Sunday Reflections: Prayer & Public School

Should America really be called a "Christian" nation?

By The Rev. Dr. George Hickok

From the Huffington Post: "Prayer is at the center of debate between one pastor and a Florida county's public school system. Ron Baker, a Baptist pastor, has been holding prayer sessions at several Clay County schools, for as long as 12 years," the Florida Times-Union reports. "And he has no intention on stopping now, even after the school board told him it was unconstitutional."

Another round of prayer in public school reminds me of the hypocrisy often displayed by outraged  “Christians” who were not in worship last Sunday. Though claims of the United States being a religious nation are popular in some circles; calling America a Christian nation begs the question. It is a logical fallacy when you consider that the “founding fathers” were by and large Deists not Christians and they insisted on the separation of church and state.

Early Christians in America arrived with a hangover from centuries of having kings and queens meddling with their faith. Building enormous cathedrals and then lining the pockets with the collection, state sponsored clerics sent people packing for a land of religious freedom. Two clauses in the U.S. Constitution pertain to religion; allowing freedom of faith and banning government interference even if that interference is support.

Grandstanding about prayer in public school is duplicitous coming from a culture in which two thirds of the population does not attend worship on a regular basis.  The idea that the country went “to hell in a hand basket” after prayer in public school was outlawed is ludicrous. If the  result of years of prayer in public schools was banning it, what does that say? 

Maybe the problem with religion in America is not the lack of children praying in public schools but the lack of children praying in church. Given half a chance, most churches would be a good moral influence on children, but we don’t always get that chance. The average age in most mainline churches is three years deceased.

We don’t need children praying in public school as much as we need children praying in weekly worship, supported by parents and the extended family, and the religious community.

The Rev. Dr. George Hickok is minister of the Spring Hill Furnace Presbyterian Church in Lake Lynn, Pa. and adjunct professor of sociology at the Community College of Allegheny County south campus. He is married to the Rev. Beckie Hickok, minister of Waverly Presbyterian Church in Regent Square.

Lee Hicks November 07, 2011 at 01:11 AM
Here, here! Three cheers for your ideas. We're not a Christian nation! We're a nation of people of many faith traditions and are guaranteed by our Constitution that we can worship as we please. Since when do we have to be in school to pray. I haven't been to school in 60 years but pray every day. Lee Hicks
denise November 07, 2011 at 01:46 AM
Thank you Rev. Hickok! Prayer belongs in our hearts, our home and our churches, certainly not public schools! If you want prayer in your school, send your child to a faith based school. My parents did!
Nina Wolf November 07, 2011 at 05:55 PM
A good review of the separation of church and state would solve so many issues, Rev. Hickock. Thanks for reminding folks about this, and about our history. When faith becomes an area where government regulates, we are all in quite serious trouble. With more leaders like you and your wife, I see more and more younger people actually enjoying a relationship with a faith community. People looking to their place of worship as exactly that: a community, the place they go to share with like-minded fellow congregants, by choice, with open hearts. You can't legislate that.
art f November 08, 2011 at 03:22 AM
Heidi McDonald November 10, 2011 at 03:38 PM
As long as there are exams, Reverend, there WILL be prayer in schools. ;)


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