Prayer in school


From Chris, a friend and colleague and reader of this blog, I received this link about yet another case of prayer in schools. Despite repeated court rulings that formal and institutionalized prayer in schools is unconstitutional, many schools operate under the radar and continue to indulge in it. As is often the case, the practice is challenged only when a student gets fed up with having to listen to other people publicly express their faith.

Kaylee Cole walks into school each morning and has breakfast with friends.

Every day starts the same: Announcements, birthdays and school events are broadcast over the public address system. What comes next is what she dreads.

“They say, ‘Please stand for the Prayer and the Pledge.’ And then we move right into it. And it’s the Lord’s Prayer,” Cole says.

Cole sits down. Raised as a Christian but now agnostic, she doesn’t want to hear it.

Nearly every other child, in every classroom, stands as a student reads the prayer.

Cole and her mother, aided by the ACLU, filed a lawsuit challenging the practice. What struck me about the article how the residents in this small community of Webster Parish, Louisiana are so steeped in their own religion, so convinced that it is true, that they find it inconceivable that anyone might be uncomfortable by their public praying, and were shocked when the school abruptly stopped it as a result of the lawsuit.

It isn’t uncommon to see a large cross in the front yard of a house. No fewer than seven churches dominate the two main roads in the center of the small town of Minden. A sign advertises a pest control business and then displays a nod to a Bible verse: John 3:16. Sheriff’s cruisers and ambulances proudly declare “In God We Trust.”

When you ask residents if they can separate God from their daily lives, you get a resounding “No.”

“You’re asking me how is it that I can take the marrow out of my bone. It is so deeply steeped inside of who I am,” Lee explains

Why are these communities seem so uniformly religious? Is it that those who think differently get the hell out of there as soon as they can, leaving just the true believers or do they just keep their views to themselves to avoid antagonizing others? Or is it that the lack of diversity prevents people from even thinking that the religion that surrounds them from birth might be wrong and thus skeptics almost never emerge? Will the internet prick the bubble they live in and if so what impact will it have?

In larger cities, one can always find sub-communities that share your views. I have never lived in a small, highly religious community. I sometimes wonder what might have happened if circumstances had placed me in such an environment. Would I have been able to tolerate it?

Comments

  1. says

    Mano

    I sometimes wonder what might have happened if circumstances had placed me in such an environment. Would I have been able to tolerate it?

    Just one of the reasons I got out of my hometown Marietta, Ohio.

    Jeff

  2. says

    Is it that those who think differently get the hell out of there as soon as they can, leaving just the true believers or do they just keep their views to themselves to avoid antagonizing others? Or is it that the lack of diversity prevents people from even thinking that the religion that surrounds them from birth might be wrong and thus skeptics almost never emerge?

    Yes.

    Will the internet prick the bubble they live in and if so what impact will it have?

    See: Kaylee Cole
    OK, I don’t know why Kaylee is now identifying as agnostic, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the internet helped. As for those earlier questions, having grown up in small rural community lacking in diversity myself, all three of those possibilities could very well be a factor. I believe all three were in mine. And I will credit my father for going against the grain of his community, which helped me become the person I am today. (And I suppose I should also credit his parents for bringing their liberal Chicago and Minnesota values with them, and, apparently, not abandoning them, when and after they moved there in the 1940’s.)

  3. says

    The county courthouse in Clearfield, 10 miles from my home, has a tacky plaque dedicated to post 9/11 militarism and a set of Cecil B. DeMille’s commandments. I’ve asked a couple times (when I have had business there) if nobody is bothered by them, and they all look at me funny. It’s backgrounded, it’s subliminal – just like the christians want it. I contacted ACLU and FFRF and never heard back from the ACLU and FFRF said there wasn’t much they’d be able to do but if I wanted to start a lawsuit that was my main option. I don’t think I care that much and I don’t need a hunting accident.

  4. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    I wonder what would happen, if you arrived to school wearing a t-shirt with “Matthew 6:6” printed on it.
    (The text is “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”)
    OTOH, the ten commandments don’t appear anywhere in the Bible in the form(s) they are usually presented.

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