I very much believe that there are opportunities ripe for collaboration between unlikely parties, like drugs and housing the homeless. These are examples of public policy that will save money, reduce crime, respect the dignity of those affected, and lead to positive social outcomes. Some of the ideas in this series require more study before widespread implementation, but I believe there is enough data to warrant further inspection and at least merit experimentation.
The Issue: Prayer in Schools
It’s not unusual to hear people mention that our country started going to hell once ‘they’ removed God and banned prayer from schools. Let’s take a closer look:
1. The premise is false. NO ONE has removed God or prayer from schools. If you think God isn’t present with your child at school, it’s because you have failed as a parent to teach them about God. Fact: Any child in any school anywhere in the world can pray anytime they want to do so. It might be a personal, silent prayer but I think most people would agree that God counts that prayer just as much as a public display.
2. Official school prayer led by school officials is prohibited for many good reasons. Why would anyone want someone with unknown religious beliefs indoctrinating children in a school setting? I’m quite sure many of my conservative friends would object to the views of many churches. Female priests? Full acceptance of the LGBT community?
Some would object to their children being encouraged to see this as a normal part of religious expression. It’s important to remember that objections to religious viewpoints can run both ways. In a way, it’s ironic; we often hear of the liberal indoctrination of our children in schools but wouldn’t coerced religious observance in school be the most direct indicator of this? Yet it is often the same ‘liberals’ accused of indoctrination who rightfully object to anyone’s religion being formally advocated by schools.
3. Many reference the ACLU with disdain, yet are unaware of the many instances in which the ACLU stands with students in maintaining their right to religious expression. The ACLU’s stance has often been portrayed as no prayer in any school, at any time. This could not be further from the truth.
4. Prayer is appropriate in school. I should know; I pretty much spent my entire high school career praying for some kind of intervention to prevent one test or another!
5. School-led prayer opens the door to abuses of all kinds. Children already struggle to fit in with peers. Making clear their religious differences is unnecessarily isolating and divisive. In addition, some teachers would use this opportunity to inappropriately coerce students into religious expression in order to receive good grades or appropriate instruction. This would be unacceptable in any setting, yet allowing religious doctrine in schools would provide the environment for this to happen more frequently.
- Personal responsibility
- Limited government
- Free markets
- Individual liberty
- Strong national defense
- The role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.
- Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems.
I cannot understand why conservatives who advocate limited government and personal responsibility are often the ones most vocal about advocating for school-led prayer. This seems the very antithesis of these concepts. In fact, I have a hard time seeing any conservative support for school-led prayer based on principle. I would welcome references to materials that explain support for school prayer from a limited government perspective, because I find them completely incompatible.
- Government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all.
- Duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights.
- The role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need.
- Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve problems.
In my experience, liberals see school-led prayer as a serious threat to equal opportunity and equality for all. Once introduced, there are just so many opportunities for abuse and coercion violating the family’s rights, to say nothing of the intense peer pressure many children would feel.
I know that many see preventing schools from advocating religious views as an attack on their values. However, it is important to remember that our country is founded on religious freedom. Allowing everyone the right to worship in their own way without being coerced by government employees is the only way to respect that right. Children are especially vulnerable in this context.
I’m always surprised we don’t have a unified conservative and liberal stance on this subject. This is one area where I would think we all agree that limited government is best.
Remember: When someone is protecting their child from your views, they are also protecting your child from their views!