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June 15, 2011

14

Banning Compulsory Prayer: Unamerican?

by juju2112

Jeff Crawford posted this recently at his blog regarding prayer at graduation ceremonies in Texas.

Wow.  Is this really what things have degenerated to in the People’s Republic?  We now must pass all public terminology through the federal filter police in order to avoid inflicting irreparable harm on students who single themselves out?  Really?  This is beyond ugly.  It is censorship, it is offensive, it is scary, it is un-American, it is Unconstitutional, it is ridiculous, it is social engineering, it is Big Brother, it is tyranny of the minority, and a few other words I can think of.  This should give every American, not just Christians, a chill.  What Judge Biery did was freeze out free speech.

Christians still don’t see the problem with forced prayer in school. I am resigned to this. I think rhetoric will never make them understand. I believe the only path forward is to start including non-Christian prayers in school events and watch them flip their collective lids.

This post is for students. If you have a chance to speak at an event, here are some prayers you can say to make Christians realize that secularism is important. Please recite one of these prayers during the biggest school-sponsored ceremony you can:

Muslim prayer:

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.
“Allah is the Most Great.” (twice)
Ash-hadu an la ilah ella-Allah
“I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah.” (once)
Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasul-ullah
“I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” (once)
Haiya ‘alas-Salat
“Hurry towards prayer.” (once)
Haiya ‘alal-Falah
“Hurry toward success.” (once)
Qad Qamatis-Salat, Qad Qamatis-Salat,
“The time of prayer has come.” (twice)
Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.
“Allah is the Most Great” (twice)
La illah illa-Allah
“None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.” (once)

Hindu prayer:

Vamshee vibhooshita karaan navaneeradaabhaat
Peetaambaraadaruna bimbaphalaa dharoshthaat;
Poornendusundara mukhaad aravinda netraat
Krishnaat param kimapi tattwam aham na jaane.

MEANING: I know not any other Reality than the lotus-eyed Krishna with hands adorned with flute, looking like a heavy-laden cloud in lustre, wearing a yellow silk garment, with His lower lip like a ruddy bimba fruit, and with face shining like the full moon.

Atheist prayer:

Our brains, which art in our heads, treasured be thy names. Thy reasoning come. The best you can do be done on earth as it is. Give us this day new insight to resolve conflicts and ease pain. And lead us not into supernatural explanations, deliver us from denial of logic. For thine is the kingdom of reason, and even though thy powers are limited, and you’re not always glorious, you are the best evolutionary adaptation we have for helping this earth now and forever and ever. So be it.

So go forth and pray at major events for the wrong religion. I want to see how upset they get so I can say the same thing to them that they’re saying to us now: “What’s the problem?”

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 16 2011

    Donald, thanks for reading my blog post and providing me with some additional exposure. Unfortunately you ran farther in your own blog than my comments suggested. I was not talking about “forced prayer” in schools. The reality is that no one can force another person to pray. Prayer is a matter of the heart. If someone prays at a public event like a high school graduation, they are in no way “forcing” anyone else to pray. And to assert, as the plaintiff did in this case in Texas, that hearing a public prayer would cause irreparable harm is just plain silly and defies common sense.

    What I was addressing was free speech. What Judge Biery did in Texas was stifle free speech and even go as far as censor specific words and phrases. Because the case was filed on the grounds that this one student was an atheist, what Judge Biery actually did was, in effect, support one religious view point over another. He supported atheism over theism. The courts cannot do this. The establishment clause of the Constitution prohibits supporting one religious view point over another. So the Judges ruling was unconstitutional. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals thus rightly overturned his ruling.

    So while you took my words to draw a general caricature of Christians wanting to “force” prayer on everyone else, what you really did was take my comments completely out of context. I was writing about free speech, the attempt to squelch it, and the concern this should be for all of us (including yourself) who enjoy the freedoms that our Constitution guarantees us.

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Jun 16 2011

      Now that you say it that way, I realize that I worded that extremely poorly. That wasn’t even the message I was intending to communicate, so I apologize for that.

      What I mean is, by including prayer in public school events, theists are forcing non-theists to attend mass prayer if they want to participate in the event. It makes them uncomfortable. It makes them feel unwelcome and like outcasts. For some, it may even violate their morality or their religion. What if a kid is Jewish and the prayer invokes Jesus as the Lord and Savior? He would not be able to participate in that event for fear of angering his God. The same would go for any other religion.

      You’re making people feel like rejects. Like they’re not a part of the community. What are non-Christians supposed to do, homeschool?

      Many Christians have said they should just get over it, but it’s clear that they would not be happy at all if they were in the same position and a prayer of another religion was being presented at a school event. Somehow it seems like Christians aren’t able to visualize being in other’s shoes.

      Anyways, thanks for your thoughts, and I’m sorry for overstating my case.

