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"As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school."--old words of wisdom

Classroom prayer is, as the name would suggest, prayer that takes place in a classroom or school. The nature of the prayer is not specific, but among American conservatives it would tend to be "loud and proud" prayer, with the students being led in prayer by a person in a position of responsibility - such as a teacher, a visiting preacher, or a nominated student. In public schools this type of classroom prayer is considered unconstitutional, but there is no restriction on students themselves silently praying or forming prayer groups so they can discuss imaginary friends during recess or outside of school hours. Unfortunately silent prayer seems ineffective, since God is only listening to our thoughts when we're coveting asses. (Note for readers outside the USA, American public schools are publicly funded and publicly run free schools, that’s the equivalent of British state schools.)

Classroom prayer is a phenomenon that is most common just before an important test, especially among students who spent their "study time" doing fun things.

God banned from school?

Christian fundamentalists, and the generally uninformed, claim that God was somehow banned from schools. In 1963 a case was brought by Madalyn Murray O'Hair and the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that prayer led by state officials is a violation of the Establishment Clause. [1] Students and teachers remain free to pray in private, such as a silent prayer or one conducted in private setting, but this is anathema to those hypocrites who, as described in Matthew 6:5-6[2], prefer that their worship be equivalent to banging a drum while yelling "Look at me, I'm loving Jesus!". Jesus, as quoted in Matthew, was rather clear and direct when he stated that prayer should be a personal between man and God - conducted in private. Christians ignoring unequivocal instructions from their God? Go figure.

Curiously, enthusiasm for state mandated prayer fades when the religion in question isn't Christianity.[2] It is equally odd that the people most likely to call for smaller government would wish for the state to effectively mandate the religion of their children.

Other countries, such as Canada, permit Catholic school systems to levy taxes on the appropriate home owners to fund their own set of schools. There are also private schools as well, which may be based around other religions, and follow religious instruction.

Classroom prayer and the descent into immorality

The decline of teacher-led prayer is claimed to be linked to an increase in violent crime, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, natural disasters, and pretty much everything else that has gone wrong in the past forty years (and some stuff that hasn't). Such conjecture ignores the obvious problem that the more religiously devout conservative states have a nasty habit of leading the way in teen pregnancy and divorce.[3] The claim that "taking God out of school" leads to immorality is a form of moral panic, and suggests that parents are somehow incapable of pushing their religious beliefs onto their children before those children can think for themselves sharing the word of God with their children without government assistance.

The rights of students with regard to prayer

Of course, students in public schools are free to pray at any time, whether in the hall, in an empty room, in the cafeteria, or just before playing a sports game. This may be done to the deity, automobile, or pasta dish of their choice. As you can pray silently, nobody can stop you from praying at any time. However, evangelicals claim that silent prayer is ineffective and that prayer must be done out loud [4].

Suggestions as to what Christian conservatives can do if they really want classroom prayer

Fun section

  1. Promote school officials trained in most[5] religions to lead prayers in several religions.
  2. Such training would have to account for the beliefs of atheists and agnostics. Make up stuff for them to pray with, just in case the teachers have a different worldview than the child in question.
  3. Invent devices[6] that will allow schoolchildren to pray aloud without interfering with each other, while still being able to listen to what the teacher actually is trying to teach outside the prayer time.
  4. If, of course, all above options are weighed in the balance and found wanting, Christian conservatives are cordially invited to get bent.

Once all of these are achieved, present the case to the Supreme Court for review. Now that secular people are included, the policy has a secular purpose. All of this, of course, is limited by the question of how valuable prayer is if it isn't spontaneously offered out of a free and willing heart. But perhaps Christian fundamentalists find this a technicality and see the point of school prayer as the words being said and - more importantly - being heard. Preferably by those who cannot simply go elsewhere.

Once the Supreme Court approves, of course, the policy no longer needs to be implemented as written anyway.[7]


There is a good and a a bad side to Christianity, see the category page

See also

Footnotes

  1. ENGEL V. VITALE, 370 U. S. 421 (1962)
  2. Hindu prayer in Senate draws religious protesters
  3. High divorce rates and teen pregnancy are worse in conservative states than liberal states
  4. Omnipresent and omnipotent deities can read your thoughts when they're naughty but not when you actually want them to hear your thoughts.
  5. Who knows when the next made-up religion will come by, given that even Scientology has been granted tax-exempt status in the United States?
  6. Like this one, perhaps: [1]. In case mobility is a concern (like gym class), maybe a design more resembling the wireless device as some sort of mandatory surgical implant.
  7. Well, until the ACLU finds out and sues your backend.

Adapted from an out of date version of a RationalWiki article

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