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Prayer in Schools

Discussion in 'Alley of Dangerous Angles' started by NOG (No Other Gods), Aug 24, 2009.

  1. NOG (No Other Gods)

    NOG (No Other Gods) Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

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    According to this article, a Florida principal and athletics director are facing criminal contempt proceedings after praying over a meal at a school function.

    Apparently, the ACLU had secured a 'consent decree' from a federal judge in which school officials are "permanently prohibited from promoting, advancing, endorsing, participating in or causing prayers during or in conjunction with school events".

    Now, I understand that school officials should not force students into praying or anything like that, but this now bans school employees from doing it themselves. Is that constitutional? Is the 'pressure of authority' that a principal would exert simply by praying in front of students so severe as to warrant restricting his freedom to pray? How do you all see this?
     
  2. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I think the order is an overreaction, but given the order, the two should have prayed in silence if that is what they wanted.
     
  3. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    I can understand people taking offence to public, mandatory, prayer in school in non confessional school. I was in a catholic kindergarten, which was, of course, quite catholic. Last year, I was told, they had a Muslim father there who went crazy over proselytising and religious practice there. No kidding. It is not as if that wasn't obvious from the onset and as if he had to send his kids there. In these cases that is a clear cut case for religious practice and prayer.

    In non confessional, public schools the thing is entirely different. The state (read: state or city or whatever other public body) is not to endorse one religion over the other. School officials represent the school and thus the state. They don't speak for themselves, but exercise delegated authority over their pupils who, as a group, may not be homogenic in their religious affiliation. And even if the prayer is not mandatory, and the staff just used the opportunity on their own initiative - it is the same thing effectively. BTA is right, if they felt they had to pray, they ought to have done so silently.

    The point is that school functionaries are basically 'superiors' to the pupils in the same sense higher ranks are superiors in the army. Action by superiors creates pressure to conform. Freedom of religion is to a large extent about protecting from pressure to conform. If the parents chose to send their pupils to religion lessons and prayer would have been held there - fine. But here it was apparently for everybody - Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, Sikhs, Hindus, godless Communists and Anarchists, Wiccans or whatever else.

    Pupils in school have no option to opt out of such events without risking to strain the relationship to such teachers, and are thus they more or less mandated to appear and stand through prayer, whether the prayer reflects their individual religion or not. I presume that you would have problems with your kids having to go through a Muslim principal's Friday prayers, or some Wiccan ritual.

    It appears to me that the Christians in America who bemoan the abolition of public prayer in school have a hard time accepting that the demographic mix in American society today quite simply is different than 50 years ago when school prayer was still allowed and Christianity was 'the only game in town'.

    It IMO certainly goes too far to send them ... to jail, but that's America for you I guess - either they are super permissive (as in guns at town halls) or super repressive (jail for prayer in school, under a 'three strikes' rule a life sentence even for a pizza thief, or the absurd amount of 387 or so years in jail for Bernie Maddoff, a sentence that he can't possibly ever finish) but that is going ...
    :yot: :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2009
  4. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    If they want to pray quietly over their food that would be just fine. When they make an ordeal out of it and it is public display -- well ....
     
  5. Déise

    Déise Both happy and miserable, without the happy part!

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    This reminds me of a case in Ireland a fortnight ago where some sacked workers were threatend with jail over their occupation of their former premises. In both that case and this, the people were not being threatened with jail for minor offences. They are being threatened with jail for contempt of court. If you've landed yourself in court before for your behaviour you should understand you're in trouble. If you insist on carrying out an action after a judge has told you not to do it then you deserve to go to jail. It's no surprise that judges take a dim view of people disobeying them.

    On the prayer thing itself, I don't believe it's appropriate for a secular school. One shouldn't be using it as a platform to try and convey your beliefs onto the children. You can still observe your own religion in your private time. For goodness' sake, if they really felt they had to say grace before a meal they could have said it in their head.
     
  6. 8people

    8people 8 is just another way of looking at infinite ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran

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    [​IMG] Any major assemblies at my high school always had christian prayer :rolleyes: the majority of students weren't christian at all.

    Hell, even the teachers weren't more often than not.
     
  7. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    If this is the 1st offence, then jail time is not warranted. Why not a fine or community service? Maybe a suspension w/out pay? Jail time? That's definitely overkill.
     
  8. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    I don't think he should serve any jail time, but after you get told explicitly by a federal court not to do something, and you do it anyway, you should expect some punishment - like a fine or community service as you suggested.
     
