Talk:School prayer

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Is it not secular?

Andy,

Is it not a secular culture keeping government and religion apart? Not an atheistic culture as you claim.--JBuscombe 13:13, 1 January 2008 (EST)

"Secular" means public, and reflects public beliefs, as in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, reciting a prayer during the beginning of a congressional session, or swearing in a new president through use of a Bible. Public schools are more properly described as atheistic, where religion is affirmatively censored.--Aschlafly 13:17, 1 January 2008 (EST)
"Secular" means separate from religion. It does not imply public. Also there is no prohibition of prayer in school. That is also protected by the first amendment. Students can pray any time without disrupting the school. What the critics are against is being forced to attend the prayer or the prayer being led by an authoritative figure like teacher. So it is not atheistic , just secular.--JBuscombe 13:22, 1 January 2008 (EST)
Also how would you feel if you are forced to sit through a Muslim prayer led by the teacher every day? Now, do you get the point? --JBuscombe 13:26, 1 January 2008 (EST)
There is a prohibition on prayer in public school, and it is deceitful to pretend otherwise. The prayers that start legislative sessions through the United States cannot be said to start the schoolday or a class in public school.--Aschlafly 13:38, 1 January 2008 (EST)
Are you happy for your child to be forced to sit through an islamic prayer led by a Muslim teacher every day? --JBuscombe 14:35, 1 January 2008 (EST)
5 times a day, actually. SSchultz 14:39, 1 January 2008 (EST)

Not necessarily - the dawn, sunset, and dusk ones would probably not be during the school day, unless one was boarding/homeschooling. Also, in an avowedly liberal school over here in the UK, I can pray whenever I want, so long as it doesn't disrupt teaching. --JOwen


Although I essentially side with Andy on this issue, I was going to say that I don't agree with him on the definition of "secular". However, in checking my facts, it appears that Andy is closer to the truth that anyone here has given him credit for, even if the particular way he expressed it is not exactly right.

  • OneLook gives the meaning as "concerning those not members of the clergy", although I don't know which dictionary it got that from.
  • Merriam-Webster gives one of the definitions as "not ecclesiastical or clerical", and gives secular courts as an example.
  • The Online Etymology Dictionary says that the word started off (in 1290) as meaning '"living in the world, not belonging to a religious order," also "belonging to the state"'.

It appears that the word, which I'd say started in a society that was Christian, did not originally mean "without religion", but "not part of the religious establishment". The secular courts example above illustrates this. A secular court was distinct from a church court. It had to do with which authority (church or state) controlled it; it was not to do with whether or not religion was involved. Religion (i.e. Christianity) was involved regardless. That is, the state, although distinct from the church still recognised the church as a co-equal authority.

In modern times, it has come to mean "without religion" as one of its most-commonly-used meanings (particularly by atheists and the like), but this appears to not be an original meaning, and so Andy is justified in making the comment that he does.

Furthermore, and this is where I agreed with him anyway, any state that excludes religion is not religiously neutral, but is taking sides, with the atheists. I don't believe that Andy's gripe is that schools don't have to have prayer, but that they are not allowed to have prayer (and we're not talking about students silently or privately praying). If the state allowed, but didn't enforce school prayer, they would be religiously neutral. But if they ban it, they are no longer being religiously neutral.

Philip J. Rayment 07:59, 2 January 2008 (EST)


Bible study paragraph

This paragraph wasn't about prayer, but it's still good for an article about the Bible and public schools:

From 2004 to 2006, a public school banned Bible study by children ... during recess. A teacher complained about the use of the Bible and the principal then censored the study activity, according to a sworn statement by a teacher told to stop it. Principal "Summa, having learned of a complaint by a teacher and of the students' Bible study, told fourth-grade teacher Virginia Larue to nix the group's recess meeting. Larue did, according to her deposition. In that sworn statement, Larue said she briefly informed Summa of a parental complaint about the Bible study, and Summa then instructed her to end the practice, citing fear over "separation of church and state." Larue later told one of Luke's Bible study colleagues the group could no longer meet at recess, according to the deposition."[1]

Jinxmchue 18:18, 27 January 2008 (EST)

You are drawing a hairsplitting distinction that is not worth making. Bible study is often associated with prayer, and if Bible study is banned, then prayer is also. In borderline cases, we leave material in the entry because it is informative. We disfavor censorship of valuable information.--Aschlafly 20:15, 27 January 2008 (EST)
Well, then maybe we need to have the article renamed to "Religion in public schools" and formatted with headings about prayer and the Bible, because there are lots of incidents where students simply reading the Bible have been chastised. Jinxmchue 21:23, 27 January 2008 (EST)
I think changing the title is a good idea (although I have a problem with the term "public schools" (see that link). "Religion in schools" has broader application than "School prayer". Philip J. Rayment 02:18, 28 January 2008 (EST)

Query

Hi guys, I have a query. Firstly, as a Non-US citizen, I dont want to discuss whether or not prayer in school should be legal/illegal but I am wondering why it is such a big issue. In my school we had the lords prayer before a school assembly and those who were not religious (or of other religions) did not have to participate but we certainly did not have to have prayer before the start of each day. The reasons being is that people who want to pray would certainly pray before school with their family. Surely also a teacher can pray for/with his class either before the school day or lead those students in prayer who wish to privately. I think it is the parents who instill values and religion and should not be the realm of the government or school. Unless of course it is a catholic/sunday school/what-have-you that the parents have choosen to send their children to. MetcalfeM 20:21, 3 March 2008 (EST)

