Prayer in schools…?

A new law now says that public school students in North Carolina are allowed to pray in school. The problem with that: they were always allowed to pray in school, it is just unlawful for a teacher or other school official to lead the students in prayer.

Christianity already has a strong presence in public schools. See You At the Pole events, christian prayers at football games and graduations, christian clubs for students…I’d like to know at which point christianity became (pardon the bad pun) absent? Just in the last year there have been highly publicized reports of a christian teacher not only openly mocking a Buddhist teenager, but doing so with open support of the school superintendent. In the last two years we have also watched the progress of two students who wanted to start Atheist clubs in their high schools; one successful after a long fight, one who received so many death threats directed toward herself and her family she stopped trying. Harassment of young Pagans by christian students is commonplace. I think it’s safe to say the new law was at the very least, unnecessary, and at worst a complete waste of the time and funds required to establish it.

I expect this is going to lead to some pretty interesting events over the next few months, and if it isn’t repealed in less than a year I will be extremely surprised. Primarily because when people say they want prayer in our schools, what they mean is that they want christian prayer only. Once it becomes obvious that Pagan, Buddhist, Hindu and other non-christian students are enjoying the same right, there will be a push to abolish it entirely. Remember the Jerry Falwell backpack mail incident? That’s just one example.

The new law also claims it will protect non-christian students from harassment by their christian peers, but in what way? There was no description of possible consequences and I suspect that bit was added to make the bill more palatable to people who wouldn’t otherwise support it. If they intend to put a stop to it, it would be wonderful to know what provisions that law makes before more states adopt such legislation.

If this opens the door for more religious diversity, fine. If it actually protects non-christian students, even better. I find the possibility that either will happen doubtful. Given the circumstances (and history of such things), I find an immediate, reverberating slam of that door to be much more likely. People who create such bills tend to forget that the laws in the US don’t favor a specific group. Once passed, they extend to us all. Once the excitement of getting it passed is gone and it is clear that non-christians will be enjoying this same right, suddenly there will be overwhelming support for the ‘Wall of Separation’.

By then the door will already be installed in that wall, and like all well-oiled saloon doors, it will swing both ways.

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