The American society respects and promotes human freedom in various spheres. However, looking at it in another way, one can conclude that the excess freedom given to people by our constitution is actually harmful. Our values and morals have arguably greatly diminished in the past century. On the other hand, everyone’s rights including minorities and people with different ideologies from those of the majority have been promoted. Some years back, prayer was a common feature in public schools. This has changed and one may find himself in a court of law for instituting prayer in public schools. This is a debatable issue within the Christian fraternity itself. As much as Christianity encourages good virtues and prayer, it also respects the freedom of choice. (Bartholomew, 2003, p. 590)
Prayer in public schools may act as a way of reminding the human conscience in schools about the presence and importance of a supernatural creator. This will instill morals and good behavior in students. Many efforts by human beings to solve world problems and make life better have failed because people have failed to acknowledge God. Establishing reason as the guiding principle in life alone has not promoted virtues. An attempt by some scholars to define good behavior in the secular world based on some ethical principles of reason has failed. (Bartholomew, 2003, p. 592)
By forbidding prayer in public schools, we are actually undermining the very principles from which our society has been founded. Values of clarification have replaced the commandments of Judeo-Christian tradition in our education system. These values of reason assist the student to know what is right or wrong without authoritatively asserting on moral laws. The question is whether one can exercise moral authority while denying the authority of the morality. Education institutions are thus unable to fully educate on moral values. These formal and informal beliefs will determine the path and course our society will take. (Muir, 1970, p. 158)
Our History clearly shows that our founding fathers and our past generations greatly believed in God. The phrase “God Bless America” is probably a more common phrase than any other. Nearly all public functions including the swearing in of a new president are preceded by prayer. Our society is therefore displaying denial, hypocrisy and ungratefulness to God by acknowledging Him in these high profile meetings but subsequently denying Him in the foundations that shape our beliefs and understanding-public schools. (Ackerman, 2002, p. 67)
The claim that prayer in public schools will infringe on the rights of students that do not hold the same beliefs does not hold much ground. Such students can simply ignore the prayer session or passively participate in it. Moreover, tolerance is greatly entrenched on our current culture that accommodates varying opinions and beliefs. Christians who feel that they have a right to pray may feel that they are being openly and silently denied the chance to do so. Going further into the school curriculum for example, one would question why controversial and even scientifically unproven theories that contradict Christian beliefs on evolution are taught. (Boles, 1965, p. 378)
From the ancient times of human life and civilization, the society has always played an important role in guiding and educating children and the youths so that they can play a positive role in the society. One needs to remember that these are growing individuals physically, emotionally and psychologically who are finding new perspectives and have not attained maturity. Overemphasizing on their freedom and rights on very small issues like prayer in public schools is obviously not the best way to go. Many of these students are actually in the adolescent stage which is characterized by rebellion as the adolescents try to find their own self. By preventing prayer in public schools, we are actually encouraging this kind of rebellion in students. While a Muslim parent may have a problem with Christian prayer sessions in public schools, he will have an even greater problem in handling a rebellious and undisciplined child. (Ackerman, 2002, p. 69)
It is obvious that the morality of our society has greatly degenerated. Proponents of the new secular ethical principles and beliefs will want to quickly redefine what is wrong and right and even tell us that our society has become better. The truth however is that we are greatly suffering as a nation. Ranging from shooting cases in schools, drug problems and mass indiscipline in schools, the list is endless. What went wrong? A closer look will show that the problem started when we gave our children too much freedom and even told them that they have a right to ignore prayer in school. What’s more? These children are the future parents of tomorrow handling even more “liberated” kids. (Dowley, 2006, p. 668)
On the other hand, one may argue that the state should be completely separated from religion. This is the only way to guard the freedoms and expressions of every citizen in this country. Students in public schools may be considered as a captive audience that one can easily manipulate, coerce and influence. It is therefore important for the education to lean on any religious side by emphasizing on prayer sessions. The right of a student to pray silently, personally and individually remains. However, guiding and leading a group of students to pray is not voluntary. (McManners, 1970, p. 717)
Walls that had not existed among students before may actually be created by prayers in schools. Debates, tension and hate may be promoted between students holding divergent views on the issue. This prevents normal interactions among students and may actually discriminate against some students labeled as “different”. This pattern may spill over to one’s behavior in life thus undermining our capacity to live harmoniously in our society. (McManners, 1970, p. 717)
