Friday, May 27, 2011

Why is student-led prayer so offensive to some?

This morning I read a story about the Medina Valley Independent School District (Texas) being sued by the "Americans United for Separation of Church and State" on behalf of Danny and Christa Schultz whose children attend a school in the district. The parents are upset that there is a student-led benediction at the graduation ceremony. 

Every time I read a story like this, I shake my head in wonder at the level to which some parents go to will use their children to make a name for themselves. And without a doubt, I believe that is what this is all about. In this internet-savvy age, the Schultz's can get their name all over the country in just a matter of minutes. What better way than to use your kids to get famous? We've seen it time and time again? It's disgraceful.

When you get right down to it, is prayer that harmful especially for kids in today's society? The world has become a rough place and kids need all the help they can get to prepare for what awaits them when they graduate high school and go beyond the reach of mom and dad's protection. If prayer at the graduation ceremony, which for a seventeen-year old, is the biggest moment of their life to date, helps them get through it and appreciate all that they have, what is the harm? The students who don't pray are not forced to participate, this is something the students lead and participate in if they want to, it's not required

When I graduated high school in 1987, there was a benediction, and I wasn't offended. I was raised in a household with a father who was raised Christian and a mother who was raised Jewish. Neither religion was forced upon me while at the same time I learned a little about both sides. When I went to friend's houses or attended church with friends or family, prayer never bothered me. The way I saw it, prayer seemed to be a good thing for those people participating in it and how can you not like something that is good? We lived in the Bible Belt and most of our classmates and neighbors were Southern Baptist. Sure, there were a few people who attempted to force their religious beliefs on us, but for the most part, my experience with faith throughout my life, especially when I was a kid, has been positive. The only problems I ever had (and continue to have) were people who told me I was going to hell for not believing as they did and people who attempted to remove any hint of religion or faith from every aspect of life, period. I learned quickly that there are radical ideas on both ends of the spectrum.

To Danny and Christa Schultz and others like them I would ask why they are so offended by prayer? Why are some people so afraid of a belief in a higher power? If you don't believe, that's fine, but why would you want to infringe upon other people's desire to believe? If prayer helps a kid have hope, how on earth could that be a bad thing? Kids need all the help they can get. If your kid chooses not to participate, that is their right and no one should force them but for you to force your beliefs or rather lack of them on others? That's not right either. Live and let live. I  mean really, in the whole scheme of things going on in the world today, is a voluntary student-led prayer at a high school graduation really something we should be worried about? 

Oh and while we're at it, if there is this alleged separation of church and state, how come  in many areas of this country, you can't buy beer on Sunday?  Maybe when they finally defeat those awful kids who want to pray before their graduation ceremony, Danny and Christa Schultz can hire the Americans United for Separation of Church and State to tackle this issue? Because it really is a bummer when you run out of beer while watching the big game.


  1. The principle of separation of church and state is derived from the Constitution (1) establishing a secular government on the power of the people (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office and the First Amendment provisions constraining the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions.

    It is important to distinguish between the "public sphere" and "government" and between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public sphere--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

    A word should be added about the commonly heard idea that this is all about people easily offended or majority and minority rights. We’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--regardless of whether anyone is offended and regardless of how many like or dislike any particular religion. While this is primarily a constitutional point, it is one that conservatives--small government conservatives--should appreciate from a political standpoint as well. While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to bring suit; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law; the question whether someone has standing to sue is entirely separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution.

    Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you.

  2. Lori in Austin proud Christian in Texas6/03/2011

    Totally agree with you. My cousins' son will be graduating from that school on that that's how I heard about it. It would interest me to know if the family participated in the Christmas and Easter school breaks or if they continued to school their children during the break from school. Why was this official SCHOOL holiday not offensive to them? Why did they not protest this occurrence year after year. Also it would interest me to know if the parents job paid them for being closed for Christmas or Easter as well. Wouldn't them accepting the Christmas money be an act of acceptance of this Christian holiday? Or did they volunteer to go ahead and work those days while all thier Christian co-workers were home with thier families enjoying the significance of this holiday. Makes one wonder. Remember this is how Madalyn Murray O'Hare started....and ended.

  3. Anonymous9/21/2011

    I find this business of being offended by prayer so irritating I created a business around it. I don't understand how someone can be offended by something as innocent and pure as a prayer. Visit at