MARCH 6, 2015 2 COMMENTS
I am a religious man, a man of faith. I respect people of all faiths and people of no religious faith at all. I respect the practices of religious people and non-religious people, so long as their practices don’t interfere with the exercise of my rights and I try not to interfere with theirs. Though in all honesty, I’m a little less concerned about the latter.
In the last few years there is a growing fear about people forcing their religious rights and practices on people outside their faith. This fear seems heightened by the great number of individuals immigrating into the U.S. and wanting the government to make exceptions to our policies and protocols to accommodate their practices.
The was heightened a few years ago when a San Diego public school became the focus of international attention after it agreed to set aside time for Muslim students to pray in class. Officials at Carver Elementary School had agreed to schedule a short break for prayer as part of the school day to meet the requirements of the Islamic faith, (Americans United for Separation of Church and State website )
Wait! Wait! Can they do that? Christians don’s think they can pray in school but Muslim’s can? And they are given a special class in which to do so? Hey, that doesn’t seem fair.
Time for a civics lesson.
Amendment I [Establishment Clause] – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
Congress shall make no law, but what about a state or a municipality or a school board? I should know that but I couldn’t put it together in my head. So I called someone who’d know for sure. I called Chris Hurst (D. 31st) and asked him.
“Suppose some town over time became predominately populated by an ethnic group and they wanted the schools or city to represent their practices and point of view. Could they pass laws establishing some religion as primary in their community? Could they stop other religions from worshipping in their town?”
Mr. Hurst is very learned in this argument and he reminded me that all laws (state, county, city) are under the constitution. He said a group could strengthen a position the Constitution takes, but cannot undermine or negate anything the constitution says. Then he pointed me to the 14th amendment which spells out what he told me.
So, no, a community or school board cannot make any provision that holds one religion over another, and cannot prohibit any individual from freely exercising his/her faith.
There is a lot of unwarranted fear out there, dare we call it paranoia? There is no prohibition in our schools against prayer. Any individual can pray to whomever they choose so long as it isn’t a distraction for others. And I cannot find any prohibition for a student to carry a Bible, or other religious material, to be read or studied during personal time.
When I was in kindergarten, the best year I ever had in school, we had a snack time that included a short prayer. Some will probably remember: God is great, God is good, now we thank Him for our food. Since nearly everybody in our community claimed to be Christian or Jewish, there was no conflict at all.
In 1962 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against school led prayer. Public schools could not require students to recite a particular prayer. In 1963 the Court ruled schools could not require reading of the Bible. Many of us, actually 95% of us were against the ruling according to a 1991 survey. As late as 2011 a poll showed 65 % of Americans still support school led prayer. But the truth is no one kicked God out of school. He goes where He wants and He does what He wants. And no one is keeping your kids or grandkids from taking Him to school with them.
In our increasingly pluralistic society it would be ludicrous for a school to determine which religious prayer they would sanction. And who do you want teaching your kids religious values? Surely not someone of a different faith. I am convinced the courts got it right. Don’t sanction, don’t prohibit.
But we must be vigilant. There are groups coming into our country who don’t believe in religious freedom. We must be careful to see that our constitution is not altered or diminished in order for a group, any group, to coerce public school students in religious thoughts or practices.
That’s my opinion anyway. Tell your representatives your opinion. It will matter in the future.
2 thoughts on “We Must Be Vigilant”
- Richard Pierce. Spiritually Awakenedsays:
Thank you Ross. You have clarified my thoughts on handling religious conversations with other good people on the subject of their religion. I generally do not get evolved. Your interpretation is very enlightening and I will follow your lead in my thinking .
Thanks for your words Richard, they are kind and affirming.