Opinion: Parents Need to Recognize the Danger of School Prayer

Walter Rhein

Image by Walter Rhein

I don’t understand why Christians and conservatives don’t recognize the danger of forced prayer in public schools, so let me walk you through it.

Imagine a future where there is no longer any restriction on teacher-led prayer at public schools. After years and years of activism and personal sacrifice, the government finally issues a prayer mandate.

It's like a vaccine mandate or a mask mandate or a pregnancy mandate but it involves religion. In all cases, these mandates represent the expansion of government power.

For years and years, conservatives have been saying that the problem with our society stems from the fact that there is no forced prayer in schools. Remember that prayer has never been banned from schools. The only thing that has been banned is forcing children to participate in a prayer when they don’t want to.

But let’s imagine that restriction is removed.

It's a normal Monday morning.

The teacher walks to the front of the room to lead the class in government-mandated prayer. But instead of producing a Bible, as you might expect, he brings forth a chicken. With a few quick swipes of a razor, he kills the chicken and draws a pentagram with its blood.

The next thing you know, he’s leading the students in ritualistic chants!

“Oh no!” you think, “Those pesky devil worshipers have turned my good prayer idea into something awful!”

Here you thought you were doing the lord’s work, but all you accomplished was to expose children across the country to the philosophies of the devil! The underworld is laughing at you. The forces of darkness have undermined all your hard work and now you’ve sacrificed the souls of school children for all eternity!

Maybe we should take a few steps back and reconsider the potential dangers of forcing prayer on students in public schools.

Some might say that the argument of bringing religion to schools inherently implies the establishment of a national religion. But that, too, entails some risks. First of all, it would require a dramatic change to the Constitution since a state established religion is specifically prohibited.

Also, what happens if the group that supports your religion isn't in charge on the day they decide to make the change? What if they make some other religion the national religion? Are you going to accept it quietly or are you going to engage in violence again?

Now, in the context of how you might respond, think of how others might respond even if you do change the Constitution and defy the Founding Fathers. Do you think people who practice other religions are going to sit quietly and take it?

Doesn't this all seem dangerous?

But now, let's examine the practicality of forcing teachers to lead prayers at public schools.

The radical right is already skeptical of teachers all across the nation. They criticize them for having a “liberal agenda.” They criticize them for having a “gay agenda.” They fight them to keep from teaching Critical Race Theory.

Conservatives always object to the ideas teachers present, the way they present those ideas, and the books they use to teach them.

Conservatives fight with teachers all the time.

Now it’s the objective of conservatives to put these same “liberal” teachers in charge of their children’s immortal souls?

You don’t trust teachers to pick a book or design a lesson, but you want to force that same teacher to provide instruction that might affect your child's preparation for eternity?

This makes no sense!

Conservatives are also the people who say that the government is inefficient. Yet, teachers work for the government. Again, prayer in school means turning over eternal salvation to the least trusted institution in our nation.

It’s almost as if conservatives are not thinking this idea through.

There are probably some people who are sincere in their belief that our society would benefit from public schools. But have you ever considered that some people are working for this idea because they know it will cause harm?

They don't call the devil the master of deceit for nothing.

There are also well-known sayings about the perils of good intentions.

Remember, if your activism leads to government-mandated prayer in public schools, then you are responsible for any negative consequences that come from this change.

Maybe the best thing would be for all parents to insist that religion should not be anywhere within a hundred yards of a school. That way parents could observe directly the kind of religious instruction their children receive.

Maybe we shouldn't take actions that might infringe on our constitutionally protected right to practice any religion we want.

In many ways, we have a good thing going and we should show more respect to the wisdom of our antecedents.

The traditional belief in the United States is that we should have a separation of church and state. It almost seems as if people don’t recognize that this is for their protection.

It’s a relief to know that you can send your children to school and have them not be indoctrinated with fringe religious thinking. Remember there are a lot of religions in the world. I think, too often, people assume that Christianity is the only belief system out there. This is incorrect.

There’s no excuse for activism that makes our society worse. Keeping religion out of public schools has served our society well for decades. We shouldn’t throw a good system in the trash. All responsible American citizens need to recognize the inherent danger of forcing children to participate in religious prayers that are not of their faith.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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