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Prayer and Public Schools: Not A Good Combination
Imagine a little boy on the first day of classes sitting in second grade at a public school where more than half of the population of the school is Christian. This boy was brought up to believe in Allah and the principles of the Islamic faith. Over the intercom, the principle announces that it is time to recite the pledge and make a prayer in Jesus name. The boy, resistant to say the prayer with his classmates, does not remain standing after the pledge to pray in Jesus name. His classmates look at him in disbelief. After this episode, nobody will want to talk to him. When it comes time to pick teams for kickball or football in physical education class he will be the last one picked. In art class no one will share their scissors or glue with him. Soon he will become known as the weird kid. Children at this age do not understand that everyone is different. This young boy feels confused and sad. What do you think the rest of the year will be like for this boy? He will always be known as the different one at school. Young children do not particularly like the different children in the classroom. Fitting in with the norm of a group of peers is one of the most important aspects of elementary school. If prayer had not been mixed in with the classroom in this situation, this conflict would have never come about. Prayer in public schools is a widely debated issue in America today. Many schools have children with this very same problem of feeling left out. Education is mandatory for all children but religion is not. Religion is private, and schools are public therefore making public schools for all denominations of students. Two other valid reasons that verify that prayer is irrelevant in the classroom is that the first amendment states that religion is a choice and that prayer has not been proven to help raise students performances in academics.
Prayer was thrown out of schools in 1962 for a very good reason. It was hurting the well being of students and harming society (Robinson). Education should not make anyone feel uncomfortable. Prayer in the classroom obviously does. By having specific types of prayers that tend to lean towards one religion, the school is leaving out certain students. Prayer in public schools also shows students that options are open and distracts them from what they were brought up to believe in by their families. School prayer can even bring about prejudice in students. Being exposed to only one religion would bring about hatred for other religions and ignorance because of lack of knowledge. Prayer should be left for private use. Public school is not a place for religion or prayer.
Religion is a part of the family. Introducing it to children in schools raises conflicts with those children who were not taught the differences in beliefs that exist in different religions. Prayers that are introduced early on in schools are not voluntary. This does not give a child the choice on what to believe in. In high school, comparative religion classes are allowed as long as one religion is not presented as being superior to another. Bible study is also allowed as long as the texts from other religions are included. Equality is what a public school should have. Students should not be taught what to believe they should be taught what other people believe, giving them a choice of their own in what they actually want to accept as the truth.
John M. Swomley spoke of prayer in schools in this manner:
Voluntary, individual, silent prayer has never been banned or discouraged in the public
schools. The Supreme Court has banned state-sponsored religious services. Those who
advocate prayer services in the public schools do not want voluntary prayer. They want the
government to be officially involved in promoting and sponsoring prayer services so as to
put pressure on children to engage in public prayer. They apparently do not care whether
parents want their children to engage in public prayer or be indoctrinated with sectarian
religious ideas. The object is to provide a captive classroom audience that will be exposed
to the prayers of those with a religious message, which they deliver in the form of a
prayer (Swomley 128).
Swomley obviously advocates the fact that prayer in school should not be allowed. He makes a strong point when he says that the people who want prayer in schools do not understand that it is a private matter and children will engage in public prayer and be indoctrinated with sectarian religious ideas.
Prayer in school, in a way, was also condemned by Jesus Christ. Jesus believed that religion and prayer should be experienced on a private level. He did not agree with having prayers read aloud in large groups and did not favor public prayer sessions. Jesus condemned prayers in situations where other people were present. This includes group meetings and prayer at any occasions where many people were involved. Public school would definitely fall into one of these categories. Prayers are a personal event between a person and their God; no one else should be present.
Public schools are for all types of children. This includes all types of religions. Prayer that is directed toward one faith would leave out another faith. With parents paying an equal amount of taxes for public schools, singling out one religion over the other would clearly be in violation of equal rights for the students. When prayer is put into the school system the minority student has been picked out from everyone else. No one wants to feel like the minority in their classroom. The student would be focused on the torments and teasing that their fellow classmates would put them through instead of academic studies. School is for learning objective knowledge not theoretical religious discussion that would offend the minority students and take away from their learning. In today s school systems students are given the choice to excuse themselves during a time of prayer. But, by separating themselves from the rest of the class, the student risks later harassment and abuse by fellow classmates.