(Reply from a non-US citizen!) In America all prayer that is in any way "endorsed" by the school (including implicitly) is effectively illegal. This includes the Lord's Prayer at an assembly, prayer by a teacher (whether in class or not), prayer by anyone during class time, and even prayer by a student at any gathering sanctioned by the school, it seems. There's video online of a student acknowledging God (not actually praying) in her graduation speech (I think it was, or something like that) having the microphone turned off by the school because of that. It's not so much that prayer is not endorsed or encouraged, but that it is banned (or censored, if you like). That is, if the teacher wants to pray, and the student have no objection, the teacher is still not permitted to. Philip J. Rayment 20:42, 3 March 2008 (EST)
Well put, Philip. MetcalfeM, it's called censorship when something is permitted to be said only at home, or only in special place. Liberal concepts like evolution are not censored in the classroom. Why is prayer censored there?--Aschlafly 20:46, 3 March 2008 (EST)
In America, I can legally go into a bar and flirt with the females without any problem. But if I were a teacher, and I did that to one of the students, I would be (correctly) disciplined and/or fired for that behavior. Is that censorship, Aschlafly? According to your definition it is. Do you support the right of teachers to flirt with their students? --Jdellaro 08:06, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Censorship is suppression of information, not an action. And censorship is often used—and I expect that this is the way Andy is using it—to mean unreasonable suppression of an idea. That is, I very much doubt that Andy is opposed to all censorship, but banning of school prayer is unreasonable censorship. Philip J. Rayment 08:15, 4 March 2008 (EST)
First off, Andy specifically said, "it's called censorship when something is permitted to be said only at home, or only in special place." I used the word, "flirting", but if you'd prefer, if I went into a bar and made sexually suggestive comments to females, that would be accepted. But I couldn't do that in a classroom. Is that censorship? And if censorship is suppression of information, how is leading a class in prayer considered, "information" as opposed to "action"? And where's the line drawn between reasonable censorship and unreasonable censorship?--Jdellaro 09:54, 4 March 2008 (EST)
I'll agree that I may have been splitting hairs with the definition of "censorship", and I'll also say that I'm not convinced that Andy's use of the word "censorship" is totally appropriate; perhaps it's not "censorship" per se. In his defence, however, I'll add that perhaps a better definition of censorship is the banning of the expression of an idea, and although prayer is not really "expression of an idea", banning prayer is part of a larger agenda to ban the expression of the ideas (teachings) of Christianity. But the more important point is my second one, that of unreasonable censorship. Your only response to that is to question where the line is drawn, the implication being that if you don't know where to draw the line, you don't draw one at all. The fallacies with this are that (a) the line is already being drawn (at virtually no prayer at all), and (b) it is the case with lots of issues that you have to subjectively draw a line somewhere, and we achieve this in all sorts of fields, so it's really a silly objection. Philip J. Rayment 20:38, 4 March 2008 (EST)

That I understand. While I wouldnt agree with a teacher leading a prayer in class for the whole class regardless of belief or parents wishes I would certainly agree that it is not right for a blanket ban to be imposed. I mean, I am not religious however if I was part of a school sports team and some of my team members wished to have a prayer circle, while I may not join them, I wouldn't care. Each to there own I say. MetcalfeM 21:17, 3 March 2008 (EST)

You are censoring the teacher or coach with respect to prayer, but not with respect to their expressing liberal views. Why do you support such censorship?--Aschlafly 21:28, 3 March 2008 (EST)

I support no censorship. Did you not read my post? I dont think it is a teachers responsibility to lead my children in prayer. That is my responsibilty. However if a teacher wishes to pray with the religious students of his/her class then fine, go right ahead. But on their own time (5 mins before class starts maybe?) not my childrens time. Also, if the coach wants to pray with his team, go right ahead, but I wouldn't join the prayer circle and shouldn't have to be exposed to it. But I have no problem whatsoever with a prayer being said as long as it is done respectifully to others beliefs (and vice versa). MetcalfeM 21:36, 3 March 2008 (EST)

I did read your post, and reread it. You said, "While I wouldnt agree with a teacher leading a prayer in class for the whole class ...." That's called censorship of the teacher. There is no other (logical) way to describe it. You're likely fine with the teacher leading the class on evolution or his views about a political candidate. But, oh no, NOT prayer. That's censorship, plain and simple. You're fighting logic, not me, to deny it.--Aschlafly 21:51, 3 March 2008 (EST)

Excuse me Ashlafly, I didnt mention evolution or politics once! "However if a teacher wishes to pray with the religious students of his/her class then fine, go right ahead. But on their own time (5 mins before class starts maybe?) not my childrens time" How is this censorship of the teacher? MetcalfeM 21:55, 3 March 2008 (EST)


Okay, there's two issues here. One, should a teacher be prevented from praying where no student objects or students have the choice of opting out? On that, it appears to me that Andy and MetcalfeM both agree that the teacher should be allowed to.

The second issue is whether or not a teacher should be allowed to pray in a situation where the students object and can't opt out. MetcalfeM says that they should not be allowed to in that case. Andy thinks that they should. Andy is trying to say that MetcalfeM is being inconsistent in believing that a teacher should not be allowed to pray in that circumstance, yet believe that a teacher should be allowed to put other views to the class, such as political or evolutionary. Now MetcalfeM is being in consistent if he thinks that, but he hasn't said that he does, so it's premature to accuse him of that. And I would not be at all surprised if MetcalfeM says that teachers should not be allowed to put political views. Similarly, I would be surprised (but it's still possible) that MetcalfeM thinks that teachers should not promote evolution.

But regardless what MetcalfeM thinks, the real point is that in America (and other places, although perhaps not so rigidly), teachers are banned from promoting or even implicitly endorsing a Christian view (praying in class is hardly forcing a view on people), yet are required to promote (explicitly endorse) the anti-Christian view of evolution (for example). That is a glaring inconsistency, rationalised only on the false claim that one is "religious" and the other is "science".

Philip J. Rayment 22:23, 3 March 2008 (EST)

Nice clarification Phillip! Yes I do believe that it is fine for a teacher to pray with students if they agree etc etc as you pointed out. I also dont think that teachers should push political beliefs unless asked directly what the think. Same with relgious beliefs. As for evolution, well, I think that evolution should be taught in science class however I am a bit divided on creation being taught alongside. To be honest I haven't given it a lot of thought but if pressed I could say that it would be an idea to teach the holes in evolution? Maybe let students make their own minds up? Its a thorny issue which, to be honest, I dont really want to debate. Thanks for your clarification though Phillip. You aussies aint all bad you know! MetcalfeM 22:32, 3 March 2008 (EST)

I also think that evolution should be taught, simply because so many people believe it that it's something that everyone should know about. But it should not be taught as truth, as it usually is. The opposition to Christian views, however, extends even to the extreme of banning telling students that they should keep an open mind about evolution! Philip J. Rayment 23:02, 3 March 2008 (EST)
Thanks Philip, that seems like a fairly rational assessment. It does often seem like there is a double standard in these issues that is not often recognized. Feebasfactor 22:34, 3 March 2008 (EST)

