Richard Davis: Reinstituting state-sponsored school prayer is a bad idea

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  • Peachy Ruston, LA
    Aug. 26, 2014 10:13 p.m.


    "It did not violate the Constitution b'c Congress had not enacted any legislation on the subject, nor had they prohibited the free exercise of religion."

    Unless you went to school before the Constitution was written, then it WAS a violation of Constitutional rights. Whether or not Congress had yet enacted legislation has no bearing. All that means is that it had not previously been challenged.

    To the poster who lamented the fact that we are teaching atheism in our does not "teach" atheism, for there is nothing to be "learned". It is simply a lack of belief in a supernatural being. Religion, on the other hand, is absolutely taught.

  • Furry1993 Ogden, UT
    Aug. 8, 2014 8:42 a.m.

    To those who want prayer in schools -- what form of religion do you want to the school district (i.e., the government) to establish as THE religion for the schools, and how do you get around the prohibition in the First Amendment to the US Constitution which bans the government stablishment of religion? Some form of Christian prayer seems the most likely, given the propensity of those who want it. I hope you understand that there are many forms of Christian faiths, and they have very different values and dogma (and prayer regimens). How would you pick the "correct" form of Christian prayer to use?

    And the bigger question -- would you force a Jewish student to participate in a Christian prayer? A Muslim student? A Wiccan? A follower of an Eastern religion? A Satanist? How about those students who are being raised without religion?

    Students are free to pray at their discretion (and, given the need for help with tests, I would guess that a lot of students do just that). What the students should not be forced to do, is conform to a government establishment of what prayer/religion in school should be.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Aug. 7, 2014 8:48 p.m.

    Tyler D

    I disagree on the timeline. I see the rise of “apocalypse believing, rapture-ready politicians (e.g., Sarah Palin)” has followed not preceded the near abolition of religion in the public square.

    BTW - feel free to come to church and bring your mind with you.



    Sure, here is a public event. Two of my kids attended a high school awards event at a local church. Prayer was offered by a Baptist minister (it was their church) and is common in my community. I didn’t even blink.

    I have attended (long ago now) city council type events where catholic priests prayed. Again, no issue for me.

    If I were in a predominantly Muslim area and it was an imam. Okay by me.

    I simply think that the intolerance of religion in the public square is hardening the other side. And I don’t see a need for it.

    By “casual” in the pledge, I mean that it is not a prayer or denominational.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 8:28 p.m.

    Mike Richards, you think the school should mandate that a child pray every morning at school?

    Why are his/her parents leading that family in prayer, in their home, in the morning, as the Prophet said to?

    Why are you mandating the STATE, to do what parents and the Prophet has told us to do?

  • let's roll LEHI, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 8:18 p.m.


  • the greater truth Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 5:33 p.m.


    You have demonstrated how over reaching the progressive interpretation of the 14th amendment is.

    The 14th amendment indicates a law must created and it must be applied to all equally.

    What law is not being applied equally in hypothetical situation?

    Again a local run and paid for school does not and should not answer to the federal government and the constitution.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 7, 2014 3:45 p.m.

    @procuradorfiscal – “It's that too many in government no longer remain neutral on the issue of religion.”

    You’re very confused on this issue but it’s understandable given where you’re coming from (i.e., a Christian).

    For the first time in maybe forever, people are beginning to push back against the dogmas and in many cases insanity of religious belief. Many of us are no longer willing to sit idly by while one religion dominates our entire society and gets to dictate everything from what is said or taught in public schools, to who gets to marry whom.

    And judges, liberal and conservative, are bound by a secular constitution and are realizing that just because everyone used to go along with this domination, the Constitution actually does not permit it and they are forced to rule accordingly (they are upholding American values).

    Just because you are no longer getting everything you want doesn’t mean there is a war on religion – you can do whatever you want in your in house or church.

    Let’s make a deal - you don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    Aug. 7, 2014 2:31 p.m.

    In Iceland and the rest of Scandinavia, there is an established church, supported by tax funds. Christian religion is taught as a subject in public schools.

    Liberals are supposed to think Scandinavia is a liberal paradise on earth, right? Yet the kind of ceremonial public theism -- far less extensive than its Scandinavian counterpart -- that is typically at issue in these American debates gets them frothing at the mouth, as if the Taliban are upon us.

    If liberals didn't have double standards, they'd have no standards at all.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    Aug. 7, 2014 2:28 p.m.

    "What if it is a generic written prayer that would offend no one?"

    That was exactly what was struck down in Engel v. Vitale, the 1962 case that killed school prayer:

    "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen."

