Does prayer play an important role in our lives today? The minority would say no and that prayer shouldn’t ever have played an important role in our society. But, the simple fact of the matter is that for hundreds of years, prayer in school has been encouraged by both society and government. In recent years, it has been established that prayer in schools has led to a steady moral decline.
Morals must be taught, in school and at home, and they cannot be properly taught without religion as a much needed stepping stone. Our government was based upon religious beliefs from the very beginning. The Declaration of Independence says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God with certain unalienable rights. . .” Certainly, it talks about God, creations, God-given moral rights, the providence of God, and the final Day of Judgment-all of which are religious teachings.
And school prayer has been an important part of our religious experience from the very beginning. Our very First Amendment didn’t separate God and government but actually encouraged religion. It reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibit the free exercise thereof,” (Encarta 96). The first part simply says that the federal government cannot establish one religion for all of the people. The simple idea of everyone in our nation being limited to one form of religion is inconceivable.
The second section insists that the government should do nothing to discourage religion. But forbidding prayer in schools discourages religion, doesn’t it? Early congressional actions encouraged religion in public schools. For example, the Northwest Treaty (1787 and 1789) declared: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary for good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, and the means of learning shall forever be encouraged” (Encarta 96). By seeing this, religion, which includes prayer, was deemed to be necessary. Congress has prayed at the opening of every session since the very beginning. By acknowledging these facts we ask the simple question, ” If the government can pray in their sessions, why can’t the governed pray in their (school) sessions? Public schools had prayer for nearly 200 years before the Supreme Court ruled that state-mandated class prayers were unconstitutional in Engel vs. Vitale in 1962 (Buckley 70). How could this trail have such a huge impact on our nation and ultimately alter how we perceive our constitution?
The fact that prayer was practiced for nearly 200 years alone establishes it by example as a valid and very important practice in our school system. And with the emergence of private schools becoming more visible and quite popular, does the situation change due to the up-and-coming number of private schools in our communities today? Seeing that privately owned schools obviously have the right to teach certain beliefs and have certain rules to abide by without questioning other authorities, why shouldn’t public schools be allowed the same amount of leeway? These private schools are exactly what they say, private, therefore picking and choosing students based upon income and beliefs. Private schools do not have to accept an atheist or Christian, yet they select the type of child that will fit in to their school more adequately. Seeing as how private schools are funded privately, on the other hand, public schools are funded by the government through taxes.
This would lead us to believe that the government would be different from the state right? Right, in many ways, the church and state still coincide with one another and many people recognize this and do not like it, thus causing the controversy of prayer in school. Why do we not just simplify the matter and impose a “voluntary” prayer amendment to make everyone happy. This amendment would allow children who want to pray to be able to pray and those who do not want to pray would not be forced into doing so, wouldn’t this be a great idea? There are several reasons why “voluntary” prayer amendment would be able to establish itself as a lasting law in our nation.
The first would be because it would enforce the First Amendment’s guarantee against government established religion. If a “voluntary” prayer amendment was passed then school prayer supporters would eventually attempt to apply this rule by encouraging organized, daily classroom displays of religion and ultimately prayer in schools. By making this into a law it would simply be an act to help solidify our forefather’s constitution that has successfully led us where we are today with simply, precise guidelines. America is called the land of the free and home to millions of people. These people have many different cultures and traditions that help to make our country the great nati
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