South Carolina Wants to Make School Prayer Mandatory

Most students open the school day with roll call or announcements from their teachers. Some even have class days that begin with the Pledge of Allegiance. If a new law gaining momentum in South Carolina passes, however, the students in those schools will have a different morning ritual.


A mandatory moment of silence and teacher-led prayer was proposed nearly a full year earlier, but became embroiled in controversy and never made it out of committee. Now, as the South Carolina legislature is preparing to meet again, a new batch of politicians are pushing to make mandatory school prayer a reality.

Mandatory school prayer as a concept on its own is already a massive assault on the separation of church and state. It not only would be the epitome of state-sponsored religion by in effect promoting one faith above others, but would use taxpayer resources — classrooms, school time and teachers — for that promotion.

The South Carolina proposal has even greater freedom of speech issues, both for teachers and students. According to the original bill, ”All schools shall provide for a minute of mandatory silence at the beginning of each school day, during which time the teacher may deliver a prayer, provided the school allows a student to leave the classroom if the student does not want to listen to or participate in the prayer.” As such, it places an enormous amount of pressure both on teachers to “deliver” the prayer even if they object, either due to being of a different faith or simply because they feel the venue is inappropriate. It places just as much pressure on students, who have to actively separate themselves from the group, in essence ostracizing themselves from their class environment, or to passively partake in a religious activity against their wills.

The South Carolina lawmakers behind the bill make no attempt to hide the fact that they want school prayer, regardless of the means it takes to get there or the form that the prayer takes. “The compromise would be to have the students to pray to whomever they want to. If they want to do away with teachers conducting the prayer that would be fine with us. The essential part of the bill, the important part, is putting prayer back in school,” Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat and one of the original sponsors, told ABCNews4.

It’s a “compromise” that should be taken with a grain of salt, of course. Regardless of what deity is being chosen and who leads the prayer, it’s clear that the intent is to break down the longstanding precedent that government cannot encourage or endorse school prayer.

“Individual, silent, personal prayer never has and never could be outlawed in public schools,” writes Freedom From Religion Foundation in their frequently asked questions surrounding school prayer. “The courts have declared government-fostered prayers unconstitutional – those led, required, sanctioned, scheduled or suggested by officials. It is dishonest to call any prayer ‘voluntary’ that is encouraged or required by a public official or legislature. By definition, if the government suggests that students pray, whether by penning the prayer, asking them to vote whether to pray or setting aside time to pray, it is endorsing and promoting that prayer. It is coercive for schools to schedule worship as an official part of the school day, school sports or activities, or to use prayer to formalize graduation ceremonies. Such prayers are more ‘mandatory’ than ‘voluntary.’”

The line separating church and state in schools is already threatened in many areas in the country. North Carolina is already allowing public funding in the form of school vouchers to be used in private, religious schools that actively discriminate, and school vouchers as a whole have been used as a way to funnel taxpayer dollars to religious groups.

The school prayer proposal is just one new way to completely erode the line stopping government from promoting faith. Will the legislators accept it, or will it spend another year stuck in committee?

Photo credit: Thinkstock



thanks for the article.

Erick Ehrhorn
Erick Ehrhorn6 months ago

thanks for the article.

Erick Ehrhorn
Erick Ehrhorn6 months ago

thanks for the article.

Erick Ehrhorn
Erick Ehrhorn6 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven6 months ago

thanks for the article.

Erick Ehrhorn
Erick Ehrhorn2 years ago

Kelsey, I have stopped saying the pledge of allegiance for various reasons. Unfortunately the country has slipped and as long as it is the number one country in terms of prisons, I see no reason to say it.

Kelsey Valois
Kelsey Valois2 years ago

A few days ago, i asked my Government teacher his opinion on the Pledge of Allegiance, noting that prayer was a similar issue. He said he wasn't really at an appropriate area as an educational staff member to vent his feelings on the topic, though he did say it is an extremely controversial issue.
I purposely defy saying "Under god, indivisible" because i am atheist, as well as "And liberty and justice for all," being an LGBT teen whose state hasn't legalized gay marriage yet, and still has some racial/economical boundaries.
A private school, however, should be entitled to having their kids do whatever they need, etc. prayer, being a religious school with religious standards.
But in public schools? Hell no.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

You are delusional Sara Prayer in school has nothing to do with whats happening now.

The fact that no one teaches kids how to resolve conflict surely does though. The fact that a Gun in a TV show is usually the solution finder also does. Guns amd shootings are entirely too dramtsied now.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

Before they stopped school prayer in the 60's there were no school shootings, teen pregnancies were rare, etc. I think that it would be good to go back to taking a minute out of the day and say a little prayer. Make it kind of voluntary, if you don't want to just sit quietly in your seat.

Biby C.
Biby C2 years ago

This is America? A free country? The world's largest democracy?