  2. Jun 16 2011

    No problem, Donald, and no offense on my part. I just wanted to be accurately portrayed. The written word can be both precise and tricky.

    I think you raise some valid points. If it’s okay I’d like to take the conversation a bit further. I don’t personally know of any Christians who desire to bully anyone into prayer OR who desire to make anyone feel bad or like a reject if they do not participate in a public prayer event (I know those people exist I just don’t know any myself). I think, however, that if an individual school district wants to allow students to lead out in their own graduation ceremony, and if by doing so, those students choose to express their individual faith (whatever that may be) that is okay. Not to do so risks the censorship I wrote about on my blog.

    Now, you bring up a VERY interesting probability. The reality is that America is increasingly become a plural nation in terms of belief systems. The scenarios you lay out, I think, are not far fetched by any means. I think in the very near future we will all be seeing Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. expressions of faith in public school arenas. All of these belief systems, including the belief system of atheism, are growing in America. Immigration has been a big contributor to this new reality. Another reason is the higher birth rates among immigrants versus “natives” to the United States.

    So as a Christian, I am in an interesting position (which you accurately highlight). Am I advocating Christian expressions of faith ONLY? Or am I willing to be tolerant of other public faith expressions? I can’t have it both ways. Either all should be allowed or none should be allowed. I think you and I would both agree on this point. I think you and I can also agree that we don’t want government messing with religion (i.e. the establishment clause). When it comes to religion, the government needs to be neutral (as an aside, I believe that the founders always assumed a “Christian” nation and were concerned about denominational tyranny but that is not the point of this conversation so I will let this go). Here’s my conviction though, and I do think this is based on solid reasoning. I don’t think that the government can disallow all expressions of faith and call that “neutral.” Non-belief in God, atheism, secularism (whatever you want to call it – yes, I did read your post on labels:) IS a religious position. So if the government were to attempt to be neutral concerning religion by censoring all references to God, I would say that that is not neutral but is, in fact, a religious position. That said, I think the only alternative is to allow equally all expressions of faith as “we the people” desire them. That means majority rules, an axiom of democracy. What this means for me as a Christian is that I can’t get bent out of shape or as you say it, “flip my lid” if a Muslim student wants to pray to Allah when my own son graduates in two years.

    Honestly, I would rather have it this way. As a Christian I have great confidence in my faith. I think it can stand toe-to-toe with any and all other belief systems and, in fact, come out ahead. My great concern, Donald, is that it seems to me that in our nation right now that Christianity, in particular, is the one belief system that is most always singled out and “attacked.” As I read very briefly through your own blog posts it appeared that the vast majority of your comments are directed at Christianity. I am not accusing you of this, but it feels like Christianity more than any other faith system in our country is “picked” on. So yes, I would be very happy for the playing field to be level. I don’t think it is right now.

    FINAL NOTE:
    An interesting case in our country right now is Dearborn, Michigan. The city of Dearborn has one of the highest populations of Muslims in our country. So much so that the school system has begun to accommodate Islam within the schools. Last season, the football team had football practice until 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning to accommodate the Muslim holy time of Ramadan. If you were on the team, whether a Muslim or not, you were practicing under the lights in the middle of the night. In addition, two years ago the Muslim high school principal fired the long time and hall of fame Christian wrestling coach over an issue of a Muslim student that converted to Christianity DURING THE SUMMER. All of this has gotten very little attention and few Christians are “flipping” their lids. I think were the roles reversed and a football team was changing their whole practice routine to accommodate a Christian holiday you would see a lot of flipping lids. And I can’t even imagine what it would be like were a Christian principal to fire a Muslim coach because a student converted to Islam. The media would have a hey-day I think.

    Thanks for the great conversation, Donald, on an IMPORTANT issue to all of yours, and my, readers.

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Jun 16 2011

      I will need a bit to think on this and get back to you.

      While I have you here, though, I’m curious to get your thoughts on something else: what bible verses are people using to justify not letting women preach? I posted a quick question on it here with a bit more info:

      http://www.reddit.com/r/DebateAChristian/comments/i1nnq/why_cant_women_preach/

    • juju2112
      Jun 20 2011

      “Non-belief in God, atheism, secularism (whatever you want to call it – yes, I did read your post on labels:) IS a religious position. So if the government were to attempt to be neutral concerning religion by censoring all references to God, I would say that that is not neutral but is, in fact, a religious position.”

      I would like you to justify this. How do you define religion? I don’t see how a lack of faith constitutes a belief in a God. Is your definition of religion so loose that even being a sports fan would be considered a religion?

      It’s true that I speak out against Christianity the most. Although I am equally opposed to all religion, Christianity affects me the most. Since they have a majority in this country, they affect a lot of public policy decisions. Muslims doing terrible things is certainly repugnant, but I’m trying to focus on my own country here (my own community, specifically, when I can).

