I don’t know what these kinds of Americans love more, their god or their guns. Suggest quite reasonably that they leave either one at home and prepare yourself for accusations of being unAmerican and ignorant of the constitution.
Well, I am unAmerican and ignorant of the constitution, but those who do the pleading to remove prayer from American schools are typically Americans and do their constitutional homework. If it’s a public school promoting one religion over all others, then it’s a violation of something called the Establishment clause. What is that? Well, let me Google that for you.
I’ll borrow from the ACLU. I actually thought the Clause was a whole document but it’s not. It’s part of a sentence and the other half of the sentence is another clause called the “Free Exercise” and together it reads like this:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Chestatee High School in Gainsville, Florida is the school making headlines lately. The school board or principal or whoever has say in this is tacitly allowing the school coaches to promote the bible and prayer on school grounds. There are pictures to prove it, too.
According to a Fox News opinion piece,
The atheists apparently went undercover to photograph coaches engaged in what they considered to be unseemly and unconstitutional behavior with the teenage football players.
“We have received reports that CHS coaches have joined players in prayer while standing in a circle, hands interlocked,” the atheists breathlessly reported in their letter to the Hall County School District.
That line he quotes isn’t in the document, by the way. This is, though:
We have been informed that the school’s football coaches have been using their position to promote Christianity on the football team by integrating Bible verses into functional team documents and team promotion in various ways; meanwhile, they have been either leading the team in prayer or participating in team prayers on a regular basis. This type of religious activity, by government employees in the course of their duties as public school football coaches, is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. This letter demands that CHS coaching staff cease leading, participating in, or encouraging team prayer, and that the school remove all Bible verses and other religious messages from team documents and related materials.
Yes, they’re demanding something be done. They’re not going to say pretty please. They’re not asking for a cookie here. They asking for the Board to abide by the law and put an end to the endorsement of Christianity on team documents and the field.
The document goes on to explain what the American Humanist Association is and what the Establishment Clause is, so everyone reading it can be on the same page (as it were) in terms of understanding the issue at hand. It also lists other attempts by schools to bring religion into the classrooms and how they were all knocked down by people with better knowledge of the law than most high school teachers. That would be the Supreme Court, if you couldn’t guess.
A religious activity is “state-sponsored,” and therefore unconstitutional, if “an objective observer…w[ould] perceive official school support for such religious [activity].” Board of Educ. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226, 249-50 (1990).
“Official school support” seems evident when viewing the pictures included with the document. Now, from the Gainsville Times:
Gordon Higgins, spokesman for the Hall County School District, said the district will not decide how to act until it has learned more about the allegations.
“We always take matters like this very seriously, and we will investigate and take whatever action is warranted,” he said.
“Certainly adults shouldn’t be leading children in prayers to any particular religion, but one thing we will stand behind is our students’ right to prayer,” said Hall Superintendent Will Schofield, who was out of town Tuesday and had not yet seen the letter.
Higgins said the district has yet to determine whether the allegations made in the letter are correct, and whether the alleged actions would constitute a violation of the establishment clause.
I bold a bit there. Yes. Students have the right to pray if they want to. Nobody’s saying all students must stop being religious if they are religious. Nobody’s saying the coaches have to stop going to church.
They’re all still free to be as religious as they want to be. They just can’t legally promote their faith in school. This is not new. What’s new is the push to catch those who’ve been getting away with it for so long and it’s about damned time.
Prayer should be a personal choice, not put upon students by a person of authority either by implication that they ought to pray or the outright insistence that they must.
The verses chosen to decorate the play book and team signs weren’t horrible. They were encouraging and supportive and nice. But here’s the thing – the bible isn’t the only book in the world. Quote other authors. Quote football heroes. Quote anybody, but keep the religious quotes off school documents and signs.
How hard is that, really?