Saturday, August 18, 2012

Voting Prayer Back into the Schools

Prayer Voted Back into the  Schools

This month Mo. Voters voted to replace the current section of the Mo. Constitution which already protects religious freedom with another section, saying that prayer is allowed in schools.

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a United Methodist minister who is a spiritual advisor to inmates of correctional institutions, as the amendment passed does not protect their right to religious freedom.

The Mo. Constitution currently protects the religious freedoms of inmates. It also  refers to praying to "Almighty God" leaving out atheists or those of most Non- monotheistic religions.  It leaves them out because it says that school prayer or prayer in public places shall "not cause a disturbance".  What if your belief requires you to leave class and pray outside?  What if you are Santero and have asked that a chicken be sacrificed to ask for devine help in taking a test which will determine whether or not you are "tracked" for college?  Who decides what is "causing a disturbance?"  

Discussions with friends and relatives who voted for this measure have raised several issues. 

Discussion 1.  "I voted for it because not to would interfere with free speech."

But do you truly think someone is going to stop a child from praying silently before a meal or test?

"It's possible, kids can be cruel."

True, kids can find Any reason to bully anyone who is different.  I think, though that a school authority would protect the rights of a student to pray silently, unless that student does something unusual.  Maybe I'm wrong, but the State Constitution already protects the rights of people to pray in public places.  The only ones who can't right now are those who are members of religious minorities in Mo. 

Discussion 2.  I've read that in other states accommodation has been made in schools for Muslim students to have a separate place where they can unroll their prayer rugs and pray during the school day.  This is "politically correct" so why not be "politically correct for everyone?"

I can agree with that but if it's Really inacted that way we're all going to have to get used to a Lot more diversity than most people want to admit exists.  Even in places like Springfield there are Sikh students, Hindu students, Atheist students,  Muslim students,  Jewish students, Native American students, and Buddhist students, in addition to the majority Christian population.  In Kansas City or St. Louis there would be even More diversity, Orthodox Christians, Roman  Catholic Christians, Protestant Christians, toungue speaking Christians.  And their might be Orthodox Jewish students as well as members of Reform Jewish sects.  There will be all sects represented within Islam.  What if these groups of Christians, Jews, and Muslims do not want to pray with those who share their religion but pray differently?

Discussion 3.  Why shouldn't religious freedom Continue to be allowed prisoners?  In Springfield they have the Federal Medical Center which houses prisoners from all across the country who are physically ill or awaiting psychiatric evaluations to decide if they are competent to stand trial.  You have all of the religious and non-religious diversity of the Entire USA. There.  Why suspend the religious freedoms of inmates?

Discussion 4.  "I believe in the separation of Church and State. I think we're opening up a can of worms, trying to be politically correct.  And I don't trust rural school authorities to protect the rights of minority students and atheists."

Reply:  "Kids are so internet savvy that they know how to protest if their rights are being trampled.  There are organizations like the ACLU to protect them and their parents can defend their rights to school authorities, too."

More discussion.  "What if a teenaged student doesn't want to practice the religion of his/her parents?  In Mo. A teenager can legally become an "emancipated minor" at 17.  What if a 17 year-old doesn't choose to practice her/his parents' religion?  Whose rights will the school authorities be likely to try and enforce?"     

Discussion 5.  "We are both adults who remember when school prayer was compulsory.  And it was always Christian prayer even in St. Louis.  So I guess it comes down to a question of trust.  Do we, with our experiences, trust school and other authorities to protect the rights of students belonging to  minority religions and atheist students?  I have to answer NO, I don't trust them."

Reply:  "Well, I don't either and that's my problem with this amendment.  I remember being a Jew in Joplin Mo. And sometimes it got Ugly and scary."

Personal opinion: I don't think our country wants to admit how diverse we truly are.  It will soon be the case that white men will be a minority population.  Certainly, there are many white men who are living and coping in the now, and getting along with their brothers and sisters as fellow Americans.  But there is a contingent of European Americans, male and female, who are frightened of the demographic changes taking place in the US.  Some African Americans share this fear, as their numbers are eclipsed by people of mixed race or those who have immigrated from other countries.

I do not trust people in authority to protect the rights of All students equally.  And I think we should keep things as they are, (students may pray on school grounds After school or silently During school and prisoners of all religions are entitled to religious counsel, if they choose it) or we could be opening up a Huge can of worms!  What if every atheist and religious group mentioned above Truly insisted on equal rights?  Who is going to police that?

I voted No on this amendment for these reasons, not because I'm against anyone's religion. 

When it has rained this Summer, (very seldom, we are still at Least ten inches short of what is considered "normal" rainfall for the area)  I have gone outside to breathe, feel the rain, and say Thank You, sometimes singing a song of gratitude softly, sometimes sending my thanks and happiness up to the clouds in silence.

I'm Glad I'm not in school now, if this amendment becomes law.  Probably it will and there will be court cases.

What do You think? Are today's school students savvy enough to protect their rights?  They are certainly more savvy than my generation.  But are middle school students, for example, able to withstand peer pressure and uphold their rights not to pray or to pray differently than the majority of students?    

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