In the 1960s, the Supreme Court ruled that government-sponsored school prayer was unconstitutional. For the last few decades, there’s been a push by Christian conservatives and evangelicals to find ways to get prayer back into classrooms, in complete defiance of the 1st Amendment. Bear in mind that it isn’t prayers from any and all faiths that they’re encouraging, just Christianity – and more specifically, their strict conservative interpretation of it. These are also often the same folks that scream about the encroaching danger of Sharia law in the United States while trying to jam their own religious laws down the throats of the rest of us.
One of the organizations standing against the creeping tide of religion into schools has been the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). They announced yesterday that they’ve filed a lawsuit against a Georgia school district which they had previously submitted a complaint to over prayer in an elementary school. The suit alleges that the two children of the plaintiffs were asked by teachers to pray in two different classes. From the FFRF suit:
Before lunch, Jamie’s teacher, Cel Thompson, asked students to bow heads, fold hands and pray, leading the class in a call and response prayer: “God our Father, we give thanks, for our many blessings. Amen.”
In Jesse’s first-grade class, Kaytrene Bright led students in this daily prayer: “God is great. Let us thank you for our food. Thank you for our daily prayer. Thank you. Amen.”
When the parents first learned of the prayer practice in August 2014, they immediately contacted Principal Valorie Watkins to object. The teachers responded by telling the Doe children to leave their classrooms and sit in the hallway while the rest of their classes prayed. According to Jesse, the teacher “used her mean voice” when instructing Jesse to wait in the hallway. (Source)
It is very important to note that in no way is school prayer unconstitutional so long as students pray on their own, but employees of a publicly-funded school are not allowed to promote or lead prayer from any religion. However, it seems that the employees of the Emanuel County school district chose to turn a blind eye to the practice.
Nothing in the 1962 or 1963 rulings makes it unlawful for public school students to pray or read the Bible (or any other religious book) on a voluntary basis during their free time. Later decisions have made this even clearer. In 1990, the high court ruled specifically that high school students may form clubs that meet during “non-instructional” time to pray, read religious texts or discuss religious topics if other student groups are allowed to meet. (Source)
The sad fact of the matter is that for all of their complaining about Islam and Sharia law, the religious right has absolutely zero problems forcing their religion on our children – which is exactly what is happening here. Not only did these teachers promote religion in the classroom, one of them even went so far as to allegedly preach to a child and told them that their parent was a bad person for not being a Christian.
Seriously, what’s wrong with these people?
Jesse was pressured all semester long to pray. Bright even held Jesse back from recess to explain her personal Christian beliefs at length, and said that Jesse’s mother was a bad person for not believing in God. At the end of the semester, Jesse began to join in the classroom prayers because of Bright’s and other employees’ continued coercion. (Source)
I can tell you that if my child was told that I was a bad person for not believing in the Judeo-Christian version of god, I would be utterly furious. What right does a teacher have to not only coerce a child into participating in illegal school prayer, but also tell them their parent is a bad person for not believing in the teacher’s god? It is the right of the parent to decide what (if any) religion they want their child to observe, not a teacher. Our school systems should not be a place of religious indoctrination and emotional guilt trips. If you want that, you can send your kid to Catholic school – or a madrassa.
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