I welcome Metcalfe saying that he's fine with a teacher praying with a class if everyone agrees, but very few people really base their view on that distinction and, frankly, Metcalfe himself didn't either. It was Philip who introduced that distinction. Nearly everyone who opposes classroom prayer also opposes it even if no one objects. Moreover, why would the objection of just one student be able to cause the censorship of everyone else? That doesn't make much sense, and it is a form of censorship.--Aschlafly 22:40, 3 March 2008 (EST)

Phillip did claify what I was trying to get across actually. He explained it better than I did is all. Anyways, I'm off for the day. Enjoy the debate without the token atheist! ;-) MetcalfeM 22:46, 3 March 2008 (EST)

It's probably true that "Nearly everyone who opposes classroom prayer also opposes it even if no one objects", but there are exceptions, and we have to be careful not to presume that any particular individual fits the stereotype. I also agree that the objection of a single student should not be able to stop everyone else having prayer. In some circumstances, being able to opt out is a good practice, but when it comes to prayer, having a student leave the classroom for the 30 seconds (or whatever, it could well be longer, but might well be quite short also) that a prayer is being said is unnecessary mucking around. Also, atheists consider prayer to be meaningless, so what harm is there if a student has to listen to a prayer being said? It's not like the student is required to participate (pray also) or believe; all he has to do is sit there quietly while the prayer is being said. What's so wrong with that? Philip J. Rayment 23:02, 3 March 2008 (EST)

Andy and Phil, I have a hypothetical question. Let's say an observant Jewish child (like mine) is in a majority Christian class, and feels, well, very uncomfortable when the teacher wants to lead the class in the Lord's Prayer? Is it just "tough knuckles" for my boy? We do have a bit of unpleasant history around these issues.LeonardH 23:37, 3 March 2008 (EST)
What is so "tough" about it? What's so hard about him simply sitting through it? Philip J. Rayment 23:48, 3 March 2008 (EST)
Being in the majority religion, I'm sure it's not obvious. It sends a systemic message of exclusion - "this is not your school" - and suggests that one religion has priority over the other in affairs of state. Constitutionally... that shouldn't be the case.-PhoenixWright 23:51, 3 March 2008 (EST)
I'm not talking constitutionally. How does it "send a message of exclusion"? The very fact that a predominantly Christian environment welcomes Jews indicates that they are not excluded! Philip J. Rayment 00:08, 4 March 2008 (EST)
"Welcome! Glad you're here! Now sit there, okay good, and listen while you tell you about our religion. No no, we'd rather not hear about yours."-PhoenixWright 00:13, 4 March 2008 (EST)
So now we've switched from praying to talking about a religion? I must have missed that switch. Philip J. Rayment 00:20, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Isn't praying a religion-specific speech act?-PhoenixWright 00:22, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Huh? Yes, you could invent that term for it, but that's like saying that a robin is a bird, and a crow is a bird, so a robin is a crow. We were talking specifically about prayer. Philip J. Rayment 00:33, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Let's say you lived in northern new jersey in a mostly jewish town. If the teacher wanted to say the Shema before every class, which is a prayer which basically repudiated Christianity, what would you suggest for your kid?LeonardH 23:50, 3 March 2008 (EST)