Besides religion being a private matter, The United States Constitution clearly sets a division between the federal government and religion in its text. The First Amendment of the Constitution states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . Questions as to whether the federal government should step in and decide if it is necessary for children in public school classrooms to have prayer always come about. People challenge these acts all of the time and think that prayer is essential in schools. They believe that students who are active in prayer everyday in schools will turn out to have better behavior in the long run. In reality prayer in public schools would hurt more than it would do good.
Our country s founders, who were from different religious backgrounds themselves, knew the best way to protect religious liberty was to keep the government out of religion. The First Amendment that they created serves as a fundamental freedom and is a major reason why the United States of America has managed to avoid many of the religious conflicts that have torn so many other nations apart. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government from encouraging or promoting religion in any way. This is the reason for the lack of an official religion for the United States. The Establishment Clause also has an effect on school vouchers, in that, the government gives taxpayers money to schools that promote religion (Robinson).
Individual students have the right to pray whenever they want to, as long as they don t disrupt classroom instruction or other educational activities or try to force others to pray along with them. School officials have no right to tell a student that they are in violation of rules if they are found praying but they have to do so in a private matter. In the opinion of many, prayer can just as easily be done outside of school grounds than inside where it has the potential to disturb other students.
Schools today allow religious groups to organize on school grounds as if they are an actual club. These religious groups are treated as any other organization. Some schools even allow prayer inside of the school. Should this be allowed in public school systems? The Supreme Court has made clear that prayers organized or sponsored by a public school violate the First Amendment, whether in the classroom, over the intercom system or even at a graduation exercise. Even moments of silence, if used to promote prayer, have been struck down by the courts. A “neutral” moment of silence that does not encourage prayer over any quiet, meditative activity will not be struck down, even though many students choose to use the time for prayer. Simply put, the Court has emphasized that it is none of the business of government to promote or sponsor religious exercise, especially among impressionable younger students who are at school as a result of mandatory attendance laws (Robinson). Prayer at graduation is also widely discussed. At a public school graduation students that are of the same exact religion do not graduate together. It is outrageous to say a prayer that only applies to certain people. The prayer can be done before or after the ceremony, not during it. People that the prayer does not apply to should not have to listen to something that has nothing to do with them. For people who disagree and say that graduation is a time to give thanks and prayer, baccalaureate services are available. A moment of silence could also be offered at graduation so everyone could pray to whomever or whatever they want to pray to.
Some people blame lack of prayer in schools as reasons for bad behavior and grades displayed by students. This evidence has not been proven. Generations of people have grown up without prayer in schools and have turned out to be perfect law abiding citizens. Prayer does not increase a person s knowledge and does not help a student to achieve A s instead of C s. Some supporters see prayer as a way of letting students clear their minds and give them a peaceful way of starting a school day. This can be achieved by other countless methods. Students could do warm up exercises at the beginning of each day. They can have group discussions on issues that concern them. These types of things are not leaving anyone out. Prayer simply does leave out many students.
Prayer in public school would actually take away from instructional time. Instead of a teacher going over homework from the night before, a student has to listen to a prayer that could easily be said in the privacy of his or her own home. These types of situations are definitely not helpful when a student is trying to learn and make better grades on the already little amount of instructional time that they have.
Prayer in public schools is definitely not a favorable thing to have. For the reasons of public schools being open to all kinds of students and the First Amendment stating that religion is a choice, prayer should be kept out of schools. Prayer in school has also not been proven to help students scores go up at all. Prayer should be done in the privacy of ones home and not in a public place of learning. Parents have instilled values and ethics into their children s lives through the religion that they felt was best. They do not want school systems to shoot down what they have worked so hard to do by incorporating prayer into the classroom. Prayer in classrooms gives students a chance to experience doubt in what they believe in and it should not be up to a school to offer choices in beliefs. The First Amendment states that religion is a choice. When public schools offer prayers in a classroom, it no longer becomes a choice. Prayer is not a learning tool and therefore does not benefit the students at all. Prayer in school is debated in many places around America by a large amount of people. Although supporters of prayer in schools do have good points, opposers are more convincing with their arguments against school prayer. Unquestionably, prayer does not belong in public school classrooms.
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