Thursday, May 12, 2016

Leave Prayer Out of U.S. Public Schools

According to a 2015 study, conducted by Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, "......clear majorities of Twitter (63%) and Facebook users (63%) now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family."

I,for one, find that study more than a little disturbing.

One particular problem with "news" gathered on Facebook is that anyone can post virtually anything onto Facebook. The reliability of Facebook stories is highly questionable, yet one of my Facebook "friends" falls for every news story posted onto the social media network - no questions asked.

In some cases, the story may be factual - up to a point - but the story is basically "old news". In the one, two or three years since the original story was posted, there may have been several updates which contradict the, so called, news item.

We've all seen Facebook postings of a celebrity's "recent" death, years after it happened.

It was a Facebook item that I came across today, that became the genesis of this rant. As shown in the photo below, the "news" is that Mississippi now has prayer back in it's public schools.

The photo is actually from 2013 when Mississippi Governor, Phil Bryant signed into law policies that will allow students at public schools a limited public forum to express their religious views.

Quite a few people believe the law allowed prayer in the classroom. Well, not exactly.

The law required "…public schools to develop policies that will allow students to pray over school intercoms, at assemblies and at sporting events. While not allowing school-sanctioned prayer, the law permits students to offer public prayers with a disclaimer by the school administration".

Last year, courts found that "There was clear evidence that these Christian assemblies were endorsed and organized by the school. To continue to deny a constitutional violation had taken place was untenable." Thereby disallowing any school sponsored prayer. And Mississippi's third largest school system had been hit with a $7,500 fine after a judge found the school violated a previous order by allowing a pastor to pray at an honors assembly.

A parent has a Right and a responsibility to bring up their children in the faith of their choosing. A parent also has the Right to raise their children as atheists, if that's their wish. No one has the Right to force their religious beliefs onto the children of other people.

My wife and I are Catholic and as Catholics, we are required to bring up our child as a Catholic. We have a Catholic home life. We attend Mass regularly. We pray together as a family. In addition to that, we have always sent our son to Catholic school - first while living in the U.S. and continuing his Catholic education in Philippines. Because we believe prayer and religious education is vitally important, we send him to schools that share our values.

If we were living in the U.S. and found we could not send our son to a Catholic school, I would hope that the public school would not allow school sponsored prayers of any kind.

Why? As this blogger points out,

"If an employee could lead a Christian prayer, there would also have to be concessions made for a teacher to be able to lead a Muslim prayer, Buddhist prayer, Jewish prayer or any other prayer of their choosing. Most people do not like the idea of an adult being able to lead their child in prayer. You could not allow only one kind of prayer and not make concessions for other religions. It’s an all or none type of situation. Not to mention, many people feel that it is not an educator’s place to push their religious convictions upon their students. That responsibility rests with the parents at home."

I cannot understand why this argument is not obvious to those folks calling for prayer in school. The last thing we should want is have a government employee pushing his or her religious views on to students.

If you want prayer in your child's school, send your child to a private school run by the religious group of your choice.

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