To witness to his fellow students. Philip J. Rayment 00:08, 4 March 2008 (EST)
So school should become a free-for-all, religion-off, where students are encouraged to disrupt each other's learning by pushing their beliefs at each other in an unmediated environment?-PhoenixWright 00:13, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Please show me where in my comment I said anything about witnessing during class time, in a disruptive way, or by pushing their beliefs on others. Or retract the comment. Philip J. Rayment 00:20, 4 March 2008 (EST)
I'm just trying to point out that encouraging students to speak up for themselves assumes (1) that children can and are willing to, and will always do so, (2) and that there will be no social consequences for them. What school child, surrounded by religions different than his own, will react first by trying to convert them, or defend themselves?-PhoenixWright 00:22, 4 March 2008 (EST)
So you didn't show me where I said that, and you didn't retract it as requested.
Encouraging a student to witness does assume that children can do so, but they can, so that's not an issue. It doesn't presume that they are willing; if anything it assumes the opposite, as you often encourage someone to do something that they are not willing to do. And for the same reason, neither does it assume that they will do so. Neither does it assume that there will be no social consequences, and neither have you explained the relevance of that. What school child will witness? One who has been taught sufficiently well to have confidence in himself and his beliefs, and one who has been encouraged to do so.
Philip J. Rayment 00:33, 4 March 2008 (EST)
So, you would be comfortable if a Muslim student witnessed to your child on a daily basis? Or would you consider this harrassment? If this would be harassment, then so would it be for your child to witness to other students. Again, are you suggesting you would feel comfortable if your child was told to sit quietly at his desk while a Hindu encouraged student to open their third eye and worship the god Vishnu? SSchultz 00:54, 4 March 2008 (EST)
It could be harassment if they were asked to stop and didn't, but it need not be harassment. Not only would I feel quite comfortable with a Muslim child witnessing to my child, I would welcome it. I witnessed to some Mormons once; I invited them into my home and allowed them to say what they wanted. Having done that, I then had a right to say to them what I wanted to say. Similarly, a Muslim child witnessing to my child would at the very least impose an obligation on the Muslim child to return the favour, as well as indicate that the child is open to discussing such issues. It's other religions, such as atheism, that have beliefs so fragile that they have to censor opposing views. I would not object to my child having to sit through a worship of Vishnu if (a) the school was a Hindu-run school, (b) the school was in a predominantly Hindu country, or (c) if the school was a government school in a Christian country but in a predominantly Hindu area and openly intended to provide education to Hindus. Philip J. Rayment 01:26, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Philip, if you're truly so open-minded, I salute you. But, I expect that you would be the exception rather than the rule. There was a case where a few years ago a teacher in California was teaching a history class and spent a 1 week module studying Islam and its impact on world history. There was such a backlash from local parents that the course had to be cancelled. This wasn't a case of prayer, merely study, and she was hung out to dry. As a more personal example, here in the Phoenix area we have a large Evangelical population and a large Mormon population. We've seen even here on CP that many argue that Mormonism isn't a form of Christianity, but a cult. It's not difficult to imagine a group of evangelical parents being upset if their children have to sit through Mormon prayers that they view as unChristian. It's not such a stretch to see them suing the school district claiming that the district is intervening in their ability to raise their children in the religious manner they see fit. This is the reason that organized classroom prayer is disallowed; to prevent arguments over which religion is more valid than another. It simply isn't the proper place of government to make that determination. SSchultz 20:33, 4 March 2008 (EST)
I accept that not every Christian would be as "open-minded", to use your words, as I am. On the other hand, your example from California is not a fair contrast to what I said. In case you missed it, in saying that I would not object to a Hindu prayer in a Hindu-run school, in a government-run school in a Hindu country, etc., then by implication I would expect government-run schools in a Christian country, such as America, to have Christian prayers (etc.). But that is not the case. Your Californian example is of a teacher teaching about Islam and its impact in a school where the same would not be allowed for Christianity, despite it being a Christian country! So it's not the particular teaching per se, but the hypocrisy and inconsistency of what is allowed and what isn't allowed.
If the reason that organised prayer is disallowed is to prevent arguments, then it's been a total failure, as you still have arguments! And if it isn't the proper place of government to determine which religion is more valid, then why are they doing just that in promoting humanistic views whilst banning biblical views?
Philip J. Rayment 21:05, 4 March 2008 (EST)
The point, Philip is that the US is not a majority rule nation. We're a democratic republic, not a simple democracy, and moreover the Constitution and Bill of Rights exist to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Just because Christianity is the primary religion (though no single sect holds anything close to a majority) doesn't mean that others shouldn't be free to practice their religion as they see fit and remain free from being influenced by government to choose a different religion, or indeed simply a different way of practicing the same religion. SSchultz 22:39, 4 March 2008 (EST)
I've never suggested that others should not be free to practice their religion. That's a red herring. And neither have I said that the government should explicitly influence someone to change their religion. But that's a different issue to whether or not they should remain totally neutral on matters of religion, simply because it is not possible to be totally neutral. "Religion" goes to the heart of the basis of one's values, etc. A government governs on the basis of values, such as right and wrong, and it is religious views that are the basis of those values. If a government is not basing its values on a theistic religion such as Christianity, then they are basing them on an atheistic religion such as humanism. In other words, they have simply replaced one religion for another. And this is what has happened in western countries: They have replaced Christianity, the basis for western civilisation and which is still implicitly recognised in the United States with things like the motto on the coins and the references to the Creator in the Declaration of Independence, with humanism, and now teach tenets of humanism in their schools. And at the same time, have restricted the freedom of others "to practice their religion as they see fit". Philip J. Rayment 00:55, 5 March 2008 (EST)
But Philip, if a government cannot possibly be neutral with respect to religion, aren't you then just suggesting the opposite - that we replace the "religion of humanism" with a the theistic religion of Christianity instead? Isn't that also unfair? Forgive me if I misunderstood your position, I'm not entirely sure what your proposed solution to the issue is. Feebasfactor 01:25, 5 March 2008 (EST)
Okay, there's several different but interrelated issues here.
  • Western countries are replacing Christianity with humanism whilst claiming to be neutral. Replacing humanism with Christianity whilst not claiming to be neutral is not the same thing.
  • Having a government implicitly endorse a particular religion (e.g. Christianity) when the majority of the population are Christians is hardly on a par with replacing Christianity with humanism when the majority of the population are Christians.
  • Claiming that replacing one religion with another is just as unfair is only valid if the religions themselves are equally valid. But replacing the false religion of humanism with the true religion of Christianity seems to me like a quite sensible move.
Philip J. Rayment 04:13, 5 March 2008 (EST)
So because the government would be inevitably be endorsing a "religion" in any case, it should default to endorsing Christianity because that is the majority religion. Is that a fair understanding of your position? Feebasfactor 22:35, 5 March 2008 (EST)
It should default to endorsing Christianity because it's the correct religion, but in practice a government will tend to reflect the wishes of its people, so in that case should endorse Christianity because it's the majority religion in a given country. Philip J. Rayment 00:51, 6 March 2008 (EST)

The creative attempts to justify classroom prayer are illogical and self-contradictory:

  • the censors oppose classroom prayer even all want to participate in it
  • the censors oppose classroom prayer even if an objection by one can be addressed without banning the prayer
  • the censors oppose classroom prayer even though objections to atheistic speech are rejected

Only an extremely biased person would fail to recognize that the above three positions can only be reconciled in one way: the censors oppose classroom prayer for a reason independent of any purported offense.--Aschlafly 08:52, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Might I add my two English pence? I recently spent a week in Belgium doing some work experience in a primary school. Over there, they have absolutely no religious themes or practices in classrooms, since, particularly where I worked, there is a big mix of ethnicities and religions. However, every week an hour was set aside for children to attend "religious classes", where all beliefs were catered for. For example, all the Jewish children would attend a class run by a local rabbi, the Muslims by a local cleric and so on. Children who had no religious affiliation would go to "morals and ethics". Surely this is an effective way of solving the "classroom prayer" quandry? Having certain times set aside for Religious Education where kids can be led in prayer by leaders of their own faith? Perhaps I am way out, but I thought it might be worth pointing out that it is possible to reach a compromise in regards to religion and prayer in classrooms. --Crookles 09:07, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Thanks for your two English pence, which is informative, but this debate is about classroom prayer, and while your scenario is an improvement it still does not end the censorship in classroom prayer. I start my class in writing with 40 teenagers with a simple, non-denominational prayer, sometimes said by me and sometimes said by a volunteer student. As you can see here, there are some who demand censorship of that, at least in public school.--Aschlafly 09:20, 4 March 2008 (EST)

