It seems that the issue of “prayer in the schools” (meaning public, essentially compulsory prayers) just won’t go away. In a suburb of San Antonio, Texas, a High School valedictorian is seeking to fight a court order forbidding formal prayers at graduation ceremonies. She is deeply offended that she won’t be able to lead the audience in such a public prayer.
[Everything in red is a direct quotation from the linked newspaper article, not my own words.]
“After all that I’ve been taught about the freedoms of speech, expression and religion in our country, I am disappointed that my liberties are being infringed upon by this court’s ruling to censor my speech,” Hildenbrand said at a press conference at the Alamo.
Actually, the court order does not at all infringe on her civil liberties. She is quite free to believe in God, Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Second Person in the Trinity, etc.; speak in normal conversations about her belief; and pray anywhere she wants to (even at the graduation ceremony). There is nothing the government can do to prevent her from praying privately, or in a voluntarily gathered group of fellow Christians. The only thing the ruling does is prevent her from violating the civil rights of other students and parents who do not wish to have any part in her Christian prayers. She has every right to believe what she will; but she doesn’t have any right to seek to impose those beliefs on others, or virtually compel others to take part in religious rites they don’t believe in.
And that’s the key. On Thursday, the North Texas-based Liberty Institute, a nonprofit that describes itself as seeking to limit government and promote Judeo-Christian values, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the valedictorian of Castroville’s Medina Valley High School, Angela Hildenbrand. (The bold print and underlining is my doing). The aim of the organization is not the promotion of religious liberty, but the promotion of “Judeo-Christian values”. The idea is that our government funded schools can somehow legitimately be used to promote those particular religious values, imposing them on everyone else – and amazingly not be in violation of the non-establishment clause of our Constitution. Any atheist, agnostic, Deist, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu students (or anyone else not following “Judeo-Christian” values) don’t have those civil rights, it would seem, that Miss Hildenbrand so ardently desires to protect for herself.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Wednesday asked a federal appeals court to overturn the order.
“This is part of an ongoing attempt to purge God from the public setting, while at the same time demanding from the court increased yielding to all things agnostic and atheistic,” Abbott said.
No it is not; it’s simply protecting everyone else from the attempts of Christian zealots to impose their own views of God on everyone else.
He said Congress begins each session with a prayer to God, and Biery’s ruling would allow a student to “bend over in honor of Mecca,” but not lead a prayer to the Christian God.
Yes, Congress begins each session with prayer (something with which I personally disagree); but at least it tries to allow other non-Christian religious groups to take part in those prayers. I well remember, though, the furor that arose when on July 12, 2007 a Hindu priest was invited to give the opening prayer in the Senate. Again, it’s not true liberty that these Christian zealots promote, but ‘liberty’ to impose their own version of God on everyone else.
And technically it’s true that Biery’s ruling would allow a student to “bend over in honor of Mecca,” but not lead a prayer to the Christian God. But that is comparing two different things. A Muslim can pray facing Mecca, a Hindu can pray to Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, or any of the other ‘personifications’ of the One Supreme God recognized by Hinduism, and a Christian can bow his or her head to God in prayer. I can imagine the furor these fundamentalist Christians would make, though, if a Muslim believer were to be allowed to attempt to lead the graduation ceremony in Islamic prayer facing Mecca! 😆 Or how about if a Hindu were invited to set up a statue of one of his/her “gods” (or “personifications” of the One) and lead the assembly in prayer? Would those “Christians” be defending the civil rights of freedom of religion and speech for the Muslim or Hindu? I kinda doubt it! 😀 You’d have the same furor created over the Congressional prayer of the Hindu priest, and the election of a Muslim or two to Congress.
What it all comes down to, though, is the misapprehension of some Christians that the U.S.A. was founded as a “Christian nation” with a “Christian government” (despite the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment and the prohibition of “religious tests” for any public office). All I’ll say here is that such an idea is a serious misapprehension. I have written other articles about that subject (Are the United States a Christian Nation? for instance; and also Concerning the Nonestablishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution), so there’s no need for me to take up more space writing about that in this article.
We need to get beyond this continuing debate with the realization that the U.S. Government cannot promote or favor any religion at all, and neither can it promote or favor “no religion” (atheism or agnosticism). No one should or would be permitted to lead an ‘invocation’ which was dedicated to the affirmation of “no god” at a public school. Government cannot take any official stance at all on the matter of religion; and neither can the government funded schools.