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Demosthenes's avatar

What is the place of religion and prayer in public schools?

Asked by Demosthenes (12762points) January 20th, 2020

I often hear (usually evangelicals) say they want to “put God back in the public schools” but I truly have no idea what this means. It seems to be intentionally vague, but I want to talk about specifics.

My impression is that this may involve one or more of the following:
1. Time for students to pray while at school.
2. Teachers and coaches leading students in prayer.
3. Teaching specific religious values.

All of these present different issues. Are we talking students praying silently or dedicated time for students to pray openly and out loud? Are we talking teaching doctrine or simply teaching values that are found in Christianity (for example) but not found there exclusively? Are we saying that it’s fine for teachers to lead students in prayer if the school is mostly monolithic in terms of religious identity?

Examples from the schools in your area and how they’ve handled this issue would be helpful.

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26 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s just talking points to gain favor for politicians. It drives me crazy. Prayer was never IN public schools, so it was never taken OUT.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I don’t think it’s needed in public schools, personally.

Schools here form clubs for interests outside the curriculum.

We also have a day of prayer on campus before the school year, for likeminded people to pray as a group. You may stand in silent support for any Deity, or pray aloud. Works for us.

Our teams do step aside and pray before games as a group but it’s students choice.

SergeantQueen's avatar

If you are super adamant about your child being able to pray in school—send them to a private. I don’t mind if people pray in front of me, but dedicated time in school would be weird for people who aren’t religious.
Most of the people who say “put God back in public schools” want Christianity to be brought into schools, not any other religion and ESPECIALLY not Islam. Although in my school district religion was never forced to begin with and I am unsure how many public schools allow for prayer and this type of thing.

I think it should be (and should always be) a PRIVATE school thing.

I was taught about Islam. I was taught about Judaism, and I was taught about Christianity. Teaching about religions is fine, but allowing for a dedicated time to pray is weird to me.

I am not religious, I would not have liked to sit through that in school.
“dedicated time in school” sounds like everyone would have to be involved. Let’s not.

Again, send your kid to a private school for that. Can’t afford it? Homeschool or shut the fuck up about it.
I am very anti-religion so there is my bias. I have NO issues with people believing in things. That is their business and who am I to judge. If it gives you purpose and happiness in life, then practice religion. But as soon as you try and force it on me, you can fuck off. I am just personally against it, and I respect others to a limit.

elbanditoroso's avatar

None. Religion should have NO role in public schools. Zero.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I don’t recall it ever being in the public schools that I went to.
I wonder what they mean by that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They have to make stuff up in order to feel persecuted. Christianity was built around persecution.

Demosthenes's avatar

@KNOWITALL Yes, that’s how it was where I grew up; there were religious clubs for students to join and we were taught about major religions in class, but I don’t remember anyone openly praying nor any instances of teachers mentioning it (aside from a disclaimer given before we learned about evolution in 8th grade).

@SergeantQueen I agree that teaching about religion is fine; I see it as valuable. But anything further and it starts to become personal and I don’t believe school is the place for that (unless, as you said, you’re attending a private religious school in which case instruction in the doctrine is a given).

@Dutchess_III While I have not heard many specifics about what people mean when they say that, I have heard some imply that there’d be fewer LGBT people if God was “put back in schools” and obviously I consider that ludicrous. I do wonder about situations where nearly everyone at a public school is of the same religion, though. That wasn’t the case where I grew up so it’s not something I can relate to. Schools with a lot of Muslim students raise an interesting question because in Islam, you are required to pray several times a day at specific times in a specific way. It’s quite different from silent prayer.

SergeantQueen's avatar

Aren’t all religions? @Dutch

Dutchess_III's avatar

Not to the extent that Christianity is. Hindu, for example.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I shared a meme about this on Facebook, with the comment that it drives me crazy that they pretend they aren’t allowed to pray in school.
One of my fervently religious former class mates said, “I agree. Prayer should be allowed in school. Necessity.”
Well, I have a bunch of Jellies on my friend list and things aren’t going so well for my former classmate!

Pinguidchance's avatar

@Demosthenes What is the place of religion and prayer in public schools?

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

All rubbish is to be placed in the bins.

SergeantQueen's avatar

Man I wish I was on your friends list

gorillapaws's avatar

All students should be able to pray on their own time without interference from the School. Students should have access to classes where they can learn about world religions (including various sects of Christianity) without being proselytized to.

Yellowdog's avatar

I used to pray stuff like, :God, if you make Lila like me as much as I like her, I’ll never ask for anything else as long as I live,

kritiper's avatar

The only place for religion and prayer in a public school is in the mind of the student.

YARNLADY's avatar

Each person is allowed to believe what they want, but keep it out of the public. Do we allow the sex act in school, or rather keep that in private.

gorillapaws's avatar

@YARNLADY ”...but keep it out of the public…”

Are you saying that a Christian can’t wear a cross, an Orthodox Jewish man wear a yarmulke, or a Sikh wear a dastar?

MrGrimm888's avatar

^It’s not part of the question, but I see no reason for those things in schools either.

A school, is supposed to be a neutral site (except for the agenda being pushed.)....

We should teach them, at an early age, that their beliefs are separate from society.

It’s up to them. Not up to their parents, what they choose to believe.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@gorillapaws We had Mennonnites at our school. They all had long hair, no make up and wore skirts. It wasn’t an issue.
I’m not sure why it would be an issue now, as long as the focus stays on school.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Well. There’s certainly a grey area.
But, religious trinkets, and obvious stuff (I think,) shouldn’t be allowed in public schools.

If the person’s religious beliefs are strong, symbols of their ideology shouldn’t matter.

gorillapaws's avatar

@MrGrimm888 ”...But, religious trinkets, and obvious stuff (I think,) shouldn’t be allowed in public schools…”

That’s crazy to me. The whole point of the establishment clause is that the government isn’t establishing 1 particular religion and safeguards the citizens’ rights to freely practice their faith. It’s not establishing a completely secular environment, it’s saying that the government won’t endorse/favor/promote any particular faith or even the idea of a higher power in general.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Disagree. There is supposed to be a separation, between religion, and state. I can’t think of a more clear example.

gorillapaws's avatar

@MrGrimm888 Separation doesn’t mean enforce secularism… It means the Government isn’t “choosing sides”—it’s a neutral party/hands off. I don’t think you’ll find a single historical Supreme Court ruling interpreting things the way you are.

LostInParadise's avatar

When I went to school, we recited the Lord’s Prayer in homeroom and took turns reading a passage from the Bible. In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled that both practices violated separation of Church and State. That put an abrupt ending to our religious practices.

A person can pray or wear religious paraphernalia, provided it does not interfere with other people. Providing public money to religious schools should be prohibited, even if the money is supposedly going for secular subjects. Teaching comparative religion is okay, as long as it takes a wide perspective and does not confine itself to the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@gorillapaws . I am not suggesting that the SCOTUS would interpret things, the way I do. I was just offering my opinion.
To me, organized religion is an evil thing. It should be kept away from our children, at all costs.

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