Proposed prayer amendment 'ridiculous'


The proposed amendment to the Constitution to allow prayer in public schools is an absurd suggestion. The proposal arises from the fears of religious people, especially Christians, that the government will whittle away religious rights under the aegis of the doctrine of separation of church and state. They fear that this will continue until there will be nowhere to express faith except in the church. Whether or not these fears are justified, the idea of an amendment to specifically allow for prayer in schools is foolish.

First, the guarantee of school prayer will be silly considering that is but one small incident of the loss of religious freedom. If prayer is allowed in schools, to whom will it be directed? What of the teacher that wants to put his Bible on his desk? Will it be allowed? It is not now. How about evangelizing on school grounds? Will that be protected? The point is not to guarantee just prayer, but a whole host of things that the Supreme Court has ruled to violate of the church and state doctrine.

Second, is it a good idea to have prayer in schools? Is having the students chant some mantra a ticket to instilling faith in students? The teaching of religion is best left to parents and churches. If it is taught in school it will be a watered-down, nonspecific prayer. Will this be a good medium for teaching children? The best way to have prayer in school is to allow children and teachers to pray alone or in groups during or after school in a Bible study or some such. If people were allowed to do this again (the Supreme Court put a stop to it), surely it would be a better method of allowing religious freedom in the schools. This is allowed in Russia, shouldn't we try it here? It seems that just allowing personal expression of faith would suffice. If this means that, like in Mississippi, the girl reading the announcements on the intercom wants to say a prayer at the start of the day, so be it.

Third, and most important, a school prayer amendment would be a ridiculously redundant thing. Regardless of the misguided decisions of the Supreme Court, there is no prohibition to school prayer in the United States Constitution. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as a doctrine of separation of church and state. That phrase appears nowhere in the document. It does not exist. The basis of this so-called doctrine is in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It reads, "Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof . " All that this means is that the Congress may not pass any law establishing a church of the United States or prohibiting people from exercising their own religions. This applies only to Congress and therefore to the United States government. In fact, a state may establish a religion or prohibit free exercise of religion. It was not until the 1820s, 30-plus years after the First Amendment, that Virginia disestablished the Anglican Church. Most states at the time of the ratification had established churches. If a state wanted to, it could establish a church and bring back the Inquisition. While all will agree that this is in no way a good idea, it is nevertheless possible. It is constitutional fact that the federal courts have no authority to rule over the states and their relation to the church.

In sum, any proposal of a school prayer amendment or of any such amendment is ridiculous and redundant. Congress ought to let this idea die on the vine, it is worthless.

James A. Olive Jr.

History/Political Science


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