    Theocracy! Eek!

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 1:42 p.m.

    Re: "Recently, I heard someone claim that America is going downhill because God has been taken out of the schools."

    Well, as long as teachers are authorized to give pop quizzes, prayer can never really be taken out of schools. There are no atheists in foxholes, or during pop quizzes.

    But the issue is not really, that government-sponsored prayer has been removed from schools. It's that too many in government no longer remain neutral on the issue of religion. Government -- in the form of activist, liberal jurists, teachers, school boards, and bureaucrats -- has become openly hostile to religion. Too many in government now play the role of exalting and fostering the agenda of the hypersensitive, hyper-aggressive atheist, humanist, and socialist evangelists amongst us. Those whose real purpose is, not to advance tolerance or diversity, but to actively destroy freedom to practice, or even believe, one's faith.

    That's the reason America is going downhill. Her government has, not just strayed too far from American and religious values, but now actually permits the basest, least faithful among us to define acceptable American religious belief and practice.

  • my_two_cents_worth university place, WA
    Aug. 7, 2014 10:47 a.m.

    @Twin Lights

    "But what about allowing it at public events?"

    Define public event. Is it an event where many if not most in attendance are required to be there? Is it an event such as a council meeting where the business of the council should be to encourage participation by ALL residents regardless of religion? Is it a city celebration where folks are going to be coming and going all day long and the principle interest is in visiting the fire departments static display and getting cotton candy for the kids? Any event with required attendance or event that is doing the people's business (ALL the people's business), should be religion neutral. Individuals citizens attending any of these type of events would still have their individual right to pray and seek their deities guidance regardless.

    "what about casual (non-denominational) mentions of God such as in the pledge of allegiance?"

    But it is not casual. Just mention an effort to drop "under God" and the Christian right--and only the Christian right--goes ballistic. No other religious demographic demands its preservation.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 7, 2014 9:50 a.m.

    @Twin Lights – “…the two sides seem to be ever hardening”

    I don’t disagree with you (in spirit) but we should keep in mind what is really driving this divisiveness.

    First (by way of history lesson) whenever one group is oppressed (non-believers, in this case) for literally thousands of years through everything from social & political ostracizing to burning at the stake, we should at some point not be surprised by some eventual pushback.

    2nd, most atheists/agnostics are live and let live types and could care less what other people believe, but they begin to chafe when believers start to have the kind of political power we have seen with the rise of the Religious Right.

    Given the tensions in the world today and our destructive capabilities, the idea of apocalypse believing, rapture-ready politicians (e.g., Sarah Palin) being in charge of anything more than a PTA meeting is frankly terrifying to those of us who want to pass on a decent and well cared for Earth.

    In the grand scheme of things, this is all just Newton’s Third Law of Motion playing out in the social/political arena.

  • Stormwalker Cleveland , OH
    Aug. 7, 2014 9:28 a.m.

    Monday morning, will have a Bible verse in a prayer to Jesus.

    But then it gets more complicated…

    Tuesday will need a compass and prayer rugs for the student body, so we can locate Mecca and following a reading from the Koran we will all kneel in prayer.

    Wednesday we'll form a large circle, do a banishing ritual, invoke the goddess and her blessings, and then release the circle. Readings will be from an appropriate book of shadows.

    Thursday we can have a reading from the Bhagavad-Gita, with incense and chanting. Hopefully we can also have chimes.

    Friday, a passage from the Tao Te Ching and a few minutes sitting zazen, meditating on an appropriate koan, such as "how does forced participation in religious rituals give us religious freedom?"

    Unless of course prayer in school is to be interpreted as a Christian prayer and scripture in schools is to be interpreted as the Bible only. Of course… That sounds like it violates the First Amendment.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 9:07 a.m.


    Actually, I don't think the written or printed word God qualifies as a graven image.

    The words "In God We Trust" appears on most/all of our coins.

    As a non-believer of religion, my God is simply the natural world. And just as the religious people believe that their God created them, I believe that my God, the natural world, created me.

    While it is true there is a war going on between organized religion and government about the right to advertise in the public square, using such things as public prayer, clothing, jewelry, crosses, building structure, external symbols, and maybe even saying grace in a restaurant, the fact that it has been going on for centuries has conditioned us to just accept it and go on with life. But we don't really need for this war to include children in public schools.

    Try this, put a sign just outside your bedroom with a phrase like "Be Kind to Others" and see if the words seem to automatically appear in your mind as you pass by.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 7:35 a.m.

