. . . supporters of school prayer have found themselves on the horns of a dilemma of their own choosing. Insisting on official Christian prayer in such pluralistic settings, they either ignore the diversity and pray as if everyone shared their faith--thus scandalizing those who do not; or they respect the diversity and pray in an inoffensive way that tries to appeal to as many faiths as possible--thus secularizing their own faith while still offending those who reject public prayer of any kind. . . .
The founders' first principles of religious liberty can of course be applied to school prayer in several ways. For example, the golden rule of equal liberty for all could be applied to school prayer as "One in, all in" and respected by praying a different prayer every day of the school month--Christian one day, Jewish the next, Muslim after that, then Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Scientologist, Wiccan, and so on, until all the faiths in the school are covered. Such a policy would surely lead to chaos and indifference rather than tolerance. . . .
The alternative application of the golden rule would be to say, "One out, all out," and to conclude--I think rightly, for religious even more than constitutional reasons--that public schools are not the place to have official teacher-led prayer, Christian or otherwise. A moment of silence, perhaps; and free to pray alone at any time; and freedom to pray in student-initiated groups after school hours, certainly; but not official prayer in public schools when contemporary levels of the social fact of pluralism mean that the principle of religious liberty for all is contravened. (As all these "equal access" freedoms show, it is a perverse myth that "children are not allowed to pray in public schools.")
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Prayer in Public School?
From Os Guinness's new book, The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It (pp. 66, 67):