50 years later: High court's school prayer ruling still fuels religious liberty debate

1962 ruling still ignites passion

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  • HotGlobe SAN RAFAEL, CA
    July 4, 2012 1:10 p.m.

    SJGF--Do you really think that there is some connection between religion and prison? Do you think there are more atheists than sectarians behind bars? Nope. Turns out atheists are generally more moral. They don't rely on "forgiveness" and figure out how to do the right thing on their own.

  • Wanda Salt Lake City, UT
    June 25, 2012 5:21 p.m.

    Growing up in a Mormon community, which did indeed mandate prayer in public schools and public meetings I can tell you first-hand how uncomfortable I felt. In the religion in which I was raised prayers were formal and consistent, unlike LDS prayers, which were spontaneous and free-form, which really bothered me--just a difference in cultures, which I now better understand. Since then I have become more savvy and sensitive to all, but nonetheless, I consider it a private issue, which should be limited to church or family functions since prayer means different things to different faiths, and can be a divisive issue. I am not anti-LDS; I have the same objections to Tim Tivo and his prayer on the field. Certainly Tim can thank God for his skills and victories. I am sure that God does not care if it is spontaneous on the field or offered later, in private, where, perhaps, Tivo can focus on God, prayer, thanks, etc. in PRIVATE! I did not miss school prayer, once it was removed, and its removal made no difference in the remainder of my educational experience.

  • Maudine SLC, UT
    June 25, 2012 4:37 p.m.

    @ sjgf: Section 1 of the 14th Amendment extended the protections of the Bill of Rights, including Freedom of Religion, to the states.

    There was a case recently in Texas in which an LDS girl and her parents sued the school she was going to because the teacher would have the class start the day with a student led prayer. The prayers were always led by one of the Protestant kids in the class and the LDS girl and a child of another religion were mocked and humiliated because they would not participate in prayers that they believed violated their religion.

    Children can pray on their own in schools or anywhere else. Adults can pray on their own in schools or anywhere else. The problem comes when those who are praying try to force others to participate in those prayers.

    The fact that your religion and the religion of your children means so little to you that you are willing to let it be subverted in a public school by a practitioner of who knows what faith and belief system is very sad. If your religion means that little to you, perhaps you should just reject it altogether.

  • coreypaul BOSTON, MA
    June 25, 2012 1:28 p.m.

    Thomas Jefferson:

    "The Christian god is a three-headed monster, cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three-headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites."

    "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."~ Thomas Jefferson wrote, in a letter to John Adams (April 11, 1823)

  • coreypaul BOSTON, MA
    June 25, 2012 1:26 p.m.

    First Four USA Presidents: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison

    George Washington: "The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy"

    John Adams: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;" ~ Excerpt from Tripoli of Barbary. Art. 11. Sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.

    Thomas Jefferson: "Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites."

    James Madison: "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

  • Edd_Doerr Silver Spring, MD
    June 25, 2012 12:47 p.m.

    The Supreme Court was right in the Engel, Schempp and later rulings on evolution in public schools. These rulings were importsnt defenses of religious freedom for all Americans.

    It should be noted that the 1962-63 school prayer rulings removed the last vestiges of Protestant hegemony in our public schools. The upshot was that Catholic private school enrollment declined from 5.5 million in 1865 to 2 million today. The dscontent with the school prayer rulings is mainly that of evangelical fundamentalists who would like to take our schools back to the mod-19th century.

    Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    June 25, 2012 12:41 p.m.

    "As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools." - Author unknown

  • Jeromeo Salt Lake City, UT
    June 25, 2012 12:00 p.m.

    Equal time. Remind me. Which way is Mecca?

  • AZRods Maricopa, AZ
    June 25, 2012 11:11 a.m.

    schwa, you're saying that it's ok to pray, as long as we do it when and where other people say it is ok. And it's ok to doubt evolution. Whew, well we still got that.
    Yet it is illegal to have a prayer in class, teach anything about God or morals, while evolution is taught in every classroom as if it were fact.
    And now it's ok to teach the acceptance of same sex marriages in the classroom.
    And you don't think this will have an effect on the moral, social and spiritual behavior on this generation of kids?

  • Jeromeo Salt Lake City, UT
    June 25, 2012 10:16 a.m.

    School Lunch! School Teachers! Let's get our priorities straight.

  • Formerspud South Jordan, UT
    June 25, 2012 10:05 a.m.

