Another year in America, another rash of emotionally fueled disputes over school-sponsored prayer. I just read this one, but examples aren’t hard to come by.
No matter how many times the courts spell out American government’s mandated neutrality toward religion, those in favor of public, state-sponsored prayer will spin this issue as a suppression of religious liberty. And I just don’t get that.
So I’ve developed a simple rubric for religious people that brings startling clarity to the issue. First, think of the prayer you’re currently supporting (in this case, we’ll use the public school’s prayer before football games). Second, think of the religion you hate the most (in this case, let’s use Satanism). Now, think about that prayer again and substitute every mention of “Jesus” with “Satan.”
Try to imagine the public outcry that would occur if a public school led a prayer to Satan before a football game. Seriously: think about it. There would be outrage.
This is why it’s essential that the government remain neutral on religious matters. People of every religion can pray to whatever god, demigod, demon, or fairy they want to before, during, or after football games. That’s what religious freedom is about. But it’s also, necessarily, about the government keeping the fuck away from those prayers.
It baffles me to hear the claim that “They took prayer out of schools.” No, “they” didn’t. What the Supreme Court put an end to in 1962 was government-endorsed prayer and support of religion. Individuals can and do still pray in schools, before tests, and in school clubs. Private schools dedicated to Christianity or Islam or Wiccanism can and do offer up various prayers on a daily basis. But what doesn’t, or shouldn’t, happen is public (government) schools, which are open to every person of every religion, endorsing a certain religion’s prayer in their official capacity.
It’s that simple. Can we stop now?