  9. Splunge

    Splunge Bhaal’s financial advisor Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I agree with others here - given the decree (which I actually have no problem with), they should have kept their prayers to themselves.

    Potential jail seems a bit extreme, though. Public flogging would be more than sufficient.
     
  10. NOG (No Other Gods)

    NOG (No Other Gods) Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

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    Yes, I understand this. Two questions, though. One, does that mean that any employee of the State gives up their own rights? I mean, I think something like that should be explained and consented to beforehand, and it isn't. Two, the ban isn't for verbal prayer, but for prayer as a whole. Does that mean that bowing your head and folding your hands for a few seconds is different? If so, how? It's still evident prayer, and it's still conducted by a school official.

    While I do understand the comparison to the military, I think there's a huge difference. In the military, your superior officer has direct power over basically your entire life. In school, more often than not, officials have no real power whatsoever, except possibly grades (and if that isn't merited by the classwork, goodbye career). The ability of a school teacher to influence your child is little more, and probably far less, than the abilities of your child's friends, or even enemies, at school.

    This is what I have a problem with. "Freedom from pressure" exists no where in society. It can't be. Even if you ban things like that, there is still pressure, you just alter what direction it is in. It's the same with all rights. Yes, you have freedom to speak, but do you really think you aren't being pressured to speak one way or another? You don't have to give in (and realizing that is a major part of growing up), but the pressure is there regardless. It's the same with carrying a gun, remaining silent in front of the police, or any other right you choose to exercise. Living in a society inherrantly means there are constant pressures to act certain ways, and even to believe certain things. We have no right to "freedom from pressure".

    So the question is, do you ban everyone from praying, or do you expect people (yes, even high-schoolers) to decide for themselves (which necessitates the pressence of pressures)?

    Actually, the event was not mandatory, and wasn't even for students. The culinary class apparently prepared and served the meal, but I don't think even that was mandatory. We aren't talking about prayer over a loudspeaker at a school gathering. And also, I would not object if my child were exposed to other religions. I would have a problem with any Wiccan ritual, but that's more my understanding of the nature of Wicca than anything else. The Muslim prayer, Hindu prayer, Buddhist prayer (is there such a thing?) I would have no problem with.

    That's not the issue. The issue is where rights stop and begin. The issue is how to balance the conflicing rights of individuals in a group setting.

    Actually, odds are they'll only get a fine, but that's not the point.

    This gets into some really stupid problems with modern Christianity, at least in America. It's become such a cultural phenomenon there are a ton of misconceptions around it (Satan rules in Hell, you become an angel when you die, you'll spend eternity playing harps on cloud, etc). One common one is the very heavily ingrained tradition (in a lot of families) of praying out loud before a meal. Even non-Christians (agnostics and the like) do this sometimes. I don't know if that's the case here or not, but I wouldn't exactly qualify that as an attempt to convey beliefs.

    Legal question on that note. If the constitutionality of the order is in question, what is the proper course of action? I mean, assuming that the specific situation the order addresses comes up before the case is decided in court, are you expected to obey the order even if it unfairly restricts you? What if it has the potential to cause harm? I'm not saying that's the case here, but just asking the question.
     
  11. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    You're hypothesizing here. The individuals were making a vocal public display -- which they knew was a violation. A vocal prayer demands (yes, demands) public participation or public contempt (there is no in between). A silent prayer is private and is not bringing anyone else into the issue. You're simply blowing smoke on the issue to cause confusion.

    I don't think they need to be jailed -- just fire them. If they can't abide by the rules they should not be in their current positions.

    Ragusa: I remember the "pizza thief" case. This was a huge, imposing man who chose to intimidate children for kicks. He was laughing about how badly he scared the kids (who were around 10) when the police caught up to him. I had no problems with him going away -- I also don't have problems the sentence was reduced to 6 years. I also think the Maddoff sentence was excessive, but the amount of harm he did was quite extensive. There are times the justice system just wants to ensure a person will never be eligible for parole (and I completely support that stance for violent criminals).
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2009
  12. NOG (No Other Gods)

    NOG (No Other Gods) Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

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    I don't think I'm blowing smoke or causing confusion at all. The ACLU has a history of taking any opportunity they can. They've sued to prevent students from voluntarily reading prayers or making reference to God in school events (even off-campus, voluntary ones), they've sued to remove religious based student body organizations, and they've now sued another teacher who prayed (again out loud, but not loudly) at a privately-funded and organized fund-raising event for the school directed at alumni (no students were present). She is facing civil contempt charges on the same order (not sure why one's civil while the others are criminal, though). The issue is confusing, but not because of me.

