E-mail petition from a friend
I received the following e-mail petition from a friend of mine:
Dear President Bush:
Many of us were deeply touched to hear you recite a portion of Psalm 23 in your address to this great nation in the dark hours following the terrorists attacks. We, the people of America, are requesting that you lift the prohibition of prayer in schools. As the pledge of our great country states, we are to be "One nation, under God." Please allow the prayers and the petitions of our children in schools without the threat of punishment.
Currently, adults and children in the schools are prohibited from mentioning God unless, of course, His name is uttered as part of a curse or profanity. Madalyn Murray O'Hair is dead. Let her legacy of atheism in our schools die with her!
The People of America!
to which I responded:
Friend, [real name omitted]
I believe group prayer has no place in our schools. When we entrench the Christian religion in the public schools and in the public laws, it places all of our non-Christian students outside the schools and the laws. Lord knows that I was ridiculed often enough in high school for my clothes, or my hair. When I went home, I could change my clothes or get a haircut. A Jew or a Muslim student can't go home and change their religion.
The petition implies that children are punished for praying at school. This is simply not so. There is no law or policy stopping students from praying to God at school. Adults and children are not prohibited from saying "God" either -- just from holding ostentatious public prayers that isolate those who don't share the same beliefs and hold them up for special notice.
In Matthew 6:5-6, the bible says: "And when you make your prayers, be not like the false-hearted men, who take pleasure in getting up and saying their prayers in the Synagogues and at the street turnings so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward."
This is a non-law friend, or else I would have pointed out the manifest absurdity of the notion that the President could redefine the meaning of the Establishment Clause by fiat.