      I agree that we need to either allow all expressions of faith or none at all. This comes up occasionally with Christmas displays (baby Jesus in the manger) at State capitols. Atheists groups petition to have a secular display, and Christians freak out. It does seem to me that many Christians want ONLY Christian expressions of faith.I think we should not allow expression of faith at all in instances where the government could be seen as advocating it.

      Students speaking out during commencement speeches is an interesting case. I can certainly see where they should be able to say what they want, however, it’s obvious the Christians are using them as a loophole to get preaching done during the graduation. Since it’s being abused as a loophole, I say deny it. The kids are representing the school when they are up there giving a speech. The school shouldn’t advocate a religion, so the students shouldn’t when they’re representing a school.

      I read up a bit on the Dearborn, Michigan incident. Many of the links were from Christian websites. I also noticed this one bit:

      “Christian Freedom International, a Michigan-based organization that assists persecuted Christians around the world, is expressing outrage over a disturbing incident of persecution that has taken place right in its own backyard.”

      (Source: http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/563226820.html)

      It seems like there IS outrage over this incident. In fact, this seems to prove my case that in an increasingly diverse religious atmosphere, we should not bring these topics up in schools. It causes too many problems. If the Christian in this case was proselytizing while doing his job as a coach, I agree with his firing. If he was fired because of prejudice around his beliefs, then I am against his firing.

      Sorry for the late response. I went out of town for the weekend for Father’s day. Take care!

  3. Jun 17 2011

    Donald- I think the Bible verses that were thrown out on the reddit site are the main ones. I would probably add 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 as well. One caveat I would add is that context is critical when reading and then interpreting those verses. Also, I would not say that the Bible prohibits a woman from “preaching” per se. The act of preaching is simply proclaiming God’s Word. Women like Kay Arthur and Beth Moore are excellent “preachers.” These verses, I believe, are talking about the biblical office of elder. Of course a whole lot can be said about all this!

    Reply
  4. Jun 22 2011

    Donald, you’ve asked me to justify my assertion that atheism/secularism is a religious position and for my definition of a religion. I think since the context of our conversation is legal in nature in reference to Texas ruling on prayer, that I should let the courts speak for themselves. The highest court in the land is the United States Supreme Court and I would refer you to the following case:

    US Supreme Court – Torasco v. Watkins, July 19, 1961 – “Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others.”

    So in the words of the U.S government, Secular Humanism, which is foundationally atheistic, IS a religion. I would further refer to the existence of the Humanist Manifestos 1 and 2 which define the Secular Humanist position. In fact, Paul Kurtz, the writer of the Humanist Manifesto 2 and a prominent devote atheist, is quoted as saying, “Humanism is a philosophical, religious and moral point of view.” In summary, our government recognizes atheism as a religion, atheism has its own “scripture” in the Humanist Manifestos, and in the words of one of its own leaders, it is a “religious point of view.”

    All of this reinforces my point that for the government to say it is going to be neutral regarding religion by excluding all religions except the religion of atheism, that that is NOT a neutral position. Thus we are left with the option of allowing all expressions of faith based on what “we the people” desire.

    I agree with you that there are Christians who want ONLY Christian expressions of faith. I suppose that would be my desire as well since I believe that the claims of Christianity are true and I would love to see all people eventually become followers of Christ. But the reality is that we live in a pluralistic world and the United States is becoming more pluralistic. I know that this frightens some who are Christians but it excites me. A generation ago I would have had to travel to another country to engage a Muslim or a Buddhist in conversation about faith. Today I can go next door. On a spiritual level I see this as a movement of God literally bringing the nations to us. I suspect you will see more and more Christians embracing this mindset in the future. I also think that while Christianity may be your focus right now based on your own community, that you will find yourself in the near future focusing on other belief systems as they become more prominent in your own world.

    One final thought regarding students using commencement speeches as a loophole to preach. Here’s the tricky thing about free speech. You either allow it or you don’t. I could say that people who burn flags are using free speech as a loophole to spit on our country. I don’t like it at all. But apparently they do have this right. I have seen gay pride parades where people use free speech as a loophole to have sex and display nudity in the middle of a public street. This is illegal activity in any other context. There are all kinds of things that people do in the name of free speech that is outrageous. Free speech is a messy thing. It is also an important thing for our country. So I think there is MORE danger in prohibiting the free speech of students at commencement instead of allowing them this Constitutional right. We may have to agree to disagree on this point.

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Jun 23 2011

      Secular Humanism and atheism are not the same thing. Secular Humanism is a set of values and beliefs. Atheism is just the lack of belief in a god.

      Atheists are typically protected under religious laws because we deserve rights, too. It’s a legal convenience. It doesn’t mean we agree on any beliefs or dogma. Atheists believe in all sorts of different things and are not necessarily humanists. The only thing atheists agree on is that we don’t believe in God.