The token atheist is back again! Anyways, while I dont believe (just my opnion mind you) there is a place in the actual classroom specifically for a prayer (English class is for english, maths class is for maths) I have no problem with religion being expressed in a public school by anyone from the teachers to the principal to the students. The censorship you experience in the US is taking it too far. If the class does not mind then why not? Shouldnt be an issue. It is a fine line but you can easily find a middle ground. Particulary if, as Andy stated above, it is something innocuous and non-denominational. I think I have had my 2 cents now. I might move on to other things. MetcalfeM 15:22, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Metcalfe, I appreciate your comments ... I think. Why the rush to leave before a logical conclusion is drawn here? You said, "If the class does not mind then why not"? There is no rational reason "why not," but there a reason based on hostility to prayer, and to God. Atheists say they disbelieve God exists, on the one hand, but then are often hostile to God on the other. This is one (of many) logical contradictions about atheism. I'm building a list at atheistic logic. Thanks for inspiring this addition.--Aschlafly 15:46, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Andy, could you please clarify what you mean by "Atheists say they disbelieve God exists, on the one hand, but then are often hostile to God on the other". I think you may have made a typo or something, or it may just be me. Either way, I would appreciate it if you could reiterate your point. --Crookles 15:52, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Why are atheists hostile to someone whom they say does not exist? The contradiction is logic is in atheism, not in my description of it.--Aschlafly 15:59, 4 March 2008 (EST)

I had put in my two cents and the reason my conclusion is drawn is that I cannot speak for anyone else, anyones belief. I, while an atheist, am not hostile to the idea of God at all. I dislike 'Bible thumping' but have no problem with religion itself. As I said before, each to their own! MetcalfeM 16:16, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Yes, Metcalfe, that is what atheists say, but then they censor classroom prayer. Hence the logical contradiction. You have gone further than most atheists on this issue, but you have still not allowed real classroom prayer in public school: a prayer to start my writing class, for example, which we say every week.--Aschlafly 16:44, 4 March 2008 (EST)

As I stated above, I think the laws in the US take it too far. My opnion is different from yours, as yours are to mine. I dont think prayer should be raised in the classroom, thats what I think however I dont think it matters if the class agrees to pray or a coach joins his team in prayer before the big match. In my high school (jeez, how many years ago now!) there was prayer in assembly and a group of christians formed a club that used to meet at lunchtimes for bible study etc. There are many other avenues for prayer and religion, like I have stated above and, if there are these avenues, then it need not be brought into English lessons for example. But, I understand that in the US you dont have these avenues. That is my opinion and I believe it is fair to all in the multicultural society of NZ. But again, I know it is different for you in the US. MetcalfeM 16:58, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Metcalfe, in other words, like nearly all atheists, you oppose classroom prayer. You can say that in only four words.--Aschlafly 17:06, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Lets look at what I said in quotes... "I dont think it matters if the class agrees to pray or a coach joins his team in prayer before the big match" "If the class does not mind then why not? Shouldnt be an issue. It is a fine line but you can easily find a middle ground. Particulary if, as Andy stated above, it is something innocuous and non-denominational" "I do believe that it is fine for a teacher to pray with students if they agree" "But I have no problem whatsoever with a prayer being said as long as it is done respectifully to others beliefs (and vice versa)"

So where is my opposition? I think that as long as there is no opposition then prayer is fine in class. I wouldn't oppose if my teacher lead the class in prayer but I wouldnt listen either. Also, if there is a lunchtime bible group (lead by a teacher as was the case at my school) then it is not nessacary (spelling is wrong I know) for a class to begin with a prayer as those who wish to express their religion can do so without having to make the Jews, Hindus or Muslims feel like their religion is not being recognized (or insulted as the case may be). Where I am from it is not an issue as schools have areas, outside the classroom, where relgion is praticed and respected. We had a chapel at my school anyway so there was no need for prayer in class. MetcalfeM 17:17, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Should any kind of prayer be acceptable for the teacher to lead the class in? Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc.? I'm not quite sure... what do you think? Feebasfactor 17:36, 4 March 2008 (EST)

What I am trying to point out is that if there are other avenues (like I stated above with lunchtime bible study (or Koran study even?), school chapel etc) then there is not a need for any classroom prayer of any kind. MetcalfeM 17:41, 4 March 2008 (EST)

The problem, I believe, is that atheists (etc.) have all sorts of incorrect ideas about Christianity, because they view it through the glasses of atheism. That is, they reject that God exists, so they see Christianity (and other religions) as merely something in one's mind, not something that is related to reality. I'll illustrate with a common example. Christians believe that God exists and is concerned about us and helps us in all sorts of ways, including comforting us in difficult times. Of course, we have to believe in Him if we want His help. Atheists don't believe that God exists, so when they see us being comforted in difficult times, they ascribe that comfort not to God, but to belief in God. That is, they consider the belief itself to be helpful (even if as a crutch). Similar would apply to prayer: they would see prayer as a type of ritual that Christians engage in, rather than actually talking to God. As a ritual, it could be performed at any time, such as keeping it until after class. But as talking to God, it's in principle no different to talking to the teacher. Sure, there are times during class that you should not talk to the teacher, but neither is the school going to have a blanket ban on a student talking to the teacher during class, saying that all such talk should be outside of class time. Some should be (e.g. conversation that's not on the class subject), but other conversations are appropriate during class time. The same applies to prayer. A prayer thanking God for helping your sporting hero do so well last week and asking that he be fit and well for next week's match is not appropriate in class. But asking God to help the student(s) concentrate on the subject and understand what the teacher is saying is entirely appropriate in class. Philip J. Rayment 20:55, 4 March 2008 (EST)
As a veteran teacher of teenagers for nearly six years, Metcalfe, I can assure you that classroom prayer is immensely helpful to learning and behavior. Moreover, nearly all the great minds drew upon prayer and the Bible for their intellectual insights. So your statement that "there is not a need for any classroom prayer of any kind" is a bit like saying "there is not a need for a textbook or a teacher, or for water in a desert." There most certainly is a need for it.--Aschlafly 17:50, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Mr. Schlafly, I asked this question before, you chose not to answer. I am taking the liberty of asking again. "Are you happy for your child to be forced to sit through an islamic prayer led by a Muslim teacher every day? " Thanks in advance for your reply. --JBuscombe 18:19, 4 March 2008 (EST)
I don't know why you choose to single out Islam in your question. Speaking generally, there are many offensive things taught in public school and not only are the children forced to hear it, but they are even forced to agree with it on exams and papers in order to earn a good grade. Atheists don't get to censor what they hate (and will you explain why atheists hate classroom prayer?), while simultaneously forcing upon everyone else what atheists like. We have school boards to sort this out, and a position of absolute censorship of all classroom prayer in all circumstances is illogical.--Aschlafly 18:29, 4 March 2008 (EST)
So really, the teacher should be permitted to lead any form of prayer from any religion - after all, that's just freedom of speech, though liberal secularists consistently try to deny that the First Amendment applies to religion. Censorship of religion is the issue, and it should not be allowed. Feebasfactor 19:19, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Well I have given my opinion. I cant see the difference between praying in class (at risk of alienating others) or praying before school or at lunchtime with the others that wish to pray. MetcalfeM 18:34, 4 March 2008 (EST)

