Prayer in Public Schools: Should It Be Constitutional
The courts have ruled against prayer in school. Many agree with decision; yet many disagree including myself. Prayer should be allowed in public school because it is already practiced, it prevents immoral acts, and it enhances the learning environment. The issue of prayer in school has been debated in the U.S. since the North West Treaty (1787and 1789) which states: “ Religion, morality, and the knowledge being necessary for good government and the happiness of man kind, schools and the means of learning shall forever be engorged.” Thus, religion, which includes prayer, was deemed to be necessary.
Many people believe that prayer is not allowed in the public schools. In fact prayer is allowed in the school system on buses, at the flagpole, in student religious groups, and in the cafeteria. However, prayer is not permitted in the classroom itself when class is in session. Prayer in class would violate the principles of church- state separation, which is defined by court interpretations of the First Amendment. This requires that public school teachers, principals, and boards to be religiously neutral. The reason for this is to prevent any arguments among students and teachers about their specific religion.
Public schools had prayer for nearly two hundred years before the supreme court ruled that state- mandated class prayers were unconstitutional (Engle, 1962) The fact that prayer was practiced for nearly two-hundred years established it by precedent as a beneficial practice in our schools. Since the court outlawed prayer, the nation has been in steady moral decline. Former secretary of education William Bennett revealed in his cultured indexes that between 1960 and1990 there was a steady moral decline. During this period divorce doubled, teenage pregnancy went up 200%, teen suicide increased 300%, child abuse reached an all time high, violent crime went up 500% and abortion increased 1000% . Morals must be taught and they can not be taught properly without religion, because most of the strong moral beliefs stem from religion such as the Ten Commandments. There is a strong correlation between the expulsion of prayer from our schools and the decline in morality.
The third argument is prayer enhances the learning environment at public schools. Prayer enhances the learning environment because when there is a test coming up or a paper due, you think to yourself, “ How am I going to do all of this, and do well?” I know from personal experiences, that having a number of assignments due at the same time can be frustrating. When this happens, I always turn to God, and he guides and gives me strength and understanding. The outcome from doing praying is always good and the things that I asked for in my prayer are always bestowed upon me. Prayer may not enhance everyone’s learning environment but I know before I start my day, I ask God to let me have a good day and let everything that I do, be a true learning experience for me. The experience may not always be good, but if it happens, it happens for a reason.
Finally, I will end with a quote from “ An Outrageous Idea: Natural Prayer” written by Patty Jo Cornish. “ We have forgotten that we are all in this together and we keep separating ourselves by ourselves by colors, by football teams, by clothes, by money, by creed, by greed, by boundaries, by age, and so on and on. We need something to pull us all together, natural prayer could be that miracle. It includes everyone even the non-believers.”