School Prayer

By Randy Blackaby

School prayer has become the new battleground for the clash between religion and humanistic atheism. But there is danger in making school prayer the focus of the debate. A win eventually could turn into a loss for the supporters of Christianity.

Let me explain.

Supreme Court rulings as late as this week uphold First Amendment rights of the individual (particularly students) to pray and lead a prayer in school. Other rulings ban school-sponsored prayer, that is, the school inviting a religious spokesperson to lead prayer. These rulings actually will protect the rights of Christians in the long run.

Christians rightfully have been incensed at school and governmental regulations that allow free speech (by invitation) from abortion proponents, homosexual lobbyists and political crazies while alleging the Constitution forbids free speech by an advocate of religious faith.

But Christians, like all other people, need to be wary of attempts to legislate the teaching or advocacy of religion or any parts of its practice in the public schools.

Citizens lobbying and demanding that priests, pastors and preachers be permitted to lead students in prayer open the door to constitutional interpretations that will allow the teaching and advocacy of other religions, philosophies and quasi-faiths that will threaten the well being of our children.

We could win the battle and lose the war.

I can remember vividly and uncomfortably the days in the fourth and fifth grade when my elementary school brought in religious instructors to teach us. Some of those teachings were contrary to what my parents and my Bible were teaching me.

No one can stop an individual from praying. The case of Daniel (chapter 6) is a good illustration.

I am delighted to see students meeting in prayer groups and insisting on their right to pray, especially if they are boldly standing up for their faith and not simply jumping on the newest popular bandwagon of protest.

It is important that free speech not be defined solely as humanistic, atheistic or vulgar speech.

But we also must under-stand that constitutional limitations on government advocacy of a religion are critical protections for Christians.

As the percentage of Americans who call themselves Christians shrinks year by year, the answer is not to be found in trying to force Christian principles on children through school prayer or school-sponsored “Christian doctrine” classes.

The answer is to be found in parents teaching their children biblical principles, showing them those principles by example and involving children in the church.

If the day ever comes when more Americans are Moslems or Hindus or idolaters than Christians, we Christians may regret the day we insisted on having the schools become directly involved in religion.

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 21, p. 6
November 3, 1994