    When growing up we had daily school prayer and no one objected or even commented on it. It was a non-denominational Christian prayer (and a hymn and a reading from the Bible). It came at the beginning of the day and no child was forced to attend though almost everyone did. Any parent could excuse their child or children from this religious exercise. The children did not object, parents did not object, teachers were all for it b'c they felt that the children were more well behaved if they began the day with a prayer. It did not violate the Constitution b'c Congress had not enacted any legislation on the subject, nor had they prohibited the free exercise of religion.

    Congress itself has public prayer; interestingly it is very rare indeed for anyone to criticize this. They show up as if for Sunday School in suits, white shirts and ties, and pray publicly every day. So why is it wrong for the rest of us?. I think it has to do with the fact that most people still favor public worship and the congressmen want to cause them to think they are getting God's input daily.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Aug. 7, 2014 6:34 a.m.


    First, the percentages do indicate some decline. But more to the point what appears to me (in my personal life and well outside of Utah) is a bifurcation with fewer folks in the middle and more on one side or the other.

    Agreed that forcing prayer is good for no one and the school issue can be more difficult. But what about allowing it at public events? Let me give a realistic example. Let us say I am attending a public event in a mostly Jewish area and a local Rabbi offers a prayer or I am in a Muslim community and a local Imam prays. Should I be offended or just go along?

    Or, what about casual (non-denominational) mentions of God such as in the pledge of allegiance?

    I think part of the problem is that even relatively benign acknowledgement of God are now being fought. The hardening on one side leads to hardening on the other.

  • Wonder Provo, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 1:39 a.m.

    So, Mike Richards, you think the school should mandate that a child pray every morning at school? That's what we're talking about. Not some kid praying (which he is perfectly able to do right now.) This is school sponsored prayer. And if you're for that in public schools, then you are FOR the government intruding on a family's personal religious beliefs. At least if you happen to be in the minority, which most likely, you never have been or you wouldn't think it's such a great idea.

  • Maudine SLC, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 10:35 p.m.

    @ the greater truth: The Federal Constitution clearly states that it is the supreme law of the land - most (if not all) state constitutions confirm this fact. The 14th Amendment extended the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states. Municipalities within a state are subject to the state constitution. Smaller divisions, such as school districts, are subject to the municipality.

    No matter how small you break down the governing body, it will still be bound by the Federal Constitution and the rights of the minority cannot be violated by the majority. You cannot use schools to force students to pray in manners contrary to their religious practices or to gods they don't believe in.

    @ Twin Lights: As stated in the article, religiousity in the US has not changed that much since prayer has been removed from schools. Putting it back and forcing children to pray in violation of their beliefs is not going to make the country more religious nor is it going to suddenly ease tensions between the "religious" and those who believe differently from them.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:09 p.m.

    I think prayer in school is a bogey for a larger issue, the resistance to even casual religious expression in the public square. In the wake of that absence, the two sides seem to be ever hardening - no religion on one side, hyper zealous religion on the other.

    It isn't good for the country and it isn't good for religion. I don't know the right balance for prayer in school, but in the larger debate I see as creating a divisive situation that does not benefit either side in the long run.

  • McMurphy St George, Utah
    Aug. 6, 2014 7:56 p.m.

    I note with interest that neither the column or any comments make a case for having school sponsored prayer

  • micawber Centerville, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 6:54 p.m.

    @the greater truth
    I think we need to be careful about majority rule when it comes to religious matters. If Dearborn, Michigan had a majority population of Muslims, would you think it proper for the public schools there to lead prayers to Allah? If your children or grandchildren were in that classroom, what would you do?

  • the greater truth Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 6:01 p.m.

    This is why the federal government needs to out of our local schools.

    Then the constitutional balance would be restored.

    The schools should reflect the community they serve and are paid by, they can not and should not reflect the wills and desires of each individual, nor the federal government.

    The fact is the majority does rule to certain extent.

    It seems the progressive left teaches the individual or minority should dictate to the majority.

    which means the minority must listen to the majority voice as well, whether they like it or not

    All the constitution does is guarantee the minority has a voice, but the majority representation still rules the day in the end.

    But the big problem here is government dictating to local schools, something that is not in the constitution.

    Local Schools were never intended to be part of the government, certainly not the federal government.

    The definition of what is the "government", has stretched into too many things, at the pushing of progressives who want central control over all.

  • Kalindra Salt Lake City, Utah
    Aug. 6, 2014 5:17 p.m.

    @ Ultra Bob: Actually, that is not quite correct. There are some religions - Christian and otherwise - that object to the word "God" being written on things such as plaques (no graven images), other religions worship "Allah" or "gods" and/or "goddesses". You are also ignoring the rights of those who believe in no god at all.

