the truth about prayer in school

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. school of ministry and missions instructor. president of fistbump media, llc.

October 1, 2007

I am encouraged by recent stories from the “See You At The Pole” day on September 26th. To me there are few things as cool as seeing younger generations standing up for what they believe in, and making a public statement such as this. However many believe that prayer, and God, is being forced out of the schools these days. Some opponents to school prayer would make the case that kids should not be forced to pray, or make reference to a God that they don’t believe in. Others would even go so far as to state that kids should be brought up completely agnostic, and not be even taught anything about God. Meanwhile, it seems that Christians who feel that it is important to be able to pray in school are quickly becoming the minority. Even the church itself (meaning the people that make up the church, and not the organization) is very split over how far they are willing to take this issue.

see-you-at-the-poleThe truth is that we must first understand our rights in this situation. While Engel v. Vitale (1962), Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), and Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) all support the decision that prayer cannot be sanctioned and/or led by staff at state-run schools, one thing that they could not accomplish is the complete removal of prayer in schools. In fact the latter case even established that they could not inhibit religion, it just also stated that they could not advance it either.

Basically, these decisions simply uphold our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. In addition to our guarantee for free speech there are two religious clauses in the First Amendment. First there is the Establishment Clause which prevents the federal government from making laws that establish religion. This means that the government cannot establish a “state” religion, or “prefer” one over another. Basically the government as an entity (not the citizen) should be religiously neutral. This is in place in order to prevent misuses of power to further religious beliefs as has happened throughout history in Europe and elsewhere.

Then there is the Free Exercise Clause which states that the government cannot prevent the free exercise of religion. This nation was founded on the idea of religious freedom. And while as a Christian I may disagree with the beliefs of others, I must admit that I am willing to fight (here’s the U.S. Marine in me) to the death for everyone’s right to choose and practice the religion of their choice. This clause guarantees me the right to choose to worship God, and lift up the name of Jesus. While I must respect other people’s rights to worship in other ways, or not worship at all, I must also demand that my rights to do so are never taken away from me.

The bottom line is that state-run schools must be religiously neutral, but cannot stop the practice of religion on their campuses. As citizens, we still have the right to express ourselves verbally, and to practice our religion in any peaceful way that we see fit. While a teacher may not be able to lead a student in prayer, the student has the right to pray whenever they feel like it.

Prayer has not been taken out of schools, we just have to initiate it on our own. And quite honestly, I almost prefer it that way. But as Christians we must look at the big picture when we pray. First of all we must not allow our practice to scare off other non-believers. Our motives should be driven by love and with a heart for evangelism. Let us pray, but let us also simply consider how we are to win the lost into the Kingdom. And finally, why should we limit “see you at the pole” to a single day? Why not meet at the pole EVERY day to pray? Just imagine what God could do in our schools if THAT were to happen!

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2 Comments

  1. Mitch

    Dear Sir.

    Thank you for your straight-to-the-point explanation of this subject. I will admit to you that I do not believe in one god or any. However I do also believe, as you, that we all as citizens have the right to believe as we wish, and/or worship or not.

    I am so tired of the “They have taken God out of School” argument. As you stated above, no one has done this. They have just prevented one group of citizens from forcing their beliefs on others while not preventing said people from exercising it themselves.

    I fully believe that this country has lasted as long as it has not because of it being ‘a Christian nation’ but rather a nation that Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, and others all can practice in their own way.

    Reply
    • @bibledude

      Our country was founded on religious freedom. And while I may not agree personally with other religions, I’ll fight (coming from someone who’s served in the USMC) to defend everyone’s right to practice whatever religion (or lack thereof) they want. I just also expect that nothing will prevent me from practicing mine…

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your perspective!

      Reply

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the truth about prayer in school

by Dan King time to read: 4 min
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