published Thursday, October 21st, 2010

School prayer and the law

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jim Scales responded correctly to a complaint about prayers broadcast over loudspeakers at school-sponsored football games here. He ordered an end to them. The superintendent e-mailed all principals in the school system on Tuesday, reminding them that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled such prayers unconstitutional and that the practice should be stopped. School administrators should comply immediately.

Doing so won’t be popular. Indeed, Scales said he’s already received many complaints about the decision to ban prayers at school events. He will receive more. That doesn’t matter. Compliance with the law does. His decision, in fact, does not prevent any individual from praying or otherwise exercising his or her religious freedom. Rather, it properly upholds and honors constitutional principles and government neutrality toward religion.

Putting an end to prayers at ball games — and, presumably at all other school events like graduation ceremonies — does not undermine those principals. Neither does it encroach on individual freedom. It simply and clearly sustains well-established laws that say schools and school sponsored groups cannot promote a religious message or give an official endorsement to religious beliefs. That is an important principle in contemporary society.

Those who rail against the law banning school prayer here and elsewhere are short-sighted. They overlook the fact the public schools by nature serve a diverse population — predominantly Christian to be sure, but with many Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic and atheist students as well. The schools are funded by all taxpayers and therefore should be free of any school-approved religious activity. Public prayer at a school event oversteps that sensible requirement.

Public prayer at school events here is not a new phenomenon. Despite the law, it’s gone on for years without serious complaint. That changed last week when the Freedom from Religion Foundation, acting on behalf of some students from Soddy-Daisy High School, sent a letter to Scales demanding that the school system end the custom of prayers at the school’s football games and graduation ceremonies. The missive pointedly reminded Scales that the prayers were “unconstitutional” and said that if changes were not implemented the foundation would take steps to “remedy this serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment.”

Scales’ order to end the prayers is the appropriate response. Religion and prayer are private and should be free of any government control or influence. Parents and religious institutions, not taxpayer-funded schools, should provide religious training. Promotion or support of prayer or religion at a public school might be popular, but it is against the law: it inherently favors the majority’s religion, leaves those with other beliefs feeling left out. Putting an end to the practice is the right thing to do.

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librul said...

Huzzah and thank you!

October 21, 2010 at 9:42 a.m.
acerigger said...

A "moment of silence" before any school or govt. event seems like a no-brainer to me. Attendees could pray, or not, as they see fit.

October 21, 2010 at 11:55 a.m.
librul said...

By the way, is the decalogue still displayed in Soddy Daisy City Hall? If so, the students and their parents should get on it.

October 21, 2010 at 6:25 p.m.
Freedom_Czar said...

There is no LAW! Judges do not MAKE LAW in the United States, but that is what has happened. The words "Separation of Church" and State do not appear in any of the founding documents. Judges have used a reference in personal letter between a Pastor of a church concerned that the Constitution would allow the same kind of "State Religion" they had escaped from Europe. The line was quoted out of context in the court decision, the full context of the letter counters the arguments of the left and their judges who ruled on it. They make Thomas Jefferson out to be some kind of Bill of rights authority when he himself said in a letter to someone writing his biography that he was not even in the country at the time of the writing of the bill of rights, that his understanding of it came from those who did write it.

October 22, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.
Freedom_Czar said...

Correction on my last, that was the 1st Amendment, not the Bill of Rights... The point is still correct.

October 22, 2010 at 9:49 a.m.
eeeeeek said...

A trial would be fantastic for tourism.. at least for neighboring areas.

Think about it.

We could rake in from the out of towners wanting to check out the future ghost town of Soddy Daisy as they scrape and claw in proving just how much they hate anything non christain being in their town.

Restaurants, hotels, fueling stations, other stores as well as other local attractions will have a great profit.

Afterwards when Rhonda Thurman comments about sticking something somewhere, it'll be towards folks putting her coin tips in her hat while she's wearing the sign "Give me a quarter or I'll talk to you"

October 22, 2010 at 2:35 p.m.

Finally something was done about this. This is a major problem in our public schools and I personally have had some experience in this area. I really hope this brings freedom of religion to the forefront in the Chattanooga area.

October 23, 2010 at 6:35 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

I do understand the posts by fundamentalist Christians who feel that it is appropriate and lawful to lead prayers in public schools. The various Christian traditions (as well as the other mainstream traditions such as Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, etc,) really believe, yes believe in the deepest sense that their faith is the one true faith. How could they not? Belief has no room for ambiguity. I think the more liberal groups focus on each person developing their own sense of the divine, their ultimate concern, their own relationship with their creator, but the vast majority make it clear that they MUST spread the word, as those that have not heard it are doomed for all eternity. They really believe that they are doing God's work. The US constitution takes a back seat to this. I don't mean it in a bad way; most are earnestly and genuinely concerned with the souls of others, especially the young.

Someone like me, a non-believer, is to be avoided if I cannot be swayed or convinced. The bad aspects of our culture could be corrected if only the teachings of Jesus were followed (and they are in some senses correct-Jesus taught very sensible lessons on how to live honorably and cleanly). All religions have such guidelines, and they are remarkably similar. The more you know about the various religious teachings, the more you realize that they all have the right idea. The problem comes when they insist that they and only they have all the answers. The more "micromanaging" they insist on (rules, restrictions, habits and rituals) the more different they seem. Their requirements for the afterlife are what separates them, and it is in this area where they have nothing to support their claims. Each version of woo is claimed to be THE WAY, and all others denounced. Hence, war, division, hate, fear and oppression abound.

The US offers unique protection against this. No other country does.

October 23, 2010 at 7:32 p.m.
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