It seems like prayer in schools will always be an issue. A few weeks ago, the Hamilton County (Tennessee) School Superintendent ordered a stop to prayers before football games and another school events. The issue was brought to the table from students and parents from Soddy-Daisy High School outside of Chattanooga, who felt that their religious freedoms were being impeded. The Freedom from Religion Foundation also spoke out against having prayers in the school.
First, I didn’t even know there was a Freedom from Religion Foundation. Who hates organized religion enough to join something like this? Second, the Freedom from Religion Foundation is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Chattanooga isn’t necessarily in their next of the woods. Someone must have made them upset.
I checked out the Freedom from Religion Foundation website, and they work “to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism, and to promote the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.” In addition, they claim to be the nation’s largest group of freethinkers, which is defined as “atheists, agnostics, and skeptics.” Since 1978, the Foundation has taken a proactive stance to protect individual’s rights to abstain from a particular religion.
I’m torn here. One side of me feels attacked because they are trying to keep “Christian” prayers out of schools. The other side of me agrees with them for two reasons: public schools are not religious institutions, and they are not speaking out solely against Christianity. Coincidentally, Christianity is the most common religion in the South, so this incident involves Christians. I would like to think that if a Hindu youth group wanted to say prayers before school, the Foundation would do something about it as well.
When I was in elementary school, my dad coached a high school basketball team. Before each game, after my dad gave his pump up speech, the players would circle around and say the Lord’s Prayer. Rules were rules, so my dad had to step back from the huddle, so it didn’t appear he was forcing them to do it. The interesting part was that these players weren’t all Christians. Some were Muslim, some were undeclared, and one guy was even Hindu.
Overall, I think there is a unifying element to prayer, so I think the Freedom from Religion Foundation is blowing the situation out of proportion. But maybe I feel that way because I’m a Christian.
Should public prayers of all religions be kept out of public schools and other public institutions?