Prayer in Public School Essay

This essay has a total of 2669 words and 12 pages.

Prayer in Public School



Spectrum of Opinions: Prayer in Public School
There are many different philosophies regarding prayer in public school. It seems to be a
difficult issue to decide. The opinions are wide-ranging and convoluted. I am going to
highlight the many ideas and opinions as to whether prayers in public school should be
allowed and to what extent.

The first opinion I am going to look at is that there should be absolutely no prayer of
any kind in public schools. Bob Croddy has been teaching for almost 30 years and he wrote
an article for the NEA Today opposing any type of prayer in school, including a moment of
silence (NEA). In his article he first cites the Constitution’s First Amendment,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof.” Mr. Croddy goes on to say that a moment of silence is really just
the beginning of the erosion of this First Amendment right (Croddy 45). He also says, “If
we give the agents of government the right to require any religious practice of the
citizenry – no matter how small—then we are well on our way to eliminating religious
freedom” (Croddy 45). In his article he makes his opinion very clear that there is no
need to institute a specific time for a moment of silence or prayer. There is plenty of
time throughout the school day to meditate or pray if one chooses to.

Katha Pollitt wrote a very sarcastic and biting essay in the Nation in 1994. She says go
ahead and institute prayer in school. Pollitt says, “Right now religion has the
romantic aura of the forbidden-Christ is cool. We need to bring it into the schools,
which kids already hate, and associate it firmly with boredom, regulation, condescension,
make-work, and de facto segregation, with business math and Cliffs Notes and metal
detectors” (Pollitt 788). Pollitt goes on to say that prayer in school does nothing to
lower crime rates or teen pregnancy rates, much less raise SAT scores. She concludes
that,” Nothing reveals the bankruptcy of the new conservatism more than it is promotion of
school prayer. The message to youth is clear. We have nothing for you here, start
thinking about the hereafter” (Pollitt 788).

In the same NEA Today article that Bob Croddy wrote an article for, Connie Comeaux debated
the merits of a moment of silence. She has been teaching for nine years and is president
of the Monroe City Association of Educators in Louisiana. She feels that if tragedy
strikes a school and an announcement goes out over the P.A. system for a moment of silence
it should not be against the law. She says that a moment of silence is not promoting
religion. Ms. Comeaux says that a moment of silence is not any one religion and can be
very beneficial to students to clear their minds of clutter before the day begins (Comeaux
45). She also states that she does not believe in state mandated prayer, and she does not
want any government dictating how and to whom her children should be praying (Comeaux 45).

These two feelings on the rights and reasons behind prayer or moments of silence in school
are very straightforward and clear. As we get closer to the other side of the spectrum on
this issue the courts get involved and the issues become a little cloudy.

For instance, on February 26, 1998 a 5th Circuit court banned student led prayer at
football games. However, according to Nathan Koppel in Texas Lawyer, it is no secret that
the school districts have been ignoring the decision. Recently a Santa Fe senior, Marian
Ward argues that regardless of the directive handed down from the 5th Circuit she should
be allowed to pray at football games. On September 3rd 1999, a judge Sim Lake ruled that
Ward could in fact lead the football fans in prayer. On September 4th Ward spoke on the
public address system and said,” Dear Lord…I pray that you also reach each and every
person here tonight, especially those involved in the game, that they will demonstrate
good sportsmanship, Lord, and that we’ll have safety with all involved… In Jesus’ name I
pray, Amen.” Judge Lake's decision was soon overturned by a panel of judges three to one.
An attorney out of Houston, Kelly Coghlan is a champion of the right to pray in school.
He has taken Ward’s case. Coghlan sees the issue of prayers at special events as a free
speech issue. If a student is allowed to deliver a message to an audience, and the
student is able to choose the message with no interference from school officials, then if
the student wants part of his message to be a prayer it becomes a free speech issue
(Koppel 1). In essence the issue for Ward and her lawyer is not whether they should be
allowed to pray before school begins, but the right to pray before special events such as
football games and graduations. In the Connecticut Law Tribune, Stuart Taylor writes
that, “Students may lead prayers at such ceremonies if done on their own initiative, not
the school’s. Their prayers must be non-sectarian and non-proselytizing”(Taylor 1). The
idea that has been the courts strong hold is that primary and secondary school students
are still very impressionable and vulnerable. If prayer is allowed in school led by
teachers that it would be a very powerful religious message, or to non-believers,
exclusion. However, Taylor explains, the court has accommodated the students who want to
pray during the school day, allowing periods of silence and extracurricular clubs that
prayer meetings in school buildings (Taylor news).

Taylor also reports that Justice Antonin Scalia believes that a nonsectarian graduation
prayer is at the most a trifling imposition on the few offended students—who were not
pressured to join in—and the few who are offended should not eradicate the “expression of
gratitude to God that a majority of the community wishes to make” (Taylor news).

Another source that I found interesting is a poll done by the Roper Center at the
University of Connecticut. NBC News and the Wall Street Journal sponsored the poll. The
poll asked 2011 adults several questions about prayer in public school. The results of
the poll showed 47% said that Government should allow prayer in public schools (totally).
Only 17% said Government should preserve a clear separation between church and state
(Public Opinion On-line).

As you can see the opinions are very strong and wide-ranging. We have some very extreme
ideas about whether or not prayer should be allowed in public schools. In the extreme
cases some believe that school should have specific prayers led by the school each day.
There is also talk of posting the Ten Commandments in public schools across the country.
On the other side of the equation we have people who believe that there should be no
mention of God under any circumstances to preserve the separation of church and state.
That would include no Nativity scenes or Christmas programs or possibly getting rid the
word God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I have looked at several opinions on the issue of prayer in public school, and I find it
to be a difficult issue to decide. I am sure that the debate will rage on as long as the
Constitution is in tact.















Work Cited
Comeaux, Connie and Bob Croddy. “ Should School Begin with a
Moment of Silence?” NEA Today. September 15, 1995: 45.
Hart and Teeter Research Company. “Public Opinion On-Line.” June
30, 1999.
*http://web.lexis-
nexis.com/universe…c1484cbce6cf77777a9b537&taggedDocs=*
Koppel, Nathan. “New Reading on School Prayer.” Texas Lawyer.
September 20, 1999: 1.
Pollitt, Katha. “ Subject to Debate.” The Nation. December 26, 1994:
788.
Taylor, Stuart. “School Prayer a Issue a Judicial Minefield.” The
Connecticut Law Tribune. September 27, 1999: Sec. News.
Spectrum of Opinions: Prayer in Public School
There are many different philosophies regarding prayer in public school. It seems to be a
difficult issue to decide. The opinions are wide-ranging and convoluted. I am going to
highlight the many ideas and opinions as to whether prayers in public school should be
allowed and to what extent.

Continues for 6 more pages >>




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