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I got lured into another debate this morning over a cup of coffee-- Prayer in school.

My thoughts are this-- The Supreme Court has already decided that it shouldn't be done in public schools, and that if it is, it's going against the seperation of church and state-- I completely agree with them. My friend suggested that if it is done by CHOICE, and that if you don't have to participate in it, then that would be okay. I still disagree. If you want to pray in school, either go to a private catholic school, or do it in your head. The next argument my friend presented was that what if people wanted to feel that they had other people that they could relate to religiously that were their own age? Well, join a church youth group. Meet after school with people that share your similar viewpoints. Just don't do it in school.

My AP European History teacher was previously a priest before he became a teacher, and the beliefs he tried to instill on our class were just ludicrous. If we didn't believe what he believed (and in studying European history, you learn A LOT about religion), we were WRONG. Whereas I had great respect for this teacher in the knowledge he maintained and presented (he would be able to tell you every president's great uncle's best friend's name, for instance), I dreaded going to that class because I knew that I was going to disagree with many of the theological ideas that he discussed. For this, I think that I was highly turned off from the idea of religion ever entering the realms of public schools. What does everyone else think?
Though I am not a Christian (or a member of any organized religion, for that matter), I feel that prayer should be allowed in public schools, provided it's led by students and not forced on anyone. I fail to see why ideas such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion do not extend to our public learning institutions. If a group of Christian kids gets together on the schoolyard to pray before class, how is this violating the separation of church and state, which is an idea about tax money going to religious groups? Is it because non-Christians might feel awkward? How do you think I felt when everyone else in my class would play wallball, or some other schoolyard game I despised? Should we outlaw everything that every student doesn't want to participate in?

Why is is that one is allowed to express one's political and social opinions in class, but not allowed to discuss their system of religious beliefs? I don't know about you, but I think our children should learn to be tolerant and understanding of all religions, and I think it would be wonderful if students could discuss their beliefs openly and not be put-off by the beliefs of others. What's the threat in letting children of all religions celebrate their faith at school?

I see by the voting that many of you are missing my exact sentiments here: I agree with most of what's below. No one should be forced to pray, students should pray on their own, not led by the school, and members of any religion should be able to pray to any god, including Satan, Zeus, and Cthulu. Also, I was responding more to the ideas expressed in the first write-up than the reality of the situation; I know the type of prayer I describe is not illegal. lillianvalencia, however, seems to want to go one step further... "If you want to pray in school, either go to a private catholic school, or do it in your head."
(See school prayer for other comments)

In the USA, prayer IS allowed in public schools. Nobody is (or at least should be) stopped from sitting there in the morning and praying, or doing it at lunch, or between classes. And if extracurricular organizations are allowed, they can just as easily form a prayer group to meet after school or the like.

What's not allowed is school-led, organized prayer. You can't have officially sanctioned prayer, as that leads to endorsement of a certain religion, and the idea that it's better to be religious. If you allow student-led prayer during a non-voluntary activity, then you're allowing the majority rule religion. Peer pressure is a horrible thing, and putting them in a situation where you have to actively choose to not participate, or not even be allowed to choose, then it's still showing some sort of endorsement.

It's a problem when you have a captive audience, allow one group to do a prayer, or something similar, and let that group always do it because they're the majority. I think the best rule to determine if it's acceptable is to imagine that it's all about something you totally disagree with. Sure it seems ok to pray to Jesus, but would you stick up for it if the prayer was to Vishnu? Or was a statement about the evils of religion? Would you mind standing there and watch all the others around you join in a prayer to Satan?

It likely wouldn't be a problem if it was truly free of coercion, never alienated anyone, and was fair to everyone. But instead of trying to navigate such difficult area, why not just not have it?

Children are impressionable. That is the joy and the danger of childhood.

When my family lived in San Fransisco, when I went to high school, my little brother went to elementary school. At his school this recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

My brother, a Canadian, was uncertain what to do. And why not. How could he not do what all the good Americans around him were doing? How could he ask to be excused? What harm would this compulsory activity do?

When I was young, in Toronto, we not only sang God Save the Queen, we also said The Lord's Prayer. A Jew, whose family had never much benefited from Empire, or the Orange Order, my parents were not happy with their child being indoctrinated in something they weren't.

It seems to me that most of what the state, whether American, or Canadian, should be without any regard to the particularities of any particular religion, culture, etc. This is what I have referred to as a "modest preparation for democracy" here and here. (The phrase originates with Neil Postman.)

If you want to do it at home--and maybe you should--do so!

Schools are a place for exposure, in as supportive an environment as possible. Let the children come to their own decision.

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