      Furthermore, secularism isn’t the same as atheism. The executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a believer himself: Reverend Barry Lynn.

      Secularism means preachers don’t get up in front of class and preach the gospel to kids. It means the government doesn’t ask you if you have the right religion before giving you a government job. It even means that I can’t go up in front of a graduation ceremony and rant about the evils of religion.

      Not mentioning the topic at all isn’t atheism. It’s secularism. I am just as against the government putting up signs saying there isn’t a God as I am against them putting up pro-God signs. Not putting up a sign at all is very different from putting up an anti-God sign.

    • juju2112
      Jun 23 2011

      As far as the free speech issue, those students, like the teachers, are representing the school when they get up there and deliver a speech. They are free to walk out onto the street and lead people in prayer, they just can’t do it as a representative of the school.

      If someone deletes a comment I write on their Facebook wall, can I sue them for violation of free speech? If a salesman is fired for proselytizing, can they sue? I think this school thing is along the same lines. The students are free to say whatever they want unless they are acting as a school respresentative.

  5. Jun 23 2011

    Okay, so all atheists are not the same. Good point and I agree. I would still contend that the US Supreme Court was speaking of all groups (their catch-all term is “others”) that do not believe in the existence of a God as being groups with a religious point of view. Atheism certainly fits that category even if a particular person who claims atheism does not claim secular humanism specifically. My reasoning, thus, is also still sound regardless of definitions. The government cannot forbid all expressions of faith and call that neutral. Lack of faith expression, secularism, atheism, whatever the term or definition, IS a religiously bent position and NOT neutral. The only truly neutral position is to allow all expressions of faith. And this is what I have argued for. You yourself have said, “I agree that we need to either allow all expressions of faith or none at all.” So I wonder why you are so adamant about disallowing them? It seems your real beef would be Christian ONLY expressions. But I don’t think we have that in this country. Just because we see more Christian expressions than other expressions does not mean others aren’t allowed, it just means there are more Christians than other people. I think right now we are allowing in a very limited way multiple expressions of faith. I say very limited because I think the government, especially in school situations, is trying to have it both ways. Teachers can’t talk about religion in terms of persuasion but kids can. And that goes back to the student / commencement issue. I still press the free speech issue. A student who has NOT walked and received their diploma is not a school representative. Maybe we just disagree here, but they are not employed by the school, and they are allowed to do all sorts of things teachers cannot do at school like lead prayer meetings, share their faith with peers, etc. So there is nothing inconsistent or unconstitutional when at commencement a student wants to pray or give a speech and reference their faith. It’s called free speech.

    It seems like you have now switched from arguing your point as an atheist to now arguing it as a secularist. Am I wrong?

    Good stuff!

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Jun 23 2011

      I was never for the government endorsing atheism. Stopping religious prostelization in schools isn’t the same as promoting atheism. Promoting atheism would be having a class called “God doesn’t exist”. I am not for that.

      Of course I am for atheism, but I’m not for government sponsored atheism. I’m for a secular government.

      I don’t agree that allowing any sort of prostelization in schools would be “no big deal”. How would parents react if their kids came home and told them their Muslim teacher spent class time trying to convert the kids to Islam? There would be some angry parents.

      I am not sure of a response to the free speech issue. I see both sides of it. What makes someone a representative of the government? Do they need to get a salary, or is it enough to be using facilities that we all pay for? What if I don’t want my tax dollars going to a school that promotes religion?

    • juju2112
      Jun 23 2011

      Think of it this way. There are many parents who would not want their kids attending a ceremony where a religion was being promoted that they don’t subscribe to. Is it fair to exclude these people from their graduation?

      If a kid gives a commencement speech on the wonders of Allah and leads the people in a Muslim prayer, some parents would keep their kids from attending. It excludes people and makes them feel like they are not wanted in the school.

    • Jennifer Shinn
      Jun 29 2011

      If we truly believe in freedom of speech, this would not be an issue at all. Any religion has the Constitutional right to say what they want to say. As far as being a representative of a government facility, I think that if they have a salary with that entity then they are a representative. How can I be a representative of a taxi company just because I paid for a ride to the local market. I think not. Students choose to be representatives if for instance, promoting their school team by displaying team numbers, flags, etc. I do not believe that this makes them LEGAL representatives. Therefore if a student wants to deliver a Muslim, Christian, or Hindi prayer during their commencement speech, then they should be allowed to do so without any threat of retaliation. My point to all of this is, all religions, including Christianity, need to respect each other’s right to freedom of speech. If this would actually happen, they world would be a much nicer place to live in. I am a Christian and I believe in following the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ. I also attend the same church that Dr. Jeff Crawford pastors. He is an excellent teacher. I have really enjoyed this conversations, both sides of the argument. Have a blessed day.

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