Public schools are designed to cater for all people, whether they are Christians, Muslims, atheists or those belonging to any other group. The purpose of schools is to educate while the purpose of religious institutions and parents is to instill moral behavior in students. It is therefore wrong to allow prayer in public schools since this is usurping the roles of parents and religious institutions. (Boles, 1965, p. 380)
There are so many divergent views on prayer. While some believe in the power of prayer, some do not. Our government is secular and should not therefore take side on these debates. Even a good Christian is not judged by how much he/she prays but rather by the behavior exhibited. According to Christians, one cannot be coerced to their beliefs but has to make a personal and voluntary choice to follow Christ. Besides promoting hypocrisy, prayer in public schools may actually be seen as going against these beliefs that define Christianity itself. (McManners, 1970, p. 718)
Some people attribute moral decline in our society to lack of prayer in schools. This may not be the case since some of the most morally upright people in the world have never recited a prayer. Japan is a classic example to back this argument. On the other hand, many prisoners call themselves born again Christians. Giant achievements like civil liberties for blacks have been made even without prayer in public schools. Christians who are sincere, honest and private have had an astronomical positive impact on our society than public Christians. It is sometimes only in a hostile environment where true Christianity can come out. Some Christian groups that hypocritically advance prayer in schools have openly promoted racism. (Muir, 1970, p. 160)
On what basis can we allow prayer in public schools? A democratic vote on the issue would allow catholic prayers in schools. On the other hand most Protestants are uncomfortable with prayer in public institutions. Most Christians in our country greatly empathize with their brothers in Muslim countries that do not know the difference between state and religion. We should therefore appreciate the importance of completely safeguarding everyone’s rights. (McManners, 2001, p. 720)
The surest way to advance religious tyranny is by merging religions and states. European history where millions were butchered because of their religious beliefs is unfortunate. Even in the modern world, some people do not have freedom of worship because the state has interfered in religious affairs. The importance of separating these two institutions cannot therefore be overemphasized. As much as it may appear as a small thing, prayer in public schools is a silent way of doing the same. Our founding fathers were very wise to know the dangers that religion can pose to a state. This is why they clearly separated religion from state in the constitution. (Lineberry, 1995, p. 492)
I arguably believe that the founder of Christianity (Jesus Christ) was against showy and hypocritical prayer. At one point, Jesus advised his disciples to go in to an inside room when they wanted to pray so that men would not see them. What this means is that prayer should only be offered to God and should be a private affair not a public one. As a society, we have reached a level were we greatly encourage the rights and liberties of others. Conducting prayer in public schools will therefore be more coercive than voluntary. This arguably does not agree with Jesus teachings. (Dowley, 2006, p. 670)
Christianity culture is a culture that has generally promoted human development. Founded in the Jewish state, the religion overcame many challenges to spread in the Roman Empire and in the world. Its values have founded constitutions and promoted human freedom. The problem is that with the inborn freedom of choice, many will not agree entirely with its values and beliefs. This creates some conflict. As much as it appeals to more followers it appreciates their rights. It will only remind people of the consequences of their disobedience rather than coerce them into its following.
In my opinion, prayer in public schools will not create better Christians. The onus is primarily on true Christians and their institutions to aggressively and tactically entrench Christian values on their children. This should be done while appreciating peoples freedom of choice. However, the problem I have is that we may be failing to acknowledge God in our society besides giving too much freedom to our young and immature children. We therefore need to find a way of totally educating our children in all matters so that they can tackle all future challenges in life without contravening our constitution.
Ackerman, M.D. (2002). Prayer and religion in the public school. (Ed), 1. (1), 64-84.
Bartholomew,C.P, Vile.R.J, Menez.F.J.(2003).Summaries of leading cases on the constitution, 14th ed, Rowman & Littlefield,2.(1),587-627.
Boles, E.D. (1965). The Bible, religion, and the public schools, (3rd Ed), Lowa state University Press, 1. (1), 369-408.
Dowley, T. (2006). Introduction to the history of Christianity. (Ed), Fortress Press, 4. (1), 658-688.
Lineberry, L.R. (1995).Government in America: People, politics, and policy, (2nd Ed), HarperCollins College Publishers, 3. (2).487-502.
McManners, J. (2001). The Oxford illustrated history of Christianity Oxford Illustrated Histories. (Ed), Oxford University Press, 2. (1), 697-768.
Muir, K.W. (1970). Prayer in public schools: law and attitude change, University of Chicago press, 1(4), 147-170.