P.S. We had no classroom prayer at my high school and we produced some great NZers. Of course, if they were christian, they prayed in the chapel or in their own time. MetcalfeM 18:36, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Really?? Produce any Isaac Newton's, Bernard Riemann's or Louis Pasteur's? We haven't either since classroom prayer was abolished.--Aschlafly 18:39, 4 March 2008 (EST)
Hmmm...Robert Gallo, who co-discovered HIV, George W Bush, american president, Neil Degrasse Tydon, astrophysicist, David Ho, discoverer of the protease inhibitors...shall I go on?LeonardH 19:03, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Now your being facetious Aschlafly. I am not going to debate you anymore. Your attitude is combative and rather bullheaded. MetcalfeM 19:05, 4 March 2008 (EST)

Basic Problem

To return to the debate above, but on a different tact, it seems to me there is a fundamental misunderstanding here. It was pointed out, rightly, that America is not a tyranny of the majority, and that everyone has freedom of religion. So let us look at the matter closely.

(1) Classroom-led nondenominational prayer. With this scenario, a teacher would lead a "nondenominational" prayer in class for the children, who could participate or not. The problem is that it is impossible for any prayer to be truly nondenominational... what most people mean when they say this is a monotheist prayer that would suit members of the Abrahamic religions and some others. But it would leave out in the cold most Hindus, by implying that there was only one God.

(a) This implication derives from the fact that a state-sponsored institution's state-sponsored teacher, intended to impart education about the world to the students, is endorsing a specific view. Voicing this view to the exclusion of others is implicit endorsement, especially to children, and especially when the alternative views are ignored.

Further, even if the phrasing included both monotheistic and polytheistic religions, it discards those such as Shinto or Confucianism that do not adhere to traditional notions of "gods" in any meaningful sense.

(b) The argument might be made that "everyone worships the same god(s) under a different name," but the name that would be chosen would be that of a western-centric "god" concept, and accordingly endorsement under the reasoning of point 1a.

2) Should the teacher adopt a "moment of silence" approach, this might suit many people bothered by the points arising in 1a and 1b. It would seem to appeal to all theists. However, atheism/agnosticism have several different ethical traditions, such as freethought or the new (ridiculous) Brights movement, which can also be reasonably considered "religions" in the sense meant by "freedom of religion," since they repute to impart moral principles and ethical considerations along with a cosmology. Americans are free to be freethinkers or Brights if they choose, accordingly (and as decided by the Supreme Court). So this brings up an objection to the moment of silence, since the question is "What is the moment of silence for?", and it seems to be implied that it is for spiritual contemplation.

(a)It can be argued, of course, that everyone can indulge in spiritual contemplation, and so it should not bother anyone. Brights are free to contemplate Darwin, one might quip.
(i)This would, however, still be a endorsement of spiritual contemplation, and further, it would be obvious to any reasonable person that this was a time for prayer.

I believe the argument against (1) is very strong, and the argument against (2) is less strong. A case might reasonably be made for a moment of silence, but not for any sort of prayer led by a teacher in a public school, since the latter is of necessity and endorsement. Separation of church and state is a very important thing... not so much to keep religion out of the government and schools, but to keep the government and schools out of religion.

Perhaps someone disagrees with me... it would simplify things to indicate which point you find a flaw in my reasoning.--TomMoore 01:18, 5 March 2008 (EST)

