Tuesday, August 28, 2007

There Will Always Be Prayer in Schools

The first time I heard that, or something similar to that, was in a Mad Magazine from the 1970s (it was my uncle's). More recently, I heard Constitutional Law guru Erwin Chemerinsky say it in a discussion on the Intent of the Founders with regard to the First Amendment's proscription on establishment of religion. It comes to mind whenever I think of schools and religious discourse.

For those of you who don't know (and I hide it pretty well, so you might not be aware), I believe in separating religion from public education as much as possible. I think that religious instruction is a personal/family issue, and that it has its place, and it is not the role of the public education system to teach my children which deity is correct, or how to worship Him, Her, It, or Them.

In essence, this is why I disagree with Texas new Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act. I think any law that requires schools to give time for students to proselytize to the rest of the student body, captive due to attendance requirements, lends itself to coercion and endorsement of religion by the state. Consider the school with one Buddhist family. Their children ask to speak their views on their religion before a football game. If they are even granted the time (which is unlikely in many instances), they would be the subject of some serious hazing by the students and their parents in many parts of Texas. Also consider the parent's reaction when a Wicca starts generating interest in her choice of religion amongst the Southern Baptist crowd, or the Satanist takes the microphone at a pep rally. All those who lobbied for the right to put God back in school are going to be hurting for a reason to deny Satan a chair as well. Not to mention Vishnu, Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, Baal, The Great Spirit, or whomever else might ask for a seat.

I'm not the only one who dislikes this law. The Houston Chronicle recently ran an article on the issue - click here. From the article:
Rather than protecting students from religious discrimination, the law's true accomplishment will be the creation of state-sanctioned forums for students who wish to pray and proselytize to captive audiences. ... Students could cite their religious convictions to condemn gay and lesbian students. They could promote their faith as the only true religion. They could pray fo rthe conversion of specific students. They could even promote atheism, Satanism, or paganism. ... Spring Branch [independent school district] trustee Theresa Kosmoski worries that school districts will face expensive litigation no matter how they implement the law...

The problem with using the government to fight your religious fight is that you end up violating the ideals you wish to favor, or worse, you end up violating the ideas upon which this country was founded.

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