William Murray, the fundamentalist evangelist son of the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, has a new book out. Naturally, the Worldnutdaily is helping to promote it. And predictably, it’s just the same old litany of tired Christian right arguments about how terrible it is that they can’t force kids to pray in school anymore.
“Fifty years after the removal of prayer from America’s public schools in a case brought by my mother, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, there is virtually no safe place in America for children of any age, not in their schools, not even in their homes,” said William J. Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition.
It was on his behalf that his mother filed a lawsuit claiming compulsory prayer and Bible reading in public schools is unconstitutional.
The ruling, released by the U.S. Supreme Court June 17, 1963, allowed God no further place in public schooling, triggering a plunge from a time when chewing gum was a major problem to schools plagued by drugs, violence and sex that need to be protected by armed guards.
*Yawn* Really, is that the best they can do, a bad post hoc argument with nothing to support it? Yep, it is.
“If rights come from God they cannot be taken away, but if they come from government, a simple majority vote can void those rights,” he explained. “Fifty years ago, prayer and Bible reading represented the authority of God over the school, the teachers and the students. Bowing of heads in the morning for prayer was much more about surrendering to the authority of God than about learning ‘morals.’”
There are two statements here, one absurd and the other repulsive. This notion that if rights come from God they can’t be taken away is just silly; even if you believe that the Bill of Rights was written directly by the hand of God, has that ever stopped the government from violating them? This God that allegedly gave us those rights never actually does anything to prevent them from being violated, so it’s clearly false to claim that they can’t be violated if they come from God.
The second statement is simply vile. Murray and his fellow theocrats really do believe that the government has the legitimate authority to force school children to “surrender to the authority of God.” It’s difficult to imagine a more blatant violation of the First Amendment. If forced prayer is not a violation, what possibly could be?
And like his mother, Murray likes to pretend that he was far more important to those Supreme Court rulings than he really was. There are two rulings involving prayer, Engel v Vitale in 1962 and Abington v Schempp in 1963. The first one involved forcing students to recite a state-composed prayer each morning; the second involved mandatory Bible reading and the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer every morning. The Murray family had nothing to do with the first one and their suit was subsumed beneath the second one because it was filed earlier. Even if they had never filed a suit, the result would have been exactly the same.