Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant does not hide the fact that he’d like to see all children praying in public schools. Pursuing that vision, he has signed into law a bill requiring all public schools in the state to develop policies in regard to prayer.
The new law, which goes into effect in July, will allow students to pray over school intercoms, at assemblies and at sporting events. At the same time, school districts must also include a disclaimer that says the students’ prayers do not reflect an endorsement or sponsorship by the district.
From The New York Times:
While not allowing school-sanctioned prayer, the law permits students to offer public prayers with a disclaimer by the school administration. “You might put on the program that this is not a state-sanctioned prayer if a prayer does break out at a football game or graduation,” Mr. Bryant said.
Although the state is not in the business of establishing religion, he said, “we are about making sure that we protect the religious freedoms of all students and adults whenever we can.”
For groups trying to keep prayer and public education separated, the law was the latest legislative action aimed at moving the two closer together without violating the Constitution.
Whatever Happened To Separation Of Church And State?
In Missouri, with the passage of Amendment 2 last year, students in public and private schools gained the right to refrain from participating in assignments or educational presentations that violate their religious beliefs. (If they believe in creationism, they don’t have to do any work on evolution.)
Also last year, Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law a new voucher program, which gives thousands of poor and middle-class students the funds to pay for the full cost of tuition at 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools, and allows taxpayer funds to be used for teaching creationism.
Creationism has been appearing on the curriculum in other states too: recently Oklahoma passed a law stating that students in science classes would be able to make totally unscientific and unfounded faith-based claims, and not be penalized for it.
Such bills are more common now because conservatives control both the governorships and legislatures in 24 states.
All Students Must Say The Lord’s Prayer
In Indiana, Senator Dennis Kruse, chairman of the Senate education committee, who last year unsuccessfully sought the teaching of creationism in schools, has filed a bill that would allow school districts to require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, though individual students could opt out if they or their parents preferred.
Lawmakers in South Carolina this year introduced legislation that would allow for prayer during a mandatory minute of silence at the start of the school day; exceptions can be made for students who decline to hear the prayer.
The Supreme Court has never held that students cannot pray in school. But the Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot have anything to do with prayer in schools, whether it’s telling students when, how or what to pray. Religion cannot be mandated by the government.
Faith and religion are very personal choices. Children tend to be brought up in the faith of their family and parents, if these parents do, in fact, follow a particular religion: I was brought up in the Church of England, where my father was a vicar; had I been born in Japan, I might have followed the Shinto religion; in Indonesia, it probably would have been the Muslim religion.
At some point, children evolve their own thoughts on religion and may move away from family beliefs. In no instance should any religion be imposed on a child at school. Rather, children should study comparative religions, and come to their own decisions about which, if any, religion they find to be true.
Governor Bryant is hurting children by imposing his law on prayer in public schools. Shame on you, Mr. Bryant.
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