Friday, August 28, 2009

Pray? Go Directly to Jail!

Would you believe that in the United States you can be sentenced to six months jail time and a $5,000 fine for praying? You can if the ACLU has anything to say about it. Here is the situation, as reported by the Washington Times. In January, a school in Florida had a lunch for school employees and booster club members who, "…had helped with a school field-house project." The lunch was held on school grounds, but not during school hours. There seems to be some dispute as to whether or not students were present at the lunch. The principal of the school, who is also a local Deacon, asked the Athletic Director to offer prayers for the meal. The ACLU found out about this and rushed to court.

The ACLU had previously taken this same school to court and the school settled out of court. The ACLU claimed the school was violating the religious freedom of the students because the school allowed students to pray at school events, had separate, religious themed graduation, and was attempting to convert students. As part of the settlement, the school agreed to, "…several things, including provision to bar all school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school sponsored events; holding school events at church venues when a secular alternative was available; or promoting their religious beliefs or attempting to convert students in class or during school-sponsored events." The ACLU also asked that the Senior Class President be forbidden from speaking at the graduation ceremonies because she was,"…a known Christian, [and] might say something religious."{emphasis mine}. According to lawyers for the school, this was the first time in 33 years the student body president was not allowed to speak at graduation.

This story really worries me. We have reached a point in society where a court can order individuals to not pray, or face a fine and jail time. How does the ACLU defend this as religious freedom? According to the website, the word persecute is means "1) to pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, esp. because of religion, race, or beliefs; harass persistently." One could accurately say that the ACLU and the court system in Florida are persecuting Christians for praying.

I don't believe school officials should attempt to convert students to any particular religion during school hours and class time. However, I think we have taken that notion to a very dangerous place when we threaten to jail people for praying at a meal. Is this really what our founders intended when they said, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…"? We protect abortion, and demand people recycle and protect the environment. We will stop our economy dead in its tracks to protect the smallest of muscles, but if we wish to express thanks for our next meal, we could face jail time. Is this really where we want our society to be?


Rebecca said...

Wow, that's pretty bad when praying could mean jail time. I don't think the founders meant that at all. Many of them were religious themselves and it makes me wonder what they would think about these kind of cases.

Tricia said...

If I am not allowed to pray then my rights have been violated. If you are against prayer don't participate.

Seattle Dave said...

Should I just copy and paste my comments from Facebook? :)

Was wondering when you were going to bring this here lol.

Again, I don't think you are doing the entire article and situation justice.

What is known about this case:
-Said teachers were actively espousing their religious beliefs in an attempt to convert children.
-Said school board and ACLU worked out an agreement that clearly outlined to these teachers that they couldn't do so.
-Said teachers went ahead and did so anyhow, multiple times after agreement was reached, and were warned about their actions.
-Said teachers finally paid the price of ignoring both the ACLU and the schoolboards wishes.

@Tricia - This whole fiasco wasn't about simply praying. It was about teachers who took it upon themselves to espouse their beliefs on children in a school environment. If you read the article and do a little research on the situation, you will find that this goes back to a much broader issue, which is a teacher expanding their role in a public school setting to not only teach their given subject matter, but find a way to tie religion into all. Quite simply, not their job.

I'm going to assume that everyone who posts here has grown up in an environment that teaches us to respect law. As children, if we did something wrong, we were warned. If we did it again, we were punished. If we kept on doing it, the punishment became more and more severe.

Does that only apply to children? As adults now, are we exempt from that same treatment?

And now, even further. What if these teachers were Muslim, and your children attended that school? What would you being saying then? I don't think anyone would want someone teaching their children about ANY religion, if that is infact not their job.

Afterall, that is why we have multiple types of schools available to send out children to.

Rebecca- I'm not sure that it would even matter what they think. They lived in a completely different time than we do. I would put forth a guess that, much like in today's world, half would shout that their religious freedoms were being trampled on, and the other half would look at the entire case and agree with the outcome, if not only because the teacher(s) in question constantly shunned the agreement.

Andy - You don't have to reiterate to me specifically what we chatted about on facebook. I understand what you are saying, fundamentally. However, I can make the same argument, from a fundamental standpoint, about not following rules clearly laid out for people breaking laws and/or legal agreements after multiple warnings. Regardless of if the topic is prayer, dinner, media censorship, gun rights, serial killers or Sunday morning cartoons.

