A few hours after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida I saw the following in my Facebook feed...
WE INTERRUPT THIS POST TO ADD...
I was finished writing this and was just about to post it when I was distracted by an article from the Washington Post about the Florida House of Representatives.
The day after they rejected an assault weapons ban and passed a resolution against pornography, the Florida House of Representatives voted to require all public schools to display the state motto: In God We Trust.
Rep. Kim Daniels (R), who runs a ministry, said it would help provide needed “light” in the state’s schools, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It quoted her as saying: “He is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not black or white. He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before.”Presumably, the members of the Florida House believe having "God" displayed in the school would have stopped Nikolas Cruz from killing 17 people. The vote on the bill was 97-10. House members applauded after it was passed.
While telling other House members why she thought it was important to pass the legislation, she said: “We cannot put God in a closet when the issues we face are bigger than us.”
Question: How many of those 97 House members received campaign contributions from the NRA?
HAS GOD BEEN BANNED FROM SCHOOLS?
The meme above claims that God is not allowed in school. It implies that since the Supreme Court banned school (government) sponsored prayer in public schools, God has somehow been removed.
First of all, I think most conservative Christians – for example, someone who might have posted such a meme – believe their God is everywhere. If that's the case, then no act by mere humans can remove God. Do they believe that the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to eliminate their God from a particular location? I doubt it.
Do they believe that God ignores children and ceases to watch over them the moment they enter a public school? The children, after all, aren't the ones who made the decision stopping government sponsored prayer. Why should they be punished?
What about school shootings at parochial schools? The Supreme Court decision didn't force private religious schools to stop praying with their students. Was God not allowed in the Christian university near Oakland in 2012 where seven people were killed? What about the shooting at the Apostolic Revival Center and Christian School in Fort Myers, Florida, or the Agape Christian Academy in Pine Hills, Florida? Were those schools stripped of their God by the SCOTUS? Was there no prayer allowed in any of those schools? Were the children and young adults who attended those schools somehow unworthy of their God's protection?
Churches, too. The nine people who died at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston S.C. and the twenty-six people who died at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas were surely under God's protection. How did that happen?
Apparently "allowing" God and prayer in a building won't stop bullets.
PRAYER IS ALLOWED!
That meme is false. Prayer IS allowed in public schools as long as it doesn't disrupt the educational process.
Students can pray before or after school, before they eat, before they take a test, at recess, or during a time when they are working on their own as long as they don't interrupt the learning process or harass other students with aggressive proselytization.
Students can express their religious beliefs in their school work, as long as their work fulfills the requirements of the assignment. In other words, if I assign a science experiment dealing with the nature of sound, I would not expect to see information about my students' religious beliefs. On the other hand, if I ask the students to write about something important to them, their religious beliefs might be an appropriate topic.
Schools are governmental institutions. Teachers and administrators, as agents of a governmental institution, may not lead students in prayer.
Simply put, individual, non-disruptive prayer is allowed in public schools. Government sponsored prayer is not.
Read that again.
Individual, non-disruptive prayer is allowed in public schools. Government sponsored prayer is not.
As I wrote last month in Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana
...every child, in every public school in America, already has the right to pray whenever they want to as long as they don't disrupt the learning process and as long as they don't harass their fellow students.[Note: The Joint Statement clearly explains what sorts of things are and are not allowed. Teachers who are interested in exploring the subject further should also read A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools.]
According to the Joint Statement of Current Law and Religion in the Public Schools, a document signed by 35 religious and civic groups,
Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive...
And according to A Parent’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools from the First Amendment Center,
Didn’t the Supreme Court rule against student prayer in public schools?It seems, then, that God has not been banned from public schools. Students' private, non-disruptive prayers have not been banned from public schools. The meme at the top of this post is misleading at best, and, at worst, a lie. The repeated deaths of school children is not about prayer (or lack thereof), but about the fact that, in the U.S. we simply don't care about our nation's children.
No. The Supreme Court has struck down state sponsored or state-organized prayer in public schools. The Court has interpreted the First Amendment to mean that government must be neutral among religions and between religion and nonreligion. This means that school officials may not organize, mandate, or participate in student religious activities, including prayer...
I've read that not telling the truth, or "bearing false witness" is something to be avoided. People who perpetuate the lie that God and prayer are somehow "not allowed" in public schools should research that topic, I think.
They might start with Proverbs 6:16-19.
UPDATE: See also James Kirylo: God Never Left Our Public Schools