be) subjects in school and they are both seriously lacking.

As far as sex education goes, I think both sides should be represented equally (safe sex and abstinence) and which ever way the student chooses to go is their choice.

-- Posted by MichaelHendricks on Sun, Oct 4, 2009, at 10:10 AM


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