Freedom Writer |
May 1995 |
Prager on school prayer
Dennis Prager, a conservative Jewish commentator, offers answers to
three common objections to school prayer. His assertions appeared in a
column by Don Feder, a syndicated columnist with The Boston
Herald. Prager's rejoinders are the very reason state-sponsored
school prayer is unconstitutional.
- Objection: Children can pray any time they want. We don't
need an amendment.
- Answer: Fans at a ball game can sing the National Anthem
any time. We sing it publicly to make a patriotic statement. School
prayer makes a philosophic statement and symbols are important.
- Objection: It won't make kids better.
- Answer: A prayer recited at the start of congressional
sessions doesn't make legislators more spiritual. In order to give
something social significance, it must be publicly affirmed. School
prayer affirms the importance of God to our civilization. It compels
students to take note that this society deems God important.
The error of Prager's arguments is that they all sanction state
endorsement of religion, a clear violation of the separation between
church and state.
- Objection: Even if they're not required to say the prayer,
some students may be uncomfortable.
- Answer: The Pledge of Allegiance probably makes Jehovah's
Witnesses uneasy. If sensitivity is the absolute standard, most
liberal educational indoctrination (sex education, suicide studies,
multi-culturalism) must be rejected.
By rejecting every Supreme Court decision regarding state-sponsored
school prayer of the last 50 plus years, Prager, like many
ultra-conservative Jews, is playing into the hands of the Religious
Right. If he truly cared about the First Amendment's religious liberty
clauses, which promote government neutrality toward religion, he would
not espouse state-sponsored school prayer.
© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.