    Matt, good article. I stopped having prayers at PTA meetings many years ago because I couldn't make everyone happy. No one missed them. We just started meetings with the cub scouts flag ceremony.

  • sjgf South Jordan, UT
    June 25, 2012 9:59 a.m.

    Several have mentioned a concern for my stance that the local communities should be able to set their own standards.

    There is a philosophical battle going on all the time about "states rights" -- where is the line between when the federal government should step in to make a law governing all the states, vs when should states be able to tell the federal government that it is none of their business.

    Mitt Romney has a point, when he claims that the people of Massachusetts can decide whether they want state-sponsored medicine, whereas he states that the Federal government should not get involved in such a law.

    I understand that the 1st amendment follows the same logic. The Federal government should not make any laws establishing religion. But if the people of the various states want to, that is up to them.

    In the decision 50 years ago, the Federal Government stepped in and established secularism the religion of all America, in total violation of the 1st amendment. They specifically removed the right of New York, as a state, to be self governing in this instance, and then applied it to all states.

  • BYU Papa Cedar Hills, ut
    June 25, 2012 9:08 a.m.

    I was raised in England, The Church of England is the State Church. I was a non Conformist. My Teacher Miss Whitesides made us learn the 13 chapter of 1st Corinthians by heart. She was very strict and did not hesitate to use the cane. However, she was a loving and kind teacher. I learned many hymns which we sang in the air raid shelters, we did learn to pray, and we had scripture study every morning. Sometimes I was scoffed at for my questions about what God was like. Some would say Oh Professor ....... None of it hurt me to much. Maybe we worry too much. I still love Miss Whitesides.

  • Springvillepoet Springville, UT
    June 25, 2012 8:32 a.m.

    @sjgf"Prayers in school should be left to the discretion of the community."

    No. Prayer in school is not something which can be left to community standards. The First Amendment is to protect the minority, not enforce the will of the majority, even from community to community. Any policy officially allowing prayer in school, no matter how benign or supported by 'community standards' is discriminatory. And, if you think kids won't be discriminated against because they don't want to participate in the predominant religious practices in a community, you are mistaken.

    Imagine the majority of community being Catholic, or Muslim, because that's what we are really talking about. Whenever somebody says "community standards" they are really talking about themselves being in the majority and not understanding why people disagree with what they want. Are you saying you would feel okay participating in prayer services you do not agree with because the community standards are to have guided Catholic or Muslim prayer in school? No? Is that because enforcing a specific religion/ideology upon others is okay, so long as your ideology is the one being enforced?

    Schwa is correct.

  • Schwa South Jordan, UT
    June 25, 2012 12:41 a.m.

    This argument is where the religious right loses me. It is not an attack on religious freedom to prohibit the teaching of religion in public schools. On the contrary it is an attack on religious freedom to require the teaching of religion in public schools.

    Nobody is saying you shouldn't pray, or doubt evolution, or any other religious choice you make. All we're saying is that you can't mandate through the law that we be taught to think like you as well.

  • Mark B Eureka, CA
    June 24, 2012 11:56 p.m.

    Let's see. You have government employees working on government time in a government facility to fashion a religious ceremony to be used in public schools, which are paid for by, that's right, the government. How could that NOT be government sponsoring of a p[articular religion? It certainly doesn't meet the standard of "small government" which are lauded in these posts every day.

    sjgf wants prayer in public schools, but offers no way for communities to actually "come together" and end up on his/her side. Nor is there any proof to the accusation of harm to society, since prayer itself, in schools or even in groups is banned only when the state composes the prayer.

    If government-appointed officials are charged with teaching children how to pray, and what for, that doesn't leave much to families, does it?

  • sjgf South Jordan, UT
    June 24, 2012 10:50 p.m.

    Prayers in school should be left to the discretion of the community. It is one thing for the Federal Government to "not establish" a religion, as called for in the 1st amendment. It is something very different for people in a community (such as upstate New York) to come together and decide what is appropriate for their community.

    The Supreme Court got it wrong 50 years ago.

    They should have declined to rule on the issue, as it was not a federal issue. This ruling has done inestimable harm to American society over the last 50 years, and the harm will continue. I believe that this ruling, followed by other rulings about banning all religions expression from classrooms, is the biggest contributor to the overflowing prisons in America.

    You can either teach people to be moral, or you can imprison them when they aren't, after they have harmed or destroyed the lives of others.