The Course of Reason

Prayer in School, Again, but with a Twist

June 3, 2011

Joe Enabnit, of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers, explains the free speech double standard when it comes to prayer in schools.

This article originally appeared on the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirer's blog.

I came across an interesting story about a Texas student who is fighting to be able to lead a formal prayer at her graduation ceremony. I thought this was interesting in the wake of the story of Damon Fowler, who fought against school prayer and faced a lot of hardships from his community and even his family because of it. Most striking to me is the idea of persecution and the stark contrast between the two cases. From the news story:

"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. "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. 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.

Free speech? She is allowed to pray all that she wants. She would even be allowed to get students and parents together and pray as a group in the school.  What the school is not allowed to do is have an official prayer that favors one religion over another as part of their graduation program. Ignore that they seem to think it's a problem that students would be allowed to pray toward Mecca, but lets take that example: would they be okay with a Muslim student leading a prayer and asking the audience to respectfully face East and drop to the floor? I think not. Any kind of denominational religious act is divisive in a public event that is supposed to be for everyone. Even if there is just one atheist or Muslim or other non-Christian there, they have every right not to be excluded from parts of their own graduation ceremony. This sense of persecution by Christians is absolutely false and amounts to little more than a bully who is upset that his brass-knuckles have been confiscated. There is no 'God purge', only a wall of separation between church and state which protects both.


About the Author: Joe Enabnit

Joe Enabnit's photo
Joe Enabnit is the Darwin Week Chair of the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI). Before taking on his new role, he managed UNIFI's blog. He is a junior Philosophy major.




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