    As for vocal prayer, it doesn't demand anything. What you or I say can easily be ignored by others. Even if it's listened to, that doesn't amount to participation, but mere recognition. As in, yes, this person is praying. The only people who I've heard argue it demands either participation or contempt before are the extremist atheists (often verging on violence over it).
     
  13. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Next time someone offers a public prayer just ignore it and keep doing what you were doing (eating, talking, playing with your cellphone) -- most religious people will believe you are showing contempt. So go for it. In my life I've seen far more violence toward non-believers than from them.
     
  14. NOG (No Other Gods)

    NOG (No Other Gods) Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

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    T2, that's probably because you're an atheist (or at least that's the impression I've gotten from our debates on religion). People see opposition and criticism much more readily than they see support and encouragement. I, being religious, have seen a lot more violence and agression from atheists than from any other religion. And I have ignored others who were praying (of various religions) and never seen it interpreted as contempt.

    Anyway, how it's interpreted isn't the issue, it's how it's generated. If you just ignore them because you don't particulartly want to listen at the moment, you are not giving them contempt, even if they interpret the act as such. Just like, if you watch them out of curiosity or politeness or some such, you are not participating, even if they interpret it as such.
     
  15. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    NOG, I was very religious for over half my life and still support my family in their beliefs. I have seen the violence and aggression from both sides and it has nearly always been the religious side as the aggressor. I realize you have not had the opportunity to see as much as I have. I think much of what you are seeing in the past decade or so is back lash from the past millennium or two (well certainly from the past thirty or forty years).
     
  16. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    T2,
    I know what the pizza thief did. There is no denying that he was a meanie, and a criminal. But the case also illustrates that a rigid rule like 'three strikes', in the interest of deterrence, is harsh, and excessive, indeed, super repressive.

    And I share your impression of religious people being more prone to outrage (expressed vocally or physically) over 'disrespecting' their religion. I have observed that as well. In fact, that Muslim father at my old Kindergarten was so mad about the aforementioned matter that he beat a teacher there (for which he was punished for assault).
     
  17. coineineagh

    coineineagh I wish for a horde to overrun my enemies Resourceful Adored Veteran

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    [​IMG] This is absolutely the wrong way to take on religion. i find myself siding for the two christians here, who represent the side of reason now. The 'content decree' is a nice idea, but shouldn't be enforced so rigidly:bad:. Did someone call a lawyer too soon, I wonder?
    A 'prayer of blessing' is so innocuous, it's quite hard to see how it's offensive. Whoever thinks that this is a leap forward for atheism, isn't looking at the big picture. The best way to handle it, would've been to (publically) warn them that they have broken their own 'content decree'. Teachers forced to acknowledge their error:nono:, can be quite humiliated:o. That would be more than enough 'punishment', if you ask me.
    however, if that was tried, and they were rigid and unapologetic, then perhaps I can understand why people felt the need to take this step...
     
  18. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Ragusa, one of the reasons he had his 'life' sentence reduced to six years was because he did not have any violent convictions. I personally believe the three strikes rule should be reserved for those with violent pasts.
     
  19. NOG (No Other Gods)

    NOG (No Other Gods) Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

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    T2, considering the relatively young status of official atheistic belief, I think the atheists are getting off to a wonderful start for matching religious fervor and violence.

    And voila, we've gone full circle!
     
  20. Déise

    Déise Both happy and miserable, without the happy part!

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    I doubt this was the first incident. Otherwise why would a consent order have been taken out before?

    The problem with the vocal prayer is that he halted an official school event in order to hold it and everybody else was forced to observe it. By 'forced' I mean that no reasonable person would have acted in such a way as to disrupt it (they would have been a complete yob to do so).

    I went to a religious school and if I have kids I would intend that they go to a religious school. I don't see how one can deem this behaviour appropriate for a secular school though. It's pretty much the point of these that religion isn't promoted. The officials know this and chose to work there. And yet they're not just breaking the school's ethos but at this stage are breaking a judge's order for a very petty issue.

    I'm aware of the American custom of saying grace but to me the pettiness of the breach is one of the reasons I have so little sympathy. It's not an important part of Christianity (or at least any of the sects I'm familiar with). It's not as if the school asked him to eat the meal at a time when he was fasting. And I'm not aware of any secular schools that fail to make reasonable accomodations. If someone was fasting I'm sure they could simply attend the meal without eating themselves.
     
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