Banning Prayer In Schools Essay, Research Paper
Banning Prayer in Schools
When schools first opened hundreds of years ago prayer was always enforced, and the Bible was the only book most schools had to read. Our first constitutional right states that we have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and as our right the government can not tell us when it is appropriate to pray. The government is only taking away yet another right making us weaker and themselves stronger. The bible being the first book in education, the first amendment, moment of silence in school, the religious freedom amendment, and how society have reacted to this situation help to reach my opinion on prayer in schools.
The oldest known system of education was to teach religion and promote traditions of people. In the western world education was based on Biblical traditions of the Old Testament. The first school in America was in Jamestown in 1607. Schools were church related or private, including universities. Yale, Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth were all established by church groups. In the early 1800’s four of every 1000 people were illiterate. Greek and Latin were taught in grammar school. Protestantism permeated the textbooks, which caused the Catholics to create their own schools. In the early 1800’s, Horace Mann, as president of the senate in Massachusetts, initiated the first state board of public instruction. He wanted public education to be Unitarian and did not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ. He wanted state education with no Christian influence. Mann followed Germany’s Hegelian philosophy, which claimed nothing was absolute and man’s ideas were superior to Biblical principles. This was the important shift from objective realities to subjective realities. (Mel Gablers) In the early 20th century, John Dewey, a university professor trained teachers in “progressive education”. Teachers today are instructed in this philosophy. Mr. Dewey was a signer of the Humanist Manifest #1, and believed that Christianity was the principle problem of society, a problem to be solved through public education. He rejected belief in God, embraced evolution, and thought behavioral psychology was the way to control human behavior. To create social individuals, Mr. Dewey advocated gradual change in the schools to down grade academics and build curriculum around occupational activities, which would provide the maximum opportunity for socialization. He admitted that high literacy produced individuals who can stand on their own two feet and think discerningly, something that would obstruct the creation of a socialist utopia. (Blumenfeld Blumenfeld Education Letter January 1992). In 1932 the National Education Association (NEA) stated that schools must do what the home and community had done in the past. In the 1960’s a new psychology, the “Third Wave” or “self-actualization” was developed by Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and William Coulson. The idea that people needed to get in touch with and verbalize their deepest feelings and thoughts was introduced into schools. Feelings were taught instead of truth, subjective realities. Dr. Coulson now maintains that it is disastrous and that children need to be taught the basics and objective realities. “We have got to stuff our kids heads with truth and then we will give them something to think with.” This translates into a plea for lower level skill mastery before higher level thinking skills are introduced, the opposite of today’s educational restructuring philosophy in Kansas and elsewhere. Quality Performance Accreditation redefines the mission of schools to formally implement affective and psychological goals as part of the education process. Rather than parents being the primary authority for the child’s socialization, values, attitudes and behavior, the school usurps that job. (Blumenfeld).
The first amendment states that congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. (Giesler 1). The constitution grants the free exercise of religion to every American, and that right should not vanish at the doors of a public school. Although the constitution does not overtly mention God, it does imply dependence upon a Creator through its last words, called the Subscription Clause. (Religious Freedom Act). After the Constitution was written, the first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were added to ensure the maintenance of certain liberties not expressly stated in the Constitution. James Madison wrote the first amendment “religion clause,” and an earlier draft made his intentions clear: The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established? When the Anti-federalist saw the word “national” in Madison’s earlier draft, they argued that his use of that word presupposed a powerful centralized government. That was not Madison’s intention, so his wording was changed to the present construction. Yet understanding intended to alleviate the fear that a national church, such as the Anglican Church in Great Britain, would rise to official preeminence. (Historical Context of Constitution)
In 1962 the Supreme Court decided that public schools did not have the power to authorize school prayer. This decision made public school in the U.S. more atheistic than many European nations. For example, crosses still hang on the classroom walls in Poland, and the Ten Commandments are displayed in Hungary. There are prayers held at the beginning of legislative and judicial sessions and every President has mentioned a divine power in his inaugural speech. In keeping with a spirit of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment, there is no reason why students should not be allowed to have a moment of silence during the school day when they can pray or do as they choose. (Newsweek 124). The case Engel v. Vitale in 1962 decided that school prayer is unconstitutional. With this case, it was pointed out that the students were to “voluntarily” recite the following prayer: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.” The court ruled that this rule was unconstitutional according to the First Amendment’s “establishment clause,” which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. In response to the Engel v.Vitale case some schools adopted a “moment of silence”. (Barbara A. Simon 129)
Thomas Jefferson wrote the famous phrase “separation and church” in a letter to the Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. He was responding to the letter they had written, which stated:
?Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty– That Religion is at all times and places a Matter between God and Individuals– That no man ought to suffer in Name, person or effects on account of his religious Opinions– That the legitimate Power of civil Government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor?
Jefferson responded by stating:
I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ Thus building the wall between separation and church.
Jefferson’s declaration of “a wall of separation between Church and State” expressed his opinion that the federal government did not have the authority to “prescribe even occasional performances of [religious] devotion.” He did not question the validity of religious belief, but constructed his “wall” to protect religious freedom of conscience from the potentially of one federally recognized religion. Today, Thomas Jefferson’s “wall’ of separation” has been removed from its context. Jefferson upheld the rights of religious free expression by students in an educational setting as demonstrated by the third article of the Northwest Ordinance, which he wrote. It said:
Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. (Danbury Letter).
The Religious Freedom Amendment states that to secure the people’s right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience: Neither the United States nor any State shall establish any official religion, but the people’s right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage or tradition on public property, including schools, shall not be infringed. Neither the United States nor any state shall require any person to join in prayer, or other religious activity, prescribe school prayers, discriminate against religion, or deny a benefit on account of religion. (Religious Freedom Coalition) The Religious Freedom Amendment would reverse trends of suppressing religious expression including student- initiated prayer in public schools. The RFA retains the First Amendment’s intent that government should not control nor compel religion in America, but should accommodate it the same as other forms of speech.
Prayer at football games has also been banned at schools. Many students are looking to get away from that restriction. In Lyford, Texas a group called, Angels in the Endzone was formed to pray before a football game. Since the law says that the school can not lead prayer students gathered at the endzone along with the football players to pray before the game. (Willacy Times; “Angels in the Endzone”: October12, 1999, A9). At Van High School a church group went around the ruling of not praying before football games and brought a microphone to the game and led a prayer themselves. (Valley Morning Star “Alliance circumvents school prayer ban”: October 17, 1999, A5)
In my research I have found that many people are for prayer in schools. I too am for prayer in schools. Now a days there are many acts of violence in schools and there needs to be some kind of order in schools. We were given the right to pray wherever we wanted according to the constitution. Prayer seemed to work in the old days and there did not seem to be violent acts the way there is now.