    As for the idea that people will read things at eye level, that is not quite true either - it depends on what other things people are doing and how many other signs there are around. Eventually things just get lost in the background.

  • Steve Cottrell Centerville, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 4:18 p.m.

    As long as we teach trigonometry in schools, there will always be prayer in schools.

  • my_two_cents_worth university place, WA
    Aug. 6, 2014 3:42 p.m.

    @Mike Richards

    "The Constitution protects our right to speak (prayer)."


    "The Constitution protects our right to worship our God without Government interference."


    "The government has restricted speech (prayer) and it has restricted our right to worship (ban of prayer in schools)."

    Nope. The government, in the government's school, has protected the religious rights of ALL the students to NOT have YOUR religion forced upon them.

    Get over it or move to a country that is a theocracy.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 3:04 p.m.

    My favorite for the universal, generic and non-offensive prayer is the one that goes:

    God bless America.

    It encompasses every religion and is even patriotic.

    I would not have anyone recite it, just put it on a plaque near the door, at about eye level. Right next to the plaque that contains the pledge of allegiance to the American flag.

    I'm thinking that kids are like people, they cant resist reading something that come within their eyesight.

    If works, other plaques or signs could say "you are the most important person in the world, try you best." " everyone is the most important person to themselves"
    "Math is fun"

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, 00
    Aug. 6, 2014 1:55 p.m.

    @Mike Richards
    South Jordan, Utah
    The Constitution protects our right to speak (prayer).

    The Constitution protects our right to worship our God without Government interference.


    The Government has NEVER banned prayer in School.

    I prayed all the time IN School.

    MY personal FREEDOM was never infringed or threatened in anyway what-so-ever.

    This boogie-man-under-the-bed Straw man argument that the Government is somehow keeping you from praying is completely 100% bogus!

    We can pray all we want to,
    anytime we want to,
    just not making a public spectacle of it,

    Like like KJB1 said in the very first commnet --
    get off the Rameumptom,
    and Pray in Private -- just like Jesus commanded.

  • mcclark Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 1:12 p.m.

    There seems to be some confusion among some of the posters here. You can pray all you like at school, you just can't force others to listen to you.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:55 p.m.

    actually I agree. The STATE or PUBLIC school system is rotting on the vine and that trend is only going to get worse going forward. This public system run by secular progressives will continue to decay and I see parents moving to private schools or charter schools that CAN and WILL have their own version of Christian or Jewish or Muslim school prayer and values. What this means is only the wealthy will be able to aford the private schools and the rest are either going to have to home school or take their chances in the God-less, socialist public school system. You can really see ...maybe 50 years down stream ... two Americas. Like California where you have the wealthy Hollywood and tech CEO's and then the rest of the state which happens to contain the HIGHEST poverty rate in the country ...I see America 50 years from now in the same exact situation. I see those kids in public school system under-educated and unprepared for college as well as being taught atheism and other toxic ideologies. Throw into that public system an increasing degree of violence as well. The other smaller America will be faith based.

  • cavetroll SANDY, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:23 p.m.

    Re: Mike Richards

    "The Constitution protects our right to worship our God without Government interference."

    So if my religion believes in human sacrifice, you are willing to offer yourself for my religion. I can't wait to perform my next religious ceremony.

    Since the Constitution absolutely protects our right to speech, you are willing to allow your kids or grand kids be forced to pray to Allah, Odin, Zeus, or any other god, even if you don't believe in those gods?

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:18 p.m.

    The question comes down to a very basic questiion on the part of those who prohibit speech. They see government as "god" who protects them from ideas foriegn to their personal beliefs. Can they cite any part of the Constitution that prohibits speech? Can they cite any part of the Constitution that lets government censor speech? Can they site any part of the CONSTITUTION that prohibits the free exercise of religion? Of course not. They cite liberal judges who legislated from the bench in direct violation of Article 1, Section 1.

    So much for respecting the Constiturion! They "worship" liberal judges who disrespect their fellow Americans by legislating from the bench.

  • Understands Math Lacey, WA
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:12 p.m.

    "As long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school" -- I don't know who said that originally, but I suspect it may have been the late, great Lewis Grizzard.

    Nobody has banned prayer in school. What have been banned are ostentatious, exclusionary, teacher-led prayers. And good riddance to them.

    And, Mike Richards, the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment is absolutely protection of freedom from religion. By definition there cannot be freedom of religion without freedom from religion.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:55 a.m.

    @Mike Richards – “There is NO protection of freedom FROM religion written in the Constitution.”