*It should be said, I think the idea of going to jail is extremely harsh for something like this. My opinion would be that if this teacher(s) continued to violate the agreement set forth, he should have been fired.

Andy D said...

You raise some good points Dave, but there are a few things I have to distinguish between here. I read the Fox News article I sited in FB, then I went back to the original Washington Times article (which I linked to in my post). I searched for more information. I didn't go into the original case, because there seemed to be some conflicting statements, and the school settled out of court. My focus on this post is the prayer at lunch that has caused the ACLU to ask to file charges against these individuals. I can not find anywhere that the school officials where trying to convert anyone at this lunch, or since the settlement. This seems to be (from all the stories I could find) about the ACLU believing that a lunch time prayer was forcing religion on students.

I do not believe a public school should be teaching children about particular faiths. I also don't believe a lunch time prayer teaches children about faith or attempts to convert them to any faith. If there had been an Islamic blessing on the food before it was eaten, I wouldn't care. If the children were required to read passages of the Koran, that would be a different matter.

One further point. I disagree with your assessment of the founders. Many of them believed religion of some form should be taught in school. Jefferson (often cited as a deitist at best)set up a curriculum that included religious instruction for all students at the college level. Adams is famous for saying that "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other". It is a popular misconception that the Founders would have had a problem with school prayer or a meal time prayer. Many of them would have encouraged it.

saint said...

What does everyone think about the student who wasn't allowed to speak because she is christian?

Seattle Dave said...

If i get time in the next day or two, I'll clarify a couple things I originally posted.

-It wasn't the lunch time prayer i was referencing in terms of "an agenda, converting, etc." It was what they admitted to previous to this situation.

- Many of the founding fathers were schooled in law. I should have been more clear, but my belief would be that they would look at the width and breadth of this case and come to the same conclusion. You were warned, you continued to act, you were warned again with an agreement put in place, you continued to act, you are now paying the price for that.

@Saint - deplorable at best. The poor child paid some kind of price the adults. Just terrible IMO.

Anyhow, i need to run.

Andy D said...

I am not sure that the founders would have thought the court was right in setting up this settlement in the first place. I don't claim that the founders were all devout Christians, but they didn't have the fear of organized religion that the ACLU and other groups have today. Many of the early primers that were used in schools included references to God. Most included some form of prayer like the Lord's Prayer. I think the founders would have been troubled by this entire situation.

Saint, I think we should all be outraged by the censoring of the student body president. She was forbidden from speaking not because of what she was going to say, but what she "might" say. The whole reason I published this post is because we are on a very slippery slope. I fear there are tough times ahead when we can sensor a student because of what they "might" say.

Kevin said...

I agree with saint. The most disturbing thing of this whole story is not allowing someone to speak because of what they might say. At what point is the ACLU going to demand that the principal not be allowed to be a principal because he is a known christian and a leader in his church because of that leadership job and because of what he might say?

Two things need to happen from this, the school does need to follow the rules and people need to stop being such wimps and grow thicker skin. Praying at school does not force a religion on people. Requiring a child to pray is forcing but praying around them does not. It might be uncomfortable, yes, but so was being left handed in school. They tried damn hard to convert me by only having desks for right handed people. I survived, I'm still left handed. I did not run to the courts to fix the problem. I recognized I was different and a dealt with it.

Andy D said...


I think your advice about thick skin is 100% on the mark. If more people on both sides of these issues had a little thicker skin, I think we could solve many of these issues quickly and easily (mainly because they wouldn't be issues).

the anonymous guy said...

Officially sanctioned religious practices have no place in public (i.e. government run) schools!

I have lived in Jewish neighborhoods, anti-Christian neighborhoods, fundamentalist Christian neighborhoods, etc., and I am really glad my progressive, Christian children have not had to deal with officially sanctioned religious activities of the majority culture in our neighborhoods.

If you want official sanction for religious practices in school, go to a private religious school.

This in no way prevents private prayer: in a restaurant, you certainly don't demand that the hostess lead a public prayer for the whole restaurant. Instead, you pray quietly at your table. No biggie. Nobody sues. Everybody's chill. Do the same thing at school.

Andy D said...

I am not looking for any officially sanctioned practices, nor does it appear the people in this article are.