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South Carolina Wants to Make School Prayer Mandatory

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.

Prayer.

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 ó classrooms, school time and teachers ó 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?

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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341 comments

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11:19PM PST on Feb 21, 2014

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.

5:43PM PST on Feb 21, 2014

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.

8:38AM PST on Jan 22, 2014

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.

4:54AM PST on Jan 22, 2014

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.

2:39AM PST on Jan 20, 2014

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

3:35AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

LOL
(sorry, but this is ridiculous!)

6:51PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

Cathleen K., never underestimate the stupidity of the American public. They fell for G W Bush who held talks with his heavenly father and Reagan who looked to the stars. A republican president is possible and will be likely if people don't resist totally republican propaganda and control. To think the typical republican actually believes in God is just so ridiculous.

3:35AM PST on Jan 16, 2014

Well GAG me. Religion doesn't belong in schools OR matters of state!

2:49AM PST on Jan 16, 2014

The conservative religious nuts are making a mad dash for all kinds of stuff before Scalia keels over. and gets replaced with a Democratic presidential appointment. Deep down, they know another Republican president is a long shot because of demographics and the Republican primary process!

10:43PM PST on Jan 15, 2014

Carl O., they've heard of it, they just don't care.

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