Perhaps there is no single place where the concept of separation between church and state is as important as in our public schools. There was good reason for Thomas Jefferson to call for a ‘wall of separation’ between church and state, and today there are even more reasons. And yet, in recent years, most especially since Donald Trump took office in 2017, that wall seems to be breaking down.
Today it was announced that …
“The Trump administration is moving to strengthen protections for students who want to pray or worship in public schools and proposing changes that would make it easier for religious groups that provide social services to access federal funds.”
Now, I can hear you saying, “Okay, so what’s the big deal … if a kid wants to pray while in school, who cares?” But here’s the thing … any kid who wants to pray in school at any time of the day is already free to do so. Nobody is going to punish the child who closes his eyes and says, “Lord, please help me pass this test”. But … to allow a child to force the entire classroom to listen to his prayer is an infringement on the rights of the other children.
Prayer should be a personal thing, not a group activity … and especially when not all the group believe in the same things. In today’s public schools, we have Muslim children, Catholic children, Jewish children, and atheist children. But, it is the evangelical Christians who are driving the decisions to include prayer in school. Can you imagine the evangelical parents of little Johnny who comes home one afternoon and starts talking about Allah, because little Mohammed said his prayers in school? Oh yeah … mommy and daddy would be at the school board office bright and early the next morning, probably with their lawyer in tow.
But yet, Mohammed’s parents are supposed to accept him being subjected to Christian prayers. There is a time and a place for everything. If you follow a certain religion, you and your children have every right to pray, but do it at home or do it at church … school is the place we send our children to learn, not to pray.
I would remind those evangelicals who would like to see mandatory prayer in schools that they have a number of options, including sending their children to a parochial school if they feel so strongly about their child praying at school. What they don’t have is the right to force every other child in the classroom to listen to their child’s prayers. Public schools are open to children of any or no faith. Children are in school a maximum of eight hours a day … surely it isn’t impossible for them to go that long without vocal prayer?
I would also remind them that this is NOT a Christian nation, but rather a constitutionally-mandated secular nation where people of all religions are welcome, as are people who eschew any religion. Religion is a personal thing … keep it personal, please … remember that our schools are funded by tax dollars paid by people of all and no denominations.