"non-denominational" usually refers to denominations within Christianity, not "inter-faith". But that doesn't change your main point. What you overlook is what I've posted higher on this page: that a government can't be neutral. You claim problems with a couple of different approaches, but don't explicitly say what should be done. I'm assuming that you think that they should not do anything (i.e. no prayer, not time of silence, etc.). But that is what the atheists want, so you are favouring atheism over Christianity (etc.), not being neutral.
"Separation of church and state" was designed to prevent the government controlling the church organisation (as happened in England). It was never intended that the government not acknowledge Christianity. However, that is the way that activist judges have "interpreted" ("twisted" would be a better word) the constitution, with the result that government schools teach as truth the atheistic origins myth, among other atheistic ideas. How is that 'neutral'?
Philip J. Rayment 05:21, 5 March 2008 (EST)
What should be done is probably nothing... school officials should not be allowed to preach to children in any way, shape, or form. That is the natural conclusion is prayer or moments of silence are endorsements of religion, I think. I didn't think I needed to spell out that the alternative to (1) or (2) was to do neither.
Your argument above is that because I want the same things atheists want, that therefore I am "favouring [sic] atheism over Christianity, not being neutral." But this argument is obviously fallacious. The absence of religious endorsement is not endorsement of atheism. Favoring atheism over Christianity would be for me to advocate that a teacher lead a moment of contemplation of the human mind or something of that nature. I don't think that the President should be an ordained minister, either, the same way atheists think... that doesn't mean I am favoring an atheist President, though. Your reasoning is unsound.
I agree that was probably the original intention of the separation. However, when the process is carried to its logical conclusion, as I attempted to demonstrate above, the only way to effect a separation is for the government not to speak in favor of any religion in an official capacity, so that the government is not endorsing any religion. But please note above... I tried to carefully work this out for you so you could follow step by step. I didn't address naturalism in the science classroom because it is a very separate issue. Consider that if prayer in the classroom is inevitably an endorsement of religion, as I believe I have indicated sufficiently in my argument above, it has nothing to do with the merits of what else is taught in science. It may well be that excluding intelligent design is also an endorsement of religion, in this case atheism. It may well be that it is not. I don't want to argue this point, however, since it is entirely off topic, as I believe is apparent.
Returning to the matter at hand, I believe I have ably dealt with each of your objections. If you feel differently, I again ask that you please reference specific points in my above argument, out of courtesy and for ease of argument.--TomMoore 13:24, 5 March 2008 (EST)
The reason that I did not and am not referencing specific points is because it's not the specific points that I have an issue with, but the assumption underlying them.
You say that school prayer "...would leave out in the cold most Hindus, by implying that there was only one God", but don't explain what is wrong with this. To put it another way, what is wrong with a teacher telling the truth by saying that there is one God? Your answer to that question would presume that all religions are equal, and that therefore one should not be favoured over another. But the various religions teach contradictory things (one God, no God, etc.), so they can't all be correct, so the only way that they can all be equal is if they are all wrong. But if they cover the range (no god, one God, multiple gods, etc.) then at least one of them has to be correct, at least on specific questions. So your presumption that all are equal is demonstrably wrong. If one is in fact correct, then what is wrong with a teacher endorsing that? What is wrong with a teacher teaching students facts?
As a Christian I believe that we must freely come to God, not by coercion. However, that does not mean that we can't proclaim the truth; it just means that we don't force people to believe it. This is the principle of freedom of religion: People are free to believe what they like, not that the government is restricted from teaching the truth.
So restricting a teacher from proclaiming the truth about God under the guise of remaining neutral is not being neutral, but is imposing an atheistic view on that teacher.
Philip J. Rayment 20:32, 5 March 2008 (EST)
"You say that school prayer "...would leave out in the cold most Hindus, by implying that there was only one God", but don't explain what is wrong with this. To put it another way, what is wrong with a teacher telling the truth by saying that there is one God?"
Hindus have a right to their religion as well. I thought this sort of thing was commonly understood, but let me go into it now.
The Constitution clearly says that Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, and also that it shall not inhibit the free exercise thereof. Any reasonable interpretation of these words leads, I believe, inevitably to the conclusion that neither the state nor its employees should be using their positions to endorse any religion over the others.
As I detailed above, any teacher speaking the "truth" would merely be them endorsing their personal opinion. For example, were a teacher to start every class by leading the children in a condemnation of the evils of religion to man, that would be the same sort of thing as leading them in a prayer. It would be an endorsement of a specific religious viewpoint by an employee of the state, sanctioned by the government in such a sense and contrary to the requirements of the Constitution. It is, after all, only what you regard as the truth to say that there is one God.
"Your answer to that question would presume that all religions are equal, and that therefore one should not be favoured over another. But the various religions teach contradictory things (one God, no God, etc.), so they can't all be correct, so the only way that they can all be equal is if they are all wrong."
That is not logically sound, either. Consider what you are saying for a moment. You are claiming that because there are multiple viewpoints ("one God, no God, etc.") that contradict each other, that they can't all be correct. That is absolutely accurate... either there is a God or there is not or there are many. Allah or Yahweh, and so on. However, you next leap to conclude that because they can't all be correct, "the only way they can all be equal is if they are all wrong." This makes little sense. I never claimed that all religions are "equal," I instead said that everyone has a right to choose which religion to which they would adhere. There is equal FREEDOM of religion, not equal TRUTH of religion (known as "factual relativism"). Accordingly, it does not follow that all religions must be "all wrong." There is some sort of objective truth out there. But it is not the government's job to decide for you what the religious truth is. After all, bureaucracy is incompetent enough as it is... would you be comfortable with a Governmental Panel on Religious Truth deciding whether Catholicism or Shinto would be taught to your child?
"But if they cover the range (no god, one God, multiple gods, etc.) then at least one of them has to be correct, at least on specific questions. So your presumption that all are equal is demonstrably wrong. If one is in fact correct, then what is wrong with a teacher endorsing that? What is wrong with a teacher teaching students facts?"
I never said all religions are equal. I said everyone should have equal opportunity to choose whatever religion they please. And if there was some sort of empirical study that found God, that would be one thing. But I know of nothing that has scientifically proven that Catholicism is correct and Protestantism is wrong. Teacher should not be accordingly teaching such as "fact," even if they think it is.--TomMoore 21:10, 5 March 2008 (EST)
"Hindus have a right to their religion as well.": According to who? Your answer from your following comments seems to be "according to the law", and this may be so, but we are talking about what should be the case, not what is the case. As such, we can ignore what the law or constitution currently says as well as how it is interpreted.
"I thought this sort of thing was commonly understood...": That's the common view that atheists and similar have propagated.
"As I detailed above, any teacher speaking the "truth" would merely be them endorsing their personal opinion.": This doesn't make sense. If a teacher "speaking the truth" says that Australia is in the southern hemisphere, are they "merely...endorsing their personal opinion"???
"It is, after all, only what you regard as the truth to say that there is one God.": No, it's only postmodernist thinking that says that such things are dependant on your viewpoint rather than being factual.
"I never claimed that all religions are "equal," I instead said that everyone has a right to choose which religion to which they would adhere.": And I never disputed—and even endorsed—that point. But that wasn't the point. That comment was not in relation to what people have a right to believe, but to what a government school can teach. As I said above, a school teaching that God exists does not mean that you are forcing someone to believe it. So teaching it and being free to believe or not believe are two separate things. We were talking about the former, and you replied by repeating the latter.
"But it is not the government's job to decide for you what the religious truth is.": Why not? They teach many other things as truth; why not also teach which religion is true?
"would you be comfortable with a Governmental Panel on Religious Truth deciding whether Catholicism or Shinto would be taught to your child?": Assuming they are not the only two options, then yes, I would be quite comfortable with that, as long as they came up with the correct answer.
"And if there was some sort of empirical study that found God, that would be one thing. But I know of nothing that has scientifically proven that Catholicism is correct and Protestantism is wrong.": Are you saying that the only things that schools can teach are things that are scientifically proven? In that case, you might as well close down the schools, because science is unable to prove anything. And even apart from that, does that mean that you don't teach the history of the Roman Empire, because we only know about it from ancient documents, not scientific proof? Or that the right way to spell "cat" is c-a-t, because it's not been scientifically proven?
Philip J. Rayment 01:10, 6 March 2008 (EST)

This is becoming difficult to follow, so I am unindenting.

1. Your answer from your following comments seems to be "according to the law", and this may be so, but we are talking about what should be the case, not what is the case. As such, we can ignore what the law or constitution currently says as well as how it is interpreted. Clearly we are approaching this from different views, then. I was not arguing a hypothetical "if we lived in a theocracy" sort of thing, I was arguing about school prayer in America. I will happily cede the point that, if we lived in a Christian theocracy, it would only be appropriate for teachers to lead the students in prayer. My objections and arguments stand, however, when it comes to America, which is governed by those Constitutional clauses. I actually also happen to believe that, yes, everyone should have freedom of religion. If you do not, as it seems, that would simply be a fundamental difference of ethics between us.

