Prayer in Public Schools - More Questions than Answers
Censorship is a very broad topic. Is it good or bad? Often, we ask ourselves if such things need to exist because of the First Amendment right. It states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." (Amendments.) In the case Ginzberg v. United States, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart stated, "Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . ." Is he right? Is society lacking confidence in itself? Yes, there are some situations, which need to be censored, such as pornography. However, does religion in public schools need to be censored? Censoring religion in public schools is wrong if it infringes upon a student's right to practice his or her religion. One infringement would be prayer in school.
Public schools are supported by taxpayer money, so why would one want his taxes to support an institution that prohibits his children from praying? On the other hand, what nonbeliever would want his children to participate in prayer with his taxpayer money? Religion is an issue many school districts don't want any part of, since feelings run so hot on the issue and courts have traditionally given a strict interpretation of the Constitution's separation of church and state in the classroom. (Heilik.) "Public education in America . . . is destroying democracy in America," claims Pat Robertson. He goes on to say that public schools are in a "stranglehold" of the National Education Association. Continuing his argument about the NEA, it is not "interested in education, but in power and money." (Edwards 9.) Jerry Falwell wrote, "I am forced to believe that the decay of the public school system accelerated into a downward spiral when prayer and Bible reading were removed by the U.S. Supreme Court." (Edwards 10.)
President Clinton was also troubled with this issue. So much so, that he came up with a statement of principles outlining the separation of church and state in public schools. On May 30, 1998, Clinton stated, " . . . Schools do more than train children's minds. They also help to nurture their souls by reinforcing the values they learn at home and in their communities. I believe that one of the best ways we can help out schools to do this is by supporting students' rights to voluntarily practice their religious beliefs, including prayer in schools . . . For more than 200 years, the First Amendment has protected our religious freedom and allowed many faiths to flourish in our homes, in our work place and in our schools. Clearly understood and sensibly applied, it works." (Riley.)
The guidelines were sent to every public school district in...