Teacher-Led Prayer. Letters to the Editor

From the Chicago Tribune, 12/3/94, Letters to the Editor:

Cancel that prayer

LOMBARD-- So Newt Gingrich has given school prayer top priority on his new Republican agenda. He never said to whom the students would be praying.

Many communities around the country are heavily Jewish, Middle Eastern, Indian or Asian. To be fair, the children should pray to a different deity or prophet each day. On Monday, they'll pray to Christ, Tuesday to Yahweh, Wednesday to Allah, Thursday to Shiva and Friday to Buddha.

The Christian Coalition claims credit for the school- prayer initiative. Of course, it will be those same people who complain the loudest when they find out that their little Sally offered prayers to a fertility goddess that morning.

Robert Erck

From the Chicago Tribune, 12/2/94, Voice of the People:

Teacher-led Prayer has no place in public schools

CHICAGO-- The presumed next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, has wasted no time in coming out for a constitutional amendment that would permit prayer in the publics schools. The enactment of such an amendment would be a poor idea for a number of reasons.

First, the amendment would be in direct conflict with the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment which guarantees, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, a "wall of separation between church and state." Would the establishment clause be rendered unconstitutional by a new amendment allowing prayer in the publich schools? If a new amendment is enacted, it will open up a proverbial can of worms.

Second, a new amendment permitting prayer would infringe on the rights of the minority. Tyranny of the majority would surely result despite the intentions of those in control to compose what they might consider to be a neutral prayer. While many may not object to a morning prayer over the school intercom, some individuals will argue that prayer should only take place when one is spiritually motivated. Even for those who see no harm in silent prayer, there will be some who will undoubtedly insist that prayer must be vocal. In a nation composed of nearly 90 religions with more than 50,000 members, and more than 1,000 denominations in total, the whole idea of a non-denominational prayer is ludicrous at best.

Third, as an educator, I cannot support prayer in the public schools because it places my students in the uncomfortable position of having to participate in an activity that is fundamentally private. I have too much respect for my students, many of whom come from different backgrounds, to consider public prayer to be a secular learning experience.

A state-sanctioned prayer is a violation of their humanity and represents a serious intrusion in their lives. As students, they would be forced to take part because the prayer would take place in a structured educational environment where they would be expected to conform and behave.

Except for the brief mention of religion in the 1st Amendment, and the clause in Article VI in the Constitution prohibiting religious tests for holding office, there is no mention of religion in the Constitution. Words such as the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, sin, hell, heaven and prayer are nowhere to be found.

If conservatives like Gingrich really believe in less government and sincerely desire to get the government off the backs of the American people, then such proposals as state-sanctioned prayers should not be forced on young and impressionable minds. Prayer is important, but as President Kennedy stated at a press conference in 1962 after the Supreme Court ruled that prayer in the public schools was unconstitutional, the solution was to "pray a good deal more at home and attend our churches with a good deal more fidelity."

Larry Vigon
Social Studies Teacher
Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center

Go Back to Shy David's School Prayer Page.