    Mike – you continue to (mis)understand the Constitution in ways that would make Clarence Thomas look like Earl Warren.

    To your question above, what part of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” as well as the 14th Amendment and incorporation precedents (making the Bill of Rights apply to state and local governments too) do YOU not understand?

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:47 a.m.

    "Shouldn’t majorities be able to impose their religious will on minorities in public ..."

    Isn't that what Amendment 3 is about?

    Religion and public policy do not good bedfellows make, whether in schools, civil policies, etc.

  • Kalindra Salt Lake City, Utah
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:47 a.m.

    @ Mike: Students and teachers are more than welcome to pray in school - what they are not allowed to do is to disrupt class or interfere with other individuals, nor are they allowed to force or coerce others to join with them.

    Coincidentally, students and teachers are also prohibited from engaging in other disruptive speech such as uttering expletives.

    You cannot use your rights to infringe on the rights of others.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:28 a.m.

    Davis is completely correct here. I once favored the right to pray in school, but then I listened to one of the most religious men I've known discuss the issue and point out the danger of violation of the religious beliefs and rights of the minority. I changed my mind. What goes on in the home and in the privacy of ones life is what forms the foundation, not whether a prayer is said in a public place where the point of the gathering is not a religious gathering.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:28 a.m.

    The Constitution protects our right to speak (prayer).

    The Constitution protects our right to worship our God without Government interference.

    The government has restricted speech (prayer) and it has restricted our right to worship (ban of prayer in schools).

    What part of the Constitution do those who favor the ban on prayer not understand? What part of freedom of speech and freedom of religion do they not understand? There is NO protection of freedom FROM religion written in the Constitution.

    Get over it or move to a country that officially suppresses speech and worship.

  • glendenbg Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:20 a.m.

    I've been in the unique position of having attended a school which began every day with prayer. It was a Catholic school.

    Here's what I saw - most students didn't care one whit about the prayer, they just said the words to get through it and get it done. It wasn't a meaningful ritual or part of the day. The reasons adults wanted us to pray weren't being met by the actual daily prayer in school.

    Students are allowed to pray to themselves any time they want (so long as they don't disrupt other students and classroom activities). Those who find it meaningful will do so, those who don't won't.

  • airnaut Everett, 00
    Aug. 6, 2014 10:58 a.m.

    Growing up,
    We HAD prayer in school...

    It's called "released time",
    we held it off campus,
    on Church owned property,
    and we called it "Seminary".

    Prof. Davis is once again correct.
    Making State Sponsored prayers a School requirement,
    means the State can teach our Children to pray to any diety,
    and parents have no say so.

    Lucifer, Zeus, Allah, Ganesh, even Idolatry.

    What is the difference between Sharia Law,
    and what these "Prayer in School" folks are trying to do?

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 10:47 a.m.

    Great article, Richard. You raise exactly the right questions.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Aug. 6, 2014 10:35 a.m.

    I remember forced prayer in the schools when I was a child. The two Catholic children in our class put their palms together when they prayed instead of folding their arms like us Mormons. Of course, the Catholics were mercilessly bullied for doing this outrageous thing once we got out in the schoolyard.

  • E Sam Provo, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:37 a.m.

    Excellent article. I went to high school in Indiana, and we had school assemblies featuring an evangelical preacher who urged all to accept Jesus as our personal savior. As a Mormon, I was shunned by people I thought of as friends.

  • John Charity Spring Back Home in Davis County, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:35 a.m.

    This letter is very much like the pot calling the kettle dishonest.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:06 a.m.

    What would Jesus say (or how would he act) on this subject? Well, let’s look:

    Matthew 6:5-7
    Luke 5:16
    Mark 1:35

  • airnaut Everett, 00
    Aug. 6, 2014 7:58 a.m.

    I find it ironic that the very same people who wanted to bomb those in the Middle East for this,
    keep trying to do the same thing right here in America.


  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Aug. 6, 2014 5:05 a.m.

    This article is full of logic and reason. And Facts.

    If you weigh the pros and cons of prayer in school, the cons far far outweigh the good.
    It is virtually impossible to have school prayer without offending some.

    Anyone can pray anytime they want and no one can stop you. Just keep it to yourself.

  • Kalindra Salt Lake City, Utah
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:44 a.m.

    I always find it interesting that those that scream the loudest that the government cannot properly teach our children the basics such as Math, English, History, Social Studies, etc., seem to be the same ones who want the government to teach our children how to pray.

  • KJB1 Eugene, OR
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:13 a.m.

    Remember the story of the Rameumptom? There's a good lesson there if all these prayer-hungry "Christians" are willing to learn it...