Prayer and Public School

Fox News reported that U.S. District Judge Fred Biery has ruled that participants in Medina Valley High School’s graduation ceremony cannot pray, invoke the name of God, say “amen,” and that the program itself must change certain words on its program that may give off religious connotations. Of course, being Fox News, the entire story isn’t being told. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between the two:

Or we could turn to the local San Antonio news, which directly contradicts the claims that Fox News makes. So what’s a Christian to make of all of this?

If it’s true that the judge ordered individuals to not even say the name of God or invoke any religious symbols in their speech, then he is wrong (though I somehow doubt this is the case and suspect that Fox News is embellishing the story…I know, shocking). After all, while I may not believe in Allah, or accept atheism, or believe in any one of the Hindu gods, if a graduate wants to thank one of those gods, or Allah, or thank himself and say, “because God doesn’t exist,” then so be it. It’s his right to do so and if it offends me, then tough.

When it becomes wrong is when the act of prayer (or the cessation of prayer) is compulsory. If the school were forcing others to participate in the prayer then this would be a direct violation of their rights. But so is preventing students from praying in public, so long as they do not force others to bow their heads or join in.

But aside from all of the legal aspects of the case, from a Christian perspective why would we want prayer to be compulsory at a graduation ceremony or even in schools? Yes, there is power in prayer, but that power comes from the faith behind the prayer. Forcing people to pray to a God they don’t believe in accomplishes nothing except alienation. While it makes us look like a spiritual nation, it doesn’t make us spiritual. Prayer is a product of faith, so why would we force those who lack faith to engage in prayer when this will only ostracize them even more and possibly make them bitter towards Christianity?

In the end, while we should hope for a culture that is closer to God, we should hope that those in our culture voluntarily come to Christ, not through legal pressure. We can’t force a culture to act virtuous or to fall in love with Christ; they must choose these things.

7 thoughts on “Prayer and Public School

  1. I thought the video was pretty clear, but your link to the article didn’t seem as clear. The school or individuals can’t lead people in prayer, but individual students can mention their faith.
    I agree with you Joel, forcing people to pray to God doesn’t accomplish anything positive. As I understand it, one of Christianity’s core beliefs is that a person must freely accept Christ.

    1. It does seem that each source provides a different perspective. My guess is that the judge said individuals can pray or even pray from the podium, so long as they don’t force others to engage in the prayer as well (and as long as it’s not disruptive, such as going on forever).

      And you’re right. We must freely come to Christ and we cannot be forced to do it. Thus, I don’t understand the big push to take specific Christian acts (such as prayer) and apply them to the general public.

      1. Generally speaking, any student can pray, and I’m fairly certain that goes for leading a prayer as well. A school official on the other hand can not assuming they are acting as a representative of the school. The reason for this is that the school would be viewed as an aspect of the state which is obligated to stay neutral.

        But, students can basically do as they please.

  2. Well, it had been a pretty fairly reasoned posting until I got to this statement of yours:

    Yes, there is power in prayer, but that power comes from the faith behind the prayer.

    It would perhaps be more accurate to say prayer’s power comes from any kind of mob action as there is absolutely NO evidence prayer has any greater effect than that of a placebo.

    After that your appeals to emotion (“In the end, while we should hope for a culture that is closer to God…” etc etc) just pretty much lose the argument.

    Signed, an unrude atheist.

    1. What argument? Trolling isn’t allowed, nor are red herrings. Your post fits into one of those two categories; I’ll let you choose which.

      1. With respect Joel trolling would be mocking insults without content. The above poster made some interesting arguments and even took the time to quote you and did so in a respectful manner.

        His point wasn’t about the individuals action. It was about the hundred plus doing the same action at the same time. Had they just said thankyou god or a privat prayer no-one would have cared. It was the fact that this was an organized act as opposed a private act.

      2. No, it’s that he tried to turn this into a discussion over whether or not God exists, which isn’t the point of the post. If he wants to discuss that, there are other threads for that.

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