School Prayer- Unconstitutional or the Way to Uplift Moral?
The danger of school prayer becoming reinstated into the United States’ public schools is ever more increasing. Representative Ernest Istook and more than 100 House members have introduced the “Religious Freedom Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution. The proposed constitutional amendment would permit school prayer and other religious expression on school property. The article “10 Reasons for Voluntary School Prayer” by Norman L. Geisler argues to support this unconstitutional act of bringing religion within our public schools. Although Norman L. Geisler gives ten reasons for voluntary school prayer, for the purpose of the length required for this paper, I will only discuss three.
Geisler’s reason number six for voluntary school prayer is not sound. When
diagramming this argument (1), but this is not valid because the fact that school prayer
was practiced for 200 years in this country does not make it valid by precedent. Slavery
was also practiced in the Untied States for 200 years although it was an unconstitutional
act. Just as slavery, prayer in public schools was found unconstitutional by the Supreme
Court when it was proven as such to the members of the Supreme Court. Just because a
practice is followed for so many years does not deem it as correct or valid. Therefore (1).
In Geisler’s seventh argument he states that the court’s outlaw of prayer has a direct correlation with moral decline. Geisler’s argument can be proven invalid by examining it through the use of the method of difference. o,d,p,s,c,v,a -* M. Geisler does not show that these factors are a direct correlation to moral decline. He does not discuss what the cultural indexes were when prayer was in public schools. He also does not take all factors into account that might have caused an increase in these indexes during these years. A factor such as an increase in the violence on television could also be considered as a cause of moral decline. Therefore it cannot be concluded that the elimination of prayer in the public school system is the direct reason for a moral decline.
Geisler’s ninth argument uses the terms secularism and human secularism interchangeably. He also offers a definition of human secularism and states that the government’s policy of forbidding prayer could lead to the establishment of a “religion of secularism.” According to the American Heritage Dictionary the terms secularism and human secularism have two different definitions. It states secularism is “The view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education” and secular humanism is “An outlook or a philosophy that advocates human rather than religious values.” Therefore to use these terms interchangeably is incorrect. This makes Justice Potter’s statement (“establishment of a religion of secularism”), take on a whole new meaning. If secularism is simply a belief in the separation of religion and public education a “religion” of secularism is constitutionally correct. Geisler’s definition of “human secularism” violates the rules of definition. Geisler states secular humanism as the non-belief in God. This definition does not have a genus, it uses a negative term, and
is too broad. This definition can also include Atheist who also do not believe in a higher power.
I have first hand experience dealing with prayer in school. I went to parochial school for 13 years, 13 of which I was not a Catholic and 5 of which I was not a Christian. Although we were never “forced” to pray and Catholicism was not my family’s religion, at a young age I said the Catholic prayers because I did not know the difference and simply followed what everyone else around me did. As I grew older and refused to pray, and I was asked to at least stand in respect of the others praying. For most of my education I was chastised for my beliefs. If school prayer is instituted in public schools this will cause an unneeded sense of division between those that believe in God and those that do not. Because the Untied States is predominately Christian the prayers will most likely reflect Christian values. This leaves others out that do believe in God but are not Christian, such as Jewish and Muslim children. To call school prayer voluntary is absurd. Children, especially young ones, will usually follow the actions of the majority. Children will most likely say these prayers whether it is their religion or not. This is unconstitutional because it allows the government to infringe religious beliefs on the people.
Prayer is a private matter and has no business in the public school setting. Religious parents should spend more time instituting their religious values in their children at home rather than relying on the public education system. The Bible itself states that prayer is better to be done in private. Refer to Mathew 6:5-6 :
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be
seen of men. But though, when thou prayest enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.”
If parents want their children to be reminded of God throughout the day parents can always send their children to privately run religious schools.
Geisler even goes as far, in reason number ten, to basically say that the opinion of the minority population does not count. The Untied States laws advocate religious freedom for all, not for the majority only. To impose the majority’s beliefs on the minority, solely on the basis that they are a majority is unfair. Contrary to Geisler, separating religion from education does not impose the minority’s belief on the majority. It does not promote atheism or human secularism is simply leaves the job of saving children’s soul to the parents and churches and the job of saving children’s minds to the education system.