Religion: Where Do We Draw The Line? Essay, Research Paper
…Thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: 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 the closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret…
Pilgrims came to the ?new land? to create a place where people were free to worship and think as they liked, a place where praying is not coerced. They produced the United States of America: ?the land of the free?. With all the hardships suffered to create such freedom the battle for religious liberty is still being fought. Some students wish to pray at graduation exercises or sporting events, but are they being fair to other students who may not want to pray? If this type of prayer were even student led it would be unconstitutional and a clear infringement of our First Amendment. That amendment contains the “Establishment Clause” which prohibits the government from “establishing” religion. Simply put, secular institutions like the public schools should not be a forum for religious instruction. ?For more than 200 years we have had more religious liberty in this country than anywhere else?, in fact this nation was built on the grounds of freedom and should remain that way. (http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~ckramer/research2.html, I Want My Freedom!)
Do a majority of people “support” school prayer? Those results depend on exactly how the question is asked. Surveys suggest that most people reject the notion of mandatory prayer, but even if the overwhelming majority thought that prayer was a “good idea” that does not make the practice constitutional. In the Religious Equality Amendment, students can pray in schools if they choose to do so. They can pray during lunch-breaks, between classes, on the bus to and from the school and during other free time. Some say making school children choose a religion to pray for ? ?would seriously endanger our religious diversity.? ? (http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~ckramer/research2.html, I Want My Freedom!) School prayer advocates know this; but the real purpose of the ? prayer-in-school movement? is to either coerce everyone into joining in prayer or having an official government endorsement of a religion. That is clearly wrong, a violation of the separation of government and religion.
Newt Gingrich had a proposal which states:
? ?Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer. Neither the United States nor any State shall compose the words of any prayer to be said in public schools.? ? (1996, The American Civil Liberties Union, Constitutional Amendment on School Prayer or Moment of Silence, http://www.aclu.org/library/aaprayer.html)
In spite of the caveats in the last two sentences, if adopted the amendment would allow public officials, including teachers, to dictate how, when and where school children and others should pray, thus undermining one of the core values of the First Amendment: the complete freedom of religious conscience through the nonestablishment of religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said that officially organized prayer is coercive in a school environment, even when designated as “voluntary.” The mindless notion that serious social problems can be solved by prayer in schoolrooms, instead of by thoughtful analysis and sufficient resources, appeals to no one but the radical religious right. ? ?Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.? With these words, the framers of the Constitution established one of the central principles of American government — that religious liberty can flourish only when the state leaves religion alone.? (1996, The American Civil Liberties Union, Constitutional Amendment on School Prayer or Moment of Silence, http://www.aclu.org/library/aaprayer.html) As the Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette in 1943: One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.
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