Prayer In Public Schools Essay, Research Paper
Picture this, the prayer amendment has just been applied to the U.S Constitution, a Jewish kid in a public school classroom is surrounded by Christian children, including a Christian teacher. The teacher begins to recite a Christian prayer, when a Jewish child gets up out of his seat and asks, “I want to be excused from the classroom”. The teacher excuses the Jewish child while the other children look at him/her in disgust. After school, the same children who ride the bus with the Jewish student, persecute him for no other reason than that he has differing views than his fellow students. This behavior goes on for quite awhile until a fight erupts between the Jewish child and a Christian child. This fight could have easily been prevented, but the school mandate of early morning prayer instigated it.
Why would anyone want to implement prayer in public schools? School prayer, without a doubt, should not be put into practice by any means. It is provocative and incendiary and would only lead to conflict and discomfort. The Supreme Courts issued decrees against public school prayer obviously because it was imposing problems and a primary source of complication. Anyone who cannot discern the inevitable problems that will occur, as a result of public school prayer is living in a “fool’s paradise”. If prayer were to be implemented into the public school system, the scenario that was composed at the beginning of this thesis would not only be a likely occurrence, it would be an inevitable event. The pro-prayer advocates think they have got it all figured out. They think they can install prayer into public schools, and everything will be “hunky dorry”. The advocates of prayer claim that it will be the catalyst for moving toward a healthier nation. “Prayer at the start of the day will clear the students minds and make them start to
think deeply, and in turn, will let them think freely. It will make the transition into learning smooth, and it will resolve personal issues.”(Biema 68). These claims all sound very appealing, but far-fetched at the very least. Their assumption that a prayer at the beginning of school will clear children’s minds and cause them to think freely and deeply is erroneous. Michael Koenig, a student who attended parochial school for twelve years, stated in an interview “the prayer at the beginning of school is so boring.” Based on first hand knowledge, the claim that prayer at the beginning of school will clear one’s mind is indubitably false, but instead the prayer will act as soporific rigmarole that kids will endure everyday, much like the Pledge of Allegiance. Boring someone at the beginning of school, will not be an effective means to a smooth transition into learning. As far as resolving personal issues that is the boldest statement of all. Tim Madison had this to say about the issue. “It was all very well and good to sing His praises in the morning, but where was He in the afternoon when I humiliated myself by striking out at the gym class baseball game, or when the school bullies stole my lunch money?”(Madigan—). There are many parochial school students who probably can attest to these series of events.
Supporters of the so called “problem solving” school prayer amendment expound that “our youth has lost the respect that students had for their country, their peers, and their lives. Our society has become worse since 1962, we didn’t consider what kind of a society we would have with out that respect.” (Biema 68). Essentially what they are purporting is that lack of school prayer is the impetus for the uprising of crime and the lowering of values in today’s American society. It is preposterous to impute lack of
school prayer as the cause of crime and low values. If people who propound school prayer believe this, than it would be in their best interest to consult some historical documents concerning this issue. “Prayer in schools in the 19th century was so divisive it provoked civil strife in some communities. During the Protestant Catholic riots around Philadelphia in 1843, 13 people were killed after Catholics asked for their children to be excused from mandatory religious practices” (Hatfield 6). Taking these accounts into consideration would easily cause anyone on the moot end of this dispute to lean toward the secular argument. The account took place in the 19th century, which means there were not as many religions promulgated at that time. If this strife came about as a result of two religions’ conflicting beliefs, then imagine a country where religions from Adventists to Zoroastrians are prevalent. There are new religions spawned from primordial religion every so often and with that being a fact, public schools incessantly would be susceptible to conflict. “Prayer in school” advocates contend that prayer will instill moral value in the children of public schools, and in turn will deter children from having pre-marital sex. They claim that everything bad (low SAT scores, low morale, high teen pregnancy rates) in America is because of the absence of school prayer. That is false because there are plenty of law-abiding citizens who have grown up without ever once having to recite a prayer in school. The irony is that if prayer is the producer of good moral citizens, then why are the prisons filled with born-again Christians. There are other countries that prove that one does not have to practice prayer in schools and still have a low crime society. “Japan, where no one prays at school, has the lowest crime rate of any developed nation”(Hatfield 6). If this country wishes that the children perform
well on tests, then prayer is not the answer. The answer is less praying more studying. If you want to credit the lack of prayer with anything good, then look at what this country has accomplished since 1962. “Look at the leap in civil liberties, equality, environmental awareness, women’s rights, science, technology and medicine! The polio scare is over. Fountains, buses, schools are no longer segregated by law”(Bryce 26). If anyone should instill moral values and incentive to do well on tests, it is the parents of these public school children.
“Some argue that a cross-cultural prayer should be adopted”(Reitman 4). Adoption of public school prayer would be extremely difficult. Religions are just way too different in beliefs, as well as customs. “Eastern religion and western religion are not even similar in their way of prayer.”(Hatfield 6). A cross cultural prayer will make people who are non-religious, uncomfortable, and children who are extremely religious will think that the prayer is meaningless and insignificant. Moreover, the way people pray is not universal. For instance, Muslims pray on a carpet towards Mecca, and Buddhists pray to many gods. These differences are sure to initiate segregation and alienation.