2. If a teacher "speaking the truth" says that Australia is in the southern hemisphere, are they "merely...endorsing their personal opinion"??? You appear to believe that the existence of a certain sect's god is as empirically proven as the location of Australia, but I have to venture that such does not seem to be the case. Otherwise there would be no Catholics or Protestants... we would just be able to take a microscope to God. Regardless, this is a tangential issue, with little bearing on the matter at hand and great capacity for derailing.

3. No, it's only postmodernist thinking that says that such things are dependant on your viewpoint rather than being factual. ...well, that's actually not "postmodernism," it's "factual relativity," as I said above. Postmodernism is a very distinct school of thought based around the theory that an examination of the false dualities in our language and the wide variety of what is not said, as revealed by a study of the "differance" and the privileging of speech over writing, can lead to an understanding that any given text cannot be said to have a single definitive interpretation. It's a little much to go into in an aside on a discussion on an online encyclopedia, but suffice to say that the two are very different.

4. As I said above, a school teaching that God exists does not mean that you are forcing someone to believe it. So teaching it and being free to believe or not believe are two separate things. We were talking about the former, and you replied by repeating the latter. The teacher is a representative of the state, as an employee of the state. In their role as teacher, by espousing any religious beliefs they are implicitly supporting them. Thus, it would be the state supporting those religious beliefs. This is severely compounded by the intended position of the teacher as the figure of authority and voice of knowledge and wisdom in the classroom... ideally, a teacher should impart not simply raw knowledge, but also a manner of critical thinking and approaching the world. Accordingly, a teacher using this position, and the fact that they are indirect representatives of the government, means that they are strongly endorsing particular religious views if they espouse them in the classroom.

5. Why not? They teach many other things as truth; why not also teach which religion is true? I assume you are being facetious. This would be incredibly unconstitutional. Further, I should point out that a good teacher does not, in fact, teach anything as "truth." A good teacher instructs his students to question the accepted facts being given, with a wise and skeptical eye. In science, for example, nothing is sacrosanct "truth," since under the scientific method everything is open to question as long as evidence can be presented. Similarly, in history nothing is assumed to be ironclad truth, and interpretations of events can very widely. These are, of course, ideal scenarios... we often have many teachers who unfortunately think they are some sort of repository for divine accuracy, with the arrogance to decide what "must" be the "truth."

6. Assuming they are not the only two options, then yes, I would be quite comfortable with that, as long as they came up with the correct answer. That would be the great caveat, wouldn't it? ;) I think you take my point. Or I hope you do, anyway.

7. Are you saying that the only things that schools can teach are things that are scientifically proven? In that case, you might as well close down the schools, because science is unable to prove anything. And even apart from that, does that mean that you don't teach the history of the Roman Empire, because we only know about it from ancient documents, not scientific proof? Or that the right way to spell "cat" is c-a-t, because it's not been scientifically proven? I was using the colloquial sense of "prove," as I think you probably were aware. You seem to be taking a pretty personal tone to this... let's try to keep it civil, please.--TomMoore 13:21, 6 March 2008 (EST)

1. Neither was I arguing for a theocracy (rule by God). I was arguing in the context of a democracy, but I was arguing, as I said, for what should be (in a democracy), not what is (in America). I would also point out that the original intention of the Constitutional amendment was not to prevent religion (Christianity) being implicitly endorsed by government agencies, and that it is only activist judges (and lobbyists) who have interpreted it to mean something different. That being the case, it would not be going against the constitution (as opposed to court interpretations of the constitution) to return to that. If you think that I was rejecting freedom of religion, either you still aren't properly reading what I write, or you are using the term differently to me. I specifically said above that I endorsed the right of everyone to choose their religion. Surely that indicates that I believe in freedom of religion?
2. I wasn't trying to equate evidence for the location of Australia with evidence for God. I was pointing out that there was nothing improper about a teacher speaking the truth. Not everything is proved to the same degree of certainty, and just because God's existence is not proven in precisely the same way as the location of Australia doesn't mean that it's not sufficiently certain. And by the way, Catholics and Protestants agree on the existence of God; it's other details that they don't agree on. And that point is irrelevant anyway. Just because someone doesn't agree on something doesn't mean that it's an open question. If that was always the case, then everyone would consider the existence of goo-to-you evolution to be an open question, because different beliefs exist about it!
3. That's not my understanding.
4. That's a non-answer as far as my point was concerned, which is that the teacher is not forcing anyone to believe.
5. No, I'm not being facetious, and as I've already said, I'm (a) not talking about the existing situation with the constitution, and (b) it is not really the constitutional situation anyway, but court misinterpretation of it. Did teachers never teach you that two plus two equals four? Nor that America is a republic? Or did they teach them as opinions rather than truth? Of course they taught them as truth! "In science, for example, nothing is sacrosanct "truth," since under the scientific method everything is open to question as long as evidence can be presented.": In theory. In practice, evolution at least is sacrosanct and not open to question.
6. "That would be the great caveat, wouldn't it? ;) I think you take my point. Or I hope you do, anyway.": Did you get my point? That the anti-Christians argue that you shouldn't teach God as truth because it's religion, not because it's not true. In other words, to them the truth of it doesn't matter, or else they presume, without warrant, that the truth is necessarily indeterminable. My point is that the question should be is it true?, not is it religion?
7. No, sorry, you were not using it in "the colloquial sense". You specifically used the terms "empirical study" and "scientifically proven".
Philip J. Rayment 07:32, 7 March 2008 (EST)

Quote Mined

It just occured to me Aschlafly that you actually quote mined my comment in the above debate. I said -

"What I am trying to point out is that if there are other avenues (like I stated above with lunchtime bible study (or Koran study even?), school chapel etc) then there is not a need for any classroom prayer of any kind"

To which you replied -

"So your statement that "there is not a need for any classroom prayer of any kind" is a bit like saying "there is not a need for a textbook or a teacher, or for water in a desert."

Not only did just use a small section of what I said, you also took it right out of context. I thought only liberals/evolutionists did that? MetcalfeM 15:21, 6 March 2008 (EST)


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