Prayer does not belong in public schools. It was done away with in 1962 for a good reason: it was hurting students and society. If children are introduced to school prayer it might be appeasing to some, but it would be grievous for most. The United States constitution espouses that there must be a separation between church and state for this country to function collectively, and this balance will be disrupted if students who attend public school are immersed in beliefs that may be in opposition to their own.
There are many arguments in favor of secular public schools that need to be addressed before pro-prayer advocates even think of the government issuing an amendment.
Public schools exist for children of all cultures to receive an education free from religious propaganda. Prayer advocates claim that prayer will be “voluntary”, but how would an eight-year-old view something such as routine prayer as voluntary. Children as young as this are still developing critical thinking skills. If they put prayer in schools at such an early age, it could inadvertently teach students to alienate themselves from fellow students of different dogmas. What if the students were to initiate prayer proceedings? The consequences of student initiated prayer would be very unpleasant. This would be the worst form of coercion possible because it would be at the hands of a fellow student. Children would be subjected to peer pressure, and pitted against one another with the minority getting the short end of the stick. Instead of school being a place of learning, it would be a gladiator arena: every creed for itself. “Some principals or school boards have even made seniors hold open class votes on whether to pray at graduation, leading to hostility and reprisal against those students brave enough to stand up for the First Amendment.”(Bryce 26). The majority should never mandate constitutional rights. This type of reasoning would only open up the vote of students to other issues that would possibly suppress the minority’s rights. Segregation could be put to the vote. Prayer advocates claim that the amendment would call for voluntary prayer. If it were so voluntary, how would they explain a student forfeiting a graduation because the prayer amendment would allow for prayer to be held at commencements? Sure, the student has a choice whether or not to go to the graduation, but this is obviously coercion of the worst
kind. Religion is a private affair and public schools are public: the two of them just don’t mix.
Public Schools are for children of all creeds, whether they are Catholic, Baptists, atheists, agnostic, Buddhists, or Jewish. It is not the duty of schools to ingrain religious beliefs: it is solely the duty of the parents and churches. All parents of all children pay taxes for maintaining schools, so they should be free from their children being coerced. Government should not dictate the religion of public school children simply based on the fact that we started this country based on the concept of separation between the church and the state. “School prayer proponents mistake government neutrality toward religion as hostility”(Bible—).
Implementing religion into public schools will most likely single out the minority religious groups such as Jews or Unitarians. “It was commonplace prior to the court decision against school prayer to put non-religious or non-orthodox children in places of detention during bible-reading or prayer recitation”(Biema 68). There have been cases of children being beaten up and ostracized from groups simply because they did not practice the same religion of the majority religion. “The children of Supreme Court Plaintiffs against religion in schools, such as Vashti McCollum, Ed Schempp and Ismael Jaffree, were beaten up on the way to and from school, their families subjected to community harassment and death threats for speaking out in defense of a constitutional principle”(Bryce 26). To this day, there are still children being persecuted for their religious beliefs outside of school, it does not need to happen inside of school too.
Supporters of the school prayer amendment are failing to realize something. If it is an amendment, they are trying to change something that is the foundation of the Constitution of the United States. This amendment will impugn the safeguard of the Bill of Rights: the protection from the tyranny of the majority.
The proposed federal amendment reads:
“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 or any State shall compose the words of any prayer to be said in public schools.”(Reitman 4). In this amendment it says there will be no prohibition of individual prayer, but individual prayer is already established, it is called “silent prayer”. This amendment also fails to recognize the “non denominational” people. Who would select the prayer to be recited, certainly they could not acknowledge every denomination in the school. Should the Protestant minorities be excused form class so that the classroom can pray to the Virgin Mary? There are some school districts where there are more Muslims than any other religion. Should Christians be excused from the classroom when the principal prays to Allah over the intercom? There is a myriad of issues this amendment fails to take into account. School prayer advocates are only thinking about themselves the majority. If the majority were to dictate the school prayer, the minorities’ rights would be infringed upon. What people would be witnessing would be covert usurpation of individual rights. For those would not conform they would be vituperated for being heretics. People are to focused on the prayer issue when there are other important issues that need to be attended to. It
seems that the prayer debate is deflecting America’s attention away from the economic questions facing our nation. A governor had this to say, “If we don’t deal with t economic issues, we’ll need more than prayer to solve our problems”(Hatfield 6).
Then there is the “moment of silence” issue. This idea seems, innocuous, but is a way of circumventing the government restrictions against prayer in school. “We know from experience that many teachers and principals would regard a “moment of silence” mandate as a green light to introduce prayers, causing more legal challenges at the expense of the tax payers”(Madigan—).
Prayer in public schools is simply not a good idea. People in favor of “prayer in schools” are to focused on the problems it will allegedly solve. It is not bad to look at the positive aspects of something, but it is very important to look at the negative aspects. The problem with people who dote upon religion is that their critical thinking is hindered by their religious fervor. Even Jesus Christ was against prayer in schools. “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 thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret”-Matt 6:5-6 (Madigan—). Advocates of prayer think that religion will solve everything, but in the issue of prayer in school, faith can’t be relied on, only sound judgement.